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08/10/2003 9:30p ET
Brett Rudolph - Reviewer

Some albums tend to be more cutting edge then others. These albums tend to explore some of the more exotic or esoteric parts of both the instruments used and ultimately the people who listen to them. Bella Figura is just such an album.

Willem Jeths, the composer of the chamber music found on this release has always been according to the information about him, “in search of new sound potential within traditional instrumental genre such as symphony music and string quartets.” In fact, as his biography states and is mirrored by his works contained on this album, he is not beyond using non traditional instruments or traditional instruments in non traditional ways to create the meanings he is striving for in his music. While some might not enjoy his compositions, they are nevertheless a statement as to his skill and artistic talents.

The album itself contains four separate works. Each of these works is dedicated to something somewhat different from the other. In fact, only two of the four pieces utilize the same instrument, the violoncello, which is one of the most versatile of all string instruments. However, regardless of their differences in instrumentation it is easy to see just how well Willem Jeths succeeds in his endless search for new sounds.

This album released by Northwest Classics, a record company based in the Netherlands whose simple goal is to, “unite the newest cutting edge audio recording technology with the finest performers and musical literature available from all corners of the globe.” To this end they work together with composers like Willem Jeths and use the most technologically advanced methods of capturing the full complexities of the music they are recording. In this case, the recording has been released on a hybrid stereo SACD offering the listener a choice of versions, a classical red-book layer or CD version and a high definition SACD version.

The CD version is very well done. Its ability to capture and ultimately reproduce the complex sounds produced during some of the most intellectually stimulating passages makes it worthy of praise. The rhythm and tempo of the music itself is captured perfectly and rarely have I been able to state with such surety that I felt so involved in the music itself as it unfolded.

Perhaps my favorite composition on this particular album is on track four, “Chiasmos.” The music seems to possess a life of its own. The combination of different instruments and their respective tonality create a rich and enveloping tapestry that can be heard through the entire frequency spectrum. There seems to be no place where there is a gap or some measure of coloration to rob the music of its purpose. While ultimately the music brings forth different emotions from different listeners, I can say that to me its very sound brings forth visions of limitless battles which are constantly won and lost without any rhyme or reason.

The SACD version, while not multi-channel, which is an option with the higher fidelity format is presented equally as well on the disc. In fact, while the CD version has a great deal of merit and deserves praise, it doesn’t compare to the SACD version in fidelity.

Although the third track, “TIM/BA,” was not one of my favorite of compositions, it did make clear one important characteristic of truly well done SACD sound. The opening bang of the gong fills the entire room with both the initial attack and the subsequent decay of its sound. Against this opening backdrop each sound thereafter is captured and replayed in pristine detail. It is as though you are not only at the place of recording, but a part of the music itself. The longer you listen, the more you become drawn into the music, something that while the CD version is good, it is not capable of achieving.

The bottom line is that this particular album is not for everyone. While its technical merits are countless, the actual content is somewhat eclectic and might grate on many people’s nerves. However, if you are looking for something just a tad different and want to experience the pleasures that a good recording has to offer, I would suggest buying a copy, I don’t think you will be disappointed.


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212 Frech
FC1810

Willem Jeths
Composer

Bella Figura

SACD

Released: November 2002
Origination Year: Various
Time: 1:00:30
Tracks: 4
Produced by: Oscar Meijer
Engineered by:Oscar Meijer
Mastered by: N/Al
Style: Studio/Live
Format: SACD
Enhancement: DSD
Label: Northwest Classics


Various:

John Addision:
Violoncello

Eddy Janning:
Piano

Arnold Marinissin:
Percussion

Peter Prommel:
Percussion

Richard Jansen:
Percussion

Euterupe Wind Quartet -

Nicold Alt:
Oboe

Peter Verduyn Lunel:
Flute

Lars Wouters can den Oudenmeijer:
Clarinet

Ron Chaper:
French Horn

Petra Walters:
Bassoon

Osiris Trio -

Ellen Corver:
Piano

Peter Brunt:
Violin

Larissa Groenveld:
Violoncello

Track List

  1. Onde
  2. Bella Figura
  3. TIM/BA
  4. Chiasmos