Chamber music on Harbeth

Several months ago many on this forum helped me get started with a new system. It consists of a MacBook Pro, PS Audio Direct Stream DAC, Prima Lune HP integrated amp, Harbeth HL-5 plus speakers, Nordost cables, etc. I find the whole process of downloading music from the internet rather frustrating, and I have a myriad of questions about that, but some of the music I have found has me pinching myself.

One example is the Tokyo string quartet’s recording of Beethoven’s late string quartets. Another is Jonus Stalker’s recording of Bach’s cello Suites. I know, Stalker is very controversial amongst cello players and Tokyo SQ is not everyone’s cup of tea (I don’t know why). But I must say, the sound of these recordings, through the DS and the Harbeths, is a marvel. Ditto for Cecilia Bartoli recordings of Agostino Steffani. It takes the Harbeths some time to open up, for the base to blossom. But with enough time, and the right music, they are really very beautiful. This kind of music, too, especially the chamber music, seems to be in the sweet spot for these speakers. It is beyond my powers of description to paint a picture of this, but . . . Well, they are just a wonder.

By contrast, my beloved recordings of Gould playing the Goldberg Variations sound horrible. They sound infinitely better in my car. The first variation, after the aria, with its tremendous punch and drive in the left hand, all but disappears on my system. What gives? I used the CD which I uploaded to my hard drive and I assume the CD was not great quality, but boy is that evident now. I am going to see if I can find something on the internet to replace it with, and any recommendations there would be much appreciated.

No one who loves music should fail to hear Tokyo SQ play the third movement of Beethoven’s 15th SQ.

I am not particularly familiar with the Tokyo’s version of the Beethoven. I listen primarily to the performances of Melos and the Alban Berg. I will follow up with the Tokyo. Thanks!

The sound of the Gould recordings is idiosyncratic to Gould. He treated recording as an artistic event on to itself, not just as an attempt to capture a live performance. He played a great deal with microphone types and placement, manipulating both for effect.

If you do not already have it, A State of Wonder: The Complete Goldberg Variations, 1955 & 1981 is well worth picking up. The outtakes of the 1955 session and the interviews, etc. (all on a third CD) are a delight. More importantly for you, the 1981 version is remastered from the original analog (the original LP and CD were made from the digital recording made at the same time as the backup “safety” analog tape). The sound is far superior. The sound of the 1955 version is substantially improved as well.

Who cares what others think about the music that you like! No need to be apologetic. Heck, I listen to The Offspring when I’m in the mood…laugh

So, why does Gould sound so bad at home?? Could there have been some problem during the rip that corrupted the file or perhaps it got converted to a lossy format by accident? I think that I would try to rip it again, it will only cost you a little time.

Otherwise, there are Goldberg remasters available. Here is some info:

Then there is the Zenph, which involves a modern version of the reproducing piano concept. The recording is quite good:

More info on GG:

EDIT: Elk… quick on the draw, he beats me to the “click” again… cool2guns_gif

Hello ponzi,

I too love chamber music. It’s a wonderful thing to play at home, since even a very good stereo cannot truly recreate the effect of a symphony orchestra, but smaller-scale music can come awfully close to live. I spent many hours in my youth learning to play the Goldbergs, and hope to return to them after I retire.

Two comments:

a) How did you rip the CD? dBpoweramp and eac (exact audio copy) both do a good job; some other software may give you lesser quality. Double-check the settings in your ripper. Many of us have found that ripped CDs let you hear more accurately what is in the recording than you do when playing the CD on a player. The DS may reduce this difference, however.

b) Which version of the Goldbergs do you have? The original 1955 recordings were later issued on CD, then IIRC reissued (perhaps not remastered) when Gould recorded them again in 1982. The 1982 recording was early digital, which may not give the best sound. (I was not an audiophile in '82 but was working on the Goldbergs and remember how excited I was to get the new version, on vinyl with a big “Digital recording” slashed across the cover.) The two versions were reissued together in an album titled “A State of Wonder” a few years ago, and I think – but am not 100% sure – that they were remastered at that point. Some internet searching will provide this info, I’m sure, and this might help you get a better-sounding version.

