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No. 108 May 2013

CONVERSATIONS XIV: NOT ONLY THE MUSIC

Misteria Paschalia 2013
Ten years of beauty

[…] I can say that Misteria Paschalia is among the most daring, bravest and professionally organised musical enterprises in Europe. Kraków is almost the only place where I’ve got the chance to present a whole series of original and unique projects, far away from the alienating strategies of the world music market, in the atmosphere of exploration and constant discovery – and that is, for me, the most important thing about our repertoire.
Fabio Biondi

Although it might seem that courtesy dictated these words, the moment’s need, or the need for creating a diploma for the 10-year anniversary of the Kraków-based festival, all the unanimously positive – sometimes nearly ecstatic – opinions of other performers, conductors, and music critics from around the world, require us to take these words literally. Placed in the newest, wonderfully prepared (as always) program of the Misteria Paschalia festival, they harmonize with what Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennet, Giovanni Antonini, and Claudio Cavina say. Because this really is a period cut out of the flow of time, suspended in the Passion Week on the highest level of performance and organization. Even if we don’t agree with everything contained within the program booklet, if we’d rate some events or artists differently, if some comparisons, such as calling Julia Leżniewa the “second Callas” aren’t – in our opinion! – entirely accurate, all of this can be discussed and be the basis of agreeing on some points of contact without getting too far away from each other.

This year’s festival is special not only because it again gathers an elite of historically-performed early music, but for the reason we’ve already mentioned – we’re celebrating its 10th anniversary. That’s why the inaugural concert of Haendel’s oratorium Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (HWV 46a) began the internal accent, so to speak. The event leader, Izabela Helbin – the director of the Krakow Festival Bureau, and Łukasz Modelski – the vice editor-in-chief of “Twój Styl”, privately a fan of the festival – gave special prizes to the people who make the festival what it is – Złote Słuchacze (Gold Listeners). A surprising, yet – when you think about it – perfect present for music lovers: gold editions of headphones (unfortunately I didn’t notice what brand they were) on great-looking stands. You can complain about the fact that the “givers” were also the “receivers”, because the prizes were given to representatives of institutions, companies and organisations which support the festival from its first edition, e.g. the director of the Krakow power plant (strategic partner), the directors of the Wieliczka Salt Mine, which holds one of the concerts every year, the directors of Radio Channel 2, which has broadcasted and recorded all of the concerts from the very start, and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, which has generously sponsored the festival from its roots. On the other hand, the festival would not exist without these people, certainly not on this scale, because events this size need money, media support, the hard work of many people and passion. That’s why these “presents” must exist; and it’s a good thing.

I write this after the first concert, the aforementioned Haendel. I won’t make a fool of myself analysing it, I’m not a musicologist. However, I feel inclined to jot down a few observations, regarding not only the concert but the event as a whole.
I’ve mentioned the program booklet already, but I’d like to underline this again: it was really well-prepared material that you just need to have, even if you didn’t attend the festival. The presence and voice of Julia Leżniewa (Lezhneva) really was something. The petite Russian from Sakhalin is one of the greatest vocal revelations in the past few years. At the age of 23 she has achieved more than many singers achieve through their entire lifetime. Discovered and introduced to “the salons” by Marc Minkowski, who she recorded her first album with, she was invited to Kraków by Giovanno Antonini, the conductor and leader of Il Giardino Armonico, one of the biggest stars among early music performers. Released by Dekka in the same week as MP was her newest album, Alleluia, recorded with Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini. I think it wasn’t a coincidence that the legendary record label planned this premiere to fall during these days precisely.
All this delight is reasonable – Leżniewa was dazzling as Piacere. And she was singing alongside the wonderful Sara Mingardo (Disingano), the really good Roberta Invernizzi (Belleza), and Krystian Adam Krzeszowiak (Tempo) who wasn’t bad – all of whom had a much longer career and much bigger repertoire. The Russian is, however, really quite the phenomenon and comparing her to anyone would not be in order. We acknowledged this, stomping, clapping, yelling “Bravo!” after almost every single one of her arias – especially after the remarkable Lascia la spina.
It’s worth mentioning the problems, though. The Krakow Filharmonia (Concert Hall) is, as I’ve previously said, a place with particularly bad acoustics. And a small foyer. Not every repertoire works well there. Projects with a great level of dynamics, with a lot of quiet parts, work the worst there. And that’s exactly how Giovanni Antonini led his team. The performance, remarkable on its own, didn’t “break through” the dull acoustics of the interior, on the larger part. It was simply too quiet. It’s one of those cases when music fares much better listened at home, played on high quality audio system. You can then admire each, even the slightest, change, playing with pauses, silence, and subtlety. This has to be a recording done in a good hall, though – even the best sound engineer won’t be able to help with a catastrophe like this. A great example of this are the two CDs with Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante’s performance from 2006 and 2007, co-released by the Polish Radio Channel II and the Misteria Paschalia festival. It’s impossible to listen to them. Although the repertoire is great, and the performance unique – the sound is so bad, it spoils all the fun. I don’t recommend it.

