This is the section in which we highlight the recordings that we consider of a very good quality, even if are not listed among the audiophile ones. It is a suggestion to buy good music that is also well recorded. After all, Audio-activity does not only deal with audio, but also with music and the many reviews of concerts that we have written are the proof that we like music, live music in particular and, most of all, good music.
ere are the subjects of this review:
Johannes Brahms: Interludes op 117, Rapsodie op 79, Interlude op 118 n. 2, Capriccio op. 76 n. 1 DGG 437 360 2 piano player Ivo Pogorelich.
This record is really beautiful. The performance is powerful but also delicate, Pogorelich plays carefully and the final outcome is very enjoyable and satisfactory. Listening to the CD is such a pleasure that it seems to end too soon.
As for the recording it is of an excellent quality. The piano becomes true in front of the listener, and the feeling is that of being in a brand new concert hall.
In the Rapsody op. 79 n. 2 the dynamics seems to be neverending (thanks to Pogorelich and his powerful wrists but also of the DGG sound engineers that have maintained a high standard of recording).
Listen to it once at a regular volume and then adjust it as you like it.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sonata for Piano KV283 e KV 331, Fantasia KV 397 DGG 437 763-2 piano player Ivo Pogorelic
Pogorelic again, it is not a chance that his recordings are of a very good quality.
Pogorelic sound is strong and powerful, for many people it may be too much (he has recorded very little Scarlatti or Bach but it is all very elegant since his skills are really good and he can play whatever he likes).
His Mozart is different from the great classics such as Ingrid Habler or Wilhelm Kemppff. Pogorelic meditates on the rhythm and plays with the dynamics. He makes the keys great and they remain suspended in the air. This Mozart is very credible and it is very up to date.
The recording seems to bring the piano in your home and it is excellent; you can even hear the little crackles of the the seat and Pogorelich's breath. You can spot the felt pads on the piano strings.
the real surprise is the "Turkish" March that is played in an almost classical way.
Massimo Gon Plays Chopin Velut Luna CVLD 271 piano player Massimo Gon
In a recent review I have defined this record a must have.
Chopin played by Maestro Gon is never too sweet but it is very real and almost tangible. The classic iconography describes Chopin as very light and with small hands as it is testified by the cast that is kept in the museum La Scala.
But this does not mean that his compositions cannot be powerful as well as agile. The performance of Maestro Gon is very good, he plays with "rubato" and with the pedal in a very balanced and pleasant way.
As for the recording, if your room and your system are of the right kind you will have the piano in the room. The low range is powerful, wonderful is the timbre along the whole keyboard, wonderful ìs the dynamic of the recording.
The sound of the piano is not very bright but when the Maestro plays harder with the right hand the sound opens up and the ears have a sensation of live music that is very strong.
Claude Débussy, 12 Etudes Philips piano player Mitsuko Uchida
This recording is available also in the economic edition "The Originals".
The piano recorded here is only a bit lacking in the mid low range but it has dynamics and extension.
When the recording is good there is an automatism in each one of us, we are forced to raise the volume more and more. This same thing happens with this recording, and it is really easy to reach the maximum possible volume.
The performance of Mitsuko Uchida is brilliant and ready in underlining all the changes of rhythm and "intention" decided by the French composer.
The recording is very enjoyable but I realize that the repertoire of the other composers, such as Mozart, Brahms and Chopin, are more known by the general audience.
Readers of Audio-activity.com love good music and will surely love this CD. Mitsuko Uchida is a wonderful performer, I think that no one can deny it. Uchida is also a director and therefore she leaves nothing to chance.
Her technique is excellent and all the keys played are in the right evidence.
Sergej Pròkofiev, Piano Music Romeo and Juliet Hmf Classical 3957150 piano player Frederic Chiu
Frederic Chiu is a piano player with Chinese origins but grown in the United States.
Many chinese performers are becoming popular nowadays, Lang Lang and Yuya Wang are among the most famous.
The playful and didactic purpose in Prokofiev's music is performed in the right way by Chiu.
He is perfect in his performance and he can push his performance to the limit with Romeo and Juliet playing with the colours that each key offers and also with the dynamics of music.
His execution is perfect and very enjoyable. The recording is not recent but is excellent, there are no particular highlights of the keyboard, dynamics is fit for this music and it makes you want to raise the volume constantly.
