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Peter Street (West Midlands)

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Beethoven/Bruch: Violin Conc
Beethoven/Bruch: Violin Conc
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £37.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A survivorl from brutal times, 15 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Beethoven was once famous for the quality of its 1936 recording, though the (postwar) Record Guide found that the issues available tended to be off pitch. This is, by now, a fairly old CD transfer from the Telefunken vaults, and there have been better, but it is still a performance of great stature. Neither Kulenkampff ( who played the Kreisler cadenzas, and contrived to evade the proscription of the Mendelssohn concerto introduced after he had recorded it for Telefunken - the Schumann concerto, of which (in a doctored version) the regime ensured he gave the premiere and made the first recording was expected to replace it in German concert halls) nor Schmidt-Isserstedt were Nazis, but it was inevitably bound up with Nazi cultural policy, - the obvious rivals, Kreisler and Huberman, being unacceptable to the regime, and the Szigeti issue conducted by the equally unacceptable Bruno Walter. This was "echt Deutsch". But it is also good enough, in its broad style, to make that irrelevant. For the time, the astonishing recording of the Bruch concerto by the young Menuhin is (and for that matter remains) the outstanding version after nearly eighty years. No shame Kulenkampff doesn't compete.


From Mouths of Men
From Mouths of Men
by George Ewart Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Unmissable, 15 Mar. 2016
This review is from: From Mouths of Men (Paperback)
This has broader horizons than Evans's earlier books and one gets the feeling he is trying to offer a preconceived perspective, and to some extent to fit his material to it. But the oral, or orally recorded sources are too strong and keep running away with him. So they should. Twelve-odd pages near the beginning derive from an interview with a post war Labour MP for Ashton under Lyne, Hervey Rhodes, for whom Harold Wilson, then the Leader of the Opposition at the end of the 1959 Parliament, secured a peerage. Hervey Rhodes was from Saddleworth, a Yorkshire outlier of Lancashire Oldham, a descendant of handloom weavers, described by his contemporaries, or some of them, as a compulsive talker. In those twelve pages of talk, without even trying to, Rhodes provides an indispensible account of what fuelled one strand of the early twentieth century Labour Party and the identity of the, by then, disappearing old working classes - from William Cobbett and Peterloo and a century and a half onwards. Margaret Thatcher was already an MP then. And there is a chapter on domestic service which should immortalise its main sources, Annie Cable and Happy Sturgeon (nee Powley, and from Suffolk).

The fifty or so pages on mining which make up the second part of the book (the aim was to balance "Country" and "Town" but the town is a coal town) are required reading. Though when you read them, there's no sense of requirement. And there's a shrewd discussion between Dick Crossman - then retiring from Parliament, and AJP Taylor ( the book is from the seventies, but not the caricature seventies folk are still trying to sell us) and even shrewder comment from Evans about the difference between written and spoken history, starting from Cabinet Minutes.

If you can, get it.


Handel: Ariodante
Handel: Ariodante

5.0 out of 5 stars Seconded., 15 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Handel: Ariodante (Audio CD)
Not much to add to Ralph Moore's review, except some throat-clearing. At the time of the first issue, more than half a lifetime ago, Raymond Leppard innocently allowed himself to be quoted as not liking Handel very much, and rightly or wrongly, I've always tended to hold it against him. I wish, all the same, he had tried to stop his producer presenting the score on record with so many oratorio-style pauses between aria and recitative. The "Ariodante" I first heard, the broadcast under Anthony Lewis, with Baker, from the seventies, which has on and off been available on a an American label - though possibly not as well sung by its cast as a whole, had the feel of a real performance. This doesn't. But on all other accounts, I'd concur - Baker in particular has the grandeur and skill and passion Handel expected. And (Scottish locale, even if totally mythical) her "Dopo Notte" can only be compared to a piper's triumphant pibroch in effect. It's unforgettable.


From the Mouths of Men
From the Mouths of Men
by George Ewart Evans
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Do not miss, 15 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: From the Mouths of Men (Hardcover)
This has broader horizons than Evans's earlier books and one gets the feeling he is trying to offer a preconceived perspective, and to some extent to fit his material to it. But the oral, or orally recorded sources are too strong and keep running away with him. So they should. Twelve-odd pages near the beginning derive from an interview with a post war Labour MP for Ashton under Lyne, Hervey Rhodes, for whom Harold Wilson, then the Leader of the Opposition at the end of the 1959 Parliament, secured a peerage. Hervey Rhodes was from Saddleworth, a Yorkshire outlier of Lancashire Oldham, a descendant of handloom weavers, described by his contemporaries, or some of them, as a compulsive talker. In those twelve pages of talk, without even trying to, Rhodes provides an indispensible account of what fuelled one strand of the early twentieth century Labour Party and the identity of the, by then, disappearing old working classes - from William Cobbett and Peterloo and a century and a half onwards. Margaret Thatcher was already an MP then. And there is a chapter on domestic service which should immortalise its main sources, Annie Cable and Happy Sturgeon (nee Powley, and from Suffolk).

