David Nadien: “Swan Lake” Concertmaster Solo, Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic

David Nadien (1926-2014) was the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic from 1966 to 1970. “Concertmaster” is the term for the leader of the first-section violins. In addition to other duties, the concertmaster plays the important violin solos in orchestral pieces; here Nadien plays the famous solo from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. This solo (apparently from an afternoon television broadcast) is legendary among string players for Nadien’s remarkably pristine execution in general, and especially for his smoothly flowing bow changes and beautifully musical phrasing.

Perhaps some eyebrows raised when Leonard Bernstein chose, as successor to John Corigliano Sr., David Nadien, who was a studio musician with little orchestral experience. But there can be no question that this is playing on the highest level. Indeed, Nadien’s playing often elicited comparisons with Jascha Heifetz, who was still active then.

Nadien recorded little, but one of his LP recordings (as far as I know, never reissued on CD) was recorded in 1958 by David Hancock, who made all the early John Marks Records recordings (such as Arturo Delmoni’s Songs My Mother Taught Me). David Hancock learned recording via on-the-job training with Peter Bartók, Béla Bartók’s second son. David Hancock began making recordings as a fallback, in view of the rather congested job market for freshly-minted Juilliard piano graduates. (Hyperion Knight has at least one joke about that.)

So, David Hancock not only recorded the music, he also played the piano in the Franck Sonata, Debussy’s sonata in G, and short pieces by Fauré and Ravel. One for the record books, to be sure. That recording has been put up on YouTube here, audio only. The sound is a bit closely-miked; but, both players are in top form–it’s an interpretation that can withstand comparison with the “greats.”

As of this writing, there is an LP copy up on eBay (Buy It Now) for about 12 coins of the realm–WNTL?

(The Nadien/Hancock LP shows up on eBay regularly–save a search for it, if you were not in time to snatch this one up.)

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Luxman M-200 Stereo Power Amplifier

ALUXM200 cropped

(Images courtesy of On a Higher Note, LLC)

If the amplifier budget for your bedroom or office stereo (or some other modest but high-quality audio system) stretches to multiples (about five times as much) of the price of the over-performing at its price point ($349) Parasound Zamp v.3, I heartily recommend Luxman’s (US MSRP) $2000, refined and elegant M-200 power amplifier.

(Note, the M200 has a defeatable front-panel manual-only volume knob, so its inputs can be set either to Direct or Variable, allowing it to be used with one fixed-output source such as a CD player. Luxman also makes a matching DAC/pre with the same form factor, the DA-200.)

The M-200’s output is “only” 25Wpc, but I found it completely capable of driving the prototype Esperanto Parolanto loudspeakers, a moderately inefficient load (83dB/1W/1m). The M-200 runs warm, but in my experience, it never ran hot. Continue Reading →

Rodion Shchedrin: “Carmen-Suite,” after Bizet

 

BIS Carmen

Rodion Shchedrin: Carmen-Suite for strings and 47 percussion instruments, after Bizet (written 1967)
CD BIS 382 (recorded 1987)
(No high-resolution download available, apparently.)

Kroumata Percussion Ensemble, Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, Howard Faberman, conductor; Robert von Bahr, producer; Siegbert Ernst, engineer.

Talk about a Guilty Pleasure. An email from Jason McCrary of Reference Audio (one of my Esperanto Audio dealers) finally made me sit down and listen all the way through Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen-Suite, from the 1967 Alberto Alonso ballet. An LP-loving (and vacuum-tube-loving) ‎customer had turned Jason on to the EMI LP with Gennady Rozhdestvensky and the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. The original of that LP is out of print. According to the LP-sales database Popsike, it has fetched between $21 and $142 used, with a median of $48, and a mean of $54. There is (or was) a 180-gram LP reissue (at least in Germany and Switzerland).

The guilty-pleasure aspects of Shchedrin’s score are first the orchestration—strings only, plus four percussionists playing a total of 47 different percussion instruments (to give that word a very wide scope)—while the other guilty pleasure is the affectionate cheekiness of Shchedrin’s musical tamperings. Continue Reading →

Vladimir Feltsman: J.S. Bach, The French Suites

Feltsman Bach French Suites

Vladimir Feltsman: J. S. Bach, The French Suites BWV 812-817; Overture in the French Style BWV 831.
Nimbus 2-CD set NI 6314
(No high-resolution download available, apparently.)

This wonderful 2-CD set will make a great gift for a friend who does not listen to a lot of classical music. That’s largely because the music is as accessible as it is beautiful. And while these recordings could serve as background music for other activities, they will also reward close attention during repeated hearings.

Vladimir Feltsman was born in the Soviet Union in 1952. He made his début with the Moscow Philharmonic at age 11. (Interestingly enough, his father Oscar was a composer of popular songs and musical comedies.) Unhappy with political interference in the arts, in 1979 Feltsman applied for an exit visa, the result being eight years of virtual artistic non-person-hood.

Arriving in the US in 1987, he was widely feted, starting at the White House. Today, Feltsman might be verging perilously close to “Elder Statesman” status, except that his playing exhibits youthful vitality and genuine enthusiasm, all without a trace of self-importance. Continue Reading →

Bricasti M1 “Limited” Digital-to-Analog Converter

gold_m1Uncropped copy cropped

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 →