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Passionate "eclectic_collector" (Stoke on Trent, UK)

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Belshazzar's Feast
Belshazzar's Feast

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive Walton, demonstration Previn & LSO Chorus, 7 April 2012
This review is from: Belshazzar's Feast (Audio CD)
Ever since I heard this on its release on vinyl, I have been utterly blown away by the accuracy and clarity of the Belshazzar's Feast. The drama and excitement is so vividly portrayed. Previn has a special magic with Walton (as he does with Vaughan Williams, also). The performance is without doubt the finest and most spectacular on record, the technical recording is demonstration standard, the remastering commendable. If you listen to the choir sing "Yea, we wept", you will hear the poignant passion captured to heart-rending perfection.
The performances of Scapino, Improvisations, and Portsmouth point are excellently sketched, proving once again that Previn is a master Waltonian. This is definitive Walton, thrillingly performed, and generously packaged.
This CD is a core classical collection must-have.

Addendum: 2012. This is now deleted from the EMI catalogue, a crying shame. Get any CD release of this recording while you can.
The Bryn Terfel/Andrew Davies live (last night of the proms 1994) version is the next best bet, or best alternative for live performance excitement.
Btw, I would even more highly recommend the DVD-Audio release of this Previn recording, if you can get it, and if your system will play it in quality surround sound.


Brahms / Beethoven / Tchaikovsky / Lalo: Artist Profile
Brahms / Beethoven / Tchaikovsky / Lalo: Artist Profile

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best violinist nobody seems to have heard of, 6 Aug 2011
Kogan stayed within the iron curtain, and died prematurely in his 50s at the height of his powers. I first had all of these performances on vinyl when I was a schoolboy. His Beethoven violin concerto is one of the truly outstanding interpretations of this often over-egged classical violin concerto. His tone is fantastic, and the pace and space of his phrasing, in complete integration and rapport with the Paris Conservatoire under Silvestri, is so joyously Beethoven it makes one want to play it again and again. This and Isabelle Faust's version are all one needs for a truly beethovian Beethoven Concerto selection.
The Brahms is also a top-notch performance which I come back to over and over; the Tchaikovsky is lovely and excitingly executed.
He plays Lalo with total effortless virtuosic ease and silvery brilliance.
But most of all, this is a beautiful collection of great performances from one of the finest and least well known of all the top rank violinists of the twentieth century.
Please please re-issue this selection.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2012 12:56 AM BST


Essential Saint-SaŽns
Essential Saint-SaŽns
Price: £9.43

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lets be fair - this is an outstanding collection, 4 Aug 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Essential Saint-SaŽns (Audio CD)
Well, let's get things straight. The collection is fabulous, the performances all top drawer as well as excellent sound. The violin concerto 3 is one of those under-played under-estimated pieces played here extremely well by Joshua Bell (not Kyung Wha Chung, contrary to a previous review). If you haven't heard it before, this CD will impress. The opening of the concerto is wonderfully sonorous and striking. The wonderful second movement where the clarinets and violin solo play arpeggios several octaves apart is hauntingly beautiful, almost otherworldly. Written for the great virtuoso Sarasate, this is violinistic and memorable.

The piano concerto is fine. Great playing and very good rapport with orchetra and soloist.

Kyung-Wha Chung plays the Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso, and Havanaise, with exceptional musicianship for pieces which are essentialy vehicles for virtuosic display. Her skills make the performances sound effortless, and her musical passion makes these throughly enjoyable and as fine performances as you will ever hear - characterful without idiosyncracy, wonderful playing by one of the iconic musicians of her generation.

Danse Macabre, Carnival des Animaux, just excellent.

The Organ Symphony is lovely, not the finest performance for avid connoisseurs, but a very warm appealing version with a lovely last movement.

Buy this and just enjoy. I did.


Sibelius: Violin Concerto, Finlandia, Tapiola
Sibelius: Violin Concerto, Finlandia, Tapiola
Price: £9.15

7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ponderous and too romantically golden for such a bleak concerto, 4 Aug 2011
It seems that if I express a careful but negative review, especially if Karajan is the conductor, I am likely to suffer indignant responses. Well, if you are a dedicated Karajan/BPO or Ferras fan, or if you like this violin concerto to sound endlessly gloriously romantic, this review will not be of interest: there are plenty of other affirmative positive reviews here for you.

I would hope that anyone who looks beyond the Karajan / Berlin Phil image and seeks the icy intensity and fiery bleakness of Sibelius would find my comments at least reasonable from that point of view.

