Irish Tune from County Derry*, 3:21, 7.7Mb
Arranger .... Percy Aldridge Grainger
Arranged .... October 1902-July 1911 (took a while!)
Samples ..... Garritan Authorized Steinway-D
Perspective . Player
Sequencer ... Overture (manual entry from printed score)
Reverb ...... Ambience (Parlor)
EQ .......... Aria (+2 mid, +4 high)
Monitors .... Dynaudio Acoustics BM5
Nothing technically flashy here, but rather an exploration of the piano’s tone. In years past, I played this to demo acoustic pianos, so I thought we’d apply it to Gary’s new software Steinway to see how it fares.
This is from the “player” perspective, perhaps as how the composer may have heard it and I personally prefer.
Aside from the melody being a tune most everyone is familiar with, this particular arrangement has the following specific “demo” points of interest:
Wide pitch range, from Bb0 to C6. Are all parts of the range convincing, natural, and without artificial coloring or random artifacts? Yet considering all these points, I would ultimately be looking for an endearing warmth with a clear, singing tone throughout—the standard when judging the piece when played on steel, wood, felt, and ivory.
Continuous use of sustain pedal, full-pedal, half-pedal, plus multiple sections including the sostenuto pedal. Does the pedaling connect chords and passages in a convincing and natural way? Is there at least a hint of sympathetic resonance when pedaling? Are the gradations in pedaling effective, or do they all sound the same? Does the sostenuto work correctly?
Wide dynamics, from pppp to fff. Is the velocity progression even and natural, without noticeable “bumps” between levels? Are even the softest dynamics detailed and expressive or are they dull or lost? Are the loudest dynamics solid and powerful without being harsh or clipped? Do the velocity levels have a tone quality commensurate with the dynamics, or does the tone seem vaguely mezzo-forte regardless of volume?
Multiple simultaneous dynamic levels, including predominant lines embedded within the harmonic structure. Much of this arrangement has three simultaneous dynamic levels (four if you count balancing everything against the bass line). Also, this particular piece is unusual in that the melody is largely embedded within the harmonic structure, i.e., it is often an inner voice as opposed to one of the outer voices. Furthermore, there are frequent countermelodies that are sometimes louder or sometimes softer than the main melody. Do these interior lines come through clearly and expressively? Are the competing lines intelligible or an undifferentiated, mushy racket?
Mech noise 33, polyphony 64, sustain resonance 44, sympathetic resonance 48, straight velocity, velocity range in use: 33-110
I’ve not seen it written down anywhere, but I seem to hear seven apparent velocity levels, with break points around 35, 50, 65, 80, 95, 115. The velocity transitions are quite good overall. 115 is the most noticeable, while 95 and 80 much less so. The 35 point actually drops a little in volume when coming up from lower velocity. I find the top velocity level extremely hard, but it’s there if anyone needs to break virtual strings.
The onboard 3-band EQ is a most welcome inclusion, but it would be of greater benefit to be able to vary the frequency and Q.
I love it! The midrange is gangbusters good!! Sampled and synthesized “acoustic pianos” routinely fall flat on their face in the midrange, so it’s a real technical achievement to get this right, while the resonance features are a dream come true. The impressive packaging, beautiful design, intelligent interface, flawless performance, and great sound are an unbeatable total package. This first chapter in the new Aria platform portends many good things forthcoming from Garritan and Co.
The melody that is the basis of this arrangement is said to be “very old”. So old, that no one knew its name anymore. It was first published in a Dublin collection dated 1855 with the title “Name unknown”, with an added note as to its general location. And it was from this collection that Mr. Grainger lovingly set his beautiful arrangement.