Mozart: Piano Concertos 20 & 21 - Gulda, Abbado

Mozart: Piano Concertos 20 & 21 - Gulda, Abbado

Esoteric  ESSG-90182

Stereo Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Mozart: Piano Concertos 20 & 21

Friedrich Gulda (piano)
Wiener Philharmoniker
Claudio Abbado (conductor)

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6 of 6 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

Analogue recording
Comments (33)

Comment by Steven Harrison - June 14, 2018 (1 of 33)


Comment by PaulSARenaud - June 25, 2018 (2 of 33)

@Steven Harrison. Have you listened to the Esoteric version? Can you compare it to the RDCD version. The Esoteric SACD's are expensive and I doubt whether they worth the high price. Last week Deutsche Gramophone release a 24/96 download version of the 25/27 combi with Abbado/Gulda. Much cheaper and in my view same quality as Esoteric. I guess that DG will also release the 20/21 album in 24/96 (They did something similar with more DG/Esoteric releases).

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - June 25, 2018 (3 of 33)

About esoteric in general (I repeat: in general) you may want to read these comments: Tchaikovsky / Dvorak: Serenades for Strings - Davis#comments

Comment by Steven Harrison - June 29, 2018 (4 of 33)

I wrote one word, and only one word. And look what has happened.
I will write a lot more later.

Comment by Steven Harrison - June 29, 2018 (5 of 33)

Yes I have listened to this disc a couple times and my one word comment stands.
I have not listened to any other version of this particular recording.

Your comment reflects somewhat my own views long ago when these Esoterics were first released. Now my views are different.
Your comment reflects a couple of misconceptions by many. One is price. The Esoterics discs are priced at common Japanese price levels. You can buy these at that price as I have outlined in my Bruckner comments. If purchased any other way the price goes up a lot. If not bought at initial release the price goes up a lot. You have to be smart when purchasing these discs. Complaining about the cost will get you nowhere fast.
Your other concern is that other less costly releases of the same music will sound about as good. Well, yes that's probably so. That same thing can be said of any sacd disc, not just these. It's really irrelevant.
I do not really know what Esoteric does to make their discs sound so good. I have speculated about it in the Bruckner disc comments.
You cannot have reservations about purchasing these discs. You can either afford them or not, there is no in between.

Comment by Steven Harrison - June 29, 2018 (6 of 33)

I have done as you suggested and read the comments on the referred to disc, most of which were not about the particular disc. I also read the gramophone forum thread that you referred to, 11 posts and only one poster who seemed to have actual knowledge and nothing really about sacd at all.
As to your own comments on the reissue market versus new recordings, well, everyone has their own opinions and purchase decisions. In the old sacd net forum this topic came up now and again. Robert Von Bahr of BIS was quite strong in his opinion of this, self serving as it was. He was also correct in his view.
New sacd recordings are in direct competition with new rbcd recordings and especially with regards to pricing. Quite simply new sacd recordings are the best thing going in classical music recordings and should be supported vigorously in order to keep them coming. The cost issue is difficult, just ask Jared Sacks. Look at his solution to the issue. Look at all the others who have dropped production of sacds.
Sacd reissues are entirely different, as they do not compete against the rbcd pricing of the same. It seems that the reissue market in Japan is quite strong as that is where most of the reissues are made and sold. The Japanese buyers support the product with their purchases. The Japanese division of the multinational that scorned sacd in 2005, Universal, seems to be one of the biggest producers of these reissue releases. They wouldn't do it if they weren't making proper money doing it.
What Esoteric does is entirely different. They were quite upfront from the beginning about what they were doing with their disc releases.
They also support sacd playback by continuing to produce players.

Comment by Euell Neverno - July 3, 2018 (7 of 33)

Yeah, the players are overpriced too, although very good. If you have to have the sweetening that Esoteric adds, then, I suppose, you will be willing to pay their prices. But, why not get double or quadruple DSD downloads or 24/192, where available? That's higher resolution than the Esoteric product.

