Ray Kimber’s IsoMike label returns to NativeDSD with their second DSD release. Recorded in Pure DSD Stereo and 4.0 Channel Surround Sound, you won’t want to miss this one. Better yet, NativeDSD is bringing it to our listeners 3 weeks ahead of its official release date.
The new DSD release features the Sonolumina Ensemble performing Mozart’s Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet in A K 581. Along with Romantic Encores, featuring clarinetist Russell Harlow.
Ray Kimber of IsoMike says “We used this for demo at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It is stunning in DSD and even better in DSD 4.0 Surround Sound.”
Clarinetist Russell Harlow is one of the nation’s premiere solo and chamber clarinetists. Having grown up in Los Angeles during the golden age of Heifetz, Piatigorsky, and Primrose teaching at USC, he studied as a young artist first with clarinetist Gary Foster, then with Mitchell Lurie. He attended a Gregor Piatigorsky master class and performed and was coached on the Brahms Trio with him at Piatigorsky’s home.
At the age of twenty-one, Russell won the audition to join the Utah Symphony and, while serving as Associate Principal Clarinetist, he continued his studies, traveling to spend a summer working with Harold (Buddy) Wright, the late principal clarinetist of the Boston Symphony, and with virtuoso violinist Charles Libove.
Russell Harlow’s love of chamber music led him first to found Salt Lake City’s Nova Chamber Music Series, then to join as Co-Director and Artist in Residence of the
Beethoven Festival Park City, the chamber festival founded in 1983 that continues as Utah’s oldest classical music festival. Russell Harlow invited his mentor Charles Libove, with pianist Nina Lugovoy, to perform at the Beethoven Festival and they performed together at the festival for many years, as well as presenting Beethoven Festival concert together at Carnegie’s Weill Hall in New York City.
After 41 years, Russell Harlow retired from the Utah Symphony to pursue his solo, chamber music and recording career, and currently performs over forty concerts a year. Russell Harlow has performed as a guest artist and lecturer with international clarinet festivals in Canada, Puerto Rico, Texas, and Utah, including in July of 2007 when he performed the “Evocations de Slovaquie” by Karel Husa, one of the works included on the IsoMike recording “Chamber Music for Clarinets and Strings by Dahl, Martinu and Husa” at the International Clarfest in Vancouver, BC.
Russell Harlow – Clarinet
Monte Belknap – Violin
Alexander Woods – Violin
Leslie Harlow – Viola
Julie Bevan – Cello
Ben Henderson – Bass
Total time: 00:57:32
|Original Recording Format|
Aaron Hubbard, Nathan Call
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|Release Date||August 3, 2020|
I was eager to discover what producer Ray Kimber and recording engineers Aaron Hubbard and Nathan Call, were able to achieve with the Sonolumina Ensemble.
The title suggests lots of romance and it does so with a series of ‘encores’ featuring one of American’s top clarinetist, Russell Harlow. Harlow is a long-time first-desk clarinet with the Utah Symphony, accompanied by various stringed instruments, who are all, one way or the other, part of a ‘Utah Connection’. Detailed descriptions of each of these highly competent players are given in the liner notes.
Some of the short and not so very short pieces are arrangements for chamber players, like Schumann’s lovely ‘Abendlied’ (Evening Song) Op. 85 No. 12 by Ferruccio Busoni and Tchaikovsky’s ’Herbslied’ (Autumn Song) from “The Seasons” Op 37a by Toru Takemitsu.
Alexander Glazunov’s ‘Oriental Reverie’ Op. 14 no. 2 for Clarinet and String Quartet is supposed to have been taken from a clarinet duo and later also scored for orchestra. It offers a nice contrast to the following more popular ‘Canzone’ in F Minor, by his compatriot Sergey Taneyev, scored for clarinet, string quartet, with an added bass for that warm mellow sound.
How romantic is Mozart anyway? All a matter of taste and a matter of playing. If one lifts out the second movement, in the hands of these musicians the Larghetto sounds as romantic as romantic can be. Mozart purists may disagree, but I think it is part of the freedom of interpretation, and moreover it sounds incredibly exquisite. I wouldn’t be surprised if others agree with me that the Clarinet Quintet is one of Mozart’s more emotionally sensitive works. The Sonolumina Ensemble have nonetheless taken precautionary measures by calling this release: Mozart and Romantic Encores.
As for the playing, there are numerous competitive recordings and many good ones at that. With superb clarinet playing from Leslie Howard, skillfully and effectively supported by the string quartet, this one ranks in my view in the upper half of the market. And taken in the context of the romantic atmosphere of an overall program of dreamy delight, I’m convinced that it won’t fail to give satisfaction to many discerning listeners, especially if they are in a corresponding mood.
One of the indispensable factors for the success of this release is no doubt the innovating standard of the recording. Free of customary tampering, it is ‘as played’. The Surround Sound is DSD 4.0 Channel. But so well done that I had to put my ear close to the front center speaker to ascertain that nothing came out of it.
The dynamic span between the softest and loudest passages is breathtakingly wide and natural and – back on the subject – impossible to bring about in commercial Red Book CD quality. Reason for me to also recommend this new release to all dissenters. They might like to hear something they have thus far denied it ever existed.
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