It was my good fortune to accompany my wife to New Orleans, one of the most food crazy cities in the world, where she attended a three day business conference. This gave me some free time to explore the French Quarter, not only for food, but for records. I knew that the great historic city of New Orleans, the ‘Birthplace of Jazz’, Blues and Zydeco, would have to contain some record stores.

This town is overflowing with musicians, performing in a myriad of clubs, bars and street corners. It is inescapable and delightful. It’s as if music is as necessary as breathing. Eating my way through the historic French Quarter, I came upon Peaches Records store on N. Peters St., lots of new vinyl and reissues with a smaller section on used vinyl.

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For some time now I have not had a preamplifier for my audio system. I rid myself of it when I acquired a DAC that has a built-in digital volume control (within its DAC chip). At the time of that decision, it was a no-brainer: I only had my DAC as a source connected to a computer as server. I had no other sources and had no interest in adding any new sources such as a turntable, an FM radio, a CD/DVD player, or a television set. Moreover, the cost of a good traditional preamp runs into thousands of dollars, requires an expensive power cord, can be large in size, heavy in weight and requires additional expensive interconnects to use. I thus ended up saving thousands of dollars and only requiring one pair of interconnects to run my system: direct from DAC to two mono amps.

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Vivaldi – Concertos for Two Violins [53:41]
D Sinkovsky & R Minasi - Violin / Il Pomo D’Oro
Naive OP30550 (2013)

Concertos for Orchestra [51:14]
Concerto Italiano / Alessandrini
Naive OP30554 (2013)

It has been my great pleasure to sample frequently Naive’s ongoing “Vivaldi Edition”, a project to record the massive collection of autograph manuscripts held in Turin; these are the 56th and 57th volumes. A number of remarkably fine ensembles, mainly Italian, have typically taken an eye-openingly new approach to little-known Vivaldi works, and been treated to recordings just as exceptional.

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In my recent review of the DEQX HDP-4, I mentioned that a USB card was going to be made available for connection directly from a computer to the DEQX unit. Audiophilia colleague, Karl Sigman, suggested the time had arrived to get into computer based digital audio. As such, I purchased a brand new machine ready for all the new digital excitement.

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Winterreise (Winter Journey) is a song cycle for voice and piano by Franz Schubert published in 1828. Along with his earlier Die Schöne Müllerin, the two song cycles are the benchmarks for the genre.

In Winterreise, Schubert uses the poems of Wilhelm Müller as text. The series of poems describe a poet as a jilted lover who wanders the winter countryside. The subject is morose and Schubert’s music is equally dark. But, the songs have a stunning beauty. The sun does shine at times, but the feeling of sadness is profound.

Canadian Baritone, Gerald Finley is quickly becoming one of the mainstays of the opera and concert stage. I first heard him as Nixon in John Adams’ superb opera, Nixon in China. Finley has not only developed into a wonderful singer, he’s also a fine actor. Both these qualities add to this magnificent new Winterreise.

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We reviewed three previous Kansas City Symphony/Michael Stern CDs released on Reference Recordings. All were recorded by the master sound engineer, Keith Johnson, the man who almost single handedly took the CD from the closet to the concert stage. His CDs are benchmark recordings, and the new Kansas City Symphony CD, ‘Miraculous Metamorphoses’ is no different.

Whether allowing the glow of woodwinds as they replicate the mysterious Mandarin in Bartok’s incredibly powerful and violent ballet, the muted trumpets emphasising the cynicism of Prokofiev in his The Love of Three Oranges Suite, or the decay into deep black sensuousness from the multiple percussion in the Turandot Scherzo movement of Hindemith’s wonderful Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, you’ll hear these seminal pieces anew. The recording is that good.

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Today, I received a large package from Hanover, Germany. The package included three CDs in the most impressive packaging I’ve seen in a while and a detailed information sheet about the German company. The company is about to launch the label in Canada.

I’ll be reviewing the three CDs — vocal recital, harp solo and a unique group of two tenor saxes and rhythm section. I do not know the artists, but from the incredibly detailed information and photographs in the CD book, they receive the very best of audiophile care.

Founder, Ulrich Katzenberger records musicians in ‘natural live concert hall sound, without the addition of artificial compression and other effects that alter or manipulate the original audio’.

Reviews will be appearing soon. In here and now, all the best to a company that on first look, produces a very high quality product.

The music is available on CD, Blu-ray and hi resolution downloads.

website

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I received yet another email from a Kickstarter project designer. But, so polite, I wanted to give our readers a heads up. The $30,000 target is almost complete — just a few bucks shy. Also, the project is based in Toronto at the very cool Planet of Sound store.

Remember the full function receiver? They seem to have gone the way of the Dodo, and with a phono stage? Forget it. So, it was nice to see this cute little box that’ll power your gear and a turntable.

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