Sea Sketches: Music of Walters, Walton, Williams, and Warlock (CD review)

Roy Goodman, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. CBC Records SMCD 5227.

This album of English string music seems well titled, as it is the Sea Sketches by Grace Williams that contain among the most memorable tunes on the disc.

Ms. Williams (1906-1977), probably best known as the first female Welsh composer of distinction, created in the Sea Sketches a series of five descriptive movements that may remind some listeners of Claude Debussy's La Mer or Frank Bridge's The Sea, if not in actual substance at least in mood. The Sea Sketches comprise individual tone poems labeled "High Wind," "Sailing Song," "Channel Sirens," "Breakers," and "Calm Sea in Summer," each of them highly evocative. My favorite is "Channel Sirens," in which one can hear the sounds of the sea nymphs singing in the instruments. It's all quite charming under the guidance of Roy Goodman and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble small enough and light enough to give the music the intimacy and transparency it needs.

Roy Goodman
Not that the other works on the disc are in any way negligible, but like any collection of similar material, in this case short string pieces in the English pastoral mode, things can begin sounding alike after a short while. Anyway, the other compositions include the Divertimento for Strings by Gareth Walters; the Serenade for Strings by Peter Warlock; and Two Pieces for Strings from the film Henry V and the Sonata for Strings, both by Sir William Walton.

It's all quite lovely, personally chosen for inclusion in this collection by their conductor, Roy Goodman, probably better recognized for his period-instruments recording with the Hanover Band but here, as I say, doing a fine job with the Manitoba players.

I wish I could wax as enthusiastically about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's sound as I can about the performances. Unfortunately, the recording, originally released in 2000, seems to me fairly ordinary by today's best standards. The audio is in no way poor, mind you, but it doesn't exactly jump out at one as sounding particularly live; unless you play it softly and pretend you're sitting in an auditorium at a moderate distance from the players. In any case, the sound displays a good left-to-right stereo spread, a decent illusion of depth, but an overall soft and slightly veiled presence. Perhaps it suits the relaxed nature of the music.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Moszkowski: From Foreign Lands (CD review)

Rediscovered orchestral works. Martin West, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Reference Recordings RR-138.

One of the advantages of having listened to and collected classical recordings for well over sixty years is getting to know more about the people who wrote the music. But I have to admit that in all that time I barely remembered the name Moszkowski. Yes, after much thought I recalled one piece, "Spanish Dances," in my collection on a Decca album with Ataulfo Argenta and the LSO. But remembering it required a stretch. So it's good to know that Martin West and the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra have done up some of Moszkowski's work in a disc called "From Foreign Lands, Rediscovered Orchestral Works." And it's especially gratifying to hear the material so well produced by Reference Recordings.

For the uninformed (and that would be me), a word from Wikipedia: "Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925) was a German-Jewish composer, pianist, and teacher of Polish descent on his paternal side. The prominent Polish pianist Ignacy Paderewski said of him, 'After Chopin, Moszkowski best understands how to write for the piano, and his writing embraces the whole gamut of piano technique.' Although less known today, Moszkowski was well respected and popular during the late nineteenth century. He was quite prolific, composing over two hundred small-scale piano pieces, which brought him much popularity--notably his set of 'Spanish Dances' for piano duet" (on the present disc arranged for orchestra by Phillip Scharwenka and Valentin Frank).

Maestro West has chosen seven orchestral items (comprising twenty-one tracks and almost seventy-three minutes) for the album under review, music representing not only some of Moszkowski's best work but some of his most diverse. Here's a run-down of the items on the program, some of it recorded for the first time:

Fackeltanz (Torch Dance)*
Aus Aller Herren Lander (From Foreign Lands)
Habanera, Op. 65, No. 3*
Pres du Berceau (By the Cradle)
Six Airs de Ballet, Op. 56 from the incidental music to Grabbe's "Don Juan and Faust"*
Spanische Tanze (Spanish Dances)

*World premiere recordings

Martin West
Most of this material is lightweight, to be sure, yet it's also most delightful in the capable hands of West and his players. The opening "Torch Dance" has a rousing spirit. The six movements of "From Foreign Lands" are colorful and characterful, each exemplifying a different country. They reminded me of things by maybe Glazunov, Gounod, or Rimsky-Korsakov. In their time (the late nineteenth century), the "Foreign Lands" suite was apparently quite famous, although today audiences might find the music hopelessly Romantic. Personally, I love Romantic music, hopeless as it (and I) may be. This is a charming and easily pleasing set of tunes.

