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Music of Mozart, Grieg, Schubert, Brahms, Stravinsky, and More.

07-21-2015 | By Karl Lozier | Issue 80


Grieg. Peer Gynt Suites. Six Orchestral Songs. Orchestra: Malmo Symphony. Conductor: Bjarte Engeset. Recording: Naxos CD8-570236

These Peer Gynt suites are the heart and soul of Grieg's incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play of the same name. This beautiful and very impressively melodic music is one of my personal favorites of all time. The immense popularity of the original suite fueled much more. The Suite No. 2 was a logical extension. Then conductors added a few personal sections and even changed the playing order which was a bit more logical. So in the good old LP days, here Peer Gynt went from half on one side of the LP to the whole side, then to all of both sides and even a couple of extended versions to two full sides. That was not the ultimate. What was the ultimate for me was the addition of solo female vocals including Solveig's song (beautifully sung on this release by soprano Inger Damn-Jensen). Solveig's Song became the most popular of Grieg's 180 songs and Solveig's Cradle Song subtly and beautifully ends Peer Gynt. Some favorite versions in my collection add both separate female and male chorus. The male chorus with rhythmic accompaniment showpiece for tuba is my personal favorite in the outstanding In the Hall of the Mountain King. Unfortunately this fine production does not include the addition of a full chorus. The other songs added to this release are beautifully done by the aforementioned soprano and by baritone Palle Knudsen. Enjoy some of the most attractive and melodic music to be heard here in Peer Gynt. Also try to imagine a powerful male chorus perfectly added to build a climax to In the Hall of the Mountain King. Audio quality again is very good with no significant failings to mar this superb music-just lacking the SACD format choice. Definitely my highest recommendation for enjoyable music beautifully performed and very well recorded. If you want to hear more of the talented composer, simply try his piano concerto and Naxos 8-570871-72.



Lucerne Festival. Music: Johannes Brahms. Serenade No. 2, Alto Rhapsody. Symphony No. 2. Orchestra: Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Conductor: Andris Nelsons (First year ever without its founding. Conductor since 2003, Caudio Abbado) Alto Rhapsody with Sara. Mingardo and Bavarian Radio Choir.

It seems so strange to not see the famous Claudio Abbado conducting his orchestra since 2003. The new conductor must have felt a great deal of pressure taking over from a true legendary conductor who had passed away. Some of the close up facial views of conductor Andris Nelsons would seem to be affecting his appearance at times. The playing of the actual music was just fine. Most of the music except for the last movements of the symphony were very attractive and at time simply relaxing and beautiful to be heard. The orchestral playing seemed absolutely faultless and the alto vocalist was sincerely subtle and outstanding. The recording did a good job, as in previous years. So the newly found music makers are off to a great start. The selections are not show off attention getting, just music making for the love of it. A high recommendation is deserved all around including the recording with full detailed audio.



Composer: Beethoven. Chamber Music: String Quartet, Opus 18. String Quartet, Opus 130. And Gross Fuge, Opus 133. Performers: Fry Street Quartet. Recording: IsoMikeTestSeries2005. (Ray Kimber)

Wow, what a superb recording this is! Most living rooms or listening rooms can accommodate a traditional string quartet. That group is composed of a pair of violinists, a violist and a cellist. What is so unique and beneficial about this recording and situation for serious music lovers and even that sub-group called audiophiles is rather simple. Here with a little effort an audiophile can pretty much check out his or her hearing and sound system quality. Here simply is how it can be done. First go to the real things—yes a string quartet concert. There are literally hundreds of reasonably good groups all over the United States and other countries. Only a handful is in a league with the quality of musical performance offered here by the Frye Street Quartet. That is not the point; the point is that by hook, crook, first row seats or arranging to attend a rehearsal you can get to hear the instruments of a string quartet up close, really close. Commit the beautiful sounds of live string instruments to your memory. Go straight home and put on this uniquely superb Isomike recording by Ray Kimber. Adjust the gain/volume control of your listening system. Now compare and compare as there is almost certainly room in your listening room for a string quartet (do not entertain the idea of adding a double bass or bass drum in the future). This Isomike release, played in the stereo SACD mode, is closer to hearing live string quartet or any other live group in my stereo listening room than ever before. It is so close to the ultimate of the real thing, a live string quartet that I am still almost amazed. Audiophiles, if your goal is really to bring the sensation of live music to your listening room, if it does not pass the above test I say that you should stop even trying to bring an orchestra and bass drum into your listening room.

I have seen Ray Kimber's acoustic baffle system as developed in the past few years. What I am now hearing certainly takes the descriptive terminology of "experimental" out of the picture. It simply works and yes Ray many even improve on it in the future. The unique shape of the Isomike baffle systems are designed to absorb frequencies much lower than traditional baffles and then effectively dissipate that energy by scattering it. The end result is an audible increase in revealing lower layers of extreme detail and increased sensitivity as in their promotional literature. Listening simply bears out those claims. The end result is still surprising to me and somehow seems to affect the entire audible range. Transients are lightning fast and scarily real. Just more natural is an easy and logical description to use.

The string quartet, Opus 18, early Beethoven is melodically appealing and basically entertaining music. It is easy to appreciate. The Opus 130 with the added Gross Fuge is a very "different composition". This is the Beethoven that "battles with the gods". The Fry Street Quartet is at least partly responsible for the great music heard on this release. It can be compared to the sensations created by a fine performance of one of Beethoven's powerful symphonies. Here, you can almost hear the live performance by the Fry Street Quartet. If your sound system is as good as you think it is all you have to do is obtain a copy of this beautiful natural sounding recording, use a truly fine SACD player and I am certain Ray would advise the use of his fine Kimber Select Series of cables for ultimate results. This is what I used. Very highly recommended; this is very possibly the best commercial recording I have ever heard.


