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Jack L. Honigman (Manchester, U.K.)
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Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 9
Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 9
Price: £12.98

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another atmospheric experience of a Mahler symphony, 27 Mar. 2015
As with all Mahler, this work conjures an atmosphere more related to musical architecture rather than a simple listening experience. The opening has an almost eerie effect in the first few bars which soon sweeps you into a welter of solid melody immersing you in an atmosphere which is peculiar to Mahler. A series of enticing themes comes to sudden climaxes which revert to the earlier plan and you are lost in the sheer magic of sound, rhythm, snatches of melody - all carefully disciplined by the rigid control of Mark Elder.and the sympathetic response of the orchestra with their undoubted experience of how this composer's symphonies have to be treated.
While each movement has its own intrinsic characteristics; the second movement, for example, has its dancing scherzo, the third opening with a defiant (as marked by Mahler) blast from the trumpet, horns and strident strings while the final movement possesses, as the accompanying notes rightly remark, a hymn-like quality very like an arrangement of "Abide with me". The whole work is a complete reflection of the introversion of expression which is so typical of this composer.
This CD provides a very proficient performance of the Ninth which will not disappoint any follower of this composer's remarkable individuality and, as a bonus, the accompanying booklet provides a most satisfying historical and musicological appreciation of the content.. .


Puccini Le Villi & Requiem - plus documentary DVD 'Puccini and Le Villi' presented by Dr Simonetta Puccini
Puccini Le Villi & Requiem - plus documentary DVD 'Puccini and Le Villi' presented by Dr Simonetta Puccini
Price: £18.87

3.0 out of 5 stars Genesis of a successful career in opera, 5 Mar. 2015
This package consists of a CD containing a Puccini Requiem ( a five-minute work) and his earliest opera Le Villi, together with a 25 minute DVD.
The Requiem has something of the orchestral atmosphere associated with his operatic works but not as vigorously presented as is the case with Verdi's work. The opera, whose composition was inspired, we are told, by Puccini's first encounter with Aida, exhibits the expansive melodies and characteristic arias of the Puccini we all know and love. The performance allows ample scope to the soprano to show her paces but the other singers sound rather worn although the tenor sometimes surprises with a burst of sound which is less uncertain than occurs elsewhere. The orchestral arrangement is enjoyable and the chorus plays its part quite adequately.
The raison d'etre of the DVD is to provide a charming resume of Puccini's career by his grand-daughter Simonetta Puccini but which also includes photos and film of the composer, apart from glimpses of the concert performance of the opera itself. Quite a pleasing addition. The accompanying booklet provides more of the same but dismisses the opera description in a short paragraph. In view of the rarity of performances of this opera, a full libretto would have been more helpful. After all, the DVD renders the biography somewhat superfluous.
Altogether, a most interesting addition to the recorded music library of any Puccini enthusiast. .
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Gabriel Faure The Two Piano Quartets
Gabriel Faure The Two Piano Quartets
Price: £14.61

5.0 out of 5 stars Multum in parvo - Chamber music with an orchestral atmosphere.., 23 Feb. 2015
Two quartets, each the length of a symphony, with all the variations in mood and pace to be expected in works of this length. The quartets provide a continuous flow of sound with hardly a break for breath for the artists who perform with even, mutual sympathy as could be expected from an ensemble which has been together since 1983. All the artists have their turn including the viola which too often has to take a back seat when it comes to "accompanied" obligati in such works.
The compositions are in classical sonata form with the subjects clearly presented and their treatments easy to follow and enjoy in every movement. First class in every way..
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Franck, Dvorak & Grieg Works for Violin & Piano
Franck, Dvorak & Grieg Works for Violin & Piano
Price: £18.27

5.0 out of 5 stars My own favourite is the Naxos Heifetz/Artur Rubinstein taken, 15 Feb. 2015
Any recording of the the popular Franck sonata must, inevitably, invite comparison with the many past recordings. This Steinberg Duo offering certainly is not shamed compared with the Decca issue with Kyung Wha Chung and Radu Lupu - "nuff said" - although it seems to me that the earlier recording has the edge which is no criticism of this CD. My own favourite is the Naxos Heifetz/Artur Rubinstein taken, at times, with a slightly faster pace but containing all the lyricism and contemplative atmosphere inherent in the work - and what a marvellous piece of excitement the final movement provides!
The "Four Romantic Pieces" by Dvorak are a delight; each of the four components being a feast of melody in its own right with the whole work uplifting the mood of the listener.
The Grieg "Violin Sonata No3, Op. 45 is, as would be expected a very mature work being the last chamber work he composed. Again, this is a most enjoyable encounter between the Steinberg Duo and the work of another master.
The balance between the instruments is as fine as it should be between spouses. Obviously, there must be differences of taste as to whether either instrument should be more, or less, forceful particularly in the solo passages but the whole CD is a most enjoyable acquisition to anyone's library.
The accompanying booklet enables Nicholas Burns to give a most satisfying historical and musicological background to this CD.