The "Habanera" was among my favorites on the program. Yes, it may remind some listeners of Bizet's more-famous take on the subject, yet it has a distinct appeal of its own. It's light and airy and memorable. I found "By the Cradle" the most overtly "balletic" of the selections on the agenda, although I didn't find it as noteworthy as the "Habanera." Nor did I think the six episodes of "Don Juan and Faust" as easily pleasurable, while they still held their own personality, particularly the cheerful closing number. "Gondoliera," on the other hand, well captured the ebb and flow of Venice canals, and West and company provide it with a sweet and engaging performance.

Then we come to the only Moszkowski work I sort of recognized, the five aforementioned "Spanish Dances." They, too, are lightweight but totally enchanting and deserve their widespread popularity. West handles each movement carefully, giving all of them a manifestly fresh yet still clearly Spanish flavor of their own.

Producers Marina A. Ledin and Victor Ledin of Encore Consultants and co-founding Reference Recordings engineer "Professor" Keith O. Johnson made the album in 24-bit HDCD at Skywalker Sound, Marin County, CA in March 2014.

The two most noticeable characteristics about the sound are its dimensionality and its dynamics. The miking appears to be more moderately distanced than most modern close-up affairs. As a result, we get a realistic sense of the studio ambience, the resonant bloom around the instruments, and the impression of orchestral depth as well as width. Then there's the matter of dynamic range, which is very wide, and dynamic impact, which can be quite striking. Of course, there may be drawbacks to these qualities for some listeners, in particular those listeners not used to a natural sound; I'm afraid some people might find the sonics too soft, too repressed, or too reverberant for their taste. So be it.

In any case, I personally found the sound lifelike, even if it hasn't all of the clarity, the transparency, so prized by some audiophiles. The frequency range is extended in both directions, the balance is as perfect as one could imagine, and the overall aural picture is one of a live orchestra in one's living room.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

African Heritage Symphonic Series, Vol. III (CD review)

Paul Freeman, Chicago Sinfonietta. Cedille Records CDR 90000 066.

There are four good reasons listeners may be interested in this disc from 2003. First, it continues the Cedille Records series of classical music by contemporary African American composers. Second, it's very naturally and realistically recorded. Third, it contains some darned good music. And fourth, it's always a pleasure hearing the work of the late Paul Freeman (1936-2015) and the ensemble he founded and conducted for so long, the Chicago Sinfonietta.

The album comprises about an hour's worth of material by four different composers. The opening piece is called Global Warming (1990) by Michael Abels. It's an exceptionally rhythmic and harmonic work, synthesizing Irish and Middle Eastern musical styles into a surprisingly coherent and entirely satisfying and entertaining whole. The second, and longest, piece is Cello Concerto (1975) by David Baker. It is typically mid-twentieth century in its greater emphasis on atmosphere than on melody, although there are some good jazz-inspired tunes to be found if you listen carefully, especially in the third movement. The cellist is Katinka Kleijn, and the mood is mostly melancholic; but, interestingly, the Sinfonietta's accompaniment contains no cellos.

Paul Freeman
The third work represented bears the title Essay for Orchestra (1994), written by William Banfield. Containing an abundance of percussion, the piece was originally a part of a longer production, but the composer thought, rightly so, that it could stand alone. It's kind of a fun exercise in "Name that instrument." During its ten minutes duration, practically every instrument in the band gets its moment in the sun.

Then, the disc concludes with Generations: Sinfonietta No. 2 for Strings (1996) by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. The composer based each of its four movements loosely on descriptions of his own family: daughter, mothers, grandson, and fathers. Each movement uses one or more folk tunes combined with original melodies. The work is fascinating if slightly fragmented and sometimes repetitious.

The playing throughout is scrupulously meticulous, and Maestro Freeman is affectionate in his handling of the tunes. The whole affair is a testament to his the conductor's elegant sensibilities and innate sense of fun.

Cedille's sound, as always, goes for a natural hall ambience while occasionally overlooking ultimate transparency. Instruments sound best when they're isolated, and massed orchestral tones tend to get just the tiniest bit muddled. Nevertheless, the sound is easy on the ears, more pleasant sounding than most new recordings, and will have listeners recalling their last live concert. Which I count a very good thing.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Van der Sloot: Shadow, Echo, Memory (CD review)

Hans Jorgen Jensen, Northwestern University Cello Ensemble. Sono Luminus SLE-70004.

