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a nice guy "who likes reading" (Cairo, Egypt)

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Piano Duos
Piano Duos
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £10.50

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rewarding CD, 8 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Piano Duos (Audio CD)
This CD is absolutely wonderful. I haven't heard such brilliantly spontaneous playing for a long time. Both soloists are very famous and this recording (a live recording) tells why. The Rite of Spring is stunning... but it is not my favourite piece on the CD. Personally I love the beautiful Schubert piece. Other reviewers have commented about the amazing colours that the players are able to coax out of the instrument. That is exactly what I want to say, as well! It is magnificent, words fail.
The Mozart Sonata in D is a well known piece to me but never, ever, have I heard it performed like this. I felt like I was hearing the music for the first time, really a stunning recording in every way and I hope that Argerich and Barenboim will perform together again very soon.

Schumann-Violin Sonatas and Romances
Schumann-Violin Sonatas and Romances
Price: £14.67

5.0 out of 5 stars Desert Island Disc!, 8 Dec. 2014
This recording is something to treasure.
I find Schumann a difficult composer to access at times. The beautiful thing about this recording is that listeners are guided through it by the thoughtful - perfect, even - playing. Both of the sonatas on the disc are very romantic but completely accessible. There is a treasure trove or riches here and the playing is stunning. The pianist and the violinist work together in perfect unity, it's a lovely example of two sonatas which are exciting and thoroughly life-affirming.
The three little pieces in the middle are equally delightful. Regarding the finale of the second sonata I can't think what to say... It's one of the most exciting sonata movements that I've ever heard, really a wonderful release!

Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 35
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 35
Price: £19.20

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best recordings of Schubert lieder around, 12 Aug. 2014
Graham Johnson and his team of singers have offered some outstanding CDs in their complete survey of Schubert's lieder. I own almost half of them and am constantly amazed by the quality of the singing and also by the fascinating CD notes that accompany each one.
Of all of the releases in the series I think that this one is my favourite (as well as the beautiful disc by Arleen Auger). I'm not sure quite why I adore this one so much, but I think it's probably because of the gorgeous singing and the selection of songs. I had never heard of the divine 'Schwestergruss' before but it has become my favourite of all of the lieder. It is on the slow side, true, but that extra 60 seconds is crucial. It is a tour de force of singing by Geraldine McGreevey, a rapt seven minutes of concentration and contemplation.
The preceding song, 'Gott in Der Natur' was a surprise of a different sort. It is a lovely song, full of high spirits and sung with the type of verve and enjoyment that needs to accompany it. 'Du Bist Die Ruh' is also performed here, and its a real winner: Lynne Dawson sings with wonderful control and a beautifully clear tone, subtly blooming in each verse.
Not all of the songs on this CD are masterpieces but even the songs that don't number amongst Schubert's best are sung with great conviction. This is a really lovely recording.

Mozart: Horn Concertos
Mozart: Horn Concertos

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful recording, 7 July 2014
This review is from: Mozart: Horn Concertos (Audio CD)
There's no doubt that Dennis Brain's recording of the Mozart horn concertos is simply the best available. I felt that I had to review it to raise the overall rating! I don't understand how this recording could be considered anything other than first rate... Dennis Brain had it all... perfect timing, timbre, breath control, pitch, complete empathy with the music. This is a recording to treasure and to play regularly to be reminded that it is possible to make a perfect recording. I'm not sure if the remastering is good or average or bad, but the tone of Brain's horn playing is unsurpassable, and this deserves to be on the shelf of every man and woman in the country!

Catalina (Vintage Classics)
Catalina (Vintage Classics)
by W. Somerset Maugham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maugham at his Most Delightful, 30 Oct. 2013
Catalina starts out as a sad and sorry girl, recently crippled by a runaway bull. Her life has gone into freefall as the boy who she loves has deserted her. We meet her sitting on the steps of the church in what turns out to be Spain during the time of the Inquisition. Within a page or two she meets a mysterious woman who gives her a message. The result of that message could bring the beautiful Catalina to the attention of some very fearsome men. At this point of the story I expected a rather turgid exploration of medieval Spain. Instead, Maugham introduces a host of adorable characters, all of whom have very interesting motives for their actions. I fell in love with each and every one of them. The jilted-in-love, wise and royal prioress of the town's convent, the vain yet well meaning Bishop, the baker boy, the long suffering yet talented seamstress mother, the long lost Uncle, Domingo; all of them have their redeeming features. Maugham's Inquisitors are indeed terrifying, but they are also men with desires and and motives and dreams.
This book deals with sex and marriage in a very frank way, it deals with greed and the lengths that headstrong people will go to to get what they want. I found it all brilliant and very entertaining. It's a light-hearted read but full of memorable characters who are explored and developed in the style of Isabel Allende - full of flaws and woes and joys and love and laughter. Far from being turgid, this novel has a heavenly glow. Delightful.

Liszt: Harmonies poétiques et religieuses
Liszt: Harmonies poétiques et religieuses
Price: £13.65

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning!, 17 Jan. 2012
Initially I was a little put off by both the length and the word 'religiuses' in the title of this work. 2 CDs, and it's religious as well? I presumed that it would be a collection of long, slow, meditative (let's say 'boring') pieces by an aging Liszt looking back at his long and colourful life.

I was wrong.