Comment by Steven Harrison - July 4, 2018 (8 of 33)

The Esoteric players cost a fair bit. That's hardly the same as overpriced. There is a difference though it is often lost on many.
As to discs, it is just a choice. It is not a choice between Esoterics or Quad DSD or something else. It is just a choice of what you want to buy, whatever that choice may be. No one is forced to buy anything. It's all optional.

Comment by Steven Harrison - July 4, 2018 (9 of 33)

Euell, you have stated that Esoteric adds "sweetening". How do you know this? And what do you mean by "sweetening" anyway. Have you ever listened to an Esoteric disc? I have this disc and quite a few other Esoterics and I think they sound pretty natural to me.

Comment by hiredfox - July 5, 2018 (10 of 33)

Over the years I have owned three high end Esoteric players, all much hyped by reviewers but in reality they produced very clean and clinical sounds - almost a trademark Esoteric sound - that to my ears does not suit classical music. The natural acoustics and timbres of orchestral instruments are not reproduced faithfully and these players frustrated me badly.

Comment by Steven Harrison - July 5, 2018 (11 of 33)

Hi HF, I have only heard an Esoteric player once and that was at an audio show in 2006. I recall the player did have a somewhat typical opamp output stage sound. And that comment would fall in line with yours. But it was all quite long ago.
No matter what, only the Japanese multinationals now support sacd with players. It's mostly Marantz and Esoteric, but Yamaha still offers a player, and I think Pioneer also does. And I think only Marantz and Esoteric are really available outside Japan without special order, and even the Marantz SA-10 is somewhat of a special order item.
Oppo didn't get rich enough selling players and so the biggest budget player is now gone. The budget Marantz offering, the SA-8005 player is out of production.
We can all be thankful that Marantz is still supporting sacd as they do. Esoteric still supports sacd, though at a higher price level.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - July 6, 2018 (12 of 33)

Steven I don’t think anyone, nor me, is challenging your enthusiasm for Esoteric. It is your choice and your money. As you rightly say in a previous comment: “everyone has their own opinions and purchase decisions”. If you are happy with Esoteric and Friedrich Gulda happens to be your favourite pianist, then why not. Just like other, often elderly music lovers do, should they wish to replace their damaged LP-era heroes with the best possible re-mastered re-issues. The more so, because Esoteric’s criterion of re-mastering is “to faithfully capture the quality of the original master tapes” (website).

According to my dictionary ‘esoteric’ means – “intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest”. That clearly applies to you and those sharing your point of view.

As we both know, appreciation of musical content and perception of sound quality is subjective and often depending on equipment, and for measuring the degree of ‘truthfulness’, the possibility to compare a recording to what one hears in real life concerts. As I don’t owe any Esoteric’s, I’m not able to judge if they sound as close to ‘the real thing’ as do some of the best recorded modern SACD’s. But should this be the case, fact remains that the price tag is steep. On top of that, and for many, including me, no doubt a factor of prime importance: These re-issues are not available in surround. Today’s original high resolution versions with current top rated musicians are.

By the way, the number / brands of SACD (Blu-Ray) players is not as bad as suggested: There still is a whole range available in the European Market of affordable (surround) players like Marantz, Denon, Onkyo, Sony, Arcam, Cambridge and more..

Comment by Steven Harrison - July 7, 2018 (13 of 33)

Hi Adrian, interesting to read your comments.
I have 29 Esoteric releases in my collection. I also have 117 BIS titles out of a collection of 1012 classical sacd's. So cut the stuff about "my enthusiasm for Esoteric". Just stick to commenting on what I write. And I never wrote about a favorite pianist.
Also, you can cut the comments about "elderly music lovers" etc. That's rubbish.

Esoteric is the declared company name of the high end division of Teac Corporation. If it has any relevance to a dictionary definition, perhaps you could take it up with them.

Everyone has their own reasons for purchasing their music discs of choice. I think it best to just leave it at that.

