Jung-A Lee: “A Private Organ Recital in Walt Disney Concert Hall”
NativeDSD Producer’s Note from Bob Attiyeh, Yarlung Records
“(…) we don’t edit. What you hear on this album is real. Jung-A performed this recital for our recording team and executive producer as you hear it.”
Korean organ virtuoso Jung-A Lee and I conceived this recording as a gift to welcome Simon Woods to Los Angeles. Simon serves as our new CEO at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Yarlung has enjoyed a long and successful friendship with this orchestra, and with the support of our friend Deborah Borda, recorded five albums with Los Angeles Philharmonic musicians, including two with Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour, Principal Pianist Joanne Pearce Martin, Bass Clarinet virtuoso David Howard and the young firebrand violinist and social activist Robert Vijay Gupta. This album also celebrates the esteemed Caspar Glatter-Götz/Manuel Rosales organ in Walt Disney Concert Hall and the great institution that is the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
We dedicate this album to Simon Woods and his wonderful family (more about that below) and to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which celebrates its 100th Anniversary Season this year. Please see our album booklet with more photographs here.
This album is the result of a joyful collaboration between many people; I think you will feel this energy when you listen to the recording. Jung-A’s infectious and delightful sense of humor infuses the musical performance, our choices for the repertoire, and warmly colors our memories of this project.
Fellow Yarlung engineers Arian Jansen and Elliot Midwood worked closely with us during rehearsals, set up and the recording itself. Yarlung Executive Producer Jim Mulally joined us for the recital and helped craft the shape of this recording.
“(…) most of Jung-A’s rehearsals in Walt Disney took place overnight, starting at 10pm and ending at 6 or 7am the next morning.”
Among the team who put this together, the person I hope this album most heartily celebrates is our organist, Jung-A Lee herself. Jung-A performs all over the world. In fact, she left for Paris for a concert in St. Etienne Cathedral in Meaux during our rehearsal period. It was France’s National Organ Day; Jung-A couldn’t resist, and she returned as fresh from this trip as she had left. In fact, because the Los Angeles Philharmonic was performing and rehearsing daily in WDCH during this part of the season, most of Jung-A’s rehearsals in Walt Disney took place overnight, starting at 10pm and ending at 6 or 7am the next morning. Jung-A joked that her nighttime rehearsals helped her avoid jetlag during her trips to Europe and Asia during this period. This gives you an inkling of Jung-A’s glow and positive spirit.
Jung-A earned her doctorate at Boston University, her master’s at Yale where she earned the Charles Ives prize, and her undergraduate degree at Toronto University. Jung-A served as organ scholar at The Memorial Church, Harvard University, during her time in Boston.
When not performing around the United States or overseas, Jung-A serves as organist at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California and performs regularly with Robert Istad and the Pacific Chorale at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. In fact, it is Rob Istad, with whom Yarlung recorded the choral album Nostos, who originally introduced us to Jung-A.
“He must have spent a good thirty hours listening to our first album with me, critiquing, encouraging and suggesting new ideas and changes before the album was finished and ready for pressing.”
We are fortunate at Yarlung. Titans in the music world have given generously of their time, talent and financial support to enable Yarlung to thrive. We maintain that “Yarlung Is Too Small To Fail” in an environment where music doesn’t sell as much as we would like. But in reality, Yarlung succeeds thanks to the talents of our musicians and composers, and thanks to exceptional support and guidance from our executive producers.
Elliot Midwood took me and Yarlung Records under his wing at the beginning. He must have spent a good thirty hours listening to our first album with me, critiquing, encouraging and suggesting new ideas and changes before the album was finished and ready for pressing.
Elliot the philanthropist has not only underwritten many of our most successful albums, but Elliot the engineer has designed some of the recording equipment we use that contributes to that ephemeral quality critics refer to as the “Yarlung Sound.” In Jung-A’s album, and most other Yarlung recordings, Elliot designed the microphone preamplification we use. This critical component takes the whisper coming from our microphones and converts it into the full tonal and dynamic sound (delicate at times and thunderous at others) that we record onto our master tape and into our high resolution digital recorder a HAPI made by our friends at Merging Technologies in Switzerland, without the use of any mixing boards. In this recording, we used Arian Jansen’s analog SonoruS Holographic Imaging processor to incorporate two rear hall microphones into our stereo image captured by an AKG C24 microphone in front.
“While I was holding down as many keys on the organ as my hands and feet could depress to give us peak volumes, it was Elliot on his hands and knees on the stage floor adjusting the levels on his microphone preamps.”
