James Matheson

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Color Field Quartet, Laura Strickling, Thomas Sauer

Original Recording Format: DSD 256
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The story of this recording begins with James Matheson’s Violin Concerto, which he wrote for violinist Baird Dodge and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen as a commission from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This album includes the concerto’s premiere performance in Chicago on the evening of December 15th, 2011, with Esa- Pekka Salonen leading the CSO with Baird Dodge as soloist.1 Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti enthusiastically supported the release of this recording. Martin Chalifour, another prized Yarlung musician, performed the West Coast premiere with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado in 2012.


String Quartet - Taught, energetic
String Quartet - Slowly
String Quartet - Quick, breathless
Violin Concerto - Caprice
Violin Concerto - Chaconne
Violin Concerto - Dance
Times Alone - I have walked along many roads
Times Alone - Last night, as I was sleeping
Times Alone - Clouds ripped open
Times Alone - The wind, one brilliant day
Times Alone - Is my soul asleep?

Total time: 01:18:09

Additional information





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Digital Converters

Hapi for stereo and SonoruS Holographic ImagingHorus for 5.0 surround sound


AKG C-24 for String Quartet, 2x AKG C-12VR for Times Alone, and 2 additional Schoeps M222 mics for SonoruS Holographic Imaging mixes for String Quartet and Times Alone.  5x DPA 4006A mics for 5.0 Surround Sound for String Quartet and Times Alone.  


Original Recording Format


Bob Attiyeh

Recording Engineer

Bob Attiyeh, stereo; Tom Caulfield, 5.0 Surround Sound; Arian Jansen, SonoruS Holographic ImagingWe recorded the stereo version of the James Matheson String Quartet using an AKG C-24 stereo microphone from Ancona Audio, with a special new-old-stock RCA 6072 vacuum tube in it supplied and calibrated by David Bock, Yarlung’s microphone technician. We used two of Ancona's AKG VR C-12 microphones to record Times Alone. We chose an Elliot Midwood vacuum tube microphone preamplifier for the String Quartet and a Messenger microphone preamp for the song cycle.  We fed the signal into our Merging Technologies Hapi converter to record DSD256 using Pyramix Software. 

Christopher Willis recorded Jim’s Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in their lauded home on Michigan Avenue. Yarlung’s Arian Jansen mixed the PCM digital multi-track concerto recording using the SonoruS Holographic Imaging processor to create our stereo mix.  Yarlung designed our interconnects. Power cords for our most sensitive analog equipment were made for us personally by Gary Koh from Genesis Advanced Technologies.  Digital components used power cords from Aural Symphonics. Stereo formats were monitored on speakers from Genesis Advanced Technologies.  

SonoruS Holographic ImagingUsing our two principal microphones from the String Quartet and song cycle, and adding two additional mid-hall Schoeps M222 vacuum tube microphones, Arian Jansen fed into the SonoruS Holographic Imaging processor to create a 2 channel mix that uses a proprietary matrix incorporating phase, timing and EQ information from the four microphones to reproduce a three-dimensional listening experience from two speakers.   Arian captured this Holographic Imaging version using his SonoruS ATR12 analog tape recorder using EMTEC 528 broadcast tape which we then converted from the analog tape using the Merging Technologies Hapi converter at DSD256fs.  Arian mixed Christopher’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra tracks into two Holographic Imaging tracks as well.   Additional information about SonoruS Holographic Imaging: with the correct playback setup, this format can fill the room with musical information, with sound coming from up to 270 degrees around the listening position.  Holographic Imaging only works for one person in that exact listening position, however, and it only works if every component in the playback chain is phase coherent.  Please don’t be offended if your super-expensive system cannot accurately reproduce the holographic effect.  Not all premium audiophile systems are designed to incorporate this degree of phase representation.  Please download our Holographic Imaging test track first to determine if your system can accurately portray the signal circling around your listening position.   If it can, enjoy! If it cannot, we recommend the stereo or surround sound versions of this album instead.  The test tracks are available at http://www.yarlungrecords.com/sonorus

Recording location

Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa Califo

Recording Software


Recording Type & Bit Rate


Release Date June 24, 2016

Press reviews

Chicago Tribune?

How many composers are fortunate enough to have a brand-new work performed by two major soloists with two major orchestras under two major conductors, only a few months apart?

That is the happy situation in which James Matheson finds himself.

