CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 OCTOBER 2021
The albums below are "Classical Releases Of Current Key Significance," or "CROCKS", if you will. To purchase an album, simply click on one of the web site retail outlets given in the "AVAILABILITY" table under the write-up.
British Music for Strings II (3 early 20th C. wks; see Bantock & Chris.Wilson); Bostock/PforzSWG ChO [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Somehow CPO's first installment of "British Music for Strings" (CPO 555382-2) slipped under the CLOFO radar, but here's the second! And as of this writing, it gives us the only readily available disc versions of the three selections included here.
The program begins with music by Christopher Wilson (1874-1919). But first by way of background, he was an outstanding student at the Royal Academy of Music during the early 1890s, where the year 1895 saw him win a Mendelssohn Scholarship. This allowed him to study in Cologne, Berlin and Paris. Subsequently, young Christopher went on to become very involved in the British theatre circuit, and wrote music for many plays. However, he died all too soon of heart failure at 44.
Wilson also penned a few, concert works, which include our first selection here. It's the Suite for String Orchestra (published 1901), which was composed during his Cologne days, and may remind you of Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) Serenade in C major (Op. 48; 1880), or even Grieg's (1843-1907) Holberg Suite (aka From Holberg's Time, Op. 40; 1884).
In six movements, this is a romantic, string counterpart of J.S. Bach's (1685-1750) Orchestral Suites (BWV 1066-1069; 1717-1739). Its opening con spirito (with spirit) Prélude [T-1] has a frisky idea [00:01] with a tuneful countersubject [00:51]. These are explored and return in sonata-form fashion [02:55], thereby ending this movement full circle.
After that we get a charming, andante moderato (moderately slow) Air [T-2]. It's followed by a couple of ternary numbers, the first [T-3] having catchy, allegro molto (very fast), Scherzo sections on either side of a lovely, meno mosso (less lively) Trio [01:32-03:11]. Then there's a vivace (spirited) Bourrée [T-4], which brings to mind Wilson's time in Paris. Here, somewhat can-can reminiscent passages bracket a trio-like midriff [01:16-02:34] based on a wistful thought.
Things turn amorous in the succeeding andante moderato (moderately slow) Romance [T-5]. This is a gorgeous outpouring, and to quote the album notes, "music with strong overtones of Elgar" (1857-1934). More specifically, the Larghetto from his Serenade for Strings in E minor (Op. 20; 1892) comes to mind.
Then the composer's Paris years seem again reflected in the closing Rigaudon [T-6]. Another ternary offering, its outer sections feature a Gallic-flavored gallop [00:02] that surrounds a Trio [00:53-01:59] based on a skittish ditty. However, everything here proceeds at a vivace (spirited) pace, thereby bringing this delightful work to a jolly conclusion.
The remaining two selections are by Wilson's better-known colleague, Sir Granville Bantock (1868-1946; see 12 August 2014 & 30 April 2017), the first being his four-movement Serenade for String Orchestra. Written in 1912, it's a reworking of a String Quartet in C minor penned in 1899, but never performed.
Returning to the work at hand, it was later subtitled "In the Far West", which refers to America. The composer had gone there during the 1890s, when he conducted musicals presented by one of British impresario George Edwardes' (1855-1915) touring companies. While in the US, Bantock heard some American songs, whose melodies he incorporated into this selection as indicated below.
The initial movement [T-7] is the longest and begins with an ominous, lento (slow) preface [00:01] hinting at an anxious theme (AT). The latter soon appears in an adjoining poco allegro (somewhat fast) episode [00:55] that becomes animato (animated) [01:55]. Here AT is examined and followed by a lovely cantabile sostenuto (songful and flowing) melody (SM) [02:37].
These two ideas are food for a consummate, dramatic development [03:34]. Then a magnificent AT-based fugue appears [07:11] and wanes into the return of SM [09:11]. It calls up an AT-tinged coda [11:02], which brings this movement to a commanding conclusion.
A comely Andante con espressione (Slow with expression) is next [T-8]. This starts with an old familiar melody (OF), namely the one for "Way down Upon the Swanee River" (aka "Old Folks at Home"; 1851) by American songwriter Stephen Foster (1826-1864). Then there's a vivo quasi presto (lively bordering on very fast) Scherzo [T-9] having a whimsical Trio [03:36-04:47].
