March 17, 2016

Hi-Res Surround Recording of Tonkunstler Orchestra [Special report]

Kazuya Nagae 

Music Culture Creation Department, 
Nagoya University of the Arts’ School of Music 

1. Overview
This is a report on the session recording of Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life) and Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) by Richard Strauss, performed by the Tonkunstler Orchestra with their new chief conductor, Mr. Yutaka Sado. The recording took place in Grafenegg, a suburb of Vienna in October 2015 and the recording will be released as a CD and also in 192kHz 24bit high resolution stereo and surround. 

2. The Orchestra and Background of the Recording
Based in the State of Wien (Vienna) and the State of Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), the Tonkunstler Orchestra uses the Großer Saal at Wiener Musikverein, the Festspielhaus in Sankt Pölten and the Outdoor Theater and Auditorium in Grafenegg as its activity bases. The orchestra's name originates in Tonkünstler-Sozietät, an association organizing concerts in Haydn's age. Its name became Verein des Tonkünstler-Orchesters in 1907, and the orchestra premiered Gurre-Lieder by Arnold Schoenberg. It is a prestigious orchestra familiar to people in Vienna. As Mr. Yutaka Sado became its new music director, the session recording took place in time to his inauguration. Located in the State of Niederösterreich, approximately 60 kilometers northwest of Vienna, Grafenegg, where the recording took place, is famous for Grafenegg Castle and white wines. Since 2007, Grafenegg Music Festival has been held every summer. Its guest performers in the past include NHK Symphony Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and it has become established as seasonal charms of the summer in Austria. The festival is held at an open-air stage called Wolkenturm (Tower of Cloud), built with modern design as opposed to the design of the castle in an extensive garden neighboring the Grafenegg Castle, and the Auditorium, where this recording took place. Tonkunstler Orchestra has been the orchestra in residence at the festival. 

                     Grafenegg Wolkenturm     © Alexander Haiden

3. Recording Team and the Label
The recording was conducted by Mr. Florian B. Schmidt and Mr. Aki Matusch of Pegasus Musikproduktion, a music recording/production company in Berlin. Mr. Schmidt is an active Tonmeister with over 20 years of career in Berlin. Not only he has been engaged in live broadcastings of the German Public Broadcaster, Deutschlandradio Kultur, he has also flourished as master disc producer for Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, RIAS Kammerchor, Dresden Kammerchor, Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn etc. Mr. Matusch earned Diploma of Tonmeister at Berlin University of the Arts in 2011 and has been actively engaged in many recording productions with various labels and live broadcastings in Berlin. The orchestra established its original label and this recording was released as the first release of the label. The production method was not in the conventional style in the field of record business, but it was planned from a flexible point of view as if an orchestra manager programs a concert. Furthermore, the recording team made a proposal not only to consider the release of a CD but also to eye the possibility of distributing high sound quality stereo sound and surround sound. Accordingly, the recording was executed with 192 kHz/24 bit high resolution surround.

                         Pegasus Musikproduktion

4. Location of the Recording
The recording took place at a concert hall with a seating capacity of 1,300, Auditorium, built in Grafenegg in 2008, for 4 days. Early reflections in the hall felt rather bright, and reverberation was about 2 seconds. Curtains were hanged on the side and front of the stage to diminish the early reflection, and the recording was managed using a piano storage room backstage as a control room.

                               Grafenegg Auditorium

5. Recording Equipment
The recording equipment for this recording was organized by connecting a MADI Interface, 2 RME Micstasys and an OctaMic XTC, all set on stage (See Fig. 1). MADI signals were transmitted to RME MADI Router through an optical fiber cable and divided to 2 branches, and then recorded by the main DAW (MERGING Technologies Pyramix) and a back up DAW (Magix Sequoia) through 2 MADI-USB Interfaces (RME MADIface XT). It was impressive that the whole equipment was transportable with just 1 passenger car even though the recording system was for 192kHz 24bit 24 track sound.

