A short while ago, we recorded Russian/Dutch pianist Helena Basilova, performing a programme of beautiful fairy-tale music. The album, titled A Fearful Fairy Tale (after the piece by Elena Firsova) is now up for pre-order and will be released this summer.
The location we chose to record this album in was the famed Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, in the small hall, to be precise. We chose this specific hall not just for the impeccable acoustics (which were ever so slightly on the dry side of things, but in a very pleasant way, very suitable for chamber music), but also because of the amazing Steinway Model D concert grand piano that resides there. Tuned to utmost perfection by the team at Van Hoorn Piano’s, the sound is dense and rich, but nimble at the same time. Of course, it takes a specialist to work these keys, and Helena is definitely one of them.
When we were asked to record this album with Helena, she asked specifically for a more rich and intimate sound, unlike a lot of classical recordings. This prompted us to use a technique similar to what we used on QOPE’s album Nocturnal with two sets of microphones: the main system consisting of our OOA (Optimized Omnidirectional Array) of three Sonodore RCM-402 microphones, supplemented with two DPA 4006A omnidirectional microphones closer to the hammers of the piano. The blend of which resulted in a very warm, intimate sound, yet still with the acoustics the small hall of Muziekgebouw Eindhoven is famous for.
As for all of our recordings, analog signals were digitized with Merging Technologies HAPI converters running at 352.8 kHz 32 bits, and fed through a chain of ultra-high-end JCAT network equipment, such as the M12 Switch Gold and their FEMTO network interface. All cabling was custom microphone cabling and power cabling by Furutech.
Mastering an album like this proved to be a bit more of a difficult task. On one hand, you want the very lush, intimate sound of the close mics, but on the other hand, you really need the depth and acoustics of the main pair. Finding the right balance between these is a matter of trial and error, and using perfect timings between the microphone feeds. Luckily, we use laser distance meters on all our recordings, to measure the difference in distance between each microphone, which we feed into the recording software. This way, we can perfectly balance out the timing of the channels, getting you halfway to a perfect master. The rest was just simply making sure it sounds warm and intimate without losing depth and getting the audio saturated.