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Bernard Haitink conducts the complete symphonies of Brahms, Bruckner & Mahler
Bernard Haitink conducts the complete symphonies of Brahms, Bruckner & Mahler
Offered by Side Two
Price: £69.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's wrong with sanity?, 4 Mar. 2016
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Haitink is often labeled as a sane and safe conductor, bordering on dullness. This hardly does justice to his work. Work of Haitink needs to be reevaluated and appreciated as he is quite misunderstood as a merely safe pair of hands. Haitink has an impeccable taste, and everything is well judged. Everything in this set is first rate, and some even more: there is hardly a better Mahler 9th around, and if Günter Wand's Bruckner 4th is raved about and rightly so, so is Haitink's Bruckner 4th uncommonly fresh and unaffected. Only Mahler's and Bruckner's 8th are somewhat controversial.

If compared to some of his colleagues, he is Karajan without his outsize ego and Szell with warmth. Everything single instrument is audible so that these performance can be used for pedagogical purposes to learn the scores. Haitink is certainly a shrewd guide, as he introduced both Bruckner (7th) and Mahler (4th) to me in almost quarter a century ago. Still Haitink's recordings set the standard for me, they are to live with. If more savagery is wanted, the Concertgebouw execute even the ugliest sounds cleanly, and manage to elevate some moments of banality to meaningfulness in the sheer perfection of playing.

Haitink's Brahms is throughoutly enjoyable, and in comparison Klemperer whose set I just acquired feels somewhat rugged if charismatic. In Haitink's Bruckner only 6th and 8th need to be replaced with another recordings; in 6th Klemperer or Celibidache and in 8th almost anybody, e.g. Wand. Haitink clearly believes that Bruckner's early symphonies are also music to be taken seriously. In Mahler the 9th is a top recommendation, quite probably the number one recommendation in studio recordings. In Mahler 3th Haitink's restraint works beautifully, but there is no want of intensity, it is only kept in check. 6th symphony is surprisingly lively. Only 8th symphony somewhat disappoints, as it only gathers momentum in the great finale, prior to it being too lightweight.

What about alternative versions, then? In Mahler 4th his later recording with the Concertgebouw is more desirable, and in Bruckner 8th his digital recording with the Vienna represents both Bruckner and Haitink better. Otherwise and in general his earlier thoughts as assembled here will do, and are in most cases more than adequate. Haitink managed to suprise me throughout this set with his selfless top class musicianship. These recordings are to live with, and more than so.


The Concertgebouw Recordings
The Concertgebouw Recordings
Offered by ZeitGeistErleben
Price: £55.56

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A substantial selection of 19th century conducting, 26 July 2015
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Mengelberg is by far the best represented already in the 19th century active conductor on record, and so it is mandatory to familiarize with his work if one is even vaguely interested in historic performance practices with direct links to Mahler and Brahms and for whom even Beethoven and Bach was something of novelty.

As "Ultrarunner" suggested, the best is to listen to these recordings with headphones, a rare feat with historic recordings. The selection may contain most of the substantial music recorded by Mengelberg, but it omits e.g. Tchaikovsky and Kodaly, which is a pity. It is also regrettable that in Beethoven's Eroica no master tape was available but instead a shellac copy. My own copy on C-cassette was in much better sound. Also the classic account of Mahler's fourth is available in better sound elsewhere.

Nevertheless, Mengelberg is always interesting, never dull and his performances seldom routinely. Mengelberg the agogic trickster is mostly in his best behavior here, only spicing up thing a little with occasional ritardandi, sforzandi and glissandi. His oddities are always permeated with musical conviction, and in general he is frequently suprisingly modern. Despite the above mentioned reservations this selection contains his most substantial output and is thus mandatory.


CONDUCTS KLEIBER 12/03
CONDUCTS KLEIBER 12/03
Price: £9.39

1.0 out of 5 stars but unfortunately spoiled by using a useless copy or remastered quite awfully, 23 July 2015
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This review is from: CONDUCTS KLEIBER 12/03 (Audio CD)
An incomparable recording of Pastorale, but unfortunately spoiled by using a useless copy or remastered quite awfully. And I am no audiophile. It is almost criminal to release classics of gramophone in such bad copies. Mozart fares a lot better though. Avoid.


Mahler - Symphony 9 & Kindertotenlieder
Mahler - Symphony 9 & Kindertotenlieder

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mahler's ninth represent the greatest possible tragedy, 8 July 2015
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I read a review in the major Finnish newspaper of Mahler's ninth recorded by Bruno Walter during his Indian summer, and soon acquired it. I learned the piece from that recording, and as I grew up with it, I for a long time regarded it as ideal. It might be just that in many respects, safe for the final, as Walter clearly was allergic to it and wanted to get rid of it a.s.a.p. Very soon after acquiring Walter's reference recording I also bought one concert version by Horenstein, having read of him. It was then a disappointment to me and sold it to a second hand record store. I then decided to get along with Walter. Which I did for 20 years. Before encountering this recording.

