Best Music Of 2002 Awards
by Karl Lozier
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Note: My apologies to all concerned,
but ultimately I was only able to narrow
my choices to two pairs of recordings.
Personal taste plays such a large part in selecting musical recordings and ideally a truly superb performance would be accompanied by equally outstanding sound quality. Otherwise the possibility of downgrading the overall impression easily arises. Two companies dominated my thinking about these awards, Reference Recordings and Telarc. Reference Recordings, well known for their almost unique use of the HDCD recording process must feel miffed, smug and left out all at the same time. They used the HDCD process to create better sounding recordings that were compatible with regular CD and DVD players and rewarded listeners who bought players with the reasonable cost decoding chips, with outstanding sound quality. Now everyone is talking about incompatible further advanced steps. I believe they are taking a breather to see which way the future is really going, DVD-A or SACD. I think they have hit a real pinnacle of success with their recent Rachmaninoff recording featuring his
Symphonic Dances, HDCD RR-96CD. The overall sound quality is their best yet, even a bit fuller and richer than ever with a natural bloom. RR's president, Tam Henderson, agrees and claims it is due to some minor tweaks and adjustments during the actual recording sessions. The conducting and orchestral responses are also at the top of their form. RR's #95 CD of Respighi's music was an equal contender for this honor. A plus for the Respighi recording is the introduction of the neglected opulent score for
Belkis, Queen of Sheba and the Dance of the Gnomes. One caveat here is the less than ideal sound of the organ introduction near the end of the
Pines of Rome, a small detriment to near perfection.
Ultimately the other choice for this year's top honor must go to the pair of Telarc recordings starting with CD/SACD-60582. Here we have the superb performance of pianist Lang Lang performing Rachmaninoff's Concerto #3 as well as you're likely to hear in the early part of this century. Top if off with sympathetic conducting and Telarc's ever improving hybrid CD/SACD recording with a beautifully natural concert hall atmosphere. Telarc has made their decision to go with SACD for the near future at least, after offering only two DVD-Audio discs. This recording is pushed extremely closely by Telarc's
Turina/Debussy recording CD/SACD-60574. Actually these two Telarc's are tied for the honor to be one of this year's best classical recordings. In its favor is our listeners' probable introduction to the beautiful, but relatively unknown orchestral music of
Turina. It is also the culmination of Lopez-Cobos' fourteen years with the Cincinnati Symphony and Telarc.
Reference Recordings complete reviews are found at Rachmanninoff
Telarc complete reviews are found at Rachmaninoff
Easy Listening Recording Of The Year 2002
In this category are two top contenders from Telarc. They have so many similarities. Each features multi instrumental versions of music written for or typically arranged for a solo instrument. Each recording features a small group, trio or quartet. The performers are not merely good; they are masters of their respective instruments. The recordings are technically as good as they get with beautifully natural sounding reproduction. No artificial highlighting or hi-fi sound here. They differ in that the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
(LAGQ): recording entitled
Latin, SACD hybrid CD-60593 has a definite classical leaning while being easy listening as well as familiar listening. A highlight is a suite of selections from the opera "Carmen". The trio recording is comprised of three renowned string bass players. There is a definite hint of jazz in the arrangements of familiar selections. Three selections from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" are representative of the recording. The album is
Super Bass 2, a hybrid SACD playable on any CD player, SACD 63483 recorded live at the Blue note,
Original reviews at Lagq
and Super Bass 2.
This is probably the best place to mention an outstandingly good recording that I find difficult or impossible to categorize. The conducting and orchestral playing are impeccable. The recorded sound could not be better. The music could be called "music for relaxation, in the extreme". It is all quiet, peaceful and simply beautiful highlighting the composer Debussy's tone poems as well as others. If this music does not relax you at least to near sleepiness no other music recording will be able to better it. Reference Recordings HDCD (playable on any CD player) RR-99CD.
Original review can be seen at Reveries.
Special Category: Fun Recording
Of The Year 2002
A recording that seemingly is made simply for fun or humor is not common. Here the humor is of the scary variety as with kids screaming or laughing at scary Halloween situations or movies. It can be fun to be scared and here the fun is from scary (sound tracks) movies. This relatively short CD can be considered a compilation recording of scary music (from scary movies) while being a demonstration or show off recording of the highest audio quality. Added sound effects, as would be expected, are courtesy of SFX's crown prince, Michael Bishop, on this Telarc CD-80580.
Original review can be seen at Scary