And the Europa Galante sounded fantastic at the previous, 9th edition of Misteria Paschalia. When speaking to Andrzej, who I listen to some stuff together at Janusz’s place during the meetings of the Krakow Sonic Society, we agreed that this might’ve been because the musicians played upright. Il Giardino Armonico were seated. The difference in clarity, selectiveness and sonority was visibly better in last year’s performance. Perhaps this would be a way out?
I also heard from some people that the event became a bit too „Italian” for them, waiting for Jordi Savall, promoting his new project Copernicus, and for Marc Minkowski (Friday), who was meant to play with Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble. That might be a bit true, but it’s difficult to dispute the QUALITY of the festival – it’s just top-notch. Once a year we have a world-class event in Poland. Let’s use that opportunity!

Nie-piękna Polska
www.polskikicz.pl

Dear Mr. Wojtek!

I’d like to invite you to our newly-opened page:
www.polskikicz.pl
This page exists thanks to you, to some extent – you were the first to start publishing my "texts". We’ve reserved the honorary title of “godfather” for you... ;-). [Ed. Note: a reference to the cycle Plichtowskie Spotkanie Soniczne – czyli „PSS społem”, see HERE ]

We’re a group of architects and art historians who care about the lack of cultural and aesthetical education of society. We also notice a gradual, yet increasingly quick demoralization of cultural and social life, leaving it with without any element of ethics, on the layer of its creators and receivers alike.

Through our popular-scientific work, mentioning many socio-cultural topics on our website, we will try to express our objection to any and all kitschiness expressing itself in the arts, and in the wide spectrum of culture. We’ll brand the expression of morally-devoid decisions made by creators, who try their hardest to become the next big thing on a market sucked dry of the rules of ethics. We’ll try following up our critique with a lot of examples for improvement, whenever possible. We hope that our articles will be interesting and intriguing enough to positively impact the readers, perhaps opening their eyes to topics and things previously unnoticed. Through encouraging the readers to send letters and pictures we can positively influence their critical perception of problems or their immediate surroundings. This can be the reason for the heightening of their social sensitivity, and thus their aesthetical sensitivity, too.

We believe that only these “grassroots” activities, addressing every person directly as a component of society, can bring a socially positive effect in fighting the deepening crisis in whatever falls under the broad conundrums of culture and the arts.
The website will be a monthly periodical – with a new article on the main page every month, which is all our free time allows for. We want the page to be a live platform for exchanging ideas, which is why we’ll also have a forum and a section for user-sent photos and letters (we hope to receive some, eventually). I invite you to get familiar with the website and read the content on it. I know we’re just beginning to crawl, but I hope you like the idea.

Arch. Witek Kamiński

“High Fidelity in “Positive Feedback OnLine” and “Stereophile” (sort of)

Since we try to show the places where “High Fidelity” makes an appearance, we’d like to mention two places where the name of our magazine has appeared recently. “Positive Feedback Online” is the first of them. David Robinson, the editor-in-chief, whom we interviewed a month earlier, spoke pleasantly about our conversation, encouraging everyone to read HF. You can read about it HERE. We talk about different things, including potential cooperation between our magazines. We don’t know what will come out of all of this, what this cooperation would look like, and that’s why you should just patiently wait for the situation to unfold. The second magazine in which the “High Fidelity” logo has appeared is “Stereophile”. More accurately, it “sort of” appeared there – on an advertisement of an AMG gramophone. A month earlier in “The Absolute Sound”, and now in “Stereophile”, the logo of the Statement Award appeared next to the awards of TAS and “TONEAudio” magazines. It’s really something! It’s probably the first time that this American distributor decided to use a Polish award to promote his product in such an important magazine.

