Jan Vogler

Experience: Live from New York

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The survival of classical music may hinge on its ability to appear prominently outside the standard venues of concert halls and recording studios, thereby reaching a much larger audience of listeners who might otherwise never be treated to the masterworks of the canonical repertoire. New York-based ensemble the Knights seeks to do that by coupling its impressively broad repertoire (ranging from classical to jazz to world music) with a desire to play in locations where one might not expect to see an orchestra. For this Sony album, the Knights appear in the New York landmark known as Le Poisson Rouge, formerly known as the Village Gate and home to performances by luminaries like Jimi Hendrix, alongside Jan Vogler for an unlikely but well-planned program of Shostakovich works. Although the weighty First Concerto is the centerpiece of the program, it's the engaging arrangements of several Shostakovich waltzes that really make the program fit the venue. The question, then, becomes whether or not recordings of performances like this are as rewarding or worthwhile as the live performances themselves would have been. For a live performance in what amounts to a night club, the recording engineers did a marvelous job cutting out extraneous background noise. The overall sound quality of the Knights and Vogler, however, is less impressive. Some instruments stick out rather prominently (contrabassoon, oboe), while others struggle to be heard and sound as if they were wrapped in a blanket (French horns and, sadly, the solo cello). No recording would be able to capture the feeling in the room, filled with people who likely had never heard the works being performed, nor the special atmosphere that the room itself imparted on the concert. So while we may all be jealous that we were not fortunate enough to be present for the two live performances from which this album was made, the recording itself does not impress as much as others recorded under better acoustic circumstances.

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