Recording of February 1984: Beethoven/Enescu Violin Sonatas
BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata in G, Op.96
ENESCU: Violin Sonata No.3, Op.25 (In Rumanian Style)
David Abel, violin, Julie Steinberg, piano
Wilson Audio W-8315 (LP). David Wilson, prod., eng. AAA.
Oh, what a breath of fresh air this is! An audiophile recording of real music that isn't bombastic, overblown, or high-powered.
Imagine, if you can, a private recital in your own home by two consummate artists who play these works for their own delight as much as for yours. Imagine sound so completely and disarmingly natural that after 30 seconds you're unaware it's reproduced. That's what this record is all about (footnote 1).
I could rhapsodize endlessly about this record, but I won't. Suffice it to say that if you think there's even a remote chance you'll like this music, you will be positively mesmerized by this recording of it. I'm forced to wonder, though, what would have happened to the sales of chamber music recordings (traditionally the worst sellers) if ones like this had been available ten years ago.
I am being restrained about this record simply because my inclination is to go completely overboard. Could you envision a recording of piano and violin getting Stereophile's coveted Definitive Disc Award. I can. This may be next.J. Gordon Holt
LA Comments: I won't be so restrained. To my mind, this is of the most significant records I've every heard. It, along with Tafelmusik and Symphonie Fantastique records from Reference Recordings and the Strauss and Dvorák record from Sheffield Lab, marks the breakthrough of audiophile record companies into the mainstream of classical music. This is welcome news indeed, particularly coming from Wilson Audio. David Wilson's recordings have tended to favor the spectacular, although his organ recordings have been well-received by a larger audience.
Even more interesting, this record retains the virtues of an audiophile evaluation record. The violin sound on this disc is astonishingly real: when heard both at CES and in my home it sounded as if the violin was right in the room! It's the first time I've heard this effect with a violin and a gorgeous violin it is. As a bonus, we hear the piano's lower registers rendered very convincingly: lots of authority, but not overpowering. This recording was done with Dave's faithful Revox A77 (modified); I can't wait to hear what he does with his new tape recorder from John Curl.
Not only that, the performers, as mentioned by JGH, appear to be in love with their music-making. This record captures the feeling of being at a truly inspired performancewhich is one of the really exciting things about music, even when the performers are not internationally known. Steinberg and Abel appear to have played together a lot. Steinberg tends to be the more forceful performer, Abel the more lyrical.
The two pieces contrast greatly. The Beethoven sonata is one of his more gentle and lyrical pieces; the Enescu is passionate, almost violent. Each piece is presented in a unique styleone might almost suspect the performers were not the same. I enjoyed the Beethoven more, but I think the performers were more excited by the Enescu. Overall, it's hard for me to imagine a reader of this magazine who would not be delighted to own this record.Larry Archibald
Footnote 1: Holt's Law of Recordings"The better the performance, the worse the sound"is being soundly pilloried these days. Its repeal may soon be necessary, which would not make Holt at all unhappy.J. Gordon Holt