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Horenstein - Nielsen: Symphony No. 3 - Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
Horenstein - Nielsen: Symphony No. 3 - Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
Price: 7.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Very worthwhile, 22 Feb 2014
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It is clear that if you sought strong versions of either of these two symphonies then Horenstein could have provided them. These are two wonderful performances, powerful and singing, wonderfully paced. And, while both the playing and the recording are not as good as you might want in a first choice recording of this music, they are sufficiently good for you to experience some exceptional music making.


Nielsen; Sibelius - Symphonies
Nielsen; Sibelius - Symphonies
Offered by Naxos Direct UK
Price: 7.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Very worthwhile, 22 Feb 2014
It is clear that if you sought strong versions of either of these two symphonies then Horenstein could have provided them. These are two wonderful performances, powerful and singing, wonderfully paced. And, while both the playing and the recording are not as good as you might want in a first choice recording of this music, they are sufficiently good for you to experience some exceptional music making.


Nielsen: Symphony Nos. 4 & 5 [Sakari Oramo, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra] [BIS: BIS2028]
Nielsen: Symphony Nos. 4 & 5 [Sakari Oramo, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra] [BIS: BIS2028]
Price: 15.06

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Nielsen, 16 Feb 2014
Oramo is turning out some great records with his Stockholm orchestra. Their Elgar 2 was astonishing. I rarely buy a record hot from the press but got this one as soon as it came out. Although I do value both Ole Schmidt's and Vanska's accounts of the work, I've long looked for a really successful Nielsen 4 in modern sound and I hopes this might be it. I think it is but I was still not really prepared for a performance of such character. Oramo is a conductor who tends to have strong views about how a piece should go and then sets about giving it to us in a way that is hard to resist.

Nielsen is a hard composer to get. Performers can sometimes be divided into those who hear him as a Romantic and those who hear him as a modernist. As a noted Danish composer we perhaps expect (and some performers seems to want to give us) another Sibelius but that is a bit like expecting British and French music to sound the same. Nielsen's music is not elemental and timeless; it is more homely and of its (admittedly often troubled) time. So how should Nielsen sound?

Oramo's Nielsen is rather uncomfortable and Oramo is very much in the "Nielsen is a modernist" camp. He maintains pulse and flow - essentials in Nielsen - and I know of no Fourth with such overall integrity - while at the same time keeping the music unsettled. At the same time, and between his perturbed big movements, he gives us a very beautiful and relaxed - almost still - slow movement with some lovely flute playing. We get a really compelling 4 - as compelling as any since Martinon's fiery account - that is astonishingly full of incident and character.

Nielsen 5 has done better than 4 on record and is easier to bring off. There have been quite a number of excellent accounts. Being distinctive here may be a sterner test of Oramo's mettle but in the event we get an account that is again very distinctive and filled with character, that has drive and horror and that again delivers an overall integrity and seems "whole".

So much Nielsen can sound like the performers casting around in search of the elusive essence of the work. This is not how these performances are. Here you are very conscious of Oramo disturbing and pushing the music around but he does this somehow without any sense that he in unsure how the work should go. It is just that he seems to hears these works as deeply unsettled and unsettling. The sound and playing are first rate.


Britten: Piano Concerto | Violin Concerto [Tasmin Little; Howard Shelley; Edward Gardner] [Chandos: CHAN 10764]
Britten: Piano Concerto | Violin Concerto [Tasmin Little; Howard Shelley; Edward Gardner] [Chandos: CHAN 10764]
Price: 12.38

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent Piano Concerto, 16 Feb 2014
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I really like Shelley's account of the Britten Piano Concerto. It has a robustness that I feel is needed in this music, music that can all too easily sound like so much froth (as it tends to with, say, Andsnes in his live recording). But Shelley still finds the brightness and good humour of the work. Gardiner is a natural Britten conductor and is a real asset. This is a performance I have been playing often. The alternative (original slow movement is an interesting bonus.

In the Violin Concerto, Tasmin Little starts off at quite a pace and her account is full of thrills. But she doesn't scale the heights that Frank Peter Zimmermann or (even better!) Daniel Hope do in their recordings! Little's is a good performance for all that.


Shostakovich - Cello Concerto No 2, Sonata for Cello and Piano
Shostakovich - Cello Concerto No 2, Sonata for Cello and Piano
Price: 17.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Intensely lyrical, dark .., 15 Feb 2014
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... but not bleak.

The 2nd cello concerto of Shostakovich is one of the greatest among his late pieces and is by general consent the greater of his two cello concertos. But is is not an easy work to bring off. It can seem rather formless if the performers are not careful of the wider picture. The performance here is one of the best and is currently my favourite.

Most interpreters tend to find bleakness in late Shostakovich and it says something for Gabetta that she dares to be different. She certainly sees the darkness and intensity but the her playing is warm where , say, Maisky (in his great account of this work) is cold. There is more light and shade than we are used to and, for example, Gabetta finds it possible to allow a romaticism in the repeating quote from the Dvorak Concerto so that it sound more of a quotation than ever without sounding out of place.

The Cello Sonata is a relatively early masterpiece and full of character and incident. Gabetta plays it with a fire and passion that is impossible to resist.

Highly recommended.


Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 20/ 27 [Ronald Brautigam, Michael Alexander Willens] [BIS: BIS2014]
Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 20/ 27 [Ronald Brautigam, Michael Alexander Willens] [BIS: BIS2014]
Price: 13.86

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!, 2 Feb 2014
The D minor concerto is a favourite and, although there have been a good few great accounts, it seems one rarely hears an account that totally convinces. The outer movements need drama but should not seem exaggerated and the slow movement is not easy to bring to life. Brautigam's recording is a triumph! It is the best that his exceptional series has so far given us. His speeds are on the fast side and have a light springy feel and it is this that gives him the scope to be very dramatic and exciting in the outer movements. This is playing with real vim and it really thrills. But it is in the slow movement that he really distinguishes himself. He decorates the music tastefully but with none of that neutrality that is the norm for modern performances - the sense that "I know I should improvise but I mustn't say anything striking" - and the result is a delicate flower that opens magically before our ears. Wonderful! The cadenzas also are inventive and lovely.

The 27th concerto is not a favourite of mine. It always seems a little sterile and stilted. It receives a very attractive performance here and one I will return to with pleasure. Brautigam's mixture of real depth, robustness and stature with forte piano delicacy, his slightly forceful "pushed" phrasing, are all in evidence and ensure a worthwhile experience.

In both concertos the orchestra is a little more punchy - in an impeccable HIP way - than in previous issues in this series. The sound is excellent.


Stravinsky: Violin Concerto, Circus Polka; Honegger: Pacific 231; Martin: Violin Concerto
Stravinsky: Violin Concerto, Circus Polka; Honegger: Pacific 231; Martin: Violin Concerto
Price: 14.36

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Especially for the Martin, 2 Feb 2014
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What an attractive disc this is! Skride gives us a lovely and powerful Martin Concerto - one that has opened my ear once more to his wonderful music and yet remains for me now a central work from his output - and she really does convince that this is one of the great violin concertos of its century. And how wonderful to be reacquainted with Honnegger's Pacific 231. It is such a long time since I heard it and really it is a wonderful and iconic piece. Fischer presents it beautifully and with real panache. And then there is the Stravinsky concerto, a long time favourite piece of mine. It would be too much to hope for that this also would be an ear opening account but it is not quite that. It is very good - as good as most in the catalogue - but it is only in her particularly warm hearted slow movement that she really distinguishes herself. Go for Schneiderhan with Ancerl or Mullova with Salonen if you want an exceptional account of this great cornerstone of 20th Century music. But I only apply such exalted standards because Skride's playing is so exceptional.


Yuri Bashmet & Moscow Soloists:  Prokofiev Vision Fugitives; Stravinsky - Apollo; Concerto in D
Yuri Bashmet & Moscow Soloists: Prokofiev Vision Fugitives; Stravinsky - Apollo; Concerto in D
Price: 11.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a great purchase, 1 Feb 2014
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The music here is beautifully played by a really first rate ensemble. Bashmet is probably the greatest living violist. But on this showing he is less of a conductor. The Prokofiev is attractive enough but I am not sure I needed a string transcription of a piano masterpiece. I suppose if you are someone who is turned on by great string ensemble playing then there could be a point in this for you. But for the rest of us it misses the opportunity to introduce this ensemble with something great from the string orchestra repertoire. At least Apollo is an important piece. But Bashmet kills it, I'm afraid. The playing is lovely but the interpretation sounds sterile to me and terribly fragmented. I found myself going back to Stravinsky's old recording for a sense of flow and a clear account of how his neoclassicism demonstrates that less is more. It is charming and deep at the same time while Bashmet is neither. Sorry.


The Savage Detectives (Picador 40th Anniversary Edition) (Picador 40th Anniversary Editn)
The Savage Detectives (Picador 40th Anniversary Edition) (Picador 40th Anniversary Editn)
by Roberto Bolano
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I have read in a very long time, 26 Jan 2014
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I understand that hype can mislead some people to read something that is not for them so let's be clear this is an avant garde novel with an unusual structure and a meandering (to say the least) sense of narrative. A large part of it is made up of anecdotes by a range of people about encounters they had over several decades with the main characters, two avant garde and thoroughly disreputable poets (the savage detectives), one of whom is perhaps less of a poet and barely sane. These anecdotes, some extended, are thoroughly readable and each of the voices is distinctive and alive. Bolano's range here is impressive and he is adept at invoking a very wide variety of characters and situations, cultural and social, in masterful detail. He is a miniaturist of considerable skill. Most of these pieces are set in Mexico and Spain but we also have Israel and a number of African situations.

This long section of voices, anecdotes, is sandwiched between a straight narrative telling the story of a group of wild young radical poets in Mexico City and of the escape of the two main characters with two characters from the first part to search for a lost poet (who may not have written any poetry) from an earlier generation.

It seems only in a very sketchy way that all this - the narrative sections at the start and the end, and the long section of anecdotes in between - come together to tell a wider story but you do get a strong sense of time. And between the apparently disjointed parts you can slowly piece together the lives of the lead characters - as they age and as they go about their sometimes chaotic lives. By the end a wonderful portrait of them has been revealed.

The action includes vivid sex (the first part of the book is a coming of age story), playful discussion and not a little violence. The book is incredibly alive. It's characters are incredibly alive. I can't even begin to describe why it had such a powerful affect on me. Perhaps I feel a little sentimental about my own roughly contemporaneous wild youth? The period is caught marvellously. But it cannot be that alone. I find Bolano's writing enormously satisfying. It is complex and extremely rigorous. Yet it delivers and is extremely readable. I will read this book again soon and have no doubt I will find more in it.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concertos KV 466 & KV 503
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concertos KV 466 & KV 503
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 26.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Mozart, 27 Dec 2013
Michelangeli's accounts of these concertos is big and strong. These are works that can withstand, and can even seem to demand, such an approach. But these accounts are not quite at the exalted level of Michelangeli's Beethoven concerto recordings and I'm not sure I would ever put these among my favourite accounts of these two great concertos (although there are not too many really good performances of 25) but I would certainly class them as very enjoyable.


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