Elliot tailored these vacuum-tube microphone preamplifiers specifically to give me the sound that I hear on stage with our musicians, and that I want you to hear in the finished product. Elliot designed new circuitry and made adjustments to his earlier Messenger preamplifier, which many audiophiles know through Elliot’s company Acoustic Image. Yarlung’s amplifiers grew from these designs and from this approach to sound.
Elliot joined Yarlung recording engineer Arian Jansen and me for our setup for this organ recording in Walt Disney Concert Hall. The three of us adjusted microphone positions, chose cables and set levels. While I was holding down as many keys on the organ as my hands and feet could depress to give us peak volumes, it was Elliot on his hands and knees on the stage floor adjusting the levels on his microphone preamps. We would make a small change in microphone placement and then have to adjust levels all over again.
When I am asked to describe the “Yarlung Sound,” I often talk about transparency. Our goal as engineers is to be like clean windows, through which an audience can see (or in our case hear) our musicians exactly as they sound in performance. But much as we like to pretend otherwise, everything in audio is an illusion. You have two or more speakers in your listening room with you, not Jung-A and the magnificent Walt Disney Concert Hall organ. And since your listening room is undoubtedly smaller than Walt Disney Concert Hall, we want to give you the feeling and visceral experience of sitting on this beautiful stage with us in this 2,265 seat acoustic marvel of an auditorium, with Jung-A at the organ console.
Depending on how various electronic components are designed, every one of them contributes a sound to the recording, and every one of them (microphones, cables, preamplifiers, analog and digital recorders) interacts with one another to complete the picture. No component is truly neutral or transparent, much as we like to maintain otherwise. We want the results of these components to feel neutral to you such that you hear the music as I hear it (and as I envision it) on stage during the recording. Elliot’s preamplifiers are one of the most important elements in this chain.
Elliot and I have been working on these designs for many years. He is the creator and designer. We listen together and I give him feedback and suggest directions we might take. Together, we have developed amplifiers that make us proud. These appreciative notes about Elliot Midwood are as good a place as any to mention that we have launched Yarlung Audio. We will begin with power amplifiers and follow with a preamplifier (both made in California) with bloodlines refined from our experience making these recordings. The power amplifiers are 100W Class A triode monoblocks. I used earlier versions of these power amplifiers at home, which Elliot and I built so I could hear every last detail in the recordings we make. They are extraordinarily revealing and powerful, with a firm grip on the speakers, yet extremely musical. They reproduce the nuances in a jazz trio or a Renaissance vocal ensemble with delicacy. But just wait until you hear them deliver Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 or the Dies irae in Verdi’s Requiem.
The preamplifier (which I have affectionately named “The Midwood”) uses circuits refined from our microphone preamplification, and includes a phonostage which is among the best I have ever heard. We anticipate a limited number of amplifiers and preamplifiers by Yarlung Audio will be available in 2019/20.
Elliot generously serves as executive producer for Yarlung’s DSD release of Jung-A Lee: A Private Organ Recital in Walt Disney Concert Hall. Elliot, thank you for your friendship, your talent, energy, patience and generosity: you make music such a pleasure.
Thoughts on the repertoire
Woods and Brooks
Our album opens with Adam Knight Gilbert’s witty pastoral romp honoring Simon Woods and his family, written in Renaissance style from about 1518. Virtuosic as well as tongue-in-cheek, Adam’s piece uses the Renaissance technique of soggetto cavato, or “subjects carved from the vowels,” wherein the letters of a person’s name, or a word or phrase, are linked to Renaissance solfège to create the melodic line. Each letter is assigned to a specific pitch. In our case, Adam began with Simon Woods (mi sol ut ut sol sol) Karin Brookes (la mi sol sol re), their daughter Isabel (mi la re) and son Barnaby (la la mi). I loved the piece in rehearsal, and wanted more. Adam kindly added a slower middle section which he derived from Los Angeles Philharmonic (sol la re re mi fa sol mi). Great patrons of the arts (the Medici family in Florence comes to mind) often had pieces written for them in this way, and we thought it was fitting to appreciate our Los Angeles musical royalty similarly. Simon runs the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Karin Brookes serves as executive director of Early Music America. I am proud to say that Jung-A asked me to play the Pajaritos, the pedal that sounds like birds singing, which she added to the score with Adam’s permission. Woods and Brooks was commissioned by Yarlung Artists with generous underwriting from the Horton family.
