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M. Joyce (Cairo, Egypt)
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Canti Amorosi-Erotische Lieder Des Barock (CC)
Canti Amorosi-Erotische Lieder Des Barock (CC)
Price: £6.13

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful compilation!, 12 Oct. 2014
This is a quite wonderful collection of songs, arias and madrigals. The performances are uniformly excellent and, what is more, this brilliant CD can be picked up at a bargain price!

There are some very familiar pieces here and one or two that are not so well known; the same is true of the performers. Every track is a gem, but I must mention two of my all-time favourite singers, Barbara Bonney and Anne Sofie von Otter, in, respectively, a song by Dowland and Orfeo’s famous aria from Gluck’s opera. Miss von Otter features on three tracks, while Magdalena Kožená and Andreas Scholl also put in a couple of appearances. The lovely closing duet from “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” also features; it would be remiss of me not to mention this, as this particular piece (and, indeed, this particular version) was played at my wedding.


Boccaccio
Boccaccio
Offered by MUSIC DIRECT
Price: £17.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Search this out!, 11 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Boccaccio (Audio CD)
I have already posted this review elsewhere, but as this work has been reissued a number of times and in various formats, I thought that it might be useful to add it as appropriate. Others will, no doubt, have written authoritatively about the quality of the recording or the transfer, but I have confined myself largely to the merits of the performance.

This is a very fine work; long-time popular in Germany (I was aware of this recording when I did my year abroad as a Languages student back in 1979), it deserves to be better known in the UK.

Ironically, I "discovered" the work via an abridged version in English first broadcast on the BBC in the mid 60s, courtesy of the Oriel Music Trust. On that recording, the role of Boccaccio was taken by a mezzo soprano, Patricia Kern, as was the case in the original production. Here, the part is sung by Hermann Prey, who is in seductive voice and sings and acts with tremendous élan. His leading lady is Anneliese Rothenberger; a touch matronly, perhaps, but a wonderful stylist nonetheless. There are a number of important supporting roles and the musical and dramatic opportunities are seized gratefully by a stellar group of singers; the small part of the student Leonetto is taken by the great Austrian bass-baritone Walter Berry, while the errant wives and their cheated husbands are sung by Edda Moser, Gisela Litz, Kari Lövaas, Adolf Dallapozza, Kurt Böhme and Friedrich Lenz. Interestingly enough, there is no leading tenor role in the operetta (most of the male rules could be sung by a baritone), although Herr Dallapozza (I think) throws in a few (I suspect unwritten) high notes.

The musical direction is in the very capable hands of Willi Boskovsky, a real expert in this field, and the score is very attractive indeed. Lovers of Viennese operetta will not be disappointed.


Suppé: Boccaccio (Cologne Collection)
Suppé: Boccaccio (Cologne Collection)
Price: £15.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Search this out!, 11 Oct. 2014
This is a very fine work; long-time popular in Germany (I was aware of this recording when I did my year abroad as a Languages student back in 1979), it deserves to be better known in the UK.

Ironically, I “discovered” the work via an abridged version in English first broadcast on the BBC in the mid 60s, courtesy of the Oriel Music Trust. On that recording, the role of Boccaccio was taken by a mezzo soprano, Patricia Kern, as was the case in the original production. Here, the part is sung by Hermann Prey, who is in seductive voice and sings and acts with tremendous élan. His leading lady is Anneliese Rothenberger; a touch matronly, perhaps, but a wonderful stylist nonetheless. There are a number of important supporting roles and the musical and dramatic opportunities are seized gratefully by a stellar group of singers; the small part of the student Leonetto is taken by the great Austrian bass-baritone Walter Berry, while the errant wives and their cheated husbands are sung by Edda Moser, Gisela Litz, Kari Lövaas, Adolf Dallapozza, Kurt Böhme and Friedrich Lenz. Interestingly enough, there is no leading tenor role in the operetta (most of the male rules could be sung by a baritone), although Herr Dallapozza (I think) throws in a few (I suspect unwritten) high notes.

The musical direction is in the very capable hands of Willi Boskovsky, a real expert in this field, and the score is very attractive indeed.

