“Keeping Score”: Where the Classics Are Current — and High-Tech Page 5

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Inside the control room for a Keeping Score orchestral shoot

As in every Keeping Score program, live performance footage plays an important role in the Mahler episodes by providing musical examples of the biographical and theoretical points that Thomas makes. The DVD and Blu-ray releases go even further by including the full performance of the First Symphony on the second disc.

The man responsible for the live performance capture is TV director Gary Halvorson, who has worked on everything from Friends to Two and a Half Men. Odd matchup? Maybe, except that Halvorson is a classically trained pianist and Juilliard graduate whose credits also include shows with Leonard Bernstein for PBS’s Great Performances and, more recently, several Live in HD productions for the Metropolitan Opera.

Davies Symphony Hall, home of the San Francisco SymphonyDavies Symphony Hall, home of the San Francisco Symphony

Then there’s the audio producer for Keeping Score, Jack Vad, who has produced and engineered more than 200 classical recordings, including SFS Media’s latest multichannel SACDs: a disc of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Piano Concerto No. 4 and a release combining Ives’s Concord Symphony with Copland’s Organ Symphony. Vad is particularly enthusiastic about the recent addition of 7.1-channel sound to the series:

“I would say that the Mahler Keeping Score is the best representation of what I think I can do at this point with 7.1, which for me solves two fundamental problems. First, the integration of the picture and the audio is much more consonant, meaning that the clarity of the visuals complements the audio better. Second, because of the way I’m using the side speakers, you can sort of sit anywhere. If you’re sitting close to the surrounds, you won’t get trapped in a field of mud. The 7.1 sound brings the entire orchestra out into the room a bit more. So, yes, you can basically sit anywhere, and for the most part it works.

“That has not been the case with a lot of other surround recordings — where, the more you get away from the sweet spot, the more you get confused cues, and things become ambiguous. So I’m providing something that, I think, solves that — in a properly set-up system, which I do realize is a long shot in most domestic situations.”

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