But the best is yet to come in the Finale [T-10], which is a retrograde theme with variations. Moreover, the main subject doesn't appear in full until the end, and turns out to be the tune for that American Revolutionary song "Yankee Doodle" (YD) of 1775-76.
First there's a con brio (with spirit) treatment of YD [00:00] with scurrying hints of it and some molto lento (very slow) lyrical ones [01:16, 01:55, 03:16, 03:56 & 04:25]. Then frenetic con moto (with movement) passages [05:40] are followed by a passing reference to OF [06:09] and cantabile version of YD [07:03]. These invoke a valiant, full-blown YD [08:01] with a scampering coda [08:21] that ends the Serenade triumphantly.
Bantock strongly identified with his Scottish ancestry. Consequently, a number of Sir Granville's works written during the early 1900s have close associations with folk music from there. One of them, the Suite for Strings subtitled "Scenes from the Scottish Highlands" (published 1914), concludes this disc.
It's a musical travelogue of Scotland that's a captivating set of three fast dances separated by two slow movements, all having melodies from that area. The first is a spirited Strathspey [T-11] featuring a tune called "The braes o Tullymet" ("The Hillsides of Tullymet"). This is marked animato - tempo giusto (animated - rhythmically precise) and loaded with Scotch snaps.
Then the mood darkens with a lento molto sostenuto (slow and very sustained) Dirge [T-12] based on a melancholy thought. It takes us to the Hebrides and is meant to limn the mists as well as loneliness associated with The Isle of Mull.
However, sadness turns to gladness in the next Quickstep [T-13], which is an energico (energetic), march-like piece. Subtitled Inverness gathering, this music characterizes an outdoor event devoted to sports as well as dancing. It draws on one of those Scottish tunes everyone knows but can't name.
Gaelic Melody [T-14] is another heartrending selection. Marked cantabile sostenuto (songful flowing), it's a mournful, berceuse-like number based on the melody for an air called "Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament". Probably dating from Elizabethan times (1558-1603), this tells the sad story of a deserted mother and child.
But Sir Granville ends things happily with a vivo, con spirito (lively with spirit) Reel [T-15]. Subtitled The de'il among the tailors, it's a wonderful arrangement of an extremely popular Scottish dance known as The Devil among the Tailors (Deil Among the Tailors; 1805).
These performances are by the Southwest German Chamber Orchestra based in Pforzheim, Germany, some 100 miles north of Zürich, Switzerland. Under their principal conductor and artistic director, Englishman Douglas Bostock (b. 1955), they give magnificent accounts of all three works. Maestro Bostock's attention to dynamics, phrasing and rhythmic detail bring out every nuance of these British rarities.
A coproduction of CPO and SWR2 Archivradio, the recordings were made July 1-3 of 2020 at Pforzheim's Congress Centrum Hall. They present a wide, somewhat distant sonic image in vast reverberant surroundings. The string tone is characterized by rather steely highs, a lean midrange, but clean bass with no overhang in the lower registers. Accordingly, this disc falls a bit short of an "Audiophile" rating; however, it's well worth having for the rarely heard selections included here.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P211031)
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Farrenc: Variations concertante sur un mélodie suisse; Vn Sons 1 & 2; Orlando/Di Carlo [Brilliant]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Parisian-born Louise Farrenc (née Jeanne-Louise Dumont; 1804-1875) began piano studies as a youngster, and at fifteen furthered her musical education at the Conservatoire de Paris. Subsequently, she had a very successful concert career throughout France and became a highly regarded teacher at her old alma mater.
Madame Farrenc would live out her years in Paris and leave a significant oeuvre across most genres. These include some orchestral works, three being symphonies (see Naxos-8573706 & 8574094), as well as several chamber pieces. Three of the latter for violin and piano are presented here. They're not only the most recent, readily available versions on disc, but offered at a bargain price.