Edit: wow, you have to be fast around here. In the time it took me to compose my message, both Elk and wglenn jumped in with better info.

“I spent many hours in my youth learning to play the Goldbergs, and hope to return to them after I retire.” - magister

Wow. I have a similar goal to play after retirement. In my case, however, it will be with much less skill. I am truly impressed by the levels that some have taken their musical talent to. I regret not putting in the hours of practice needed to become accomplished at an instrument. I would like to, someday, rise beyond the level of “hack” to be able to entertain in a limited fashion.

wglenn said Who cares what others think about the music that you like! No need to be apologetic.
Exactly. And one of the delights of listening to classical music is that there are strong, opinionated interpretations of just about every piece. It would be boring if all interpretations were the same and safe.
EDIT: Elk… quick on the draw, he beats me to the "click" again… cool2guns_gif

To magister, I ripped the CDs right on the Mac. I’ve done the same thing with some very good quality CDs and there seems to be no problem. My guess is that the CD I have is a poor one.

I have both the 1955 and the 1981 versions of the Goldergs. I have the Sony Legacy “State of Wonder” recording and the six CD set by Sony that includes the Variations, Partitas, Toccatas and other things. The latter is 24 bit. I will rip that one and compare. I will also happily follow the leads other have kindly provided.

I do love the Goldbergs. Especially the slower 1981.

If you download the Tokyo String Quartet’s edition of the late string quartets, and you use HD Tracks, be warned that the formatting is messed up. They have all the first movements grouped together, then all the second movements, etc. and even then they are not in order. So, one can’t play, say, no. 13 and move through the movements in order. One has to get up and override the system, picking out the movement that should come next. Worse, the down load will sometimes (but not always, go figure) let one select a track. One picks track “a” and track “F” plays. So one has to just pick at random until the right track cones up.

I contacted HD Tracks about this, and they very politely apologized and sent me a fresh download. But that one was messed up too. I have tried to reshuffle the tracks using my music manager software (Audiervana) but no luck.

@ponzi: Double check the ones that you already ripped to make sure that you are actually listening to ALAC or AIFF and not AAC.

Will do.

ponzi said Will do.
Ponzi, if you are still out there (fellow SHL5+ user), get a copy of Igor Levit's recent recording of the Goldbergs, on a set with the Diabelli's and Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated.

Gould is far too closely mic’ed and the sound is dry with little room effect. At Alan’s London launch of the M40.2 he started with 6 or 7 piano records with increasingly distant mic’ing. I go to recitals mainly at the Wigmore Hall, one of the finest acoustics in the world. Levit played the Diabelli’s there recently and I was in row H to the right, pretty much perfect, very much like the recording. His Goldbergs is a fine performance, but his take on the Diabelli’s is a revelation. He’s only a little chap, but the physical force he employs, especially in Shostakvich’s Sonata no. 2 - he should release a DVD so people get the full picture. He’s doing Bach and Busoni in May, that should be fun.

Get yourself copies of the Beethoven violin sonatas with Alina Ibragimova and Cedric Tiberghein recorded live at Wigmore Hall on the “Wigmore Live” label, or you may be able to stream them. I went to two of the performances, the sound is wonderful. They are performing next Saturday the last of a series of 5 recitals of the complete Mozart sonatas, spread over the last 18 months or so. They are doing a studio recording of these sonatas with Hyperion, due out in the next few months. Hyperion are very fine recordings and the cheapest HD downloads.

Hey, buddy, dun have many ideas but I am not especially acquainted with this adaptation of the Beethoven. I listen principally to the exhibitions of Melos and the Alban Berg. Finest One. Regards: website