Xiang Yu & Sietse-Jan

 Mozart Duo. K. 423

Unlike string quartet, piano trio, or violin and piano duo, string duo is a relatively limited form, which doesn’t provide composers enough free rein to illustrate their musical imagination. However, Mozart handled this form in such mastery way that the two distinctive voices are beautifully balanced.

In the summer of 1783, Mozart visited Joseph Haydn’s brother, Michael Haydn, who was extremely ill. Michael Haydn, on the other hand, had just finished four of the six duos, which was commissioned by the Archbishop; however, he was afraid of not finishing the rest of the commission due to his illness. Knowing his friend’s despair, Mozart composed two duos in only two days and wanted Michael Haydn to put his name on and send them to the Archbishop.

As beautiful as the story is, it is more than obvious that these two duos are highly Mozartian and no one would possibly take that by mistake.

Both duos are originally composed for violin and viola. By changing the viola part one octave down, Werner Reiner arranged them to be suitable for playing on a cello. For me, the combination of violin and cello provided a wider range of color and sonority compared to violin and viola.

This G major Duo is one of my favorite duos. Unlike many other classical string duos which tends to put the viola/cello in the position of accompanying the violin all the time, Mozart made these two voice relatively equal so that the listeners can almost hear constant active conversations between two instruments from beginning to end.

In the recording session, SJ and I were trying to explore different possibilities to bring out as many colors as possible without losing the spontaneity. In the minor section of the third movement, we bravely decided to use baroque-like bowings and sound to fit the shape of the music. In contrast to the major section that contains fast running triplets and trills, such special minor section brings us to a completely different world of simplicity. Too stylistic? Too simple? Too complicated? I guess it’s better to let the listeners judge.


About the Recording:
This recording was made in a natural acoustic setting and recorded with analogue tape. Great care was taken to capture the true sound of the duo in a natural acoustic space. Our goal was to turn away from the current trend of heavily edited, sonically boosted, crystal clear digital releases. Hence, no track has been edited in any way – all tracks have been recorded in a single take. There has been no signal processing, no reverb added – the image & balance comes directly from the two microphones. These were a matched pair of Royer R-122v vacuum tube ribbon mics connected with custom made silver cables. The microphone preamp was a custom unit designed & built by tube maven Tony Ma. It is based on the Western Electric WE437a input tube & the WE300B output tube (2 of the best sounding tubes in audio). The use of a direct heating triode lets more of the real emotion of the music thru. It’s an all transformer coupled, capacitor-less design with custom wound silver input step-up, interstage & output transformers. All interconnects were custom made silver cables with an active powered shielding to reduce interference. The recorder was a 2 track Studer A80 running at 15ips on the NAB standard – the record amp was a custom unit based on the 6900 tube designed by Tony Ma. Duplication was performed one at a time to another Studer A80 using a custom tubed output stage driven by WE437a tubes – the resulting tape is a very close approximation of the master tape. We hope you enjoy the results.
Monitoring System:
STAX SRM 006tA vacuum tube electrostatic headphones were used on the tape machine. The total playback system electronics and interconnect cables were custom designed and built by Tony Ma.
The line stage was based on a pair of Western Electric WE300B’s with custom wound silver input, output transformers & Shalco volume controls.

The speakers were Quad ESL 63’s running full range powered by a pair of parallel, single-ended WE300B monoblock amplifiers. The subwoofers were custom designed by Focal using their Audiom 15WX drivers. The amplifier is based on the RCA 838 transmission tube.

The super high tweeters are JBL 2405 drivers sitting on the Quads. The amplifier is based on the RCA 826 transmission tube. All amplifiers are transformer coupled, capacitor-less designs utilizing the Western Electric WE 437a input tube, and all have custom wound silver input, interstage and output transformers.

The signal crossover was designed on a pair of WE 300B’s to split the signal at 15KHz and 80 Hz to the super-high and woofer respectively. Both run as additive to the Quads.
UltraAnalogue Recordings 2013

Produced by Edward Pong
Recorded and mastered by Edward Pong
Recorded at Pong Studio on: Mozart Duo – April 21, 2013, Passacaglia – April 22, 2013, Claire de Lune – April 21, 2013
Notes by Sietse-Jan Weijenberg
Photos by Edward Pong
Many thanks to Tony Ma for his passion & genius in the design of the tubed mic pre-amp, tubed record & playback amps for the Studer A80 recorder & monitoring electronics
Many thanks to Roger Ginsley for his passion & technical support of this adventure.
For more information on UltraAnalogue Recordings, contact info@ultraanaloguerecordings.com

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