The records I have reviewed here are all available both online and in the record shops.
Enjoy the music.
Five Recordings Of ... Baroque Music for Small Groups by Domenico Pizzamiglio
go back to our music corner with another repertoire that is especially dear to
me: Baroque Music. Typically, this kind of music is played with instruments
that come from the original period and with a method that is called philological.
These recordings through the invention itself, try and give new life and
pleasantness to this music. In the baroque age it was customary to surprise
people and with these recordings you will be surely surprised.
DIVOX CDX-70006 (CD) GIORNO E NOTTE Concerti per flauto di Antonio Vivaldi Conrad Steinmann + altri
This record is
a must have, and I am never so categorical. The execution is full of inventions
and tricks that make the listening very pleasant. Some pieces
are even more pleasant than the original partition, try and listen for example
to the central movement of the concert "Il Cardellino". The usual
accompaniment with strings in pizzicato is replaced by the lute together with
the harpsichord. A new and surprising effect. This is just one example of what
you'll find in this recording in which the violinist Chiara Bianchini plays. All
this is made possible thanks to the great ability of the flutist Conrad
Steinmann that brings out of his flute any melody with perfection and
is absolutely splendid, one of those recordings that is an object of desire. Tonal
clarity and sound fidelity of the instruments, the dynamics and the scene are
credible and with many resonances around and behind the instruments. A
recording that is really a masterpiece. Finally, if you are a real baroque
music lover, one of those that does not stop at the recordings of the 50's or
60's, you’ll be really satisfied with this Divox recording. Mind the volume!
When recordings are so realistics and dynamic, it's easy to reach very high
Can be bought
online on the producer's website.
BIS CD 290 (CD) Antonio Vivaldi – The Complete Works For The Italian Lute Jacob Lindberg, lute – Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble
Looking at the
CD cover you may say: where 's the novelty? It's not a new CD and it's not one
of those CD's that remain in the shade. It had its boom in the 90's and then
fell into forgiveness once again. This is a recording that is really agreeable
and the rhythm is very well defined as to underline that it's modern and
contemporary. The second movement of the RV 93 concert is a clear example of what I mean, the
arrangement is vaguely country!The whole CD
is very well recorded and it's palpable that the instrumentalists had fun while
recording. This recording is quite old but it's still very up to date. Many of
my young friends are really amazed when they listen to it and learn that the
recording is not new but some twenty years old.Very good
dynamics, tonal fidelity, nice soundstage ... When you listen to it once you
want to listen to it again straight away. Nothing to say on Drottningholm that
signed one of the best recordings of Vivaldi's Four Seasons on BIS, same thing
for Jacob Lindberg that is universally acknowledged as a big of the
international panorama. This CD is regularly distributed.
HYPERION CDH55347 (CD) Johann Sebastian BACH, Violin Concerts Catherine McIntosh, violin - The King’s Consort, Conductor Robert King
Among the many
baroque recordings of Bach, and as a Bach great admirer, I must evidence a
recording of his compositions. I chose this one that is not a new release. I
chose it because it's a Hyperion production that is particularly pleasant,
balanced and executed with great simplicity. This recording though gives the
listener a nice and long lasting afterglow. The group that plays old
instruments is very harmonious, there are no peaks in the execution and for
this reason it is very respectful of the tradition. The level of the recording
is very high. If compared with the previous ones, it may be lacking in the
overall dynamics, but all the parameters are present and in the end
everything's fine. If you find it and if you have a turntable, the LP is really
good and silent, at least my copy was so.
The CD is
I want to point out that there is an alternative, the same compositions are included in the CD that follows:
DECCA (formerly published by Oiseau-Lyre) Jaap Schroder, violin - Academy of Ancient Music, conductor Christopher Hogwood
search for this edition because it's not on the catalogue anymore. The
execution is less relaxed than that of the King's Consort; the central part of
the concert BWV 1041 is really beautiful and a must to listen to, it has the
rhythm more defined and in this way the recording sounds very natural also
thanks to the strings that are quite open. It’s one of those recordings that
made the fortune of Oiseau-Lyre, if you find a brand new vinyl record buy it
and you will not regret it.
