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Christine M. Pluck "meyhem" (UK)

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Haydn : Symphonies Nos. 99 - 104
Haydn : Symphonies Nos. 99 - 104
Price: 6.17

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haydn at his best, 4 Aug 2010
This 2CD set contains almost three hours of genuine Classical music with charming melodies; inventive allegros and lively minuets interspersed with vigorous orchestral outbursts. Symphonies 99-104 are often referred to as the London Symphonies, since they were written or completed in London and premiered before an enthusiastic English public in the Capital. For the first time his scorings included a pair of clarinets, a relatively new instrument at that time, and these give more depth to his later symphonies. His last three symphonies have a touch of very early Beethoven about them.

Some of these symphonies have acquired descriptive titles; 100 "Military' 101 "Clock", 103 "Drum Roll" and 104 "The London", for reasons which will become obvious, in the first three cases, after you have listened to the music.

While, with the exception of Symphony 100, there are a few better versions of each around; this cohesive set is very well performed with no irritating frills. The performance of 100 "military" is the best I've heard with a rousing 2nd movement "call-to-arms" and a breathtaking presto finale. The versions of 101 "Clock" and 102 (arguably the best of his symphonies) are also particularly fine.

I used to consider Haydn's symphonies relatively light-weight with playing times often shorter than a single movement of a Mahler symphony. After several hearings of these two discs I have been forced to reconsider my early opinion. his mastery of technique and melody are obvious throughout as is his originality.

Quality music well worth the money.

Works for Clarinet and Viola
Works for Clarinet and Viola
Price: 25.74

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bruch velvet viola and mellow clarinet, 1 Aug 2010
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Bruch came out of retirement in his 80s to write this concerto for viola and clarinet, prompted by his son Max Felix being an excellent clarinet player. After two movements of enchanting melody, in which the velvet tones of the viola and clarinet play soothing virtuoso-free songs, sometimes separately at other times together, the third movement, out of character, begins with a dramatic statement (reminiscent of a Brahms symphony) before sweeping the viola and clarinet along in an energetic allegro. The concerto is only 18 minutes long and leaves one wanting much more. Fortunately there is almost another 50 minutes of music on this CD.

I think the Romance for Viola and Orchestra, only 9 minutes, is the highlight of the disc; there is a wonderful lyricism and the piece is spiritually uplifting. Often, when wanting to unwind, I just play this Romance from the disc.

However, the eight pieces for clarinet, viola and piano are rather a mixed bag and there is not enough contrast for me in either tune or tempo. The third piece promises a rather gypsy style viola but flatters to deceive; the delightful piece No.7 seems to make a fitting climax to the series,after which number eight seems rather nondescript and unnecessary.

The soloists are first rate and the orchestral playing sound, but the recording puts the clarinet too much to the fore and on the eight pieces it can seem a little shrill in its higher registers and occasionally seems to swamp the viola and piano.

To summarise; 28 minutes of sublime five star music and about 38 of less enthralling three-star. Still I'm glad I bought it.
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Mozart: Horn Concertos Nos. 1-4
Mozart: Horn Concertos Nos. 1-4

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mozart Horn Concertos, 1 Aug 2010
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An excellent CD. A full hour of horn music comprising all four of the completed horn concertos, including the two movement first horn concerto. All three of the E flat horn concertos, 2,3 and 4,have wonderful hunting tunes as their playful and joyful finales, including that to No.4 now familiar to most members of the general public through Flanders and Swann. Pleasingly the horn concertos have been recorded in the correct order, which is not always the case. There is the bonus of a Rondo in E flat, thought to be the finale for another horn concerto and certainly of the same quality.In addition there is an interesting fragment, yet again in E flat.

The Australian horn player Barry Tuckwell is not quite Dennis Brain but he is close and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, under the baton of Sir Neville Marriner, is a tried and tested combination for music of this period.

An excellent recording capturing the sonorous horn at its very best and at a budget price too.

Grieg: Lieder
Grieg: Lieder

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Songs of Grieg, 28 July 2010
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This review is from: Grieg: Lieder (Audio CD)

Only a small portion of Grieg's repertoire is well known, notably the piano concerto and the two Peer Gynt suites, yet he wrote many delightful songs, putting some excellent poetry to music. His inspiration was his Danish wife, Nina, a more than competent soprano.

Anne Sofie von Otter is just about the best mezzo-soprano around. Her voice has such wonderful sensitivity and copes brilliantly with the subtle changes of tempo and intensity. The piano accompaniment, by Bengst Forsberg, is the perfect compliment. Many of the piano parts are beautifully intricate and lyrical in their own right.

