Lately, I have been reviewing audio equipment for which very high end speaker cables (expensive, thick and heavy) are not necessary or practical. I am talking about integrated amps that weigh as little as 2.9 pounds and speakers that weigh as little as 15 pounds each. Wanting audiophile quality cables nonetheless, but not knowing what to do, I first tried lower level cabling from some well-known companies; but I was not satisfied with either price or sound quality. So I decided to start from scratch to find something suitable. Luckily, I stumbled upon the USA company ‘AntiCable Audio Company’, from Lake Elmo, Minnesota, named such by its owner, Paul Speltz, for the following reason:

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Robert Schumann: Violin Concerto in D minor WoO 1; Piano Trio No.3 in G minor Op. 110
Freiburger Barockorchester / Pablo Heras-Casado
Isabelle Faust, violin Jean-Guihen Queyras, violoncello Alexander Melnikov, piano

Harmonia Mundi HMC902196 [61:37]
March 2015 release

German violinist Isabelle Faust is fast becoming one of my favourite artists. From her growing canon on the Harmonia Mundi label, she strikes me as interested and interesting. She has an inquisitive mind paired with a superb violin technique. Always a healthy recipe. But her sound (from her on loan Stradivarius “La Belle au bois dormant” of 1704) and musicality are superb, too.

Here we find her inspired by her piano trio colleagues, Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello and Alexander Melnikov, piano. I first heard them play a superb CD of Beethoven piano trios (a Jean-Baptiste Streicher piano from Vienna 1847 and violin and cello using gut strings). This was interesting more than illuminating. And in a good way. No scrawny strings, no hollow piano, no swooping and sighing in place of solid dynamics, just true musicality tied to the best of historical performance practice. The trio thought it would be a good idea to bring this performance style to a Schumann set. This release is Volume 1 of a trilogy.

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London — March 3, 2015. Today, the British classical press and classical music fans went apoplectic. Yes, after weeks of a building wave, Sir Simon Rattle has accepted the position of Music Director of the renowned London Symphony Orchestra from 2017.

Rattle, now 60, first conducted the orchestra not long out of his teens. The LSO has been wooing him ever since his announcement last year that he was leaving the number one job in classical music, Music Director of the Berlin Philharmonic.

So, what does this mean for London? A few very good things in the near future and a big one some years down the road. As well as being a very fine conductor, certainly England’s best, Rattle is big on youth/community music. He dragged the Berlin Phil kicking and screaming in that direction. His initiatives have proven a great success. The LSO already does marvellous community outreach. Rattle will encourage even more. More importantly, he’ll work for better conditions for his new band. Fewer tours will be number one. The orchestra tours far too much.

As for the new hall that Rattle wants for his orchestra? A feasibility study has been commissioned. The new hall will come, that’s a certainty. Not only does London need one, it deserves one. London’s track record with halls has been dreadful. Barns with no atmosphere and awful acoustics.

So, a great day for London music. And for its future.

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Recently, while reviewing the Sprout by PS Audio, I borrowed a pair of Alta Audio’s new small Solo speakers to match with it, and discovered that they were a remarkable fit. Since then, I continued to be very impressed with the Solos as entry-level but audiophile quality speakers. I thought a review was in order.

One nice thing I learned from my Sprout review was that we audiophiles need to bring our feet back down to earth from time to time so that we can evaluate quality in a broad sense, gain balance and have relevant reference points. If all we drink is Chateau Margaux everyday, how can we learn anything new and how can we possibly develop an extensive and useful evaluation tool kit? Just as there are fabulous inexpensive wines out there—and hunting them down, drinking them and enjoying them is a crucial part of being a true oenophille, the same is so for the audiophile.

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Designed by famed Dane Cecilie Manz, the BeoLit 15 by Bang & Olufsen is a compact wireless speaker system with Bluetooth connectivity and ‘AirPlay’ support. It has an aluminum body featuring 4 active drivers and 2 passive bass radiators, driven by dual Class D amplifiers.

B&O say that it has ‘Excellent engineering and the unique True360 sound solution ensure your music sounds great, wherever you place Beolit 15. And, with 240 watts of peak power, there is enough sound to fill even larger rooms - and plenty of power to get the party going.’

A cute lunchbox, a party machine and 24 hours playtime on a single charge. What are you waiting for?

Comes in three colours. $599.00

More at the Bang & Olufsen website.

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Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 (1878/80 version)
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck

Reference Recordings FR-713SACD (66:05)

This is the third offering from Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck, his Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Reference Recordings. Reference, long the house sound and domain of Prof. Keith Johnson, is sharing out recording duties these days on its ‘Fresh’ label. The team at sound/mirror has been entrusted with stamping their own form of brilliance on Reference while maintaining the almost impossible standards set by the Professor.

Each Fresh! release gets better. The entire team — players, conductor, recording company, engineers, all seem to be finding their groove. And, in this new Bruckner 4, the team has captured something quite special.

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Sprout is the brainchild of the young passionate audiophile Scott McGowan, the son of PS Audio CEO Paul McGowan. It is a new stereo integrated amplifier that he designed, partly motivated as a way of bringing into the high-end fold a younger generation of music lovers who for the most part are typically viewed as only listening to music in MP3 format on an iPod, iPhone and with headphones.

Another motivation was to make quality modern audio equipment accessible and simple for the average person (of any age)—and without having to take out a mortgage to do so. In one small box—only 6” W x 8” L x 1.75” H and weighing in at only 2.9 lbs—Sprout contains a remarkable array of well thought out high-quality audiophile goodies.

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Mussorgsky — Pictures At An Exhibition; Schumann — Fantasie Op. 17 [64:43]
Paul Lewis, piano
Harmonia Mundi HMC902096 (2015)

Paul Lewis is the British classical pianist who has been taken to heart by international piano fans. A rare feat for a British pianist. Not since Solomon and Sir Clifford has a Brit been hailed as a ‘giant’. Sure, lots of great ivory bashers, but any geniuses? No.

I’m not suggesting that the thoughtful, über musical Lewis is a genius, but his interpretations of the great Classical repertoire have been resonating with musicians, concert goers and critics. I reviewed his Toronto recital debut some years ago. Schubert Sonatas. Incredible. Not only does he have a very fine technique, but there is so much thought, care and scholarship that make up his interpretations. He creates exquisite sounds, too.

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