The Swiss composer Guy Bovet’s Hamburger Totentanz follows next. Jung-A tells me that Mr. Bovet is as funny as he is talented as a composer. He was born in 1942 in Thun, near Bern, Switzerland. Hamburger Totentanz comes from Bovet’s Trois Préludes Hambourgeois, and Bovet manages to include quotations from Offenbach’s Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffman, Beethoven’s Für Elise and the sailors’ chorus from Wagner’s Flying Dutchman as if the first two were not enough! The piece was first improvised in Hamburg, by Bovet and his friend the organist Hebert Wulf. They invented Hamburger Totentanz on the spot. Bovet liked what they improvised and later notated his own version of it for solo organ.
Jung-A and I chose Louis Vierne’s (1870-1937) Carrillon de Westminster to follow the Bovet. Not only is it a famous show piece for great organs like the one Manuel Rosales built for Walt Disney Concert Hall, but I have a personal memory of this piece that gives it a special glow. My teacher Ellen Louise Knoblach served as associate organist for the choir in which I sang for many years when I was in high school. For her final Sunday performance, she and Tom Foster chose this piece to be her farewell show piece. You may recognize the famous theme from the Westminster chimes one can hear from the clock tower in the Palace of Westmister in London.
François Couperin’s Elevation: Tierce en taille from Messe pour les couvents reveals the flexibility and multifaceted capacity of the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ. Couperin lived from 1668 to 1733. To my ears, this piece sounds as if Jung-A plays it on a Baroque instrument, including the articulation we associate with those instruments, not the monumental and powerful organ you hear in so much of this recital. Microphone positions and equipment remained the same. Of course, we owe credit for this to Jung-A’s musicality and technique every bit as much as to the organ’s versatility. Jung-A credits John Tuttle, her professor at the University of Toronto, for teaching her this piece as an undergraduate.
Diderich Buxtehude’s Ciacona in C Minor, BuxWV 159 takes me back to one of the earliest organ concerts I remember. My family was living in Denmark, about 6 KM west of Helsingør. We heard this piece in Buxtehude’s own church, on Buxtehude’s own organ (still in existence and recently restored to its original configuration) in the Mariæ Kirke attached to the Carmelite Monastery on Sct. Annagade in Helsingør. Buxtehude served as organist in this church in Helsingør from 1660 to 1668, before his appointment at Lübeck’s Marienkirche in Germany. (It was to Buxtehude’s church in Lübeck that J. S. Bach made his famous pilgrimage in 1705, essentially sneaking out of Arnstadt without permission from his patron. Bach walked more than 400 kilometers from Lübeck to hear the great Danish master and stayed in Lübeck for several months.)
Buxtehude was born in 1637 or 1639, and died in 1707. Hearing this magnificent and stately piece, it is easy to forget that the Chaconne was a “lurid dance” imported to Europe from the New World and banned by the church in Spain during the Inquisition. Dancing the Chaconne earned one 200 lashes. Jung-A first studied this Chaconne with James Christie at Boston University. Jung-A remembers that Professor Christie taught the articulation of Buxtehude and other earlier Baroque music convincingly. Jung-A learned this piece on the organ in Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, and has continued to develop her interpretation since.
We jump several centuries to the Dutch composer Ad Wammes, who was born in 1953 and wrote the scintillating Miroir in 1989. Jung-A writes that Wammes “uses a minimalist style in which the right hand repeats the same pattern from the beginning to the end of the work. I love the transparency and subtle evolving harmonic changes. I first heard this particular work in Los Angeles in the middle of an organ recital. While listening to it, I felt transported into a different realm as the sonority and dimmed lighting fit perfectly with the stained-glass windows surrounding us.”
Next follows Toccata written in 1968 by American composer and organist John Weaver, born in 1937. My fellow recording engineer Arian Jansen and I joked that this track demonstrates plenty of “Telarc Oomph.” Mr. Weaver taught at both Curtis and Juilliard, and now lives in Vermont. Jung-A often plays Weaver’s Toccata in G Major as her opening piece in a concert. She enjoys the fanfare style and triplet figuration throughout the work.
Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) bridges a gap for us between Adam Gilbert’s Renaissance-style Woods and Brooks and the Baroque era we celebrate with Buxtehude, Couperin and Bach. Famous for being the first composer to write a fugue for organ, Sweelinck wrote his famous variations on the tune Mein junges Leben hat ein End during his long tenure at Oude Kerk. Sweelinck was known during his lifetime as the “Orpheus of Amsterdam.” Jung-A reminisces about her 2017 performance of the piece in The Netherlands for organist Diane Bish and some friends on a Tulip Tour: “Playing at St. Stephen’s Church in Nijmegan with such wonderful acoustics was an unforgettable experience.”
