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An Interview with Andreas Spreer of TACET Musikproduktion

01-01-2021 | By Wojciech Pacuła | Issue 113

TACET a musical term to indicate that an instrument or voice does not sound, also known as rest. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacet date of access: 25.10.2020

The name of the TACET Musikproduktion record label comes from the language of music and, in a broader perspective, from Latin, where the proverb "qui tacet, consentire videtur", i.e. "he who is silent is taken to agree" originated. Andreas Spreer, the founder and "heart" of the record label, talks about it in the following way:

The word TACET comes from Latin and means "to be silent." You see it in the score when a musician has nothing to play for a whole piece. In such situations, the score has "TACET." A paradoxical name, then, for a record firm?

source: Who is TACET?, www.tacet.de , date of access: 2.10.2020

Mr Spreer set up his record label in April 1989 in Stuttgart, Germany, right after obtaining his diploma of a sound engineer—in German, sound engineer is called Tonmeister, i.e. "master of sound". TACET is a label which only focuses on classical music—it makes and releases records on its own. From the very beginning, Mr Spreer has been paying special attention to production understood as a whole, i.e. both to music and recording. He has not got his "favorite" distribution medium and releases records in different formats: CD, LP, SACD, DVD-Audio, and Blu-Ray.

Andreas Spreer with the Neumann U67 microphone. Photo: Roberto Bulgrin

TACET Musikproduktion records have had excellent reviews since the beginning and have been highly awarded (e.g. Jahrespreise der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Cannes Classical Award, Echo, Diapason d'Or, a Grammy nomination and many others). As we can read in the press, when all elements involved in a recording, i.e. musicians, instruments, recording space, recording equipment and the sound engineer suit one another well or cooperate well, something new emerges between them, something that is very close to the nature of composition. This is what the label's slogan is all about. "Der TACET-Klang—sinnlich und subtil" (The sound of TACET—sensual and subtle).

One of the basic "tools" that Mr Spreer had used for a long time was an analog tape recorder working with tube microphones. Records made using this method are labeled by the company as "Tube Only." Among other interesting ideas, it is also worth mentioning two LPs where signal was recorded from the center towards the outside, to ensure the highest reading speed and lowest distortion in the most dynamic fragments.

On the other hand, he is a fan of new technologies. He has been making digital surround recordings for years—first on DVD-Audio in the 2+2+2 format and also in the standard 5.1 surround system for some time (through SACDs). These records are labeled as: "TACET Real Surround Sound". As we will learn further on, Mr Spreer is most "excited" about combining the "old" and "new" in audio.

Andreas Spreer with the Neumann U47 microphone. Photo: Roberto Bulgrin

We have known each other for years and have met at High End exhibitions in Munich, as well as regularly reviewed his records in High Fidelity. He has very strong musical connections with Poland—he records Polish orchestras and makes recordings in Poland. We will also find recordings of the Ensemble Peregrina band led by Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennett in his label's catalogue. An interview with Ms. Agnieszka for "HF" can be found HERE, while a review of her latest album: HERE.

I have been trying to interview him for a long time, but Mr. Spreer seems to be even busier than I am. What matters, however, is that we have finally managed to talk in between projects. While at hotels in Hong-Kong and Budapest, he answered a few of our questions via email. ANDREAS SPREER is interviewed by WOJCIECH PACUŁA.

WOJCIECH PACUŁA Tell us something about yourself and your career.

ANDREAS SPREER To cut a long story short: I was born in 1955 in Berlin and grew up in Cologne. Between 1976 and 1981, I studied in Detmold, where I obtained my diploma of a sound engineer (Diplom-Tonmeister). In the years 1981-89, I worked in Stuttgart, in the medium-sized (120 employees) Intercord record label (this is where Depeche Mode albums were made – Editor's note). On April 2nd (not 1st!), I set up the TACET company in Stuttgart. My main occupations include my family, company and the violin.

Andreas Spreer's favorite microphone—the Neumann M47. Photo: Roberto Bulgrin

Why did you decide to set up your own record label?

AS Intercord mainly dealt with pop music. It would not release more than two or three classical music albums per year. It was not enough for me.  

What did you want to achieve in this way? Have you been successful?

AS When I was 14 or 15, my parents were given a Dual turntable and a box of vinyl records (all Beethoven's symphonies under the conductor Franz Konwitschny). We had not had a TV set before—I would have become someone else then. By endlessly listening to this set, I would move to the land of my dreams.

I felt I would never be a good violinist. However, my aim was to become part of a team which creates things that can make you cry (the way I cried back then), even if I was not fully aware of it. Anyway, since that time, I have thought that a disc with all its components—no matter if it is an LP, CD, or anything else – should by itself constitute a separate category of art, not only a cheap substitute of a concert. This explains why it took me so long to understand that the future of the music industry is online distribution. Music from the Internet is not a work of art.

Have I achieved this aim? Or rather: has my team achieved it? A team working with a musician? It depends on the listener. Each record is a new attempt to achieve it. Each record can be a failure. I hope that the number of failures has decreased with years.

The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra while recording last year for the upcoming new issue of Jupiter and Symphony No. 39 by W. A. ​​Mozart. Photo: Anette Spreer

What were the recording techniques that you used at the beginning and what has changed since then?

AS The company began to operate in 1989 with the ideal in the form of "one point" recordings (a stereophonic pair of microphones in front of an orchestra – Editor's note). A lot of the recording that we do today looks the same. My first mixer was the Studer 961, a wonderful device with only six inputs.

