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Bruckner: Symphony No. 9
Bruckner: Symphony No. 9
Price: 11.84

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intense and unmissable new performance, 16 July 2014
At the start of this review I must declare an interest; I was fortunate enough to attend two of the performances in Lucerne from which this recording derives. These concerts were intensely moving at the time; that they would be turn out to be Claudio Abbado's last performances only adds an extra poignancy.

This unmissable recording confirms what we heard in the concerts in full measure. There is so much beautiful and characterful playing from the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (and the recording lets us hear it all). The transparency and luminosity that they bring to the score is extraordinary; I feel as if it's the first time I've heard this piece clearly, without any distortion. There's a delicacy and human quality to much of this performance that sets it apart from so many others. It's not underpowered though; the end of the first movement and the climax of the adagio are shattering.

Compared to other performances; Giulini's gravity is impressive but to my ears his performance sags under the weight of his slow tempi (he's 5.30 longer than Abbado). Walter's performance has warmth and lyricism but the scherzo is rather heavy handed. Rattle is fascinating, as always, but the clarity that makes so many of his performances so stimulating, outweighs the feeling for the idiom in this case. Of course there is Furtwangler in 1944 but that's another story entirely...

It's hard to put words what makes this new recording of Abbado's so compelling but it's something between natural expression and direct communication that is striking. He keeps the music moving forward, as it should, but each moment is fully realised somehow. We feel we reach the end of the piece, which long-held horn notes, too quickly, before we are ready. The end is both deeply a satisfying conclusion and at the same time open-ended.

I could not imagine a more perfect demonstration of the art of the Claudio Abbado and the LFO than this recording. It's a pity that these concerts were not recorded visually but let's hope that the Schubert Unfinished from the first half of the same concert will also be released on CD soon.


Beethoven: Symphony No.9, Choral
Beethoven: Symphony No.9, Choral
Price: 7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revelatory period 9th, 17 May 2012
I had to write something to offset the one-star rating that this wonderful CD currently has due to the earlier review.

The performance here is a BBC recording of what must have been a remarkable concert of startling immediacy. There is much eloquent and natural playing by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Charles Mackerras' conducting is brings an attention to detail, sonority and overall conception that gives the performance a revelatory quality. The sound may not be in the studio demonstration class but it's quite adequate given the class of the performance.

I could not agree more with Andrew Clark in the FT when I wrote about this performace: "Mackerras's 1994 Edinburgh festival performance with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is one of the most thrilling Beethoven interpretations I have ever heard. It bristles with revolutionary spirit: there's no attempt to tame or otherwise civilise the sounds that Beethoven's imagination is racing to conjure into being. You feel as if the conductor can barely keep the music on a leash, such is its volcanic energy - and yet Mackerras's way with this symphony is all part of a coherent vision. The OAE play like gods and demons, with pure string timbres one moment, raw woodwinds the next, and even the slow movement catches your breath, thanks to Mackerras's ability to shed new light. The performance is crowned by a finale that clearly inspired everyone taking part."


Mahler: Symphony No. 7
Mahler: Symphony No. 7
Price: 13.25

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great performance, odd sound., 7 Feb 2011
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No. 7 (Audio CD)
It's very rare that I'd slam a CD for poor sound but in the case of this recent Abbado Mahler 7 potential buyers need to be aware of this issue.

There is a lot of microphone switching going on through the performance. It may not be immediately noticeable when listening in a room, though it does give a sense of unnatural balance and overall sound picture. However, when listening on headphones it is very clear that the balance changes from bar-to-bar, which is very disorienting.

It's extraordinary that companies with the pedigree of DG cannot produce well balanced natural-sounding recordings as consistently as they did 40 or 50 years ago. Their old Abbado recording from 1984 certainly sounds more natural than this, and even Kubelik's live radio relay on Audite is preferable.

The less than perfect sound is a great shame because the performance itself is stupendous with the Berlin Philharmonic on electrifying form throughout. A missed opportunity then.

For reference, here is Gramophone's 2002 review, which also mentions the same issue with the sound:

"Abbado's authority in No 7 is unquestionable. His 1984 studio recording remains one of the top three - less minutely responsive than the first, 1965 Bernstein (partly a matter of CBS's close-up sound), mellower and more poetic than the 1993 Gielen. DG's sound in Chicago was good, but I was hoping for more brilliance, less plush and a cleaner focus from Berlin, making this new contender a clear first choice. As ever, life is not so simple. Abbado's view of the first movement is little altered. With some tremendous horn playing and fabulously articulate strings, the music feels somewhat darker than before. The middle movements have lost none of their improbable delicacy and flair. In Nachtmusik I, the ear-stretching echo effect of the opening bars is again boosted by the determinedly antiphonal placement of the horns, and the mood remains fantastical, less strident than with Bernstein. The changes elsewhere seem marginal -such matters of detail as the restoration of some tremolos in the mandolin in Nachtmusik II, or more being made of the string glissandi in the central scherzo. Only the driving impulse of the finale, subjectively more insistent than previously, detracts just a little from the characterisation of individual episodes; the orchestra, for all its corporate strength, isn't quite beyond reproach by the close. It is on sonic grounds that the marginally more ebullient, less refined Chicago version would get my vote. DG, on the new release, gives us another concert relay in which you don't feel you've been given a decent seat in what is, admittedly, a difficult house. There's so much switching between microphones that it becomes difficult to get a proper 'fix' on players operating in a stable acoustic space. Those who listen on headphones are likely to be especially bothered by the intermittent loss of bass frequencies. There are momentary contractions of the sound stage as early as 017", 041" and 104' into the first movement, so - if you can - try before you buy. Not that I'd want to put you off acquiring what is notably deft and atmospheric account by possibly the greatest Mahler interpreter of his generation. If the conducting is inclined to underplay the drama of the moment, sufficient sense of urgency is sustained by the combination of well judged tempos, careful nuancing and precisely weighted, ceaselessly changing textures."


