Saturday, November 04, 2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Cds from Geneve

Over the weekend, i have decided tp walk to the flea market in Geneve and was lucky to find these nice cds 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Otto Klemperer Mahler No 4

Gustav Mahler is the composer of contradictions and paradoxes. He is the composer of ambiguities, contrasts, complexities and cognitive dissonance.

Nothing could make this truth more evident than the move from the 3rdSymphony to the 4th. *

The reasons are obvious- the two works are so strikingly, obviously different. The 3rd is his longest symphony, the 4th his shortest. The 3rd is written for one of his largest orchestras, the 4th is his very smallest. One work has a huge trombone solo, the other has no trombones, one ends with a huge fortissimo catharsis, the other a transcendent pianissimo. One is a work of grand gestures, the other is strikingly intimate- almost chamber music (and it is interesting that the 4th was successfully adapted for a small chamber ensemble by Mahler’s friend Erwin Stein).

But, of course, ardent Mahlerians will already be screaming out as they read this- the 3rd and 4th are Mahler’s most closely related symphonies!

In fact, they are essentially one piece. Mahler composed his song, “Das himmliche Leben” or “The Heavenly Life” in 1892, before either the 3rd or 4thSymphonies. He originally intended it to be the Finale of the epic 3rd Symphony, and began composing the 3rd Symphony backwards from that point. It was only as he was finishing the enormous first movement of the 3rd that he realized that the song no longer belonged in the symphony, and instead he made the great Adagio, originally called “What Love Tells Me” the Finale. By this point, he had sprinkled the entire symphony with obvious references to the song, and used the song to extract a huge wealth of motivic material that is not obvious to the casual listener, but which gives the huge piece a tremendous sense of structural cohesion. The intended effect was to make the appearance of the song be the logical culmination of all the musical ideas in the piece.

It just never appears.

So, when Mahler started work on the 4th, he essentially started the same, very unusual process, all over again, of composing backwards from the end.

The implications of this for a performer are really interesting. It means we have two symphonies which could hardly be more different which are made of the same musical DNA- it’s like a pair of siblings, or even fraternal twins- they are made of the same genes, but they grow up to be completely dissimilar people.

Thus, we have two symphonies that seem completely different on the surface, but which are as closely related as two works could be. This is just the first of many, many of these paradoxes present in Mahler’s 4th Symphony. It’s often described as his simplest and most straightforward work, and on some levels it is, but it is also his most multi-layered, most contradictory, most enigmatic, most paradoxical work. Nothing in this piece is as it seems.

The end of the piece is the most gentle and understated in any of the symphonies, yet Mahler called the Fourth the culmination of all his early works- Das himmlishce Leben is not just the finale of this symphony, but of the entire first half of Mahler’s creative life. That gentle song had more significance for the composer as an arrival point than any of the amazing, epic, cathartic, heaven-storming Finales of the first three symphonies.

The symphony seems to stand apart from the rest of the Mahler cycle by virtue of its brevity, the modesty of the orchestration and its general avoidance of the grand gesture, yet it is the most central to understanding Mahler- it is the work with the most diverse, important and profound connections to his other works. It introduces important themes we’ll hear again in the 5th and 6th Symphonies and the Kindertotenlieder.

It also seems to be the most technically straightforward of Mahler symphonies for players and conductor. From the conductor’s perspective, it would seem to be, by far, the easiest of the cycle. After all, the 2nd has all that insanely complex music with the offstage band to coordinate, the 3rd is full of tricky rhythmic modulations and treacherous transitions, the 5th has that ferociously complex 2nd mvt, then that awkward Scherzo in which the tempo always seems to work best in that uncomfortable place between in 3 and in1. Gergiev just wrote an essay in the Gramophone bemoaning the titanic technical difficulty of the 7th, which is mercilessly difficult for the players and the conductor. 6, 8 and 10 are minefields of mixed meter in places, the Rondo Burleske of the 9th might be the most complex movement in the repertoire, and even Mahler didn’t know how to conduct Das Lied von der Erde.

