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Charles Voogd (Underwaterland)
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Fibich: Symphony No 1 [Marek Stilec] [Naxos: 8572985]
Fibich: Symphony No 1 [Marek Stilec] [Naxos: 8572985]
Price: 6.01

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Inadequate, 24 May 2013
This is a new release and both works are recorded in 2011 or so. If you wouldn't know this and got to know this disc say blindfolded you could easily think it's a mediocre recording done in the 1950s. Complete this with inadequate, under rehearsed, many times out of tune, insecure and wobbly string and wind playing and you know enough. The string pack of this orchestra is thin on sound and probably thin on players, not at all distinctive and semi-professional; they're recorded as if you hear some scratching over glass; they're to shy (or not supported by the conductor) to play their hearts out for what this music so much needs.
To be honest, Fibich is no Smetana and no Dvorak. He's an interesting second class composer so you've to play him as if he's in the Premier League, otherwise it won't appeal to you.
The symphony is a kind of Dvorak Symphony nr. zero and the filler Impressions from the Countryside is a kind of Czech suite. It's played rather slow so the contrast needed between the movements doesn't develop. Fibich, sometimes called the Czech Brahms, here sounds more like the Czech Raff. I really do admire Naxos likes to put these kind of composers to the fore, but this has to be done with more than 100% commitment otherwise it looses it's meaning. Go for the Detroit SO/Jarvi pack on Chandos and you've the three symphonies. Their shortcoming is the Americanized sound but you get a high ranking totally professional orchestral sound picture, a mass of strings and immaculate wind playing. (And the hints of Brahms will be recognized.)
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 10, 2013 10:55 AM BST


Martinu: Early Orchestra Works Vol. 1 [Ian Hobson, Sinfonia Varsovia] [Toccata Classics: TOCC 0156]
Martinu: Early Orchestra Works Vol. 1 [Ian Hobson, Sinfonia Varsovia] [Toccata Classics: TOCC 0156]
Price: 14.45

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revelation, 3 May 2013
If you, like me, only happen to know Martinu by way of his symphonies, piano concertos and some ballets this disc will give you a very pleasant surprise. Here you'll hear the way earlier Czech composers like Dvorak and Suk inspired and influenced the young Martinu. All numbers on this disc are a joy. The presentation by Toccata is superb and although you won't be able to hear other interpretations of these works - totally unnecessary I think given the commitment by orchestra and conductor on this disc - this is a revelation. Somewhere I've read this series will contain 6 disc! Wow! The Little Dance Suite made me laugh; it runs for 43 minutes so I wonder if there's a Large Dance Suite too?


Mancinelli: Scene Veneziane [Cleopatra Overture] [Francesco La Vecchia]  [Naxos: 8573074]
Mancinelli: Scene Veneziane [Cleopatra Overture] [Francesco La Vecchia] [Naxos: 8573074]
Price: 6.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Confusing programming, I want the Complete Cleopatra, 3 May 2013
This fascinating disc is also very confusing. If you read the notes in the booklet the 2 suites for theater productions composed for a certain Pietro Cossa - Messaline form 1876 and Cleopatra from 1877 - are the composer's best works. And if one had to choose between those two Cleopatra would be the winner. The music from Cleopatra seems to be in 6 movements and the booklet says `it's a kind of a tone poem, given the coherent whole they form and the intensity and expressiveness with which they tell the story of Cleopatra.' So why would you give the listening public only 2 of this 6 movements? (Only the Overture and the third nr. `Battaglai di Azio' are included on this disc). That kills the musical narrative (if it's a tone poem) isn't it? Was there a lack of rehearsal time, production time, are the other 4 movements lost or what? A Cd can easily hold 80 minutes and this disc halts at 58....
Mancinelli was one of the first of a line of composers, which included Sgambati, Martucci and Faccio who were determined to break away from opera's dominance in Italian musical life so recordings of these works are of real importance and I don't understand why Naxos presents it like this. Let's hope there'll be a second disc with the other 4 movements! The music is very very listenable and very well performed by La Vecchia and his band. Please consider they recorded much Casella and will certainly explore more Italian symphonists, but this disc, it's a confusing presentation.


Flagello - Piano Concerto No 1
Flagello - Piano Concerto No 1
Price: 6.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Mrs. Scream, 26 April 2013
The piano concerto is excellent stuff. Romantic, bold, great tunes, I like composers who didn't give up writing melodic material and who didn't take the Twelve Note path!
Alas the screaming, yelling and out of tune 'singing' of the soloist in Dante's Farewell spoils the fun of this CD. She scared the hell out of me. My cat leaved the room.


Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6 [Andrew Litton, Andrei Bondarenko] [BIS: BIS1994]
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6 [Andrew Litton, Andrei Bondarenko] [BIS: BIS1994]
Price: 15.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed, Angst, ghostly, 19 April 2013
The combination Litton, Bergen SO and BIS is a winner and this disc proves that again.
The 6th symphony is a colossal listening experience and altogether not an easy one. That would be for me the 1st, or the 5th and 7th. It's clearly a work that didn't fit easy into the Sovjet propaganda machinery or the Socialist Realist `let's be bright and positive! Tomorrow the sun shines, the shops are full of new goods and Stalin watches over us!' thing. But overall you'll find enough typical Prokofiev-lyrical writing (high strings) to escape some of the doom Prokofiev creates in this work. The `fillers' are both very enjoyable and expertly played which makes this disc very well balanced on the contents side.
I listened to the symphony with my headphones and had to pump up the amplifier volume till 75% (Musical Fidelity M1 hpa) to thoroughly enjoy the heavy percussive feeling this recording can deliver. So if you'd like to hear the orchestral piano writing at it's best do the same I did. After that I immediately switched to the March from the Oranges and it struck me as louder and more direct. I had to go back to 60% on the amplifier to get a pleasing result. The recording of the 2 suites sounds harsher and louder if you don't adjust the volume. I don't agree with the previous customer who says there's digital glare on the recording. Probably that depends on the equipment you use. The SACD recording is very pleasing and I didn't encounter such problems. But my ears aren't his and maybe he's 80 and I'm 50..... Personally I'd augment the string sections with 8 violinists or so to give the symphony more impact.
The orchestra Prokofiev uses for the symphony is much larger than what he uses for the suites so it could be a wise decision by BIS to give us a somewhat different perspective. Hope this will round up to be a very fine symphonic cycle from this team. I'll certainly enjoy it.


Romantic Piano Concerto Vol.59 [Jonathan Plowright, Lukasz Borowicz ] [Hyperion: CDA67958]
Romantic Piano Concerto Vol.59 [Jonathan Plowright, Lukasz Borowicz ] [Hyperion: CDA67958]
Price: 17.28

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but that's all, 12 April 2013
I'm really happy record companies like Hyperion delve into the byways of the classical repertoire to influence buyers like me with pleasant surprises and many new things. Years ago I didn't have any notion of Polish piano concertos between the ones of Chopin and the next Polish piano concerto I knew, the one of Ludomir Rozycki from 1918. The start of the Hyperion Romantic Piano Concertos series blasted off with a Paderewski and Moszkowski (not a Pole perse by the way) volume and after that they gave us the Polish concertos of Stojowski, Melcer, Scharwenka (half Polish/half Prussian) etc. And now they delve even deeper with concertos by Zarzycki and Zelenski. Warning: they aren't earth-shattering, this is just a pleasant listening experience; works for which no intellectual thinking is necessary. Just let the music flow over you and enjoy the beautiful and presumably very difficult piano part here very well played by mr. Plowright. The orchestral accompaniment is another matter. This is the field in which these works - and many discs in this excellent Hyperion collection - fail to attract. That's not Hyperion's fault but the composers. If you think Chopin was a great orchestrator - you're wrong by the way - this is in the same league. Nothing seriously challenging happens, the confrontation between piano and orchestra is absent most of the time. No spicy things, not even much pepper and salt. A Krakowiak thing, a Polonaise rhythm etc. and that's it. Did the concertos of Brahms or Tchaikofsky, Grieg, or Schumann have any influence at all on Zelenski, who's concerto op.60 is from 1904? Or, he could have been totally unaware of their existence, or didn't have the compositional skill to do much something with the orchestra. I don't know. So, a fine hour of good music making and if you'd let an experienced friend listen to these concertos and tell him or her, `listen, here're new recordings of concertos by Stompowicz', he'll immediately believe you.