John Joubert, Robert Simpson & Christopher Wright - British Cello Concertos
John Joubert, Robert Simpson & Christopher Wright - British Cello Concertos
Price: £13.96

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The final movement is heralded with great activity and brio but a more triumphal finale seems ..., 3 Jan. 2015
An interesting group of compositions which display the virtuosity of Raphael Wallfisch. The concerto by John Joubert is introduced by a cello solo followed by an orchestral interlude which is accompanied by the soloist pizzicato. This structure is repeated before interplay between cello and chamber orchestra. The second, final, movement begins with a prolonged cello introduction which lasts for nearly a quarter of the length of the whole section before combining with the orchestra to produce the feeling of a combined composition. There is a general atmosphere of the work being a series of cadenzas with the orchestra not quite sharing in the whole piece. More of a suite than a concerto.
The Simpson concerto is in four movements which are played continually without any intervening breaks and, again, while displaying the virtuosity of the soloist seems to give the impression of the two parts being composed separately and then reassembled. There are certainly moments of drama but the somewhat discordant ending does not leave a cheerful last impression.
The work by Wright has a bravura orchestral opening, for a change, with the cello entering in what might be considered a "classical" manner to establish its place. The cello has a series of cantabile passages but this composition shows more of a partnership between the elements rather than being somewhat disparate. The final movement is heralded with great activity and brio but a more triumphal finale seems to be required.
This CD is accompanied by very helpful notes and is certainly a showpiece for Raphael Wallfisch and is worth listening to on this account.


Rachmaninoff, Arensky, Shostakovich & Mussorgsky Piano Trios
Rachmaninoff, Arensky, Shostakovich & Mussorgsky Piano Trios
Price: £13.41

5.0 out of 5 stars it is astonishing that his other contributions to the genre are not better known. All four movements of this piece are ..., 22 Dec. 2014
One of the most enjoyable CDs of chamber music to encounter. Astonishingly, written when Rachmaninoff was 19 but, even more so, not published in his lifetime! - the Elegiac Trio begins with a controlled mini-crescendo cello introduction leading to a piano passage before a lyrical melody supported by the violin ensues. A lovely piece altogether
For me, the Arensky Piano Trio in D minor Op.32 is the star of this CD. As a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov, Arensky graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory with the Gold Medal and moved on to Moscow as professor of Harmony and Counterpoint to count Rachmaninoff and Scriabin among his pupils. We are told that it is this particular work with which he is most associated despite having written three operas, two symphonies and a violin concerto. If this composition is at all characteristic of his output, it is astonishing that his other contributions to the genre are not better known. All four movements of this piece are full of melody, indeed, sufficient to send the listener away whistling or, if preferred, humming the many clearly-presented themes that all the movements are blessed with. Further analysis is unnecessary - listen and enjoy.
The Shostakovich Piano Trio in E minor begins, most interestingly with a very high pitched, described as harmonically produced, succession of notes. If I remember my physics correctly (you never know) this is achieved by damping the string lightly instead of pressing it fully onto the fingerboard. A most interesting, and arresting, beginning. It is a generally lively work apart from the more introspective third movement (marked Largo) and in the final movement uses the Kletzmer character associated with traditional Ashkenazi music as played at Jewish weddings, for example.
The performances delivered by the Shaham, Erez, Wallfisch trio are excellent and the whole is suitably capped with some very helpful notes in the accompanying booklet.