New Year's Concert from Vienna
New Year's Concert from Vienna
Offered by UKMusicFiendz
Price: 12.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique event, 24 Feb 2010
This is certainly a special recording simply because it captures Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic live in repertoire that they were both steeped in. The orchestra plays magnificently throughout of course and the recording is weighty and atmospheric. It is certainly one of the best of the New Year concerts released on CD and a souvenir of a great occasion. And yet to my ears a lot of these pieces are played significantly slower and more weightily than befits them. Recently I have been listening to Carlos Kleiber's slightly more recent New Years concerts (1989 and 1992); both seem to me to be more stylistically in tune with the music and have a real glitter and swagger about them. Having said that those recordings are less good than the DG one here so maybe there is no perfect solution but I feel we maybe learning more about the music listening to Kleiber than Karajan.


Schubert: Symphonies Nos 8 & 9
Schubert: Symphonies Nos 8 & 9
Price: 9.69

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great performances, 7 Jan 2010
I have heard a lot of performances of Schubert's last symphony and this is my favorite. For example, it's more detailed and respectful of period practice than Solti, not to say more commonsense in the approach to the score (no diminuendo on the final chord of the symphony). It's less fussy and glossy than Rattle's interesting recent effort but hardly less well played and it's warmer and more relaxed than Mackerras' own earlier version with the OAE. The winds period brass really play out beautifully and give the performances some bite and style without the roughness that we sometimes associate with period performance.

It's worth mentioning that Mackerras takes a faster initial tempo in the first movement as indicated in the original score that he discovered in Vienna and, although it is startling at first, after a few listens you wonder how anyone could ever have played this differently.

The 'Unfinished' is just as effective, though there have certainly been more profound (ie. slow and heavy) performances in the past! Finally, there is also the beautifully natural Telarc recording that rounds off wonderfully thought out and executed release.


Glitter and Doom Live
Glitter and Doom Live
Price: 14.28

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missed opportunity, 7 Jan 2010
This review is from: Glitter and Doom Live (Audio CD)
The music here is obviously great (or if you are not quite a Waits convert then at least unique!) but the album would have been more effective had it been a single show with all the variety contained in the full 2 1/2 hour show (like the one from Atlanta that's still on NPR music). It's really a shame that although we have 2 CDs here one of them is just 30 minutes worth of the bits in between the songs, which although amusing once will not bear repeated listening. Although he's a funny guy, people go to hear Tom Wait's songs not his stand-up routine. Anyway, if you haven't heard this stuff it's worth a go but it's a bit of a missed opportunity to me.


The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Bridge on the River Kwai
by Pierre Boulle
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated, 7 Jan 2010
Well, I say it's overrated but it's not rated here at all as this is the first review!

The best thing you could really say for this book is that it's short. None of the characters have real depth and the book is a cheap adventure tale more than anything else. In many ways it feels like an idea for a film and it's no surprise that the famous film is a lot more successful. We are told that the book is a satire, along the lines of Catch 22 I suppose but more maybe believable. Although it's of course based around real events and places, the characters are fictional and so is the operation. This is unfortunate as it probably gives a quite incorrect impression of what was by all accounts an appalling situation.

If you want to hear something really funny on this subject the get hold of 'Bridge on the River Wye' with Michael Bentine et al...


Together Through Life
Together Through Life
Price: 6.85

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars And three stars is pretty generous too..., 6 Sep 2009
This review is from: Together Through Life (Audio CD)
Unfortunately this is a very limp effort from Bob. I loved 'Modern Times' and 'Love and Theft' but they are in a different class from 'Together Through Life', not to mention 'Time Out Of Mind'. The music of 'Together Through Life' is dull and the lyrics are even duller; there is no Dylan spark anywhere to be heard. The best songs are Beyond Here Lies Nothin' and It's All Good but even they only compare favorably with the poorest songs on the last two albums. It seems that the roll that Dylan has been on since 1997 is over and it's hard to believe that a Christmas album will change that.


Brahms: Symphony No. 4  (DG The Originals)
Brahms: Symphony No. 4 (DG The Originals)
Price: 7.45

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassed, 6 Sep 2009
I heard this performance a good while ago but for some reason it didn't get to me. I have listened again recently and I can't imagine why not. In fact I can't imagine a greater performance of this symphony anymore. It's so well played, with every part of the orchestra singing and involved but clearly articulated. However the thing that distinguishes the performance is the grasp of structure and overall balance. The effect of the playing and the conducting is an almost volcanic energy and sweep that is really unsurpassed in the many recordings and performances of this symphony that I have heard. It's shattering and exhausting. Somehow when you hear this it seems so obvious that this is one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, and the most complete of the four Brahms wrote.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2011 11:12 PM GMT


Maw:Odyssey
Maw:Odyssey
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 13.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful music, great performance., 7 July 2009
This review is from: Maw:Odyssey (Audio CD)
Short review just to second what the original reviewer said. This is an extraordinary piece of music in many ways. It certainly has Brucknerian qualities but also parts that feel more like Birtwistle. Suffice to say that Maw may have many influences but he is certainly his own man, and has created here something unique that inhabits its own world and creates it's own time.

I must also mention the shattering performance in which the CBSO and Rattle really excel themselves in every way, with such committed playing and technical accomplishment. That it was recorded at a concert in Birmingham Town Hall in 1990 only adds to the achievement.


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