The program opens with Variations concertante sur un mélodie suisse (Concert Variations on a Swiss Melody, Op. 20; 1835). This has a resolute, andante maestoso (slow and majestic) "Introduzione" ("Introduction") [T-1]. It hints at the main subject (MS), which soon appears and turns out to be a cantabile (songful) "Tema" ("Theme") [T-2] with an angularity like that found in the melodies of Robert Schumann's (1810-1856) Violin Sonatas (1851-53).
Then it's on to the variants, which are sequentially spirited [T-3], assertive [T-4], wistful [T-5], vivacious [T-6] as well as yearning [T-7] in character. The last invokes a vivace (lively) "Finale" [T-8] that's all the more exciting for some fancy fiddling and ends this delightful piece in jolly fashion.
Next up there's Louise's Sonata No. 1 in C minor (Op. 37; 1848). Having three movements, the first is a sonata-form one [T-9]. Its exposition has an austere, largo (slow) introduction (AI) [00:01], which augurs two main ideas that soon appear in the following allegro (fast) portion of this movement.
Respectively yearning (Y1) [01:24] and songlike [02:05], they're examined, repeated [03:16] and succeeded by a captivating development [05:07]. Then after a brief pause there's a forceful Y1 that initiates the recapitulation [06:45]. It has an AI-reminiscent coda [08:06], which brings the movement to a tranquil conclusion.
The subsequent poco adagio (somewhat slow) one [T-10] is a ternary, A-B-A offering. It's "A"s [00:00 & 3:46] feature a comely, songlike melody, whereas "B" is based on a related, anxious one [01:54-03:45]. That said, the last "A" ends this movement full circle.
The "Finale" [T-11] is a catchy, allegro vivace (fast and spirited) sonata rondo built on a binary idea (BI) having a scampering first part (S1) [00:00] and tuneful second (T2) [00:34]. Here S1 is twice repeated [01:28 & 03:24], but each time followed by variants of T2, which are respectively imploring [02:03] and complacent [03:38]. Then a momentary T2 afterthought [04:20] triggers a frenetic S1-based coda [04:33]. It has a last reminder of S1 and one of those "So there!" cadences [05:24] that ends the work definitively.
Filling out this release there's the four-movement Sonata No. 2 in A major (Op. 39; 1850). Incidentally, a CD with it appeared in these pages eight years ago (see the newsletter of 12 July 2013), but the version here is artistically far superior.
The initial Allegro grazioso (Fast but graceful) [T-12] is in sonata-form with an exposition that has two complementary themes. The first is a flowing thought (F1) [00:02] reminiscent of the one opening Beethoven's Spring Violin Sonata (No. 5 in F major, Op.24; 1800-01). The second is of rather demure character (D2) [01:17].
These are briefly examined and all of the foregoing repeated [02:50], thereby bridging into a dramatic development [05:34]. Then F1 reappears, inciting a recapitulation [07:12], which has an F1-D2-derived coda [09:56] that waxes and wanes into a tranquil conclusion.
The fetching, allegro (fast) marked "Scherzo" [T-13] sports pixilated outer sections that romp around a winsome trio [02:04-04:03]. Then levity turns to rumination in the subsequent Adagio (Slow) [T-14], which is a sinuous serenade having a lovely, somewhat D2-related, folk-like melody [00:01].
Bringing things to a close, Madame Farrenc serves up an allegro "Finale" [T-15] that's a rondo romp featuring a playful, binary theme (PB) [00:00 & 00:39]. PB chases itself about and then parents a manic coda [05:37], which ends the work with a saucy "So there!" cadence [06:08].
These performances are by a couple of up-and-coming Italian musicians. Violinist Daniele Orlando and pianist Linda Di Carlo deliver technically accomplished, enthusiastic, yet sensitive accounts of all three selections. Louise couldn't be better represented!
The recordings were made during October 2019 at the Piano et Forte Recording Room in Perugia, Italy some 100 miles north of Rome. They project a narrow sonic image of this talented twosome in somewhat dry surroundings.
