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Allen (Ireland)

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Carmina Burana: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra [Blu-ray] [2013]
Carmina Burana: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra [Blu-ray] [2013]
Dvd ~ Sally Matthews
Price: £29.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth putting up with the standard definition video, 19 Mar. 2014
I'm writing this review so that Carmina Burana fans who would enjoy this exhilarating performance are not unduly put off by the negative reviews. If you know what to expect, and are willing to accept it, it would make a fine addition to your Carmina Burana collection. The soloists are all magnificent, as are the orchestra and choirs. I really feel for the poor swan, the abbot deserves all the "wafnas" he gets, it's surprising anyone is left standing after the "bibits", and Sally Matthews succumbs so sweetly. For a normal concert performance (i.e. not semi-staged) it is very animated. The facial expressions and body language of the soloists, and often the choir, are so in keeping with what they are singing. It is a performance that really need to be watched, not just listened to.

As for the video quality, most of what you will read in the negative reviews is true. I fully understand why anyonne expecting normal Blu-ray quality would be very disappointed. It was recorded in 2004, pre Blu-ray. Although there are some HD recordings that date back to then, and before, they are not common and this is not one of them. I assume it was filmed in standard definition and upscaled for Blu-ray. There is some value in doing that - as long as the purchaser knows what to expect. Higher bit rate and more advanced compression result in fewer artefacts than there would be on DVD.

A last word. I've based my review on the HD stream available in the Berliner Philharmoniker's Digital Concert Hall to which I subscribe. The Blu-ray should be higher quality, it certainly shouldn't be any less.

Massenet: Werther [Blu-ray] [2014]
Massenet: Werther [Blu-ray] [2014]
Dvd ~ Kaufmann
Price: £21.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great performance ruined by tricksy camerawork - 2, 18 Mar. 2014
I cannot agree more with other comments about the off stage filming. I thought the Met were bad when it came to this sort of thing, but l'Opéra national de Paris look as if they're striving for a nadir never before achieved. They've succeded.

What you get is a marvellous production with great singing, orchestration and staging together with the some of the worst video direction it's possible to imagine. I had been forewarned but my imagination is obviously not good enough.

9 stars for the production -5 stars for video.

Price: £7.99

6 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful new Anna, 14 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Verdi (Audio CD)
From the beginning of the first track when Lady Macbeth reads (in a spoken voice) the letter confirming Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor, you know this is a new Anna Netrebko. This is confirmed half way through the track when she bursts into the dramatic "Ambiziosa spirto tu sei, Macbeth" ("You are an ambitious soul, Macbeth"). And it's a wonderful new Anna, as wonderful as the old Anna but different - richer, deeper and more dramatic, but still very recognisably Anna. I could listen to her spoken tones all day and then luxuriate in her singing.

This is not a chocolate box Verdi selection. Although not rarities, the album does include a number of tracks that are not commonly found on this sort of studio album. It makes for a very pleasing collection that you are less likely to already have in some other guise. This, alone, make the album a worthwhile purchase in its own right even if you weren't buying it for the Anna Netrebko in it.

If you are buying it for the Anna Netrebko in it, and are expecting a more dramatic Anna, you should not be disappointed. However, those looking for "more of the same" may well be less pleased. But there's plenty of that available to chose from, so this extension to her repertoire is very worthwhile, especially as (to my ears) she does it so well. Although the dramatic can be very dramatic, she's not full on dramatic all the time. The term "spinto" comes to mind. There's also sublime delicacy where needed and a range of expressive colours. I look forward to her performing this repertoire on stage and the Bly-rays that will hopefully follow. In the meantime, enjoy this album as a foretaste as to what is to come.

A word about the different versions. I have the deluxe version - a digibook with lyrics and a lot of photo, and a bonus DVD. The digibook is worth having, the DVD possibly less so depending on what you already have. I found it disappointing - it's rather short and I already have many of the clips in complete operas or concerts on Blu-ray. A couple of the tracks are also "pop" style promotional videos that the world would be better off without. Nevertheless, I'm not deducting a star for that. If you are an Anna Netrebko fan like me, the deluxe version would be worth having without the DVD.