ARCHIV 0289 413 7882 8 Georg Philipp TELEMANN, WASSERMUSIK Musica Antiqua Köln, Reinhard Göbel
this is not a new recording. When I bought it, some twenty years ago, I was
prompted by curiosity more than anything else. The recording, despite the years
passed, is a good one. The orchestra is a little bit too much “into the room”
and the bass section is a bit depressed. Anyhow, also with this recording you
want to turn up the volume and this is always a clear sign of a good quality
recording and of balance. The music is really pleasant and often times you want
to listen to it again.
is regularly distributed.
AUDITE, SACD ECHO & RISPOSTA Les Cornets Noirs
group Les Cornets Noir made a concert in 2012 in Milan during the festival Milano
ArteMusica. They are really good and their characteristics is that of playing
and singing into two different choirs that call and answer from one side of the
church to the other. All the compositions in this CD are very pleasant and the
group performs all the songs in a perfect way. The recording is one of those
that brings forward the sound and leaves behind all echoes that were present in
the place where the recording was made. In this case, since the recording is
perfectly balanced and at a very high level as for the timbre, this trick seems
appropriate. This recording is of a very high technical and artistic quality. Sometimes
is really a shame that some groups do not have all the success they deserve.
Here are 5 CD's that I use as a reference when I evaluate the sound of a system. These are not the only ones I use and I don't use them always, since I'm convinced that a test CD is not really useful. This for two main reasons that are: the excessive use of the same CDs leads to an overexposure and a rejecton- and I respect music too much to let it happen - and then a system must be evaluated for its ability to reproduce sounds in a way that is similar to reality. For this reason I think that it is not appropriate to compare the sounds we are listening to, to that of our system. Using the same CDs over and over again takes to a wrong comparison with a sound that in many cases is not a reference anymore. I'm not saying that we don't have to use the records that we know best to check if the system we are reviewing is performing well, on the contrary! The records that are listed here are a good example of high technical and musical quality. Anyway, you will not find only these in my reviews.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD , COLUMBIA CD 1995
This is an unusual record for the Boss that seems to be somehow inspired by "Nebraska", released 10 years earlier. There are 12 folk ballades with the use of many acoustic instruments and with the late Danny Federici playing along at the keyboards. Many things has been said about the high artistic value of this record. It's about the dispair of Mexican immigrants, the working class of American foundries and Vietnam veterans. Thus described it may seem a casual mix of songs, but I assure you it's not so. Lyrics are very interesting as it Always is with Springsteen. They are original, well written and not always easy to understand and it's not a matter of being American or not. Why do I choose this record for my reviews? Simply because this record is, unlike many other rock records, recorded in a flawless way. Bruce's voice is not processed and all the instruments sound very natural. It's a record that must be enjoyed in the dark, listening carefully to the lyrics. It's a record that every time you listen to it gives you new sensations.
LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, JOHN WILLIAMS, THE HOLLYWOOD SOUND CD SONY
This is one of those records that you can't define and that you are uncertain whether to file it under pop or classical music. The label is Sony Classical but the pieces are all movies' soundtracks. It's a beautiful record. There are 16 timeless musics that many times are also Oscar prize winners. 70 minutes of wonderful music, performed by one of the best orchestras in the world and directed by someone that knows a lot about movie-music, since he composed 3 of the tracks that are included. We are talking about John Williams. "Laurence of Arabia's" Ouverture, the main theme of "Out of Africa", "The Godfather II" and "Dance with Wolves" are performed in a perfect way. The recording belongs to one of Sony's best series and it's a 20 bit encoding. The CD is also in Dolby Surround and those of you that have a multichannel system may enjoy it also in Dolby Surround. The extension for the low range of the timpanis is great and if you have loudspeakers that may reproduce it at a live-like volume, you will not regret having bought this record. Dynamics is very good and plentiful. The taking of the soundstage is exceptional. It's a fantastic work that will help you enjoy all the characteristics of your system, without having to listen to those audiophile records that bore you with the same old mellow voice and double bass. Don't take it to audio shows though. It may be a hard test for many systems and you might find new enemies... don't tell anybody I said it please!
