DGG & Decca Celebrate Mahler’s Birthday – The two Universal classical labels are asking music lovers to vote on their web site for their favorite recordings of Mahler’s symphonies, which will result in a fall release of Mahler – The People’s Edition. A number of out-of-print titles have been opened up, and all consumers can stream the entire Universal Mahler catalog for free before voting for their favorite performances. Some 180 recordings are included, plus over 60 out-of-print recordings. Voting ends September 15 at www.mahler150.com Other new and catalog releases celebrate the composer’s 150th birthday: Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra in Des Knaben Wunderhorn (Oct. 5), and Gustav Mahler: Complete Edition – 18 CDs of classic recordings by various artists, including all of the symphonies.
First Five Naxos Audio-Only Blu-ray Releases – Naxos, who briefly tried both DVD-Audio and SACD releases but gave up on them, will soon be joining with AIX and 2L labels in releasing audio-only Blu-rays. The discs will come from only hi-res masters – 88.2K/24-bit or 96K/24-bit, and will use lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 as well as a stereo PCM mixdown. A companion CD version, as offered by 2L, will not be provided. The first Blu-ray release will be out next month: John Corigliano’s Circus Maximus. It will be followed by Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, Dvorak Symphonies 7 & 8, Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and Vol. 4 of Debussy Orchestral Works. The label plans to release four or five Blu-rays per month.
Fresh! Sublabel From Reference Recordings – The 34-year-old classical and jazz audiophile label Reference Recordings has a new offshoot label devoted to other music genres. Fresh! releases will not be recorded by the RR team – featuring renowned recording engineer Keith O. Johnson – but RR will had a hand in planning, editing, post-production and mastering phases of the recordings. The hope is to encourage new artists and give them opportunities nationally and internationally. Among the first releases will be Pillow Book by The Curios, and The Human Holiday by Sleight of Mind – said to be a quirky audio drama something like Firesign Theater meeting Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
Parasound Adds Home Theater Bypass to Halo Preamp – An interesting practice of some audiophiles who are equally into two-channel audio and video home theater has been to use their highest-end two-channel gear and pair of speakers for perfectionist stereo music, while switching to a surround receiver or preamp and multiple speakers for home theater presentations. To meet this need, Parasound has produced a new version of its popular John Curl-designed Halo JC 2 stereo preamp. The new BP model adds a home theater bypass function allowing it and its companion power amp and speakers to be connected as the left and right front channels of a 5.1 audio surround system. The user has total control, yet neither mode is therefore compromised in performance. Any one of the six inputs of the JC 2 BP can be assigned as a bypass unit, and an amber LED indicates when a selected input is also assigned the bypass function. A newly-designed remote is also provided with the BP model. Current owners can retrofit their JC 2 for $500. SRP of the new model is $4500.
New $99 Apple TV – Apple TV has been around for three years but hasn’t really caught on because it doesn’t record TV shows the way TiVo, some set-top boxes and DVRs do. The new $99 Apple TV version still doesn’t, but offers access to streaming TV shows and to movies the day they are released on DVD. Users pay $4.99 for HD content movies and TV show rentals will be 99 cents. Only Fox and Disney’s ABC have licensed their shows for streaming thus far, but it is hoped others will soon join the service. The unit also connects to YouTube and Netflix. Of course many new HDTVs now come with built-in Internet connections direct to Netflix, Amazon on Demand, and other services. But the content that most people want isn’t yet available in good form over the Internet. Most Netflix users still get their movies delivered in the mail.