Title: Beethoven Symphonies 5 and 9. The Art of Conducting Berlin, January 1966. Rehearsal Symphony. No. 9 "Op. 125 Choral", Berlin, December 1977. Orchestra: Berlin Philharmoniker. Conductor: Herbert Von Karajan

The company has released these two historical recordings as a two disc package and a single booklet of background information. I assume that the original matters have been carefully preserved for future, and now present day study. I will need to pop out some liner notes and may not always give sufficient credit to writer Richard Osborne and Herbert von Karajan. There is a great deal of information that is still floating along after these many years: almost fifty years for the fifth symphony now and nearly forty years for the later ninth. Beethoven has been reported years ago that he had worked solidly for four years before introducing it as part of a concert in Vienna during a very bad cold windy weather time with no heat in the concert hall. Pay very close attention here as I write about the music also performed at the Fifth Symphony's introduction; also performed was his Sixth Symphony the Fourth Piano Concerto, the Choral Fantasy Op. 80, and parts of the Mass in C. I hate to think of how many hours that took all together. The concert was not really a success and the public was not really ready for the very different music that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony introduced. After rather little attention, the poet E.T.A. Hoffman wrote, "How this magnificent composition carries the listener on and on in a continually ascending climax into the ghastly world of infinity! The human breath squeezed by monstrous presentiments and destructive powers seems to gasp for breath, soon a kindly figure approaches full of radiance and illuminates the depth of the terrifying night. The liner notes mention the most famous opening notes ever written, a "motto" identifying not only the composer but the whole concept of classical music. What makes four notes immortal? You personally will need to answer that when you listen to this symphony. The remarkably brief opening movement is utterly dominated by the "fate knocking at the door" motto. The continuing development with a certain healing effect in the music itself helps to explain why (Beethoven's)—have kept their appeal for two centuries. In Beethoven's fifth, the whole symphony tacitly expresses this climb up the stairway to heaven. "Forgive my use of better explanations than my own here" Beethoven's justly famous Ninth or Choral Symphony has received so much publicity and praise over and over again that I am going to be very brief. It is not common knowledge and it is true that the Ninth Symphony started out as two separate works. He took ten years to change that. The symphony is important in that it is basically a bridge or attempt to resolve the differences or approaches between Classic and Romantic and can be thought of as old and new. It is some of both.



Der Rosenkavalier. A comic opera in three acts. Composer: Richard Strauss. Libretto: Hugo von Hofmannathal. Recorded at: Glyndelburn Opera House, Lewes, U.K.. Orchestra: London Philharmoni. Conductor: Robin Ticciati. Director: Richard Jones. Recording: Opus Arte BD7168D. 1080i High Definition 16-9 with LPCM24 bit stereo.

Der Rosenkavalier

Definitely one of the greatest composers. This fine example of one of Strauss' very best operas and possibly his most popular one continues decade after decade adding to its popularity As you might know, many if not most operas are a collaboration between a music composer and a story teller (dramatist).

Director Richard Jones says that there is very conservative gender politics in Der Rosenkavalier particularly with aristocratic men can enjoy while he women have to conceal their sexual freedom they achieve. A baron apologizes to a lady in Act 1 about that. This should alert our readers about what to expect from this comic opera that has survived for seemingly forever with great singing and all that can go with the best of opera. As with anything in the music world that Richard Strauss wrote/composed it was usually the best; that includes concerto vocal, chamber music, symphonic, orchestral, vocal and opera. His is a better al around composer than almost any of the others, though he was perhaps at his very best composing orchestral music. Though often given credit for "inventing" the tone poems, he did not though he brought them to their finest examples. The task at hand for me though is to let our readers know how good his composition of the opera Der Rosenkavalier is to create interest in getting them to hearing it and with current outstanding television how good it looks also. Unlike many very dramatic operas this one is rather easy going and almost relaxing at times and is considered to be a comic opera. Personally I think it is tough for an opera, with a number of roles to be much of a comedy. Der Rosenkavalier is one of the very best. Personally, a favorite event of mine in an opera is a solid sounding male chorus. That is missing here but I still really like this opera and it is done/performed quite excellently. Also, it is filmed in high definition and recorded in true Surround Sound. Sung in German with a choice of subtitles, it is easy to say that this is about as good as opera gets in your home viewing.



Piano Music of a higher order (Two Pianos, Four Hands). Composer: Mozart: Sonata for Two Pianos 375a. Schubert: Variations on an Original Theme D813. Stravinsky: Le sacre, Version for Four Hands. The Adoration of Earth. The Sacrifice. Performers: Agerich and Barenboim. Recording Live Recording Philharmonic, Berlin April 2014. Euoarts Blu-ray 2059994

The gestation period here could almost be thought of as sixty-six years! That is when Aida Barenboin brought her seven year old son Danielito to the same musical party in Buenos Aires, as did Juanita Agerich with her eight year old daughter. The two left there in the early fifties and took very different though stellar paths. Of course their paths crossed over the many years and often as when Barenboim was conducting and Agerich was featured piano soloist. The program liner notes go thoroughly into the reasons and so on that made the Stravinsky part of the program such an outstanding highlight.

Those of you with top notch stereo systems, helped of course by our magazines review, should be able to almost equal live sound quality with this fine Blu-ray recording that is beautiful music, beautifully performed for lovers of piano music to savor and remember the beauty of a relaxed intimate performance, by two of the world's best pianists.