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Vivaldi: L'Estro Armonico (Rachel Podger & Brecon Baroque)
Vivaldi: L'Estro Armonico (Rachel Podger & Brecon Baroque)
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freshness and vitality, 5 April 2015
Stravinsky's criticism that Vivaldi wrote the same concerto over 500 times is oft repeated and much rejected by Vivaldi enthusiasts. The structure of L'Estro Armonico ( a set of twelve concertos published as Vivaldi' s Op.3) helps overcome this criticism with four concertos each for for one violin, two violins and four violins, with the concertos sequenced in four groups each comprising a concerto for four, two and one violin. This avoids the feeling of sameness which could easily arise from twelve concertos for strings only, mostly in fast-slow-fast structure.

The melodic freshness and rhythmic vitality of the compositions is what most prevents a feeling of repetitiveness, and in this 2 disc set by Rachel Podger L'Estro Armonico gets near ideal performances: use of guitar and theorbo, organ and harpsichord give variety to the continuo, and the small ensemble emphasises the interplay between musicians. Throughout the players' tone and musicianship and the warm but clear recording are excellent. Highly recommended.


Dvorak: Violin Concerto & Trio (2015 Catalogue CD)
Dvorak: Violin Concerto & Trio (2015 Catalogue CD)
Price: £8.25

5.0 out of 5 stars A tuneful and highly enjoyable bargain, 1 April 2015
For several years Harmonia Mundi regularly released bargain price re-issues with the CD slip-cased with a current catalogue. Previous bargains featured leading artists from their catalogue such as Andrew Manze and Andreas Scholl, and after a few years without these bargains this 2004 CD of Dvorak has appeared.

Since recording this disc of Dvorak's concerto and Op.65 trio Isabelle Faust has become one of the star names in Harmonia Mundi's catalogue with highly acclaimed recordings of Bach, Bartok, Beethoven, Berg and Brahms... despite the composer's name not beginning with a B this disc is to the same high standard. The concerto is not given the heart-on-the-sleeve romanticised reading of some rival performances but it is still warm and benefits from the tight ensemble and taut rhythms of a conductor and orchestra (Dvorak specialist Jiri Bìlohlávek and the Prague Philharmonia) who clearly have this music in their blood.

For the trio Faust is joined by regular partners Queyras and Melnikov (as I write this review the first disc in their series of Schumann trios and concertos has just been released) and their playing has the tightness and sense of enjoyment that comes from being regular chamber partners. The recording has been criticised for being 'too close' by some reviewers - I don't find it so as it conveys the sound of a trio in a small recital room rather than in a larger concert hall.

As to the music some critics don't regard these pieces as Dvorak's greatest: whatever the critics say both concerto and trio are highly enjoyable and tuneful. This re-issued disc is a bargain so snap it up!


Prowell F59R Vipor Cycle Helmet, Black Green, Medium, FREE SharkFIN light worth £5.49
Prowell F59R Vipor Cycle Helmet, Black Green, Medium, FREE SharkFIN light worth £5.49
Offered by Prowell Helmets UK
Price: £69.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fits securely and should offer good protection if needed, 16 Mar. 2015
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The black and green looks stylish and the shark's fin LED is a nice bonus. The fit is adjustable for head diameter and height for a neat fit, although the plastic of the height adjuster is slightly uncomfortable at first (someone with a full head of hair might not notice it, but I do!). The fit is secure and I don't expect it to come off if I fall off.


Images of Metheny
Images of Metheny
Price: £16.35

3.0 out of 5 stars Everyday I thank you (but not a lot more), 15 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Images of Metheny (Audio CD)
I've owned this CD for several years and apart form the opening Everyday I Thank You (where Jason Vieaux plays a mesmerising 9 minute solo guitar arrangement from the sax-and-guitar led quartet original) it doesn't hold my attention. A few tracks are ok listened to one at a time, such as Farmers Trust and Road to You but listened to as a whole I find it rather bland, which is a pity as you can't fault Vieaux's technique or tone, or the recording quality. I would recommend listening to Vieaux play Albeniz or Ponce (both 5 star CDs), or Metheny and his sides-men playing Metheny.


Prokofiev : Romeo and Juliet
Prokofiev : Romeo and Juliet
Offered by mjhcollectables
Price: £8.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Demonstration quality sound, 8 Feb. 2015
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This was recorded as a single CD of excerpts, and there are quite a few single discs available of highlights from recordings of the complete ballet. There are also recordings of the suites which Prokofiev himself selected from the ballet, though they (unlike this disc) do not follow the original sequence. The sound is of the demonstration quality you expect from a late 80s / early 90s Decca recording of the Montreal SO and Dutoit with sumptuous strings and sensuous woodwind: the whole sound is vividly realised though brass is smooth rather than blaring, and the percussion is palpable rather than earth shaking. The ballet has a wide dynamic range but this recording can be comfortably listened to without needing to adjust the volume (unlike Salonen's Sony excerpts from Berlin) and without losing the detail of the orchestration: somehow it manages to maintain a natural perspective without being artificially spot lit. If you know other Montreal Dutoit recordings made in St Eustache you'll know what to expect, and this one's sound is as good as they get.

