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Charles Eccles (Bedfordshire, England)

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Britten: War Requiem (Erin Wall/ Mark Padmore/ Hanno Muller-Brachmann) (Arthaus: 108070) [Blu-ray] [2012][Region Free]
Britten: War Requiem (Erin Wall/ Mark Padmore/ Hanno Muller-Brachmann) (Arthaus: 108070) [Blu-ray] [2012][Region Free]
Dvd ~ Britten
Price: 29.99

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving requiem, 5 Oct 2012
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Any recording of the War Requiem faces a tough comparison with the iconic original recording conducted by Britten himself. This has so much become THE performance that there are some who will find it hard to replace it in their affections with a more recent reading. For my part, I found this new disc, recorded on the 50th anniversary of the original performance in Coventry Cathedral, both thrilling and intensely moving. In truth, I prefer Erin Wall (soprano) and Mark Padmore (tenor) to their counterparts Galina Vishnevskaya and Peter Pears on the original recording. Diction and singing styles have changed in the last 50 years and I now find the original singers too "plummy" and not as moving as the current soloists. Andris Nelsons and the orchestra(s) play the piece beautifully, and the main choir are simply magical, especially in quiet passages. The girls' choir, placed at the opposite end of the cathedral, are equally moving.

The picture quality is as good as it gets, and the shots of the old and new cathedral during the performance add to the drama and profundity of the piece. The original recording was not made in the cathedral itself as church acoustics are seldom ideal. In this case there are no acoustical problems and both soloists, choirs and orchestra are all caught in crystal clear thrilling sound, free of any distortion. This should come as no surprise because the credits show that the recording was produced by Paul Smaczny and his team from Accentus, who have won Gramophone's Best DVD of the Year Award for the last two years' running - in fact, the sole winners of this award to date. I would not be surprised if the present disc was a contender for next year's award

One technical point: the main menu gives only the choices of playing the concert or watching trailers. The default mode is PCM stereo with no subtitles. To change the audio setting and get subtitles you have to pull up the pop-up menu on your remote.

So, I recommend that you watch this performance, and be prepared to be thrilled - and moved.


Evita: 15th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray] [1996] [US Import]
Evita: 15th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray] [1996] [US Import]
Dvd ~ Madonna
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: 9.16

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent on blu ray, 30 Jun 2012
At present this is only available as a US import but is an All Region release so should pose no problems for UK viewers.

The letterbox widescreen picture aspect ratio was criticised on the original DVD release as was the sound, which on the UK release was only available in stereo. Both of these have now been rectified: the original anamorphic ratio has been restored and the default sound is Master Audio 5.1, with PCM 2.0 stereo also included.The picture quality is improved on the new release but don't expect startlingly sharp primary colours as the film was intentionally shot in "dated" soft muted colours for the most part, which suits the quasi documentary nature of the film.

The sound is transformed in the new release with the music especially coming across with amazing clarity. One US reviewer was very critical of the sound quality stating that the volume fluctuated widely throughout the film. This is not so. I can only deduce that he is referring to a section near the start of the film where, at the announcement of Evita's death, the music bursts in very loudly; then there is a sudden cut to a scene where the music is very quiet, heard as from a distance, as is clear from the visual image on the screen. At the end of this scene there is another cut to Evita's funeral accompanied by another burst of music at full volume.

Whether you like Madonna is a matter of taste. I'm not a Madonna fan but I thought her rather thin voice added a touch of poignancy to Evita's character, which I liked. The role of Evita seems to be made for her. I now find other interpreters on CD unconvincing in comparison.

All in all this 15th Anniversary Edition restores Evita to the league of truly great filmed musicals.


Compact White Plastic In-line Cord Light Lamp Switch
Compact White Plastic In-line Cord Light Lamp Switch
Offered by sourcingmap
Price: 3.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Cheap - but good, 12 Jun 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this to fit to a bedside lamp, where the small red light would be particularly useful. There are few things more frustrating than searching for a switch in the dark. Despite a thorough web search, I could not find a UK manufactured switch which had a light - so congratulations to the Chinese manufacturer for including such an obviously useful feature.

Don't be put off buying by the US reviews. I received my switch within two days, so (at least for UK buyers) they aren't shipped from Hong Kong.


