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The Virtual Haydn: Complete Works for Solo Keyboard (Blu Ray Audio & Blu Ray DVD)

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The First Naxos Blu-Ray- a recording of the complete works of Joseph Haydn for solo keyboard in nine virtual reconstructions of the rooms in which these pieces would have been originally performed, using seven specially-crafted historical keyboards.
A trail-blazing project of four Blu-Ray discs featuring 14.5 hours of music with an added picture in picture option, plus a three-hour documentary on the making of the recordings, directed by award-winning director and screen-writer Robert J. Litz.
A fully interactive experience, this epic set offers users the opportunity to direct their own performance of a short Andante for Musical Clock; by selecting from a choice of rooms and instruments users can freely navigate 63 possible combinations to experiment with sound and acoustics as if wandering the 18th century halls themselves.

Review

...And what presents? If you know someone with a Blu-ray player and surround-sound but nothing but Batman movies, try The Virtual Haydn, a complete survey of piano sonatas on Naxos by McGill professor Tom Beghin, who plays replica pianos (which do make a difference) in sonic replicas of historic rooms.

This is audio, not video, although there are images on the screen, and a documentary is included. Four discs bring you 15 hours of music. For those still into CDs, try the recent Deutsche Grammophon recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio (plus a Rachmaninoff filler) with Lang Lang, Vadim Repin and Mischa Maisky. -- Canada.com, Arthur Kaptainis, December 19, 2009

Here are 18 hours of heaven for devotees of historical keyboards, as McGill University professor and performer Tom Beghin presents all of Joseph Haydn's keyboard works on three Blu-ray audio discs. With the help of specialized acoustical engineers, Beghin was able to replicate the acoustics of a variety of historic rooms inside the recording studio at McGill's Schulich School of Music. Beghin also had new, historically accurate instruments made for the project, including two types of harpsichords, a clavichord, a square piano, a fortepiano and an early modern grand piano. The fourth disc provides comprehensive video background, including a making-of documentary. A general listener will find plenty to like in the performances themselves, all nicely programmed across the various "rooms" and instruments. Even the audio discs only work on a Blu-ray player. -- Toronto Star, John Terauds, December 15, 2009

The Collection

The Virtual Haydn: Complete Works for Solo Keyboard is another in a line of Blu-ray Audio recordings utilizing the "Pure Audio" standard jointly developed by msm-studios in Germany and Norwegian label 2L. It allows for switching between the high-resolution 5.1(DTS-HD Master Audio; 96kHz/24-bit) and 2.0 (LPCM 96kHz/24-bit) audio programs on the discs by simply pressing the Red or Yellow buttons on your player's remote. It is the first such release from Naxos. For this 4-BD collection, Tom Beghin, musician and historian, teams up with his McGill University colleagues Martha De Francisco and Wieslaw Woszczyk for what turns out to be a rather interesting, yet unusual, project in the world of Classical music. Joseph Haydn is one of the accepted masters of music, no doubt, but his solo keyboard repertoire has been neglected over the years in favor of his younger contemporaries Mozart and Beethoven. There are perhaps only two pieces from Haydn's keyboard works that have become standards of the repertoire, and they are the Sonata in E-Flat Major. Hob. XVI:49 and Sonata in E-Flat Major, Hob, XVI:52.

Tom Beghin wanted to change all of that by finally bringing together all of Haydn's solo keyboard works in one grand collection. But The Virtual Haydn goes one step beyond that by bringing together Haydn's works on instruments that he would have played on in the 18th Century and placing them in the very rooms where Haydn himself and his contemporaries would have played them.

How this is accomplished is the real story behind what makes The Virtual Haydn quite unique in the world of Classical recordings. The palaces, homes, and music halls that were once in secluded areas during Haydn's time are now in heavily trafficked areas where noise impedes the recording process -- in other words, they are absolutely no good for making a quality acoustic recording. Wieslaw Woszczyk, a professor of Sound Recording at McGill University approached Beghin with the idea of using virtual acoustics. They would sample the acoustics of the actual rooms and use highly sophisticated equipment in the sound laboratory to reconstruct the sound space of those rooms during the recording process to place the instruments in the various acoustic spaces.