Stabat Mater - A Tribute to Pergolesi
Stabat Mater - A Tribute to Pergolesi
Offered by Top End Distribution
Price: £4.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A contemporary interpretation, 12 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Antonio Pappano (conductor) has come up with a very original interpretation of Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater" and other pieces. It has something in common with many other contemporary interpretations of various works in that it can be "love it" or "hate it". Being quite different to recent historically informed performances of baroque music, it is not going to please a number of people. On the other hand, it is a perfectly valid interpretation. To my ears, it has a lot of the drama of verismo together with some baroque fireworks. Heard in those terms, both the singing and playing are exquisite. Quite clearly, Pergolesi would not have intended it to be performed that way - he wouldn't have had the instruments, the singers or the approval of the Church! We are fortunate to be living in a time when there is nothing wrong with interpreting sacred music in this way. It conjures up the sort of emotions Mary would have felt watching her Son being nailed to a cross just as well as a good HIP recording, possibly better to ears not tuned to baroque.

If you are looking for a conventional (by recent standards) recording of Pergolesi's "Stabaat Mater", then look elsewhere. If you are an ardent fan of HIP baroque, you are likely to already have such a recording, but you may also like this one in your collection as a completely different and worthy take on it. If you are a fan of Anna Netrebko, this should not disappoint as long as you are not expecting her to sing in the manner of specialist baroque singers.

Although it's a five star product for me, I've awarded it four stars so as to draw attention to there being issues that potential buyers should be aware of.

Price: £7.99

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, 13 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Mission (Audio CD)
Cecilia Bartoli brings to light the music of the enigmatic Agostino Steffani - castrati, priest, missionary, diplomat, spy and Baroque composer. Plenty of fireworks and plenty of delicate beauty. A stunning eighty minutes. Probably not a recommended first purchase for someone unfamiliar with Cecilia Bartoli or Baroque opera, but for a Cecilia fan or anyone looking to extend their Baroque collection it's a must have.

21 of the 25 tracks are first recordings. The text explains this as Steffani falling through the cracks. Being Italian born but mostly based in Germany, and sometimes composing in a French style, he doesn't fit well into any particular tradition and was consequently forgotten. As this album shows, that's a fate he didn't deserve. Full marks to Cecilia Bartoli and Decca for remembering him.

Besides Cecilia Bartoli and the I Barrocchisti ensemble, there are appearances by counter tenor Philippe Jaroussky on four tracks, and Coro della Radiotelevisione Svizzera on four tracks. Track 5 (Amami, e vederai) is a luscious piece with Cecilia accompanied only by Rosario Conte on lute. That they all have an enthusiasm for the music is evident. How much more satisfying it must be to display one's creative ability by bringing music to the world that hasn't previously been heard by anyone alive today than by coming out with yet another interpretation of established repertoire no matter how good it may be. It shows.

The presentation is also sumptuous - a hardcover book with about 160 pages. It includes English, French and German text and graphics, but that still leaves enough pages to delve into Steffani's intriguing life in each language. Note that I'm reviewing the limited edition which has ASIN: B008LSSI4S in Amazon's product details. It might be the only version available as I write this but, if you are reading this sometime after its release, there might also be a less sumptuous (but cheaper) standard edition available.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 24, 2012 4:57 PM GMT

Act 1 [DVD] [2012]
Act 1 [DVD] [2012]
Dvd ~ Tarja Turunen
Price: £14.99

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Tarja Experience, 29 Aug. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Act 1 [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
"The Ultimate Tarja Experience" says the sticky label on the cover (thankfully on the shrink-wrap). I certainly wouldn't disagree with that (except to add "to date") - 2h45m of live Tarja bliss!