GIANLUIGI TROVESI NONET, ROUND ABOUT A MIDSUMMER'S DREAM, ENJA CD 2000
The compositions of this musician from Bergamo have a sonority that is atypical. He's a jazz player but also a folk music composer. His songs take elements from baroque, Italian folk and also Afro-American rhythms that take the listener to far away and misterious places and that offers very high melodic hints. The inspiration comes from Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream”, thus the title of the CD. The recordings have been done partly live in Karlsruhe and partly in a recording studio in Munich. The choice of the musicians is appropriate and the final result confirms this. Music seems to be played by one element alone because all the musicians play perfectly together and are very well conducted. Recording is really remarkable for its dynamics and frequency extension. For this record is highly recommended a system that reproduces without limits sound dynamics and has a wide frequency response. Songs such as "Orobop" with plenty of percussions and instrumental plots must be listened to at a high volume. All these elements will only get better with an accurate reproduction and the right "power". This is another record that one must have in his collection.
VVAA- BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB, WORLD CIRCUIT CD 1997
This a record with different compositions, all from Cuba, performed by unattainable Cuban artists that had been forgotten and forced to retire before their time. Ry Cooder rediscovered them and produced this documentary record. Soon after the record and the world tour, some of them, that were quite old, died. Company Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Rubén Gonzales, "Puntillita" Licea, "Cachaito" Lopez, Eliades Ochoa could not be left fall - unfairly - into oblivion. Cooder gave them another chance and rearranged, togheter with his son Joachim all the music with great respect for the Cuban culture. We all know that Cuba is a melting pot of rhythms that have been exported all over the world for nearly two hundred years: Salsa, Son, Danzòn, Bolero and Tumbao. These are rhythms that have their roots in this small Island that has absorbed the ancient tribal rhythms that the African slaves brought with them and that has integrated these rhythms with the native culture. Probably no other Latin American Country has given this much to music. This is a wonderful example of refined and elegant cuban music that is never too excessive and that has not given way to modern rhythms that have damaged a certain kind of music that was born noble. It's a very good technical recording. Bass is very present as it always is in the Latin American recordings and must be kept under control by a well set up system in order not to damage the medium range.
PINK FLOYD, WHISH YOU WERE HERE, EMI SACD 2011
It's impossible to say something new about this CD. We just want to point out the high artistic quality that the critics and some Pink Floyd's fan acknowledged with some delay. I remember that when the album was released the critics and the most radical fans criticized it claiming that it was too commercial. Many said that it was not as good as "The Dark Side of The Moon". We now know that maybe it was less innovative as for the compositions but the result is more mature and professional, if we can say so. Furthermore the technical level of the sound recording is better than that of the former record. This is a record that all music and hi-fi lovers must have at home. With the immortal "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" it's possible to evaluate at once the transparency of the sound in the medium and high range and the bass control of the system. Many versions have been released due to the many remasterings and they don't have the same technical level. From my own experience I can suggest the original vinyl version and the following vynil remasterings. As for the CD the situation is not so inspiring. If you can, reward yourselves with the SACD version we are talking about that has nothing to envy to the analogue versions.
Five recordings of vocal music by Domenico Pizzamiglio
In this section you will find a series of recordings that are, let's say, recommended. Recommended because they are artistically considerable but also because they are characterized by good technical features and we often use them in our listening sessions. This time we are dealing with vocal music. This is a repertoire that I know well, not only because I have sang it but also because I have listened to it live many times during my fifty odd years. With this new section we, at Audio-activity want to point out those records that we reckon really valuable and we hope that this will be of use to you.
Here is the first series and more will follow.
AA.VV., Puer Natus Est, Stile Antico, Harmonia Mundi HMU807517 SACD/CD 16th Century compositions (Tallis, Byrd, Sheppard, Taverner and others)
The group Stile Antico is of recent set up but it's artistically experienced. The members are all young with a beautiful voice and form a very well mingled group. In 2011 they sang in Milan in the church Santa Maria della Passione. The soprano has an outstanding capacity of taking the highest notes without showing any effort, without throat singing and with a sonority that is rich, clear and full. In this CD there is a lot of the live sonority and only the soundstage is a little bit less open than that of a live performance (a system in a room cannot compete with the second biggest church in Milan). The CD layer is very good but the SACD layer is even better and when I made reviews for Audiophile Sound I gave them an excellent rating that I confirm also on the artistic side. The repertoire is typical of this group that was born to sing with Sting during his concerts but in time has become a real competitor of Tallis Scholars. Anecdote: I bought the CD and opened it during a listening session in a Hi-FI shop in Milan. After the first few bars all the bystanders asked for the title of the CD and took note of the name. The same thing happened during a listening session at the Milano HI END 2012 Show.