The admired American composer’s new Violin Concerto, a co-commission by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is to be given its world premiere at this week’s CSO subscription concerts in Symphony Center. The soloist will be Baird Dodge, the CSO’s principal second violin, with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting.

The concerto… owes its existence to a friendship that began some 20 years ago when Matheson and Dodge were roommates at Swarthmore College, outside Philadelphia. Although their interests and backgrounds varied, they shared what Matheson calls “a certain wandering spirit.” Matheson studied philosophy and music while playing electric bass in a rock band. A chemistry major, Dodge came from a musical family (his father is the respected computer music composer Charles Dodge) and studied violin and viola from an early age before enrolling in the precollege division of New York’s Juilliard School of Music…

Dodge received his master’s degree in music from SUNY-Stony Brook in 1994 and joined the CSO two years later as a member of the viola section. He moved to the second violins later that year and was named principal second violin in 2002. Since then, he has remained a regular participant in the CSO’s contemporary series, MusicNOW, which presented several Matheson works to local audiences.
Following his own university studies, Matheson plunged into what has since grown to become a prolific career as composer. His distinguished catalogue of orchestral, chamber and vocal works has won him numerous awards and grants. Earlier this month, the 41-year-old, Brooklyn-based composer received the prestigious Charles Ives Living, a two-year, $200,000 award bestowed by the American Academy of Letters.

The idea of having the CSO commission a concerto from Matheson began percolating in Dodge’s head as soon as he joined the orchestra. But the uncertain transition period between the departure of Daniel Barenboim and the arrival of Riccardo Muti, plus the difficulty of finding a conductor willing to sign on to the project, kept it in limbo for nearly a decade. It was Salonen who broke the impasse. The Finnish conductor had programmed Matheson’s chamber works during his tenure as the L.A. Phil’s music director, a tenure that ended in 2009, the year when Matheson became director of the orchestra’s Composer Fellowship Program. And Salonen had known of Dodge’s abilities from his many years as a CSO guest conductor.
Salonen used his clout and his belief in Matheson’s music to persuade the CSO administration to commit to giving the world premiere. The L.A. Phil signed on to the project soon afterward….

The composer wasn’t worried Dodge would find anything unplayable. Rather, he explains, it was a matter of tailoring “the music I wanted to hear” to the musical personality of his “incredibly gifted” friend and colleague. Matheson cites the works of Olivier Messiaen, Witold Lutoslawski and Steven Stucky as central influences on his style, along with the music of Gustav Mahler.
I wanted to write something that would make somebody in the audience weep
Indeed, he makes no secret of the fact that the slow movement of his Violin Concerto was inspired by the emotional pull of the slow movement of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony – a masterpiece Salonen has conveniently paired with the new Matheson opus at this week’s subscription concerts.

“I’m almost ashamed to admit this,” says the composer, “but I wanted to write something that would make somebody in the audience weep” – something “unabashedly beautiful” that would resonate with his love of Mahler’s sublime Andante. His larger intention was to give free rein to his friend’s whiplash virtuosity. The three movements – marked “Caprice,” “Chaconne” and “Dance” – progress from hyperkinetic swirls of 16th notes to a finale Dodge describes as “an adrenaline-charged ride that sounds like Paganini if he had grown up in Appalachia and then had his first encounters with contemporary music and espresso at the same time….
Matheson’s concerto is a supercharged showpiece for virtuoso violinist and orchestra that connects with the listener on a visceral as well as intellectual level. It keeps the soloist extremely busy as he negotiates a maze of vivid, colorful orchestral effects that ultimately are the most interesting aspect of the piece. While neo-romantic in overall flavor, Matheson is original enough to shun the feel-good bromides that constitute so much of today’s “new” classical music.

Chicago Sun-Times

Unlike many younger composers who have a basic idea and then try to orchestrate it, Matheson writes in full orchestral 3-D. Waves of tonal sounds moved across the stage, and sections had individual voices and even voices within the sections.