Comment by Tony Reif - July 13, 2018 (14 of 33)

Hiredfox, if Esoteric players don't do justice to classical music (and I've never heard any of them myself), what do you recommend, at a lower price-point than the most expensive Esoterics?

Comment by hiredfox - July 13, 2018 (15 of 33)

Hi Tony

I make no claim to be an expert on hi fi technology, those sort of judgements are best left to people like Martin Colloms and Ken Kessler who get their hands on a wide range of components in their professional roles as equipment reviewers but there again each has a different view as to what on constitutes good sounds.

Every marque seems to possess a characteristic 'house' sound and it seems to be a truism that if you like one product of a marque it is likely you will like others of their range equally.

For me the company that has consistently best been able to make hi fi sound like real music is Marantz although Accuphase also do a reasonable job of reproduction. In my view and experience, dCS consistently disappoint with their more affordable players which are or were quite un-musical.

Marantz's success has been built upon the singular ability of their tuning 'guru' Ken Ishiwata who seems to have golden ears when listening to music and an uncanny ability to fine tune Marantz players to reproduce exactly the sound he hears. For many the results are very agreeable indeed as witnessed by the stampede to buy pre-owned equipment that has had his design seal. Needless to say pre-owned models in good condition are highly sought after and attract good money.

For me their new flagship the SA 10 is the most realistic sounding SACD player I have heard anywhere and internet forums agree. The player is not cheap but not all that expensive either as hi fi prices go these days. What is unique and winning in this design is that the DSD signal read at input from a SACD disc is kept in the DSD domain throughout the player with no recourse to D/A conversion using any form of PCM. Since the input signal is quasi-analogue so the output is quasi analogue and boy does it sound right! It took little convincing for me to buy the SA 10 as it reproduces the timbre and colours of acoustic instruments in a way that no other player can match yielding by far the closest approach to real sounds yet including voice. Ken Ishiwata's of course.

Comment by hiredfox - July 14, 2018 (16 of 33)

I should have added that Marantz players are stereo only, my recommendation for mch remains the Sony XA5400ES even 'though it is no longer in production. They can be found on eBay occasionally but hold their price well.

Many have enjoyed using Oppo's various incarnations for SACD much but they are not purpose built CD players and will not deliver the level of performance realism of the Marantz or Sony players.

Comment by Steven Harrison - July 15, 2018 (17 of 33)

I would just like to second the comments made by HF about Marantz players. The build quality for all the players is excellent. As to the players lower in cost than the SA-10, if one can acquire one of the KI branded models on the used market, these are excellent value. I recently acquired a SA-7001KI player as a backup and I was very impressed with the build quality inside the box. The KI editions are factory authorized parts upgrades and worth the price.
As to the Marantz "house sound", Ken really likes those HDAM modules, which are discrete parts operational amplifiers. I don't necessarily fancy this sound, but Marantz certainly does as they use these HDAM's in everything they make. It's really hard to go wrong with a Marantz SACD player.

Comment by Euell Neverno - July 16, 2018 (18 of 33)

In response to Stephen Harrison's question about "sweetening": only the technicians at Esoteric know what they do with particular files. However, what you believe is a significant improvement of sound over and above the Polygram originals almost certainly involves more than a simple remix. The processing may include elimination of low-level street noise, for example, all the way up to and possibly including digital manipulation of frequency response to emphasize certain bands, such as high bass, to add a feeling of depth. A recording, like a photograph, is an imperfect reproduction of what is recorded. And, what is recorded can often be "improved" or made more consistent with what memory reflects was heard or seen. The use of digital manipulations to achieve such results would not necessarily result in a sound that is unnatural to the listener, and may, in fact, be more pleasing than the original.

Comment by Steven Harrison - July 17, 2018 (19 of 33)

You should have stopped after your first sentence. Best to just stick to what you actually know.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - July 17, 2018 (20 of 33)

Steven, don’t dig in your heels too deeply. I refrained from reacting to your earlier ‘cut that stuff’ remarks, because I think it is not helpful for any discussion on this site. You like what you like and others are free to think otherwise.

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