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Mr. S. Brown "Stuart Brown" (Wiltshire, UK)
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Vaughan Williams and the Symphony (Symphonic Studies)
Vaughan Williams and the Symphony (Symphonic Studies)
by Lionel Pike
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 44.41

5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive study - from an academic perspective, 27 Jun 2014
I sang under Lionel Pike at Royal Holloway College from 1974 to 1977, so I was fascinated to learn that he had authored this book. It is not a relaxing read: but if you want to come at these symphonies from an academic perspective, aimed at demonstrating that the composed was a master of the form, then this is the definitive text.


Holst - In the Bleak Midwinter [DVD] [NTSC]
Holst - In the Bleak Midwinter [DVD] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Tony Palmer
Price: 12.30

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reflecting the reality?, 10 May 2011
Other reviewers have said that Holst's music deserves to be better known; and the score of 'The Planets' fascinated me at school. Yet within ten minutes of the start of this film I found myself feeling irritated. Why? I could have done without the numerous versions of "I vow to thee, my country": however good the words may be, they are not Holst's nor did he approve of the setting (as the film rightly points out), and the 'Jupiter' theme is in any case in completely the wrong key and ranges too widely to make it singable without having to transpose part of it - so I cannot think of a less appropriate way to convince people of the merits of Holst's music. As for the imagery - if one is going to illustrate music in images, then why not stick to images that genuinely relate to the way Holst perceived the world? Don't get me wrong - the music is glorious; but live concert settings make for much more interesting viewing than the bland studio sets used, and the camera angles failed to pick up some important visual aspects of Holst's scoring. For example, it would have been nice to see the bass oboe (very rarely used by anyone apart from Holst) in the opening of 'Saturn'; it would have good to have explained the way the 32' organ pedal rank is used in 'Neptune' to create a feeling in the pit of the stomach like nothing else I've ever heard; and so on. I enjoyed the film and I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was 'deeply' disappointing; but I was left with this thought: if this film is a true reflection of the reality of the merits of Holst's music, then no wonder the music is not better known. Conversely, if the music is of such merit, then this film fails to convey that.


Shine and Shade - Works for Recorders and Piano
Shine and Shade - Works for Recorders and Piano
Offered by petespick
Price: 25.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - but could have been warmer, 10 Mar 2011
Somehow I expected more from Piers Adams. He is a technically brilliant recorder player: he glides over top F-sharps on a treble (difficult to do without kicking one's front teeth out ...) with admirable smoothness; and his playing has a precision that is very pleasing. Yet he succeeds in making the recorder sound like a second-rate instrument played brilliantly rather than a seriously beautiful instrument played seriously beautifully. A top-flight treble such as Adams is using is capable of a lot more expressiveness than one hears demonstrated on this CD. His is - so I understand - a custom-built treble, which should in theory be at least the equal of my own instrument (a handmade rosewood Dolmetsch), on which I have performed the Berkeley that features on this CD. I know that my treble is a wonderfully expressive instrument - so why are these performances so brilliant technically and yet so lacking in their ability to communicate feeling?


Bach: Markus Passion (Ton Koopman) [DVD]
Bach: Markus Passion (Ton Koopman) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bach
Price: 16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful if taken at face value, 18 Nov 2008
This is Koopman's reconstruction of the work. Bear in mind that only the liibretto survives; so Koopman has had to import numbers from other works where the words fit, and compose his own numbers in the style of Bach in order to fill the gaps. When I first listened to this, I made the mistake of approaching it as if it were a work by Bach; so there were things in it that did not quite gel for me. I then listened to it again, accepting that it is, in effect, Koopman's work in the style of Bach. I then began to find genuine enjoyment in it as a musical and dramatic work. It is technically well recorded and videographed, although at one point the camera zooms in on the guy singing the part of Judas Iscariot a couple of minutes before he actually starts singing: a quirky but of mis-direction, which paradoxically I found quite endearing! The acid test, for me, is whether I would feature this DVD at one of my periodic music evenings to which I invite my friends. The answer: yes, I would. It's good music (albeit pseudo-Bach), it's entertaining and it's different.


Handel: The Messiah
Handel: The Messiah
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 9.83

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarity all the way, 18 Nov 2008
This review is from: Handel: The Messiah (Audio CD)
This is small-scale, intimate and crystal clear, "Messiah" as Handel first conceived it. His original versions of various numbers (which are what you get here) are different to the versions in common use today: "But who may abide the day of his coming" is almost unrecognisable, but absolutely beautiful nevertheless. No grand choruses or blurred diction here - just a collection of soloists, a small instrumental ensemble and endlessly varying colours.
Buy this if you want a beautifully performed and recorded performance of Handel's original version. If you want a "traditional" Messiah, look for another recording, BUT buy this also, because it's a beautiful revelation and sufficiently different to justify a place in your collection. I played this to a gathering of friends a few Christmases ago, and they were bowled over by it.