Liszt's Harmonies Poetiques are amongst the greatest works every written for piano, as I discovered when I finally bought this CD on the strength of Osborne's other recordings. This becomes clear from the beginning of the very first piece. Tumultuous building chords, ebbing and flowing like a great and wild ocean. Osborne not only guides the listeners along in each of the pieces, he plays with powerful abandon and seemingly complete technical mastery of the instrument.

The prime adjective that comes to mind in relation to this music is 'exciting.' It completely explodes the idea that Liszt was a pure master technician. He was an inspired composer, acutely aware of the capabilities of the piano. This is wonderful music to be listened to again and again. The recorded sound is perfect and Osborne's interpretation is so good that I can't imagine it being bettered.

I would say, if you buy just one piano CD this year, make it this one!

Bartok: The String Quartets
Bartok: The String Quartets

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars feverishly compelling, 17 Nov. 2011
There is not a doubt in my mind that few other quartets have played these works with such intensity of feeling as this one manages to do. The players perform together as a single organism, the crescendi, alterations in tempo, pizzicato, sensitivity of feeling... are truly mind boggling.
I particularly recommend this recording if;
1) you're a drug addict and you want to save money. The effect of listening to any of quartets 2 - 5 is more intense and the after effects will last much longer than any trip.
2) if you're in a savage mood. Take it out with Bartok.
3) if you're in a psychotic mood. No matter how insane you're feeling, these pieces are more insane.

This is a case where the classic recording really can't be beaten. Bravo, Tokyo String Quartet.

Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 34 Douze Grandes Études
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 34 Douze Grandes Études
Price: £14.94

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A disc to relish and follow through with the score, 24 Aug. 2011
The etudes included on this disc are very different to the etudes of Chopin. As used to Chopin's model of the genre as we are it is not instantly easy to hear these Liszt works and understand them. Liszt is far more elastic in his treatment of the genre. The individual works vary greatly in length and at times come close to being difficult salon pieces (such as number 9, devoured by Clara Schumann apparently and one can but imagine with what elegance and refinement she played this delightful piece) to being absolute firecrackers (number 10 for example).
I must admit that I don't know the Transcendental Studies, based upon these pieces. Interesting further listening I am sure. By all accounts the 'Great Etudes' are even more technically challenging. The nicest thing, perhaps, about these pieces is that there are very few moments that are purely about virtuosity. These really are elegant pieces, beautifully and often daintily cast and performed with great aplomb and taste by Howard.
Bravo to all involved, I cannot imagine a better recording of these works. Well worth listening to.

Liszt: The Complete Music For Solo Piano, Vol. 22: The Beethoven Symphonies
Liszt: The Complete Music For Solo Piano, Vol. 22: The Beethoven Symphonies
Price: £50.80

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful listening, 4 Aug. 2011
I had been longing to listen to the Liszt transcriptions of these symphonies for a long time. This CD didn't disappoint, although it's not exactly what I had expected.
For a start, the level of virtuosity in the playing is simply staggering. However, the point here is that virtuosity is never (and I really mean never) Howard's main aim. Instead, he delights in emphasizing the classical nature of this music. There are many moments where he could perhaps have been louder, more urgent, yet in holding back slightly and sticking faultlessly to Liszt/Beethoven's markings, the picture created is far more true to life, far more accurate. All in all, it is lovely listening. Excitement goes without saying.
The CD notes are a revelation, Howard writes with great clarity about many interesting issues. Wrong notes corrected, histories of Liszt's various other transcriptions of the symphonies, Liszt's giving up over transcribing the final movement of the 9th symphony then being persuaded to complete it by his publisher (producing probably the finest moments in the entire cycle).
It would not be proper to write about each individual symphony, everyone will have his or her own favourite. However, I must say that the most suited to the piano is probably the 6th, followed closely by the 3rd, 5th and 9th, even without the voices. The only one that doesn't really work, for me at least, is the 7th. It is a tribute to Liszt's abilities as a transcriber (and Howard's wizardry as a player) that the other eight symphonies don't really lose anything in the recasting. Only the 7th, that great rhythmic symphony, did I find that I missed the orchestra.
All in all, this is quite an expensive set, yet amply worth the money. What's 50 pounds for this!?
Perhaps the most surprising and valuable point about these recordings is that it highlights so well Liszt's ability to transcribe enormous pieces and it opens the door to explore some of his other transcriptions. When all is said and done, his transcription skills are equal, if not greater, than his famed virtuosity as the greatest pianist to ever live.

Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 25 Die schöne Müllerin
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 25 Die schöne Müllerin
Price: £14.60

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply, outstanding, 18 Jun. 2011
Graham Johnson has become something of a legend to me both because of his excellent accompanying skills and because of his highly informative and dynamic writing about Schubert's life and work. This is one of many excellent CDs in his 'Complete Schubert Lieder' edition. The information provided about the composition of the work, Johnson's (highly credible) theory about how the composition of the song cycle assisted Schubert emotionally at a very difficult time and the marvelous singing by Bostridge make this probably the best recording that I have the pleasure to own. The additional poetry (read pleasantly) makes a real bonus for me and it somehow completes the work even though my knowledge of German is limited. Of course there is a full translation of every song and poem.
Bostridge is simply magnificent and I think that this recording deserves all of the awards that it won.

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