“Tubes Only Favorites”? What’s this, RCA tubes, socks, tires, department store vacuum tube systems? No, it about making recordings using only equipment made with good oldfashioned tubes—microphones, amplifiers, pre-amps, faders, recording equipment. Yes, I was skeptical too, knowing that good recordings depend on many other factors as well— halls, mike placement, and all the production steps that affect what we actually put into our players. But once I started listening, all skepticism vanished. This is without question the smoothest sounding album I have heard in years. And the mike placement is perfect, with a warm balanced set-it-and-forget-it sound.

On top of that, when I was done listening, my spouse who was ironing simply said, “That one’s a keeper, isn’t it!” Gaede is the former concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic, Kühnl is pianist for orchestras in Berlin, and here they make a stunning hand-in-glove team.

Sibelius’s Novelette, Op. 120:1, and Fauré’s ‘Apres un Reve’ are long-lined and lyrically flowing with rich tone color and subtle rubato. The duo turns Vittorio Monti’s famous Czardas into an old-world “my darling babushka” foot stomp with moments of recitative and portamento. Their tight rhythms and consummate style are nonpareil. These arrangements of Debussy’s ‘Valse Romantique’ and especially ‘Clair de Lune’ are exquisitely played; I listened intently to both artists wrap themselves around each other’s leads.

Falla’s ‘Jota’ moves from a shimmer to a slight glissando to a tour de force with a few violin bars played eerily on the bridge. Schubert’s Serenade Leise Flehen Meine Lieder (Silent Plead My Songs) has such slush potential, but here it moves alertly and elegantly. In Shostakovich’s Prelude, Op. 34:1 the violin digs out the melancholy beautifully with double stops. Fauré’s ‘Berceuse’ is the perfect followup to ‘Pierrot’s Dance-Song’ from Korngold’s Tote Stadt—same key but contrasting brightness with darkness. And Paganini’s ‘Cantabile’ is the perfect follow-up to Rachmaninoff ’s Romance, Op. 6:1. Gaede and Kühnl wrap the Rachmaninoff in melancholy, rubato, and deep emotion, turning it into a statement. In the Paganini listen to Kühnl’s obbligato—infinite variety, no monotony, and what a wonderfully inventive, lithe, (improvised?) coda.

Arensky’s Serenade, Op. 30:2 is straight out of Sardi’s, as everyone gradually puts down their silverware and can’t help but listen. And listen to the breadth of violin shading and expression in Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 73:1—”hear ‘em again for the first time”!

I’ve heard Kreisler’s arrangement of Dvorak’s ‘Slavonic Fantasy’ a hundred times but never as lovely as this, in both instruments. Clara Schumann’s Romance, Op. 22:1, is not especially outstanding. The only real disappointment is the final selection, Rachmaninoff’s ‘Vocalise’. It was recorded apart from the other 18 selections; the sound is not as resonant— more air is needed around both instruments. Nor is the performance as inspired: no portamentos in the violin, the transcription seems thin, and at 5:20 its full length is cut short.

Forget those last two selections, 9 minutes out of 66. As my spouse said, “This one’s a keeper.”


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