Bach: Cello Suites 1 & 3 - Baranowska
Base2 Music 011
Classical - Instrumental
Bach: Suite No 1 in G major, Suite No. 3 in C major
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - February 21, 2023
So far, Base 2 Music specialized to great acclaim in recording a series of remarkable organs. Now that it seems to be looking further afield, I wondered how the Franco-Bulgarian cellist, Emilia Baranowska, had entered the scene. The answer was simple: She played together with Jean-Paul Imbert, one of Base 2 Music’s organ heroes, the same two Bach Suites on a, as far as I know no longer available, Festivo release (a dissolved Dutch label specializing in organ music), but still shown on Mme Baranowska’s web site.
We have here two versions of the same on one disc and I don’t think that it has ever happened before. SACD layer 1 is a stereo DSD studio recording and SACD layer 2 is a multi-channel live recording. Jake Purches, the producer, says: “The program is the same … but the interpretation is quite different”. How right he is. At times the difference is even huge like in the Prelude of the Third Suite. Jake continues by saying: “It is interesting to compare the private recording in a house … with the live performance in a church”. And so, we will.
The studio recording, with all the facilities that go with it, is the ‘private recording in a house’, the live recording is taken from a concert in a nearby church. These two versions on one disc give the listener a rare chance to find out what many of us already knew: Recordings of live performances have something hard to obtain in a studio. Public presence can induce a considerable degree of inspirational ‘voltage’, whereas the sobriety of a studio delivers more interpretational and tonal perfection, thanks to the possibility of correctional ‘takes’.
But there is another phenomenon to be taken into account. Listening ‘live’ we are lenient and forgiving, which we are not at home. The thrill of ‘live’ is substituted by a desire to enjoy a perfect rendition that can withstand the test of repeated hearing. Two different objectives and we should congratulate Emilia for giving us the unique opportunity to explore and compare such elements.
What I said before about the venue and its obvious consequences is more or less theoretical and certainly not written in stone. In real life, much depends on an array of variables. In this release, the hall is a small village church in the English countryside, the Studio is a room at 'Burletts', a West-Sussex country house. Both with their own, typical characteristics that might have a bearing on the final outcome. After having compared the versions, it is up to the listener to choose which layer to play.
It won’t be easy. there are different factors to consider. For instance, to what extent would one like to have a recording that starts and ends with applause and occasional noise from the audience? Although these are an integral part of ‘live’, they may for some be felt as too intrusive or distracting in the surrounding of a private listening room. As a consequence, the anti-handclappers will want to opt for the country house performance, but will then have to face the choice between surround ‘with’ (church) or stereo ‘without’ (home). A personal matter, no doubt. In any case, the sound recording of both is excellent, thanks to Jake Purches’ engineering and Bastiaan Kuijt’s and Tom Caulfield’s mastering.
Whatever your choice, Emilia is a gifted musician with a respectable track record. That said, Bach aficionados, having already multiple sets of his Solo Suites on their shelves, will be looking for something that makes her reading stand out from the crowd. What struck me most during my listening tests and comparison sessions, was her style of playing; a style that concurs with the skilled sobriety of the Great Master. It kind of fits in with the chosen surroundings of a village parish church and a room in a stately country house. Though both are distinct, the common denominator is honesty. Emilia Baranowska’s performance is in my view best defined as a genuine display of sincere pureness.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
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Comment by EugenF - February 22, 2023 (1 of 4)
Thanky you Adrian Quanjer for your impressive review.
I want to add a very small technical info:
1) a SACD disc can have a Stereo area or/and a Multichannel area, not Stereo or Multichannel 'layers';
2) a SACD disc can be single layer, dual layer or hybrid (one layer for CD format and another layer for SACD format);
3) I think this album is a hybrid SACD (base2music said that all SACD discs are CD player compatible).
Comment by Adrian Quanjer - February 23, 2023 (2 of 4)
You are right, it is confusing. But this release is different from all other Base2 Music releases.
As youy say, a SACD normally has two layers. A CD (upper) layer, and a second (lower) layer with two progammes (surround version and stereo version).
The booklet says: CD audio – main programme only; SACD layer 1-Pure DSD stereo main programme plus live concert; SACD layer 2 – live concert 5.0 surround.
My player is programmed to give preference to “Multi-Channel”. When I put in the disc, I get the live concert, 12 tracks in surround. When I then choose “Stereo”, I get 24 tracks: First the ‘studio’ recording in stereo, 12 tracks, followed by the live concert, 12 tracks, in stereo as well. Two different layers, so it would seem to me.
(I could not find nor play the CD programme, and thanks for the compliment).
Comment by EugenF - February 24, 2023 (3 of 4)
The confusion is generated mostly by the lack of documentation of a SACD.
The layers of a SACD has nothing to do with audio program content (Stereo or Multichannel). The term 'layers' are only involved in capacity of a disc, allowing an extra time recording.
The scarce SACD documentation did not mention that Stereo audio program must (or can) be placed in one layer and Multichannel in a separate layer (in the case of a dual layer disc).
Besides the fact that a SACD disc can have Stereo & Multichannel areas, it can also have extra data areas: Images area or Lyrics area (these are reserved for further expansion of format).
In the case of this album, I really have doubts that the factory managed to place the Stereo area exactly in first layer and the Multichannel area in the second layer of sacd.
I ordered this album and I will make further investigations.
Comment by Jake Purches - February 24, 2023 (4 of 4)
The CD layer only has the main programme audio, and a link to Soundcloud for the concert is on the rear cover as a QR code. The reason being that the CD layer doesn't have enough space for both. This was meant to be the primary recording and the concert the 'icing on the cake' so to speak. The SACD layer contains the Stereo DSD recording of the main programme AND the stereo PCM recording (converted to DSD) of the concert. And lastly, the Multi-channel has the 5.0 version of the concert. The PCM encoding of the concert was made at 352.8 kHz 32 bit, which is as good as it gets in terms of down converting to 2.8 Mhz DSD for the disc.
Yes its a little unusual, but I like to add 'treats' for those who have SACD players! As I am not bound by convention I can take advantage of the format. I hope you like it.
Jake Purches, Producer and recording engineer - Base2 Music.