British Piano Concertos
British Piano Concertos
Price: £17.81

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A feast of British music for piano and orchestra, 15 Dec. 2014
This review is from: British Piano Concertos (Audio CD)
It is not easy to review an album of four CDs, containing 13 works for piano and orchestra, seven of which are designated as piano concertos, in a digestible form for a potential audience to assess.
The first of these works, Charles V. Stanford's second Piano Concerto in C minor can be summarised easily - if you like Rachmaninov, you'll like this! The remainder are, on the whole, a selection of compositions dating from the 1930s to the 1960s and reflecting the fashion of their time with modern treatment of rhythm and melody but all providing the listener with an interesting auditory experience.
Special mention must be made of Ralph Vaughan Williams Piano Concerto in C which appears on CD2 and to which one can echo, suitably amended, the above comment i.e. if you like R.V.W. - you'll like this! It certainly has elements of maturity and certainty which are not always aspired to by some of his contemporaries.
Another of these works which I found particularly stunning was the ultimate piece on CD4; Malcolm Williamson's Piano Concerto in E flat which presents a truly virtuoso performance, and work, with the composer at the piano. Most exciting!
The accompanying booklet gives excellent commentary both from the analytical and historical points of view which completes an excellent buy.


William Walton Symphony No.2 & Viola Concerto
William Walton Symphony No.2 & Viola Concerto
Price: £12.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Faces of Walton, 25 Nov. 2014
The symphony has a sprightly opening followed by a lyrical passage periodically interrupted with emphatic brass chords with tympany accompaniment. The slow movement provides the usual tranquility, in contrast with the early vigorous opening lending a somewhat sombre caste emphasised by the steady background rhythm. A series of majestic chords heralds more to come. The work concludes with a final flourish of powerful chords.
In the viola concerto, the solo instrument enters after a short lyrical introduction with pleasing melodic phrases moving to exciting changes of rhythm. The cadenza is accompanied by an unintrusive string obligato. The final movement begins with a trimuphant tutti with an expectant flow of further treaures before ending.
These two compositions provide a most interesting contrast with the other material presented on this CD in that the "Spitfire Prelude and Fugue" and the "Crown Imperial" are very much in the imperial Elgarian mode.
The orchestra and soloist are well up to the demands of these works and, as stated give a most interesting insight to the versatility of Walton's style.,


Ravel, Tchaikovsky & Rachmaninov Works for String Quartet
Ravel, Tchaikovsky & Rachmaninov Works for String Quartet
Price: £9.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Super playing: poor artwork, 24 July 2014
Super playing: poor artwork! This is to emphasise the other reviewers comments! Even to read the contents is quite difficult being, as they are, on the back of the CD printed, in the main, as grey on black - I ask you? Further, the programme's contents are not listed on the enclosed leaflet which is the more conventional method and would certainly help, in this particular case. They were even too lazy to include the track numbers. A triumph of art over common sense.
The Ravel String Quartet with its captivating theme, repeated in various guises in the following movements, is delightful to listen to; in particular, the restrained contribution of the cello is most commendable since it never drowns out the other participants and exactly complements the sound values of the other participants. I found this work the most enjoyable on this CD.
Tchaikovsky never disappoints with his ability to run the gamut of emotions from the solemn to the frisky. The andante cantabile (second movement) with its well-known languorous theme is just the job after a hard day at the office!
The Rachmaninov Romance seems to provide a welcome encore to the preceding quartets. A most enjoyable ensemble in a pleasing programme.


Philip Sawyers: Cello Concerto, Symphony No.2, Concertante for Violin, Piano & Strings
Philip Sawyers: Cello Concerto, Symphony No.2, Concertante for Violin, Piano & Strings
Price: £12.02

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Concertante confirms the vigorous attack which is the hallmark of Sawyers who has a special individual sound which can be en, 23 July 2014
It is most refreshing to come across a modern composer with a dynamic voice whose music immediately holds the attention and, as a bonus, the composer is English.
In an earlier review of a CD presenting two of Philip Sawyers violin sonatas, I concluded with the view that I would be looking forward to hearing more of his compositions and I was not destined to have to eat my words.
The cello concerto, although including a lyrical cadenza at the end of the first movement, has the soloist working overtime so that this work could well be considered as a duet for cello and orchestra - the cellist cannot relax!
The symphony of arresting style, again, immediately demands that we listen to a warm flow of orchestral tapestry with intermittent periods of obligati from various sections of the orchestra until the whole unit functions as an overwhelming musical experience.
The Concertante confirms the vigorous attack which is the hallmark of Sawyers who has a special individual sound which can be enjoyed even by those who have misgivings about modern music.


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