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Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK)
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Orphee Aux Enfers (Plasson)
Orphee Aux Enfers (Plasson)
Offered by sellerfellauk
Price: £90.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic account of the extended version, 8 July 2014
The cast for this splendidly animated 1978 recording reads like a who's who of French singing of the era. Reactions will vary to Mady Mesplé’s neat, agile, rather shrill soprano and Michel Sénéchal's grainy, oh-so-French tenor; I have an affection for their very Gallic tones and they certainly know how to inflect the music and dialogue. Charles Burles as Aristée (the shepherd beloved of Eurydice, actually the god Pluto in disguise - a precursor to "Strauss's "Daphne"!) is a more conventionally clear-toned lyric tenor. Jane Rhodes as L'opinion publique is a little worn of voice but characterful. A young Michèle Command is an alluring Vénus. Many other names will be familiar to the seasoned collector and you may hear how comfortable they are in this most uplifting and tuneful of operettas.

The recording venue was the Halle-aux-Grains in Toulouse which provides a warm, slightly cloudy acoustic and evidence of some passing traffic. Michel Plasson has been principal conductor of the Orchestre et Chœurs du Capitole de Toulouse. since 1968 and produced a stream of superb recordings of French operas and operettas.

The briefest of synopses is provided and no libretto in the latest EMI Classics twofer. EMI now advertises this as available on their website but I often cannot find them, However, the cast's diction is clear and anyone with a bit of school French will get the gist of proceedings; characters have a helpful habit of announcing themselves with, "Je suis [whoever]". This is the extended, three Act 1874 version, not the smaller-scale first, 1858 original which some now prefer - I have no idea why, as Offenbach's additions were all gain, although I do like the vintage, mono, 1951 recording of that earlier version by Leibowitz, which also provides some lovely bonus fillers such as Björling's classic account of "Au mont Ida" and other famous recordings by star singers of the 20's and 30's.


Opéras français - Coffret 38CD
Opéras français - Coffret 38CD
Price: £78.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary value and quality with only a few bland spots, 6 July 2014
Previous reviewers had covered the advantages and disadvantages of this super-bargain set, so I shall add a quick guide to those individual opera with which I am familiar. Plasson is a skilled and experienced conductor of French opera, so no worries there. I have reviewed many of the operas here under their individual postings.

CD 1-3:
Georges Bizet-Carmen (Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, Inva Mula)
Not perhaps the best on the market but still very good. Gheorghiu does a facsimile of a Carmen voice but she does not really have the lower-register heft. Alagna is fine but Hampson is under-powered and boring (sorry). I prefer Migenes Johnson with Maazel, Troyanos with Solti, Callas, or Price under Karajan.

CD 4-5:
Georges Bizet-Les Pecheurs de perles (Barbara Hendricks, John Aler, Gino Quilico)
Thoroughly recomendable; the best available with voices perfectly suited to the music (see my review).

CD 6-7:
Leo Delibes- Lakme (Natalie Dessay, Gregory Kunde, Jose Van Dam)
Again, the best modern recording with three beautiful voices.

CD 8-10
Charles Gounod-Faust (Richard Leech, Cheryl Studer, Jose Van Dam, Thomas Hampson)
Rather bland and under-cast; none of the voices here is really ideal. I prefer Rizzi (see my review) but there is hardly any completely recommendable recording of this very dated opera.

CD 11-12
Charles Gounod-Mireille (Mirella Freni, Alain Vanzo, Jane Rhodes, Gabriel Bacquier, Jose Van Dam)
Really lovely; perfectly cast - Vanzo is a treat (However, the Etcheverry recording with Doria, Senechal and Massard is even more authentic, having a French singer as Mireille; see my review).

