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Dynaudio The Ring Pianos Project 1, Garben & Hoppe

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 Danish loudspeaker specialist Dynaudio has produced the World Premiere Recording of Richard Wagner‘s "Ring of the Nibelung" in the transcription for two pianos by Hermann Behn (1914), featuring Cord Garben and Thomas Hoppe. The Ring Pianos Project, performed by Garben and Hoppe, released on Dynaudio Records, was recorded in Bayreuth, Germany on legendary Steingraeber "Franz Liszt"-concert grands that were built in Bayreuth in celebration of WAGNER YEAR 2013.

"Wagner, the magician, has made the orchestra disappear." - Georg Stolti. However, this recording goes one step further than the master Wagner’s unusual orchestra pit design at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. With the removal of "orchestral and vocal commotion" (Carlos Kleiber, in the studio during the mixing of his TRISTAN recording), the listener is able to hear the very essence of the work, which suddenly has "much more of an inward effect" according to Kleiber. Here, in The Ring Pianos Project, the music is once again liberated from the effects of orchestration. ”The result is uncanny, drawing you in with a seemingly magical series of harmonies and notes to produce a deeper and more intense experience“ - Klaus Hiemann, Studio Engineer for Carlos Kleiber.

The Ring Pianos Project was conceived to honor Wagner Year 2013, and has brought the creative heads from all stages of the musical production process together to create a very special work of art. Two out-standing pianists, the world’s longest-standing piano manufacturer, several creative development and recording experts, and the producer of some of the world's most renowned professional studio monitors and audiophile home loudspeakers have been working together at their free will in a spirit of congeniality to come up with a recording that has never, ever been made before.

Born in Bad Homburg in 1943, Cord Garben studied piano and conducting at the Academy of Music in Hanover. Répétiteur at the Staatstheater in Lower Saxony. Specialises in song accompaniment. Concerts and recordings with Edith Mathis, Anne Sophie v. Otter, Brigitte Fassbaender, Peter Schreier, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Bernd Weikl and Kurt Moll, among others. Accompaniment to the complete song recordings of Alexander Zemlinsky and Hector Berlioz and to the songs and ballads of Carl Loewe (21 CDs, finished in 2005). Deutscher Schallplattenpreis, French Minister of Culture prize for the best cultural initiative, Grand Prix Franz Liszt Budapest, seven Grammy Awards as producer. Key achievements during his time at Deutsche Grammophon included the work with Herbert v. Karajan, Mstislav Rostropovich, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. As Director of Vocal Productions, he was responsible for all vocal productions. Some of the main highlights in this area were the recordings at the New York MET under James Levine (including Wagner‘s RING).

As conductor, Cord Garben has worked with, among others, the NDR Symphony Orchestra (tours and recordings with Benedetti Michelangeli), the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra (Wagner‘s ”Tannhäuser“ in 2001), the NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo, NDR Radiophilharmonie, and Radio Symphony Orchestra Warsaw. In 2001, Cord Garben became President of the Johannes-Brahms-Gesellschaft, Hamburg and an Honorary Member of the International Carl-Loewe-Gesellschaft.

Born in Bad Kreuznach, Thomas Hoppe studied with Agathe Wanek in Mainz and Lee Luvisi in the USA. Hoppe specialized in song and instrumental accompaniment at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. For many years, Hoppe was studio accompanist for Dorothy Delay and Itzhak Perlman at Juilliard. Between 2001 and 2004, he worked as a faculty member on the Perlman Music Program at the personal invitation of the violinist. Hoppe performs in concerts in the USA and Europe as piano accompanist to, among others, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Antje Weithaas, Marie-Luise Neunecker, Alban Gerhardt, Jens Peter Mainz, Mihaela Martin and Frans Helmerson.

As a member of the ATOS Trio, he won the Deutscher Musik Wettbewerb in 2004, the Schubert Wettbewerb in Graz in 2006, and the renowned Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition and the North American Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson- Award in 2007. In 2009, the ATOS Trio was named New Generation Artists by BBC London. The musicians regularly perform in concerts in Europe, the Unites States and Australia in legendary venues such as London's Wigmore Hall, the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Kennedy Center in Washington and Carnegie Hall in New York. Hoppe regularly works as official piano accompanist in various international competitions (ARD Munich, Queen Elizabeth Brussels, Joseph Joachim Hanover). He has held master classes in Chile (Frutillar Music Festival), Bulgaria (Varna), Michigan (Gilmore Festival), Shanghai (Conservatory), Kentucky, Arizona and New York City, Melbourne, Sydney and Berlin. He is a chamber music tutor at the Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic and for the Staatsoper in Berlin, and is Artistic Associate at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler in Berlin.

