Rimsky-Korsakov: Sheherazade Op. 35
Jonathan Crow, violin
Toronto Symphony Orchestra/Peter Oundjian

Chandos CHSA 5145 (45:20)

For home town Torontonians, this Chandos Records release is a fairly momentous occasion. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has been recorded before. Mediocre sessions on EMI during the Andrew Davis years and a few better recordings with Ozawa on RCA and Columbia back in the ’60s. Chandos Records has a track record of producing superb sounding recordings, primarily due to the indefatigable Couzens team, Brian producer, and Ralph, engineer.

This recording, taken live in 2013 from the orchestra’s home of Roy Thomson Hall, was engineered and produced by the Soundmirror team from Boston, with executive producing credit going to Brian Couzens for its subsequent release on Chandos.

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Mahler – Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” [78:00]
Cutting / Turner / Emmerson / Kelly - Piano
Melba MR301144 (2014)

As off-the-wall as Linn’s recent release (CKD438) of a chamber arrangement of Mahler’s “little” 4th Symphony had seemed, this new disc from Australia’s Melba label absolutely takes the cake! A reduction of the famously huge “Resurrection” Symphony for piano might seem impossible, yet Mahler conceived large parts of it on that instrument, and the practice was far from uncommon at the end of the 19th Century.

In a time before recordings, when many would never have the chance to hear new works performed by an orchestra, piano arrangements provided a commercially astute opportunity for a composer’s music to be heard more widely. During Mahler’s lifetime, versions of the 2nd Symphony for two pianos and for four hands were in circulation, but it is the century-old arrangement for double duet (two pianos / eight hands) by Heinrich von Bocklet that receives its world premiere recording here.

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Benjamin Britten: War Requiem (1962)

Joni Henson, soprano
Benjamin Butterfield, tenor
Phillip Addis, baritone
Victoria Choral Society
Vox Humana and Friends
St. Michael’s Children’s Choir

Victoria Symphony conducted by Tania Miller

November 8, 2014. Royal Theatre, Victoria, BC — When I had the privilege of performing Benjamin Britten’s masterpiece, his War Requiem at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1981, performances of this gigantic, difficult work were not commonplace. Even with a performance under my belt and the fact that my old friend and conducting teacher, Meredith Davies conducted its world premiere in 1962, the march of time sent me running to the computer for some contemporary research.

My homework for this performance with the Victoria Symphony led me straight to YouTube. Every Tom, Dick and Benjamin has a full performance of it. What’s more, it seems to be in every major music conservatory’s bag of tricks. Top drawer performances, all.

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RIP Harry Pearson (’hp’ to his loyal readers).

Harry coined the term ‘high end audio’ and much of the lexicon audio reviewers use today. He founded The Absolute Sound in 1973, a giant of print audio magazines.

Simply, Pearson was the finest writer we’ve had in our business. Elegant, fluent, charming writing that always managed to capture the essence of a component’s sound. He will be greatly missed in our community.

photo credit

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The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Sony Classical
2 CDs (2:01:46)

Everyone knows Lang Lang. And everyone knows that Mozart sorts out the men from the boys. So, it was with some excitement when this confluence of man against music on a silver disc appeared on my desk.

Sure, Lang Lang has the chops and charisma to carry off Rachmaninov and all the great Romantics but could this 2013 UN Messenger of Peace have the musical depth to perform music that Artur Schnabel suggests is ‘…too easy for children, and too difficult for artists.’ Men from boys.

The review period did not begin well. As I looked at the uber cool Lang Lang on the cover, hair tousled and thumbs thrust defiantly in jeans, with the ridiculously pretentious title ‘The Mozart Album’ (almost as bad as those God awful jazz titles ‘So and so “meets” somebody’), I thought this may be more marketing than music. And then my eyes wandered down to the fine print. And it was the finest print — Vienna’s masters and one of its greatest conductors, the uniquely brilliant Nikolaus Harnoncourt as collaborators. The young ruffian on the front cover was in the very best hands.

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Deezer last month, now TIDAL launches high definition streaming in the UK and the US (with an agreement in place for a further 50 countries).

‘The ideal service for those who care about quality, TIDAL welcomes music lovers to enjoy its extensive library of 25 million-plus tracks, 75,000 music videos and curated editorial articles, features and interviews written by experts. Ad free and available now for a monthly subscription of $19.99.’

The specs.

Lossless quality (FLAC/ALAC 44.1kHz / 16 bit - 1411 kbps)
More than 75,000 music videos
Curated Editorial provided by experienced music journalists and industry experts
Dedicated apps available for iOS and Android phones and tablets
Web player for PC/MAC

The players.

Anthem, Airable by Tune In Media, Astell &Kern, Audeze, Audiovector, AudioQuest, Auralic, Aurender, Bel Canto, Bluesound & NAD, Dan D’Agostino, Definitive Technology, Denon HEOS, DTS Play-Fi, Dynaudio, Electrocompaniet, Harman Omni, HiFiAkademie, ickStream, JH Audio, Linn, McIntosh, Meridian, MartinLogan, Paradigm, Polk, Pro-ject, PS Audio, Raumfeld, Simple Audio, Sonos, Steinway Lyngdorf, Wren Sound Systems with more to come.

website

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My stereo system has been configured with tubed electronics for the last ten years. However, I own a PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport and PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC, which I use to listen to high resolution recordings and to provide a contrasting perspective to the sound of my tubed CD player.

During the last two years, my tube amplifier has required maintenance—tube changes, tube bias and repair, and as a result, I have considered replacing it with a solid state amplifier. Thus, for the past year I have been seeking an inexpensive solid state or class-d amp to review.

Having reviewed some expensive components in the past, and observing the many components selling for more than $10,000, I have been determined to try to review, relatively inexpensive and/or cost effective audio equipment.

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Michael Levy of Alta Audio arranged for Merrill Wettasinghe, the head of Merrill Audio Advanced Technology Labs, to bring his Veritas Monoblock amplifiers to my home to audition them with Mike’s Alta Audio amazing stand mounted FRM-2 speakers in a home environment. We also had the opportunity to compare them to my reference Hephaestus Harpocrates SE monoblocks.

Wettasinghe, Levy and Karl Sigman from Audiophilia all took part in our listening sessions. This was my first meeting with Wettasinghe and his products and I was very curious to hear how they stacked up against my reference. The Harpocrates amps are miniscule ‘giant killers’ and weigh in at 3.5 lbs each and have been my reference amps for about a year. The Veritas are about three times the size of the Harpocrates and weigh 33 lbs each, almost ten times as much. Both are class D amplifiers.

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