CD 13-15
Charles Gounod-Romeo et Juliette (Alfredo Kraus, Catherine Malfitano, Jose Van Dam, Gino Quilico)
I am no fan of Kraus's reedy tenor but his admirers will be happy. I prefer the Alagna recording (below) by a mile and don't know why they didn't just choose that for this box set, as Plasson is conducting that one, too. Two versions of a second (third?) rank opera seems excessive.
.
CD 16-18
Charles Gounod-Romeo et Juliette (Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu, Jose Van Dam, Marie-Ange Todorovitch)
As above.

CD 19-21
Alberic Magnard-Guercoeur (Hildegard Behrens, Anne Salvan, Michele Lagrange)
Bore City and I'm the mayor - but it's the best recording available, no doubt. You might be able to tolerate it; I couldn't (see my review).

CD 22-23
Jules Massenet-Don Quichotte (Jose Van Dam, Teresa Berganza, Alain Fondary, Isabelle Vernet)
The best available (see my review).

CD 24-26
Jules Massenet-Herodiade (Cheryl Studer, Nadine Denize, Martine Olmeda, Ben Heppner)
Again, by far the best version available; Heppner is ideal even if Denize is a bit blowsy (see my review).

CD 27-28
Jules Massenet-Manon (Ileana Cotrubas, Alfredo Kraus, Gino Quilico, Jose Van Dam)
It's an aging Kraus here. I much prefer Pappano's recording with Alagna or one of the vintage recordings such as that by Monteux.

CD 29-30
Jacques Offenbach-La Belle Helene (Jessye Norman, John Aler, Charles Burles, Gabriel Bacquier)
The best; wonderful singing from Norman and Aler (see my review).

CD 31-32
Jacques Offenbach-Orphee aux enfers (Mady Mespie, Michel Senechal, Michel Trempont, Charles Burles)
Great fun with a veteran, vintage cast - but I also like the old Leibowitz 1951 mono recording.

CD 33-34
Jacques Offenbach-La Perichole (Teresa Berganza, Jose Carreras, Gabriel Bacquier, Michel Senechal)
Again; probably the best available, although some would prefer the other studio recording from Lombard in 1976 with Crespin and Vanzo; for me, she sounds too matronly.

CD 35-36
Jacques Offenbach-La Vie parisienne (Regine Crespin, Mady Mesple, Luis Masson, Christiane Chateau)
Ditto.

CD 37-38
Albert Roussel-Padmavati (Marilyn Horne, Nicolai Gedda, Jose Van Dam, Jane Berbie)
This one I don't know!

So very few lemons here and terrific value.


Symphony No. 5 (Welser-Most)
Symphony No. 5 (Welser-Most)
Offered by encorerecords
Price: £4.61

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another way to do it, 6 July 2014
No doubt traditionalists were scandalised when the Young Turk Franz Welser-Möst put a squib under this work and cajoled the LPO to play it as if they were on fire; some will find the tempi here almost irreverent - but this is certainly an effective way to re-package a composer whose music some want invariably to be presented as "monolithic" or in quasi-liturgical stasis.

Bruckner is very forgiving of different performance styles and a pacier, more urgent approach is hardly a new thing; it was certainly part of the former East German tradition as typified by Heinz Rögner in the fascinating recent super-bargain set of symphonies from Brilliant. At the other end of the spectrum, we have Karajan and, more recently, Thielemann showing us how they can achieve a sense of timeless significance and mystery through sheer beauty of sound and masterly grip over phrasing but you have only to hear the performance - actually, performances, this being a composite spliced from several evenings - here and the audience response at the close to appreciate that this was a very effective and moving way to enliven the old boy.

Some will still no doubt find Welser-Möst's free-flowing account too episodic and wilful and I would not necessarily want always to here this most approachable of symphonies played like this. The timings here for the two middle movements are wrong; overall, allowing for those errors and the gaps between movements you may subtract another couple of minutes, making this one of the fastest on record alongside Rögner and none the worse for it.

It certainly took nerve to take the VPO to Vienna and "Eulen nach Athen tragen" (literally: "carry owls to Athens", the German version of “send coals to Newcastle") but the LPO justify their nerve with stupendous playing, especially from the brass and the conductor enjoyed a triumph as the reward for his daring.


