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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Prof. Dr. h.c. Johann-Nikolaus Matthes, Diplom-Tonmeister and EMI Electrola Reflexe "Stationen Europaischer Musik" series

"German sound engineer, from 1967 to 1980 with EMI Electrola; professor for recording sciences at the University of Music in Berlin."

The above "should" say it all...

... but in my opinion, Prof. Matthes, now a teacher at Berlin's Tonmeisterinstituts c/o "Universitat der Kunste" reached among the highest peaks in recording art, like J.F. Pontefract (of Harmonia Mundi - France fame), also teaching at Institut Audio-Visuelle in Paris.

It's my hope and wish both the above recordists/engineers were able to pour some of their knowledge and class in younger generation of recordists-to-come.

He's a true "Tonmeister" - i.e. a Master of Sound!

... but I don't want to sing the (present days) merits of Prof. Matthes... I'd like to underline and point-it out again and again the tremendous, amazing job he made while recording the impressive EMI/Electrola Reflexe Series dedicated to European ancient music (Stationen Europaischer Musik), where he recorded - it was early to mid-'70s - virtually all the greats - Hopkinson Smith, Thomas Binkley, Paul O'dette, Anthony Bailes, Jordi Savall and many others.

I must (unshamedly) admit I use some records he recorded for both enjoyment and pure pleasure and musical bliss AND sonic/audio evaluation and fine tuning, notably this.

This stunning record, also re-issued under EMI Classics' program of 6-disks boxes series, proved to be an endless source of superb, seldom heard and recorded lute music AND an incredible source of ambient details, a true highest-resolution recording which I cherish in my whole discotheque.

If going disk;-) check for Volume 5 and 8 box-sets, containing Bailes' recordings.

The clothes rubbing on the lute, the breathing, the outer noises - different cars, children playing in a courtyard, birds - ALL entering the mikes, down to the INCREDIBLE noise (an extremely light, costant high pitched, siren-like whistle-y sound) of the tape-recorder motors, also captured (sure an unwanted feature;-)) on tape: ALL the above makes this disc a masterpiece and a sure system resolution proofing!

Don't be fooled: I still love the music more than the noises... but I'm pretty sure Arthur Salvatore (also a scholar and knowledged listener of these superb series) if knowing of or owning this very record could/will agree: it's vinyl and analog at its VERY best... ahhh, those so beautifully "growling" double lute strings and slurs and micro-dynamics.

How I would like to know how the recording engineer - Prof. Matthes - obtained such an incredibly transparent result: which mikes, positioning and pattern, recorder, tape, earspeakers, mixer... and which room or church? ... and humidity and temperature;-)?!?!

Maybe I'll be able to contact him at his Berlin's faculty office or at Universitat's Fasanenstrasse, Charlottenburg's studio(s)... cannot resist in not knowing "how" he did this.

In the meantime, please try to locate your copy of the above mentioned masterpiece, without forgetting its companion, another absolute masterpiece, always by Bailes/Matthes team on EMI/Reflexe.

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