Here, I make a confession: Until auditioning this album, I had never before heard a cello ensemble. Indeed, I no idea what to expect from a large cello ensemble, what their tone or sound or level of expertise would be. Nor were any of my expectations very high, and the disc lay on my living-room shelf awaiting a listen for some weeks as I kept putting off what I thought might be a chore. Then I did listen.


To say that the Northwestern University Cello Ensemble exceeded my wildest expectations by a mile would be an understatement. To say that the performers and their performances exceeded my expectations would be an understatement. And to say that the recording quality exceeded my expectations would be an understatement. This one goes down as a clear entry in my list of favorite recordings of 2016.

So, what is this cello ensemble all about? According to the disc's accompanying booklet, the Northwestern University Cello Ensemble was "established by artistic director and Northwestern University cello professor, Hans Jorgen Jensen." The ensemble "began as a result of bringing together Northwestern students, talented Chicago-area high school cellists, and 21 highly successful Northwestern alumni in May 2013 to record Mahler's Adagietto. This unique and memorable event inspired the continuation of the project and the decision to record this debut album."

Don't think this is a small group, either. Augmenting the twenty-one alumni referred to above are dozens more, the booklet naming about fifty-eight cellos, seven basses, a guitarist, a percussionist, and a harpist, depending on the piece of music. They make a glorious sound.

The program consists of eight selections, the first one in three movements. The agenda is as follows:

Zachary Wadsworth (b. 1983): Lacquer Prints
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924): Après un rêve
Michael van der Sloot (b. 1991): Shadow, Echo, Memory
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943): Vocalise 
Hans Thomalla (b. 1975): Intermezzo
Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 1960): Ballad
György Ligeti (1923-2006): Lux aeterna
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor

Hans Jorgen Jensen
As you can see by the birth and death dates above, the program alternates modern numbers with older, Romantic transcriptions. Yet the modern material is hardly raucous, nonharmonic, or atonal. Appropriate to the mellifluous sound of the cello, Maestro Jensen has chosen music that complements the instruments, and most of it is quite beautiful, gracefully rhythmic, flowing, and satisfying.

Among the album's few tunes that sound at all "modern" is Michael van der Sloot's Shadow, Echo, Memory, which tends to be a bit more ambitiously experimental than the other items on the program. However, Van der Sloot fully utilizes the potential of the cello band, providing it with every opportunity to show off its range of possibilities. So, within its almost ten-minute structure, we hear slow and fast segments that are both dark and light, impressionistic, emotional, and visual. I was sorry when it ended.

Rachmaninov's Vocalise and Mahler's Adagietto are probably the most-familiar music on the agenda, although Ligeti's Lux Aeterna may come close (think Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey). The Cello Ensemble performs them all wonderfully, and the music seems to exude an even more-profound mood than ever coming from such a large body of cellos.

Congratulations to producer Hans Jorgen Jensen and recording, mixing, and mastering engineer Christopher Willis for the excellent work they did. They made the album at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois in 2013 and 2014. There is a realistic clarity to the music, by which I mean it sounds natural, with just the right amount of ambient bloom to give the instruments a lifelike appearance. There is also a truthful scope to the group's dimensionality, filling in all areas of side-to-side and front-to-back perspectives. With a wide, well-balanced frequency response and strong dynamics, the sound comes across as I would imagine it might in a live performance. It is a complete and utter pleasure listening to it.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Overtures & Intermezzi (CD review)

Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin; Herbert von Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI 7243 5 74764 2 3.

While many other classical record companies had cut back severely on their output or curtailed production altogether in the early 2000's, it was reassuring to see EMI maintaining a healthy monthly release schedule of new and reissued material. Of course, the company would finally turn over its catalogue to Warner Classics, but in this case, their reissued stuff was among the best there was. Now, Warner Classics have made this 2003 reissue available on their own label, although you can still get it new on the older EMI label if you look around for it.

Anyway, the album in question is all about Maestro Herbert von Karajan, who did most of his recording during the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties with DG but always keep his ties open with EMI, having signed a contract with them all the way back in the Forties. He continued working with EMI almost exclusively through the Fifties and sporadically thereafter. While the earliest overtures and intermezzi contained on this album derive from 1960 and 1976, most of it is from the early 80's.

