Poulenc Organ Concerto -

One of the biggest questions regarding multichannel recording as it applies to classical music--and orchestral music in particular--is what to do with the rear speakers. Many remastered and new productions put too much information in the back channels, resulting not in great transparency and enhanced front-to-back realism, but in the annoying actual sound of instruments coming from behind the listener. One area ideally suited to the new medium, however, is organ music, where as often as not the pipes actually are behind the listener, or at least spread throughout the building in question.

Linn has taken advantage of this fact by quite logically keeping the orchestra in front and positioning the organ to the rear (where the pipes presumably really are). The result magically opens up what already was a stunning recording, allowing every detail to register naturally and unobtrusively, but at no cost in terms of brilliance, attack, or sheer power. In short: the best just got even better. If you're lucky enough to own a good surround sound system, you really need to hear this. It's both fabulous on its own terms, and a perfect demonstration of what the new technology, intelligently used, can do in the sort of difficult-to-balance classical orchestral music that always has been a singular challenge to capture in regular stereo.
08 April 2002