Friday, 22 September 2017

Violin and Piano Balance

Balancing a violin and a piano is a tricky business for recording engineers. A lot of experience is needed, and that is rare in the current environment of roving recording teams doing everything from grand opera, to star-based popular music, to general chamber and orchestral music. Julia Hwang is a young violinist, and a very fine one. On a new Signum CD, she is well recorded, at a suitable distance, and with suitable dynamics. The problem is the piano, which is recorded far too close; when one winces every time the piano strikes up, something is wrong. And one does not turn to Wieniawski's Faust Fantaisie, nor Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending, in order to listen intently to the piano part. I longed to get up on the recording stage and push the piano back ten metres or so. Greatly admiring Miss Hwang's playing, I did not admire the playing of the over-prominent pianist, Charles Matthews. Choppy, with minimal legato and too loud. This is my only recording of Vaughan Williams' Lark, with piano (as originally written) and I prefer this version since the solo violin played piano or pianissimo does not merge too often with the orchestral violins, as can happen when an orchestra is substituted for the piano.

Hopefully next time round will see Julia Hwang partnered by Khatia Buniatishvili or Dong Hyek Lim or some such sympathetic pianist with a sense of style. And all recorded by engineers with lots of experience in balancing a piano with a violin. Poor Miss Hwang goes on my back shelf. Not her fault.

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