The score has been slightly abridged and the dialogue paired down to a minimum; no bad thing for non-German speakers, as no libretto is included.


Clochemerle [DVD]
Clochemerle [DVD]
Dvd ~ Cyril Cusack
Price: £10.20

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A French tickler!, 10 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Clochemerle [DVD] (DVD)
I remember watching this when it was first shown on the BBC as long ago as 1972. I was still at school then and I recall that I found it very funny indeed. Returning to it all these years later, I have to report that I find it still funnier today.

It is a shame that the picture quality is rather grainy (surely a better print could be found?), but this does not in any way detract from the enjoyment of what is a very amusing adaptation of Gabriel Chevalier's classic comic French novel. The adaptation is by the celebrated comedy-writing duo of Galton and Simpson (it was a long-nurtured project of theirs and at one time they hoped that it might be set to music by Lennon and McCartney!) and very fine it is too; the exquisitely enunciated narration by the wonderful Peter Ustinov almost steals the limelight from the roster of expert British character actors who portray the populace of the Beaujolais village of Clochemerle. Almost, but not quite, for there are some cherishable performances from the cast of television and film favourites. Dame Wendy Hiller does a tremendous job as the spiteful Catholic old maid Justine Putet, while Roy Dotrice is great fun as Curé Ponosse; his confessional scene with the Abbé Joffre of Meredith Edwards is a hoot. The stars of the show for me, however, are Cyril Cusack's wily mayor Barthélemy Piéchut and Kenneth Griffith as the halitosis-ridden republican fanatic Ernest Tafardel. Outsiders to the village (the erection of a urinal has national repercussions) are portrayed by such luminaries as Dennis Price, Hugh Griffith, Nigel Green and Aubrey Woods, while even the tiniest parts are taken by such familiar actors as Bernard Bresslaw, Gordon Rollings and Charles Lloyd-Pack. I am pleased to report that two of my adolescent lust-objects, Cyd Hayman and Madeline Smith, also put in appearances! Three French actors, Catherine Rouvel, Micheline Presle and Raymond Gérome, also appear, presumably to appeal to a French audience; the former two appear to have been dubbed, while M. Gérome seems to be speaking his own lines. In fact, the cast adopt a variety of regional accents, Curé Ponosse becoming your archetypal Irish priest, for example.

There are nine half-hour episodes, all filmed on location, split over two discs. There are few laugh out loud moments, but I find this a delight from start to finish. There is little in the way of "extras".


Le Convenienze Ed Inconvenienze Teatrali
Le Convenienze Ed Inconvenienze Teatrali
Price: £13.25

5.0 out of 5 stars Taddei in unfamiliar Donizetti, 7 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I first became aware of this opera when I bought an English-language radio recording of the work dating from the late 60s from the ever-enterprising Oriel Music Trust. It boasted a marvellous cast of British singers, headed by the buffo Eric Shilling and featuring the likes of Alexander Young and Forbes Robinson. And it was very funny indeed; so good, in fact, that I was anxious to hear the work in its original Italian. Recordings of the opera are few and far between and by far the most starrily cast is this version recorded at the Theater am Kornmarkt in Bregenz in 1976, with the chorus of the Wiener Staatsoper and the Wiener Symphoniker under the baton of Carlo Franci.

The work is a musical farce, in which the world of the theatre parodies itself, especially the convention of the “prima donna” and “primo uomo”. Donizetti wrote his own libretto and he is not averse to taking a swipe at fellow composers, notably Rossini. His coup de theater was casting the central role of Mamma Agatha as a baritone. The part is taken on this recording by Giuseppe Taddei, one of the greatest baritones of the post-war era. He is surrounded by a choice group of buffo specialists. Special mention must be made of Alberto Rinaldi, whose (deliberately) out of tune singing of Proculo’s aria is hilarious. One of the finest baritones of recent years, Leo Nucci, is heard as the Impresario, while the “prima donna” and “primo uomo” are sung by a real-life married couple, Daniela Mazzucato and the appropriately named Sergio Tedesco; she is very good and while his singing gives limited pleasure, he is very funny. It must have been great fun to watch, but it is a very enjoyable aural experience too.

It is, of course, a “live” recording, but the sound is perfectly acceptable.