As to the performance, the musical selection makes both narrative and musical sense. Dutoit brings out the romanticism of the score rather than its brash excitement, and you get 75 minutes of music to make you fall in love with Romeo and Juliet.


Fauré: Requiem/Pelléas et Mélisande
Fauré: Requiem/Pelléas et Mélisande
Price: £8.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Peace and beauty of sound, 2 Feb. 2015
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Recorded in the glorious acoustic of St Eustache this has the demonstration sound quality expected of a Decca recording of the Montreal SO with Dutoit: recorded in 1987 it still sounds glorious today. Faure also produced a version of his requiem for small forces in a small setting but there is no doubt this is the large scale version performed in a large space. Much of the requiem is fairly quiet and the overall impression is one of peace and beauty of sound: you never struggle to hear the quieter sections yet the sound swells to fill the large scale climaxes. In the soprano solo of Pie Jesu Te Kanawa is clearly a big voice singing in a big space - she has of course been highly critical of singers who need close miking and amplification to be heard over an orchestra, and you can hear the air around her voice here to give a natural sounding perspective. In a word, mesmeric.
Pelleas et Melisande and the Pavane complement the Requiem well with the same qualities of perfect playing and glorious sound. Highly recommended.


Sabine Meyer spielt Weber
Sabine Meyer spielt Weber
Price: £11.71

4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely tone and virtuoso technique, 25 Jan. 2015
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Weber's concertos for clarinet are enjoyably undemanding listening. Throughout these recordings they benefit from warm sound in which the soloist is realistically balanced against the orchestra. Meyer has a lovely tone and virtuoso technique, though the finales would have benefitted from a little more sparkle and joie de vivre from both soloist and orchestra.
This CD is a re-issue of the EMI Great Recordings of the Century release, although it has a different booklet cover advertising 'Electrola Collection' (not the great recordings cover illustrated by Amazon) and the German notes precede the English translation.


Bream Collection Vol. 21: Villa-Lobos Guitar Concerto, Preludes, Etudes
Bream Collection Vol. 21: Villa-Lobos Guitar Concerto, Preludes, Etudes
Price: £7.43

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You can't fault Bream's playing for passion, intensity and ..., 24 Dec. 2014
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You can't fault Bream's playing for passion, intensity and technical prowess. Where this disc doesn't quite hit the mark is the lack of sonic clarity (from both recording and playing) that clouds the textures in some of the etudes.


Beethoven: Complete String Quartets
Beethoven: Complete String Quartets
Price: £23.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sophistication and beauty of sound, 24 Dec. 2014
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Originally released between 2005 and 2010 this eight disc set is an absolute bargain. There are of course several other box sets of the complete Beethoven quartets, so what makes this one worth buying?

Firstly it benefits from first class recorded sound, combining warmth and clarity and as one expects from Harmonia Mundi a natural sounding perspective. Secondly the Tokyo Quartet have long experience together with these works, so the ensemble playing is tight and there's clear vision of how each passage fits into the overall structure. Thirdly the performance is characterised by sophistication and beauty of sound. That 'thirdly' could of course be the reason not to choose this cycle: those characteristics of sophistication and sonic beauty are best suited to the classical elegance of the earlier quartets, and perhaps the late quartets could have a bit more passion and intensity.

This is not a set for people who like the rough edges of spontaneity, or the earthier sound of players digging into the strings. It is a set for people who want superb playing and recording, and a unified vision of the whole quartet cycle. No complete cycle can offer everything and for me the positives of this set far outweigh any reservations, so five stars from me without reservation.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2015 12:43 PM GMT


Mozart: Coronation Mass . Vesperae solennes . Exsultate, jubilate
Mozart: Coronation Mass . Vesperae solennes . Exsultate, jubilate
Price: £6.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Presence and virtuosity, 21 Dec. 2014
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The Coronation is the earliest of Mozart's three great sacred works for chorus and orchestra. The recording has great presence, and the chorus and orchestra bring plenty of weight to the proceedings as required, making it sound as if there is a much larger chorus (there are 10 sopranos and 8 singers to the other voice parts): the soloists are overly spot-lit and their forward placing detracts a little from the realism of the recording (I've heard many recordings where the balance between soloist and choir is much more exaggerated) . Barbara Bonney brings a delightful lightness and virtuosity to Exsultate Jubilate. Throughout Pinnock paces the music beautifully.

This CD was first issued in the mid-'90s' and at re-issue price is a bargain. This new re-issue in the First Choice series is supposed to offer a digital download of Mozart's 'little G minor' symphony, however I have been unable to download it.


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