Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s Grammy-nominated and Emmy-winning recording engineer/producer, Dmitriy Lipay, is a key ingredient in the orchestra’s attention-getting recordings.

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At a recent “listening party” in the tiny recording studio tucked into Benaroya Hall, Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s recording engineer and producer Dmitriy Lipay stood at the back of the room, silently cuing up excerpts from the next batch of albums scheduled for release on the Seattle Symphony Media label.

Between previews of selections from SSO’s performances of music by Henri Dutilleux (a special focus of the organization these days), Charles Ives, Igor Stravinsky and more, music director Ludovic Morlot spoke with boundless enthusiasm and insight about the repertoire available on disc and download in months ahead.

Together with president and CEO Simon Woods, Morlot and Lipay have guided Seattle Symphony’s current ambitions with recordings to new levels of respect. The orchestra was nominated for six Grammy Awards earlier this year, winning none, though composer John Luther Adams won for best contemporary composition for his Seattle Symphony-commissioned “Become Ocean,” which premiered here and was recorded by SSO.


Seattle Symphony Media

The orchestra has released its second Henri Dutilleux disc, of a studio recording of “L’arbre des songes” (“The Tree of Dreams”) with violinist Augustin Hadelich, and live performances of Symphony No. 2 and “Métaboles.” Available through and

Seattle Symphony’s nominations were directly tied to Lipay: producer of the year; two in the best engineered album category (one for “Become Ocean,” the other for Dutilleux works); and best orchestral performance and best solo performance (the latter two shared by artist, producer and engineer).

Despite decades spent in studios, Lipay, who has won three Emmy Awards for his work with former SSO music director Gerard Schwarz’s All-Star Orchestra, had not previously been up for a Grammy.

“It was an incredible, overwhelming experience,” he says in an email interview. “I never had the good fortune of attending the ceremony, and I was unprepared for its massive scale. Just being part of it all was amazing, a great feeling to be recognized by my peers, many of whom I’ve worked with and have extraordinary respect for.”

Engineering a recording means, in part, presenting the world with a seamless performance (though often what we hear are pieces of several performances matched together), and every sound perfectly balanced within the whole.

That’s easier said than done. “Become Ocean” was particularly difficult.

“Each performance of it had its own unique flavor,” Lipay says, “and the dynamic nature of this piece would’ve made it very difficult to match different performances. What you hear on the CD is taken from a single studio recording, with minimal editing and extensive work to digitally remove ambient noise, chairs, coughing, etc. We had a large orchestra with a nontraditional arrangement and very high dynamic ranges, so getting the microphones where they needed to be and keeping that balance right was challenging.”

Recording Dutilleux and Ives is also no picnic.

“With Dutilleux, the orchestration and harmonies are extremely rich, dense and colorful, so the challenge is to capture all of that without missing any of the subtle nuances. Ives is much more about brute force and sharp contrasts, throwing you off balance with very strong dissonant chords. I’ve had to anticipate the big swings, keeping the chaos under control and not overwhelming the equipment.”

Lipay grew up in a musical family in Chelyabinsk, Russia. He studied piano, but while at conservatory he trained in audio engineering.

His first job as an audio engineer was with the then-USSR’s National State Television and Radio, where he produced programs featuring such classical luminaries as Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin, Valery Gergiev, Plácido Domingo and Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Lipay began working with Sony Classical in St. Petersburg, and in 1995 moved with his family to New York to continue with the company. He moved to Seattle in 1997 to work for SSO, and in 2006 was given his permanent position.

Lipay says that over those not-so-many years, he has overhauled Benaroya’s studio more than once.

“I’ve replaced the equipment three times already. That’s how fast things have been changing technically.”