Bricasti M1 “Limited” Digital-to-Analog Converter

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Yes, what you see is what you get (if Santa Claus really likes you, that is): A Bricasti M1 Digital-to-Analog Converter with gold-plated casework. United States Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, $15,000. (Why do I hear echoes of Auric Goldfinger gloating, “No, Mr. Bond; I expect you to die!“)

Bricasti is a Massachusetts, USA company that was started by three exiles from Harmon International’s Lexicon division: Brian, Casey, and Tim. Hence the corporate name, which would warm the cockles of any trademark lawyer’s heart: Yes! Unique! My puckish sense of humor has at times led me to suggest to the unwary that “Bricasti” is the coastal resort town just North of Brindisi. As Peter McGrath would say, that has the ring of “near-truth” to it.

Bricasti, no surprise, started out in the professional-audio field, offering a “we will cut no corners” reverberation unit that quickly became the Gold Standard in its field. Why? Well, cutting no corners is a good place to start. Continue Reading →

The Rosenberg Trio: “For Sephora.”

The Rosenberg Trio is made up of its lead guitarist, the charmingly named Stochelo Rosenberg (which for some reason always makes me think of high-school chemistry class) and his cousins the rhythm guitarist Nous’che Rosenberg and upright bassist Nonnie Rosenberg.

Seeing as all three are members of the Dutch Gypsy (or Roma) community, of course they have been hugely influenced by Django Reinhardt. [Note: I am aware that use of the term “Gypsy” is controversial in some quarters. However, the Rosenbergs themselves use that word on their own website; so, they most likely are not offended by it.] If I might brag—just a bit—I am only one handshake away from Django, through Stéphane Grappelli (the violinist who, with Reinhardt, co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club of France in 1934).

More, after the jump. Continue Reading →

Grace Design m920 (Steinway and Sons office systems, Part IV)

Grace m920 for TTG

Grace Design m920 (Steinway and Sons office systems, Part IV)
Digital-to-Analog Converter, Line Stage, and Headphone Amplifier
Made in Lyons, Colorado, USA; US MSRP $1995

For the stereo systems I specified for use in two of the executive offices at Steinway and Sons’ global headquarters in New York City, my major design goals were fatigue-free yet detail-rich listening (for hours at a time), flexibility, and future-proofness. Given that the major source was going to be USB computer audio or wireless streaming, I wanted a digital-audio source component that had multiple digital inputs, the ability to decode not only conventional PCM digital data but also Direct Stream Digital (DSD) files, was of professional-grade build quality, and which sounded just plain great. Oh, and also not break the budget. (Note, the Grace m920 on its own does not handle wireless; in these systems, an Audioengine wireless receiver unit outputs S/PDIF to the m920 via a Toslink optical digital cable.)

Grace Design’s m920 DAC/HPA/linestage filled that bill admirably. Please click through to learn more, and also to learn how to get an additional $100 off the lowest advertised price, as a thank-you for reading The Tannhaüser Gate! Continue Reading →

Jane Monheit: “Taking a Chance on Love”

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Jane Monheit: Taking a Chance on Love
Recorded at Avatar Studios, NYC, March-May 2004; released on CD September 2004.
CD Sony Classical SK 92495
(No high-resolution download found.)

Jane Monheit, vocals; Michael Kanan, piano; Orlando Le Fleming, bass; Rick Montalbano, drums; Miles Okazaki, guitar; various guests; Alan Broadbent, arranger and conductor; Peter Asher and Al Schmitt, producers; Al Schmitt, engineer.

“Great American Songbook” singer Jane Monheit’s début studio album for Sony Classical Taking a Chance on Love is in many ways the opposite bookend to Harry Connick, Jr.’s We Are In Love, which I wrote about here. After all, both titles use the “L” word… .

However, the important difference is that Harry Connick’s voice is of the “boy next door” variety, whereas Jane Monheit’s voice is of the “girl next door” variety, but only if you live next door to the Manhattan School of Music. Monheit’s own website is here; her Wiki is here.

Sound bytes, a YouTube, and more, on the continuation page. Continue Reading →

Pentatonix: “ ‘Can’t Sleep’ Love”

I used to be a choral singer—I started as a Boy Soprano, no less (the Brits call them “trebles”).