9 rooms were sampled and they are all virtually reconstructed on this recording. BDs 1 - 3 present Beghin playing Haydn's solo keyboard works on a variety of reconstructed period keyboards, from clavichords, to French-style harpsichords and fortepianos. Beyond that, the recordings are also careful to rake into account the tunings and temperaments of the period. Those were days before tunings had become widely standardized around 440Hz. One piece that modern ears might find most unusual is the Capriccio in G Major on BD 1, Program One, which uses a quarter-comma meantone. Today, most would think it was "out of key."

To my ears, raised equally on the music of Schöenberg, Stockhausen, and Sonic Youth, and also having spent my teens and early-twenties experimenting with various tunings and temperaments on my guitar the moment I realized there was something other than 440, the Capriccio sounds marvelously off-kilter.

Beghin's performance of the Haydn pieces are obviously well informed and he is a skilled and impassioned keyboardist, no doubt. The repertoire is given the appropriate performance style for the period and instrumentation used. It is neither over-romanticized, nor too stiff. The early harpsichord and clavichord pieces have an air of regality and grandeur, whilst moving into the later fortepiano pieces, the playing becomes just a bit more personal and emotional.

The Virtual Haydn will make a lovely collection for any classical music lover, but particularly those with a taste for Haydn.

Video Quality While The Virtual Haydn is focused on audio, with BDs 1 - 3 containing no more than limited disc menus in 1.78:1 1080p/24 (MPEG-2) that is very crisp and detailed, BD 4 does contain high definition video in the form of the documentary Playing the Room (1080i/60; MPEG-2) as well as a few video performances (1080i/60; MPEG-2) and a photo gallery (1080p/24; AVC/MPEG-4). The 1080i high definition video looks a bit soft and high in video noise in some areas as well as showing many instances of aliasing, but the photo gallery is again very detailed, clean, and vivid. Audio Quality Most Classical recordings are made up solely of the natural sounds of the instruments and the acoustical properties of the room in which the recording was made. On judging the audio quality of The Virtual Haydn, one must put oneself into a slightly different mindset, however. The entire approach of the project goes against the established norm for the Classical industry, but it was done with good intentions. To capture the entire solo keyboard repertoire of Joseph Haydn on instruments he would have played in the spaces he would have played them in seems like a noble and worthy task, but the realities of the modern world mean that most of those places are now in areas where traffic and pedestrian noise make for terrible recording spaces. So, unlike the vast majority of Classical recordings today, The Virtual Haydn uses digitally generated reverberation, based on actual room samples done by McGill University to reconstruct the performance spaces of Haydn's era. These "virtual rooms" are what we hear on The Virtual Haydn, rather than the real reverberation picked from microphones during the recording sessions. The actual instruments were recorded in a studio that was basically anechoic.

I'm positive that whether the resulting recordings constitutes a true audiophile recording will be debated until the cows come home, but it certainly does not sound horrendous. For the most part the period instruments, made up of harpsichords, clavichords, and fortepianos, sound realistic. It could be my own natural biases creeping in, but in Program 2, BD 1, I almost thought there were moments where the clavichord did sound a bit electronic, more like a clavinet, than something wooden. Delay times on the reverberation throughout the recording also seemed to always be just a little unnaturally long to my ears, even when purporting to be in rooms that were supposed to be small and intimate. Things were just a little "wetter" than what I would expect to hear in a recording with naturally captured ambience. With that being said, Naxos and the folks at McGill University still did a darn good job bringing the 18th Century back to life in a somewhat realistic manner, in my opinion. Supplemental Materials There aren't any real "supplements" singled out as such on The Virtual Haydn, per se, especially if one takes the collection as one whole, but I suppose the Photo Gallery and 7 X 9 Matrix: 7 Instruments, 9 Rooms feature on BD 4 which allows listeners to listen to a performance of the Andante for Musical Clock hXIX:10 on each instrument used on this recording and switch between the different virtual rooms can be considered supplements. The Definitive Word Technology meets art in a good way with The Virtual Haydn Blu-ray collection. I'm never one to advocate messing about with the sound of a good acoustic recording when it comes to Classical music, but as an experiment The Virtual Haydn succeeds rather nicely. I'd still rather stick with the recordings recorded with natural acoustics, but as an historical reference The Virtual Haydn works. -- Blu-rayDefinition.com, Brandon DuHamel, December 28th, 2009

