Recording our first CD (part 2: track order)

How to choose the order of tracks on a CD recording? First decide on a title and then find a story to tell.

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Tonight I sat in front of the two very large quad speakers and listened to the 74-minute CD.

Reception of the Monument House Utrecht with the quad speakers
Reception of the Monument House Utrecht with the quad speakers

Why did Robert choose to begin with Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Potpourri? I turned the volume down as it sounded too loud and aggressive for this time of the evening. What should be the first track on a CD? The best piece to discourage the listener from giving up too early?

Hummel’s Potpourri is a piece originally written for piano and guitar. It was written for performance in the Dukaten Concerts in Vienna. For some reason, we always feel the audience rising with us and eventually a loud applause from the exhaustion of the marathon of opera themes. Perhaps this piece should come later.

The second piece, the Polonoise (Polonaise) from Variations opus 113 (65) exists also for guitar and string quartet. Mauro Giuliani and Johann Nepomuk Hummel performed together and composed the Grand Potpourri National which we will perform in mid-April in the house of an artist. It would be an ideal occasion to release our first CD then.

We have traditionally ended our programs with Giuliani’s Polonoise because it’s so virtuosic and exciting. To hear it as a second piece on our CD seems a little strange.

The third track is the first movement of Torroba’s Sonatina. That’s very nice in the evening, after an aerobics workout, sauna, and light dinner. I began to wonder if we should begin our CD with Torroba.

Even Rodrigo’s Fantasia para Gentilhombre is nice to listen to — in the evening.

Our sound engineer, who recorded our concert in a monastic church in Warmond in late 2008, had said that the third track is usually the best piece, the one you want others to listen to. If that’s the case, then the third movement of Torroba’s Sonatina works well.

We don’t have a title for this CD. Somehow “Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo” is not enough for a title.

How about choosing a title and then the order of the tracks?

For example, “Mediterranean Summer Potpourri” would allow us to order the tracks like a story. Imagine a voyage on a yacht in the Mediterranean.

We started in Madrid last spring, our debut concert in Spain. It makes sense to introduce the CD with works of two Spanish composers: Torroba and Rodrigo. Then we sail east on the Mediterranean to Italy. It’s summer by now, and we play our own arrangement of Vivaldi’s Summer from the Four Seasons. Mauro Giuliani left Italy for Vienna where he met the great concert pianist Hummel. Writing and playing potpourris was a favourite pastime in the 19th century. Incidentally, in his lifetime Hummel was more famous than his teacher — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

I propose a new order for the CD as told by the story above. Robert will need to revisit with our sound engineer. This may delay the CD production. But at least we will have a title.

Mediterranean Summer Potpourri

14 tracks

Rodrigo Fantasia para Gentilhombre:

  1. Villano y Ricercare
  2. Españoleta y Fanfare de la Caballería de Nápoles
  3. Danza de las Hachas
  4. Canario

Torroba: Sonatina

  1. Allegretto
  2. Andante
  3. Allegro

Vivaldi: Summer from the Four Seasons

  1. Allegro non molto
  2. Adagio e piano – Presto e forte
  3. Presto

Giuliani: Polonoise from Variationen op. 113 (65)

Hummel: Potpourri on famous opera themes

Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (LIVE)

  1. Allegro
  2. Romanza

Recording our first CD (part 1: location)

It has taken 9 years to finally put together our first CD. Why has it taken so long, you ask. Last autumn, we decided to find a suitable location to record for our first CD.

We have arrived at the final stage of getting our first CD out of the Monument House to the CD printers. It has taken 9 years to put together our first CD.

Why has it taken so long, you ask. Read my blog “the long and winding road towards our first CD” to get an idea.

Last autumn, we decided to find a suitable location to record for our first CD. After a guitar duo concert in August 2009, we did a test recording at Leendert Meeshuis in Bilthoven. Surrounded by a forest, the building is named after a doctor who played piano to his patients. Hummel’s Potpourri was good enough to include on this CD but where?

We tried recording at the church in Bennebroek where we had given a concert in April 2009. I liked the Bechstein, and the proprietor remembered us. After getting it tuned, we discovered that the church had too much reverb. We needed human bodies to bring down the echo.

Next we tried both halls of the new building of the Pier K music school in Nieuw Vennep. The outdoor construction made it impossible to continue without long breaks. Still we managed to get the Polonoise (Polonaise) from the Variations op. 113 (65) of Giuliani recorded.

Concert hall in Pier K music school, Nieuw Vennep
Concert hall in Pier K music school, Nieuw Vennep

It was September 2009. We had house concerts to organise, a guest from South Africa to welcome, and our own concerts to prepare for. Unlike the previous years when we changed programmes for every concert, we had stuck to one programme in 2009. We wanted to move on. We had to get it recorded.

We decided to go for the sure thing. Hire a studio for recording.

Immediately after the house concerts, we went to the newly built Centrum XXI in Utrecht to record ourselves. We were surprised to find various percussion instruments cluttered around the Bechstein grand.

Big hall of Centrum XXI in Utrecht
Big hall of Centrum XXI in Utrecht

We had given a concert in this hall at the Utrecht Uitfeest in mid-September 2009. Our contemporary music programme “Pull, pluck, strum, bang!” worked well in such a new building. Actually the building was not even officially opened then. Ironically, the previous day we had played our traditional programme (what is on our first CD) in a 600-year old building in Utrecht as part of the Open Monument Day celebrations throughout the Netherlands.

For a week, we dedicated ourselves to recording, listening, and re-recording Vivaldi, Hummel, Giuliani, Torroba, and Rodrigo. We agreed that Robert would edit the recording and I would work on the text.

In mid-October, while I was in Italy, Robert listened to the recordings. Naively I had expected our CD to be ready by the time I returned in November. Even after I got back from Helsinki, it was still not ready. Surely it would be ready by Christmas. No, it wasn’t. Not New Years either.

By Chinese New Year in mid-February 2010, I was getting very impatient. I set a final deadline. It has to be ready by the time we leave for Taiwan where a big family reunion awaits in less than two weeks.

Below, Robert plays Asturias after a long recording day at Centrum XXI in Utrecht.