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richard "oddball" (UK)

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Beethoven: The Symphonies (Limited Edition)
Beethoven: The Symphonies (Limited Edition)

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A safe choice perhaps.....?, 31 Dec 2011
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Let me admit that I bought this set largely on impulse. The general hype combined with an awareness that my existing Beethoven collection, although substantial, was getting somewhat long-in-the-tooth. I hoped, perhaps naively, that a fine modern set with up-to-the-minute recording quality would displace some of those venerable versions. It hasn't quite worked like that.

This is a finely recorded set with disciplined lean playing from the Gewandhausorchester and some of the symphonies from this cycle, the 9th in particular-often the Achilles heel of many sets-are very fine. The playing speeds tend to be brisk and although the strings employ little vibrato there is an attractive sheen to the playing but this does not prevent the results from sometimes seeming somewhat ashen. I do wonder whether I would have found the recent cycles from Haitink or Davis more characterful, more Beethovenian? Certainly, I find Rattle's fairly recent cycle with the VPO, although widely regarded as slightly flawed, rather more interesting and satisfying to listen to over a period.

This set has many virtues and certainly represents excellent value. If you were intending only to purchase one modern set, should this be the one? I hesitate to advise; you need to trust your own ears.


Symphonie Fantastique (LSO, Davis)
Symphonie Fantastique (LSO, Davis)
Price: £7.25

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An automatic recommendation?, 25 Nov 2011
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Colin Davis appears to have been here for ever. He has evolved from enfant terrible to the grand old man of the English musical establishment and over those years has long seemed the definite word on Berlioz. Certainly, I have been happy to go along with that. This disc is, as you would expect, polished, urbane, and beautifully recorded.

Was it Wilde who said that there is nothing so false as approval of that which is approved of? There is of course always another in great music but if you want a symphonic approach backed by superb orchestral playing, Davis is the man to beat. However Berlioz was also a half-loony egotist and if eccentric weirdness is your thing there is a whole range of different interpretations stretching right back to Beecham and before. I only mention this because in a quite separate review (on Beecham's Fantastique) I wondered whether today's customary sophisticated refinement was not perhaps in danger of losing something.

However, there is a bewildering choice of versions out there but if you had to choose one mainstream version it would be difficult to beat Davis's version.


Sir Thomas Beecham - French Music (Berlioz, Bizet, Delibes, Debussy, Fauré, Etc.)
Sir Thomas Beecham - French Music (Berlioz, Bizet, Delibes, Debussy, Fauré, Etc.)
Price: £15.21

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A legacy to be cherished, 25 Nov 2011
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It seems appropriate to refer firstly to the recording quality because by definition these recordings where made over 50 years ago. Presumably, nobody who demanded up-to-the-minute, state-of-the-art, recording quality to demonstrate his equipment to the neighbours would be bothering to read this but for anybody who just wants to listen to the music, do not fear. Thanks to the magic dust of remastering, most of the recordings sound vital and fresh. Generally these recordings hail from the end of Beecham's recording career; indeed, some of the recordings are in (early) stereo and come up better than many recordings made in the '80's. One recording goes back the the '30's, reminding me rather of that EMI icon of a dog listening at a horn gramophone, but even so was still acceptable listening. Two recordings are from the '40's and are a bit constrained but not intrusively so. In my long-winded fashion, I am trying to convey that recording quality is not an issue if you are primarily interested in the music rather than simply the sound it makes! These recordings may be 'historical' but you don't have to make any conscious allowance for the sound quality; just sit back and enjoy.

Over 6 discs there are so too many works for it to be practical for me to list them here. They cover a wide range of Beecham's 'lollipops' but as French repertoire tends not to be mainstream today, there is probably not too much danger of duplication in the average collection. Relatively mainstream works like Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique and Franck's Symphony in D minor benefit not only from (fortuitously) particularly vivid and spacious recording but are some of the finest versions ever put to disc. To ramble on about each work would be unimaginably tedious but to pick on the Fantastique as an outstanding example, Beecham conducts a French Orchestra and generates a very different and very exciting sound world, far removed from the rather polished and sanitized style that we tend to hear today. This was from an era when French orchestras still sounded French (which Beecham highly approved of) and presumably that cannot be entirely wrong when performing Berlioz. However, when I listened initially to the work on this disc, on hearing the edgy strings and rasping wind and brass, I wondered whether the recording was at fault. Careful listening convinced me otherwise and revelling in this unfamiliar acoustic brought rewards aplenty. Perhaps I was experiencing some of that awe and astonishment that those aerly French audiences must have felt when they first encountered Berlioz? Although have several fine modern versions, this is the one that gives me greatest pleasure, warts an' all.

Don't be discouraged by my reference to 'lollipops'(Beecham's term, and not intended by me to be dismissive). The many other works played here (virtually a roll call of significant 19th Century French Composers) are played with style and consummate sweetness. This set of discs is a delight from end to end, a cornucopia of musical self-indulgence.

This is a priceless set at a bargain price. Snap it up!


Bartok: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 And 2/ Viola Concerto
Bartok: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 And 2/ Viola Concerto
Price: £14.11

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning violin Playing, 25 Nov 2011
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I am not sure how to rate this disc. Perhaps I should describe my reasons for purchase and you may evaluate my remarks accordingly.I recently attended a concert featuring James Ehnes and was truly astonished at the quality of his playing. After half a century of concert-going, I am often delighted but rarely overwhelmed. He is simply the best violinist I have ever heard live.

I was anxious to obtain a CD of his but, as my shelves are groaning with the weight of different versions of the popular violin works, I sought to be slightly more adventurous. Bartok, hardly my favoutite composer, was barely represented in my collection so, as I had heard part of his 1st Violin concerto and found it quite approachable, I decided to go for it.