Herbert von Karajan
The items include Johann Strauss's Gypsy Baron Overture, Massenet's "Meditation" from Thais, Cherubini's Anacreon Overture, Weber's Der Freischutz Overture, Schmidt's Notre Dame Intermezzo, Puccini's Suor Angelica and Manon Lescaut Intermezzi, Mascagni's L'amico Fritz Intermezzo, Humperdink's Hansel und Gretel Overture, and Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture.

As usual, Karajan played them with his somewhat Romantic, glamorous, grandiose touch, the thematic qualities of the music sometimes playing second fiddle to the sheer beauty of the sound. It's what Karajan did best and why he was one of the most-popular conductors of his time. With bits like Anne-Sophie Mutter playing the violin in Thais, the old magic returning in Hansel und Gretel, and the Berlin Philharmonic at their peak, the collection remains a surefire crowd-pleaser.

EMI's sound for Karajan and the BPO is less warm, less padded, and less congested than what we often heard from the same ensemble on DG. Instead, the EMI sound is slightly bright, fairly open, and reasonably transparent. Surprisingly, perhaps, I found the oldest recording on the disc sounding the best, the 1960 rendering of Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture. To my ears it is the most realistically ambient, with its stereo spread the widest, its depth of image the most noticeable, and its resonant hall sonics the most clearly captured. And as with almost all newer remasterings, there is virtually no background noise to contend with and no appreciable loss of high end. In all, then, this is a pleasant collection.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Mozart: Exultate, jubilate (XRCD review)

Also, Regina Coeli; Laudate Dominum; Ave verum corpus; Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Mariella Devia, soprano; Daniele Callegari, Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana. JVC XRCD24-NT018.

While the Italian operatic soprano Mariella Devia (b. 1948) has perhaps gained greater acclaim in Europe than she has in America during her extensive career, it has done nothing to stop her from being heard on dozens of recordings. This album, from 1997, appears to be among her best, at least sonically, which is why I suppose JVC chose to remaster it in 2015 in their XRCD audiophile series. It's hard to argue they didn't make a worthy choice.

It's an all-Mozart program, with Daniele Callegari and the Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana accompanying Ms. Devia on the first three items and the orchestra itself taking over the purely orchestral reins of the final number. I was not familiar with the Italian orchestra, founded in 1985, nor the conductor, but they seem well up to the task, the somewhat smallish ensemble sounding fluid and transparent.

The first selection is Mozart's Exultate, jubilate ("Exult, rejoice"), KV165, a religious motet Mozart wrote in 1773 for solo voice, orchestra, and organ. Divided into four parts with alternating slow-fast movements, it may remind the listener of the composer's symphonic works but on a smaller scale. Ms. Devia's voice is airy and confident, and her rendering of the Andante is particularly felicitous.

Next is the four-movement Regina Coeli ("Queen of Heaven"), KV108, from 1771. It, too, is a piece of liturgical music, this one a little more ambitious than the preceding work, Mozart writing the Regina for soprano, choir, orchestra, and organ. Mozart based it on one of the Catholic Church's four seasonal "Marian antiphons of the Blessed Virgin Mary," typically sung at night prayer. Here, the orchestra plays a more-prominent and dramatic part, too, with the mid-bass a weightier factor and the choir adding to the gravitas of the affair. Indeed, the soprano's solo contribution to the music doesn't even appear until the second movement, where Ms. Devia remains in lovely voice.

After that are two brief works, Laudate Dominum ("Praise the Lord") for soprano, choir, orchestra, and organ; and Ave verum corpus ("Hail the true body") for choir, orchestra, and organ. Of these, I preferred the second item for its celestial grace and beauty.

Mariella Devia
To close the show, we get what may be Mozart's most-familiar piece of music, the Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major, ("A Little Serenade" or, more commonly, "A Little Night Music"), K. 525, a composition the composer wrote for chamber ensemble in 1787. As there are probably 800 different recordings of it in the catalogue at any given time, the competition is intense. This version under Maestro Callegari is as good as most, although there is nothing much different about it to distinguish it from most of the others. In other words, it moves along at a stately, fluent pace, unhurried, unruffled, and unremarkable.

What is remarkable is that JVC can produce so meticulous a remastering as this one while at the same time making it so hard to get the disc loose from the center spindle. I mean, you want the disc to fit tightly, but not so tight that you practically break the disc in two trying to get it out. The rest of the JVC packaging, though, is immaculate: A glossy, hardcover Digipak-type design; liner notes bound to the inside; the disc fastened (tightly) to the inside back.