Gregorio Allegri, Miserere, The Tallis Scholars, Gimell (anno 2008) CD (first half of 17th Century)
This is the last recording of the Miserere performed by the notorious English group Tallis Scholars, it dates back 2007. This execution is really different from all the previous recordings because it's different the second chorus line and because they introduce the "abbellimenti" that were probably used at Allegri's time in the Sistine Chapel. The group has undisputed qualities. They have the ability of singing in complete unity, the sonority is so clear and pure that the listener does not loose a bar. I can affirm that the sound of the recording is very close to that of the live performances. I attended one of their performances in Milan, Santa Maria della Passione, in 2011. There are differences between a live concert and a recorded one of course. First of all the ambience is different but there is also another important difference. The second choir, composed by one tenor only, in the recording sings in front of the listener while in the live performances sings behind the audience. In Santa Maria della Passione I was sitting in the one of the last benches and the difference was evident. In the live performances then, when the soprano makes an effort to sing all the C above the stave, the church's apse acts as a horn while in the recording the voice is heard but seems very far away. The "Miserere" is contained in box number 3 that collects all the best Tallis Scholars recordings. The CD boxes are in Nice Price edition and as for volume 3 it contains only 16th Century music exception made for one 17th Century piece, the Miserere itself.
AA.VV, Hear My Words, Choir Of Saint John College, Chandos CHSA5085 SACD/CD Compositions by Gries, Frank, Tallis, Allegri, Rutter and others (from 16th to 21th Century)
Our readers know this CD because we already wrote about it. It's an English choir with children instead of women in the soprano role. These performances are beautiful, accurate and very pleasant. We can find also in this CD Allegri's Miserere in an execution with well defined pauses. This Miserere is very relaxing, gives a sense of well being (no wonder the Pope Urbano VII put a veto on it and it could not be divulged or performed outside the Vatican City). The children's intonation is perfect, and the choir sings in full harmony. The recording is very accurate, the CD layer is very good but the SACD layer is better. The ambience is very balanced and the sound of the cello played by César Frank in Panis Angelicus is the demonstration of it with its clear and resonating sound. I bought it because I was curious but this CD it is now one of our landmarks.
Arvo Pårt, Passio Secundum Johannes, Hilliard Ensemble, ECM New Serie 1370 CD Contemporary music (second half 20th Century)
Arvo Part, joys and sorrows. You either love him or hate him. Hilliard Ensemble is another world famous group. It has a long story of cooperation with Arvo Part that has composed for them many musics. Passio is not a simple work. It's a slow composition, meditative and full of obsessively repeated sentences that recall Gregorian chant tradition. You may not like it even if it has in itself something fascinating that after the stunning of the first listening may lead to a real pleasure. Hilliard Ensemble has technical capacities that are enviable. The Passio is a hard test for any group and these British artists come out with flying colors. It takes intonation, the capacity of singing pianissimo, to hold the note, to vary the voice dynamic from pianissimo to mezzo forte and then again down to pianissimo. They have no difficulty in doing it and we saw it first hand during a live performance last year in August, once again in Milan in Santa Maria della Passione. As for the timbre the recording is very exact and the voices are all recognizable. In this case there is also a good ambience that takes back to the sonorities listened to at the concert. Excellent the ability of reproducing all the least vocal variations.
AA VV, STORIES, Theatre Of Voices, Paul Hillier Harmonia Mundi HMU 807527 SACD/CD Scenic movements and music of the second half of the 20th Century
Second half of 20th Century avant-garde. It's an incredibly amusing record that is very peculiar and that goes from sacred to profane with great ease. These songs are not easy and when you listen to them you have to keep the lyrics handy to understand what's going on. Compositions go from irreverence to seriousness and prove that avant-gardes have a solid and appreciable base. In some songs Palestrina is recalled. The recording is excellent. It has been conceived to privilege more the movements inside the soundstage than the audiophile side. The stereo effect is excessive and the ambience is very reduced. The effect left-right though makes clearer all the movement of the artists -that are very skilful and very precise- and most of all it makes you startle because the artist suddenly seems to materialize in your room. I suggest it because it's a cultural enhancement and also because it's a very good recording and it's amusing.
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