The Absolute Sound

“Another wonderful DSD recording is the recently released album of James Matheson’s compositions on Yarlung Records, downloaded in double-DSD from the website nativedsd.com. The album includes Matheson’s String Quartet, recorded late last year at Samueli Theater, part of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California. I was fortunate to have attended a later Yarlung recording session in this hall. The recording was made in quad-DSD (DSD256) and is available for download in that format, but I was able to listen only to the DSD128 version because the Aurender W20 doesn’t currently support DSD256. In DSD128, the string quartet was rendered by the PDP 3000 HV with exceptional vitality and timbral realism. The PDP 3000 HV’s dynamic alacrity and visceral quality described earlier beautifully conveyed this music’s unusual rhythmic flow. The album includes a piece for piano and soprano called Times Alone that was stunning in every way: the timbre and dynamics of the piano, the palpability and purity of the soprano, and the way that the instruments were presented spatially within the acoustic.”


“There were engineers setting up mikes for an ultra-high quality DSD (Direct Stream Digital) recording, a surround sound recording, the first-ever commercial SonoruS Holographic Imaging recording (which renders an incredible 3D listening environment from a pair of properly configured speakers), and we were also recording to tape. As in analog tape. Because Bob was scheming to release the entire project on vinyl also.”


“…Matheson is a highly interesting composer whose work genuinely seeks to reach out to audiences, and this recording is as good an introduction to (or exploration of) the forms in which he works as anyone is likely to offer. “

The Whole Note

“It’s a striking work with a virtuoso role for the soloist and some terrific orchestration.”


“Matheson combines instruments in a way that gives rise to wonderful colors.”

The Absolute Sound

(…) All of Matheson’s music has a bold, cinematic flair. His writing for solo violin is highly idiomatic and virtuosic; the orchestral contribution is extravagantly colorful. Matheson employs an advanced tonal syntax and confidently cites other styles as he makes his argument: the central Chaconne of the Concerto references the slow movement from Mahler’s Sixth Symphony and the energetic finale strongly suggests bluegrass. (…) The concerto recording scales the solo instrument correctly and the orchestral sonority is luminous. Times Alone captures the impressive dynamic power of soprano Laura Strickling and massive, dimensional piano sound.

Positive Feedback

“James Matheson is a composer new to me, I’ll confess. I first became aware of him when my good audio friend and master producer/recordist at Yarlung Records, Bob Attiyeh, contacted me and said that I had to check out his new Quad DSD recording, James Matheson, transferred from the original SonoruS 15 IPS half-track 1?4” tape via the superlative Merging Technologies Hapi Quad DSD analog-to-digital converter. What can I say? Bob’s recommendations are gold with me. And so I did so. I was very much taken by Matheson’s work in this exceptional recording, which is a collection of his compositions. The third track is the third and concluding movement of his String Quartet, entitled “Quick, breathless.” It certainly is! Coming at you like an oncoming train, this movement drives you with its collection of staccatos, dissonances, and musical tensions. I am still reflecting on what I experience as I listen to Matheson, especially in his compositions for strings. This album was a very pleasant surprise for me; I think that it will be for you, as well. Try something new!”
– from the booklet of the album NDSD006 ‘Positive Feedback DSD Sampler’

Juliana Hall – composer

Just downloaded the new recording of music by James Matheson from Native DSD Music. I am especially interested to hear his song cycle and its performance by soprano Laura Dixon Strickling and pianist Thomas Sauer – this is really GREAT!!!

Beautiful, imaginative music…energetic, clear, attentive piano playing…and really stellar singing by Laura…incredibly powerful, high notes, and such a well-developed interpretation. I don’t know the songs well, but it’s clear she has thought through these texts, and with Sauer has crafted a very assured, effective, and moving performance.

The album is available for download from NativeDSD Music, which provides extremely high-quality audio files.

Congratulations Laura, Thomas, James, and Yarlung Records’ Bob Attiyeh – lovely music, beautiful performances, and an extremely well-done production.

Stereophile Magazine

Tom Caulfield, a Grammy-winning recording engineer who has worked for Channel Classics and other labels, recently sent me a multichannel DSD256 file from a session with Color Field, a group comprising musicians of the Chicago Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony, for a recording of James Matheson’s String Quartet, to be released in June 2016 on Yarlung Records. The opening notes were startling — I had the disturbing but exhilarating feeling that music was actually being made in my room, not merely reproduced. The sound was no more “multichannel” than it was “stereo” — the four players seemed almost within reach, and my room seemed to expand around me. Caulfield had included a few photos of the session, held at the Segerstrom Center, in Costa Mesa, California. When I looked at them — by George, that’s exactly what I’d heard. Not only was I completely transfixed: I kept thinking, If others could only hear this, hi-rez multichannel music would take off.


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