Horenstein may start cautiously, but as I have learnt to appreciate the organic reconstructive interpretative style by adoring Furtwängler since my adolescence, I have learnt that patience is a virtue in symphonic music as it allows to leave the essential in reserve. When the music really calls for power, the raw intensity is overwhelming as climaxes really count. Horenstein knows better than anybody, how to build and to accumulate.

If Walter's style could be characterized as nostalgic overview and that of Klemperer as a detached X-ray, Horenstein identifies himself with the score. For him any tragedy built-in the score is his personal tragedy. Ok, Walter may score over him in the two central scherzo movements - scherzi are often almost rudimentary in Horenstein's preserved performances, as the scherzi pose the interpreters great difficulties that only can be solved with repeated rehearsing, something that was beyond the nomadic Horenstein. But there is no one that can touch him when it comes to holistic view, understanding the true meaning of the music. In that Horenstein is often untouchable and his preserved performances are to cherish. For him, the whole world as was known to Mahler crashes along with the first movement coda, and Mahler himself is allowed to settle with this loss in the final.

Remark: this recording was by far the most expensive musical recording I have ever acquired. And I speak with experience of roughly 1500 classical recordings. It is pity that is so difficult to find. I managed to get a copy from Japanese Amazon. It is worth every penny you will have to pay for it, and after hearing it just once, it will always be the point of reference.


Mahler: Symphonies 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10
Mahler: Symphonies 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £13.91

4.0 out of 5 stars Musical Mahler, but quite without the greatest individual stamp, 25 May 2015
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Levine provides very musical library style Mahler with no real disappointments yet without the greatest individual stamp. For most general listeners this is more than adequate, yet one doesn't reach the cosmic heights of Horenstein, rugger power of Klemperer or daring humanism of Walter.

Levine's Mahler is very well played and recorded; the finest performances were probably Nos 1, 4 and 7, followed by 3 and 5. I would put his seventh probably as the ideal modern sounding studio production. Only 6th and 9th disappoint somewhat as they would gain from greater intensity, but this is only relatively speaking as they are enjoyable in their own rights. His 6th is certainly the most beautiful version I have yet heard of this austere and even cruel work.

Levine's style underlines the melody and underplays the conflicts and struggle, but so stunning is the playing that it reveals occasionally completely new details in instrumentation, which is no mean feat. This applies especially to Third, but for me, when compared with a recording with comparable style, Bertini succeeds better in Ninth if a slow and somewhat detached style is premium. If second and eighth symphony were included, this would be one of the most consistent cycles. Quite free from any idiosyncracies in good and worse, Levine's set pays repeated listening and wears well.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 10, 2015 6:18 AM GMT


Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets
Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets
Price: £35.63

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The primary source for beauty for this milestone of human invention, 9 Jan. 2015
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This latest and long awaited incarnation of the revered Talich Quartet's complete cycle is done wonders with remastering. The Calliope issues had a metallic sound, but this is pleasant to the ear. Honours are even with the Hungarian Quartet; I am partial to the peculiar sound of the Talichs - especially the first violinist Petr Messiereur - in the two discs containing the Quartets 9 & 14 and 11 & 12, the Hungarians outscore them in the Grosse Fugue and op. 130. But now after the sonic problems have been solved, I can't think any other set as the primary first recommendation than the Talichs as they find more sensitiveness and beauty from the scores than any other ensemble.


Mahler: Symphony No.8
Mahler: Symphony No.8

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No words are enough, 9 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.8 (Audio CD)
So far my canon for greatest recordings have included the Mahler's das Lied von der Erde by Bruno Walter, sung by the incomparable Julius Patzak and Kathleen Ferrier, the live recording of Beethoven's 9th by Furtwängler from Bayreuth and Bruckner 6th by Otto Klemperer. This canon has been unchanged since the early 90s and I had resigned to the fact that it is to be that way. And it was, until I heard this live enhancing performance. I can only be thankful that microphones were present so that I can feel I was there, as the performance is very truhtfully preserved.

What about the performance, then? No words can make justice to it, and despite all insufficient attempts that have been made. The eighth symphony was for me an enigma long after I was otherwise well into Mahler's world. First came upon the much awarded Klaus Tennstedt recording, with no reward, long after Rafael Kubelik's recording, which opened the gates. Then entered Gary Bertini, who helped me to appreciate the work.

Horenstein the explorer guides his mighty ship into the unknown territory, filled with beauties no one had ever seen before, yet there are hazards and dangers along. Yet he ever rushes things. When the performance enters the two last movements, the audience - including me - are in heaven, eyes sweating with tears. Of course this was not the premiere of the work, but for the performers, audience and the appreciative world it was.

Horenstein has guided me through unknown terrains where I have experienced sounds I have never before heard. This greatest of possible man-made creations with one of greatest cumulative climaxes receives here the greatest possible realisation.

