Matheson Recording: Producer’s Introduction Jun 24 by Bob Attiyeh in Producer's Notes, Recording Reports

Jared and Floor asked that I write about this Yarlung release; our first recording of music by composer James Matheson. NativeDSD is intimately involved with this recording, not just as our DSD distributor, but also because my friend (and our NativeDSD mastering engineer) Tom Caulfield joined us at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Southern California for this recording. As a result, Tom engineered Yarlung’s first 5.0 surround sound album. Tom had been enticing me about surround sound recordings for months, and while I have not yet had the luxury of hearing music on his fabulous 5 channel system in Boston, Massachusetts, I have experienced the glory of well-recorded 5 channel music thanks to him.

The very first Yarlung release which is available in Multichannel Quad DSD 256fs as well as SonoruS Holographic Imaging (DXD, DSD 64, DSD 128 and DSD 256)

Kal Rubinson had this to say about Tom’s work:

I have some unreleased files that demonstrated that the NADAC Multichannel-8 is on top of some formats still not widely available. Tom Caulfield, a Grammy-winning recording engineer who has worked for Channel Classics and other labels, recently sent me a multichannel DSD256 file from a session with Color Field, a group comprising musicians of the Chicago Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony, for a recording of James Matheson’s String Quartet, to be released this year on Yarlung Records. The opening notes were startling—I had the disturbing but exhilarating feeling that music was actually being made in my room, not merely reproduced. The sound was no more “multichannel” than it was “stereo”—the four players seemed almost within reach, and my room seemed to expand around me. Caulfield had included a few photos of the session, held at the Segerstrom Center, in Costa Mesa, California. When I looked at them—by George, that’s exactly what I’d heard. Not only was I completely transfixed: I kept thinking, If others could only hear this, hi-rez multichannel music would take off.

–Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile March 7th, 2016 (link to the whole article here)

This release also includes Yarlung’s first SonoruS Holographic Imaging version, about which I write more in the blog “Matheson Recording: Engineers & Equipment“. In the meantime, please visit to download the free test tones and music samples to see if SonoruS Holographic Imaging works for you and plays correctly on your system.


What’s on the album?

The story of this album begins with James Matheson’s Violin Concerto, which he wrote for violinist Baird Dodge and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen as a commission from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This album includes the concerto’s premiere performance in Chicago on the evening of December 15th, 2011, with Esa-Pekka Salonen leading the CSO with Baird Dodge as soloist. I includee John von Rhein’s article in The Chicago Tribune for more about this concerto and for the back story. Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti enthusiastically supported the release of this recording. Martin Chalifour, another prized Yarlung musician, performed the West Coast premiere with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado in 2012.

Jim Matheson lives in New York. But many cities, Los Angeles among them, claim him for their own. Not only has Jim’s music been performed by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, but Jim has also served as the director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Composer Fellowship Program, mentoring a number of young people we know as they navigate the perilous, sometimes lonely and often exhilarating career into which their talents propel them. Jim’s warmth and approachability, combined with his might as a composer, made him the ideal leader of this program, which Jim directed from 2009 through 2015. This humble, friendly and informal man, hashing out a compositional hurdle with a student on one day, is the same person on other days who wins Guggenheim and Charles Ives Living Awards and takes curtain calls from the most important stages in concert halls around the world.

Aaron Egigian, who serves as Program Director for Segerstrom Center for the Arts, invited members of the Yarlung team to the premiere of Jim’s String Quartet, which J and Helen Schlichting commissioned for the famous chamber music series in Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center. The St. Lawrence String Quartet performed superbly, and the illustrious Tim Mangan reported the electricity of this performance in his Orange County Register review the next day:

Matheson’s String Quartet is an impressive piece of work. Thirty-two minutes long, it is brimming with ideas; the richness of their number is palpable. It is also composed in an accessible style, but not a dumbed-down one.… Matheson, who recently composed a violin concerto for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, obviously has a talent for writing for strings. The String Quartet is, perhaps first and foremost, beautifully orchestrated, the combination of instruments used to create one wondrous color after another. Motor rhythms and repeated patterns juice forward progress; these ideas move through tonal progressions, reaching plateaus of more static material (at least in the first two movements) – meditative, starry-skied, rapt. The quick finale is a syncopated romp.

Timothy Mangan, Orange County Register, February 20th, 2014

I realized how wonderful it would be if we were ever able to record this quartet in the beautiful acoustics of Samueli Theater. Samueli Theater is the smaller gem of a concert hall built into the same structure that also houses the glamorous Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, California, home of the Pacific Symphony. The decay of Samueli’s beautiful acoustics are adjustable, and one can completely remove the seats—heaven for a recording team. The Argentine-American architect César Pelli designed the building with help from Mitch Hirsch and the rest of the team at Pelli Clarke Pelli in New Haven Connecticut. The firm is known for some of the most important and recognizable recent buildings in the world today, including Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, the BOK Center in Tulsa Oklahoma and Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in Kuala Lumpur among others. Pelli worked with master acousticians Russell Johnson and Damian Doria from Artec Consulting Inc in New York City to create the superb acoustics we enjoyed in Samueli Theater.

Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa, CA

Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa, CA

“Indeed. Our recording is the result.”

Two weeks after we heard the premiere of the James Matheson String Quartet, Jim called me and said he wanted my thoughts on a potential recording project. Could we possibly be interested in his music, Jim asked cautiously. Indeed. Our recording is the result.