Bruckner: Symphony No.5
Bruckner: Symphony No.5
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £15.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another way to do it, 6 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No.5 (Audio CD)
No doubt traditionalists were scandalised when the Young Turk Franz Welser-Möst put a squib under this work and cajoled the LPO to play it as if they were on fire; some will find the tempi here almost irreverent - but this is certainly an effective way to re-package a composer whose music some want invariably to be presented as "monolithic" or in quasi-liturgical stasis.

Bruckner is very forgiving of different performance styles and a pacier, more urgent approach is hardly a new thing; it was certainly part of the former East German tradition as typified by Heinz Rögner in the fascinating recent super-bargain set of symphonies from Brilliant. At the other end of the spectrum, we have Karajan and, more recently, Thielemann showing us how they can achieve a sense of timeless significance and mystery through sheer beauty of sound and masterly grip over phrasing but you have only to hear the performance - actually, performances, this being a composite spliced from several evenings - here and the audience response at the close to appreciate that this was a very effective and moving way to enliven the old boy.

Some will still no doubt find Welser-Möst's free-flowing account too episodic and wilful and I would not necessarily want always to here this most approachable of symphonies played like this. The timings here for the two middle movements are wrong; overall, allowing for those errors and the gaps between movements you may subtract another couple of minutes, making this one of the fastest on record alongside Rögner and none the worse for it.

It certainly took nerve to take the VPO to Vienna and "Eulen nach Athen tragen" (literally: "carry owls to Athens", the German version of “send coals to Newcastle") but the LPO justify their nerve with stupendous playing, especially from the brass and the conductor enjoyed a triumph as the reward for his daring.


Symphony No. 5 (Welser-Most, Lpo)
Symphony No. 5 (Welser-Most, Lpo)
Price: £17.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another way to do it, 5 July 2014
No doubt traditionalists were scandalised when the Young Turk Franz Welser-Möst put a squib under this work and cajoled the LPO to play it as if they were on fire; some will find the tempi here almost irreverent - but this is certainly an effective way to re-package a composer whose music some want invariably to be presented as "monolithic" or in quasi-liturgical stasis.

Bruckner is very forgiving of different performance styles and a pacier, more urgent approach is hardly a new thing; it was certainly part of the former East German tradition as typified by Heinz Rögner in the fascinating recent super-bargain set of symphonies from Brilliant. At the other end of the spectrum, we have Karajan and, more recently, Thielemann showing us how they can achieve a sense of timeless significance and mystery through sheer beauty of sound and masterly grip over phrasing but you have only to hear the performance - actually, performances, this being a composite spliced from several evenings - here and the audience response at the close to appreciate that this was a very effective and moving way to enliven the old boy.

Some will still no doubt find Welser-Möst's free-flowing account too episodic and wilful and I would not necessarily want always to here this most approachable of symphonies played like this. The timings here for the two middle movements are wrong; overall, allowing for those errors and the gaps between movements you may subtract another couple of minutes, making this one of the fastest on record alongside Rögner and none the worse for it.

It certainly took nerve to take the VPO to Vienna and "Eulen nach Athen tragen" (literally: "carry owls to Athens", the German version of “send coals to Newcastle") but the LPO justify their nerve with stupendous playing, especially from the brass and the conductor enjoyed a triumph as the reward for his daring.


Handel: Samson
Handel: Samson
Price: £7.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This has a lot going for it, the Micah apart, 5 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Handel: Samson (Audio CD)
I do not find this to be one Handel's most uniformly inspired works but it does in fact get better as it progresses, culminating, of course, in its most celebrated number, "Let the bright Seraphim in burning row", very well sung by Maria Venuti, even if she does not have the star quality of Joan Sutherland or Kiri Te Kanawa.

