By Steve Williams, WBF owner:
Things have been quiet for Ed Pong at Ultraanalogue recordings due to the Covid pandemic and only recently did Ed release his latest tapes. I have to admit that I was somewhat reluctant at first hearing only a piano sonata without accompaniment but knowing the quality put into the recording process by Ed I felt that I had to take. the plunge. I received the tapes about 2 weeks ago but a failing pinch roller on my Studer caused a delay in listening until a new pinch roller could be obtained. I was finally able to listen to these tapes a few times over the past few days and I have to admit that it was a sobering experience to listen to tape as a format having spent most of my listening time recently with my new Horizon paired with the Taiko Extreme. Suffice it to say these tapes are simply marvelous. Vadym Kholodenko is a true master pianist . There have been posts recently about how a piano should sound and what to look for. All I can say is that listening to this man play the piano left me short of breath at the end of each tape. If his hands were his feet he would have run a 2 minute mile. It was incomprehensible to me how this man could move both hands and all 10 fingers so quickly across the keyboard . The ending of the Prokofiev Piano Sonata No. 7 was so dramatic I almost fell off my seat. I know that Ed pays special attention to his recording techniques and these two tapes were no exception. The tone, timbre, dynamics etc were so real that the pianist was in my room a few feet in front of me. It was that real. A better example of how a piano should sound would be difficult to find IMO. I have to admit however that my favorite piece on both tapes was the Skoryk Melody where Vadym Kholodenko is accompanied by violinist Alena Baeva who is simply wonderful to listen to. The harmony between those two instruments was amazing. As always, Ed’s tapes were recorded live in front of an audience at his home north of Toronto. I think I own virtually every tape ed has produced and these two recent ones highlight the piano so well that it was a treat to listen to them. This is piano at its very best. As always the music Ed has recorded is completely new to my ears. Hence the reason I listened to those tapes several times. It’s too bad there isn’t a video to accompany the performance because the rapidity with which he moved his hands and fingers was warp speed. How he could maintain that staccato pace was difficult to imagine. He must have lost 10 pounds in weight after he recorded those two tapes.
As always, kudos to Ed for bringing us the very best of the best. A big thumb’s up
By Larry Toy, audiophile extraordinaire:
I received my copies of the two new tapes from Ed. First, the sonics of the piano are spectacular – I agree with Ed’s assessment of the dynamic range, but also the quality of the piano sound, a Steinway B IIRC.
Vadym Kholodenko is a remarkable pianist. He won the prestigious Van Cliburn competition about a decade ago and he has the prodigious technique of a pianist trained in the Russian school. (I was blown away by his earlier album of the fiendishly difficult transcriptions of Chopin’s Etudes by Leopold Godowski, that Ed released a year or two ago). But his piano playing has real soul also. The two tapes feature the piano sonatas number 7 by Schubert and Prokofiev, showing Vadym’s artistic range. As a bonus, Vadym’s wife Alena Baeva joins him in a violin piano duet which serves as an encore. I’m not sure whether Alena met Vadym through Ed or not, but Alena is another superstar artist who records for Ed. She won the famed Wieniawski violin competition when she was 16. 20 years ago. That competition was first won by Ginette Neveu (my all time favorite violinist) who was also 16 in 1935, beating out the overwhelming favorite, the much older David Oistrakh. She then went on to win two more international competions by the time she was 20. I got to see her in concert with the Oxford Philharmonic in 2019, with Ed and his wife Amy, whom we met up with in London.
Ed just let me know that there will be very special concert in late November with Ed’s third superstar, cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, joining Alena and Vadym. Narek won the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow in 2011. They will be playing several piano trios, including Beethoven’s Archduke. Can’t wait for those tapes.