There was something so satisfying about those (admittedly rare) moments when the pitches and the blend were really perfect. It even happened once, totally by accident, with my two older brothers and me. I think we were singing a Harry Belafonte song. (Yes, I knew about Harry Belafonte before he became something of an audiophile vinyl icon.)

Continue Reading →

Alexander Toradze: Shostakovich Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Alexander Toradze- Shostakovich Piano Concertos

Alexander Toradze: Shostakovich Piano Concertos 1 & 2
Recorded June 2010 and August 2011, hr-Sendesaal, Frankfurt, Germany
CD Pan Classics PC 10261
(No high-resolution download available, apparently.)

Alexander Toradze, piano; Jürgen Ellensohn, trumpet in Piano Concerto No. 1; George Vatchnadze, piano in Concertino Op. 94; Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, conductor.

In writing about Yevgeny Sudbin’s recent Scarlatti recording, I mentioned the Jungian Synchronicity that a few weeks before I downloaded the review copy of Sudbin’s recording, I had been engaged as a substitute to review for the Providence Journal a Rhode Island Philharmonic concert featuring Alexander Toradze playing Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. Further, that for his encore, Maestro Toradze played the same Scarlatti “Aria” sonata that brings down the curtain on Sudbin’s program.

Continue Reading →

Eric Whitacre Singers: “Enjoy the Silence,” Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), arr. Whitacre

Eric Whitacre Singers: “Enjoy the Silence,” Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), arr. Whitacre

Well, here I go violating my self-imposed (and only general; not absolute) rule that the music videos I post here show real performances. But, this is not a mashup; it is a serendipitous iPhone recording made when an audience member thought she was sneaking a snapshot, but in reality was starting to make a video. The screen is black because she put her phone or tablet back in her handbag.

I heard the Boston stop of the Eric Whitacre Singers‘ 2013 USA tour (this video is from the days-earlier Washington, DC-area stop), in the luminous acoustic of Boston’s Symphony Hall. If five years previously someone had told me that a Depeche Mode song would have moved me to tears, I would have scoffed. But, it was not Depeche Mode (their official music video is–dopey). It was Depeche Mode being re-written by Palestrina, as channeled by Eric Whitacre.

Time stood still–the dissonances just hung in the air. That so much of the music comes through on an iPhone recording with the iPhone in a purse or bag is food for thought, is it not? There is a studio recording that I find a bit too close and hi-def. I prefer the tonal balance of this not bootleg, but handbag recording. But perhaps that’s just familiarity.

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Royal Northern College of Music: “Moscow, Cheryomushki” (Shostakovich)

One of my favorite Eastern European witticisms comes from Soviet-Era Poland:

Under Capitalism, Man exploits Man. Whereas under Socialism, the reverse is true.

Shostakovich’s 1959 operetta Moscow, Cheryomushki (yes, I know—I’ve been stuck on Shostakovich; one more after this, and I will move on) is about bureaucratic corruption and housing shortages in Moscow. “Cheryomushki” means a certain kind of cherry tree, and it refers to both a district of Moscow and to a specific 1950s housing project.

One might think that writing an operetta (one of Shostakovich’s longest works, in fact) ridiculing state officials as lecherous buffoons while decrying substandard housing might have meant that Shostakovich was taking his life in his hands.

However, people forget that between Stalin’s death and the shooting down of Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 CIA spy plane, there was a significant thaw in the Soviet Union. In the new climate of loosened restrictions, Shostakovich’s lyricists went to town with parody and sarcasm, while Shostakovich fashioned his own love letter to the Broadway musical comedy.

More, after the jump. Continue Reading →

Bob Ludwig on Shostakovich and Beethoven

 

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(Photo © Vincent Dixon, courtesy of Gateway Mastering.)

A few postings back, I suggested that, consciously or otherwise, Dmitri Shostakovich modeled the brief but arresting four-note musical motto that begins the Passacaglia theme of the third movement of his violin concerto on Beethoven’s famous four-note beginning of the first movement of his Fifth Symphony.

In other words, instead of Beethoven’s

da-da-da DAAH

Shostakovich opens with

DAAH, da DA-DA.

That was in the context of a Vault-Treasure Tuesday feature, David Oistrakh’s première studio recording of 1956.

I sent the link to Bob Ludwig, and Bob sent back a fascinating response. A bit about Bob, and then his important contribution to the conversation, are after the jump. Continue Reading →