The Virtual Haydn Blu-ray Review Naxos provides one of the most audacious recording enterprises in recent memory with this splendid offering of all of Haydn's solo keyboard works. ... Audio

Luckily the audio quality is indeed reference material. The DTS-HD MA 5.0 track is full blooded and beautifully rendered, despite the fact that only one instrument at a time is playing. I was repeatedly impressed by the separation and discrete tonal areas which permeated the soundfield. The low ends, especially of the more resonant Tafelklavier, Fortepiano and Piano, resolutely penetrated from the subwoofer, while the airy plucked sounds of the harpsichord and clavichord were clear as a bell (though the Saxon Clavichord by its very nature has a sort of watery sound). This is a remarkable recording also in terms of the many levels of reverb which become quite evident in the 5.0 mix (less so in the LPCM 2.0 folddown). While, as mentioned above, some of the smaller rooms don't offer hugely disparate differences in reverb, there's really a quite astounding difference between these small rooms and the larger palatial spaces which were digitally recreated. This is one of the most fascinatingly technical recording enterprises I've had the pleasure of listening to, and while that technology is in and of itself mind bogglingly interesting, it's the artistry of Beghin that really shines through in these recordings.

Supplements

What, four discs of material isn't enough for you? Well, I'm happy to tell you there's a rather thick insert booklet (almost 70 pages) full of tons of information about Beghin, the instruments and each of the pieces. It makes for a very compelling program guide as you listen to the first three audio Blu-rays.

Final words

This release may indeed have "niche market" stamped on it in big, bright letters, but that niche better sit up and pay attention. This is one of the best classical releases of this year and probably of the decade. Audacious in its ambitions, it never forsakes artistry for technology, always the sign of great music. I cannot recommend this release highly enough. -- Blu-ray.com, Jeffrey Kauffman, December 5, 2009

The Virtual Haydn: Complete Works for Solo Keyboard is another in a line of Blu-ray Audio recordings utilizing the "Pure Audio" standard jointly developed by msm-studios in Germany and Norwegian label 2L. It allows for switching between the high-resolution 5.1(DTS-HD Master Audio; 96kHz/24-bit) and 2.0 (LPCM 96kHz/24-bit) audio programs on the discs by simply pressing the Red or Yellow buttons on your player's remote. It is the first such release from Naxos.

For this 4-BD collection, Tom Beghin, musician and historian, teams up with his McGill University colleagues Martha De Francisco and Wieslaw Woszczyk for what turns out to be a rather interesting, yet unusual, project in the world of Classical music. Joseph Haydn is one of the accepted masters of music, no doubt, but his solo keyboard repertoire has been neglected over the years in favor of his younger contemporaries Mozart and Beethoven. There are perhaps only two pieces from Haydn's keyboard works that have become standards of the repertoire, and they are the Sonata in E-Flat Major. Hob. XVI:49 and Sonata in E-Flat Major, Hob, XVI:52.

Tom Beghin wanted to change all of that by finally bringing together all of Haydn's solo keyboard works in one grand collection. But The Virtual Haydn goes one step beyond that by bringing together Haydn's works on instruments that he would have played on in the 18th Century and placing them in the very rooms where Haydn himself and his contemporaries would have played them.

How this is accomplished is the real story behind what makes The Virtual Haydn quite unique in the world of Classical recordings. The palaces, homes, and music halls that were once in secluded areas during Haydn's time are now in heavily trafficked areas where noise impedes the recording process -- in other words, they are absolutely no good for making a quality acoustic recording. Wieslaw Woszczyk, a professor of Sound Recording at McGill University approached Beghin with the idea of using virtual acoustics. They would sample the acoustics of the actual rooms and use highly sophisticated equipment in the sound laboratory to reconstruct the sound space of those rooms during the recording process to place the instruments in the various acoustic spaces.

9 rooms were sampled and they are all virtually reconstructed on this recording. BDs 1 - 3 present Beghin playing Haydn's solo keyboard works on a variety of reconstructed period keyboards, from clavichords, to French-style harpsichords and fortepianos. Beyond that, the recordings are also careful to rake into account the tunings and temperaments of the period. Those were days before tunings had become widely standardized around 440Hz. One piece that modern ears might find most unusual is the Capriccio in G Major on BD 1, Program One, which uses a quarter-comma meantone. Today, most would think it was "out of key."