The cast as a whole is impressive: Anthony Rolfe Johnson is typically sweet, agile and heroic when required; no "weedy English tenor" he. He has complete command of the long-breathed phrasing Handel demands of his tenors and is aptly partnered by the seductively toned Roberta Alexander, whose bell-like soprano with its quick vibrato reminds me of Margaret Marshall - which I mean as a high compliment; she makes a vibrant and convincing Dalila, having a good trill, precise coloratura and smoky lower notes. Their arias and duet in the middle of Act II lie at the emotional heart of the oratorio, too, providing the focal point of the work. A young Alastair Miles makes a brief appearance as a sonorous Harapha in a pair of those showpiece bravura Handelian bass arias which are so memorable. Baritone Anton Scharinger is smooth and pleasant as Manoa, singing in decent English. The weakness in the cast for me is countertenor Jochen Kowalski's alternately hooty or rasping Micah, which lacks steadiness and tonal centre; his low notes are weak and there is too often a hole in the sound or an uncertainty regarding intonation. He makes me long for the now old-fashioned casting of a good alto like Helen Watts for Leppard in 1980 - although Robert Tear is not a patch on Rolfe Johnson as Samson.

Harnoncourt is on best form, his conducting alive and elegantly phrased with no distracting HIP mannerisms; indeed he is almost classically restrained, relying on the exquisite harmonies and melodies of the more reflective numbers to do the work without any undue leaning on the notes. The virtuosity of the Consensus musicus Wien on original instruments is by 1992 a given; we do not have to worry about intonation or whining; their quality is most apparent in the scurrying "Symphony of horror and confusion" or the sombre, otherworldly "Dead March" which follows it.

We may similarly confidently rely on the Arnold Schoenberg Choir, especially as there are a lot of big choruses to negotiate.

This is now available as an attractively packaged bargain issue, the libretto being on the Warner website.


Chopin: Piano Works [Box set] [Etudes - Impromptus - Sonatas - Concertos - Mazurkas - Polonaise - Berceuse]
Chopin: Piano Works [Box set] [Etudes - Impromptus - Sonatas - Concertos - Mazurkas - Polonaise - Berceuse]
Price: £15.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Goldilocks of Chopin pianists, 4 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have already enthused about the companion Trio set from DG containing the Nocturnes, Waltzes, Ballades and Scherzi; this issue, recorded in the mid-60's displays the same qualities which have always endeared Tamás Vásáry's Chopin to me. I find his judgement of tempi, phrasing and dynamics to be just right, hence my title. For some, his unobtrusiveness as an interpreter is too self-effacing and they require more artistic intervention and personality; for me, his fluency, fleetness and finesse carry all before them. I do not believe that he has ever been given the pre-eminence his artistry deserves, although you can find many effusive critiques of his pianism, going back years.

Beauty of sound, plushness and elegance are the hallmarks of Vásáry's style but I hear no lack of passion in, for example, the tumultuous and indulgent opening to the B flat minor Sonata and the sound here is superb for its era; the 2005 remastering has removed most of the tape hiss without excising the higher frequencies. Vásáry gets just the amount of authentic lift into the Mazurkas - after all, he is Polish - without sounding laboured, self-conscious or mannered. The two piano concertos on the third disc have the advantage over and above Vásáry's skills of the Berlin Philharmonic under two excellent East European conductors (Polish and Hungarian). Of course I love Kissin, Rubenstein, Pollini and Feltsman in Chopin, but as composite bargain sets these DG Trio issues are deeply satisfying and top value.


Alma & Gustav Mahler - Lieder -SACD/CD - plays on all CD players
Alma & Gustav Mahler - Lieder -SACD/CD - plays on all CD players
Price: £15.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The finest Mahler singing for years, 2 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Karen Cargill has easily the most beautiful mezzo-soprano voice before the public today and I am increasingly an admirer.

