Ralph Rousseau - Telemann - 12 Fantasias for Viola da Gamba

Recording Blog – Ralph Rousseau

Every once in a while, you’re faced with a chance of a lifetime.

For me, as an engineer as well as early-music-lover, my chance-of-a-lifetime was when we were asked to record Telemann’s recently discovered Fantasias for viola da gamba solo, that had been thought lost for over two and a half centuries. It’s no secret the viola da gamba is one of my favourite instruments, and some of you might know that Telemann is one of my favourite composers.

So what do you do when a chance like that comes knocking at your door? You’re right. You go ALL OUT.

And all-out we went. We first looked for the perfect location to record these monumental pieces at, and eventually picked the Geertekerk in Utrecht, for its absolutely stunning acoustics. This relatively huge church is about 800-900 years old, and has been through many wars and other historical events. Relatively recently, it has been completely restored (and more!) by the folks over at Heirloom in Utrecht, who preserve these kinds of beautiful monuments, and elevate them with top-grade catering. Great work.

In terms of equipment and setup, we chose to go all-out as well. We took over five hours of setting up, tuning, finetuning, soundchecking, more soundchecking, and eventually came up with a rather simple microphone setup of five main (omnidirectional) microphones for our 5.0-channel surround system (of which the front three were used, such as in a Decca Tree kind of system, for the stereo mix), aided with an ever-so-slight mix from subcardioid microphones positioned a bit closer, for added detail. The microphones in question were, respectively, the DPA 4006A and the DPA 4015A.

Connecting the microphones to our Merging Hapi converters and preamps, were the custom-made by Furutech microphone cables. Based on their top-tier interlinks and carbon-fiber with Rhodium connectors, you can’t really go better than these ones. But you sort-of can. We elevated them from the church floor with Furutech’s ingenious NCF Boosters, of which we did a video recently. All of this might sound and look a bit extreme, but extreme was (and is still!) what we’re going for.

The monitoring at the session was done with the new and amazing Meze Empyrian headphones, and honestly, I’ve never heard such detail and lifelikeness in any headphones, ever. If you’re in the market for a I-want-the-best-there-is set of headphones, these are the ones to put on your shortlist, at the very least.

Back at the studio, the album was edited together with my colleague Ernst Spyckerelle, while monitoring on our dedicated 5.0-system with KEF Blade Two speakers driven by Hegel H30 amplifiers.

And the results?

Well, listen for yourself!