Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364 (XRCD review)
The first problem I had after hearing this 24-bit XRCD remaster is one that every person should have: Namely, I didn't want to listen to anything else. It's like watching a high-definition broadcast on TV and having to go back to standard definition. You get spoiled.
The second problem was more serious, although it should not put everyone off too much. While the sound of the disc is superlative and Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante is terrific music, I could never get too involved with David and Igor Oistrakh's playing of it. The father and son are absolutely precise, refined, letter-perfect, I'm sure, but I found their performance almost too perfect, too mechanically perfect. With the exception of the lovely, if melancholy, second movement, the Oistrakhs perform the Sinfonia as though it were a museum piece under glass. The brief Duo for Violin and Viola comes off better, but it is undoubtedly for the big orchestral concerto that buyers will come to this audiophile disc.
However, the sound, as I say, is so good maybe listeners won't even notice that the performance is slightly lacking in warmth and spontaneity. The people at First Impression Music transferred the sonics from the original 1963 Decca master tape, engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson, in the meticulous (and costly) XRCD process, producing a disc of stunning clarity and presence. Just understand that because of the high price of this issue, you had better already be familiar with the recording. Unless, of course, you're simply an audiophile, in which case the sound is all that will matter, and the disc is a no-brainer.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.