Alone out of the cycle, there is nothing in the 4th that looks like an audition piece for conductors, but it takes the most skill, preparation, maturity and experience to bring off. All of the other symphonies offer a certain safety of the grand gesture- for instance, several have long accelerandi (or gradual increases in tempo), something that is always hard to pace and coordinate, but in every other case, those accelerandi lead to a very fast tempo and a very noisy climax. The build-up of tempo in the first movement of the 4th goes on for quite a while, but arrives only at a moderately fast tempo- if you go beyond that point of moderation, the character is lost, and if you don’t go far enough, the development feels static and stuck. Again and again in the symphony, you have to turn corners with a degree of precision and a lack of room for error unique to this piece. It’s much the same for the players.

Much as the piece often sounds quite straightforward, that outward simplicity belies a ferocious inner complexity. The first movement, which sounds so direct and accessible, has some of the most contrapuntally intricate music in the symphonic repertoire, and each of those voices must be balanced and shaped. Then, just think what Mahler found in that simple song that ends the symphony- enough musical ideas to build two large symphonies!

A huge part of Mahler’s genius is in his ability to create music in which seemingly incompatible ideas are able to coexist in a way that feels truthful. This state of being seems far removed from our modern mindset- we live in an era of taking sides. Life today is held to be  happy or sad, not happy and sad. Our public discourse and our critical mindset doesn’t easily allow for mixed emotions. Even in music, we seem limited to only letting music be one thing at a time. Many years ago, many conductors and musicologists thought the Adagietto of the Fifth Symphony was about death, now a new generation of scholars tells us it is about love. Can’t it be both? What is more quintessentially Romantic than this mingling of love and mortality? More of that soon, I’m sure.

The 4th is about innocence and danger, about youth and mortality, about serenity (what could be more serene than the end of the symphony) and menace (what could be more menacing than the 2ndMvt, in which the devil himself fiddles away?). For a conductor, it all needs to be characterized in a multi-layered way, but nothing (other than the nastiness of Freund Hein’s  violin solo in the Scherzo) can be too overdone.

Take, for instance the very beginning of the symphony. What could sound more innocent than sleighbells, and even if they might hide some hints of mystery and menace, that elegant ritardando at the end of the 3rd bar which begins that exquisitely graceful main theme must surely be a sign that all is well in the world.

Well, it’s worth remembering for a second that unlike a normal symphony, everything in this work began with the Finale, so this opening is, in a strange way, not the first appearance of this music, which appears in  “Das himmliche Leben”. The “first” appearance ** (coming in about 45 minutes) of this music is much more malevolent and menacing, with sharper instrumental sonorities and more violent interjections than merely the gentle flutes and clarinets which characterize the beginning.

But, it is the text which is most telling-

John lets out the little lamb

Herod the butcher lies in wait for it!

We lead a patient, innocent, patient

Darling little lamb to it’s death!

St. Luke slaughters the ox

Without any hesitation or concern.

Wine costs not a penny in the heavenly cellar

The angels bake the bread

So, yes, on one level the opening sounds innocent (and is intended to), but the text behind it is about the slaughter of an innocent. The child who narrates the final song is also an innocent, and he looks on as Luke and John murder “without hesitation or concern.” Gradually,  he warms to their endeavours as he contemplates a fine meal- is his innocence being corrupted? Many writers treat this passage simply as good humoured observations of the pleasures of heavenly life, but to do so takes neither the text nor the music at face value. It’s as if we want everything in the Finale to be of one mood- serene contentment. “Surely, the little boy is not bothered by the blood bath around him,” we’re told. Why not?

And there is one more important musical clue in that beginning that all is not as simple as it seems. The meltingly elegant three note anacrusis which begins the main tune, with its lovely ritardando, exists in cognitive dissonance with the flutes and sleighbells. That rit which Mahler asks for over the last 3 quavers is written only in the clarinet and first violins. The flutes and sleighbells don’t come to a relaxed ending as the melody begins. They’re more like a menacing forest creature showing it’s face for the first time, then retreating into the shadows of a black forest. Here’s what the opening sounds like as Mahler wrote it. (You’d be distressed and amazed to know who many conductors completely overlook this detail- here is how not to do it, or at least how Mahler told us not to do it).

Just a footnote-

* Funnily enough, this blog project is forcing me to do something that I haven’t done in many, many years, which is to deal with the all the symphonies in order. Usually, my attention falls most strongly on whatever one I am conducting next.. For instance, I did the Ruckert Lieder in December and the 1st Symphony last week, and next see the 5th Symphony, Das Lied von der Erde and the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen in the late summer, so under normal circumstances, my Mahler curiosity would center around those pieces, with little tentacles of curiosity and comparison reaching outwards towards the other pieces. 

, for this blog series, we’re marching straight through in order, and the step from Symphony 3 to 4 is one of the most jarring anywhere in the cycle.

** If the fist appearance of this music is in the Finale of the 4th Symphony, the 2ndappearance is in the 5th movement of the 3rd, as part of a dialogue between a sinner and the angels.

And should I not weep, you gracious God?

(You should truly not wee! Should truly not weep!)

I have broken the Ten Commandments!

I go and weep most bitterly.

Ah, come and have mercy on me.

I can’t help but wonder what the sin against the Ten Commandments was…..


Karajan Anton Bruckner No 7

This CD was Karajan last recording.

Karajan-Edition Beethobrn Symphony No 9 Choral

Therebare many versions and this is the perfect and ideal Beethoven's 9th. Almost everything is perfect in this legendary recording. Some has commented that this recording has achieved highest of work. This is my absolute reference recording on this work and one of the best CD's in the whole Beethoven discography.

Karajan-Edition Beethoven Symphonie Nr 5

This is one of the best recorefing by Karajan for Beethoven No 5


Saturday, October 07, 2017

Hung Hom center 红磡中心

Having been away from Hong Kong for 3 years, i have visited my old CDs stores in Mongkok and one was closed and moved.

Lucky i have been able to find the shop at a new location

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Some of my favourite CDs

These are some of my favourite CDs

Saturday, September 09, 2017

New hifi set up Hkg

Since moving into my new apartment in HKG, I have decided to set up a small hifi system for my listening pleasure.  The Tannoy Mini autograph has always been my favourite.  Tbis is my 3rd set. Originally, I was contemplating the vintage Marantz 8b or the Mcintosh. However, these will require much works involving the power transformer, the pre and power amplifiers as well as the range of tubes etc. Too much work and space needed.

As such, for the CD player and amplifier, I have decided to give a try the widely acclaimed Marantz AMP1, and CDP1. After trying for a few days, I must admit that the sound quality is so good for a small amount of money invested plus the set looked so cool together. Happy listening!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Mozart Complete Edition

Mozart is one of my favourite composer and I have been on a look out for the Complete Mozart edition consisting of 180 CDs. Still contemplating as it requires huge storage spaces for these CDs. 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Vintage 755a speakers + Modern Elekit Tu Tu amplifier + Western Electric 111c

I was back Singapore last week to attend JJ's army open house and to have breakfast and dinners with parents and to bring Mel for medical check up.

When I was home alone, I have decided to listen to some music using my Elekit Tu Tu amplifier together with my 755a fullrange (全音)speakers and the sound was wonderful. Full range speakers excel in coherence & transparency. These two simple combination are perfect fit and listening to the music is a truly enjoyable experience.

全音域的好處,是可以不經分音器,完全正確地重播聲音!前人留下的755a全音單元,有相當好的作品,全音喇叭是沒有分音喇叭的壓縮感,無分音元件音染、高效率、單點音源、高訊變等特性希望更貼近原音,发烧友的系统就像女人的衣柜,永远少了一件衣服, 如果能夠親身感受一下,相信對音樂的感覺,另有一種新的反

In the late afternoon, I have brought out my Western Electric 111c in the box to connect with my cheap CD player and the sound was further enhanced. The 755a is really superb for vocal and light instruments and a small power amplifier is able to do the job nicely.

The following information is a from the internet on Western Electric 111c:

"Long known for their superb sonic integrity and ample headroom capacity, the Western Electric 111C still can outperform most, if not all, the audio transformers of its type made today. There are not many remaining on active duty around the US at radio stations. The changeover to dedicated digital audio telephone circuits over fiber as well as ISDN lines for special “remote” broadcasts has removed the need for these coils.

The 111C is a toroidal type repeating coil was designed for dependable impedance matching applications and for line isolation at circuit transfer points. It is intended for use with amplifiers for program transmission over long or short cable or open wire circuits equipped with proper loading. It was the Bell System standard coil for broadcast radio lines for 50 years.

The factory specifications call for a frequency range of 30 to 15,000 Hz. with an insertion loss of less than 0.5 dB. The maximum power capacity at 30 Hz is 1.1 watts (+30dBm).

In actuality, the Western Electric specifications are quite conservative. Using a Hewlett-Packard 3551A Transmission Test Set on 6/1/2007, the actual measurements are a bit better. Overall loss is 0.4 dB at 1,000 Hz. The frequency response is +0, –0.2dB 28 to 20 kHz referenced to 1,000 Hz. The oscillator in the test set does not go below 28 Hz. The high end was down 0.3 dB at 24,000 Hz. At the upper limit of the test set, the response was down 2.0 dB at 65 kHz.

Input impedance is 600/150 ohms. Output impedance is 600/150 ohms.

Each unit weighs 4.5 lbs. It measures 2-9/16 inches x 4-3/16 inches x 4-17/32 inches. These units are ideal for eliminating ground loops and other electromagnetic hash. They have an inter-winding electrostatic shield that can be connected to the audio ground."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Marantz CD 唱機 HD-CD1 and Marantz HD-AMP1

Following my search for the Speakers, I am on a hunt for a nice mini CD player and the Marantz HD1 came to sight. The look of it is lovely with silver or black colour body with wood like sides. I was thinking of matching it with my Elekit TuTu. As there is a space constraints, the set up needs to be small. In the past, I used to play with many vintage CD players with great fun. However, the down side is the maintenance as well perhaps lack of details with the used laser head. I remember I used to have the vintage Marantz CD player by Ken Ishiwata, which I have sold following my move from Hong Kong to Thailand. As such, the new Marantza HD-CD1 has one advantage as it was the work of Ken Ishiwata. Marantz has added the HD-CD1, an up-market midi-sized CD Player, to its rebooted MusicLink Hi-Fi series.

First I love the classic look with the contemporary components. Designed by Ken Ishiwata, the deck can function as a CD transport with the HD-AMP1 amplifier (pictured below), or function as standalone CD player. It features a centralised CD mechanism, able to play MP3, WMA and AAC files as well as regular CDs. It uses a double-layer chassis for rigidity and vibration suppression.The player employs a 192kHz/24bit Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC  and low noise crystal oscillator master clock.  The deck also has a discrete headphone amplifier with its own volume control and HDAM-SA2 amplifier, complete with adjustable gain setting. This is the best of both worlds.

From the review, it was highly praised :

I have always love tube amplifier. As such, my plan is to match it with my Elekit tuTu. nevertheless, I am also tempted to try the amplifier by Marantz (Photos from the internet) as a set as well

The Marantz HD-AMP1 has the matching look.

Doing my research now...

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Start of a new Hifi journey: 書架喇叭

I have been rather inactive with my hifi since my posting to Bangkok almost 3 years ago due to the constant travel. With my new posting, its time for me to restart my hifi journey!

For a start, I am now contemplating getting a pair of  small speakers owing to the limitation of space and the choices are:
1. TAD 300 TSM
2. Tannoy Mini autograph

Even though I have the LS3/5a gold badge, 755a full range and the Pioneer Pure Malt VP, I didn't want to ship to and fro from on country to another. Given that I shall spend much time in office, I am seriously considering the Tannoy Mini Autograph that will fit the decoration of the office as well as the space. The TAD 300 TSM may be too huge. Basing on my memories, the Tannoy mini's best feature is their imaging due to having titanium concentric drivers and the speakers are also great at disappearing. With their speed they are amazing on a range of music be it acoustic music, acoustic guitar; with lots of detail as well as great look. I have just reserved the set with complete box and papers with the help of Kevin. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Saturday, January 28, 2017