Originally recorded and produced by Giulio Cesare Ricci in December 1997 for the Fone label, the JVC (Victor Corporation of Japan) team of Tohru Kotetsu, Kazuo Kiuchi, and Shizuo Nomiyama remastered it in 2015 using XRCD/24 technology.

Of course, the folks at JVC pick only what they feel are the finest recordings to remaster, so I'm sure this one started out sounding pretty nice to begin with. Their remastering has clarified what was undoubtedly already good, clean, solid sound. On my system, however, I thought the voice was a little too bright for my ears, as was the entire upper midrange, although it certainly illuminates the sonics considerably, which never actually become hard or edgy. The rest of the aural spectrum appears equally clear, with especially quick transient response and realistic spatial dimensionality (if favoring the left side of the stage a bit much). Overall, this is very lucid sound and should please many audiophiles, even if the price for it is rather high.

You can find JVC XRCD24 recordings at any number of on-line marketplaces, but you'll find some of the best prices at Elusive Disc:


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Adam: La jolie fille de Gand, complete (CD review)

Andrew Mogrelia, Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Marco Polo 8.223772-73 (2-disc set).

People no doubt know French composer and music critic Adolphe Adam (1803-1856) far better for his classic ballet Giselle (1841) than for the work of this two-disc set, La jolie fille de Gand, written about the same time. So, why is this? Is La jolie that much inferior to Giselle that one of the pieces should continue as a staple of the classical repertoire while the other should fade into obscurity? The answer is simply, yes. Sometimes, the public is right. The listener comes away from Giselle humming memorable tunes. Just trying to remember anything at all from La jolie is a task, even though it is pleasant-enough music as you're listening to it.

This is not to suggest that there is anything unduly wrong with La jolie, however. On the contrary, Adam filled it with charming, agreeable music, almost all of it lighter than air fluff and wholly forgettable. Anyone who enjoys ballet or light classical music, though, will surely enjoy the piece. Still and all, a two-disc set of the complete ballet may endanger one's sugar intake considerably, or it might at least try one's patience. Perhaps it is a ballet better seen than listened to straight through or better taken in small doses, like from a single highlights disc.

The ballet-pantomime La jolie fille de Gand ("The Pretty Girl of Ghent") contains three acts and nine tableaux. With choreography by Ferdinand-Albert Decombe and a libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Decombe, the work premiered on June 22, 1842 at the Theatre de l'Academie Royale de Musique, Paris.

Andrew Mogrelia
The story line should give you an idea of how deep the music's going to be. The plot, set in Ghent, Belgium, concerns a dancer named Beatrix, who is betrothed to Benedict, the nephew of a rich goldsmith. She is distracted, however, by the attentions of the Marquis of San Lucar. There follow scenes of conflict with both men, a series of dreams, and an attempted elopement. But, naturally, it all has a happy ending, and the proper girl and boy get to marry. I'm sorry. I tried to follow the plot line but I got bored. I figured I'd enjoy it more by just listening to the music and ignoring the story altogether. I suppose it would be even more appropriate to see it on stage some time, but that would seem almost impossible.

Anyway, Maestro Andrew Mogrelia (who specializes in ballet scores) and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (of which Mogrelia is now the Music Director and Principal Conductor) do a good job performing all this, and I suspect trying hard not to make it appear as lightweight as it seems. And thanks to the fine Marco Polo recording, the orchestra sounds splendid.

The sonics on this 2000 release are quite good, as I say. I liked the stability of the sound stage and the rock-solid imaging left, right, and center. Front-to-back depth sounds more limited, though, as does the deepest bass and the highest treble. Fortunately, the audio has plenty of mid-bass warmth and room resonance to satisfy fans of concert-hall acoustic ambiance in their recordings. Definition, too, is more than adequate, if not so transparent as some all-out demonstration-class discs, and dynamics are moderately robust.

This is a welcome set for a rainy afternoon with one's feet up on the coffee table. I just wouldn't expect more in the way of musical substance than the score can deliver.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (CD review)

Also, Prokofiev: Concerto No. 3; Ravel: Concerto for Left Hand. Julius Katchen, piano; Istvan Kertesz, London Symphony Orchestra. HDTT, remastered.