There are 25 songs on this CD; the first eight comprising the "song cycle" The Mountain Maid, the others all being individual offerings. The pick of the songs are: track 11 Lauf der Welt (The Way of the World), track 12 Die verschwiegene Nachtigall (The Secretive Nightingale) and track 22 Fra Monte Pincio.

The songs are so lyrical and entertaining that the language doesn't matter, one hardly notices but, for those used to the lieder of Schumann, there are many similarities between words in Norwegian and German. There is an excellent 20 page booklet, as part of the cover, with the words of the poets in both Norwegian and English.

The recording is absolutely first class, wonderfully clear and with a superb balance between singer and pianist. The performances sound so intimate it is as if both are in your living room.

This is a most highly-prized CD and I would have given it six stars had the review system permitted,. Lovers of lieder will absolutely adore this and for those who love Grieg it will add a pleasing new dimension to your collection and enhance your admiration for this Composer. A NUMBER OF SECOND-HAND VERSIONS ARE STILL AVAILABLE, FROM OTHER SUPPLIERS, THROUGH AMAZON.

Nielsen: Symphonies Nos.4 And 5
Nielsen: Symphonies Nos.4 And 5
Offered by Direct Entertainment UK
Price: 12.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oustanding versions of Nielsen's two best symphonies, 25 July 2010

Nielsen's 4th symphony is my favourite large-scale orchestral work. I was once lucky enough to hear this outstanding symphony performed by the Royal Danish Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Jerzy Semkow, at the Royal Festival Hall. Of the versions currently available, Adrian Leaper's is one of the finest and is, in my opinion, preferable to many versions performed by "bigger-name" orchestras than the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and with more famous conductors who try to stamp their own individuality on the work rather than letting the Composer speak for himself. Leaper handles the brassy climaxes extremely well and the all-important clarinet parts are both beautiful and clear. The battle between the two sets of timpani in the final movement is particularly impressive in this version. The balance and tempo are such that the mixture of unbridled lyricism, interspersed with outbursts of tremendous energy, in this life-affirming symphony are exhilarating.

The fifth symphony, rated by most critics to be Nielsen's finest, is not so instantly appealing but will benefit from repeated listenings. The snare drum gives it an excellent impetus and it is full of Nielsen's wonderful, falling woodwind passages, sometimes haunting at others threatening menace. Like the fourth it ends in a blaze of triumph.

If you are not familiar with Nielsen's music, this is an excellent budget-priced introduction and if you like Nielsen's work then you'll heartily approve of the combination, the interpretation and the recording.

Mozart Concertos For Flute & Harp: Classic Library Series
Mozart Concertos For Flute & Harp: Classic Library Series
Price: 6.35

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars mozart flute concertos, 24 July 2010
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Mozart referred to the flute as "an instrument which I cannot bear." You would never guess that to have been the case from his three flute concertos, one jointly with harp.

While The 1st flute concerto is typical Mozart with a delightful third movement, it is the 2nd. concerto which offers more variation in mood and tempo and more opportunities for the solo instrument. Both are very good concertos but not in the same class as his clarinet or bassoon concertos.

Mozart wrote so much good music that some of it can sound almost the same. However the concerto for flute and harp offers something different: original and, at times, breathtakingly beautiful. Sir James Galway is, as usual, on excellent form but on this occasion I believe he is outshone by the Spanish harpist Marisa Robles, whose nimble fingers make this a delight to the ear. For the full 29 minutes this concerto is enthralling. The CD would be worth purchasing for this version of the flute and harp concerto alone.

My congratulations to the sound engineers who have ensured a recording where the flute remains soothing and mellow, rather than being piercing or shrill in its upper registers.

Seventy minutes of magic flute and sublime harp. Highly recommended.

The Essential Borodin
The Essential Borodin
Price: 7.25

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Borodin, 10 July 2010
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This review is from: The Essential Borodin (Audio CD)
Borodin was Professor of Chemistry at the University of St. Petersburg and arguably the most brilliant medical scientist in Russia and his scientific and administrative commitments made it difficult for him to compose and composition of some works spread out over a number of years; some of his works were completed by his close friend Rimsky-Korsakov and by Glazunov but are unmistakably Borodin's. The 152 minutes of music on these two CDs therefore represent a substantial portion of Borodin's repertoire - including his "Greatest Hits" and some lesser known works.

I agree with everything R.J. Knight has said but hope to offer a different perspective. Sir George Solti is a conductor who does not impose his own ego on works and allows the composer's music to speak for itself, so the overture and the Polovtsian dances from Prince Igor are in the best possible hands. Borodin was the illegitimate son of a Tartar Prince and this shows in the melodies and passion in the music.

