I think it’s in every Englishman’s DNA that the gene ‘Must love Elgar’ exists. I have it, but as an identical twin, it was halved and diluted at birth. Therefore, I love Elgar’s Violin Concerto, In The South, and the 1st Symphony. Froissart, the Cello Concerto and his oratorios I can do without (ever played The Music Makers?!). The 2nd Symphony is acknowledged not as successful as the 1st Symphony, and, it is a work with which I have a love/hate relationship. At times, I think it a masterpiece, masterfully orchestrated, with great structure and fantastic tunes. Other times, it simply rubs me the wrong, jingoistic way.

That said, I do love the quote from Shelley that Elgar inscribes on the opening page: ‘Rarely, rarely, comest thou, Spirit of Delight!’. It is when a conductor follows the ’spirit’ of these great words that the ’smile’ and ‘beauty’ of this massive work overcomes its portentousness and pretense. And, my friends, conductor Daniel Barenboim and his great orchestra, the Staatskapelle Berlin, capture the pure essence of them perfectly.

[click to continue…]

{ 8 comments }

Our conductor, Sir Simon Rattle calls Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856) the ‘echt Romantik’. I’ve always found him that way, especially in his four symphonies where a bigger canvas than his piano scores usually gets his Florestan in gear over his Eusebius.1

1. [Eric Sams' essay on Florestan and Eusebius 1]

Even in the slower movements of the symphonies, there is a restlessness that I think Schumann is enjoying. A little like feeling sorry for yourself — for him, maybe over his wife’s long time affection for his buddy Brahms or the straight out melancholia from which he suffered most of his adult life? In any case, within the four symphonies, you’ll hear the great man at his very finest. Elegant symphonies, beautifully structured in the very best Romantic symphonic tradition.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

The Home Entertainmemt Show in Newport Beach has just concluded. By all accounts it has grown, was well attended, and the folks seemed to have a lot of fun, if cigars and selfies matter at all.

When reading my Facebook and Twitter feed, the only product that was on the audiophile menu at the show was headphones, how to amplify them with tiny, inexpensive boxes or monster, expensive monoliths. Oh, and the odd mention of one turntable. Maybe, this was the fault of the good folks who I follow (the information about the new speakers was on another FB page, must be!) or, possibly, the folks who are covering headphones are better adept at using social media to get the message across? I think the latter. In fact, headphones and mobile/computer audio had its own ‘Headphonium’ show within the body of the main show. This, following the benchmark work instituted at the Denver Show with its ‘Canjam’.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Ghost Stories marks Coldplay’s sixth studio album. It is a ‘concept’ album of sorts, spilling the beans for lead singer Chris Martin’s highly publicized breakup with actress, Gwyneth Paltrow. The famously tree hugging Paltrow called the act a ‘conscious uncoupling’. Ahem!

There’s been a million rock albums with songs based upon, around, and in the middle of breakups. I wondered if the Martin/Paltrow new age ‘uncoupling’ would inspire the alternative band to produce something more introspective or would it be a ‘let-it-all-hang-out-affair, like Paltrow’s ridiculous, over-the-top film award acceptance speeches?

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

I was recently contacted by Miranda Billing, a representative of Harmonic Technology. She was previously associated with another company, Legenburg, whose cables I had reviewed, years ago. She asked me if I was interested in reviewing the latest version of the Melody Link interconnect, the Mark III version. After briefly perusing the company’s website, reading a description of the Melody Link MK III, I noticed that at the time, that there was no review of the cable linked to the website.

The Melody Link MK III, contains both continuous cast silver and copper wire. The combination, according to the company’s design engineers, is to provide a balanced frequency response and avoid an emphasis upon bass frequencies, given the particular cable design, which I will discuss shortly.

[click to continue…]

{ 6 comments }

PS Audio recently released (March 2014) a new DAC to replace their already top-notch, high-end PerfectWave DAC (PWD), which I reviewed about a year ago, with a follow up review using it with the PerfectWave Bridge which enables using an ethernet cable to stream the digital files from computer to DAC instead of USB. The PWD, using ethernet, has become my reference DAC ever since. So, when I heard about this new one, I licked my chops at a chance to try it out on my system and review it.

[click to continue…]

{ 19 comments }

Argentine mezzo soprano Bernarda Fink suggests that one cannot fully understand Mahler’s symphonies without knowing his songs. It’s an honest thesis. If you don’t know the songs, here you’ll find inspiration, harmonies and melodies that are easily recognizable from the famous symphonies. It’s wonderfully instructive to hear the musical settings so simply designed and elegantly implemented.

If you know the songs, I’m quite sure you’ll know the benchmark performances — the incredible artistry that mezzos Christa Ludwig and Janet Baker bring to these songs. Both women have recorded the works under the finest conductors, with the finest pianists, and with the greatest orchestras. So, how does Fink compare?

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

This is the first release on Daniel Barenboim’s own label, Peral Music (in association with Universal Music). ‘All releases will be offered as Mastered for iTunes, the highest-quality sound format available on the iTunes store globally’. Not sure if that is good or bad, but the musical team looks mighty fine.

The Staatskapelle Berlin is the house band for the 450 year old Berliner Staatsoper Unter den Linden. It was stuck behind the Berlin Wall for many years, but is now shining under a unified German sun inspired by Barenboim’s leadership (since 1992, and ‘conductor for life’).

The orchestra has been recording Bruckner’s ‘mature’ symphonies successfully under Barenboim on the Unitel label. As always with Barenboim, there are musical delights where most thought they didn’t exist and he has the orchestra playing almost as well as its noisy neighbour.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }