Beethoven & Kodaly / Serenade & Duo / Heifetz, Piatigorsky – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven

Reviews and Commentaries

 

xxxxx

This wonderfully quiet (for the most part) Shaded Dog pressing has EXCEPTIONALLY good sound for side two, which is where the Kodaly Duo for Violin and Cello can be found. Rarely have I heard these two instruments sound better than they do here. With a sonic grade of A++ to A+++, you can be sure the sound is right up there with the best of the classical recordings we have to offer.

The Beethoven on side one has many good qualities as well, but the acoustic in which it is performed is not nearly as good as that of this side two.

The performers on this recording are Heifetz, violin / Primrose, viola / Piatigorsky, cello

Side Two – Kodaly – Duo for Violin and Cello

A++ to A+++, nearly White Hot and Hard to Fault. The sound is RICH and TRANSPARENT, and unlike a lot of RCA’s chamber recordings and this very side one, not dry. The tonality is Right On The Money. The performers are present and the transients of their instruments are not in the least bit smeared, vintage tubes or no vintage tubes in the recording chain!

In fact the sound is rich and romantic and that suits the music perfectly.

Zoltán Kodály’s Duo for violin and cello, Op. 7, was composed at the start of World War I (1914), but not played in public until a full decade later when it was heard in Salzburg as part of the 1924 ISCM Festival. In the century since its birth it has become a cornerstone in the scant repertoire for violin and cello duo — a miniature ensemble that has been heartily neglected by composers. The Kodály Duo is in fact bested in popularity only by the Ravel Sonata for violin and cello of 1920-1922.

The Duo’s three movements follow the traditional fast-slow-fast plan. As one would expect, the first movement (Allegro serioso, non troppo) is full of rhapsodic folk-music gestures that gush forth from the one instrument and then the other (Kodály was, after all, Bartók’s comrade-in-arms in fusing together central European folk music and traditional art music). The solo cello ushers in the central Adagio movement, and then the violin joins in with great, fluctuating passion. The finale begins with a wandering, rhetorical Maestoso e largamente, ma non troppo lento; one can easily hear the instruments’ gestures as words rather than abstract musical cells. After this introductory section, a sparkling Presto — the body of the movement — takes off.

Blair Johnston, Rovi

Side One – Beethoven Serenade Opus 8

A+ to A++, very good sound but not the equal of the best as the venue is too dry for our tastes. If you have a lush, tubey system you will no doubt like it better than we did — we don’t have such a system.

The sound is LIVE, natural and unprocessed, with no smear or colorations audible in the least. We simply prefer the sound on the Kodaly side. Compare the two for yourself; there is a world of difference between them.

Beethoven’s String Trios are masterly in form and content and, with Mozart’s only string trio, the Divertimento K. 563, are among the most significant works in the entire genre.

Beethoven’s first, Op. 3, is an ambitious six-movement work probably modelled on Mozart’s work and ending, as does Mozart’s, with a brilliant Rondo in opera buffa style.

His second, the Serenade in D major, Op. 8, shows Beethoven experimenting with form, and employing greater contrasts of colour and texture.

Classical Shootouts

RCA is justly famous for its chamber recordings, which tend to be somewhat rare for some reason. Let’s be honest: we did not conduct this shootout with a dozen copies of the album. (It would take us at least twenty-five years to find that many clean pressings.)

What we had were quite a few other Heifetz RCA chamber recordings, as well as some favorites by the Quartetto Italiano and I Musici that we are very fond of and know well.

After twenty six years in business selling vintage vinyl, by now we’ve played scores if not hundreds of good violin recordings. We have no problem recognizing good violin sound (as well as correct violin tone, not exactly the same thing) when we hear it. In the past our top Hot Stamper classical pressings would go directly to our best customers, customers who want classical recordings that actually sound good. not just the kind of Golden Age Recordings that are supposed to. Now that we are able to do classical shootouts on a regular basis, we hope to have enough superb sounding classical recordings for all of our audiophile customers.

A Certain Balance

I’ve often commented over the years that one should listen to classical music on a regular basis; at least once a week seems about right. I love rock and roll, jazz and all the rest of it, but there is something about classical music that restores a certain balance in your musical life that can’t be accomplished by other means. It grounds your listening experience to something perhaps less immediately gratifying but deeper and more enriching over time. This has been my experience, and with good Hot Stamper classical pressings to play it can surely be yours.