                         Figure-1 Recording System

Stage                                                                                           Control Room

     Stage Box : RME Micstasy, Octamic XTC           Audio Interface : RME MADI Router,MADI face XT

Audio Interface : RME MADI face XT                  DAW : Merging Pyramix    

6. Actual Recording
The recording of Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life) and Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) had been performed for 4 days from October 16. On the first day there was a rehearsal from 3:00pm, and a live recording of Ein Heldenleben, where powerful and tense concert takes were recorded. This was performed in a concert setting open only for supporters of the orchestra at 7:30pm. Next day, on the 17th, the session recording for details based on the concert on the day before took place. Then, the session recording of Der Rosenkavalier followed for 2 days on October 19 and 20. Although both pieces were for large orchestra with 4 players in each part of the wind section and advanced performance skills, the conductor and orchestra united as one and the Tonmeister directed the recording to unleash virtue of their music to the fullest extent.

7. Microphone Arrangement
Fig. 2 shows the microphone arrangement of the recording. In order to record an open and clear string sound, the recording was executed based on a concept of taking overall sound of the strings by using a Decca Tree instead of placing spot mics at 1st and 2nd violin, viola, and cello. The main microphone system was organized with AB-Stereo by Schoeps MK2S and Decca Tree LCR-LL-RR by B&K 4006, wide cardioid Schoeps MK21, suspended from a baton and facing toward the ceiling, were set as surround LS-RS. Unidirectional spot mics were set only at the double bass part in the strings section, each part in the woodwind section, horns, harps, and percussion. In addition, another spot mic was set at the right backstage where th e off-stage trumpets were performed in Ein Heldenleben. Each spot mic was time-aligned with the Decca Tree, which had the biggest weight among the main microphone system. Specifically, time margins between the DAW waves of the main mic and each spot mic were measured by emitting a pulse sound at the point where the instruments' sound to be taken by each spot mic would actually be sounding, and considering the mutual relations among all the mics, mixing was done by delaying signals from the spot mics with DAW Pyramix mixer's track delay.

                         Figure-2 Microphone Arrangement





8. Post-production
Post-production was done at Pegasus Musikproduktion's studio in Berlin, and I interviewed Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Matusch on the details of the post-production. 

Q.Please let me know your ideal sound and recording. 
A.In a good recording the listener can fully concentrate on the music without thinking about technical details. Also important are a good sounding hall which fits the music and a good balance between the diferent instruments.We think the right positioning of the main microphone system is the most important factor, because the main microphones make about 90% of the sound. A height difference of only 10cm will lead to a big difference of the whole sound. 

Q.What is most important factor in equipment?
A.The most important factor is reliability. We want to use our equipment like an instrument without caring much about technical details. Instead of losing time with setting up complicated technical setups, we want to concentrate on the sound as quick as possible. 

Q.Why do you recommend MADI? 
A.MADI is really fantasic because it allows us this quick and easy setup mentioned in the last question. We are using RME MADI technology for a long period now and never experienced any problems like dropouts or synchronizing issues even at highest sample rates, we can really recommend it. 

Q.What do you think of Edit and Mix and Mastering? 
A.The mixing process starts already during the first take of the recording. We have to quickly decide if issues in the sound like balance problems between different instruments are a problem of the recording or a problem of the performance. It is always better to correct things directly on the stage than "fixing it in the mix". 

Q.What was the work flow of the post-production? How about Edit? 
A.After the first edit and mix, Mr.Sado visited us in our Studio in Berlin and we finalized the project in an 8-hour mixing-session. 

Q.How about Mix? How Main Mic and Spot's Level % 
A.Depending on the score the mix is completely different, from main microphones only to a relatively spot based mix. There is automation on every single channel. We think Spot mic's time alignment is very important. 

Q.How did you mix with surround? 
A.First of all we had a nice sounding pair of Schoeps MK21 microphones for the surround channels. The automation of the stereo mix is used as a basis for the surround mix, moreover we used two different Bricasti M7-reverbs for front and back and we played a bit with the relation of early reflections and reverb. 

Q.How did you MIX with the off-stage trumpet in Ein Heldenleben? 
A.Please find out !  