I first heard this recording of the violin concerto on vinyl in 1974 (when it was competing with the fabulous version by Kyung-Wha Chung with Andre Previn and of course the great 1960 release of the vibrant intense 1959 Heifetz/Hendl version). It embodies the DG and Berlin Phil sound under Karajan, rich, warm and sonorous, golden even, and Ferras plays the Sibelius romantically and warmly. I fail utterly to see, however, what this warmly engaging version has to offer for those who love Sibelius' unique musical idiom. Looking at the score, the overwhelming sense of bleak passion and fire without warmth draws one into the world of cold landscapes and the loneliness of isolation - as also seen in The Swan of Tuonela, or Nightride and Sunrise, for example. The violin voice so well understood by the violinist composer seems best illustrated in less romantic, cooler, interpretations of this work, where the vibrato is tight and barely warming (like Heifetz, Mullova, Chung, Kang, Kraggerud, for example). Ferras plays very slowly with a slow and wide vibrato, and a concert hall reverberation, bringing a romantic warmth completely out of place in this work. I suspect this version is amongst the very slowest second and third movements on record, even slower (and more indulgent) than the supremely cool intense Neveu recording. His collaboration with Karajan seems ponderous and over-indulgent, whereas his other two recordings (with Szell, and with Mehta - also available to watch on DVD) are far superior from the violinist's point of view of tempi and cold passion, though not so well-recorded sound.

Naturally, I understand if listeners want to hear a golden concerto with climactic highlights sounding like hollywood film music, but I personally find such versions miss the whole point of this masterpiece. The Sibelius is one of the very few truly great and truly original violin concertos. The second movement should move one to tears with a sense of intense loneliness and passion, not a warm schmalzy indulgence that sounds cliché.

The performance of Tapiola is truly fine and refined, though very different from Paavo Berglund's outstanding performance.

Given the true greatness of the above works, by comparison Finlandia is a piece of fluff, so a critique of this is probably irrelevant for anyone considering this disc.

The digital transfer for his CD has inferior rather dulled sound compared with the original UK vinyl pressing, to my ears.

If you want to hear a modern iconic performance of this work, try Kyung-Wha Chung (coupled with Tchaikovsky), even though it's recorded in 1970 or so - it's the version I keep returning to (and its soon to be released as a remastered DSD stereo SACD). For digital clarity and exceptional Sibelian interpretation from violinist and conductor, try Victoria Mullova or Henning Kraggerud, or try Tasmin Little if you want a slightly less tight vibrato but still icy and great orchestral collaboration, they're outstanding. Older immortal classic iconic versions include Heifetz/Hendl 1959 "living stereo sacd" recent remastering, Camilla Wicks (Biddulph 2006 release mastering) if you can find it, or David Oistrakh (Ormandy).

Buy this CD if you want Sibelius warmed up, not if you want to understand the Jean Sibelius idiom. Though it remains a mystery to me why anyone would wish to serve Sibelius warm - its perfect straight from the fridge.
Comment Comments (20) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 12, 2014 9:45 PM GMT


Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Price: £10.95

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So promising, yet ultimately a victim of virtuosity, 23 July 2011
It seems that if I express a careful but negative review, I am likely to suffer indignant responses.
If you are a dedicated Mutter fan, or if you like this violin concerto to sound gloriously romantic, this review will not be of interest: there are plenty of affirmative positive reviews here for you.

I would hope that anyone who looks beyond Mutter's image and seeks the icy intensity and fiery bleakness of Sibelius would find my comments at least reasonable from that point of view.

I would stick to the positives first: This is a personal reading, and demonstrates Mutter's exceptional virtuosity. She intends to show from the start how bleak this wonderful masterpiece can sound,the violin entry sounding quieter, paler and more desolate than any other version on disc. She certainly brings out intensity at times, with dynamic changes almost overdoing the effect in places. The orchestral sound is good.

It is a worthwhile coupling with Sibelius' other well known violin pieces of lesser depth, played very nicely, if a little blandly - the humoresque sadly not quite pointed and witty enough to really make any statement. It is a great pity she didn't record all the humoresques for this disc, which is therefore a bit light on content.

