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Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 [Christian Thielemann, Staatskapelle Dresden] [Blu-ray] [2014]
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 [Christian Thielemann, Staatskapelle Dresden] [Blu-ray] [2014]
Dvd ~ Staatskapelle Dresden
Price: £28.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Bruckner 8, 10 Mar. 2015
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A glorious performance that breathes with every bar of this fabulous symphony. It is always a pleasure to see the Dresdeners under Thielemann and this performance matches others from this source. In particular, you feel the effort that each player is making to perform their part. Thielemann conducts the score with great attention to dynamics and balance while keeping the disparate elements together.He judges the balance between strict and maleable tempi to perfection. By the end, I felt overwhelmed by this performance, as I was by Karajan's (from St. Florian), but not by Boulez (also St. Florian) whose beat is too strict.


Mendelssohn: Symphony No.3 'Scottish', Overture: The Hebrides; Schumann: Piano Concerto [1 Blu-ray audio/1 Hybrid SACD]
Mendelssohn: Symphony No.3 'Scottish', Overture: The Hebrides; Schumann: Piano Concerto [1 Blu-ray audio/1 Hybrid SACD]
Price: £8.00

3.0 out of 5 stars ... Bluray) starts with a performance of one of my favourite pieces of music, 10 Mar. 2015
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This concert (viewed and heard on Bluray) starts with a performance of one of my favourite pieces of music, Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture. It has great energy, but, in keeping with his heritage, Gardiner cuts off phrases too abruptly and too often, giving it a martial flavour. The ebb and flow of the waves is missing as a consequence and the end is not as thrilling as on those versions that pursue a more lyrical treatment of the central part of the work.
It is wonderful to see Pires playing a composer who means so much to her. I found the whole performance of the Schumann Piano Concerto just superb even if the last movement is the real gem.
Like the Hebrides Overture, Gardiner's use of HIP techniques rather robs the symphony of its lyrical character. Maybe by standing, the string players thought they needed to be more forceful. It is a great work and the performance certainly conveys that.


I Puritani: Metropolitan Opera (Summers) [DVD] [2008] [NTSC]
I Puritani: Metropolitan Opera (Summers) [DVD] [2008] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Eric Cutler
Price: £22.62

1.0 out of 5 stars Puritani a la Verdi, 10 Mar. 2015
I replayed this Met performance of I Puritani to see why my impression of it 10 years ago was so poor. Prior to that, I watched Un Giorno di Regno. In the booklet of the Verdi, the writer attributes its initial failure to Verdi's inability to command the grace and lightness that Rossini and Donizetti brought to their comedies. I see what he means, but Verdi's heavier style is still marvellous to hear.

The major problem with the Met Puritani is that it treats the work as though being by Verdi. The rhythms are too heavy and phrases are cut off abruptly. As well, the whole thing is hustled along as though no-one believes in the beauty of this opera. I find it depressing. The main culprit is Summers - no wonder he isn't heard of more. His conducting is perfunctory in the extreme. I never like conductors (Bonynge often though not in his second recording) who emphasise the rum-ti-tum rhythm in Italian opera, as Summers does in Suoni la tromba. It trivialises the music.

I guess it all gets down to what you see Puritani as: a remnant of the bel canto age or the harbinger of the style that Verdi developed. I think the former; the Met obviously thinks the latter. The Arturo is hopelessly inadequate: his “a te o cara” (with close-ups) is excruciatingly bad. He should taken the falsetto option in “credeasi o misera” (as Pavarotti does on the later Sutherland recording). The Riccardo is passable, the Giorgio too dry voiced for me. Netrebko has the voice (just, like Freni), but not the style. She looks and sounds like the lost little lady: unfortunate, but not tragic. I don't think that role suits her (or Freni's) voice, lying too high for her. It's interesting that her Lucia from the Met is so good - there she has a more sympathetic conductor (Armilato) and producer. Although you could argue that Donizetti suits her proto-Verdian style more than Bellini. Mind you, if I had been in the audience, I would have stood like those on the DVD to applaud Netrebko (having paid through the nose to see her). But at home, we can be more selective and replay Sutherland and Callas (and maybe Sills - good to hear her commentary on the Met discs although her reference to beautiful singing and sweeping line are ironic in the context of this performance).
Watching the old (from 1966) DVD of this opera from Trieste demonstrated how far standards of bel canto singing have fallen. The second rate cast in Triste easily accounts for that at the Met 40 years later.