The format is interesting and works surprisingly well. "Act I" was recorded on two successive nights in Rosario, Argentina. The two concerts had different set-lists, albeit with much commonality. The first DVD contains a representative "concert" lasting 1h50m put together almost seamlessly from the two nights. The only really odd thing about it is it contains the encores from both nights - you get two bows. The second DVD contains the songs that didn't make it onto the first DVD (there's no duplication). This is presented as a 55 minute "concert" without a proper beginning and ending with the pretend last song, i.e. before the encore. There is also bonus material which includes a very nice interview with Tarja interspersed with some amusing bits from the band. [If you get the Blu-Ray edition, it's all on the same disk.]

For those also considering the 2xCD edition (separate purchase), it presents a slightly different track list containing most songs from the first DVD and some from the second. The talking between songs has been omitted. It's well worth getting both CDs and DVDs (or Blu-Ray).

If you are reading this you probably already know how magnificent Tarja is. What you may not realise is that a live performance brings out the best in her, especially when she's having fun. She must have had a lot of fun in Rosario. But there is more to the concert than Tarja. The band as a whole is superb. There's some brilliant instrumentation in there. It easily surpasses that on most live music DVDs.

I can't fault the production standard. Camera work is excellent, as is post production. There's no excessively close cutting (there's very little close cutting at all) and no jerky slo-mo. These are editing gimmicks that irritate me on some other metal DVDs. Sound quality is also excellent on both DVDs and CDs.

It will be difficult for Tarja fans not to compare "Act I" with "End Of An Era". "End Of An Era" has excellent songs that are extremely well performed, but it almost fades into insignificance alongside "Act I". The three songs for which a direct comparison can be made ("Nemo", "Phantom Of The Opera" and "Over The Hills And Far Away") are, in my opinion, performed better on "Act I" both vocally and instrumentally. "Phantom Of The Opera" is worth a special mention. Marco does well as the phantom on "End Of An Era", but Diego Valdez is a near perfect foil for Tarja on "Act I".

Also worth special mention are the instrumental tracks. Mike Terrana's drum solos and the "band jam" that serves as an extended introduction to "Little Lies" show what a superb group of musicians Tarja has collected around her.

This is a must have for any Tarja fan. I'm already looking forward to Act II.

SoundMAGIC E30 Earphones - Black
SoundMAGIC E30 Earphones - Black
Offered by Advanced MP3 Players
Price: £39.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional clarity, 30 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've eventually found a set of earphones that I can get on with - SoundMagic E30.

I mostly listen to classical, symphonic metal and folk. Around the house I use a pair of high-end full-sized open-back Sennheiser HD598 headphones. Consequently, any pair of earphones for use out of the house has quite a challenge to satisfy me. The E30s do a very good job.

They have a neutral sounding frequency response. That won't please bass fans but does give them exceptional clarity. They don't quite have the clarity of my Senns, but they come close - closer than I would have expected, closer than my Sennheiser P100 travel headphones, and a lot closer than any other earphones I've heard. They may be just a little bright at the high end for my taste, but nothing that a small adjustment of the equaliser on my Cowon J3 MP3 player can't deal with. The low end is extended but not emphasised - no adjustement needed for my taste.

I still have a problem with hearing my breathing (and sometimes my pulse) but that would be the case with anything that shuts off my ear canal. However, the E30s pretty much eliminate the other problems I have with earphones. They are comfortable, they stay in, and I don't have to juggle with the positioning of them to get a consistent sound. Much of this is due to the bit that sticks into the ear canal being angled so that they only fit properly in one position (and that's a natural position once you've figured it out). In that position the lead comes out of the earpiece pointing somewhere between forward and upwards (as if aimed a little higher than my temples). That's just right for me to take the cable over the back of my ear and that means that any cable tug gets taken on my ear rather than the earpiece. With a choice of seven pairs of silicone tips in different shapes and sizes, finding one that's confortable and fits well was easy (if somewhat bemusing initially).