Szymanowski: Symphonies 3-4 (HD Audio) [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Szymanowski: Symphonies 3-4 (HD Audio) [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Ryszard Minkiewicz
Price: 10.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unimpressed, 5 April 2013
I'm a totally devoted fan of mr. Wit's art and his orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, is one of the finest I've ever heard in this repertoire. I own many CD's on the Naxos label with this conductor/orchestra combination: Karlowicz symphonic poems, Weinberg symphony nr.8, Penderecki and Lustoslawski series and the Szymanowski's. I really don't understand this releases. Naxos, probably not a fan of the SACD possibilities, tries the Blu Ray Audio thing. It's expensive and I wonder if there's a market for. I only have stereo at home so had to listen with a friend who has 7.1 Surround or whatever. I found the result overwhelming, tiresome, reverberant and muddy. The CD is dynamic, just plain stereo, smack into your face as a recording. I prefer it. Why on earth would you put 60 minutes of not very middle of the road repertoire on a disc that can easily hold a whole Wagner opera in perfect sound? That can easily hold the complete Brahms or Schumann symphonies or Beethoven piano concertos? Why don't you try that Naxos?


Karlowicz - Symphonic Poems Vol 1
Karlowicz - Symphonic Poems Vol 1
Price: 6.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good versus Great, 5 April 2013
Karlowicz can't be played properly without a bit of hysterica and neurotics. The man was interested in suicide, doom, broken relationships and somber feelings the moment he left his mother. Hence the programmatic content of his symphonic poems. Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic feel, know and live this music. Their interpretation is one with that doom laden atmosphere Karlowicz needs. If you just play through this music, with only one or two rehearsals or you get it on your desk with the instruction `we'll record this today, good luck', the result will be nothing, a mere run through, a bland bleak playing of the notes. That's what happens in the competing Chandos recording. Only listen to the icy string tone at the end of Stanislaw and Anna (op.12) on the Naxos, and there you'll feel the cold that's in the musical program. In the same poem the love theme is so beautifully developed with such a fine Straussian string tone, totally absent in the Chandos. Furthermore helped by a `smack into your face'-recording, the Chandos is very undynamic although it can be helped by pulling the volume up, this Naxos recording has no competition at all for the coming decades.


Wellesz - Bakchantinnen Die, 'The Bacchae'
Wellesz - Bakchantinnen Die, 'The Bacchae'
Price: 28.15

3.0 out of 5 stars And......... some inadequate singing too, 18 Mar 2013
I can only completely agree with the other two reviewers. And I'd like to add another drawback: the totally inadequate singing of the tenor mr. Aschenbach (NOT Death in Venice) as Pentheus and mrs. Alexander as Agave. Plus: if the chorus was given full blown attention by the sound engineers they'd blow out of the speakers and that certainly woud add some positive action because they sing very good.


Penderecki: Piano Concerto | Flute Concerto (Barry Douglas, Lukas Dlugosz, Antoni Wit) (Naxos: 8.572696)
Penderecki: Piano Concerto | Flute Concerto (Barry Douglas, Lukas Dlugosz, Antoni Wit) (Naxos: 8.572696)
Price: 6.01

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big, emotional, winning performance, 4 Mar 2013
Penderecki has turned a kind of alchemist. Take 50% Rachmaninov, 25% Prokofiev, a moderate modern sounding orchestral fabric with all sort of percussion like bells, church bells (probably recorded somewhere in Warsaw and dubbed into the recording), a washing board, a hammer and an anvil (like in Mahler's 6 - counts for 2% influence) and a soloist who doesn't care his contribution consist of hammering out much of the same `melodic' material for around 40 minutes and you've Penderecki's piano concerto. It's all very exciting on first hearing but I really don't know it'll stay exciting for say within 10 years from now. The novelty has gone by then and probably we get the Brahms again and again. The spectacularity is enhanced by the recording, it's very loud and right into your face. Strange that Naxos chooses this kind of production technique. The same CD Accord Team recorded Morawski symphonic poems for their label and that recording sounds more integrated, lush and coherent. Not that this is a bad recording, it certainly isn't but the combination of loud and the flashy concerto can be tiresome. So at the end on first hearing I was enthusiastic and happy it was over. So much noise! The Flute concerto is a different affair. Could be because of the flute's limited range but it all sounded more integrated and somewhat sunnier and happier. The Piano concerto is more or less Penderecki having a bad day. But not so bad he returns to his 60s and 70s works, it's all lushly romantic music in the grand style. Some will find that disappointing others not. A matter of taste. It's okay by now to compose that kind of music; it was kind of prohibited for almost 50 years. A very fine Naxos production; we must thank them they give us a complete overview of this Polish - although very internationally orientated - master and I hope some real Poles will be recorded too by the excellent Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic, what a fine orchestra that is!


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