The fifty or so pages on mining which make up the second part of the book (the aim was to balance "Country" and "Town" but the town is a coal town) are required reading. Though when you read them, there's no sense of requirement. And there's a shrewd discussion between Dick Crossman - then retiring from Parliament - and AJP Taylor ( the book is from the seventies, but not the caricature seventies folk are still trying to sell us) and even shrewder comment from Evans about the difference between written and spoken history, starting from Cabinet Minutes.

If you can, get it - especially at this crazy price..


Wiener Musik (Music of Vienna)
Wiener Musik (Music of Vienna)

3.0 out of 5 stars Not top drawer, but not to sneezed at., 24 Feb. 2016
I'm just listening to "Freut euch des Lebens" (cd 6 in the set), which I've had for some years. It's robust and unsubtle, with very little in the way of nuance, and it follows an "Im Krapfenwandl' in which the effects aren't pointed - or even given elbow-room. You could clog-dance to the rhythms. Everyone blows and fiddles lustily and with great enthusiasm. The recording producer or producers don't seem to know about pianissimo or anything much except close focus. These don't sound like the Vienna or Berlin bands Erich Kleiber knew, let alone his son. But Stolz is enjoying himself, and it's infectious. Not the Johann Strauss Brahms admired, who could rival the art of any of his contemporaries, Liszt and Wagner not excepted. But good enough to give an air of hasty elegance to any public space, or comfortable, optimistic nostalgia to the ageing who had to live through a lot of very uncomfortable history before Stolz could give them a taste of what the alte Zeit might have been like. Not the sort of project Erich Kleiber would have undertaken, and he might well have driven recording company and not a few orchestras to desperation if he had. But this doesn't give you more than you expect. And even in the minor Viennese composers, it's what you go back to them for. Having said that I'm not going to stop listening to Wiener Blut, though he doesn't sustain the level of the introduction he begins with.


Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 1 - 4
Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 1 - 4
Price: £12.82

7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Embers only., 14 Feb. 2016
Age, experience, rose-tinted spectacles, whatever is wrong, I don't know, but it is. I grew up musically at least in part on Barbirolli's Halle concerts of the 1950s, and at one time or another heard all the major Brahms works - Barbirolli didn't seem interested in the Serenades, which Boult did well live, but only questionably in the studio. Barbirolli could be a fierce pedant in his approach to rhythmic intricacies, but the abiding memory of his Brahms from that decade for me is fire. In these discs - as far as I recall, actually made in London, the fire is out, and we have instead - with respect to the other reviewers, a comfortably background heated evening listening to a great orchestra playing beautifully but unchallenged - rather in the way Barbirolli's Berlin Mahler Ninth compares to his Manchester and Edinburgh performances of the early 1950s. Perhaps the sheer pleasure of having the VPO to himself got away with him. If you want Barbirolli really engaged with Brahms, go to the Barbirolli Society, the old Pye Brahms Fourth, and the mono HMV Third (on Dutton), especially (though the VPO Third is the best of the set), for at least a glimpse of how he approached this music at his best.


Wilhelm Furtwängler in Vienna
Wilhelm Furtwängler in Vienna

5.0 out of 5 stars A great conductor in the studio, 13 Feb. 2016
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This is a box of some of the Furtwangler recordings made by Walter Legge, mainly, in Vienna between 1949 and 1954. The three big works are the Mozart G minor symphony, the Schubert Unfinished and Haydn's Surprise symphony. The Mozart is slightly less impressive when Furtwangler is trying to think in "classical" terms, in the slow movement, but it is in all other respects the exact opposite of the much canvassed Furtwangler stereotype - fast, passionate, and unnervingly direct. The "Unfinished" was compared unfavourably to Bruno Walter's pre-war recording with the VPO, which it replaced in the HMV catalogue, but it is still unmissable - Schubert seen retrospectively from the post-Wagnerian world of Furtwangler's early career. I would pick out, among the rest, Nicolai's Merry Wives Overture and the Kaiserwalzer. The first is fairly free but with the occasional gesture suggesting Schenker - the Strauss is sober, nostalgic - an elegy for the K und K as the clock ticks away relentlessly, and lightyears away from any New Year's Day. A great conductor in the studio.