Many scholars believe J. S. Bach (1685-1750) wrote his Prelude in B Minor, BWV 544 somewhere between 1727 and 1731 during his time at Thomaskirche in Leipzig, and this Prelude is considered one of his richest and most powerful. I listened to Jung-A perform this work from various places in Walt Disney Concert Hall. In every location, the organ sounded large and powerful, yet clear and surprisingly intimate and immediate. Kudos to Manuel Rosales and to Walt Disney Concert Hall architect Frank Gehry and acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota for making this possible. Jung-A knows many organists who want this particular organ piece to be played at their funerals. “I believe it can be associated with Bach’s B minor mass. This prelude is an excellent example of Bach’s mature work in the genre; I absolutely love it.”
We follow Bach’s Prelude with Yarlung’s commission from Jung-A Lee for her arrangement entitled Fantasia on Blessed Assurance, generously underwritten by Margie Barry in honor of Simon Woods and in happy memory of her husband David. This is the piece in our recording that most impresses our surround sound mastering engineer Tom Caulfield for its sheer power and magnificence. I can still see the rapt faces of our small audience during this recital and recording session. Jung-A wrote a winner, creating this Fantasia upon the hymn tune Blessed Assurance. The text for the hymn was written by the blind poet and prolific writer of hymn texts Frances Jane Crosby, who lived from 1820 to 1915.
Second to last in our program, Jung-A plays one of my favorites in the recital, Olivier Messiaen’s Les Anges, one of nine mediations on the birth of Our Lord, an early cycle Messiaen titled La Nativité du Seigneur. The composer wrote these works in 1935, when he was twenty seven years old, living in Grenoble. Messiaen employs what he interprets as Ancient Greek and Indian rhythms and meters. Messiaen was born in 1908 and died in 1992. The larger cycle La Nativité du Seigneur premiered in 1936 in La Trinité in Paris, shared among three players: Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur, Jean Langlais, and Jean-Jacques Grünenwald. Jung-A often performs Les Mages, Les Berges, and Dieu parmi nous as well as Les Anges for concerts at Christmas time. Jung-A enjoys Messiaen’s unique harmonies and theological message and hopes these pieces will be performed more often in North America.
Jung-A ends our program with Dudley Buck’s Concert Variations on the Star Spangled Banner, Op. 23, a Romantic-era work published in 1868. Buck was born in Connecticut in 1839 and died in 1909. Buck defied his family, which anticipated he would enter the family shipping business, and instead studied in Leipzig, at the conservatory founded by Mendelssohn, where his love for and association with Bach’s music and compositional technique was kindled. Jung-A has performed this work in concert often, and it remains one of her audience favorites. Her grateful listeners often wind up in tears. Jung-A performs these variations almost every year on Memorial Day, Independence Day or on September 11th. Buck included a Minor section right before the Finale. Jung-A explains that the harmonic transition works so well that both the Minor section and Finale sections lift up our hearts. In our concert recording, nobody remained dry-eyed during the work’s thunderous conclusion.
-Bob Attiyeh, producer
Notes on the organ
Manuel Rosales keeps close tabs on the magnificent organ he conceived and voiced for Walt Disney Concert Hall. He never knows when some exciting performance or recording project will happen, so strives to keep the instrument in top shape. Nevertheless, Manuel and his team made sure everything worked flawlessly for us before and during Jung-A’s project. Jung-A is a special organist for Manuel and he wanted her to have a terrific experience. The Walt Disney organ itself occupies a unique place in Manuel’s heart, partly because this commission was such a controversy at the time. Organ builders are a conservative and sometimes cranky bunch, and Manuel remembers great antagonism from his colleagues over the project. He was warned that building the now-famous Walt Disney Concert Hall “French Fries” was supposed to be a career ender for the Rosales company. While the organ community often complains that nothing changes in the world of concert and church organs, and everything always looks the same, once the initial designs became public, Manuel was lambasted for a “satanic creation.” Think of Jung-A’s delightful Hamburger Totentanz when you read this. The success and popularity of this organ have vindicated Manuel’s vision that it was the right visual concept to compliment Frank Gehry’s architectural design.