Stravinsky: Petrouchka, The Rite Of Spring, Fireworks
Stravinsky: Petrouchka, The Rite Of Spring, Fireworks
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 10.77

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely, convincingly REAL, 16 Sep 2008
RECORDING QUALITY: Amazingly good, considering the age of the recording. To be frank, it sounds better than the much more recent recordings that I have. Since I'm using Quad electrostatics, I'd expect any flaws in the recording to shine through. There are no flaws.
INTERPRETATION: Unique. Listen to this with a full score in front of you and you soon realise that everything is there, in its place, with professional precision, and yet THE ENERGY! There are a number of good performances on the market and I thought that I'd heard the best of them, including various other five star rated issues. They don't touch this one, not by a long way. This performance made me SHIVVER. It almost frightened me. It made my spine tingle. As for the final dance, it is the only rendition I have ever heard in which I could genuinely believe that a poor lass was being forced to dance herself to death. It left me gasping for breath and I was only LISTENING to it, not dancing it!
WHAT ABOUT THE COMPETITION? I won't comment on the competition. I have most of the recordings available and I simply don't listen to them any more.


Vivaldi/Oboe Concerti Vol 1
Vivaldi/Oboe Concerti Vol 1
Price: 6.00

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fair but lacks life, 27 Aug 2008
I used to be an orchestral oboist and I have played a couple of these concertos in my time. The recording is good, but the performances come across as being slightly bland and, dare I say, a trifle wooden. In part Vivaldi himself is to blame for that - these are not his greatest works, by any measure; yet there are some really lovely passages in which the note sequences played by the oboist need to be savoured note by note: if played in a slightly revererant acoustic, the notes hang in the air and form the most heavenly harmonies ... and this recording fails to do that. The acoustic is too dry and the passages to which I refer are played too quickly. Why do so many woodwind players think that the only measure of their virtuosity is the speed at which they can play?

Buy this because for the time being there is no better alternative, but if I can get hold of the scores, I may well try and produce my own competing versions!


Britten: Albert Herring
Britten: Albert Herring
Offered by Musical Notes
Price: 25.94

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The original, with a few quibbles, 27 Aug 2008
This review is from: Britten: Albert Herring (Audio CD)
"Albert Herring" was the first of Britten's full length operas that I ever bought, when I was 16 and studying "Noye's Fludde" for a school examination; and at the time, this recording (in its original vinyl LP version) was the only one available. The transfer to CD works well enough, I've no problems with that. (I'm not sure what the sleeve picture of Peter Pears and Ben Britten buying vegetables from, I think, Jonah Baggott in Aldeburgh High Street has to do with the opera, but there you go.) However, much as I admire the work of Peter Pears, he is the wrong person for the role of Albert. He sings the role well enough, as one would expect, but he sounds too mature: listening to him in this recording, I could perhaps envisage Albert as being in his mid 30s, but certainly no younger. He fails to come across as a repressed young man firmly under his mother's finger.

That said, I have no other reservations. I would buy this for its historical significance, as a performance conducted by the composer, and because it is genuinely a delightful performance. However, to get the full flavour of the opera, its plot and its humour (which is a bit dated and so needs to be handled with care) I prefer John Graham-Hall's Albert and Alan Opie's Sid in the DVD performance conducted by Bernard Haitink.


Ton Koopman Plays Bach [DVD] [2004]
Ton Koopman Plays Bach [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Ton Koopman
Price: 22.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking focus, 18 Aug 2008
Before going any further let me say that I am in general a great fan of Ton Koopman and own a number of his recordings of performances of Bach's music with the Amsterdam Baroque Ensemble. Therefore I had high expectations of this DVD - perhaps too high. The individual performances are, as one would expect, spot on; and Koopman's footwork on the organ is impressive to watch. However, I would have loved to hear the Fugue in D minor as well as the Toccata; how often does one hear the Toccata alone? ... well, one does on this DVD. Overall, the collection of music on the DVD seems to have no clear focus apart from the fact that Bach composed it all. Klaus Mertens sings well enough - he is a regular in Koopman's published recordings. Yet at the end of this, I had the feeling that Koopman and Mertens were just looking for things to stuff onto a DVD to make up a programme, without the programme having an underlying theme.

Superbly recorded and performed, but an unsatisfying programme.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 7, 2010 12:50 PM GMT


Britten: Curlew River
Britten: Curlew River
Offered by sellerfellauk
Price: 28.83

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - but curious, 18 Aug 2008
This review is from: Britten: Curlew River (Audio CD)
Brilliant - because this performance of Curlew River draws you in and makes you 'feel' the drama. Curious - because if you follow Britten's score, you discover that in a couple of places this performance (directed by Britten himself) departs from the score in terms of timing ... if one reads the score literally. I don't doubt that Britten knew exactly what he wanted - we are after all talking about a man who could compose an opera in his head and then write it down faster than I can even transcribe a score manually, so I take my hat off to him. It's just that this is about the only example I know of a recording of a Britten work, directed by the composer, in which what I hear doesn't quite match up with what I see in the score. HOWEVER don't let this put you off buying this recording. It is glorious. 'Curlew River' is far from being an easy work to appreciate, but many years ago I played this performance (in its previous incarnation on vinyl LP) to some friends who were unfamiliar with both this work and with Britten's music in general: and they were enthralled by it.


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