Albéniz: Iberia. Peter Schaaf, piano. (44/16)

High-resolution downloads are not only an important development for sound-conscious classical consumers; they are also a boon as well for artists who want to market a quality product in an economically feasible fashion. Increasingly, not only symphonic institutions but also chamber and solo artists are getting into self-distribution.

Peter Schaaf has been making his living as a photographer for 35 years, specializing in musical subjects: He has many LP and CD covers to his credit and is Juilliard’s official photographer. Years ago, though, Schaaf was active as a pianist, appearing as a soloist and accompanying stars like Renata Tebaldi and Yo-Yo Ma. Schaaf has long had affection for Isaac Albéniz’s Iberia and recently returned to the keyboard to record it over the course of a year. The pianist sells the recording as both a CD and as 16/44.1 FLAC files—either at $15 for the 80-minute program. If not as virtuosic as Marc-André Hamelin or as authentically Spanish as Artur Pizzaro (to name to recent versions reviewed in TAS), Schaaf’s Iberia is highly evocative and belies a deep familiarity with the music. Captured with Lucas CS-1 microphones—large diaphragm condenser tube mikes—by engineer Ryan Streber, the sound is pretty much ideal. It’s as close-up as you’d want, percussive without inside-the-piano claustrophobia, but still possesses an excellent sense of the instrument’s mass. Truly among the best-sounding piano recordings I’ve ever heard.

ANDY QUINT, The Absolute Sound magazine
May/June 2012