The organ was a gift from Toyota Motor Sales USA, and includes 6,134 pipes ranging in size from 32 feet to a few inches. These pipes are in 109 ranks, or sets. Frank Gehry and Manuel Rosales collaborated on the visual design. Glatter-Götz Orgelbau in Owingen, Germany, and Rosales Organ Builders in Los Angeles created the mechanical design, construction, tuning and voicing. The organ was shipped from Germany in six ocean-going containers and the unassembled organ itself weighed over 40 metric tons. Installation by the Glatter-Götz staff in WDCH began in April 2003 and was completed in June 2003. Manuel and his Los Angeles team voiced the 6,134 pipes over a period of one year and completed the project in 2004.
The length of the longest pipes is over 32 feet and the largest pipe weighs over 1,000 lbs. The smallest pipe is the size of a small pencil with a speaking length less than 1/4” long. The lowest note has a frequency of 16 cycles per second, which is C below the lowest note on a modern Steinway. The highest note has a fundamental frequency of 10,548 cycles per second, which is an octave and a third higher than the top note of a piano.
The specially-curved wood façade pipes were made by Glatter-Götz Orgelbau of solid, vertical grain Douglas fir to match the interior of Walt Disney Concert Hall. The wood façade pipes are actual speaking pipes consisting of the 32’ Violone and 32’ Basson basses. Behind the façade are metal pipes, which are alloys of tin and lead. Other wood pipes were made in the workshops of Glatter-Götz Orgelbau of solid oak and solid pine. Metal pipes were made in various specialty workshops in Portugal, Germany, England and the United States. The main console is permanently attached at the base of the organ’s woodwork in the “forest of pipes,” at the base of what the detractors call the “French Fries.” The stage console is moveable and can be plugged in at four different locations including back-stage for testing.
Wind for the organ is supplied by three blowers totaling 14.5 horsepower. Wind pressures range from 4” (102mm) for the Positive to 18” (380mm) for the Llamada horizontal “Tuba” and 32’ Contra Bombarde. The keys on the main console are connected to the pipe valves via a mechanical linkage known as “tracker action.” Both consoles are equipped with electric action, which may be digitally recorded for playback and archival purposes. The organ is equipped with MIDI interface for connection to digital systems, though our recording was very much a product of Jung-A’s directly-employed fingers, feet and skill.
Arian Jansen and I used Ted Ancona’s famous “Frank Sinatra” AKG C-24 vacuum tube stereo microphone and two additional mid-hall Ted Ancona Schoeps M222 vacuum tube omnidirectional mono microphones. We used Elliot Midwood vacuum tube mic preamplification and fed these four tracks into our analog SonoruS Holographic Imaging processor. This SHI technology enabled us to produce a two channel mix to reproduce a more three-dimensional listening experience from two speakers. We captured this Holographic Imaging recording using a SonoruS ATR12 analog tape recorder, a SonoruS digital converter for high resolution PCM, and a Merging Technologies HAPI for DSD256. For more information about SonoruS Holographic Imaging please visit yarlungrecords.com/sonorus/
QUATRO SURROUND SOUND (4.0)
into 5 Channels for easy 5.0 and 5.1 playback
This is 4.0 surround sound mastered by NativeDSD’s hero Tom Caulfield, where channel 1 is left front, channel 2 is right front, channel 3 is silent, channel 4 is left rear and channel 5 is right rear for easy playback on standard 5.0 or 5.1 playback systems. We elected to use two front channels (not three) to preserve phase and playback room loading information in Walt Disney Concert Hall as accurately as possible. For the rear channels, we used our two mid-hall Ted Ancona Schoeps M222 vacuum tube microphones. Please visit yarlungrecords.com for links to our DSD 256fs downloads in stereo and surround sound.
We believe that the musical intent communicated directly by our musicians is generally superior to a musical arc that I could create in postproduction, so we don’t edit. What you hear on this album is real. Jung-A performed this recital for our recording team and executive producer as you hear it.
–Bob Attiyeh, producer
Organ Builder and Technician: Manuel Rosales
Recording Engineers: Bob Attiyeh & Arian Jansen
Microphone Technician: David Bock
Vacuum Tube Microphones: Ancona Audio
Microphone Preamplification: Elliot Midwood
Stereo Mastering Engineers: Steve Hoffman & Bob Attiyeh
Surround Sound Mastering Engineer: Tom Caulfield
DSD Executive Producer: Elliot Midwood
Walt Disney Concert Hall production team: Dan Song, Jessie Farber, Leland Alexander
Organ construction photography for Manuel Rosales: Ron Bélanger
Jung-A Lee photography: Shuo Zhai