More specifically, both musicians are centered with Signor Orlando positioned just in front of Signora Di Carlo. Their instruments are adequately captured, but the violin could have been better highlighted. Madame Farrenc's music would have blossomed even more had the recordings taken place in a concert venue.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P211030)
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Italian String Quartet Wks (4 by 3 19th C. Genoese cmpsrs; see Gambini, G.Serra & Sivori); QttoAscanio [Dynamic]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
This recent release from Dynamic gives us world premiere recordings of some rare string-quartet treats by three, 19th century Italian composers. All had strong associations with Genoa, the main figure here being Camillo Sivori (1815-1894). He was also a virtuoso violinist, and apparently the only student of Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840).
The concert begins with Sivori's Piccolo tema con variazioni (Variations on a Short Theme) in G major [T-1]. His autograph score is marked "first opus", which seemingly implies it was written no later than 1844.
The work has an adagio (slow) introduction [00:01] that's recitative-like and questioning. Then after a brief pause, the first violin gives us the andantino mosso (leisurely but lively), genial main subject [02:17]. This is subjected to four, variational treatments that are sequentially flighty [03:26], melancholy [04:43], playful [06:19] with snatches of violin cadenza [07:02-07:09 & 07:29-07:35], and confident [07:45]. The last is followed by a cordial coda [08:50] that ends the piece affably.
Next up, music by Camillo's colleague and friend, Carlo Andrea Gambini (1819-1865), who was a highly regarded pianist and composed works of all genres. These subsume a great deal of chamber music, which includes our next selection, his Quartet in E minor. Probably written around 1861, Sivori was fond of this and championed it.
The work smacks of those late Classical as well as early Romantic ones in this genre by such greats as Haydn (1732-1809), Mozart (1756-1791, Beethoven (1770-1827) and even Mendelssohn (1809-1847). Having four movements, the initial sonata-form one [T-2] is marked allegro appassionato (fast and passionate).
Moreover, it's as billed and begins with a vivacious thematic nexus [00:01]. This is explored and after an anticipatory pause, Gambini serves up an inventive development, having a tiny fugato [04:57]. Then there's a recapitulation [05:50] with a codatic afterthought [08:59] that ends things cheerfully.
The following Allegro vivace non troppo presto (Fast and spirited, but not too quickly) [T-3] is a scherzoesque tidbit. It has a playful introduction [00:00] succeeded by a dainty ditty [00:34], which is bandied about, bringing this movement to a perky conclusion.
A Larghetto cantabile (Rather slow and songlike) is next [T-4]. The music here features wistful violin-viola duet passages [01:56, 02:23, 04:33 & 05:57] and comes to a melancholy close.
However, gloom turns to glee in the subsequent Presto con fuoco (Very fast and fiery) [T-5], which is of ternary, A-B-A disposition. The "A"s are based on a flighty, binary thought (FB) [00:00 & 00:49] and surround a related, pensive "B" [02:03-03:16]. Then the final "A" [03:17] calls up an antic, coda [05:03] that closes this work with a whiff of FB [05:17].
Our next composer, Giovanni Serra (1788-1876; no extensive background information readily available), was also a highly regarded teacher as well as an accomplished violinist, and left a limited body of works. These include our next selection, his Quartet No. 4 in F minor, which is one of ten and dedicated to Camillo Sivori (see above), who'd studied counterpoint with him.
Probably written no later than 1857, it's in the usual four movements. The opening Con accento melanconico (With melancholy accents) [T-6] starts with a wistful thematic group (WG) [00:00]. Incidentally, this has a problematic spot (PS) [00:21-00:26] where the first violin plays so softly that it's almost impossible to hear.
Then WG is followed by a consoling countermelody (CC) [01:07], and all the foregoing thoughts undergo a well-crafted, extensive, contrapuntally spiced development [beginning at 01:48]. This has frequent, descending runs but unfortunately there's also another PS [02:59-3:05]. Then we get a lyrical recap [06:30] with a smiling coda [08:02] that ends the movement on a hopeful note.
The second one takes the form of a nimble Menuetto (Minuet) [T-7], featuring a couple of attractive WG-CC derived numbers [00:01 & 00:56]. However, the mood becomes pious in the subsequent Andante religioso (Slow and religious) [T-8], which is based on a hymnlike tune that seems distantly CC-related [00:00].