To my ears, raised equally on the music of Schöenberg, Stockhausen, and Sonic Youth, and also having spent my teens and early-twenties experimenting with various tunings and temperaments on my guitar the moment I realized there was something other than 440, the Capriccio sounds marvelously off-kilter.

Beghin's performance of the Haydn pieces are obviously well informed and he is a skilled and impassioned keyboardist, no doubt. The repertoire is given the appropriate performance style for the period and instrumentation used. It is neither over-romanticized, nor too stiff. The early harpsichord and clavichord pieces have an air of regality and grandeur, whilst moving into the later fortepiano pieces, the playing becomes just a bit more personal and emotional.

The Virtual Haydn will make a lovely collection for any classical music lover, but particularly those with a taste for Haydn. -- Brandon DuHamel , Blu-rayDefinition.com, December 2009

The first entry of Naxos back into hi-def multichannel releases, after their past delving into both SACD and DVD-Audio, is this super-extensive multichannel and hi-def video survey of every solo work of Franz Joseph Haydn, including some of those for which his authorship is doubted. There simply isn't time nor space to list every single one of the selections here. Although the set features Blu-ray videos, and is also a DualDisc - in that there are both music discs plus a video disc - I have placed it in this section because it's probably the highest-res album we have ever covered.

It would be wise to watch the three-hour video Blu-ray first, before listening to the over 14 hours of music-only Blu-rays. It has subtitles, by the way, in French, German, Dutch and Japanese. The documentary "Playing the Room" explains the very unusual approach to these recordings. The plan was to record Haydn's keyboard music on seven instruments appropriate to each work, but also to do it in nine different equally appropriate spaces. For example, some of the intimate little works obviously written for the clavichord would be played in a room of Haydn's actual house in Eisenstadt, whereas a big keyboard sonata would be performed on a two-manual harpsichord in a large and ornate hall of the Esterhazy Palace where Haydn was the court composer/performer. All seven instruments ranging from a 1760s clavichord to an English grand piano from 1798 - were built especially for the project as copies of the originals, by leading instrument makers of today.

Now comes the unique twist in this project: the performer and music historian, Tom Beghin, didn't perform in all those locations thruout Europe and Canada. Instead, he worked with producer Martha de Francisco and acoustical architect Wieslaw Woszcyk in applying "virtual acoustics" for the first time in a commercial recording such as this. The team sampled and mapped the acoustics of each of the nine performing environments, using three-point arrays of omni mikes as the main microphones, and other cardioid and omnidirectional mikes to pick up different shades of defined sound in various positions. They then took the recorded digital data back to the labs of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology of the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Montreal. There Tom Beghin performed each of the works on the appropriate keyboard instrument in the middle of a sphere of 24 speakers - some of which you can see in the photo as the rectangular devices with 4 drivers per speaker. He practiced the pieces within the domed sphere of 24 speakers, but for the actual recordings the speakers were turned off and a perfected mix of the convolution responses was send to headphones worn by Tom, and then mixed in the proper proportions with the pickup of his actual keyboard instrument. The producer explains in the tech notes how the sound of any instrument is a mix of its direct sound (including reverberation in its own case, as they discovered with the small clavichord) and the reflections from the surrounding walls, ceiling and floor. These reflections bounce around continually in the space, creating diffuse sound and reverberation, until they die out. What the Virtual Haydn project did was to isolate completely the separate components of the direct sound of the instruments and the reflected sounds of the environment, and putting them together again, using the virtual acoustics of the various historical spaces.

