Converse Professor Plays Role in Grammy Award-Winning CD
By Jose Franco of the Spartanburg Herald Journal
Martin Aigner was not at the 44th annual Grammy Awards February 27. The Spartanburg resident wasn’t invited. The 37-year-old native of Austria wasn’t even nominated. But he can proudly say that he did work on a Grammy nominated album. Aigner, a music teacher at Converse College and a media specialist at Wofford College, served as a sound engineer on the Grammy nominated CD “Johann Sebastian Bach: St. Matthew Passion.” The CD was named best choral performance classical category.
“It’s pretty exciting, as you can imagine,” he said. “Classical music is a little underrated at the Grammy Awards. Classical music hardly ever gets the recognition it deserves.” Last year, the CD won Record of the Year in the Baroque Vocal category in Gramophone magazine. “It’s the premiere publication for classical recordings,” he said. “A lot of great soloists in the classical world participated on this CD.”
“There have been many distinguished recordings of Bach’s masterpiece over the past 50 years, but few have been so satisfying on virtually every count as this one,” wrote a critic for Gramophone. Singers include Bernarda Fink, contralto; Matthias Goerne, bass; Dietrich Henschel, bass; Christoph Pregardien, tenor; Dorothea Roeschmann, soprano; Michael Schade, tenor; Christine Schaefer, soprano; Markus Schaefer, tenor; Elisabeth von Magnus, contralto; and Oliver Widmer, bass. The Vienna Boys’ Choir has a small part in the CD’s opening.
The CD was directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and featured the Arnold Schoenberg Choir. “It’s a group I sang with when I used to live there,” Aigner said. Aigner performed with the group when they sang at Carnegie Hall in New York City in April 2000. The CD was recorded at the Church of the University of Vienna, a baroque-style Jesuit church. “It was a sacred space, but we wanted to make the CD lively, and we wanted something that didn’t sound stale.” The engineers were in charge of running four different tape machines and did the microphone setup to make sure they got the best sound possible.
The three-CD collection, which was recorded in the summer of 2000, included 80 singers in two choirs and 80 musicians in two orchestras. “I think it’s a very spiritual work,” Aigner said. “It’s about the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. It involves a lot of stars of the classical world. It was the equivalent of an all-star band assembled to produce an album of Elton John songs.”
Aigner, whose hometown lies between Salzburg and Vienna, has lived in Spartanburg for almost five years. His wife, Dr. Kirsten Krick-Aigner, is a German and French professor at Wofford College. He works in the information technology department at Wofford while maintaining the music media lab and teaching a multimedia course at Converse College. “They learn everything from Web design to CD-ROMs in class,” he said. Aigner studied pedagogy in Salzburg and then moved to Vienna, where he received a degree in music engineering from the University of Vienna Music Academy. “I wanted to experience different types of music,” he said. “When I was growing up I thought, ‘Where can I put all my experiences?’ ” he said, explaining that his entire family was musical. “I realized that would be in the field of music production or recording.”
After graduating from college, he worked on a regular basis as a producer and engineer with a company in Berlin, which was part of Time-Warner. He produced a CD of pop music, “Darkness Goodbye,” which included his own compositions. His expertise in engineering is classical music. A majority of the CDs he helped record are in the classical genre. “Vienna is a city of classical music,” he said. He then accepted a fellowship to the University of Miami in Florida, where he studied for a year. He audit