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.

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The Brooklyn creator of the Dust & Grooves website, Eilon Paz, has published a book ‘Dust & Grooves — Adventures in Record Collecting’. The book is a natural extension of his website that celebrates ‘vinyl music culture’.

As a photographer and curator, Paz used a Kickstarter campaign to fund trips across the USA for interviews, information gathering and photo essays of interesting record collectors and their collections. The trips continued overseas and his findings published on the website. ‘This year, Dust & Grooves expands even further, complementing the website’s cloud with a physical book that profiles over 130 vinyl collectors with photographic essays and in-depth interviews.’

The website continues : ‘Readers get an up close and personal look at a variety of well-known vinyl champions as well as a glimpse into the collections of known and unknown DJs, producers, record dealers, and everyday enthusiasts. The book is divided into two main parts: the first features 250 full-page photos framed by captions and select quotes, while the second consists of 12 full-length interviews that delve deeper into collectors’ personal histories and vinyl troves.’

US Street Date: Record Store Day, April 19, 2014
Worldwide Street Date: May 20, 2014

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It’s nice to have Walton’s two greatest works (with apologies to lovers of Façade) on one disc. The music is played by two staples of the British concert scene, the BBC Symphony under Edward Gardner and violinist Tasmin Little. Gardner is music director of the English National Opera and will leave in 2015 to take the helm of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.

By all accounts, Gardner has done stellar work at the ENO, raising standards on the stage and in the pit. Little has a busy career playing around the world and in England at the Proms and on BBC radio.

Also, nice to have both works recorded on Chandos, a superb company that takes great care with its recordings. I remember sitting very quietly in a church in Montreal during a recording of Shostakovich piano concertos played by the composer’s grandson. The composer’s son Maxim was conducting. Maxim moved the front mic an inch for baton clearance. Immediately, the engineer came flying out of the room to berate the poor conductor for moving it. The Chandos team have ears and they are fastidious. It shows in this splendid Hybrid SACD - DSD recording —Watford Colosseum: 18 September 2013 (Violin Concerto); Fairfield Halls, Croydon: 3 and 4 February 2014 (Symphony No. 1). Both venues have excellent acoustics and they are captured beautifully by the same engineer as the Shostakovich recording.

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I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Lloyd Walker at the 2014 CES. Along with several other colleagues, we enjoyed a wonderful Japanese dinner and had a chance to relax and talk about many things Hi-End and the state it’s in. Many pleasurable hours elapsed and the discussion turned to tweaking. Was it real or just a gimmick to make money. Walker suggested that I try a few of his tweaks and judge for myself.

Walker is one of the industry leaders in turntable design. His ‘tables are legendary — I wish I could afford one. So, when he suggested that I try one of his tweaks, I jumped at the chance.

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I’ve been a big fan of equipment support since I first discovered high end audio. Whether as a rack or dedicated supports, ‘resonance elimination devices’ have been improving the sound of my kit for many years.

I’ve toyed with simple decouplers such as Sorbothane feet, more sophisticated gear such as Rollerblocks, a much loved Townsend Seismic Sink (a metal platform with an inflatable air bladder) sat for years under a Rega Planar 3 turntable, and for the past ten years I have lived with Solid Tech supports, technical and expensive marvels from Sweden.

Mirko Krolo, head of Krolo Designs dropped by the house with four boxes (with three in each box) of his ‘Enhansers’ [sic]. As you can see from the photo above, the Enhansers are exquisitely made conical devices that sit in groups of three under any audio device.

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Time was when you wanted solid British Brahms, you looked back to the early ‘60s for Karajan or Klemperer/Philharmonia, or for the pure British experience, Boult/London Philharmonic. In my recent experience, the London orchestras have been more successful with live Brahms rather than canned (the Brahms/Jarvi/Chandos recorded cycle a case in point). A live performance I attended at London’s Royal Festival Hall with the Philharmonia playing Brahms 2 with Maazel a few years back was superb. And a Royal Philharmonic/Ashkenazy 4 on tour was mesmerizing.

That said, we have two new cycles of symphonies on the way conducted by London’s favourite Russians, Valery Gergiev and Vladimir Jurowski. I was surprised at the quality of the Gergiev/LSO Brahms 1/2 and I was also pleasantly surprised by symphonies 3/4 in a new release by Jurowski and his London Philhramonic on its London Philharmonic Orchestra Label.

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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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