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16 May 2009: Apostolos Konstantinidis

Konstantinidis-may-2009_12

By Tony Pothitos

How many times do you stay awake listening to music until 5 am, and then come to the conclusion that your stereo is off? Or how many times do you wish you could share your happiness with the ones you loved, and this happiness stems from music? And last but not least, how many times can you hear a song being played, over and over again, until your body aches of pain, and you refuse to sleep so you don’t wake up, and not have the sound you had in your head leave you?

Enough questions. Lets get scientific.

Konstantinidis-may-2009_01 Various scientists from various fields say that food, clothing and shelter are the top three needs of mankind.

Well as far as those scientists go, I would have had the same thoughts had I not been part of ACA, and so lucky as to experience evenings like the one we had at Apostolis’'s home.

Music is not just mere food for thought, it is essential in the mind body continuum and thus should be included in the top of any pyramid of mans needs in life. And if you ask me why we spend so much time and money on our stereos, the answer lies in this exact fact. How much do we spend on food? On clothes and on rent or our homes? Then the only outcome of the passion we all have for music is relatively cheap considering what it gives us.

Personal Statement:

Konstantinidis-may-2009_02 I will now state something which I at least have never said before in my life. It is simple, and don’t take it lightly before you really think it through.

Without music, there is no true life for mankind. And if there is, I don’t want to be part of it.

Music is something you breathe in, as you do oxygen. The type of oxygen you breathe you sometimes do not choose, but the type of music you take in, you can. So for any piece, classical or opera played at this ACA event at Apostoles home, I was there to take in the cleanest and most healthy oxygen known to me.

I am not saying his system is perfect in the reproduction of clean oxygen, but what I am saying, is that it was a few short breaths away! The bass was not as deep and punchy as I prefer it, but then again, I am a bass head and in reality, what can you expect from an eight inch speaker to produce. It is amazing it can do what it did!! And most of the group complained that there was an over deadening of the sound due to the absorption materials used behind the system, but over all, no one could express the incredibly positive vibes the system plowed the listener with either.

So in reality, most of us agreed upon the very few upgrades needed to the system, which according to my information has already improved from taking the needle force down to 2.0 milligrams compared to the 2.7 it was, when we heard it.

As some of you that were there might know the Kai Te Tora, and the Dynavector phono stage sound much better than what it performed for us, but it could, and did do amazing things later on when it was fixed.

This is yet another reason why we at ACA enjoy going to hear other peoples systems, and then in turn have them listen to ours. The fact being that others sometimes hear what we do not, and within minutes things can drastically change the sound towards the better. I will always love Christos Xrwstoumenos for his unchallenged devotion to doing this every time we meet in such an event. He is a prodigy in his own right. And a true believer in music.

I will conclude in the middle of this report that no one talked behind anyone’s back and everything that was to be said, was said, without any bad connotation connected to it. I say this since most people say to the chef that the food was good then go out for a soda or a souvlaki once they leave. THIS was not the case here. And since we are on the topic of food, I found the host to have wonderful taste and a smooth palette indeed. Actually everything was perfect, so this is where I thank on behalf of everyone for his incredible hospitality and great wife on tap!

The actual listening session:

Konstantinidis-may-2009_03 I will start from the last song played and go backwards. You will understand as I write the description of the system through the song selection, which by most, was the ultimate in its form. Some say this was the BEST SELECTION of music every to be used in a gathering. And others might agree!

10. FALLA, THE THREE CORNERED HAT, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ansermet, LP DECCA (printed by Esoteric)

Although the recording was not played at its optimal due to a very heavy cartridge setting, the solar energy shooting out of the speakers was so impressive that I doubt or believe it could have been better. On any standard. The introduction which was a three dimensional re enactment of various wood sounds to every instrument played was nothing less than a show off for Esoterics print.

This would probably sound good on my system! So that’s why this is last. It was too good to be true. So it couldn’t have been the system alone. It was the recording even and over the one third to which the sound can be accounted to. So this recording could have been luck. Or was it?
9. CASTA DIVA, Maria Callas, Scala di Milano SO & Chorus/Τ. Serafin, LIVE recording 1954, LP EMI.

Oh my God, I thought I was going to wet my pants! I was so happy to see and hear that Callas was alive that when I opened my eyes and saw it was a stereo playing I was sincerely depressed. It was MAGICAL. Nothing else could explain it better than that simple word. The tonality and clarity, the richness and staging was superior to anything I have heard in years. At any money. It was music showing off its best and it proved once again that Callas was and still is on top of the world. Dead or alive!

8. FLOWER DUET, Anna Netrebko & Elina Garanca, BADEN BADEN SO/Marco Armiliato, LIVE recording 2007, CD DG

One of my all time favorites was played, and although I had heard the system a few weeks before this evening, I could not get enough of it. The duet in this piece is not the ladies mentioned, but the connection between man and the heavens. It was penetrating deep into my cerebellum to the point of bliss, and if that was not enough, I realized that I had to stop listening so intensely and pause for a breath before I choked!! This was nothing but divine. In every way and fashion of the term. It was and is the definition of what two human voices can do to elevate a man from a beast into a creative sensation.

7. HUNGARIAN DANCE No.6, Vienna Philharmonic/Fritz Reiner, LP DECCA

This dance, well known to me from my extensive travels was not as alive as I expected to be. It was good. But it was not perfect. I found the LP to be lacking in staging and in depth, bass, and extensive highs which made the system sound untamed in a way. But it was so obvious that it was the album and not the system from the next piece played.
6. ANTONIN DVORAK, Mazurek, VLN/Akiko Suwanai, Budapest SO/Ivan Fischer, CD PHILIPS.