Maria Callas Remastered (The Complete Studio Recordings 1949-1969)
Maria Callas Remastered (The Complete Studio Recordings 1949-1969)
Price: £148.79

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Callas as she should be heard, 12 Nov. 2014
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The performances are 5+ star and now they leap at you in the vastly improved sound. I had never liked the first Lucia: it seemed wan. But in this new remastering, it is a powerful performance with great singers and the orchestra/conductor are right in the drama. A revelation. I can recall the places where the sound overloaded on my original LPs and Cds, but they are now gone. What a joy. The only small sound dterioration (a fleeting moment) was in the stretta following the Sextet in the second Lucia - presumably the original tapes are deteriorating. Everything else sounds great and well worth the investment in replacing the complete EMI box (which replaced earlier CD versions that replaced the LPs). What a journey, but we are rewarded with a technical achievement I did not think possible. It shows what Walter Legge and his engineers achieved. And the old jackets are an invaluable addition.


Da Vinci's Demons - Season 1 [Blu-ray]
Da Vinci's Demons - Season 1 [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Tom Riley
Price: £11.10

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not GOT, 12 Nov. 2014
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This is a serious attempt to recreate the life and times of Da Vinci in an entertaining manner. Tom Hardy is an attractive lead who is not stilted or mannered. He gives an athletic performance. Most of the actors are similarly engaging. However, they are let down by a formulaic script at times: the evil doers do what evil doers always do and do it so easily. The goodies seem oblivious of what their (known) enemies are up to, even when it is staring them in the face. They have no scepticism. The main nasty, the Papal Count, behaves and acts like a villain from Mack Sennett. Great CGI, sets, costumes and camera work cannot make up for the plot waeknesses. This made more in awe of Game of Thrones for avaoiding predictable plot developments and outcomes.


Possession: Uncut Edition [Blu-ray] [2012]
Possession: Uncut Edition [Blu-ray] [2012]
Dvd ~ Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £5.56

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Scary movie - not, 12 Nov. 2013
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Having read the raves, I thought I would venture into the horror genre to see if it offered anything that Vincent Price hadn't thought of. well, it has some good acting and nice sets with intelligent photography. But it was too cliche'd for me to have any deep impact. The scenes that were supposed to be really scary seemed absurd and unconvincing. Maybe it's just me - I did not suspend disbelief at any time while watching this. I watched it once and passed it onto someone else for a few laughs.


Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Renée Fleming
Price: £28.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great performance, 12 Nov. 2013
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Well filmed, beautifully reproduced on Bluray.

At first, i felt the performance of the symphony a little tepid, but on repeated hearings/viewings, I discerned Thielemann's overall control and pulse. The second movement, in particular, is wondrous. the orchestra have a lustrous, but not thick tone. Individual solos are exemplary. Fleming sings the songs with great intensity and understanding, as well as with her normal rich tone. The whole concert is an experience. Unusually for me, I listened to it 4 times in a row!


Mahler Symphony No.8 [Blu-ray] [2011]
Mahler Symphony No.8 [Blu-ray] [2011]
Dvd ~ Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Price: £29.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real performance, 18 Feb. 2012
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This is the best Mahler 8 I have seen...and heard. Chailly wips his players, singers and the audience into stratospheres of excitement and shows off the tender moments wonderfully. The finales to both part are simply thrilling. This video in Bluray is magnificent.


Beethoven: Missa Solemnis [Blu-ray] [2011]
Beethoven: Missa Solemnis [Blu-ray] [2011]
Dvd ~ Elina Garanca
Price: £28.53

5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, 18 Feb. 2012
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and wow again! Beethoven's greatest work in a performance fully worthy of it. I have always admired Thielemann, but this tops the bill. Such power, beauty and respendent playing. The soloists are equally good. But this is Thielemann's (and Beethoven's) show.


Bizet: Carmen (Metropolitan Opera)
Bizet: Carmen (Metropolitan Opera)
Price: £13.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Met greats, 18 Feb. 2012
another success from the Met. reiner was a great opera conductor. This recording benefits over his RCA version in being live .. and having Tucker in place of Peerce (why was he cast??!!). Stevens was obviously a magnetic Carmen, Merrill a strong Escamillo (similar to his Karajan recording). It is wonderful to really enjoy Carmen as I did on this recording even if in "historic" sound.


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