The video Blu-ray includes three other parts in along with the documentary film by Robert Litz and Jeremy Tusz. There are five selections presented as complete videos with DTS-HD surround. There is a Gallery of still photos of all the instruments and the various historical rooms. The most unusual portion is the "7 x 9 Matrix: Andante for Musical Clock." It presents the same short Haydn work he was commissioned to compose for a mechanical musical clock of the period, played on each of the seven different keyboard instruments. The viewer can then select one of the keyboards, and with the remote select which of the nine historical room acoustics you want to hear it performed in. Taking 7 times 9 you thus have 63 different possible combinations! There is also a beautifully illustrated 66-page booklet with the set. BD No. 1 is divided into four programs: Courting Nobility and The Music Lesson make use of the large Leydecker harpsichord and first a music room and then a larger hall at the Eisenstadt castle; Quality Time and Haydn's Workshop uses pieces performed on a clavichord in Saxon Style, played in two different-sized rooms of Haydn's own house. BD No. 2 has three programs: Your Most Serene Highness features the "Nicolaus Esterhazy Sonata" played on a French style harpsichord in the ceremonial Room of the Esterhazy Palace, The Score is the "Anno 1776 Sonatas," played on a 1788 Tafel Klavier in the Chateau Ramezay in Montreal, and Equal to the Finest Masters presents the Auenbrugger Sonatas of 1780, played on an Anton Walter fortepiano in the Esterhazy Music Room. BD No. 3's three programs are: Musical Letters to a Princess, with the "Marie Esterhazy Sonatas" of 1784 played again on the Tafel Klavier; Viennese Culture, which uses the fortepiano again in the festival hall of the Lobkowitz Palace in Vienna, and finally The London Scene - works written by Haydn in London played on a Clementi piano in the Holywell Music Room at Oxford University. and This is a sensitive, detailed and well-thought-out presentation - visually, sound-wise and note-wise. One comes away with an appreciation for the many varieties of keyboard instruments and how different they sound from today's instruments. Also an appreciation for the major sonic effect the particular environment can have on the instrument being recorded. The documentary is a fine survey of the unusual project in hi-res 16:9 video, and the fidelity of all the DTS-HD Master Audio music tracks is of course superb. The great variety and most of all the historically/musically/acoustically accurate presentation of all of Haydn's keyboard works is 100% more interesting than if Beghin had simply recorded a multi-disc set of all the Haydn keyboard works on the same instrument (or a couple instruments) in exactly the same hall or studio. -- Audiophile Audition, John Sunier, November 22, 2009

Tom Beghin performs all of Haydn's works for solo keyboard on a selection of instruments chosen to suite the various compositions. This, he says, is necessary because the dates of composition span so many years that the instruments Haydn and others are presumed to have played would have changed in that time. Such an approach is not novel, but Beghin has also chosen to play each instruments in an acoustic environment appropriate to it, and thereon hangs the novelty of the entire project.

Rather than travel with a recording crew to each building and try to accommodate the sessions to the schedules of engineers and venues, Beghin teamed up with colleagues at McGill University, in Montreal, to bring the acoustics of the various venues back to McGill, where he could perform with fewer constraints. Wieslaw Woszczyk, who holds the James McGill Professorship in Sound Recording, has developed techniques for re-creating in one room the entire sound field of another. Woszczyk gets his raw data by using "an 80-second logarithmic sine-sweep ranging from 18Hz to 48kHz," radiated from multiple loudspeakers and captured on multiple microphones at three different heights. From this he computes how the room transforms sounds made within it. Then he creates convolution filters that, back in Montreal, would instantaneously generate virtual responses triggered by the sound of Beghin's instruments and endow them with the acoustics of th remove "virtual" performance venue.

Within the laboratory room in which Beghin performed/recorded, Martha de Francisco set up arrays of recording microphones, finely tuned and individually placed for each instruments, to pick, up all the direct sound. Although only capturing a close-up sound, de Francisco then was able to add the diffuse sounds to create the ambience they would have had in the virtual recording site. This complex process, of course, is superimposed on all the other complex assessments and manipulations ordinarily involved in making a multichannel recording. De Francisco, an associate professor at McGill, is the well-known engineer, also responsible for the excellent series of SACD recordings with Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra, releases on Ondine. She describes this process as an extremely delicate procedure in which changes in level of less than 1dB in one microphone channel made a big change in the overall sound. Finally, Beghin sat down at this instrument and played. He had to wear headphones so that he could hear the ‎virtual" acoustic and temper his playing to suit it--much as he would had he been performing there. The result of all this is ear-opening and mind-blowing. We hear the evolution of Haydn's brilliance and ingenuity on a series of delightfully colorful instruments, played stylishly and with historical sensibility, all sounding as if recorded in a series of wonderful and different acoustic spaces. The pieces are organized into 10 programs, each with an apt combination of instrument and venue, and span three audio-only Blu-ray discs with 5.0-channel dtsHD Master Audio sound. PCM 2.0-channel tracks are also provided.

