Beethoven – Complete Fortepiano Concertos [3 CDs – 200 mins]
Arthur Schoonderwoerd - Fortepiano / Cristofori
Alpha 820 (reissued 2014)

The five piano concertos have a special place in Beethoven’s oeuvre; all were completed during the earlier part of his career, over the period 1795 to 1809. Yet this 3-disc boxed set (comprising material originally released between 2005-8) makes a couple of claims to surprise those of us who hold these works dear. Firstly, that there were actually SIX piano concertos – based on the fact that Beethoven himself arranged the lone Violin Concerto Op.61 (1806) for fortepiano to a commission from the famous Clementi, who published much of Beethoven’s music in England (amongst a panoply of other achievements). The second claim is that, by performing these concertos on the type of fortepiano for which they were originally written, backed by a period instrument orchestra of authentic composition and size, the music is heard completely afresh.

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There are several reasons why I got involved in reviewing these headphones. First, I gifted my trusty Grado 125 headphones to the son of my colleague Karl Sigman. Karl and his son Jason came over for a visit and Jason let it be known that he wanted to get Beats headphones for a birthday present, because ‘they are cool’. Peer pressure was a powerful motivator for the soon to be 12 year old. I asked Jason to try the Grado 125s. He was mesmerized by the sound and it was a joy to see his reaction. ‘Dad, I have to have them.’ After the visit was over, I called Karl and told him I wanted his son to have the headphones and it was my gift to him. I now had to replace them. What to do?

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One of the highlights of the high end audio season takes place this week in the beautiful city of Denver, CO. The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. And, what a Festival it is. In fact, I describe it as the Rolls Royce of audio shows.

If you’re like me, the moment an audio show closes, I’m Jonesing for the next one. As such, my anticipation is for Friday mounting and I suggest to all our readers near and far to attend this amazing show.

Denver is a perfect host city. Clean, safe, great food, cheap car rentals, great airport, excellent arts and the wonderful Rocky Mountains on your doorstep. The show will have almost 200 rooms, focused on two channel audio and ‘CanJam’, the foremost headphone/computer music/mobile audio show in the world. The show is supremely well run, and filled with very pleasant, very passionate audiophiles. Live music, seminars, well-treated rooms, accessible elevators, restaurants, meeting places, good coffee add to the show’s great quality.

So, the final countdown begins. See you all there. Audiophilia will be well represented with five staff members.

Watch for Audiophilia’s detailed, walkabout coverage 9:00 a.m. the morning after the show closes.

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest

Denver Marriott Tech Center Hotel
October 10-12, 2014

Register here.


Oct 1, 2014. Walter Hall, Toronto, ON — What a pleasure to attend the opening concert of the 2014/15 Women’s Musical Club of Toronto’s Music in the Afternoon Series. These concerts continue to present the very best Canadian and International chamber ensembles and soloists.

Our treat today was the Toronto debut of Trio Wanderer, a piano trio founded in 1987 by three aspiring French musicians at the Paris Conservatoire. We’ve waited a long time to hear them, but in the interim they’ve won numerous competitions, recording awards, and have been invited for residencies in Aachen, Germany and Copenhagen. A busy teaching load both as the Trio and as individuals fills their busy schedules.

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I must admit, when I first heard that the New York Audio Show had moved out of Manhattan (my home: the center of the Universe!) to the borough of Brooklyn for its 2014 show, I was not happy, and very dubious. But after a while, it seemed to make more sense from both a practical point of view and a price point of view: Manhattan is expensive; the hotel rates are excessive by any standard. Getting a large comfortable space at a more reasonable price is possible in Brooklyn. The population of Brooklyn is the largest of the five boroughs making up New York City, and it contains a mind-boggling array of different ethnic enclaves; there is no lack of great and reasonably priced food and entertainment, and after all, the subway makes it possible to get right back into Manhattan (civilization!) in minutes from the venue: The New York Marriott Hotel at the Brooklyn Bridge, 333 Adams Street.

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Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, must have been shaking his head after listening to and reading the hullabaloo from self satisfied Apple customers after receiving a free album delivered to their iTunes account. The ‘faux pas’ in question, U2’s inventive and purely capitalist rollout (as part of the iPhone 6/Apple Watch event) of their thirteenth studio album, Songs of Innocence.

I wouldn’t call my self a fan, but I wasn’t cynical about the event and thankful for the free album. Others took exception to Apple’s ‘intrusion’ into their iTunes account without their consent. And shouted it loudly, with every blog and newspaper picking up the ‘news’. They’re idiots. Deleting would take milliseconds. Even so, Apple took the exceptional step of providing a one button, idiot-proof delete button. No good deed goes unpunished. My Nan was right.

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Good news in the brave new world of streaming music.

‘Deezer, the premier digital streaming music service, and Sonos®, an innovator in wireless home audio products, announced an exclusive partnership that will bring streaming High-Resolution Audio (HRA) to music lovers around the world. Deezer’s product “Deezer Elite” is the first global HRA streaming service available to consumers and it’s offered exclusively through Sonos, a system of smart speakers that let you stream all your favorite music to any room in your home in high fidelity sound.’

Streaming until now has been of compressed files. Deezer Elite is making CD quality sound available through streaming, a big step forward. Deezer Elite subscribers will have access to over 35 million tracks and will able to stream in 16-bit, 44.1kHz, FLAC lossless. Deezer Elite costs $9.99/month (with a year’s subscription). Monthly price is $19.99.

For audiophiles used to 192kHz/24bit and DSD files available on HDtracks and sites like it, ‘high definition’ sound still has a way to go. But it’s a good first step. Remember the sound of the early CDs? Who knows, maybe the purchased computer file will go the way of the CD — a hobbyist purchase only? Much like the LP.

Presently, the Deezer deal is only with Sonos, the lifestyle company that manufactures high quality and hugely popular sound bars, subs, standalone units and connectivity devices. We will be reviewing both the Sonos products and the Deezer Elite sound quality in the near future.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited. And I’m looking forward to reporting it all to our readers.

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Photo credit

Re-listening to the track ‘Roundabout’ from the progressive rock album ‘Fragile’ by Yes (1971) recently, I once again became fascinated by the unusual sound, the precision and odd syncopation of drummer Bill Bruford’s high-pitched snare drum, and reminded myself that Bruford is one of my favorite ‘rock’ drummers; a drummers’ drummer, if I might say?

This is the same guy who 32 years later played drums on the exceptional live 2003 acoustic jazz album ‘Random Acts of Happiness’ by ‘Bill Bruford’s Earthworks’, which has been one of my favorite reference recordings for some time now (in particular, the tracks ‘With Friends Like these…’ and ‘Speaking With Wooden Tongues’ (in which he even uses Polynesian log drums). I also reminded myself how lucky I was to have seen him perform live four times (twice with King Crimson; once in the 1970s and once in the early 1980s, once with Genesis in the 1970s, and once with Patrick Moraz in the mid 1980s). As such, I thought it was time to write something in deference to the great musician.

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