Vancouver is a short ferry ride from Audiophilia West, here in in beautiful Victoria, BC. So, it is fortuitous for us that Chester Group, who are slowly gobbling up all the major players in the audio show business, has organized an audio show in Canada’s most beautiful city. The city deserves one.

Here’s hoping the inaugural Vancouver show is the first of many and emulates the development and popularity of Chester Group’s sister shows.

Of course, we’ll be there to report. And as always, Audiophilia’s show report will be published by 9:00 a.m. PST the morning after the show closes.

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On May 11, 2015, the members of the legendary Berliner Philharmoniker will vote to elect their new chief conductor. This type of musical democracy is not prevalent in most major orchestras, but as the band’s ID suggests, ‘128 virtuosos, one orchestra’, so who’s to argue their choice?

Recently, I was lucky enough to receive an open ticket to the orchestra’s brilliant and benchmark Digital Concert Hall. For the last few seasons, it’s been a veritable who’s who of jet set stars conducting. The concerts have been instructive and I have my favourites and who I think should lead the pack.

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The Art of Bach [74:00]
Anderson & Roe Piano Duo with Augustin Hadelich, violin
Steinway & Sons 30033
Release Date: 01/13/2015

I am an avid listener of WQXR, Manhattan’s 24 hour per day, 7 days per week, classical music station. It offers an eclectic mix of music spanning the 15th through the 21st centuries and live broadcasts from Carnegie Hall and the MET. I have requested many review CDs after hearing them on WQXR.

During January 2015, The Art of Bach, released by Steinway & Sons was one of the station’s two “CDs of the Month”. The disk contains sacred and secular works, written by JS Bach, arranged for two pianos.

While listening to the station, I heard two tracks from the aforementioned CD, namely Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto Number Three”, and “Concerto for Two Keyboards, BWV 1061”. I was impressed with the performance and the effectiveness of substituting two pianos for a larger ensemble.

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Bel Canto, Minnesota’s manufacturer of quality hifi equipment has kicked its already wonderful digital line up a notch with ‘Black’. Black is a deceptively simple digital/amplification solution for your high end needs — described by Bel Canto as: ‘elegant simplicity. Three boxes. Two connections. One coveted musical result.’

I’m not usually a fan of ‘closed’ high end systems, but Black will cover all of your digital/amplification needs for some time to come. Bel Canto usually provides an upgrade path, too, should your needs change. With Black, I’m not sure it will. Every digital and analog outcome has been covered. Sure, it can be as simple to use as you like, but there is some head spinning complexity in the delivery. Fans and fans-to-be should check out Black’s dedicated website for a description of its advanced technology.

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I’ve been listening to Vilde Frang’s new Mozart CD. I wish she had recorded all the Concertos, but 1 and 5 are superb. And a beautiful Sinfonia Concertante. She has a true cantilena in her playing. Fine accompaniment, too. Listen to the orchestral playing in the Sinfonia, especially. Fantastic dynamics. So many average Mozart fiddle recordings out there. This isn’t one of them.

Frang is from Norway. She plays a Vuillaume violin. If memory serves me correctly, my violin pals have told me what a gorgeous sound they can make — less intense than a Strad. Frang certainly makes it sing. Flawless intonation, too.

Andy Fawcett has sung her praises in his Audiophilia column. A quick search on Audiophilia will find his review of her Prokofiev Concerto No. 2.

A different label than EMI, but the recording I would imagine is no less good. Lots of air around the instruments and Frang’s musicianship blended perfectly with her HIP orchestra. AK

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With the runaway success of SONOS, the Santa Barbara, CA company that has revolutionized quality wireless music throughout your home, others are surely following. What is a surprise is Nest, the brainchild of ex Apple exec Tony Fadell and maker of expensive wifi thermostats and smoke detectors, is recruiting for a ‘Head of Audio’.

But stepping back a little, why not? Fadell is known at Apple as ‘The father of the iPod’. His Nest thermostat had Apple DNA written all over it. Now, Nest is owned by Google. I’m sure Fadell built in lots of autonomy within the 3.2 billion dollar sale to Google, but do you remember Google’s last shot at quality audio? The quickly discarded Nexus Q.

Nest makes quality products built by smart people. The ad specifically asked for the successful candidate to ‘lead the Nest Audio team, including acoustics, audio electronics, software, audio test and validation for all Nest Products’ and to ‘develop an audio roadmap that can support delightful user experiences using innovative features’.

I’m looking forward to reading about the successful candidate. It’s a big job. But it takes a lot more than quality engineering to create a company the likes of SONOS. A healthy dose of vision and magic is required. Oh yes, and timing. Audiophilia looks forward to reviewing Nest’s end result.

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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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