16 November, 2018

Horns, Classical vs Jazz Playback

The 3 B's Worth
Bach, Beethoven and Brahms on LP

In this increasingly inequitable world, with each day's passing, space is more of a premium. While the used vinyl market is perhaps still sustainable overall, space-occupying big box sets are understandably least marketable. A few weeks ago, I came across this sign in a store: "All 3 B Box Sets $2". This is regardless of the number of LP's in the box. How could I have resisted. The price is the lowest I have seen, save perhaps for a short period in the late 80's/early 90's, when people were dumping their LP's, and when I bought some Ormandy and Bernstein Columbia LP's (best sellers in their days and hence ubiquitous) for a nickel (5 cents) each.

Bach I already have the Bach box, but could not resist. The recordings and performances (Baumgartner in the Brandenburg's and Karl Richter in the Suites) are very good but the Musical Offering (Richter), a personal favorite, is the standout and perhaps unsurpassed. Beethoven Both Piano Concerto cycles are rarely seen in LP form. The great sounding Arrau/Galliera cycle not only boasts Arrau's pristine pianism but also Galliera's under-rated conducting. The Kempff/Van Kempen is justly famous and better sounding than the pianist's stereo remake with Leitner. The Konwitschny Symphony set is rare and actually more expensive, bought elsewhere for $6 and used here to give symmetry to the pic; it is invaluable for the performances, which I first heard on CD's and rank as among the best. Brahms The Abbado set is not a "real" DG box, rather issued by the subscription International Preview Society, whose Italian pressings have been criticized by some, though I have always found them more than serviceable, even excellent. The Toscanini set is one of the best ever in terms of performances (the mono sound is adequate), much superior to his nervous NBC recordings. This set was deemed good enough for reissue by expensive Testament on CD.

Tally: $16 and countless hours of pleasure.

The Audio Roundtable: One Step to Heaven, Classical vs Jazz, Horns

As the holiday season approaches, it has been kinda quiet lately. But our great leader Andy did the unthinkable: summoning us for a get together with audio on the back burner. The horns played in the background, but all I remember was Ray Nance's immortal violin playing on Ellington Indigos. We brainstormed and talked about everything under the sun.

Classical vs Jazz on Horns We all listen to both jazz and classical's. Andy ("casual listening" Altec A5) and Kevin (Altec A7) maintain that horns are for jazz and suboptimal for classical's. Simon and I demur, as we both listen to everything on our horns (for Simon, a replicated JBL L-300 system). I tend to agree with Simon that it all depends on how one tunes the system - the more excitement for jazz, the less suitable for classical's; a titration. Mark actually used to have horns, but has abandoned them for now.

Horns vs Line Source This is not a coincidence. Although Andy and Mark differ somewhat from me in their views on how encompassing the horns' merits are, we are in agreement that Line Source loudspeakers, when well implemented, are excellent. I think there is a good reason for that (see my article Why are Horns the Best?). Andy's Infinity Beta IRS system (here) is justly famous and much admired. Mark now uses the Genesis V (a bastardized version covered here) and urges Kevin to get the I/II, but I doubt Kevin will - the power needed for all these Line Source models is just too much (and totally against my philosophy, and I personally dislike the bass quality of those with managed bass).

The Day's 3 B's

Actually the day's conversation was almost entirely on non-audio things. Skip this should you like.

Babble: As we were having a lot of food, naturally everyone talks about food, just like everyone else in this world where nothing is edible without peril. Mark believes in a low-carbohydrate Diet, which I am not so sure about. We are more in agreement on cholesterol - one should not worry too much about it, as it may well be protective, according to some theory. No gathering can escape Trump and Religion, but I better not write on these - friends can get around different opinions, which strangers may not. And, of course, being all males, Libido (or lack of) comes up. If you ask me, audio probably acts as a negative feedback! You have been warned.

Binge: Andy actually made us some excellent Lamb stew, but that was not what we mostly ate. Andy had commissioned someone to make extra fillers. When delivered, we were shocked to find two large pans of noodles, one topped with Lobsters! Wow, Andy was "usurped" (his words) but we were delighted.

BoozOur world constantly asks for what is correct, and the more questions the less certain we are in anything. I am a very green person but indulges in a (sole) vice that uses mostly energy-inefficient class-A devices (tubes). Seriously, I am apologetic but am not about to dump it all for class-D/T. Well, what is great food without booz? Surprise! Bloody Mary's started the Sunday brunch. With the noodles we enjoyed Prosecco and an interesting French Riesling. Then we moved on to some reds, Pinot Noir and Argentinian et al, which I enjoyed with the salty peanuts. I was too full to eat the lamb stew, but took home some. Many thanks to our great leader!

08 November, 2018

Book Review: Absolutely on Music, Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

Book Review: Absolutely on Music, Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Knopf

I am a great fan of Murakami, and have read most of his novels. A deep music lover (though not versed in theory nor practice), Murakami has always had references to music, be it jazz or classical, in his works. His taste is quite orthodox and hence all his quotations have never come as a surprise.

In this book, he discusses music with his friend Ozawa. The interesting thing is, basically Murakami sets the framework, often by playing records he knows well, to which Ozawa responds. Ozawa is obviously not that much of a talker and his responses are often quite to the point and literal, not to mention polite. This means insight (whether musical or flight of fancy) is not quite in abundance. As compensation, we get anecdotes on Bernstein, Ozawa's mentor, and many others.

Lovers of classical music, however, will enjoy this book, as I did.

The Guardian