There are some other accessories that come with the E30s. You don't have to use them, but they may make life a little easier for you. There's a gizmo that allows you to coil up some of the cable on one side so that the cable hangs to your left or right, and a clip for fastening the cable to your clothing to further reduce the effect of tugging. There's also a pair of semi-rigid ear hooks which the cable can be threaded through, but I don't get on with those. Finally, there's a neat little pouch.

One last word - the red earpiece goes in the right ear.

Patrick Hawes: Lazarus Requiem
Patrick Hawes: Lazarus Requiem
Price: £15.25

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A contemporary classic, 3 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Patrick Hawes has taken a classic Latin libretto for the Requiem and interwoven it with the story of Lazarus sung in English. In so doing, he has created a masterpiece worthy of the great composers of past centuries with the innovation of the 21st century. It is comforting that choral music of this nature and standard is alive and well. First performed in 2008, Lazarus is a Requiem that is destined to stand the test of time. This is the first recording and, being conducted by Patrick Hawes himself, it will be the definitive recording for a good while. I was initially attracted to it as another collaboration between Patrick Hawes and Elin Manahan Thomas, but all the soloists perform so magnificently that it would be wrong to single out any of them for special mention. Neither can I find fault with the choirs and orchestra. They combine with the soloists to produce a work of exquisite beauty in the delicate passages and heartfelt passion in the dramatic moments. This is music to feed your soul. It won't go hungry.

Grado Adaptor Cable 6.3mm to 3.5mm (15cm Length)
Grado Adaptor Cable 6.3mm to 3.5mm (15cm Length)
Offered by AudioVisual Online
Price: £15.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the best, 26 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Other than an option of a replacement lead with 3.5mm termination (I wish), this is the best solution I've found for connecting high quailty headphones with a 6.3mm termination to a laptop or media player. Leadless adaptors are too long and put far too much strain on the socket, potentially leading to expensive damage. This is the second Grado lead I've had. It does just what it says and is an ideal length. The reason it's my second is because the first failed due to bending strain on the lead inside the 3.5mm plug. It did have very heavy use and was frequently stuffed inside a jeans pocket along with my Cowon J3 and the rest of my Senn HD598's 3m lead. Although I would have hoped it would last longer, it does illustrate the reason for using such a lead rather than one piece adaptors. It lasted for 9 months. After that experience I tried two cheaper leads. One lasted about 6 weeks before suffering the same fate. The other lasted less than three weeks. So, although pricey, it's still more economical in the longer term. Nevertheless, one star deducted for the failure and the price.

What Lies Beneath
What Lies Beneath

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 3 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: What Lies Beneath (Audio CD)
"What Lies Beneath" is as magnificent as Tarja is herself.

Tarja just keeps getting better. "My Winter Storm" revealed the talent she was hiding during her Nighwish days. "What Lies Beneath" builds on that. The compositions are superb both musically and lyrically. She has collected a group of musicians around her who put in a performance to match her own, including a guest appearance by Joe Satriani .

The album has a balanced mix of light and heavy, and Tarja excels in both departments. Tarja has never had difficulty turning on the power but, in her Nightwish days, I could sometimes sense the power tugging at the reins during softer passages. She now has more control over that unique voice of hers and can be as delicate, where called for, as she can be passionate.

If you liked "My Winter Storm", you will love this. If you are a Nightwish fan new to Tarja's solo recordings, this should not disappoint and you may well be in for a very pleasant surprise.

About the various editions. The bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition are worth having but the difference in price is excessive. They include a worthy cover of Whitesnake's "Still Of The Night" and a 14 minute video "Tarja Speaks About What Lies Beneath". The video is well worth watching and reveals as much about Tarja as it does about the making of the album. The bonus tracks are included in the download edition at a much more reasonable price. The video is not included in the download edition that Amazon are selling, but is included in the edition you can get elsewhere.

A year later

It's still magnificent. It's one of my most played albums and it's still growing on me. I wish I could give it an extra star.

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