Taddei is also heard in excerpts from Donizetti’s lyric tragedy “Belisario”, recorded at La Fenice in Venice in 1969 under the baton of Gianandrea Gavazzeni. This is a much more serious work, but the baritone is in fine voice in the title role. With the exception of the bass Nicola Zaccaria, the other singers are unfamiliar to me, but they do very well and these excerpts leave you wanting to hear more.


Heaven and Earth
Heaven and Earth
Price: £10.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heavenly compilation, 6 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Heaven and Earth (Audio CD)
I do not wish to pontificate on Robert King’s fall from grace a few years ago, but he seems to have been integrated back into the musical establishment, which is no bad thing, as he has produced some of the finest recordings of the past 20 years or so, originally on Hyperion and latterly on his own label, Vivat.

This CD, recorded in the wonderful acoustic of St Jude on-the-Hill, London, was actually made in 2002 for a private client. Entitled “Monteverdi; Heaven and Earth”, it is in many ways a “greatest hits” package, focusing especially on the joys and sweet pain of love. Beginning with the Toccata from his opera “Orfeo” and ending with the triumphant madrigal madrigal “Hor che ‘Il ciel, e la terra”, the disc covers most of Monteverdi’s musical output, including his madrigals, laments and excerpts from his operas. There are many highlights, including Carolyn Sampson’s lovely rendition of Music’s strophic aria from “Orfeo”, Charles Daniels’ virtuosic performance of “Possente spirito” from the same opera and, best of all, Sarah Connolly, typically impassioned in Ottavia’s moving farewell to Rome from “L’Incoronazione di Poppea”. Another “must hear” track is Daniels and James Gilchrist in the ebullient tenor duet, “Zefiro torna”, but every track on this lovely disc will give pleasure.

The authoritative liner notes are by the distinguished Monteverdi scholar, Professor John Whenham.


Porterhouse Blue [DVD] [1987]
Porterhouse Blue [DVD] [1987]
Dvd ~ David Jason
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £13.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A comedy classic, 26 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I haven’t found all Tom Sharpe novels entirely to my taste, but “Porterhouse Blue” made me laugh out loud when I read it as a student. The TV adaptation was first shown in 1987 on Channel 4 and I found that equally hilarious.

I was, therefore, eager to purchase a DVD version of this production on Amazon, especially as I managed to pick one up at a bargain price, and was intrigued to see whether I would find it equally funny nearly 30 years on. The answer, I am pleased to report, is a resounding “yes”.

This is a very classy production; it is well filmed and directed and features a clever and literate script by Malcolm Bradbury which if anything improves on Sharpe’s original. The main reason for the success of this DVD is, however, its extraordinary cast. “National Treasure” David Jason is not always my cup of tea, but he is on career-best form here as the irascible but strangely sympathetic head porter Skullion, while the ever-watchable Ian Richardson proves an implacable foe as the new Master of Porterhouse, Sir Godber Evans, backed up by Barbara Jefford, perfect as his battleaxe Lady Mary. We also have John Sessions as the hapless postgraduate Zipser, Paula Jacobs as his buxom bedder Mrs Biggs, Griff Rhys-Jones as the TV presenter Cornelius Carrington and one of my all time favourite voices, Charles Gray, as the splendidly named Sir Cathcart D’Eath. My personal favourites are, however, the marvelous roster of character actors of embody the various eccentric and grotesque members of the academic governing body. Headed by the inestimable Paul Rogers and John Woodnutt as the Dean and the Senior Tutor, they include Harold Innocent as the unctuous Bursar, Willoughby Goddard as the obese Professor Siblington and the opera singer Ian Wallace as the Praelector, whose orotund Latin utterances make me laugh out loud. Pride of place, however, must go to Lockwood West (father of Timothy) as the sex-obsessed Chaplain; he really is quite priceless!

A great cast, then, and a splendid script. This DVD will give a lot of people a great deal of pleasure.


Un'opera immaginaria
Un'opera immaginaria
Price: £6.08

5.0 out of 5 stars A very clever compilation, 19 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Un'opera immaginaria (Audio CD)
This CD is the brainchild of one Ivan A. Alexandre. It is an “imaginary opera”, a pastiche which is intended to (and indeed does) preserve he individuality of Handel’s style. The composer was himself not averse to stitching together his own pasticcios and was prone to recycling musical items from one work to another.

