by Marco Battistella
In February 2019, I had the pleasure of recording Kerry Turner (horn), Kristina Mascher-Turner (horn), Frank Lloyd (horn) and Lauretta Bloomer (piano) for NAXOS at the “Tonstudio Edlmair & Lenz” here in Vienna, Austria. Turner recorded his anthology of horn literature and chose our studio because of the warm acoustics of recording studio A, which turned out to be ideal for the horn sound. Additionally, the YAMAHA CF III balanced very well with the horns. Prior to the recording sessions, Kerry visited me in Vienna. We discussed different requirements critical to a good reproduction of his repertoire. Properly recording horns is quite a challenge for sound engineers and producers as the perception of both player and audience is quite diverse. The sound should be neither too direct nor too diffuse and needs to be adjusted according to the preferences of the player. So, proper sound checks, even before recording the first note, are imperative. Added to sonic preferences, horn players need to record differently than, say, piano or violin players. A pianist only needs breaks to re-tune or rest. A horn player who stresses lips and surrounding muscles too much may not be able to intonate for hours or days. So, a typical horn recording session might not exceed 2 ½ hours with longer breaks in between. Instead of recording all the repertoire in 3-4 days, horn players need to plan additional time according to their personal endurance with an additional half a day (at least) of sound check in mind.
The challenge with the Turner recording lies in the very different horn sounds of the 3 players: The engineer must respect these characteristics and try to reproduce them as authentically as possible. This means that various types of microphones must be tested at various distances from the instruments. I personally prefer to use as few microphones as possible, simply because each microphone might add color and blur the natural perceived sonic stage depth and width.
I try to achieve 90% of the end result (sonically speaking) before the recording and not during the mix afterwards. To me, this is a crucial ingredient towards an authentic reproduction.
Once the horn sound was set, we needed to adjust the piano accordingly: The Yamaha CF III boasts a massive low end with quite warm mids and treble. This was an ideal combination with the horn sound, which in return is also quite warm but features richer overtones.
A big advantage for engineers is the fact that most professional musicians have a clear perception of how they want a recording to sound - even on listening systems they don’t know. This helps quite a bit during the sound check!
The recording is set to be released in Q2 2020, and I am indeed very much looking forward to this Vol. 1 of Turner’s works!
I sincerely hope this production will resonate as beautifully with the audience as it did with us during recording and postproduction.
Luxembourg born, multi-award nominated producer Marco Battistella, graduated in 2008 from the Conservatory of Music in Vienna. After his degree as a sound engineer, he founded his own company for classical music record productions.
As a producer, he has worked with renowned conductors and musicians like Valery Gergiev, Sascha Goetzel, Leopold Hager, Christoph König, Florian Krumpöck, Natalia Ushakova, Bryn Terfel, Michael Schade, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Solistes Européens du Luxembourg, Wiener Comedian Harmonists, Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera Choir, and many more.
He frequently records with and for labels such as NAXOS, Unitel, Hänssler Classic, Oehms Classics, Rubicon, etc. Marco Battistella is Mastered for iTunes certified.
Since 2016 he has been a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and subsequently became a GRAMMY voting member. He is also an active member of the Audio Engineering Society and the Verband Deutscher Tonmeister.