Mahler Symphony No.2 [Blu-ray] [2011]
Mahler Symphony No.2 [Blu-ray] [2011]
Dvd ~ Riccardo Chailly
Price: 29.65

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling Mahler 2, 30 Sep 2011
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Five stars seem hardly enough to rate the technical qualities of this disc. The picture quality is as sharp and clear as you could wish, but it is the phenomenal sound which almost beggars description. This is demonstration quality sound par excellence - a valuable plus point in a recording of this work. Abbado's 2003 Lucerne performance sounds spectacular, and still holds its own sonically against its rivals, but the improvements in recording technology over the intervening period have been exploited to astonishing effect on this disc.
But what of the performance itself?
Chailly uses a larger choir than Abbado, and the choral singing is as good as on the Abbado disc, but whereas Chailly's choir look like any choir one might see at a concert, Abbado's singers are dressed in monk-like robes and are more rigid and austere in their movements, adding to the almost religious feel of his performance.
The soloists on the Chailly disc adopt a more dramatic style than those on the Abbado disc, which suits Chailly's dramatic interpretation. In contrast, Abbado's soloists are more ethereal, stressing beauty over drama. For example, at the end of the first and second verses of the Aufersteh'n hymn, the voice of Abbado's soprano (Eteri Gvazava) soars effortlessly out of the choral background, whereas Christiane Oeize's entrance on the Chailly disc is much more evident and emphatic.
Chailly pauses (and moves off the podium) at the end of the first movement, in line with Mahler's instructions - it is at this point that the two soloists come onstage.
In the first three movements there is little to chose between Chailly and Abbado. Sarah Connolly(Chailly) and Anna Larsson (Abbado) are both good in the brief "Urlicht" movement, Larsson adopting a slightly more tender delivery.
The start of the last movement is almost literally shattering in the Chailly performance, more effective than in the Abbado performance not least because of the sound quality on the Chailly disc. From here on however I feel that Abbado captures more magic in the music as the "redemption" themes are introduced - he molds the phrases more than Chailly, whose approach to the music is a little more straightforward. This difference is enhanced by the filming: in the Abbado there are consciously constructed fade shots and soft focus effects at key points in the music (when the offstage brass first make their entry, for example) which suit Abbado's more spiritual interpretation. The camera work in the Chailly is more straightforward - this is a record of a concert performance.
Again, the state of the art sound enhances Chailly's ending of the symphony, but (that apart) there is little to choose here between Chailly and Abbado, with the latter perhaps conveying a little more "release of joy" at the very end.

The Chailly performance is magnificent by any standard (and unmatched in sound quality). Its obvious rival on disc is the Abbado Lucerne performance - also magnificent. Buy both, for their different approaches to the symphony. When you want to be thrilled go with Chailly, but when you want to be moved choose Abbado.


Mahler Symphony No.8 [Blu-ray] [2011]
Mahler Symphony No.8 [Blu-ray] [2011]
Dvd ~ Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 27.62

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Mahler 8, 28 Sep 2011
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The instant the credits appear on screen it is clear that both sound and picture quality on this blu ray are going to be state of the art. The production team at Accentus {largely responsible for the acclaimed Abbado/Lucerne Mahler cycle) seem to have perfected the art of recording these works. If there are problems, they are likely to arise from your reaction to the symphony itself, and, to some extent, Chailly's interpretation.
The playing of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra is uniformally excellent, and the soloists are all beyond reproach, rarely the case in recordings of this symphony. It seems invidious to single out any of them for special praise but the the two main sopranos, Erika Sunnegardh and Ricarda Merbeth in particular, are stunning. The important tenor part is beautifully sung by Stephen Gould, though in one or two places he has to strain a little to reach the high notes. The choirs too are excellent,producing a veil of sound, audibly {and realistically) placed behind the orchestra.
But here we come to the first problem: Mahler's contrapuntal writing in the first movement is so dense at times that the resulting sound lacks the sharpness we may be accustomed to in other works. Having listened to other recordings and in concert, I have however had to conclude that this is actually what it does sound like. I do not think even the Accentus sound engineers could make these passages sound clearer. Overall, however, the orchestral and choral sounds are clearly and crisply caught, with indivdual thematic threads coming over with remarkable clarity. The climactic finale of the first movement is thrillingly caught as is the finale of the symphony. I have never "felt" the percussion cut through the orchestral texture so clearly before.
Ricardo Chailly plays the work pretty much "as written", and might appear slightly cool to some listeners compared to,say, Tilson Thomas. I would have liked a little bit more "schmaltz" at times, particularly in the "Dir, der Unberuhrbaren" section (20), where I would have preferred a bit more luscious sliding on the strings and heart-stopping "holding back" within phrases. But this is a matter of taste - it is beautifully played.
To sum up, this is probably the best Mahler 8 currently available and, as it seems unlikely that Abbado will record it with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, is likely to remain so for some time. Very highly recommended.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 29, 2011 2:52 PM BST