"One point recordings" are a type of audiophile eco-food: 2 microphones for 2 ears. In this way, we obtain natural sound that is as pure as possible. Somewhere around the year 2000, more colors and more effects would appear in movies, the resolution became higher and staging—more artificial. In this way, we abandoned "true" reality and created a new, "artificial" one. This process has not finished yet. My son, who was 16 at that time, came home once and said: "Dad—you HAVE TO do something like this—as if helicopters were flying at the back, over my head!"

The TACET tape recorder, a Telefunken from the 1950s. Photo: Roberto Bulgrin

All of it was too interesting to ignore and enough for me to give up working with two microphones! This is how TACET Real Surround Sound was born. However, that was not only a marketing name. It is said that TACET surround sound has not gone down the blind alley of naturalism, but makes use of all opportunities offered by new media. It is new, artificial reality that goes beyond the reality around us. It is enough to listen to the latest recordings of a big orchestra from our discs.

Each of my two main microphones is always the Neumann M49. I really love it (it is a large diaphragm tube microphone from the year 1949, developed for the Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk/Northwest German Radio; it has been used by artists such as: Miles Davis, Barbara Streisand, Duke Ellington and Simon & Garfunkel – Editor's note). I have been using them since 1989. They are always with me, even when I am not using them. I sometimes connect them even if the sound they gather is not being recorded—they are like my external ears in a room where musicians are situated. I should have called my company "M49"...

I have 46 other microphones, including 4 x Neumann U47 which are used to build the image of instruments, accent them and create surround sound effects. Everything that suits specific music. We are now using different arrangements in stereophonic recordings: sometimes two microphones, sometimes four, sometimes many. Real surround sound is both new sound in the form of old sound: vintage and novelty at the same time. These two qualities seem to contradict each other, but it is a beautiful contradiction. If you feel as if you were situated "inside" music, like a bee in a flower, then you are right.

Finally, there is Moving Real Surround Sound, a unique and very strange experience. For me, it is a logical consequence of what I said before. However, this might still be too weird for a larger audience or not good enough yet—something like my private sandbox or game, but one that is impossible for me to stop playing.

To cut a long story short: at the beginning there were two microphones and CD quality, now we have 45 microphones, all channels with the resolution of 24-bits, 96kHz (our latest production this week).

What is most important in recording?

AS To keep your ears open! Do not trust what people tell you. Trust your own listening impressions! It is more difficult than it seems. As for sight, everyone is sure about what they see. When it comes to sound, too many people seem lost. We are mostly visual.

Andreas Spreer with his assistant while recording the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. Photo: Anette Spreer

Analog or digital? You have dealt with both...

AS I have been dealing with both and I like both.

The two main technologies used by TACET are the "Inspiring Tube Sound" and "Real Surround Sound"—what is special about them?

AS "Inspiring Tube Sound" applies to the tube microphones that I am using: the Neumann M49 (developed in 1949), Neumann U47 (1947), Neumann U67 and Microtech UM92.1 S.

An LP recorded using the Neumann U47 microphones with signal recorded starting from the CENTER of the disc. Tacet L977, 2013

The sound quality that is achieved in this way also results from other parameters, but I feel that there is special atmosphere associated with tube microphones. Microphones should not have their "own sound" and this is the case with these microphones. Instead, they offer very subtle "noise floor" which intertwines with music like canvas in a painting.

I have already mentioned "TACET Real Surround Sound"—it locates the listener inside music. These sensations cannot be described. They can only be experienced.

Can you tell us shortly about you recording equipment?

AS We have already talked about the microphones. I also use microphone preamplifiers/A/D converters produced by RME (Micstasy and others), I have three MADI (Multichannel Audio Digital Interface or AES10 – Editor's note) systems which make it possible to record up to 96 channels in 24/96 quality, on two recorders at the same time—it is a device called "Producer" made by DirectOut (it is fantastic!), Stax headphones, dynamic headphones with a Lehmann headphone amplifier and Genelec loudspeakers, even though my favorite loudspeakers are still the large 1022 A with ribbon speakers built in the 1980s. In my opinion, they are better than the legendary Quads, owing to much more accurate bass.

 An example of a hybrid SACD with stereophonic and surround sound—"TACET Real Surround Sound". Tacet S219, 2019

How would you describe yourself—as a producer, or sound engineer?

AS I jumped like a lion (sound engineer) and landed as a carpet by the bed (producer), one of those bad monsters who only want money 😉

How do you select musicians for your projects?

AS Tell me, but honestly, how you met your wife… You see, it is the same with musicians. They come together and there is a "spark" between them. I met Wojciech Rajski through the concert agent Rolf Sudbrack, who died many years ago, while Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennett was sitting next to me during the Echo award ceremony in Dresden.

Now I am in Budapest with the Concerto Budapest orchestra playing Schumann and Bartók. András Keller (violinist, director) is a unique artist. He was recommended to me by Evgeni Koroliov. We have already made seven recordings together and now I am working on No. 8. I dream to make a total of 12—great orchestral works, 9 symphonies—i.e. repertoire that the TACET catalogue has lacked so far. It is impossible to define a rule which allows you to find somebody, but for me the artist is more important than repertoire.

Do you listen to music at home? If yes, then using what equipment?

AS I play the violin at home 

Is there any new technology that has recently changed recording methods?

AS New solutions constantly come and go. A few of my friend are building their own microphones. But no, there is nothing special at the moment.

Could you recommend any specific TACET recordings to our readers?

AS I can recommend everything. The catalogue was set up in 1989, starting with No. 1, while today we have No. 263. It would be most enjoyable for us if listeners could track our progress and buy all of them!

Than you for the interview and, hopefully, see you!

AS Thank you very much too!




Interviewer: Wojciech Pacuła

Images: Peter Laenger | Roberto Bulgrin | Annette Spreer | Wojciech Pacuła

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