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Reviews: La Spagna - Atrium Musicæ de Madrid, Gregorio Paniagua

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Reviews: 3

Review by Jonalogic June 1, 2011 (17 of 17 found this review helpful)
This is a simply ravishing disc. It's a classic analogue recording from 1980, lovingly produced, engineered and edited by a certain Robert von Bahr, who may be known to this Forum...

It's also a disc long beloved both by audiophiles and period instrument fans, and has been on The Absolute Sound's 'Super Disc' list since dinosaurs ruled. Mind you, so has a lot of dreck.

Suffice it to say, it really does not fall into that category. Minimally recorded and engineered, it used a Revox A77 and two - presumably spaced- simple Sennheiser MKH105 omni condenser mikes (vintage early 60's design); it amply shows the merits of a simple signal path, combined with minimal intervention and post-processing. It might almost be an exemplar for what can be done with such a 'purist' approach to music recording.

You have to admire the skill; I used very similar equipment in my BBC days, and never managed to produce anything sounding this good!

In short, it sounds simply fabulous. It's not a speaker-burner type of disc, but immediately astonishes with its fluid, natural and utterly truthful sound, And the acoustic of the Chapel of the Imperial College, Madrid is just beautiful.

Unlike Paniagua/Atrium Musicae de Madrid's other famed audiophile disc, 'La Folia', you will find here no chainsaws, Land Rovers or explosions. Just an eclectic array of period instruments from the 15-17th century, plus a sprinkling of unexpected guests. The timbral qualities of the instruments are displayed to perfection, all set within a quite ravishing acoustic.

The music, all 80 minutes of it, features variations on three archetypal Spanish themes (La Spagna, a Spagnoletta and Pavane), as interpreted by different composers such as Praetorius, Farnaby, Negri, Josquin Desprez, Ortiz and so on. This might sound a bit dry and academic, but comes across as anything but; Paniagua and his band just doesn't ever do 'boring'. In fact, aided by impeccable playing and 'realisation' of the basic themes, the end result is lively, fun and eclectic.

Now please go out and buy this so that Bissie may be encouraged to release some more of his analogue greats. You know it makes sense....

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Review by Zappaien June 2, 2011 (2 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Totally agreed with the previous review, i read it, bought it and i just listened to it and oh my... this recording is a must have ! I m a big fan of Jordi Savall work, BIS done this one on 80's and it s a must have for all fans. Great perfoemance.

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Review by Joseph Ponessa September 26, 2013 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I have twice heard the La Spagna SACD from BIS, which now sits on my shelf next to the Harmonia Mundi Japan five-SACD boxed set "The Art of Paniagua." I have been aware of these prestigious recordings for my whole adult life, but the only one I had ever bought was the LP of "Musique de la Grèce Antique" (which has excellent liner notes not reproduced in the CD or SACD releases).
Now that I have heard all six of these discs, my musical appreciation has increased, as well as my already high esteem for the work of Gregorio Paniagua. There is so much variety of instrumentation and vocalization from disc to disc, and even from track to track. The transfers to SACD by Harmonia Mundi and BIS are shimmeringly brilliant. Every note stands out so clear, and the harmonies are heavenly.
The audio characteristics of La Spagna from BIS differ from those of the five discs from Harmonia Mundi. I think there is more dynamic range to La Spagna, but the Harmonia Mundi discs have very fine textural qualities to compensate. All six of the discs are audiophile supreme. They make good listening.
Paniagua has spent the last twenty years recording the most complete cycle ever of the Cantigas de Santa MariaŚnine discs through Sony Classical and nineteen discs (so far) through his own label, Pneuma. No discs of the Cantigas have ever found their way onto SACD on any label. I wonder if BIS has any such recordings in the can? There are several Cantigas on the early BIS disc "The Four Seasons," in addition to a generous selection of fascinating pieces from the important Cancionero de Upsala (1550). An SACD transfer of those analogue recordings would be a wonderful addition to the catalogue.

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