Julius Katchen (1926-1969) was an American concert pianist who died of cancer just a few months after recording the present album in 1968. One would never guess from the recording how ill he was; most of the music reveals the vigor and vitality of a man in more than good health. Yet, things happen. The celebrated Jewish-Hungarian conductor in the work, Istvan Kertesz (1929-1973), would himself succumb to a drowning accident a few years later. So, in a way, this is a sort of memorial to both artists and a fitting tribute to both their talents.

First up on the program is Rhapsody in Blue, which as you no doubt know bandleader Paul Whiteman persuaded American composer and pianist George Gershwin (1898-1937) to write back in 1924, suggesting he make a jazz-inflected showpiece for Whiteman and his orchestra. When Gershwin initially declined, saying he didn't know enough about orchestration to do the work justice, Whiteman assured him that he could get Ferde Grofe to arrange it for piano and orchestra. As everyone knows, Gershwin's fusion of classical and jazz became a musical phenomenon.

Katchen's version of the piece with the London Symphony may not be quite the lean, mean classical jazz Gershwin intended, though. Under Katchen and Kertesz, it's more a slightly jazzy classical piece. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's too sedate, too refined, too symphonic, and too somber, but it's close. I think it's just that Katchen was foremost a classical pianist and his naturally elegant style wasn't quite what Gershwin needed. Still, it's a pleasure listening to him play.

Julius Katchen
Next, we find the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major (1930) by French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), which Ravel wrote for a pianist who had lost his right arm during the First World War. This one is more up to the style of Katchen and Kertesz. We have it here in one continuous movement, although Ravel once said it was really two connected movements. Whatever, Katchen and Kertesz navigate the somewhat less but still jazz-toned score with more comfort, more-inherent ease, than they managed in the Gershwin. Both men lend a good deal of weight and gravitas to the music without missing any of its rhythmic tonal colors or lush, lyrical qualities.

Finally, we get the Concerto No. 3 in C major (1921) by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). While its arrangement is in a traditional three movements, the second movement is a set of variations ranging from fairly slow to very fast, and the final movement is a brilliant display of virtuosity. Here, too, Katchen and Kertesz shine, with a particularly playful opening Allegro and a dazzling close.

Producer Ray Minshull and engineers Kenneth Wilkinson and Alec Rosner recorded the music for Decca at Kingsway Hall, London, in November 1968. HDTT remastered the album in 2016. The sonics are nicely warm and rounded, with a decent sense of depth and dimensionally. The engineers captured the ambience of Kingsway Hall quite realistically, too, although in terms of balance the piano seems a bit bigger, more forward, than it might appear in an actual concert. Upper mids are sometimes a tad rough as well, although it's not enough to warrant concern. It's a comfortable, enjoyable sound, sure to please most listeners.

For further information on HDTT products, prices, discs, and downloads in a variety of formats, you can visit their Web site at


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Founder and Contributor

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing for the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Karl Nehring, Editor and Contributor

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to both its equipment and recordings review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me — point out recordings that they think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I occasionally do some listening through pair of Sennheiser 560S headphones. I miss the excellent ELS Studio sound system in our 2016 Acura RDX (now my wife's daily driver) on which I had ripped more than a hundred favorite CDs to the hard drive, so now when driving my 2022 Accord EX-L Hybrid I stream music from my phone through its adequate but not outstanding factory system. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has tolerably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom II Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can’t imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.

William (Bill) Heck, Webmaster and Contributor

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 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. Most recently I’ve moved to my “ultimate system” consisting of a BlueSound Node streamer, an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a CD transport, Legacy Wavelet II DAC/preamp/crossover, dual Legacy PowerBloc2 amps, and Legacy Signature SE speakers (biamped), all connected with decently made, no-frills cables. With the arrival of CD and higher resolution streaming, that is now the source for most of my listening.

Ryan Ross, Contributor

I started listening to and studying classical music in earnest nearly three decades ago. This interest grew naturally out of my training as a pianist. I am now a musicologist by profession, specializing in British and other symphonic music of the 19th and 20th centuries. My scholarly work has been published in major music journals, as well as in other outlets. Current research focuses include twentieth-century symphonic historiography, and the music of Jean Sibelius, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Malcolm Arnold.

I am honored to contribute writings to Classical Candor. In an age where the classical recording industry is being subjected to such profound pressures and changes, it is more important than ever for those of us steeped in this cultural tradition to continue to foster its love and exposure. I hope that my readers can find value, no matter how modest, in what I offer here.

Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

Contact Information

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa