Winterreise (Winter Journey) is a song cycle for voice and piano by Franz Schubert published in 1828. Along with his earlier Die Schöne Müllerin, the two song cycles are the benchmarks for the genre.

In Winterreise, Schubert uses the poems of Wilhelm Müller as text. The series of poems describe a poet as a jilted lover who wanders the winter countryside. The subject is morose and Schubert’s music is equally dark. But, the songs have a stunning beauty. The sun does shine at times, but the feeling of sadness is profound.

Canadian Baritone, Gerald Finley is quickly becoming one of the mainstays of the opera and concert stage. I first heard him as Nixon in John Adams’ superb opera, Nixon in China. Finley has not only developed into a wonderful singer, he’s also a fine actor. Both these qualities add to this magnificent new Winterreise.

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We reviewed three previous Kansas City Symphony/Michael Stern CDs released on Reference Recordings. All were recorded by the master sound engineer, Keith Johnson, the man who almost single handedly took the CD from the closet to the concert stage. His CDs are benchmark recordings, and the new Kansas City Symphony CD, ‘Miraculous Metamorphoses’ is no different.

Whether allowing the glow of woodwinds as they replicate the mysterious Mandarin in Bartok’s incredibly powerful and violent ballet, the muted trumpets emphasising the cynicism of Prokofiev in his The Love of Three Oranges Suite, or the decay into deep black sensuousness from the multiple percussion in the Turandot Scherzo movement of Hindemith’s wonderful Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, you’ll hear these seminal pieces anew. The recording is that good.

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Today, I received a large package from Hanover, Germany. The package included three CDs in the most impressive packaging I’ve seen in a while and a detailed information sheet about the German company. The company is about to launch the label in Canada.

I’ll be reviewing the three CDs — vocal recital, harp solo and a unique group of two tenor saxes and rhythm section. I do not know the artists, but from the incredibly detailed information and photographs in the CD book, they receive the very best of audiophile care.

Founder, Ulrich Katzenberger records musicians in ‘natural live concert hall sound, without the addition of artificial compression and other effects that alter or manipulate the original audio’.

Reviews will be appearing soon. In here and now, all the best to a company that on first look, produces a very high quality product.

The music is available on CD, Blu-ray and hi resolution downloads.

website

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I received yet another email from a Kickstarter project designer. But, so polite, I wanted to give our readers a heads up. The $30,000 target is almost complete — just a few bucks shy. Also, the project is based in Toronto at the very cool Planet of Sound store.

Remember the full function receiver? They seem to have gone the way of the Dodo, and with a phono stage? Forget it. So, it was nice to see this cute little box that’ll power your gear and a turntable.

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This is Angela Hewitt’s fourth CD in her Hyperion series of Beethoven Sonatas. I did not get a chance to hear the first three. I did listen to her recent Faure and Debussy discs. I was not impressed.

Hewitt is a Canadian pianist based in London. I’ve followed Hewitt’s career for many years. Almost since she graduated from the University of Ottawa from the class of the late, great Jean-Claude Sevilla.

For the longest time she was pigeonholed as a Bach specialist, and damn fine one she was (is). I’ve been a great admirer of her Bach playing since her debut on DGG many years ago. But, with other repertoire, she lost me along the way. Her technique is fine, but I found it served more rhapsodic music poorly.

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Another Russian phenom gets a shot at the Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos. Interestingly, Denis Matsuev, 38 year old winner of the 1998 Tchaikovsky Competition is a gifted musician, too. He’s also under the mentorship of Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Putin’s conductor of choice, meaning he has the benefit of collaboration with Russia’s finest musicians. After listening to this masterful Tchaikovsky CD, add Matsuev’s name to legendary list of Russians who embody this great music.

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In my recent review of the Mojo Audio Mac Mini Music Server With Joule III Power Supply, I mentioned the possibility of using a slightly larger version of the Oyen Digital external hard drive case, in which 2 drives work together inside in a RAID 1 but are specially set by Mojo Audio so as to be powered directly by the Joule III’s power supply and connected to the Mac Mini (for transferring the music files) using a prototype powerless Firewire cable. (The case is here).

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Bruckner’s unfinished final symphony is well represented in the catalogue. The three magnificent movements are completely different and offer a satisfying conclusion to Bruckner’s incredible symphonic canon.

Some conductors tried to finish the unfinished symphony by adding the composer’s Te Deum, complete with voices. I never bothered with it. I did bother with Sir Simon Rattle’s new ‘completed’ version with his Berlin Philharmonic. I was impressed with the finale movement as a whole, but it did nothing to finish what I consider the unfinishable. Basically, detailed Bruckner notes finished by musicologists.

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