Aaron Egigian and the Schlichtings and I spoke next about how we could make this possible. J and Helen graciously offered to serve as our executive producers and principal underwriters and Aaron invited us to record in the Samueli Theater, where we had heard the quartet being born a few weeks earlier. I spoke next with Baird Dodge for whom Jim had written his Violin Concerto and with whom Jim very much wanted to work again. I challenged Baird to ask his most talented musical friends in Chicago to create an ensemble with him, not only to perform Matheson’s music, but to tour and develop a life and culture of its own.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Esa-Pekka Salonen: conductor Baird Dodge: Violin Matheson Violin Concerto (CSO co-commission, world premiere) © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2011

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen: conductor
Baird Dodge: Violin
Matheson Violin Concerto (CSO co-commission, world premiere)
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2011

Baird and a few friends created Color Field, a flexible ensemble that can morph between two instruments and a small chamber orchestra to play repertoire musically interesting and challenging to the musicians. For our concert and recording sessions, Color Field was Baird Dodge and Gina Dibello on violins, Weijing Wang on viola and Yi Xin on cello. Baird, Gina and Weijing are members of Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Baird serves as principal second violin), and Yi Xin plays cello in the orchestra for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. If anyone doubts his operatic lyricism, they need only listen to the sensitive approach Yi takes to his “aria” in the first movement of Matheson’s quartet. Aaron was so pleased with their talent and professionalism during their first performances in Samueli Theater that he invited Color Field to open his chamber music series in the 2018 season. And selfishly, I look very much forward to our next recording project together, whatever it may be.

Jim’s String Quartet was commissioned by J and Helen Schlichting. Here are J’s thoughts on the magic of this collaboration with Baird and with Jim:

Although this recording celebrates the wonderful music of James Matheson, Baird Dodge was the secret force that enabled the whole enterprise to reach fruition. The Violin Concerto was written for him. He played the premiere performance that is memorialized here. A streamed recording of that performance that was briefly available on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra website was what convinced me to pursue Jim for our first commissioning project. Baird is a key player in Color Field, the wonderful quartet who perform Jim’s piece brilliantly in this recording. Baird and I enjoy the serendipity involved in projects like this, the collision of happy and odd events, often over a long period of time, that magically result in a wonderful work of art. But serendipity by itself is not enough. A “special sauce” is needed to bring it all together. From my view, Baird is just that. Thank you, Baird.

J Schlichting

Our friend the soprano Kiera Duffy commissioned Jim to write Times Alone, a song cycle using five surrealist poems by Antonio Machado from his collection Soledades, galerias y otros poemas published in 1907. Jim set his songs to English translations by the eminent poet Robert Bly. Kiera was not able to join us for our concert and recording session because she had just given birth to her first child. The superb Laura Strickling joined our project instead, and became another friend for life.

Screenshot 2016-06-24 22.07.57

At the live concert recording session I joked that we had physical evidence of the fecund and regenerative power of Jim’s music. Kiera was at home with her baby that day, and despite her presence at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Laura was also expecting her first born in a number of months. Thank you Kiera, for commissioning this wonderful song cycle which you premiered in 2013 at Rockefeller University with pianist Roger Vignoles, and thank you Laura for becoming such an important member of the Yarlung family.

Joining Laura in Times Alone is the illustrious New York pianist Thomas Sauer. Thomas teaches at both Mannes and Vassar when he is not performing as a soloist or chamber musician on the world’s concert stages. We have enjoyed a personal connection with Thomas through the many years he has performed alongside Robert McDonald and others at the Taos School of Music chamber music festival, where Sauer will play again this coming summer with Borromeo String Quartet.

About the poetry he set to music in Times Alone, Jim Matheson writes, “Antonio Machado’s early poems are imaginative, deeply personal observations on Being and Spirituality in early 20th century Spain. They are urgent, modern, and sometimes devastating in the sheer loneliness of their perspective.” Jim’s music rises to the occasion.

The Matheson Repertoire

Violin Concerto, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, Music Director and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director
Premiere: December 15th, 2011

String Quartet, commissioned by J. and Helen Schlichting for Segerstrom Center for the Arts Chamber Music Series Premiere: February 19th, 2014 in Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, St. Lawrence String Quartet

Many thanks to Theodore Presser, for the beautiful scores of Jim’s published compositions, and to Wesleyan University Press, publisher of Times Alone, Robert Bly’s English translations of poetry by Antonio Machado.

 Times Alone, commissioned by Kiera Duffy
Premiere: February 26th, 2013 at Rockefeller University, Kiera Duffy and Roger Vignoles

James Matheson selected five poems from Antonio Machado’s volume Soledades, galerias y otros poemas, published in 1907.

English translations by Robert Bly

  1. I have walked along many roads (He andado muchos caminos)
  2. Last night, as I was sleeping (Anoche cuando dormía)
  3. Clouds ripped open (Desgarrada la nube)
  4. The wind, one brilliant day (Llamó a mi corazón, un claro día)
  5. Is my soul asleep? (¿Mi corazón se ha dormido?)

The Crew

Recording Engineers:
Bob Attiyeh, stereo analog tape and DSD
Tom Caulfield, 5 channel surround sound
Arian Jansen, SonoruS Holographic Imaging
Christopher Willis, Violin Concerto

Assistant Producer: Jacob Horowitz
Steinway technician: Kathy Smith
Mastering Engineers: Steve Hoffman & Bob Attiyeh
Mixing Engineer (Violin Concerto): Arian Jansen
Executive Producers: J and Helen Schlichting

This recording made possible with generous support from
J and Helen Schlichting
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Aaron Egigian
Golden Era
Brad and Sally Austin
Esa-Pekka Salonen

Yarlung Photography by Cooper Bates
CSO photography by Todd Rosenberg

Have fun with the Matheson recording and please let us know what you think.


Bob Attiyeh

Bob Attiyeh

Bob Attiyeh is producer at Yarlung Records

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