Turandot: Metropolitan Opera (Nelsons) [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Turandot: Metropolitan Opera (Nelsons) [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Franco Zeffirelli
Price: 16.01

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good production spoiled by poor subtitling., 14 July 2011
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My copy has the same problem with subtitles. As well as being completely out of sync. the subtitles are few and far between. Someone has decided to show only the bare minimum required to follow the outline of the plot. There are stretches when people are singing but no subtitles are provided. On occasions a line appears which makes no sense at all because the preceding lines have not been translated.

The production however is visually stunning and the singing consistently good. The audio falls a little short of perfection, especially in loud choral passages, which can be a little congested. But, subtitles apart, highly recommended.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2011 1:02 AM GMT


Carmen: The Restored Edition [Blu-ray]
Carmen: The Restored Edition [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Julia Migenes
Offered by FilmloverUK
Price: 12.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superrb but possible region problems., 22 May 2011
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First a warning. I have just received the disc on release in the UK and it may not play on some multi-region players - only "Region B" players. If you can overcome this "problem" you will be rewarded with a stunningly beautiful restoration of this film. Not only is the picture quality greatly enhanced by the transfer but the music comes more alive in the bluray version. You do notice a change in "acoustic" quality between the musical and spoken dialogue, but this is minor and never distracting. More importantly, the 5.1 HD Master sound mix enhances the realism of the musical sound remarkably, with no suggestion of being recorded in a studio and lip-synched on set.
If you loved the original film, you will be thrilled anew by this. Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 30, 2011 2:04 PM BST


Mahler: Symphony No.5 [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Mahler: Symphony No.5 [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Lucerne Festival Orchestra
Price: 29.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Experience this Mahler 5, 18 Mar 2011
It almost goes without saying that Abbado and the Lucerne Orchestra give a superb performance. You won't be disappointed. The surround sound too is exceptionally vivid, with the force of the fortissimo near the start of the first movement almost hitting you like a shock wave. Soloists are perhaps slightly less "highlighted" than in previous issues but the overall sound is very natural and impressive. Recommended - without reservation.


Mahler: Symphony No. 9 [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Mahler: Symphony No. 9 [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Lucerne Festival Orchestra
Price: 29.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb performance, 4 Feb 2011
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First, let me say that this is a performance "to die for". Abbado clearly sees the final adagio as a transition to the hereafter and his treatment of the final pages is as much a spiritual as it is a musical experience. This really needs to be seen, not just heard, to be believed.

It is a relief to report that both the picture and sound quality are superb. On my system, at least, I would say this the best sound so far in the Abbado cycle. This disc is of course produced and mastered by Accentus, not Euroarts, though the production crew is the same as for the previous Abbado recordings from Lucerne.

So, no problems. A MUST for all music lovers - not just Mahler fans.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2011 2:29 PM GMT


Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (Clinton Carpenter completion) [Blu-ray] [2011]
Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (Clinton Carpenter completion) [Blu-ray] [2011]
Dvd ~ Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Price: 23.79

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pity the clinton carpenter version was used., 3 Feb 2011
My four stars are awarded for the quality of picture, sound and performance, which are all marvelous. The Singapore Symphony cannot quite match the Lucerne Festival Orchestra for virtuosity or passion but they more than hold their own against most other recordings of this symphony (none, however, recorded on DVD or Bluray).

My only quibble is with the Clinton Carpenter completion which, to my ears just does not sound like Mahler - especially in the final adagio. The more commonly recorded Cooke version(s)sound more of a whole: the spareness of the orchestration conveys the anguished tenderness and regret of the last movement better than the lush Max Steiner-like treatment applied by Carpenter. The result is to make this movement a bit bland, not helped by the conductor's decision to edit the Carpenter version by playing down the percussion. Here the bass drum thuds at the start of the adagio hardly register at all, and lack impact.

So, enjoy this version for what it is, but we really need a DVD/Bluray of the Cooke version - ideally from Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic.


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