9. Closing Remarks
As I look back the recording this time, I felt that each of conductor, orchestra, orchestra manager, and Tonmeister had a clear target “to create a wonderful work,” and the project was accomplished by their team work. This is a result of that the orchestra manager and Tonmeister well organized the project to make a concept and schedule of the recording the most suitable in advance, and I felt anew that a process of planning up to the recording itself is very important to have successful recording. According to Mr. Schmidt, his career as Tonmeister started with an internship at a large record company in early 90's, and orchestra recording at the time was done on a massive scale with much equipment and many staffs, spending many days. Today, high quality/low cost technology with MADI allows us to do orchestra session recording with just a few people. By this technology, possibility of technical troubles in circuit has been diminished, and Tonmeister can concentrate on micing and content of music. Furthermore, I felt that an amount of their communication with players and manager of orchestra is increasing. I heard that the orchestra is going to keep having self-producing high resolution recording for 1 CD per 1 year, and I am looking forward to seeing what kind of works are going to be released. I am grateful to Tonkunstler Orchestra and Tonmeisters, Mr. Florian B. Schmidt and Mr. Aki Matusch for giving me an approval for publishing this article. 

Translated by Hitoshi Sugie

CD information


A Hero's Life 
and Suite from "Der Rosenkavalier" 

Yutaka Sado / Tonkunstler Orchester 

"A Hero's Life" tone poem, op. 40 
Suite from the Opera 
«Der Rosenkavalier» op. 59

Recorded at Auditorium Grafenegg, Lower Austria, 16–20 October 2015 
Recorded by: Pegasus Musikproduktion Producer: Florian B. Schmidt 
Sound engineers: Aki Matusch, Florian B. Schmidt 
Location assistant: Kazuya Nagae 
Post production: Aki Matusch, Florian B. Schmidt 
Design: parole München 
Photographers: Kazuya Nagae, Platzhalter, Platzhalter, Platzhalter 
Editing: Ute van der Sanden 
Translation: Caroline Wellner, Masato Nakamura Proofreading: Sandra Broeske 
Executive producer: Frank Druschel 

 ℗ + © 2016 Niederösterreichische Tonkünstler Betriebsgesellschaft m.b.H. 
All rights of the producer and the owner of the work reproduced reserved.

Information Link


Conductor : Yutaka Sado 
In recent seasons, Yutaka Sado has made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Bavarian State Orchestra, the WDR Symphony Orchestra, the NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Forthcoming engagements see him conducting the MDR Symphony Orchestra Leipzig and the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra for the first time. A long-time assistant to Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa, he has won some of the most distinguished conducting awards worldwide, including the Premier Grand Prix of the 39th International Conducting Competition in Besançon and Grand Prix at the first Leonard Bernstein Jerusalem International Music Competition. His close ties with his mentor led to his appointment as «conductor in residence» at the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, which was founded by Bernstein. Yutaka Sado has been Artistic Director of the Hyogo Performing Arts Centre (PAC) and Principal Conductor of the PAC Orchestra since 2005. The PAC’s three concert halls now attract over 70,000 visitors a year, making it one of the most notable concert venues in Japan. Sado is very well known in Japan, not least due to his weekly TV show in which the conductor takes on the role of presenter to give Japanese music lovers an understanding of the world of classical music. 

Orchester : Tonkunstler Orchester
The Tonkunstler are the only Austrian symphony orchestra to boast three residencies. The Sunday Afternoon Concerts at the Vienna Musikverein have a tradition that stretches back over 60 years and remain the Tonkunstler’s most successful concert cycle to date. The Festspielhaus St. Pölten was officially opened by the Tonkunstler on 1 March 1997. As resident orchestra, they have catered to a variety of genres since then with opera, dance and educational projects, as well as an extensive range of concerts. They thereby form a large and integral part of the cultural life of the Lower Austrian state capital. In Grafenegg, the Tonkunstler have two acoustically outstanding venues at their disposal in their capacity as festival orchestra: the Auditorium and the Wolkenturm. The latter was also officially opened by the Tonkunstler. Each year, the Midsummer Night’s Gala – broadcast on radio and TV in Austria as well as in several other European countries – opens the summer season in Grafenegg. 


Florian B. Schmidt 
graduateTonmeister from Universität der Künste, Berlin and over 20 years of experience as a freelance Artistic Producer. During these years he has produced numberous recordings for Deutschlandradio Kultur, which include many nationally  and internationally acclaimed award-winning recordings of all genres and epochs. 

Aki Matusch
graduate Tonmeister from Universität der Künste, Berlin, has been working as a free-lance sound engineer for many labels, ensembles, orchestras and radio stations since receiving his diploma in 2011.

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