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Anthology Of English Song
Anthology Of English Song
Price: £6.66

5.0 out of 5 stars A much loved English singer in her young prime!, 1 July 2014
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One of the joys of recorded sound is the intense nostalgia of re-acquaintance with an old favourite. I well remember this lovely old record when I was a student, in its first incarnation in 1963 as a Saga LP for 10 shillings (50p to you!) This was one of the very earliest of the great Janet Baker's recordings, the voice light, fresh, beautifully produced and lovingly endowed on this selection of 20th century English songs. Modest in scope they may be, but songs such as Dunhill's Cloths of Heaven, Howells's King David and Gurney's Sleep, in Dame Janet's hands, have power to touch the heart. Quite lovely.
The sound has come up remarkably well - much better than what I remember of Saga's gritty surfaces and ever present danger of rattling overload on the higher reaches of Come Sing and Dance. Martin Isepp's accompaniments are discreet but ever in tune with his splendid partner. His instrument - slightly backwardly balanced - sounds "small" - it could almost be an old upright! - within an acoustic which suggests to me of an empty village schoolroom on a summer's day...
This was a lovely record in 1963, and still is now, half a century later.
Also nice to have all the words printed in the booklet to hand - another advance on the original issue!


Stravinsky: Firebird, The Rite of Spring
Stravinsky: Firebird, The Rite of Spring

5.0 out of 5 stars Rite from the horse's mouth, 24 May 2014
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(Forgive the silly pun, but you don't get more authentic than this.) So many classic recordings of the past are now being gobbled up into doorstep-sized boxes at £80 a time I begin to worry about the future availability of single vintage classical CDs. So when this cropped up on Amazon (Zoverstocks) for less than the price of the Sunday Times, it had to be snapped up. Remarkable in itself that the Rite - which celebrated its centenary last year - should be available in stereo (1959 I think) recorded by the composer. I once had part of Stravinsky's first Paris recording (1927 I think) on an ancient 78. I recall it as pretty primitive sounding but a precociously visceral experience for a callow schoolboy of 13. Immediately hooked, one of my first full-priced LPs when I was allowed my first "modern" record player was Dorati's Minneapolis recording (which I now have on CD.) Anyway, it's exciting now in old age to be taken through this extraordinary piece yet again. The Rite, like Beethoven 5, still has the power to thrill, move and overwhelm the listener no matter how many times you have heard it.
Stravinsky's last recording here is direct, dramatic, brisk, intense and immediate, with an appropriate rawness and roughness to the sound (and sometimes to the playing) which is absolutely faithful to the spirit of this extraordinary music. This does not preclude moments of poetry and stillness - particularly in the prelude to part 2. The brass regularly make a raucously strident contribution - they were obviously giving it welly for the old man and thoroughly enjoying themselves too! There are a few vagaries of balance - when the sound picture recedes unexpectedly then comes back with full impact. But whatever other recordings of the Rite you have (and there are quite a few out there!) it's a special privilege to have this around, and may it be available forever. The Firebird is a bit overshadowed, as it always was, of course. Again, of vital interest to hear the composer's own take on his first major ballet score. Here one is more aware of the limitations of late 50's CBS sound, and more richness and glitter would have helped - but the close up dryness of the sound does point up the links more with the Rite than with the exotica of Rimsky Korsakov, which is fair enough. The playing is sometimes less secure. but the drama is tautly held together, and Kastchei's Dance and the finale make their impact as they should. In all a historic treasure to have on one's CD shelf, a souvenir of an extraordinary epoch a century ago, relived in one's own listening room. Like being 13 again!


Haydn: Opera At Eszterhaza (Opera At Eszterhaza: Arias/ La Circe)
Haydn: Opera At Eszterhaza (Opera At Eszterhaza: Arias/ La Circe)
Price: £14.43

5.0 out of 5 stars Haydn Opera Highlights - a rare pleasure!, 20 May 2014
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Many of us who love Haydn will not have had much chance to explore his operas, so this is a useful and very engaging introduction! This disc consists of a selection of arias either from operas composed by Haydn or contributed by him to operas by other composers. They are all intensely attractive, if not having the dramatic flair and piquant characterisation we tend to take for granted in Mozart. The concluding selection - three numbers from Circe - an "opera pastiche" has touches of Rossini. Vocally, the star of the show is Miah Persson - a Swedish soprano new to me with a gorgeous voice which makes the first five numbers a special joy to listen to. But this is a lovely disc all round - the Haydn Sinfonietta Wien (oringial instruments?) producing mellifluous sounds in very sweet toned recording.
Two small criticisms. Italian/English translations are clearly given(excellent) but the otherwise highly informative notes are nowhere near in the order of the pieces in the programme - a small inconvenience! The other small criticism is the astonishingly mundane dullness of the cover artwork, which does no justice at all to the charms and delights contained on the disc! But no matter, this is a delight for all Haydn lovers and fine classical singing. Five stars!


Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer
Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer
Price: £11.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At the price - excellent value!, 20 Dec 2013
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I went for this, not knowing the Flying Dutchman (apart from that wonderfully storm-tossed overture!) but wanting to widen my Wagner experience in his centenary year. The clincher was Zoverstocks' unbeatable price (always an incurable bargain hunter!) - a complete Wagner opera for around the price of the Sunday Times! I put it this way because - though one could imagine a more exciting and immediate production (the sound is a little remote and mushy, and the brass never really bite) - yet the drama still comes over strongly, and with warm humanity, thanks to a very fine cast and committed playing and conducting. So it has been a very helpful way of getting to know the first work in the recognized "canon." And perhaps after all it's a corrective to more obviously barn-storming productions to have the richness of Wagner's orchestration, and the vulnerable humanity and pathos of his characters and story emphasised. So yes, I like it, 4 out of 5, and I'll certainly play it again.


Beethoven/Liszt: Symphonies Nos 2 & 5
Beethoven/Liszt: Symphonies Nos 2 & 5
Price: £6.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Audacious and magnificent!, 16 Oct 2013
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Not often, at the end of a CD, do I almost break out into applause! This is my first experience of Liszt's transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies. Audacious and magnificent I think sums it up. Only occasionally do I miss Beethoven's marvels of orchestration - the interplay of strings in the 5th slow movement, the lovely wind detail in the 2nd's slow movement. More often I notice contrapuntal detail and structural effects often masked in many orchestral performances. The boldness of Beethoven's inspiration comes over with great immediacy, as it clearly did to Liszt himself. Also full marks to Scherbakov for including the exposition repeat in the 5th finale - quite rare even in orchestral versions! Recording is a little clangorous, but the performances (I'm not a pianist, merely a lifelong listener) seem to be superb - combining brazen histrionics where needed and mellifluous pianism in gentler passages. Leaves me wanting to hear more - particularly the Eroica (my personal favourite) and the 9th.


Der Ring des Nibelungen / The Ring of the Nibelungen (The Rhinegold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried, Twilight of the Gods)
Der Ring des Nibelungen / The Ring of the Nibelungen (The Rhinegold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried, Twilight of the Gods)
Offered by Music-Shop
Price: £11.88

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wagner's tremendous epic at a knock-down price, 5 Sep 2013
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Where to start! Ashamed to confess that though 70 next year I had never heard or seen Wagner's Ring complete. We were never rich enough to get to Bayreuth, or even to afford it all on record. Yet I seem to have known the "bleeding (orchestral) chunks" and highlights such as the entry into Valhalla and Brunnhilde's Immolation all my listening life. Deciding to buy this set was the logical consequence of a series of "Ring-gravitational" coincidences. Antonio Pappano's brilliant BBC4 programme on the Ring reawakened my interest, then an impulse buy the Ring Companion (Thames and Hudson) including the full German/English libretto (and you do need it!) and a visit to the Neuschwansteiin in Bavaria. So seeing this set appear for £9.99 on Amazon seemed an irresistible opportunity to at last fill a glaring gap in my lifetime's musical experience. All of which is to say that I can't claim to offer an informed comparative review with some of the great historic performances. Obviously we are not talking about a top class cast here, but following the great saga over three weeks I was amazed just how fine this was. The voices are obviously uneven - Wotan and Alberich very fine, others more variable. There are two Siegfrieds - the first is a bit of a wobbler and put me in mind at times of the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz. Brunnhilde struggles with top notes and sometimes produces fearful shrieks. But no matter, the whole carries tremendous passion and conviction: this is a real performance, and I was wholly caught up in the unfolding drama. The orchestral response is superb - some wonderful lower brass work in Siegfried, and the big moments regularly catch fire as they should. It is a live performance of the best kind, with scarcely any concessions needing to be made in sound production and balance.
And all for £9.99 on 14 faultless discs, delivered within 4 days of ordering! With all its inevitable imperfections, Oi'll give it Foive for sheer value for money and musical enrichment. Thankyou, Amazon, and thankyou Wagner!


And the Mountains Echoed
And the Mountains Echoed
Price: £3.32

4.0 out of 5 stars Good story, 23 Aug 2013
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i really enjoyed this book. There are quite a few characters with their own stories to tell and i must admit in a couple of places i wasnt sure if the narrator was a man or woman. but all became clear by the end of each narration. Having read Hosseni's first two books and enjoyed them I was unsure whether this could be as good but the author does not disappoint and I thought the ending was perfect. Almost the completion of a circle..


