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Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets
Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets
Price: £26.94

0 of 1 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

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
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £35.88

9 of 10 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: £29.21

1 of 1 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
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £9.10

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.


Bruckner: Symphony No.3
Bruckner: Symphony No.3
Offered by dabsales
Price: £6.53

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No excuse for this coarse and loud affair, 17 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
This is simply an off-issue. There is no mystery, no refinement, Solti's rendition is just exact and crude and moreover, it is horribly loudly played and miked even for this most loud of Bruckner's symphonies. This should be deleted at once, there is no excuse for this even for completists.

Solti's exacting style can work for Bruckner as he beautifully demonstrates in his rendition of the second symphony; also his 8th is worth listening per se even if quite un-Brucknerish.

One star is too much to be sure, but zero is not allowed.


George Szell Conducts Beethoven Symphonies & Overtures
George Szell Conducts Beethoven Symphonies & Overtures
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £10.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fourth is probably the best of all - including Walter, 29 Sept. 2014
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I gave only 4 stars as while there are no definitive weak links, I have grown to believe that no ideal cycle exists. There are hardly ideal Beethoven complete symphony cycles, but this is probably as ideal as one is likely to get. Recording is lively in the Cleveland tradition but luckily in quite a fullbodied sound as well. This applies also to the fifth even if is a decade older than the others.

Clear high point of the cycle is the disc containing symphonies 4 and 7, already a classic pairing. Fourth is probably the best of all - including Walter, Klemperer and Ansermet - and seventh is nearly ideal. This very disc demonstrates all the best Szell virtues - dramatic forward drive with an unmatched sense for balance and details yet a fine sense of classicism. Fifth is no match for the Concertgebouw version and a surprisingly low-key Andante but still it is a compelling and powerful performance. The first two symphonies also are not only lightweightish but also quite off charge and leisurely, yet one senses that George knew what he was doing.

Considering the price, this is definitely a steal and now my first recommendation for a full-bodied complete version with a full orchestra. Szell manages to provide a synthesis between Toscanini, Norrington and Karajan: Toscanini with far better sound, Norrington with "proper" sounding instruments and orchestra with full body and Karajan with purposeful forward drive.


Richard Strauss: Tone Poems (DG Collectors Edition)
Richard Strauss: Tone Poems (DG Collectors Edition)
Price: £13.36

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a recording never matched and Tod und Verklärung with a good 70s live stereo and a performance with few if ..., 19 Aug. 2014
Böhm's Strauss may essentially be a lo-fi undertaking, but it is as authentic and authoritary as it gets. Some may feel distracted by the Dresdner evil brass, but they give a certain edge to the music that is lacking in interpretations by such as Kempe or Karajan. If you are serious about Strauss, this is essential. The most representative disc is the one with the Alpine Symphony, a recording never matched and Tod und Verklärung with a good 70s live stereo and a performance with few if any equals.


Poet At The Piano
Poet At The Piano
Price: £13.91

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond classicism, 8 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Poet At The Piano (Audio CD)
Wilhelm Kempff certainly "owns" the Beethoven piano concerti, not only once but twice! Seldom can one version make all the others so unnecessary and lacking than the case is with the Kempff's Beethoven concerti. The first, mono recording of the complete concertos are here included, conducted more than aptly by the sadly neglected Paul van Kempen, in sound that one instantly forgets that there are in mono. Production may be sloppy - there is Mozart on cover of one Beethoven-cd - but it is really a minor quibble in package that contains fine examples of Kempff's art, safe for Schubert and Bach. The solution to pair concertos with sonatas is uncommon, but works fine. Kempff's Chopin is no-nonsense and masculine, while his Brahms first concerto might at first sight sound clumsy, which it reveals not to be with repeated listening. Kempff's Liszt concerto is uncommonly musical, not unsuprisingly from a musician who was a real creative artist with no egocentrism whatsoever. Kempff's Mozart is also first class in its simplicity. There is only one minor quibble: the solution to include five Beethoven sonatas may well get you drooling to get them all! An insightful, inspirational artist and a fine collection, then. Kempff may appear a classicist, prosaic, even puritan, but with listened carefully, he turns out a poetic, humorous and inspirational artist. This package will repay repeated listening and gives joy again and again as Kempff always reveals new, magical insights into familiar works.


20 Classic Albums [Audio CD] Dave Brubeck
20 Classic Albums [Audio CD] Dave Brubeck

5.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to Brubeck, 8 Jan. 2014
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For a collector knowing just Time Out and owning just Jazz Goes to College, this collection serves as a great introduction to the late Dave Brubeck. Packing to capacity might not be the hipster solution, but for the casual music lover there is an incredible amount to listen an enjoy. There is certainly much beyond Time Out and Jazz Goes to College; one only has to listen to the inspired improvisation in How High the Moon, first with clarinet by the inimitable Paul Desmond, then by Dave himself. One also can learn by listening that Brubeck certainly had learnt his counterpoint. Certainly recommended.


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