Working on converting myself to Bartok is still unfinished business. The disc is beautifully played and immaculately recorded but I must leave you to your own views on the composer. Suffice it to say that if through some oversight you have not yet sampled Ehnes's playing, I suggest you rectify that as soon as possible. He has released over 20 discs so a choice of something to suit doesn't have to include any element of hair shirt.

The 5 stars is because I cannot possibly fault this disc- any limitations are purely my own.


Hailo L40 150 kg Capacity Aluminium Stepladder (5 Steps)
Hailo L40 150 kg Capacity Aluminium Stepladder (5 Steps)
Price: £49.40

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For those little jobs, 18 Oct 2011
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This ladder seems well made for its its modest price level. It doesn't feel quite as stable as some so this might be an issue if one there were more steps than on this one (5). however, this one is quite adequate for reaching ceilings and low-level roofs; all I require. If you wanted to, say, clamber into a loft, a taller version (say 7 steps) would be required but bear in mind my caveat about stability.


AAA Rechargeable Batteries 1000Mah (Pack 4)
AAA Rechargeable Batteries 1000Mah (Pack 4)

5.0 out of 5 stars recharging makes sense, 18 Oct 2011
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These batteries seem to be doing the job perfectly well and the price is right. I use them for a cordless phone; if you have a high-drain appliance you had better look for other reviews.


No Title Available

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars cats and their fleas, 18 Oct 2011
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It is said that there are fewer things more difficult than separating a cat from its fleas. The ubiquitous 'Frontline' seemed to have answered that one but unfortunately that dreaded word 'resistance' has crept in to our vocabulary. I discovered the hard way that Frontline is not very effecive against lice and no longer gave my cats adequate levels of flea protection.

'Advantage' has come to the rescue. For how long, who knows? But for the moment, we have an effective 2nd line of defence and long may it continue.

I do recommend the use of a fine nit/flea comb to monitor the situation. It is too easy to nurture a false sense of security. Low levels of biting parasites are nothing to get paranoid about but high levels can become a serious nuisance to all and sundry.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 26, 2012 1:50 PM BST


Advantage Once-A-Month Topical Flea Treatment for Cats Over 9 Lbs (4 Applications)
Advantage Once-A-Month Topical Flea Treatment for Cats Over 9 Lbs (4 Applications)
Offered by Kyoto Express
Price: £82.54

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An 'Advantage' over Frontline, 14 Aug 2011
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I have two cats which were regularly 'Frontlined' but I discovered that one of them was infested with biting lice. The other, although apparently lice-free, showed signs of flea dirt. It seemed that something more effective was called for so I tried Advantage and it seems to have done the trick. No sign of lice or fleas.

One of my cats accepts the drops on the back of his neck without reacting but the other one shoots off like the proverbial scalded, spraying insecticide like a water-logged dog dispensing rainwater. She then avoids all hand contact for two or three days. As I don't have three hands, a less traumatic treatment would be useful.


Giulini in America
Giulini in America
Price: £19.72

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich legacy....., 14 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Giulini in America (Audio CD)
Giulini was one of the outstanding conductors of the 29th Century and he leaves us a rich recorded legacy. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra featured in this 5cd set has consistently been amongst the World's finest. These recordings date from the late '70's and DG seem to have decided that the quality of the recorded sound was sufficiently high not to require remastering. I certainly didn't find sound quality an issue.

The composers represented here are Schubert, Dvorak, Mahler, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev and Britten. The Mahler's Ninth is one of the finest versions on cd and on its own is worth the cost of this set. I find it rather pointless to pick out other individual works; they are all very fine and there is not a dud to be found there. Don't worry if, as likely, the acquisition of this set involves substantial duplication of existing copies of these works. With such astonishingly fine musicianship on display here you will enjoy familiar works afresh.

This is value-for-money you would be foolish to ignore. Giulini reissues are coming out now: grab them.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 22, 2012 10:42 AM BST


Brahms - Piano Concerto No 1; Mozart - Piano Concerto No 23; Arthur Rubinstein
Brahms - Piano Concerto No 1; Mozart - Piano Concerto No 23; Arthur Rubinstein
Price: £12.30

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars vintage playing, 14 Aug 2011
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Perhaps one should comment on the recording first of all. The Brahms was recorded in stereo in the Royal Festival Hall in 1968 and despite its age sounds as fresh as a daisy. Before listening to Rubinstein's version, I had been listening to perhaps the best modern version recorded with Freire/Chailly, so it is no mean feat that I actually preferred listening to Rubinstein. This recording is better to listen to than the better known Rubinstein/Reiner version (over-reverberant and mono) and I would rate it the equal of the classic Gilels/Jochum recording.

The Mozart is perhaps a different matter, not really 5 star material, although still very interesting. The recording was made over 6 years earlier in mono and the difference in sound quality is quite noticeable- not bad enough to seriously detract from listening pleasure perhaps but the sonic limitations are there. The orchestral tuttis sound congested and piano tone is glassy. True one still senses the crystalline quality of Rubinstein's playing but a certain iciness of style will not win over those more used to a romantic approach to their Mozart. Truth is that Rubinstein's Mozart always did divide listeners and this recording is not one calculated to win over the unconvinced. I am not about to jettison my Brendel and Curzon recordings.

Some may judge that, in view of my expressed reservations, I am going a bit over the top in awarding 5 stars. My view is that the sheer pleasure to be derived from listening to one of the pianistic giants of the 20th Century, all recorded with our very own Sir Colin Davis who has continued to give us world class performances into the 21st Century, is too great not to be acknowledged with gratitude.


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