la Spagna  One of Stan Ricker's Final Cuts is a Gift to Audiophiles

Originally released in 1980 on the Swedish BIS label, the double LP la Spagna XV-XVI-XVII Centuries became an instant, certified “audiophile classic”. It was on the late Harry Pearson’s “Super Disc” list since forever, with used copies regularly fetching upwards of $200.

The music can generally be described as “ancient dance music” of the XV, XVI and XVIIth centuries played mostly on original instruments by the Atrium Musica De Madrid under the direction of Gregorio Paniagua. Recorders, a dizzying variety of stringed and percussion instruments that set a mood at once exotic and yet familiar thanks to elements used in late ‘60s popular English folk music ( The Incredible String Band, or, for example, in Roxy Music’s “Triptych”).

More specifically, the eighty minutes of music features various composers of the era working in three basic Spanish musical archetypes: “La Spagna”, “a Spagnoletta” and “Pavane”—but don’t let an academic description turn you off here because the music creates an atmosphere that is magical and intensely visual.

You can listen to low resolution versions here , so rather than trying further to describe it, give it a listen to see if you like it. Even as MP3s the spectacular sound should be apparent.

The original was recorded by Robert von Bahr live to a Revox A77 using but a spaced pair of Sennheiser MKH 105 condenser microphones. The simple chain produces a recording of astonishing transparency, three-dimensionality and coherency, though of course the perspective is also somewhat distant. The perspective generates rich atmospherics and mystery, while the recording’s purity and transparency maintain remarkable transient detail.

This reissue on Fabio Camorani’s AudioNautes Recordings label is special in a number of ways. First of all it utilizes the original session tapes provided by the producer/engineer Robert von Bahr, but most importantly it’s one of the late Stan Ricker’s final projects and I cannot think of a more fitting and fantastic tribute than this reissue to Stan Ricker’s half-speed mastering brilliance and the quality of his cutting system electronics custom designed and hand-crafted by Keith O. Johnson.

Ricker went through many lacquers and even broke a cutter head in an effort to inscribe onto the lacquers all of the percussive transient detail on the tape. In his back cover note Ricker can’t imagine how the original real-time cut could have managed without high frequency limited on the whip and tambourine parts.

Fresh cut lacquers were immediately sent to RTI for plating and then shipped to Pallas for pressing. Production doesn’t get any better than this and the stunning sonics provide confirmation.

Now another generation of vinyl lovers has a chance to enjoy and treasure this superb double LP set. I don’t have an original but I can’t imagine it attains or surpasses what Stan Ricker has managed to put into the grooves of this reissue. (Warning: this record may mis-track if your cartridge is less than perfectly aligned). Thanks Fabio! And thanks to you Stan! Most highly recommended (available at

Auric G's picture

Tracking FAILS (and cartridge used) on this lp would make for an interesting poll.

rshak47's picture

Based on Michael's recommendation, I picked up a copy of this title from Acoustic Sounds. I played the first record yesterday and the second today. I used a Rega P9/RB1000 arm/Ortofon Jubilee cartridge. No tracking problems whatsoever, and the records sounded great. The music may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I have a large collection of medieval and Renaissance music on LP and am happy to have discovered this title.