I haven't really found this a musically satisfying performance though. I have no wish to string a load of invective and exaggeration which one of the reviewers has found necessary. But I really cannot find a feeling that the soloist has put this together as a complete whole - it has a feeling of being sections joined together. Also, I think that she overeggs the initial bleakness to the point that it is a caricature: the violin opening bears the composer's instruction "dolce ed espressivo" - Mutter's opening is far from dolce, and carries an unconventional idea of expressiveness - no vibrato at the beginning, but a great deal of wide vibrato thereafter in the piece. With her exaggerated pp - p entry (instead of mezzoforte) there seems to be recurring exaggerated dynamic and intensity changes in the first movment. Also, Mutter's episodic slowing and altering pace with apparently meaningless rubato is very irksome to anyone who reads the Sibelius as having bleak but persistent rhythms. All through the performance one is conscious of Mutter pushing and pulling the music in non-Sibelian idiom.

Sometimes less is more.

Unfortunately, the second movement fails to move me. It seems to lack that lonely cold intense passion that brings tears to one's eyes. It seems over-egged warm and treacly in Mutter's wonderful sound. The final movement is a rhythmic shambles, just listen to any fine version eg Mullova, Kyung-Wha Chung, Heifetz, Oistrakh, Kraggerud, Haendel, Neveu, and even Tasmin Little's understated (and underrated) version, and one can see how the music really fits together in the last movement and as a whole. I really find the musical rapport between Previn and Mutter to be disappointing, when one compares it with Previn's greater examples of musical empathy with other soloists in the past (and I really don't mean the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show!). Just wondering perhaps whether their personal rapport has affected the balance of the musical rapport, so that Previn is too accepting of an accompanying role in this work?? Who could say??

It remains a moot point whether personal eccentric readings are artistic or simply ill-conceived.
It is not for me to accuse. Mutter is a truly fine virtuoso violinist, but this performance of one of the truly great original and iconic violin concerti of all time is unfortunately too eccentric for my own taste.
I have many versions of this work on CD, but this one I don't think I'll be listening to again.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 30, 2011 2:30 PM GMT


Beethoven - Violin Concerto; Kreutzer Sonata (Isabelle Faust/Alexander Melnikov)
Beethoven - Violin Concerto; Kreutzer Sonata (Isabelle Faust/Alexander Melnikov)

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nearest to perfect Beethoven I've ever heard, 14 July 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Beethoven violin concerto poses curious problems for listener and player. The virtuoso wants to shine, and the music wants to flow with joy and life, though there can be a tendency for conductors and soloists to want to bring broader grandeur. But the music requires a great deal of nuanced reflective playing between ensemble and soloist at a good moving pace to give it the transparently uplifting quality Beethoven clearly intended, or else it becomes ponderously grandiose and downheartening to the listener, even sombre in places. Consequently, that effectively keeps the soloist as an integral part of the ensemble, and demands swift delicate clarity, rather than a dominant honey-rich glittery virtuoso-style. The question of pace and tempo has been a dealbreaker for most of the versions since the great days of Heifetz, Kogan, Milstein for example. However, Isabelle Faust is clearly extremely historically well-informed with exquisite musical taste and plays with terrific purity, happiness, and character. The solo and orchestra are a complete whole, no virtuoso prima-donna-isms here. There is a lightness of heart from beginning to end, and seriousness of intent when needed. If only other performances could match the spells of quietness and space, the lovely delicatamente in the third movement, and the perfection of phrasing dynamics and forward flow, that characterises her playing and rapport.
I am utterly convinced by this performance, and the recording quality. I have put aside Zehetmair/Brüggen and Milstein/Steinberg, and now understand the reasons for similarities and contrasts in Heifetz/Munch and Kogan/Silvestri's different readings (pace phrasing and space) so much better after hearing Faust's masterclass here. This recording surely is a lesson in Beethoven we should all take to heart.
The Kreutzer Sonata, btw, is simply the best I have heard on disc. Perfect partnership and excellently judged musicianship in every way.
This is a must-have classical library disc.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 8, 2011 5:56 PM BST


Mophie Juice Pack Air External Battery Case Made for iPhone 4/4s in Black - MFi Approved
Mophie Juice Pack Air External Battery Case Made for iPhone 4/4s in Black - MFi Approved
Offered by mopodo-uk
Price: £66.72

