February 2003 Special Event: An Afternoon in a Recording Studio

by Carol Barth

Congratulations to the AMSF recording artists!

On Sunday, February 9, 2003, six pianists each recorded a piece from his/her own repertoire in the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Recording Center at the Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C.

Participants and their selections were:

Diana Stayman Chopin Funeral March from Sonata B flat minor, Op 35
Ellen Tenenbaum Schumann Kinderszenen, Op 15
  - No. 1 Von fremden Landern und Menschen
  - No. 2 Curiose Geschicte
  - No. 7 Traumerei
Richard Sawyer Chopin Nocturne in E minor, Op 72, No 1
Joyce Morton Rachmaninoff Prelude in E flat Major, Op 23, No 6
Anne Williams Grieg Notturno, Op 54, No 4
Allan Reiter Chopin Nocturne in C minor, Op 48, No 1

One could sense the feeling of excitement and anticipation and the desire to record a good performance. Each pianist had a 20-minute practice session to acclimate to the 9-foot Steinway D concert grand piano. Then each played through his/her piece three times while being recorded.

Steve Antosca, the director of the Cafritz Recording Center explained the microphone setup--both inside the piano and in the room--and the sound balance between the two sets of microphones. He explained that he could select portions from different takes and then join them to create a complete recording from two or more takes. He then worked with each participant as they decided which take he/she was most pleased with, adjusted the sound to their preferences, and edited out a few of those wrong notes that we all sometimes make. Finally, Steve created a master CD and copies for each person who recorded.

Joyce thought it was a great introduction to what it is like to record in a professional studio. Diana thought it was a most rewarding experience, and she felt pride for having attempted a recording. "Steve was reassuring in letting us know that if we messed up a little, it would not be disastrous," commented Diana.

Allan Reiter observed that "we were indeed fortunate to have an experienced recording engineer patiently explain aspects of the process to us and to allow for personal preferences in post recording adjustments of the microphone balance, sound equalization and making the one or two fixes to get the best performance out of two or three takes."

Richard Sawyer said, "I found the recording session to be a truly 'special' Special Event. Perhaps the two best parts for me were the opportunity to play on a Steinway concert grand and to enjoy the comaraderie and support of fellow AMSF members. The music I was able to obtain from the piano was thrilling. And hearing other AMSF members play so well on this fine instrument was also a great treat. We also had a good time together, learning about the recording process, listening to each other's experiences, and joking around. I would sign up immediately for another event like this one. Carol did a terrific job of organizing this, and even fed us her delicious homemade cookies. All in all, a terrific experience!!"

It was exciting to be with the six participants and to experience the process of recording along with them. Thank you to Steve Antosca for helping to make this special event so successful.