ICON Sir Colin Davis
ICON Sir Colin Davis
Price: £17.16

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An odd mixture with unexpected delights, 4 Aug 2013
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This review is from: ICON Sir Colin Davis (Audio CD)
This makes an odd but surprisingly engaging mix of Sir Colin Davis's "early years" with World Record Club and EMI, I remember some of them when first issued in the early 60's, including the precociously bold and intense Beethoven 7 which swept the board on Concert Classics! The early WRC Sinfonia of London Mozart discs are less sophisticated both in sound and performance, but still full of life and character, especially from the strings, and it's lovely to hear Leon Goossens in the oboe concerto again. Then comes an amazingly beautiful-sounding Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (RPO, Kingsway Hall, Walter Legge - what an opportunity for a budding young maestro!) The Mozart Overtures are all superb, the Rossinis, very good (though Wiiliam Tell doesn't quite "gell" somehow) The Sinfonia of London Wagner/Brahms/Mendelssohn/Beethoven collection perhaps requires the greatest indulgence, though the Wagner Siegfried Idyll is nicely done and "in scale." What makes this box distinctive however is contained on the last 2 discs: Berlioz's Harold in Italy (Menuhin) Tippett's Piano Concerto (Ogden) and Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex (Sadler's Wells.) All fairly unfamiliar to me, but I've greatly enjoyed getting to know them, especially in these amazingly fine performances and recordings. There is no libretto for Oedipus, but if you look up Amazon's American link one of the reviewers offers a link to an LSO/Barbican/Gergiev programme providing an excellent linear Latin/English libretto. Very useful!
In sum, though the quality may be uneven in the earliest recordings, I couldn't resist giving 5 stars for sheer pleasure and refreshment. A happy reminder of the early promise, "ripe for greatness" of a true national treasure, Sir Colin Davis.


Rare Old Vienna Dances, Vol.1
Rare Old Vienna Dances, Vol.1
Offered by DISCO91
Price: £7.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely old Viennese classic, beautifully restored., 2 July 2013
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A wonderful surprise to find this rare and lovely collection turning up at less than £2
from zoverstocks! The original Philips "Classical Favourites" LP was indeed a special favourite in the early 60's in our "courting days" (now married 45 years.) Both the music and performances are entrancing, Boskovsky leading his VPO friends to the manner born. Special delights (amid the obviously superb Strausses, Snr and Jr, Schubert and Mozart )are the haunting Lanner pieces, including the Styrian Dances, which include a surprise sneak preview of Petrushka. As if this wasn't enough, the present issue has generously added 4 more items not included on the original. And the sound---rich, creamy, sweet and clear, intensely "present" - your listening room transformed to a Viennese salon for an hour. And finally, the touchingly personal note - the collection issued as a Boskovsky in memoriam, complete with autograph and cover photo provided by Mrs Boskovsky. A CD to sweeten the air of your home and to gladden the heart. On first hearing when it arrived, I immediately ordered Volume 2 while it was still there. Enough said.


Haydn: Favourite Symphonies (Nos. 88, 92 "Oxford", 95, 98, 100 "Military", 101, 102 "Clock", 104 "London")
Haydn: Favourite Symphonies (Nos. 88, 92 "Oxford", 95, 98, 100 "Military", 101, 102 "Clock", 104 "London")
Price: £8.94

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding old-school Haydn, a joy forever!, 25 April 2013
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Already replete with some great Haydn London Symphonies on CD (Davis, Fischer, Szell) this offer - 8 symphonies under Klemperer for not much more than a fiver - was still impossible to resist. Old school they may be, but later Haydn can take this monumental, "Beethovenian" even Olympian approach. These are magnificent performances - even the rather portly minuets have the air of the dancing of the gods! What was less expected, and makes the best of these performances irresistible, is the clarity and subtlety of balance - winds and strings (including Klemperer's essential divided violins) all beautifully presented and richly recorded.. And what marvellous playing - relish the slow movements of No 88 and No 104!
But there is one puzzle about this set. There seems to be some dispute as to whether No 92 is in stereo. I've listened especially closely to this, and I think it's stereo, though not so explicit as the rest. But I'm left curious. No 92 is dated as the last to be recorded, yet though good enough it doesn't have the refinement of the other later recordings here. In fact it sounds more like vintage mid-50's EMI sound, somewhat generalised, more ambient stereo and all. It leads me to ask - has there been some mistake in dating this recording? And what was it "coupled" with when first issued on LP? Just interested, but never mind: a great set, a joy forever, and terrific value from amazon/zoverstocks!


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