The fourth Blu-ray disc includes a video documentary that introduces the trio of contributors, their ideas about the project, and a tour of the instruments and recording sites, virtual and real. There are also five live performances recorded in Blu-ray video showing an on-site performance and various "virtual" ones. I found these informative--they clearly illustrate the virtual reconstruction process while revealing that the virtual acoustics were not absolutely precise clones of the originals. Considering the many variables involved, including such factors as the effects of temperature and humidity on the instruments themselves, this is not surprising.

Wow! That's my reaction to the second feature: a 7x9 matrix that permits the listener to hear every one of the instruments Beghin used in each of the virtual venues. After listening to this exercise, anyone who doesn't accept the impact of the hall acoustic on a recorded performance should have his ears or head examined. Finally, there is a gallery of lovely photos of the venues, most of them as interesting and pleasing to the eyes as they are to the ears. -- Stereophile, March 2010

When Tom Beghin, a Flemish pianist, joined the music faculty at McGill University in 2003, he already had plans to record all of Joseph Haydn's keyboard sonatas. Haydn wrote more than 50 pieces for solo keyboard instruments over nearly 30 years, from 1766 to 1794. "This was to be my `masterwork,' " Beghin says, "not in a romantic or self-glorifying way, but in the 19th-century sense of being accepted to a guild." Beghin's comment reflects both his intellectual ambition and his self-effacing manner. Which may help explain why it is Haydn's music that has become the focus of his life, because that's what Haydn was like. The Austrian composer died 200 years ago this year, so his prolific output has become the focus of new attention. His music's flawless logic is being appreciated anew. His cool, often witty emotional detachment, which led earlier generations to dismiss him as a cold fish, now seems suited to our own skeptical era. But no project during this Haydn bicentennial year is as surprising as Beghin's. He always planned to record Haydn's works, not on a modern piano, but on new replicas of the original instruments. In the late 1700s, keyboard technology was evolving fast, from harpsichords and clavichords to fortepianos and pianofortes, each coaxing sound from strings in a different way. Beghin approached another new McGill prof, the legendary German record producer and recording engineer Martha de Francisco, to capture the nuances of each instrument in the studio. It was yet another McGill colleague who brought the wild card. Wieslaw Woszczyk is another recording engineer with a penchant for new technology. He approached Beghin and de Francisco with a challenge: if this was to be Haydn's music on (something like) Haydn's instruments, why not record it in the rooms where it was first performed? Woszczyk knew hauling all those keyboards across Central Europe would cost a mint. So he had an audacious Plan B: why not digitally capture the acoustic characteristics of each room--echo, delay, reverberation and so on--and recreate the sounds of all those rooms in a single Montreal studio? Beghin, a traditionalist who pores over Haydn's correspondence for clues about his music, was skeptical. "I asked myself, `Oh, what's next, do we need to use candlesticks? Do we have to wear their clothes?' Which is not so stupid, because it kind of restricts you when you move." But Woszczyk and de Francisco are not prone to gimmickry, and Beghin let himself be persuaded. The result is The Virtual Haydn, a recording of the composer's complete keyboard works, performed by Beghin on seven replica instruments in nine "virtual rooms"--digital equivalents of places like Haydn's own study in Eisenstadt, the festsaal in Vienna's Palais Dietrichstein-Lobkowicz and the spiegelsaal in the Esterhazy Palace, where Haydn served as the house composer to nobility. Woszczyk recorded the characteristics of each room, then channelled that information and Beghin's own fresh notes through a dome of loudspeakers deployed around the keyboardist. To Beghin it sounded like he was playing in those far-flung rooms. On disc it sounds like he was recorded on an extended and varied tour. (The Virtual Haydn is being released for sale around the world this month and next on Naxos, appropriately in a new format: 14 hours of audio and a full-length video documentary on four Blu-ray discs.) The sound is crisp in small rooms, opulent in grander settings. And because the keyboard technology changes so radically from one set of sonatas to another, we're reminded that this so-called "classical" period didn't feel like a genteel twilight period to the people who lived through it. It felt like one long upheaval. Most important, the technology allows Beghin to show how much care Haydn took to write music for specific settings. Beghin calls him an "orator," in the sense that a gifted speech maker selects his material and manner to suit each audience. That's far from the romantic ideal of the protagonist who's helpless in the grip of his own fevered genius, and for the longest time Haydn's poise actually played against his reputation. No fair, says Beghin. "There is no shame in being aware of your technique, being aware of what you do. When I play Haydn, when I listen to Haydn, I never had a sense of incompleteness. He's a full human being, with a full range of emotions." -- MacLeans.ca, Paul Wells, October 1, 2009