Although this was a CD and not an LP, albeit a touch thinner, the music was crispier and tonally correct. The specific motion of musical timing from Dvorak here was exact, but it was here that the over deadening of the sound absorption was evident. The notes seemed to be sucked backwards into the wall instead of outside and beyond the speakers. Something which annoyed me. Then I realized after our talk, that under the circumstances the owner wanted it to be tight and specific rather than roaring and majestic as I would have wanted it. But that is nothing but preference, no one is right or wrong on this matter, it is how you like your eggs. Sunny side up or scrambled. Both are great, but I am not a fan of scrambled.

5. VIVALDI, Concerto 557, Dresden State Orchestra, Vittorio Negri, LP PHILIPS.

A piece not to be reckoned with according to the owner and very knowledgeable Mr.Goudanis who brought this LP to the hosts attention, while he was visiting his home a few months before. If he said the sound was great, then I trust him. I could not tell since I did not like the recording at all. And I will not say more than what I was told. It was simply so good, Mr Goudanis was clapping when the silence came after the sun came down and the piece finished its travel through the sphere of musical Valhalla.

DOS GARDENIAS, Buena Vista Social Club, LP NONSUCH.

Now this was music to my ears. It was a well recorded LP and it was a piece of music EVERYONE knew of and had to compare it with. Unfortunately for most systems, compared to how it played here. They would have lost, as my system did for example. This piece was just the beginning of a good friendship between the listeners and the system. It was a hello amongst the seriousness of the classical and opera to come. But it made its point. It was poised and it kept you from thinking anything in the world existed at that moment. I was totally lost in every note here. And it was a shame that we could not hear more of this album.

3. WALK ON BY, Diana Krall, LP VERVE.

I hate Diana Krall. I think she is a fake. I don’t even think she has had a blues day in her life, although she has fans throughout the world that will tell me other wise. I hated her so much that I went to her concert when she was in Athens and had to be persuaded that this woman could sing, and it was not an American mastermind that thought up of making a white woman sing what colored folk could. But to my own amazement, as she was in live, tonight she performed for us with pizzaz and eloquence which brought memories of voices of the past and feelings of my childhood, as I grew up with this song being sung by my own parents. Diana on this system was very good. And that I say knowing and being fully aware that her recordings are mastered by someone in Disney! I have never heard a natural reproduction of her voice until this evening. And I know it may have not have sounded great to others, but as I remembered quite well. It was spot on with what I heard live.

2. BURN IT BLUE, OST FRIDA, Caetano Veloso and Lila Downs, CD UNIVERSAL

At the start of this article I asked a question which was if you ever felt you wanted to share the beauty and happiness you were lucky enough to be in touch with, well this was the piece that made me want to share this with my wife. I wanted her to feel what man can do if he has a clean heart and a beautiful soul. I wanted her to hear how music can take away tears from an ice cube in summer, and how love and life and music were one. I WANTED HER TO KNOW WHAT ACA WAS ABOUT!

To me, this was a moment of beauty, of interpersonal religion and unforeseen power from within. Even to my enemies I wish they could have lived this intensity. I felt existence to be better after this was played, and this kept me partially up until now writing this article summation of the evening.

That is how much it took me in, and made me understand I am nothing compared to the world, as the view of the sea is, or the height of a mountain storms above us. I felt so small next to the music that it bewildered even me. The man who has seen how deep and ugly man can be, either through sickness or bad choices.

After this listening session though, I knew something I did not know before, and that makes all the difference that anyone could ask for from music or from any machine that reproduces it.

1. UNA NOCHE MAS, Levy Yasmin, CD SONY.

A CD? Is our host out of his mind? He is playing a CD to the most ANALOGUE group of people in this country! Maybe in Europe, as the opening song to our listening session!

Konstantinidis-may-2009_04After contemplating whether he was for the psychiatric ward or to be given the Nobel prize for SURPRISE. I realized sooner than later it was the latter. He took us by surprise with something unknown to most of us. Something so deep and beautiful, it attacked every central nerve center in our minds and left us gasping for more. It was so quiet after the first piece that most of us didn’t know what had struck us. Was it lightning or a realization that this was going to be a night never to forget? And again, it was the latter.

And, although we had two car accidents, from ACA members and family that evening, the only thing indented in our minds will be the music from that evening. The patience and passion of a man with a quest, who is searching, and for the most has found his haven.

Truth be told, the first draft of this article was 18 pages long and it had to be cut down to 5 for reasons we can all understand, I can only tell you that what you read here is a portion of what my soul traveled that evening.

This musical event was a lesson for the teacher of words.

This ACA event was a lesson in humanity

And last but not least this gathering and music session proved to me that I am still alive and I can feel things that I never thought I had in me.

I gently put my one knee on the ground, and as I slowly bring my head and hand up, I bring a red rose to the host. This Sire belongs to you I say. Every flowers petal a gift of life within music.

For Apostolos’s garden is full. And he welcomed us to take whatever we could. He left no one leave without fulfilling his soul and heart at one level or another.

And that is exactly what we did.

Enjoy the pictures as we enjoyed being there! Especially the famous people he had there for us to meet and get to know.

The System

  • Speakers: FOCAL NOVA UTOPIA
  • preamplifier: VAC RENAISSANCE mkIII
  • Power amplifier: VAC Φ 300.1
  • Turntable: TRANSROTOR APOLLON 40/80
  • Arm: DYNAVECTOR 507 mkII
  • Cartridge: DYNAVECTOR XV-1T
  • SACD: ESOTERIC X-05
  • Tuner: MAGNUM DYNALAB 100 T
  • Power conditioner: SHUNYATA HYDRA-8
  • Rack: AUDIO MAGIC HEPTA

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