Then a mercurial Scherzo [T-9] ends this work in rondoesque fashion with a recurrent WG-related, scurrying idea (WS) [00:00]. WS scampers about between tension-building pauses, which become increasingly frequent to the point where many may find them distracting. Be that as it may, WS concludes this quartet in the same accented manner it began.
Another Sivori selection closes this release, namely his Rondo in D major [T-10]. The album notes have a detailed analysis of it, so we'll limit our commentary to the music's high points.
That said, the piece starts with a fetching thought (FT) [00:01], which may remind you of WS in the Serra above [see T-9]. Then FT and two variants thereof give rise to three interim, developmental treatments. What's more, along the way there are a couple of cadenzas for the first violin [01:47-01:57 & 04:40-05:10], after which FT returns [05:11]. It calls up a capricious coda [06:10] that ends the work and this disc with a saucy "So there!" cadence [06:36].
Our performing group here is the Umbrian-based Quartetto Ascanio (QA). Founded in 2004, its musicians are violinists Damiano Babbini (first) and Francesco Bagnasco (second), along with violist Costanza Pepini plus cellist Catherine Bruni. They give enthusiastic readings of these Genoese rarities. However, one wonders about those PS's [T-6, 00:21-00:26 & 02:59-3:05].
The recordings were made during early July 2020 at The Abbey of San Salvatore di Montecorona in Umbertide, Italy some 100 miles north of Rome. They present an appropriately sized sonic image of the QA in pleasant surroundings with the instruments centered and placed from left to right in order of increasing size.
The string tone is generally good, but there are some steely, upper violin passages as well as occasional boomy spots in the cello's lower registers. Accordingly, this release falls a bit short of an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P211029)
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Wranitzky, Paul: Orch Wks V2 (Sym in d "La Tempesta", Sym in A, Sym in F, Der Schreiner Ov); tilec/CzPard ChPO [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Here's a welcome second volume in the Naxos label's exploration of Czech-born-and-trained, Vienna-based Paul Wranitzky's (1756-1808) orchestral works (see 31 May 2021). This time around they give us three more of his symphonies as well as another opera overture, all being world premiere recordings and the only versions currently available on disc.
It opens with the vivace assai (very lively) Overture to his one-act opera Der Schreiner (The Carpenter) of 1799 [T-1]. This is a merry stage work involving Krapfen (donuts) filled with love notes (see the album booklet), and starts with chugging forte chords [00:01], followed by a busy tune [00:09]. The latter suggest hammer-and-saw related activities, after which there's a delightful, songlike number [00:47]. Then the foregoing material is bandied about, invoking a vivacious coda [03:50] as the curtain goes up on this spirited Singspiel.
Around forty-five of Paul's symphonies have come down to us, the next selection being his Symphony in D minor "La Tempesta (The Storm)", which exists only in manuscript. Probably written sometime prior to 1795, its three movements started life as incidental music for a play titled Die Rache (Revenge; no further information readily available).
The initial sonata-form-like Vivace (Fast) [T-2] begins with an ominous five-note dominated idea (OF) [00:00] that may remind you of the Mozart Symphony No. 40 in G minor's (K. 550; 1788) more sinister moments. OF will pervade the piece but for now gives way to a related, relaxed thought (OR) [01:18]. Then the foregoing is repeated [02:24], after which it's food for a tempestuous development [04:46] and recapitulation [05:56]. The latter adjoins an OF-based coda [10:40] that brings the movement full circle.
As the album notes point out, the passing of the storm's eye seems reflected in the subsequent Adagio (Slow) [T-3]. Here an OR-related melody played by muted strings [00:00] is embellished with numerous solo woodwind passages that add a pastoral touch to these proceedings.
But not for long as the allegro con fuoco (fast with fire) marked "Finale" bearing the work's subtitle breaks out [T-4]. It's again of sonata-form design and starts unpretentiously, but a series of stormy episodes quickly follow. They're all the more dramatic for erratic rhythmic accents, harsh dissonances, tension-building chords and frequent pounding timpanic passages.
However, these violent forces of nature eventually abate, and after a pause there's an avian-like woodwind episode [08:42] where it would seem the skies clear. Then the sun returns as the full orchestra launches into a glorious coda [09:26], thereby ending this work joyously.
