Brahms and Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos

Boston Symphony / Monteux; Paris Conservatoire / Silvestri
Recorded: 1958-1959

Melodiya MEL CD 1002328 [75:50]

I first came across Kogan when I was a boy and I bought his Beethoven concerto with Silvestri and the Paris band on EMI. It was a fine recording which I still cherish. Now Melodiya have dusted off further recordings from the 1950s which confirm what a great player he was.

The Brahms was recorded live in Boston in 1958 and the audience can’t contain themselves with appreciation applauding each movement warmly. Don’t be put off, for the applause is justified and well worth the slight inconvenience.

The recording itself places Kogan forward of the orchestra and he keeps Monteux on his toes with searing tempos and little or no heed paid to the difficulty of the passage work.

The Tchaikovsky was possibly recorded in the Salle Wagram (I’m guessing by the very resonant acoustic) and is in stereo. This time the orchestra loses some detail in a rather roomy sound but Kogan gives a high voltage account that it well worth hearing.

He died aged fifty eight and the world lost one of the great violinists. It was a shame that in later life his ill health and Russian politics kept him away from the world. These live performances give us a good idea of his artistry.

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Finally! It was my turn. As publisher of Audiophilia, one of my roles is not to be selfish, as most audiophiles assuredly are. Mark Jenkins of New Zealand’s Antipodes Audio had offered his cables for review some years ago. Our writers began with the Komako cables and were mightily impressed. Jenkins took some time off from cables to produce his incredible music servers. After time off for good behaviour, he returned to cables and to up the ante to Reference status.

Of course, my colleagues pushed and shoved (in the most polite way) to hear them first. How could I refuse? Trust me, I thought about ways.

More raves.

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Is streaming quickly becoming of age?

My friend Robert Silverman alerted me to this new software. He has it, and other than being one of Canada’s finest concert pianists, he is an avid audiophile. He knows of what he speaks and from every angle. He loves Roon. He tells me that it basically installs the software from the ultra high end $10,000 Meridian Sooloos music server on your computer for $100 a year. It loads all your files in all formats and resolutions and integrates seamlessly with Tidal Hi. And Bob says ‘it looks amazing!’.

Meridian has unleashed Roon as a standalone software company and the scuttlebutt is that the software will only get more refined and powerful in time. We have a request for a review download and will publish our findings. If you can’t wait, there is a two week free trial.

Roon says: ‘Between users and across devices you have downloads, ripped CDs, and streaming services. Roon weaves it all into a single music experience connected by rich images and a host of information. Music isn’t files and streams. It’s the work of passionate people who compose, collaborate, and perform live. Stop looking at lists and start experiencing a multi-dimensional world of music. Roon runs on your Mac or PC, and can be controlled from another computer (tablets coming soon!). From earbuds to Hi-Fi DACs to network players, listen in one room or around the house with AirPlay, with more streaming formats to come.’

website

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Last week we published the classical version of this Audiophilia Top Ten. Like classical and popular reissue LPs, the list could (and should) be hundreds in number. A little fun with a Top Ten but a serious list, nonetheless. And each LP will bring unalloyed audiophile pleasure for their recordings and performances. Repertoire? Well, that’s up to you.

Once again, remember these are reissue LPs. The original v reissue debate continues, and in some corners, rages! Not here. Just enjoy. If you have a Clearaudio Goldfinger cartridge and God has caressed your phono cable, you will hear a difference. But for the rest of us, these reissues serve a very important purpose. So much so, that many are now getting harder to find. Like the classical reissues, treat yourself to the 200 gram pressings if available.

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While completing my review of the Sprout integrated amp by PS Audio in February 2015, I had a friendly chat with Mat Weisfeld, President of VPI, who mentioned that VPI Industries uses the Sprout to test their ‘Budget Reference’ but high-end entry-evel turntable, the Scout Jr.

Weisfeld was kind enough to send me a Scout Jr. on loan for review. It is ready-to-use out of the box, complete with a pre-mounted Ortofon 2M Red cartridge on a 9 inch stainless steel tonearm with gimballed/yoke bearing, a 1” thick aluminum platter and a stand-alone motor. It requires no adjusting. It weighs in at 32 pounds, retails for $1500 and is upgradable in a variety of non-trivial ways.

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The following list, in no particular order, makes a good starting point for the audiophile new vinyl wanting to build a great sounding LP collection. Not only do the LPs on this list have the very best in audiophile quality sound, but they are legendary performances, too. Please add yours in the Comments Section. Thanks.

There are arguments galore about the differences between originals and these reissues. But there is no doubt the reissues provide an amazing service to music lovers who can’t find or can’t afford good copies of the original pressings. And do yourself a favour, go for 180 or 200 gram pressings. You won’t regret it.

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Orchestras are of two minds in the summer. Players get out of town for a well deserved rest or head to chamber music festivals or larger orchestral festivals like Verbier and Aspen. The Berlin and Vienna bands have their one large public concert, Berlin in the Waldbühne and Vienna playing at the Schönbrunn Palace Park. Other orchestras such as BBC Symphony hunker down for a long summer of Proms and the Boston Symphony players get ready for 8 weeks of concerts and teaching at Tanglewood. Musical and rewarding sure, but very challenging after a long concert season.

Our Victoria players are on hiatus except for the annual Symphony Splash, where our natural theater for the show is the magnificent Victoria Inner Harbour. Palaces and forest amphitheatres are lovely, but other than Bregenz’ Opera on the Lake, nothing really compares to our magnificent Pacific Ocean arena.

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Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10; Passacaglia Interlude from Act II of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Boston Symphony Orchestra / Andris Nelsons

DG 0289 479 5059 2 [64:50]

So, how does one approach conducting and recording the greatest symphony of the 20th Century? A strong and varied attack, I think. Attack may be too strong a word for a musical task, but faced with the daunting prospects of ‘competing’ with the Mravinksys and Karajans of this world, attack may not be strong enough. Karajan thought so much of Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony he recorded it twice, analogue and digital. Both are supreme examples of the recorded arts and are easily the benchmarks by which all are measured.

In these uber digital and streaming days, the Russians have new champions of their greatest composer. Well, one Latvian. Valery Gergiev and Vasily Petrenko, the Russians, are fine interpreters Shostakovich’s works, and Petrenko has given us a dynamite modern recording in his complete set with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on Naxos. I thought it might not be bettered for some time. It has all you need — a very good recording, a great interpretation, fine playing, with the rough and ready Shostakovich needs for a good Russian boot in the arse. If you have it and only require one recording, read no further. You’re set.

But if you are like me and ravage any new recording of the 10th ‘till the bits are sore, then read on. We have a masterpiece on our hands.

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