I will want to get this played in my funeral.


The Great Recordings
The Great Recordings
Price: £23.45

34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A medium for music, 9 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: The Great Recordings (Audio CD)
Günter Wand never projects himself. Only he has taught me what it means to be a servant of music. While listening to the so called urtext of Toscaninis and Klemperers, one listens to Klemperer's or Toscaninis Beethoven or Brahms. With Wand you get Beethoven or Brahms.

Not necessarily one gets the inevitable feeling that this is the only possible way, but instead music comes totally naturally. Wand is a medium. As he himself put it: Mozart is for him the evidence that God exist as music comes from him so naturally without the struggle of a willing, creative artist such as Beethoven. Music flows totally naturally out of Wand, always sounding fresh and cristal clear.

Wand is like George Szell's tautness + Rudolf Kempe's lightness + Otto Klemperer's cohesion but without the outright personability and distinctive charisma of none of them. Wand offers authenticism perhaps not in the Norrington style but in musicianship.

There are not many obvious highlights way above the consistently high general level of musicianship but clearly the childish Brahms 2 and Beethoven 8 benefit from his adult musicianship that is always straight-to-the-matter but not without smile, and his Schubert Unfinished is creepy, haunting and reveals completely new details of the score. Wand has taught me why Bruckner is extended Schubert and not archaic Mahler. The last three Mozart symphonies are the best example of lively big band Mozart playing there is, and it is hard to imagine a better Schubert cycle. If you need one modern big band Beethoven cycle, it is here.

If any reservations about Wand's judgement would be needed, it would be his choice of preferring the original editions of Bruckner's symphonies and of applying exposition repeats in Brahms third. In Bruckner's case the choice of versions is hardly a case anywhere but in the first, which is completely a different prospect and certainly much worse in its dispersion than both the zeros; the seventh is otherwise your familiar version except of the lack of the climax in the second movement. Generally his lyrical but no-nonsense style is very satisfying in Bruckner.

My conviction is that no work gains from the exposition repeats, the idea already being told and the message already having been conveyed, these repetitions only being harmful for the cohesion. I also disagree with Wand that the composer's first thought always is the final thought. Anyone who has listened to the awarded Vänskä-Kavakos -record of the two versions of the Sibelius violin concerto, knows that even if for connoisseurs it might be of scholarly interest to be familiar with the first sketches.

And oh yes, no one would buy this for its Tchaikovsky or Fortner, but let them join the party. And who already had Fortner in his or her archives? Hands up? And Günter the man runs surprisingly idiomatic Tchaikovsky 5th.

These reservations aside, wonderful stuff. If you are a newbie to classical music, buy this. This is classical classical music classically. If you already have your Karajans and Klemperers, buy this. You will experience familiar music for the first time. Günter Wand will be your partner for the rest of your life, but better: you will always find new things in it.


Edwin Fischer - Piano Playing from the Heart
Edwin Fischer - Piano Playing from the Heart
Price: £29.37

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Musicality from another era, 17 Oct. 2014
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This is how Emi should always produce their big boxes: an essential selection of the great Edwin Fischer's recordings, where highlights are many: the pioneering Bach WTK, two lovely Brandenburg concerti, probably unsurpassed Schubert imprompti and an almost deconstructive Brahms second with Furtwängler with quite a few lapses but wonderful sense of creativity plus the legendary Beethoven's Emperor Concerto. So muss es sein, as Edwin and Wilhelm said in unisono while listening to tapes of the Emperor.

One could have wished more of his Beethoven, as the two sonati here indicate that he is on a par with Schnabel as a Beethovenian. A few additional discs could have been therefore accomodated into this collection. Yet it contains musicianship of the very highest order, unhurried and lovingly played even if pianistically occasionally fussed. Fischer was a musician foremost, composer's companion and pianist only secondly.

Every piano student should listen to Fischer and avoid copying piano technicians in the mood of Horowitz. This is the antithesis of Lang Lang; instead here can heard the long uninterrupted line from Bach via Beethoven to Brahms. For Fischer they all are contemporaries.

So, this is indispendable. Edwin lives forever and composers through his thoughts of them. And thougths are what one can hear even if Edwin's fingers are not almost up to his thoughts - but mostly they are.


Bruckner: Symphony No 4
Bruckner: Symphony No 4
Price: £10.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh rethought Bruckner, 17 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No 4 (Audio CD)
I encountered this recording while living in Oslo for about 5 years ago, and being devoted to Bruckner for the most of my adulthood, this recording elevated this piece already so familiar for me thanks to e.g. Klemperer and Jochum to new heights. One couldn't notice that this is a live recording, as playing is absolutely perfect and no audience noise can be heard anywhere. Wand's performance is wonderfully fresh from a man who has thought and rethougth these pieces for decades. The absolute last word in Bruckner's fourth and one of greatest Bruckner recordings of all times, if not the very greatest. Five golden stars from a Brucknerophile for a Brucknerophile.


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