Last week, we recorded Russian-Dutch pianist Helena Basilova performing a programme of beautiful fairy-tale music for solo piano (with a hint of additional cello provided by Maya Fridman). The album, titled A Fearful Fairy Tale, will be out this summer, so stay tuned! Good to be back! After such a wonderful session with Alexander Warenberg and Giuseppe Guarrera at the Kleine Zaal of the Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, we were so stoked to hear that Helena also wanted to record here! And for good reason: the piano is simply one of the best I’ve ever heard. The Steinway Model D concert grand in the Kleine Zaal of the Muziekgebouw. The Kleine Zaal is perfect not just because of its amazing acoustics (dryer than you’d expect from a room this size, yet unbelievably rich in sound and texture), but also for the complete silence around it. A lot of concert venues have terrible acoustic separation between the different halls, but this one doesn’t, making it perfect for these whispering hints of sound in, for example, Schnittke’s Piano Sonata No. 1. The background is just completely black, as it were. Rich yet intimate This album being more of an introspective for Helena, she wanted to have a sound that’s less classical per se, and more warm, intimate. However, the richness of a quality classical record is still very much a wish for this recording. This prompted us to do a sort-of inverse technique from what we did with QOPE’s album Nocturnal, where we combined a set of main microphones in the piano with support microphones where one would normally put the main microphones, so a couple of meters away. The inverse here being that the main microphones were a couple of meters away, but greatly supported by the close mikes in the piano itself. This way, you get the richness of the full concert hall, yet the warm, intimate sound of close-miking the piano. The close mics in the piano, in this case DPA 4006A omnidirectional microphones. Of course, all of the signals ran into the Merging Hapi we use for recording anything, anywhere. It’s running – as always – at 352.8 kHz 32 bits (DXD), so plenty of resolution to get the full immersive experience out of! Mastering It’s funny how usually, mastering never takes more than a couple of hours for a classical recording. Simply put: a good recording engineer “masters” as he’s recording – using microphone position, choice of instruments and placement and attributes like that to create the end result. This time around, we made three different versions before we got to the result we wanted. At first, we made something relying more on the close-mikes. This got us a result that was perfectly intimate, warm, yet somehow very unrealistic (not that fairy tales need to be realistic per se, but still). After this, we kind of went the completely other way, making a mix that’s more of a usual classical recording – heavily relying on the main mic array with almost no use of the close mics. The result of this was a master that was very pleasant to listen to, but never got you on the edge of your seat, getting you this feeling you’re listening to a fairy tale happening in front of you. But as they say, third time’s the charm. The third mix, I could say, was about a 50/50 mix as one could be. The close mics worked in tandem with the main mics to make this perfect blend of rich colours, vivid dynamics, lifelike acoustics yet with this shimmer of deep intimacy in the sound. We can’t wait to share this recording with you! Posted by Brendon Heinst. Brendon is the founder and senior recording & mastering engineer at TRPTK. He gained a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in audio engineering at the University of the Arts Utrecht and Open University of London. Brendon was involved in more than 200 recordings to date, focusing heavily on ultra-high-resolution and multichannel immersive recordings.