Lady Nugent's Journal of her residence in Jamaica from 1801-1805
Lady Nugent's Journal of her residence in Jamaica from 1801-1805
by Maria Nugent
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Top down, but a good view., 13 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I don't know whether this is still the definitive edition, but it was a landmark. Here we have a fully supported, occasionally shrewd and direct, and written from the routine of a Governor's wife's days ( and she knew, in a precise society, her place, in all senses) snapshot of the rich and powerful in colonial, slave-economy, Jamaica at the very beginning of the nineteenth century. If you want to know how it seemed to work, and occasionally even how it smelt, this is the best place to start, and one of the most readable.


Handel: Berenice
Handel: Berenice

4.0 out of 5 stars Better than it's claimed to be., 26 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Handel: Berenice (Audio CD)
This is a famously pared down score, strings, two oboes and continuo, and occasionally just two string lines, violin and bass, to support the voice. Even Curtis occasionally feels the need to throw in an oboe or two where Handel holds them back, to give an edge to the violins, though it could be purely caution. It doesn't have much of a reputation - the menuet from the overture and the version of "Si, tra i ceppi" Curtis doesn't use have always been the best known pieces, though the quite different C minor setting of "Si, tra i ceppi" he does use is a strong and complex piece, well sung by Franco Fagioli.

If you strip away the pseudo-history, the plot is almost pure Iris Murdoch, though by the third act denouements you have to put the diadem back on Berenice to stabilise the choreography and save some credibility. As with Curtis's other Handel performances, the grand manner is pretty well absent. For the living room the projection and its support are ideal, but these forces and voices would probably not have made the greatest of theatrical impacts even in the first Covent Garden - this performance is chamber opera, and it works extremely well. By Selene's G minor aria in the middle of Act I I was thinking "Mozart", however much I might try to talk myself out of it, (he would probably have set the aria's words to pretty much the same sort of music) and the closing duet of the act, in a tonally ambiguous E major (Berenice is in love with Demetrio, but he does not love her) might, if he had ever read it (and he probably did) have impressed the Brahms of the Neue Liebesliederwalzer. Handel is dealing unpretentiously with common humanity, and in the curious way of his later operas the notion of marriage for love is, as it is in "Imeneo", simply dropped out of the scheme of things. There are better foundations for a lasting relationship. Doesn't mean you can't have fits of murderous rage and bitterness. The resolution here comes when a furious Berenice simply hands over the choice of a husband for her to Fabio, the Roman ambassador, (diplomatic triumph for Roman policy, but that's not the point - they wanted Alessandro, Fabio's choice, to marry her anyway, but as it turns out, he loves her) and binds herself to marry his pick. There follows the freeest aria of a succession of fairly straightforward da capo pieces, with an extended dialogue between an uncertain and doubtful Berenice and a solo oboe, a much bigger scene than it appears on paper, which establishes Berenice as an almost Straussian figure - far and away the prima donna - at the very moment she seemingly abandons her power of choice. A somewhat equivocal series of reconciliations follows,( the hardest of which sees her releasing her own unrequited love, Demetrio, from jail and the threat of execution so he can marry, as he always wanted to, her sister) and the closing Coro sets an ambiguous D minor seal on the proceedings. For all its complexities of plot and personality, the score knows where it is going and interest never flags. It's not a great masterpiece, but it's the understated work of a master, and much better than its reputation. Curtis's cast was young and contained no great names, then or for the future, from 2010. But you don't forget Klara Ek, as Berenice, or Bohlin, or Nesi, or Fagioli. Not to be missed.


The RIAS Bach Cantatas Project Berlin 1949 - 1952
The RIAS Bach Cantatas Project Berlin 1949 - 1952
Price: £38.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Worth it, 23 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Really the Amazon.com reviews say it all. Personally I would recommend, as evidence of the scale of Ristenpart's conceptions, CD 8, from 1950-1, where, in less than half and hour, with a chamber choir and chamber orchestra, wholly uninflated, and a recording which doesn't lie about its age, from October 1950, in BWV 79, the Reformation Cantata, he leaves you wondering whether Wagner really needed to write Die Meistersinger at all, and if he did, why he didn't subcontract the final scene to Brahms, given that Bach himself was unavailable. "Wachet auf" is clean and unsentimentally vigourous. The Streit which is erhubt in BWV 19, is, with the aid of second team soloists, majestically reconciled. Giebel and the young Fischer-Dieskau are also festive contributors in the other cantatas on this disc. And you wonder why this series of recordings is only 29 cantatas long. The booklet, however, tells you - the American authorities, who funded RIAS, wondered why the station needed a choir and a separate chamber orchestra, terminated both, and left Ristenpart out of a job. The French-controlled Saar radio snapped him up for its chamber orchestra, which he made modestly famous, but they didn't have a choir. And so Ristenpart's discography became largely instrumental. Audite print the words, which all respectable recorded editions of Bach cantatas should, and often don't. If you have an open mind about sound and style (and that part doesn't need to be very open) and Bach cantatas matter to you, you will probably have bought this set, but just in case you haven't.....


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