Next, the Symphony in A major (Op. 16, No. 2; published 1792), which is one of three collectively named Sinfonies à grand orchestre (Symphonies for Large Orchestra). The first of its four movements is a sonata-form Allegro molto (Very fast) [T-5] in classic sonata form with two related ideas that are respectively lilting (L1) [00:00] and boisterous (B2) [00:17]. They undergo an engaging development [00:40] and L1-initiated recap [03:13] with a B2-based, vivacious coda [05:44] that closes the movement perfunctorily.
The lovely Adagio (Slow) [T-6] is of passacaglia persuasion and features a delicate, L1-reminiscent thought [00:00]. This is repeated [00:27] and undergoes seven treatments of different temperament that range from flirtatious [00:53] to halting [01:19], rustic [02:17], wistful [02:41], yearning [03:24], songlike [03:49] and resolute [04:28].
Then there's a scherzoesque, allegro (fast) marked Menuetto (Minuet) [T-7]. This has quaint, high-stepping outer sections [00:00 & 01:58] on either side of a charming, thematically related Trio [01:04-01:57].
A terse, allegro molto (very fast), sonata-rondo "Finale" [T-8] wraps things up. It features a rollicking binary tune [00:00 & 00:39] that alternates with some catchy explorations of same and triggers a commanding coda [03:38], which ends things decisively.
Our last selection is the Symphony in F major (Op. 33, No. 3; published 1798) that's one of three collectively known as Drey grosse Sinfonien (Three large Symphonies). Many will find this the most appealing selection here as Wranitzky borrows a couple of very well-known German Volkslied (folk song) melodies.
The initial movement [T-9] has an august, andante (slow) introduction [00:00] with a piquant, pensive idea (PP) [00:22]. Then the allegro vivace (fast and spirited), sonata-form-like remainder of it [beginning at 01:41] features some spirited, PP-related ditties (SP) [01:41]. These undergo an exciting development and recapitulation [06:21] with an SP-based, jubilant, final coda [08:21].
Swiss composer Hans Georg Nägeli (1773-1836) wrote the melody for a song titled Freut euch des Lebens (Rejoice in Life; 1793-95) that became widely popular. Wranitzky makes it the main subject (MS) of the following allegretto (lively) marked theme with variations [T-10]. MS is heard at the outset [00:00] and followed by four variants that are sequentially playful [00:47], gruff [01:55], martial [02:38] and flowing [03:28]. Then a jovial fifth [04:30] brings things to a joyful conclusion.
The subsequent scherzoesque, allegretto (lively) Menuetto (Minuet) [T-11] has proud, prancing outer sections [00:00 & 02:58] on either side of a winsome Trio [01:38-02:57], which will sound familiar as it's based on another of those Volkslied. This one is the ever popular O du lieber Augustin (Oh, you dear Augustin), which may have been written around 1679 by the Austrian minstrel-bagpiper Marx Augustin (c. 1643-1705), who's named in the title. Incidentally, it would seem there are brief suggestions of that instrument in the first movement [T-9 at 03:18, 05:10 & 08:09].
Moving to the fourth and final one, Wranitzky gives us a spirited Allegro assai (Very fast) sonata rondo [T-12], which has a mercurial, PP-related opening idea (MP) [00:00]. MP makes differently scored appearances [01:57, 03:07 & 03:44] interspersed with developmental passages that draw on it as well as other previous thematic material. Then an exultant coda [04:39] ends this Symphony in "Ode to Joy" fashion.
Like the first volume (see 31 May 2021), these performances are by the Czech Pardubice Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra (CPCPO) based some 70 miles north of the composer's home town of Nová Říe in Czechia. Once again under conductor Marek tilec (b. 1985) the CPCPO delivers committed, enthusiastic accounts of more symphonic rarities by this too long forgotten composer. Be advised that a third CD in this series was issued just a couple of weeks ago (see Naxos-8574289) and should appear in these pages very soon.
The recordings were done concurrently with those on the previous release (see 31 May 2021) in that same warm Dukla Culture House venue. Consequently, they present a similar sonic image, and the sound is about as good as it gets on conventional CDs.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y211028)
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