The April 2023 issue of The Absolute Sound features a new article from Stephen Estep entitled “New Classical Recordings on Vinyl” and highlights our Reference Mastercuts series!
“When Reference Recordings wanted to start pressing LPs again, which they did in 2011 after a 16-year hiatus, they not only had to figure out an entirely new supply chain (for one, their preferred JVC Japan pressing plant had gone out of business and their mothers and stampers had been scrapped), but also a way to create new masters. The lathe they used in conjunction with “Prof.” Keith O. Johnson’s one-of-a-kind tape recorder had been retired, and he himself had gone digital after helping develop HDCD. Needless to say, digital masters have take the place for them and most other labels.
Reference’s 2-LP 45rpm vinyl release of Mozart’s Piano Concertos 21 and 24 with Eugene Istomin and the Seattle Symphony under Gerard Schwarz is on our Super LP List, but it doesn’t appear we’ve ever actually reviewed. The sound is just easy: everything is relaxed and transparent with the perfect amount of reverb. The piano’s low-middle range—important to the instrument’s dialogs with itself in the slow movement of the 21st—has the subtlest bit of spice; the left-hand accompaniment parts in the third movement sing out. The playing is gorgeous, and the phrasing is elegant and understated, adding to that sense of ease. The opening of the 24th is sinewy and tragic, its sturm und drang foreshadowing the greater Romatic-era turbulence of the coming decades. Istomin and Schwarz take a slower-than-average pace, increasing the tension. …
Better balanced is Reference’s 2013 release with the suite from The Wasps and the Fantasia on Greensleeves by Vaughan Williams and Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Again, the sound is effortless, and the Kansas City Symphony under Michael Stern glows. …—Stephen Estep, The Absolute Sound
Look for the article in the April 2023 issue of The Absolute Sound!