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly badly made, doesn't work as req, usb breaks., 12 Jun 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the much-vaunted Mophie Juice air pack for iphone 4, there's so many youTube clips showing it as the beesknees. Well, its surprisingly badly made, the two halves fitting with a marked step which catches on my pocket edge and the ridge makes it feel weird in the hand. The micro-usb port is extremely weak, and mine broke after I had it 3 months. I was only charging it at home every 5-6 days or so when I needed it for extra power eg for a weekend on call or away.
Also, it doesn't charge if the iphone is docked into it. I have to remove it from the iphone to charge it. The iphone charges easily from it, and from the mains as pass-through but the juice pack will only charge if it is separated from the iPhone. Not good.
IMO, this Mophie is significantly inferior to the new Mili 2000mAh Powerspring 4, btw please don't believe the comments about the Mili not closing properly the Mili powerspring 4 is a perfect fit, clips shut perfectly and reliably, extremely durable, and is beautifully made and packaged. Maybe the adverse comments are about an older version of the Mili?? My wife and I each have a Mili now, and I'm still waiting for the warranty claim from Mophie to be acknowledged. I would advise anyone interested in this Mophie to really take care to examine the competition products carefully and check on user's experiences of warranty claims with each product.


FreeLoader Pico Solar Charger
FreeLoader Pico Solar Charger
Offered by Premier Solutions
Price: £11.87

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't contemplate this flashy piece of fluff, 12 Jun 2011
Firstly, my freeloader was dead as the dodo on arrival. Wouldn't accept a USB-driven charge, and wouldn't flash any LEDS.
Then, the alternative freeloader specimen in the shop had condensation inside the panel.
Thirdly, the gel protector cover (aka battery cover) sold as an accessory to this phone accessory prevents the charger micro-USB from attaching, and has to be removed to charge.
Fourthly, the freeloader has to be placed in direct sunshine, not under glass, at 45deg to the sun, and still won't charge from empty to full in one complete June day in UK. And it is said to die if it gets wet.....charging outside in british "sun"..... so that's not likely to happen then.
All in all, don't waste time or money on this flimsy idea which preys on the common forlorn hope that UK sunshine will mysteriously appear for two days at a time, and rain will pause at your convenience, and all your phone charger worries will be over. It won't happen.


In Pursuit Of The 27th Man
In Pursuit Of The 27th Man
Offered by rbmbooks
Price: £22.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pursuasive rhythms, plangent harmonies, recommended listening., 24 Jan 2011
Well, unlike the previous reviewer, I play it repeatedly, and have ever since I had it on vinyl. In fact I think this album is awesome, I listen to it every time I have to drive long distance. The rhythms are pursuasive and the themes are original and, at times, plaintive. My vinyl version is preserved for posterity. Forget any sterile arguments like "something else I have heard is better" or "that performance over there is conceptually blah blah claptrap..". This is great towards-the-end-of-hard-bop jazz, well-executed, and a genuinely appealing Horace Silver statement. Btw, I also like Steve Reich and Philip Glass, at one end of a spectrum; Hildegard of Bingen, Sibelius, and Mozart at another; and Art Tatum, Lionel Hampton, and Paul Desmond in the middle somewhere. Musical taste is simply an eclectic selection of the almost infinite variety on offer.....This is one I would recommend.


Bruch: Violin Concerto No.1; Scottish Fantasia
Bruch: Violin Concerto No.1; Scottish Fantasia
Price: £8.56

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but superseded by the Decca Legends remastering, 17 Jan 2011
Kyung Wha Chung cut these legendary recordings in 1972, with fantastic analogue sound and outstanding orchestral rapport. The sound is sweet and virile, and in this as in so many of her recordings she plays as if she is capturing a live performance, not the stereotyped studio. There is a spontaneity so often lacking in studio recordings, and this time it does not fade with repeated hearings.
The Bruch Concerto is wonderfully fresh, a real breath of life in a much-recorded work. (Astonishingly, she plays this work even more beguilingly later with Klaus Tennstedt, coupled with the Beethoven, another must-have recording). I first heard the Kempe collaboration of the Bruch Concerto and Scottish Fantasy when it was released on vinyl, long ago played into scratched oblivion as was the way with my favourite LPs. Hearing the CD is just magical. Even the fabulous disc with Heifetz playing Bruch & Glazunov doesn't eclipse Kyung Wha Chung's legendary performance.

Kyung-wha Chung delivers a truly exciting, exquisite and memorable performance, in true partnership with Kempe and the Royal Philharmonic. But it makes no sense to buy this Decca disc if one can obtain the alternative superior Decca Legends remastering, which also includes her scintillating top-drawer performance of the Mendelssohn concerto with Dutoit.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2011 12:17 AM BST


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