Pizzicato strings and haunting woodwind sounds are the hallmark of Borodin's compositions and these are evident towards the end of his "exploratory" first symphony. The second symphony is substantial with an authoritative first movement and a creative 2nd movement scherzo; however it is the slow third movement, with its haunting harp/horn introduction and its wonderful lyricism, interspersed with the threat of menace, that make the hairs on the back of MY neck rise; this leads into an energetic and celebratory finale.

This is a very evocative "In The Steppes Of Central Asia" and the recording is unusually free from background noise during the very quiet beginning and ending.
It has an authentic Russian melancholy. If you like In The Steppes of Central Asia you'll probably enjoy the two movements of the "unfinished" 3rd. symphony.

In addition you have his 2nd. String Quartet (I don't much care for string quartets but this is one of the finest, especially the third movement where the sonorous cello is dominant) and a song: "For The Shores Of Your Far-off Native Land" inspired by the death of his friend Modest Mussorgsky.

This disc is outstanding value and really is the best introduction to the heart-rendingly beautiful and uniquely original music of Alexander Borodin.

Schumann: Dichterliebe: Brahms: Lieder
Schumann: Dichterliebe: Brahms: Lieder
Price: 8.47

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Schumann/Brahms lieder, 9 July 2010
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Although Simon Keenlyside is better known for his contributions to Opera, having sung in most of the best Opera Houses and with many of the world's finest orchestras, his pure baritone voice is a genuine delight with these more subtle and delicate lieder. The piano, played by Malcolm Martineau, is an absolute joy, rippling and bubbling along, reminiscent of Schubert's 'Trout'.

There are 16 songs by Brahms followed by 16 songs comprising Schumann's Dichterliebe (a Poet's Love). The combination is perfectly logical when one considers that Schumann had, for two years, been Brahm's mentor and Brahms was the pianist at the first public performance of this work.

Dichterliebe is a collection of beautiful songs, some lively and cheerful, others thoughtful and one or two melancholy. German is such a wonderful language for rhyming: ich liebe alleine, Die Kleine, die Feine, die Reine, Die Eine (I only love she who is small, fine, pure, rare) from Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, Die Sonne (rose, lily, dove, sun) is perhaps the pick, but there are many other pearls in this oyster: notably track 27, Ein Jungling liebt ein Madschen (a boy loves a girl) and track 31, Aus alten Marchen winkt es (a white hand beckons). Schumann's music provides energy and adds beauty to the poetry.

The songs by Brahms, while pleasant enough, are all fairly sombre and rather similar, which is the reason for the four star, rather than a five star rating. However, they improve with familiarity and the disc is well worth purchasing for this outstanding version of Dichterliebe alone.

Bruch: The Complete Symphonies
Bruch: The Complete Symphonies
Price: 7.25

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BRUCH - NOT A ONE-HIT WONDER, 3 May 2010
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A double CD with over 150 minutes of music. The three symphonies span the period 1868-1882.
The first is a pleasing, relatively light work more characteristic of the early Romantic period and has a "Schumannesque" quality. However, the second and third are more weighty works, that might have done justice to his close friend Brahms; they combine melody and intensity. The second, unusually in three movements, has no scherzo - which did not sit well with a Leipzig audience brought up on such fashions. It opens in serious and rather classical manner reminiscent of Brahms first symphony. The adagio, second movement, has beautiful melodies with solo opportunities for a number of other orchestral instruments - notably clarinet, horn and cello. The final movement is perhaps the most impressive . Symphony No.3 is a rather "mixed-bag", perhaps reflecting its long gestation from earlier sketches, but after two pleasant, but rather unspectacular, movements, the work seems to find itself with a very lively scherzo (of which Bruch himself was particularly fond) and a powerful but tuneful finale. This symphony, which dates from Bruch's three years in Liverpool, benefits from several hearings when some of its delicate subtleties emerge,

In addition to the symphonies there are four excellent, but rarely heard, works for violin and orchestra; the two best being the Romanz in A minor, characteristic of a single movement violin concerrto and In Memoriam which is more intense and rich in emotion.

Outstanding value and a joy to listen to even if the recording does sound a "little confined"

Bassoon Concertos
Bassoon Concertos
Price: 14.10

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Bassoon, 14 April 2010
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This review is from: Bassoon Concertos (Audio CD)
This brilliantly talented young bassoon player gives the instrument, traditionally referred to as the "clown of the orchestra", a new dimension and dexterity. The bassoon is shown to display a more subtle humour, versatility and changes in emotional intensity. The highlight is probably Weber's Andante and Rondo but the pieces by Hummel, Berwald and Jacobi show, in the hands of a genuine and sympathetic virtuoso, just what the bassoon is capable of. The five minute Romance, composed by Sir Edward Elgar is a little gem and Karen's rendition of "Summertime" has a "saxophonesque" quality to it. An absolute delight, I cannot recommend it too highly.

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