Late at night, cocooned
within my Grado headphones, I was at
first a little disturbed by the apparently
muffled piano sound on this recording.
Giving it a second chance played over
loudspeakers the day after I found my
ears adjusting to the sound. At softer
dynamics, such as the opening of the
Brahms Op.117 the sound still seems
a little woolly – slightly over-upholstered
in the mid range. This does no real
favours to the stereo imaging either,
but in the more lively Mussorgsky things
do pick up a little. I found it sounded
better played loud and from a distance
– on which more later.
is sensitively and intelligently played.
It compares favourably with Martin Jones’s
(Nimbus) more fleeting version. I like
the way Demopoulos balances a more pensive
approach to the weightier themes, allowing
daylight to shine through where the
mood lightens. He isn’t entirely blemish
free, but then, neither is Jones.
Demopoulos’s own pieces
are interesting compositions. As the
title and subtitles (each season of
the year is represented) would suggest,
these works conjure up an expressive
and atmospheric sound-world on which
to ponder. Having turned up the volume
and wandered off to make some coffee,
the explosive beginning of ‘Summer Farewell’
was impressive. These stabbing fortissimo
passages had my daughter Darcie complaining
that it ‘wasn’t allowed’, but she’s
only three and has much to learn about
contemporary music. Demopoulos says
that "this music is empty of any
clear meaning, but ... does not aim
to be vague or complex either."
Athletic pianism contrast with sparsely
pointillist, widely spaced, almost atonal
intervals. The high chords in ‘Spring
Farewell’ reminded me a little of John
Cage’s ‘Four Walls’, and a Morton Feldman-like
minimalism tinges the whole, but these
pieces cannot be dismissed as derivative
or lightweight: interesting stuff.
at an Exhibition’ will be a major attraction
for many, and Demopoulos’s performance
is nothing if not exciting. Comparing
some timings, Ashkenazy’s rather thinly
recorded 1982 Decca performance has
the opening Promenade and Gnomus
at 4:06, Demopoulos comes in at
3:03. Like American tourists ‘doing’
the Louvre, he apparently doesn’t want
to hang around. The high energy and
muscular pianism continue in a richly
coloured and powerfully layered Bydlo,
which contrasts well with the more reflective
and playful ‘Castle’ and ‘Tuileries’.
‘Ballet of the chicks in their shells’
- sounds like something from a central
European menu – ‘Unhatched Chicks’ is
another translators option - has some
forward en pressant distortions
of the tempo which I found lively and
inventive. Limoges and its preceding
Promenade are among the more
dodgy movements, running away with themselves
a little and pushing slightly beyond
the technique of the pianist. The
Hut on Hen’s Legs begins with a
strongly accented drive, but the left
hand melody is a little lumpy, and Demopoulos
loses it more than a little towards
of this disc should know that Dunelm’s
discs are not factory pressed, but copied
onto CD-R stock. They promise a ‘no
quibble’ guarantee, but collectors will
want to keep these discs in a dark cupboard
somewhere, which will hopefully help
with longevity. I played my copy of
this recording through my somewhat ‘hair-shirt’
Cambridge CD4 player without problems,
but listeners with old CD players might
want to check for compatibility.
Dunelm Records is one
of those small companies whose initiative
deserves success. I would love to recommend
this recording wholeheartedly, but find
myself struggling a little with Demopoulos’s
slips and tangles in parts of the Mussorgsky.
This is a shame, since, while this is
musical ground which has of course been
trodden by so many before Demopoulos
has some original and inventive interpretative
ideas. I do enjoy his Brahms, and the
première recordings of his own
pieces are deserving of attention. On
balance then, a CD which, if the programme
appeals, should not be ignored.
see also review
by Ian Milnes
Records: DRD0251: Piano recital by Panayiotis
Response to technical comments by the
reviewer, Dominy Clements (1)
Paragraph 1: "muffled piano sound"
As with all of Dunelm’s session recordings
of the piano, four professional condenser
microphones were used set up as follows:
a stereo pair on the diagonal, one in
the line of the keyboard and one in
line with the bass strings at the "tail"
at measured distances. The pan potentiometers
on the mixer were set to give a stereo
image based on these placements
The performer was asked to play a passage
from his programme with the loudest
dynamics and the mixer inputs were set
to avoid any clipping at this high level.
From thereon, the dynamics and pedalling
were as Mr. Demopoulos chose to express
them. The fact that, for the master
compilation of the Brahms’ Intermezzi,
two "takes" from the first
day and one from the second day were
chosen, i.e., after playing the Mussorgsky,
is evidence that both the recording,
and Mr. Demopoulos’ interpretations
of the pieces were consistent throughout!
Paragraph 5: "CD-R stock"
This is not the first time that a reviewer
has written a caveat about Dunelm’s
use of CD-R stock for its sound carriers
and has expressed veiled doubts not
only about their playability and universality
but also their longevity. The impression
given is that Dunelm is selling a product
that is inferior to a "pressed"
CD. It seems to escape the reviewer
that the CD-R is a superior product
to a "pressed" CD and, indeed,
is the sound carrier from which the
glass master used in the "pressing"
process is made. If the "fears"
expressed about CD-Rs by the reviewer
were true, Dunelm Records would have
gone out of business years ago!
In June 2004, as a result of remarks
by another of MusicWeb-International’s
reviewers about "crackling in the
sound stage" on a Dunelm CD-R review
copy sent to him, exhaustive tests were
carried out – including on that reviewer’s
CD-R that was returned for testing purposes.
An independent audio technician (BBC
trained), together with another of MusicWeb
International’s reviewers, contributed
to the testing procedure and the conclusion
was reached that the problem was with
the reviewer’s CD player which sometimes
did, and sometimes did not, play a CD-R
satisfactorily. These tests were reported
exhaustively on this web site (3).
On October 18th, 2005, it
was learned that the reviewer had replaced
his "old" equipment with newer
of a different make which (I quote)
"affirms its compatibility with
CD-R" and such products from his
friend – as well as Dunelm’s CD-Rs –
(I quote) "play excellently".
One of Dunelm’s earliest master CD-Rs
– DRD0011 "Robert Simpson’s Symphonic
Appetite" – made July 1993 – is
still in regular use and many copies
have been made from it over the 13 years
since it was "burned". It
is well known that lasers wear out and
tracking systems lose their alignment,
so it is reasonable to update your equipment
every five years or so.
It is good practice to store
any CD or CD-R with care, preferably
in their jewel cases, and to treat them
reasonably in use. This use includes
in all your current players, including
that in the car as well as your consumer-use
players and computers. There is absolutely
(I quote) "to keep these discs
in a dark cupboard somewhere".
That advice is utter rubbish!
Of course, it is necessary to
keep your player’s lens clean; otherwise
you’ll have trouble on playback of either
type of digital sound carrier!
(2) Alkin, G., Sound Recording &
Reproduction, Focal Press, Oxford,
Third Edition (1996),
pp.94 & 95
Jim Pattison, Dunelm Records. February