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Mozart Piano Concertos No. 20 K.466, No. 27 K.595

Clifford Curzon(piano), Benjamin Britten(conductor)

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▼Esoteric Mozart Piano Concerto hybrid SACD Press Release (click images for full view)

When Esoteric Company first released a re-mastered edition of the late Günther Wand’s RCA Beethoven Symphonies complete cycle in the 1st quarter of 2007, it was an unprecedented move by a high-end audio equipment manufacturer. In retrospect, what better marketing move for a company using its own top master clock and monaural D/A converters to remaster a complete Beethoven Symphonies cycle, performed by world-class artists from a major record label? Now, almost two years later, Estoeric® remains the only audio company in the world with the financial and technological resources to produce such a product. As for the aforementioned disc set? Completely sold out.

The story didn’t end there. In the same year, the company released a 2nd classical disc, this time a Beethoven Overtures hybrid SACD, also employing the same, top electronics in the re-mastering process. But none other than Mr. Sugano of Stereo Sound supervised the process, and the original master tapes came from Sony Classical. Mr. Sugano, an accomplished recording engineer in his own right, has been the guiding force behind Stereo Sound for decades and has made numerous highly regarded audiophile recordings in his career. It is no overstatement to say that the Esoteric disc is a milestone in recording history, and a vast understatement to say that owning the disc is like owning a piece of recording history. Read the Dagogo Music Review here.

Esoteric Company now releases a 3rd hybrid SACD, the Mozart Piano Concertos No. 20 K466 and No. 27 K595, and the company’s intentions became even clearer. Teac Esoteric is passionate about music.

It is noteworthy that in their original releases from the 70s and 80s, none of the 3 recordings now re-released in hybrid SACDs was of audiophile concern of today’s standards, although they all are of enduring, notable artistic value. Günther Wand was a renowned German conductor of considerable statue, and since the 90s, his RCA Beethoven cycle has been discovered and received very enthusiastically by many weary Beethoven connoisseurs seeking a reassuring lineage to the great conductors of old. One of such podium figures that the classical world continues to look up to is the 81-year-old Sir Colin Davis of the aforementioned Esoteric Beethoven Overture disc, who also possesses a repertoire most impressive in his Berlioz and Mozart readings. Regrettably, Wand passed away in 2002 at the age of 90, another giant departed from the mass of us who loved him and celebrated his life.

Make no mistake: Teac Esoteric’s 3rd release harnesses no lesser star power than the aforementioned discs. These Mozart Piano Concertos were performed by Sir Clifford Curzon, whom the late New York Times music critic Harold C. Schonberg described as the greatest Mozart player for many listeners, whose Mozart pianissimos “seemed to carry multiple degrees of shading.” This was also the very recording which garnered the ultra-rare “rosette” recognition from the Penguin Guide in the late 90s.

Of all the classical music instruments, the piano will always be the one that allows man to communicate with his own inner self, particularly in solo piano pieces. But this is a Piano Concerto disc, and a Mozart one no less, and the Curzon touch was not the only thing very definitive about this disc. Back in Mozart’s times, orchestras were comparatively small, and Mozart did not write his Concertos to complement the strength of a 100-piece ensemble. In this light, the English Chamber Orchestra struck the precious balance that we almost don’t get anymore with many otherwise delightful renditions.

The result was a masterfully reinvigorated recording in a most splendidly resurrected suite of tonality and substance, in which the scale of the ensemble was as authentic as one can experience in the presence of such rare musicianship. Some will argue that a pianoforte would have been nicer to preserve the original flavor of the sound as intended by Mozart himself. Well, we are all too late now.

The sonic glory of this Esoteric-remastered Decca disc has been brought up to date alongside the more recent recordings; and although it will not surpass the best-sounding piano recordings made in the last few years, the Redbook layer of this Esoteric hybrid SACD, re-mastered using Esoteric G-0Rb and D-01 hardware, Esoteric MEXCEL® wires, cables and power cords, plus the JVC XRCD master recording process, carries the mastery performance of a bygone era so deeply rooted in artistry but not sheer flamboyancy, that it continues to define the genius of the piece.

Therefore, the intimate sound of the piano was not forsaken in this re-release of the Decca recording, if not all the more revealed. When the pianists and conductors listen to their own recording before approval is given, they set themselves aside and examine their own reading as if it was played by someone else. When we listen, we tend to impose our expectations subconsciously of what we ought to get out of the first listening of a recording. And when an audiophile listens, the first indiscreet moment of sonics from a disc is enough to inform him of his plan for its future. This Esoteric re-master of the Curzon Mozart Piano Concertos hit all the right notes on all levels.

I applaud Esoteric’s President Motoaki Ohmachi, the producer of this series of discs, for his efforts and vision in reintroducing these treasures of the musical world to the world again. I can’t wait to see what he has planned next.

I can’t be happier.

Or as I thought, for as this review was minutes away from going online, Mark Gurvey of Esoteric Company informed me of at least two more new releases to be announced officially in three days at the upcoming 2009 CES:

Antonin Dvořák
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 “From the New World”
István Kertész with Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Decca)

Manuel de Falla
The Three Corner Hat
Teresa Berganza, soprano
Ernest Ansermet with L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

I can’t be happier!

From liner notes: SACD/CD re-mastering was carried out on August 26, 2008 at JVC Mastering Center.

Esoteric products list for re-mastering

D-01VU D/A converter
G-Orb Master Clock Signal Generator (Rubidium)
Esoteric Mexcel Cables (BNC, XLR, AC)

Review systems:

For Feastrex Makoto field-coil loudspeaker system:
47 Laboratory 4704 PiTracer CD transport
Audio Note DAC 5 Special
Pass Laboratory X0.2 preamplifier system
Red Rock Renaissance tube monoblock amplifiers
MIT Z Powerbar power conditioner

For AcousticPlan Veena loudspeaker system:
47 Laboratory 4704 PiTracer CD transport
Wadia Reference Series 9 Decoding Computer system
Pass Laboratory XA100.5 solid-state monoblock amplifiers
MIT Z Powerbar power conditioner

*I would like to thank Yoshi Segoshi of Sakura Systems for pointing out Günther Wand’s correct nationality and age at death.

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