Haydn – 3 Quartets / The Janacek Quartet

More of the music of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Reviews and Commentaries for the music of Joseph Haydn

xxxxx

  • A wonderful album of chamber music with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Another one of those “sleeper” records we chance upon from time to time – it’s the very opposite of those echo-drenched recordings that some audiophiles like, with mics twenty feet away from the performers so that they are awash in “ambience.” Please.
  • If you’re looking for brilliantly performed quartet music recorded on an All Tube chain by the best engineers Decca had to offer (Gordon Parry in this case), hard to imagine you could do much better than this very disc

This vintage London pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of This Decca Recording Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1964
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Natural Highs

Now what I hear in this recording is sound that is absolutely free from any top end boost, much the way live music is. There’s plenty of tape hiss and air, which means the highs aren’t rolled off. They’re just not boosted the way they normally are on most records.

I had a chance to see a piano trio perform a few years back, and the one thing I noticed immediately in live performance was how smooth and natural the highs were. I was no more than ten feet from the performers in a fairly reverberant room and the sound was the opposite of what passes in some circles for Hi-Fidelity. (See my Witches’ Brew commentary elsewhere on the site for more on this subject.)

This recording is the OPPOSITE of those echo-drenched audiophile recordings that some seem to like, with microphones twenty feet away from the performers so that they are awash in “ambience”. This is not our sound. I have never heard live music sound like that and that should settle the question; it does in my mind anyway. Chesky sucks and always will. How anyone buys into that phony sound is beyond me, but any Stereophile show will demonstrate that audiophiles still do.

As soon as you drop the needle, you are immediately involved in the music, listening to each of the lines created by the various players and marveling at Haydn’s talent. It’s one of the ways you can tell how great a recording this is.

It’s the reason we spent all this money on equipment. Because if you have records like this, and the expensive equipment to play them, you are transported to the musical space of the performance in a way that modern remastered records and CDs do not allow. These records are not cheap, but they do make good on their promise of superior musical enjoyment.

What We’re Listening For on Haydn’s 3 Quartets

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players of The Janacek Quartet

  • Cello – Karel Krafka
  • Viola – Jiri Kratochvil
  • Violin [1st] – Jiri Travnicek
  • Violin [2nd] – Adolf Sykora

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Quartet In E Flat Op. 33 No. 2 “The Joke”

Allegro Moderato Cantabile
Scherzo, Allegro
Largo Sostenuto
Finale, Presto

Quartet In F Op. 3 No. 5 “The Serenade”

Presto
Andante Cantabile

Side Two

Quartet In F Op. 3 No. 5 “The Serenade” (continued)

Menuetto
Scherzando

Quartet In D Minor Op. 76 No. 2 “The Fifths”

Allegro
Andante O Piu Tosto Allegretto
Menuetto
Vivace Assai

Leave a Reply