Like all of Handel’s operas bar one, it is divided into three acts and features the whole range of traditional types of numbers taken from the whole of the composer’s career.

So, a bit more thought has gone into this enterprise than into the production of your standard compilation CD, but whether this amounts to a praiseworthy artistic endeavour on its own terms is, I would suggest, open to debate.

What cannot be denied, however, is the fact that this is a very enjoyable compilation and although I already have some of the tracks on the original CDs from which they are taken, this disc has given me a great deal of pleasure and the fact is that it “works” on its own terms. A major reason for this is, of course, the excellent recorded sound (the recordings date from 1986 to 2008) and the participation of some of the best baroque conductors (Curtis, Haim, Rousset, Bicket, Christie, Hickox and Norrington included) and singers would include the sopranos Dessay and Auger, the mezzos DiDonato, Blythe and the ever wonderful von Otter, the counter tenors Daniels and Jaroussky and the tenor Bostridge.

This is one of the best Handel compilations out there.


English National Songs
English National Songs
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £12.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars National songs, 12 Sept. 2014
This review is from: English National Songs (Audio CD)
I mean it as no disrespect to this very entertaining CD when I say that it is the sort of thing you might pick up in a National Trust shop. Recorded in 1992, it is a collection of popular English national songs, some of which will be familiar to all, others less well known. The disc covers four distinct periods – the late renaissance, the baroque, the late baroque/gallant and the classical and early romantic – and ranges from “Greensleeves” (c 1580), not, apparently, by Henry VIII as widely believed, to Sir Henry Bishop’s “Home, Sweet Home” from 1823.

Although some of the works on this disc were originally written for full orchestra (“Rule Britannia”, for example, comes from Arne’s masque “Alfred”), the performances here are rather more intimate, reflecting a domestic setting, and the instrumentation is by and large “authentic”.

The performers on the CD are, of course, experts in this field; Lucie Skeaping and The Broadside Band have made some wonderful recordings of “authentic” street music and if her soprano is most definitely on the “thin” side, she uses it with unfailing musicality and points her words with wit and humour. By the same token, John Potter’s rendition of “Tom Bowling” cannot compare with that of, say, Robert Tear in terms of heroic tone and sensitive shading, but he too delivers his music with style and panache.

A few years ago, Hyperion released a similar disc, “Fairest Isle; on balance, I prefer this, but there is much to enjoy here too.


MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT [IMPORT]
MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT [IMPORT]
Offered by IMSSALES
Price: £7.16

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic!, 29 Aug. 2014
This review is from: MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT [IMPORT] (DVD)
This is a different packaging from the two-disc set I own, but my comments on the production and the performances may still nevertheless be of some interest.

I love Dickens (cue for optional joke) and have read most of his major novels. "Martin Chuzzlewit" remains an exception, but I have recently caught up with the BBC television adaptation first shown in 1994.

This adaptation is by the distinguished writer David Lodge and the music of Geoffrey Burgon (of "Tinker Tailor" fame) adds much to its appeal. It is, however, the all-star cast which will, I suspect, attract most purchasers. Although young Martin gets a rather insipid portrayal by Ben Walden, the great Paul Scofield is ever watchable in the ambiguous role of old Martin and does equally well as his brother Anthony. The stars for me, however, are those in the juicy character parts, right down to marvellous comic vignettes by legendary comic actors Joan Sims and Graham Stark. Pride of place must go to the deliciously hypocritical Pecksniff of Tom Wilkinson, but not far behind is Keith Allen as the villainous Jonas and Pete Postelthwaite, who chews up the scenery as Montague Tigg. Julia Sawalha and Emma Chambers (very funny) offer contrasting performances as the Pecksniff sisters, while Philip Franks is a lovable Pinch. If this were not enough, we have Elizabeth Spriggs as Mrs Gamp and Sir John Mills as old Chuffey.

The BBC has produced some marvellous Dickens adaptations over the years and this is right up there with the best of them; I must get round to reading the book!


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