Artemis Classics Finalizes Work on First SACD Releases

In an interview with High Fidelity Review, Artemis Classics President Greg Barbero revealed that the label is nearing the finish line in its work to launch its first Super Audio CD Releases. As we told High Fidelity Review readers last May, the label has obtained rights to the Vanguard Classics and Bach Guild catalogs and plans to use that material as the source for Super Audio CD releases under the Artemis Classics label as well as licensing it to a third party label for DVD-A releases. Included in the purchase are most of the masters that originally appeared in the early days of the SACD format under the Vanguard Classics label.

While the long awaited reissue of the Vanguard Classics titles figure in the label’s Super Audio CD plans, their first Surround Sound SACD release will actually be a new title that will be distributed by Artemis Classics. Here are some of the highlights from our interview with Greg Barbero.

First SACD From Matt Haimovitz
The initial SACD release from Artemis Classics is a joint effort with Oxingale Records. It is entitled “Please Welcome Matt Haimovitz” and features selections from the young cello player’s first five albums on the Oxingale label (a company Haimovitz formed with his wife, composer/producer Luna Pearl Woolf). The release will come out as a Single Inventory Hybrid Layer Surround Sound SACD with the SACD serving as both the SACD and CD version of the album.

Greg Barbero who formerly ran the American office of Decca and London Classics and now runs Artemis Classics describes Haimovitz’s albums as “artistic documents of an artist who loves music enough not to demean it with second-rate efforts and lowest common denominator strategies. You are getting a peek into being Matt Haimovitz – a restless, adventurous musician’s brain. Please Welcome is a play on Matt’s current tour, where he is performing at music clubs across the country instead of concert halls. We’re proud to present this collection of some of these fine recordings.”

A Listen to the Haimovitz SACD
The SACD is nearing completion and I was able to listen to a “check disc” test pressing of the Hybrid Surround Sound SACD. As with the recent Greta Matassa Surround SACD on Jazz Stream, it was mastered and mixed to 5.1 Surround Sound by David Glasser at Airshow Mastering.

It features compositions from Bach, Chopin, Paganini and Von Bingen as well as some contemporary composers and even his take on Jimi Hendrix’s version of the National Anthem. The Surround Sound mix of the classical compositions are tastefully done while the mix on track 7 which features Haimovitz performing on MIT’s Hypercello and on track 12, the Hendrix Anthem is a bit more adventurous. As Barbero says, this is a musician who takes chances and it makes for an interesting album.

The Former Vanguard Classics SACD Titles
In terms of the Super Audio CDs that Artemis Classics obtained from the Vanguard Classics catalog purchase, they will reissue these titles on SACD in April and May. According to Barbero, Artemis retained the services of David Baker for the new release of these titles. Baker is an engineer and producer that was very closely associated with Vanguard’s “attention to recorded sound quality” and he oversaw the SACD remastering process of the original Vanguard SACD releases.

Included in the Surround Sound SACD series will be some material that came from 3 track masters which Vanguard released using the Left, Center and Right channels to faithfully reproduce the 3 track tapes. A similar approach is now underway at Decca Classics where they are doing similar 3 track to Left, Center and Right Surround SACDs for their Mercury Living Presence SACD reissue series due out this March.

Each of the Artemis Classics discs will sell for $15.98 (single disc releases) and $31.98 (2 disc releases). Barbero hopes that this low price attracts both classical music and audiophile music fans. The release schedule of the original Vanguard Classics SACDs from Artemis is as follows:

April 27, 2004 Release Date

  • Mussorgsky: Pictures at An Exhibition – Mackerras, London Symphony Orchestra (Artemis Classics 1504-2)
  • Stravinsky: Petrouchka – Mackerras, London Symphony Orchestra (Artemis Classics 1505-2)
  • Berlioz: Requiem & Mahler: Symphony No. 1 – Abravanel, Utah Symphony Orchestra (2 Disc Set) (Artemis Classics 1506-2)
  • Vaughan Williams: Tallis/Dives/Lark – Abravanel, Utah Symphony Orchestra (2 Disc Set) (Artemis Classics 1507-2)

    May 11, 2004 Release Date

  • Cantaloube: Songs from the Auvergne – Netania Davrath
  • J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerti – Somary, English Chamber Orchestra (2 Disc Set)
  • Thomson: The Plow That Broke the Plains – Utah Symphony
  • Handel: Water Music – Somary, English Chamber Orchestra

    Mirroring The Current SACD Editions
    The reissues on Artemis Classics will mirror the current versions of the Super Audio CDs now on the market. The titles that are currently Hybrid Stereo SACDs will remain Stereo releases and the Hybrid Surround Sound SACDs will also appear in this format on the Artemis Classics label. As Barbero put it the reason for this is “I worry about the reaction of Vanguard fans if I start messing around with the sound and creating new 5.1 mixes of old favorites that were originally stereo recordings.”

    Here is the line up of the SACD’s Stereo and Surround Sound status:

    Hybrid Stereo SACDs (Stereo SACD & Stereo CD tracks on the disc)

  • Songs of the Auvergne
  • Plow that Broke the Plains
  • Vaughan Williams – Orchestral Works
  • Gottschalk – Night in the Tropics

    Hybrid Surround Sound SACDs (Surround Sound SACD, Stereo SACD & Stereo CD tracks on the disc)

  • Bach: Brandenburg
  • Berlioz: Requiem
  • Stravinsky: Petrouchka

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Where Are The Missing Titles?
Fans of the Vanguard Classics SACDs will note that the list above omits 3 of the current SACDs. According to Greg Barbero at Artemis Classics, two of these discs are Everest masters that the label does not own the rights to. So they will not be appearing in the Artemis Classics SACD series.

As to the third album, the Manitas de Plata release, Artemis plans a deluxe 2 disc set this fall with the Carnegie Hall concert remastered for the release. It is planned for release in both Stereo CD and SACD formats.

Distribution Deal with Silverline Records
Readers of High Fidelity Review are aware of the recent Press Release from Silverline Records announcing that Silverline has signed up to issue 39 DVD-A albums from the Vanguard Classics catalog. I asked Greg Barbero from Artemis Classics how that will work and how it might affect the label’s plans to issue Super Audio CDs from the catalog.

According to Barbero, the Silverline deal is limited to 39 titles from the catalog titles owned by Artemis Classics. The balance of the catalog and newly recorded material is not included in the arrangement and is eligible for release by Artemis Classics on Super Audio CD.

Barbero also told me that the agreement with Silverline also “grandfathers out” certain titles including the original Vanguard Classics titles so that Artemis Classics can also release those on Super Audio CD (as they plan to do in April and May). The result here may be the issuance of some of these titles on both Super Audio CD from Artemis Classics itself and on DVD-A from Silverline Records.

More Super Audio CDs in the Fall
In addition to this release, Barbero is reviewing the Vanguard Classics and Bach Guild catalog for material that could be released by Artemis Classics on Super Audio CD disc this fall. While there may be some additional Hybrid Stereo SACDs, he is most interested in material that has 3 track or multichannel masters that could be released as Hybrid Surround Sound SACDs.

If all goes according to plan, Barbero envisions releasing another 15 or so Super Audio CDs later this year. As with the Haimovitz disc, most are likely to be Single Inventory Hybrid Surround Sound SACDs with the SACD serving as both the SACD and CD version of the album release.

So it looks like Classical Music fans will soon have access once again to most of the material from the Vanguard Classics series on SACDs from Artemis Classics. In addition, there will be Super Audio CDs from both the Vanguard catalog and newly recorded performances. This is definitely a label we will have to keep our eyes on !