This latest album has intrinsic interest as it features five songs by Alma Mahler in 1901 before the Mahlers' marriage and his insistence that she give up composing; he encouraged their publication in 1910 only in an attempt to appease her having discovered her affair with Walter Gropius. His reasons in letters to her seem absurd to us today as they might well have done even in the early 1900's, especially as they are, as Mahler admitted, really very good, being dreamy, frequently minor key effusions of a Romantic nature, containing some arresting intervals and being considerably more forward-looking than Mahler's own more nostalgic songs, often reminiscent of Schoenberg and Zemlinsky.

My enthusiasm for Simon Lepper's pianism is as great as it is for Cargill's singing; he is a wonderfully subtle, flexible and sympathetic accompanist such as to sway my confirmed preference for the orchestral arrangements of the Mahler songs; the postlude to "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" is beautifully shaded, even if I miss the violins' portamento.

Cargill's voice is simply sublime: the rich, smoky low notes, the velvety middle, the shining top which is never shrill, the steady legato, the ideal vibrato and the reserves of power are all exceptional. Her German diction is excellent and brings "face" to the songs, giving each one its individual mood and space to exist in. Other singers are perhaps even more personal but none has a more sheerly beautiful instrument; this is a voice in its young prime.


L'etoile - French Arias (Larmore, De Billy, Radio So Wien)
L'etoile - French Arias (Larmore, De Billy, Radio So Wien)
Price: £43.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the world's most beautiful voices, 1 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Recorded in 2001 when "Southern Bel Canto" mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore was at her absolute peak, this recital of French plums displays the velvety plushness of her voice, its slightly unnerving "cupped" lower range and its surprising upper extension. Just over an hour of music encompassing everything seductive about the French operatic idiom.

Bertrand de Billy's tempi are at times to languorous and etiolated, so that the pulse of the arias can become too languid but those slow speeds present no difficulty to Larmore. I also think it unfortunate that one of the longest items is the Auber aria, which is as close to formulaic show-music as it gets; while I admire Larmore's coloratura it is pretty much a non-event musically and I don't particularly want to hear it again, whereas the Berlioz arias are something to savour. Larmore does not quite have the intensity and individuality of utterance. We get from, say, Janet Baker and just occasionally her French vowels or indistinct but the sheer power, fluency and beauty of her voice go a long way towards captivating the ear.

Certainly this is the most beautiful mezzo since Frederica von Stade, with the possible exception of Vesselina Kasarova and the programme, despite being rather limply conducted, is a lovely survey of 19C/early 20C French opera gems.


Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole, Pavane, Valses Nobles, Alborada / Debussy: Iberia
Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole, Pavane, Valses Nobles, Alborada / Debussy: Iberia
Offered by KAOZI168-CLASSICAL---*SHIPPED IN TIME *
Price: £15.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A recording that belongs in the collection of every lover of French Impressionist music., 28 Jun 2014
These famous recordings from 1956-7 are not without equal insofar as there are equally recommendable and celebrated recordings from the same era by Munch and Martinon; I am also fond of the digital super-budget RCA Navigator issue of Ravel by de Mata and the Dallas SO but this collection has stood the test of time.

Previous reviewers have helpfully advised that as opposed to the first CD collection from 1989, the better version of this RCA Gold Seal issue is the later one from 2002 which has improved "Living Stereo" remastering; it is distinguishable by its date and the fact that the later one has Reiner's signature is in white on blue, not gold; either way you will still be buying a superb compilation excellent stereo sound which gives the lie to any lingering accusation that Reiner was too "Central European" and heavy-handed in his treatment of French music. Indeed it is striking how seamlessly Reiner melds Ravel's swiftly changing moods and tempos into a coherent entity. H e employs fluency, subtlety and delicacy without any of the heavy-handed changes of gear which mar the recordings of some interpreters of Ravel.

The serenity of the horn solo which opens the "Pavane", the spring and precision of the pizzicato bars opening the ""Alborada", the erotic mystery of the oboe solo beginning "Les parfums de la nuit" remind you of acuity of Reiner's ear for detail and also of the paradox that the best Spanish music was written by Frenchmen.


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