Hermann Behn (1859-1927), Hamburg composer, trained under Anton Bruckner, among others. His re-workings of Richard Wagner‘s musical dramas became so popular that they ended up in many Wagnerite households, in spite of their at times immensely difficult piano parts.

The apex of his career were the 50 Symphonic Movements from Richard Wagner‘s musical dramas. What is special about this transcription, into which the vocal parts are cleverly woven, is the manner in which the arranger stretches the intervals until they are almost unplayable, thus forcing the players to break the chords. Filled chords that also demand a fifth above the octave are almost standard. In between, there is the swirling of the water music at the beginning of the Rheingold, and the murmur of the harps at the end as the gods move into Valhalla. In his footnotes, Behn expressly indicated that the pianist should not try to play the notes of the broad chords together (for example by leaving out individual notes).

By means of the large intervals and leaps, which also take into consideration the mixture of discordant harmonies, and by direct doubling on both instruments (end of the 1st act of the Valkyries), the two instruments create a fullness of tone not present in either the original works for two pianos or in other arrangements of symphonic works.

The works of great symphonic literature were developed by their composers in the notation from a nucleus of two or three note systems: piano score (2 note systems) and short score (3 to 4) contain the first structuring of the musical ideas. Here, themes and motifs are developed and their course determined. At this point, the composer already has an idea of the orchestral instrument to which he will allocate each musical component, leading to the overall sound in the final orchestration process.

Even one page of a large Wagner score, which may contain up to 30 note systems, started out as just a few staves. When a director or composer familiar with the craft decides to ”arrange“ scores from great Wagnerian musical dramas for the piano, he reverses this development process: it the becomes about recreating the sounds with only the piano. Thus, where there might seem to be a disadvantage for the listener due to a lack of sounds from the instruments of the orchestra, there is in fact an advantage: by reducing the sounds available to only those of the piano, the listener is able to directly hear the structure of the work and its harmonic grammar. Thanks to this deeper insight into the inner workings of the music, the next time the listener falls under its spell in the theater, he or she will hear it with different ears.

The philosophy: to record the ensemble of two mature grand pianos as purely as possible using the highest quality standards and the minimum technology possible: two sphere microphones as poly-directional microphones and two wide-angles as direct sound microphones for each concert grand. The grand piano microphones were directly connected to the pre-amplifiers/converters of the Nagra recording equipment for the shortest possible signal path to recording. The sphere microphones were specially pre-amplified using a Sonosax PreAmp. The microphone signals were recorded on separate tracks in 24 bit/96 kHz resolution. This means the mix chosen from the recording venue to be refined even further in mastering, making it even more transparent and balanced.

Track Listing:
The Rhinegold
1. Scene (Alberich, Rhinemaidens)
2. Scene (Gods and giants)
3. Scene (Nibelheim)
4. Scene (The gods move into Valhalla)

The Valkyrie
I. Curtain, prelude (thunderstorm)
3. Scene (Siegmund and Sieglinde)
4. Scene (death announcement)
Curtain, prelude (The Valkyries)
Scene (Wotan‘s departure. Fire magic)

Recorded April 22th-April 26th, 2012 in Bayreuth
(in the concert hall of the Protestant community)
Played by
    Cord Garben (Benedetti Michelangeli, Karajan, Levine- und Buenos-Aires-Ring)
    Thomas Hoppe (ATOS Trio, BBC New Generation Artist 2009, Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship 2012)
Sound Engineer: Johannes Müller
Mastering: Christoph Stickel

Piano Technician - Peter Cerveny
Creative Producer - Jan Geschke
Assistant Producer - Jan Kretschmer
Executive Producer - Wilfried Ehrenholz
Sound Engineer - Johannes Muller
Mastering - Christoph Stickel
Photography - Paul Schirnhofer

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