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Die Röhre - The Tube
Glowing Baroque
Arcangelo Corelli: Concerto Grosso Op. 6 No. 7 in D major; Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber: Battalia a 10; Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto alla Rustica in G major, RV 151; Luigi Boccherini: La Musica Notturna delle stade di Madrid; Giovanni Battista Sammartini: Sinfonia in F major, JC 35. Stuttgart Kammerorchester.

Review by Wayne Donnelly
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The Tube -- Glowing Baroque

LP Stock Number: TACET L 74


  It's easy to see where the folks at TACET are coming from. Besides the title, three of the four sides of this gatefold album celebrate glowing glass. Beautifully detailed photos and the text narrative relate in detail the story of locating and restoring the completely tube-driven recording chain, and the meticulous process of manufacturing this "transistor-free" LP. Notes on the music and the musicians get the back cover.

I often find this sort of audiophilia uber alles approach irritating, but TACET skates through for two reasons: the sound is in fact absolutely stunning, and the well chosen baroque compositions receive buoyant performances. The Tube can by no means be lumped into the "great sound/lousy music" category so often encountered in audiophile recordings.

About that sound: I have seldom heard on any record such beguiling warmth and sheer tonal beauty from a body of strings. The hall acoustic is moderately reverberant and sufficiently distant to avoid any in-your-face quality. (This otherwise impressively notated album for some reason does not specify the recording location.) Solos emerge naturally from the group in true baroque concertante style, with no spot-miking.

Corelli's Opus 6 Concerti Grossi are a cornerstone of the baroque repertoire. The present performance of No. 7 doesn't really challenge the incisive and energetic reading by Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque on Harmonia Mundi, but its lush beauty is completely seductive. The Vivaldi, at less than four minutes, seems like a perfect redaction of the three-movement Vivaldi violin concerto, with all of the usual gestures in place. The Sammartini offers a particularly lovely slow movement.

But most interesting are the earliest and latest compositions offered here. Biber's 1674 Battalia is early program music, replete with special effects such as striking the instrument bodies and drawing paper through the strings -- a truly eerie sound. It's a hoot. And if you like this, check out Biber's violin sonatas played by Romanesca on Harmonia Mundi, in which the composer sometimes has the musicians imitate birds and animals. A fun guy, that Ignaz. The 1780 Boccherini piece is also programmatic. While not as delightfully wacky as the Biber, it is also a charmer.

Many listeners will know the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra from its many Decca/London recordings under conductor Karl Munchinger. Here the ensemble is reduced to 17 players, including first violinist Benjamin Hudson, who in baroque fashion serves as Leader in lieu of a conductor with baton. (The cover of the album proclaims, "no conductor, no semiconductor." I love it!) The ensemble plays with precision, finesse and infectious spirit. I find myself smiling with pleasure as soon as this record begins to play -- and I'll bet you would too.

The hefty 180 gram disc is dead silent -- truly impressive. I understand that there is also a CD. Although that seems somehow contradictory to the spirit of this enterprise, I'd say go for the CD if you are all-digital. Given the care lavished on the recording chain, the CD is bound to be well above average.












































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