EMTEBE Emtebe
We’ve got free download codes for his CD again

Hello again!

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You can listen to it here: LINK.
You can enter the codes here: LINK.

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Best regards,
Emtebe

www.emtebe.com

MUSIC

Bottleneck John
All Around Man
Opus3, CD 23001, SACD/CD (2013)

The heart of my music is the genuine sound of resonator guitars. I just love the mechanically amplified sound... Bottleneck John

And it’s all clear. Bottleneck John performs blues music, accompanying himself on the guitar – one of many resonator guitars collected by him, in fact (see HERE). The album All Around Man is a melancholic perspective of the world, beautiful melodies, interesting harmonies. The musician is kept company by friends on more classical instruments, meaning it is not a one-dimensional album. It’s very pleasant to listen to, which I can easily say despite not being a big blues fan
It is helped by the fleshy sound of John’s voice and the accurately captured sound of his guitar. Soundstage is excellent, as usual for Opus3, not overdone, very natural. I wish the other instruments were a little deeper, more "present", and the upper registers of Bottleneck’s vocal a bit smoother. However, we can say that this is a top sound, hardly anyone records now that way - both natural and tangible. And one more thing - brilliant resolution; thing with which you can test your (not only) system.

Sound quality: 9-10/10


Lisa Ekdahl
Lisa Ekdahl at the Olympia, Paris
Sony Music, 58342, CD + DVD (2011)

Though we usually review new and newest albums, I decided to make an exception in the case of Lisa Ekdahl’s album – I simply missed it, and this way I wanted to make up for falling behind. This Swedish singer with the voice of a child, who usually performs jazz tracks, but not only, is a phenomenon. The songs she sings gain a completely new meaning than when someone else performs them – they’re more delicate, emotionally deeper, more sensitive. Heard once, she remains “under the skin” forever, if you like her. Her best album is Back To Earth (BMG Sweden AB, 14632), released in 1998. This concert at the Parisian Olympia is, however, a great supplement to her discography. It’s a must for all fans – and a great introduction for those who still haven’t become acquainted with her. I highly recommend it!
Especially as the sound is really nice. It’s a concert with all the limitations of this type of recording, but Ekdahl’s voice is nicely presented, as are the depth and correct tonal balance. The album is just pleasant to listen to. The DVD comes as a bonus.

Sound quality: 7-8/10


Best Of Bond… James Bond. 50 Years – 50 Tracks
MGM/Capitol, 281820, 2 x CD (2012)

We’re dealing with an album containing the opening theme songs for James Bond movies here – enough said. These recordings, spanning from 1963-2008, beginning with the main theme, played by The John Barry Orchestra, all the way to Another Way To Die performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys (a fantastic song!), differ in recording quality and value. They are surprisingly nice to listen to, though, especially if we’re fans of the charming, cynical, gentlemanly, auto-ironic and human (depending on the actor portraying him) Agent 007. Adele’s recording, one of the best in the history of Bond movies, is missing, as the album had been released before the single with Skyfall was released. In addition to the 23 songs, the second CD contains instrumental tracks from the movies. They’re boring, but they’re part of the title 50 Years – 50 Tracks.

Sound quality: 6-8/10


About Us

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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the Music.com”, “Positive-Feedback.com”“HiFiStatement.net”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

Once a year, we prepare a printed edition of one of reviews published online. This unique, limited collector's edition is given to the visitors of the Audio Show in Warsaw, Poland, held in November of each year.

For years, "High Fidelity" has been cooperating with other audio magazines, including “Enjoy the Music.com” and “Positive-Feedback.com” in the U.S. and “HiFiStatement.net”  in Germany. Our reviews have also been published by “6moons.com”.

You can contact any of our contributors by clicking his email address on our CONTACT  page.

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