Product Details

  • Conductor: --
  • Composer: Haydn
  • Blu-ray Audio (October 27, 2009)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Label: Naxos Blu-ray Audio
  • Run Time: 1080 minutes
  • ASIN: B002JP9I1G
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #339,749 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By D. Roberts on May 17, 2011
Format: Blu-ray Audio Verified Purchase
The is a beautiful set of recordings in full surround sound. For those with a home theatre system up to the task of playing full surround music you will literally "feel like you are there." The instruments used are authentic for the period and the rooms are "virtual" recreations of actual rooms from the period. So, you will hear the music exactly as it was intended to be heard by the composer. If your surround speakers are not up to the task but you have good stereo main speakers, use the two-channel LPCM mixes though just your stereo speakers for the best possible stereo sound.

The previous reviewer mentions that there are times that he would like to be able to listen without waiting for the Blu-Ray to load the menus. While he is correct you will have to wait for the menu, there are no copyright notices etc. like with movies so the wait isn't too bad. And that's a small price to pay for full HD surround sound. And the advantage of the menu is you can call it up while the music is playing to see exactly what is playing; or to easily navigate to another piece.

The previous reviewer also mentions he would like two-channel versions for playing with an iPod etc. As mentioned above, the disc does include two-channel LPCM mixes of all pieces on the disc so one could easily use "audio capture" software (not "ripping") on their computer to capture the two-channel mix to play on their iPod.
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Tom Beghin and his colleagues from McGill University have created a meticulously produced panorama of the keyboard works of Haydn. Obsessive attention to detail, voluminous notes and video documentaries, and superb recording quality of the seven replica historic instruments and nine historically informed, digitally recreated acoustic environments allow the listener to immersively enter into Haydn's rapidly evolving world. But none of this would matter without Beghin's sensitive, intelligent, and highly musical performances. His point is not merely to present the quaint and esoteric sounds of his highly specific period instruments, but to explore the musical implications of those sounds for the composer and his listeners. The idiosyncrasies of each of the instruments (clavichord, two harpsichords, and four pianos) become inextricable from Haydn's musical text and Beghin's interpretation.

The decision to release the 17 hours of material on Blu-ray makes for a much more compact package and allows the use of 5.1 surround audio, and video features and documentaries. But it also limits the ability to enjoy the music beyond the confines of a home entertainment center. The Blu-ray load time gets old fast if one wants to listen to one or two cuts. Many of us would like to be able to live with the music in the car or the iPod as well. And a great many people who would savor this work simply do not possess the technology.
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Format: Blu-ray Audio Verified Purchase
When one buys a blu-ray recording, he expects to have a recording containing quality sound. On my playback system (with a range of 14Hz to 20 kHerz), all of the four discs' lower registers sounded muddy and distracting.. The reason for this lack of quality is due to the harpsichord and clavichord screechy performance range--high and etched with no bass sound. In other words by default this recording's lower audio registers were left blank--having no signal, only noise. A 5.1 recording can benefit from a variety of audio experiences if they're available to record.

Another disappointment came when watching the various recitals. No performer was filmed. It was like three audio disc without any visible action. The fourth disc consisted of a discussion among several people of where to record, one notable example, so that the ambient sound might match the actual solons (rooms) where Haydn performed. All talk and no filmed performance. Just my opinion, but still I cannot recommend this collection.

Haydn's music can be performed on the pianoforte nowadays, a rather remarkable instrument with a reputable range, and not a series of unattractive, historical instruments conjured up from long, long ago.
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