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I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland)

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Spohr - Notturno & Nonet
Spohr - Notturno & Nonet
Price: 15.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memorably enjoyable music played with skill and empathy, 13 Dec 2013
This disc, well recorded in 1984, presents two excellent examples of Spohr's entertaining and well written music for winds. Spohr was famous as a violinist during his lifetime but current day clarinettists remember him for the four excellent concertos that he wrote for the instrument. The link between those four works and this Notturno lies in the name Johann Hermstedt. He was the clarinettist who inspired the four concertos and also this Notturno which illustrates the player's skill during the central variation movement.

The Notturno is a delightful work, skilfully written for the instruments and with an abundance of memorable and catchy tunes. The Notturno is written in 6 movements with the variation movement in the centre being the longest and most involved. It was very popular during Spohr's life.

The Nonett will be more familiar to modern listeners as there are alternative recordings available but none superior to this one. The Nonett is written in four equally memorable movements and both works last for about 28.5 minutes. They are skilfully played on this disc and the playing has an eastern European tonal quality about it which is most attractive in its more rustic manner.

I would suggest that this disc is therefore well worth investigating as an enjoyable venture into the relatively unknown but entertaining by-roads of musical gems.

Suppe and Auber: Overtures
Suppe and Auber: Overtures
Offered by welbeck1
Price: 12.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scorching performances which set a very high benchmark despite the early date, 13 Dec 2013
This disc, compiled from recordings made in 1959, sets a standard of performance against which others can be measured and so far, have been found to be wanting. The recording quality is also of a remarkable standard and presumably this is a result of it having originally being recorded on 3 track half-inch tape. The CD sound is astonishingly life-like and has tremendous range and presence and is ideally suited to these very vibrant performances.

The overtures are given performances of enormous vitality, 'pizazz' and are frequently achieved at high velocity. Under lesser hands than Paray's this would result in virtuoso performances but of empty musical substance but in this case every one of these overtures is presented with meticulous care in phrasing and general expressiveness which makes other performances seem slack on detail. The overall result is simply thrilling.

I have owned other recordings of these overtures but upon repeat listening over the years it has been this disc that has consistently given the most satisfaction as examples of thrilling interpretations and playing. I have also kept, and have much enjoyed, the slower and weightier performances by Kuhn on two RCA discs. Those too are meticulously observed and very well recorded and are the perfect musical foil to these performances by Paray. They too can make other performances seem musically empty. All the other discs have eventually been removed from the collection as being relatively dull.

I would therefore suggest that this superb collection of overtures by Suppe and Auber is well worth collecting while copies remain available. I would also consider the two discs by Kuhn very carefully for a different but equally satisfying musical experience of even more of the Suppe overtures but not including those by Auber.

Hummel: Piano Works
Hummel: Piano Works
Price: 14.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and lyrical music played with consummate skill, 12 Dec 2013
This review is from: Hummel: Piano Works (Audio CD)
This disc, well recorded in 1999, extends the series of Hummel's piano concertos played by Shelley into the solo piano music. Hummel was a prolific composer for the piano on which he was renowned as a performer and improviser.

Hummel was immensely popular in the part part of his career as a composer and pianist but during his last years his popularity waned as more complex styles of compositions became fashionable. This would be towards the end of Beethoven's life and the rise of Mendelssohn, Schubert and Berlioz amongst others. In effect, music primarily written for entertainment was gradually replaced by music with a more serious agenda in mind. This did not fit in with Hummel's concept.

The music on this very well played disc gives a very good overview of Hummel's output. There are a number of shorter pieces that are good display items such as the opening Rondo,a 'small caprice' and a polonaise. There is an extended set of 10 variations on a theme by Gluck which was able to both make use of a popular tune of the day and at the same time display a range of pianistic thrills and interests. Finally, there is an early sonata that, although being quite lengthy at 21 minutes, does not attempt anything that would identify it with late Mozart or any of Beethoven's output at the time or point forward to the sonatas by Schubert.

Hummel had a gift for display and is completely lyrical in style. His music is easy on the ear and commands the attention at the time of being listened to. The music itself is very well crafted and entertaining. However, it would also be fair to say that it lacks memorability so that it is difficult to recall passages of consequence after the music has finished. That, in a nutshell, is why his fame eventually lapsed. However, his music remains enjoyable and entertaining even today and this is a good example of that appeal.

I would therefore suggest that this disc will give pleasure to anyone who has warmed to Hummel's music as demonstrated in the fine series of piano concertos recorded by Shelley or to some of his enjoyable chamber music such as his octet and quintet. It is unlikely that the quality of this disc will be easily surpassed.

Mozart: Clarinet/Oboe Concerti
Mozart: Clarinet/Oboe Concerti
Price: 9.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most enjoyable period performances although offering short playing time, 11 Dec 2013
This disc, first issued in 1986, usefully pairs together two of the reeded Mozart concertos in period performances of skill and empathy. At just 47 minutes though, it could not be described as over generous although the actual quality of the recording remains excellent.

Both Antony Pay on clarinet and Michel Piguet on oboe had achieved high status as period players at the time of this recording and the Academy of Ancient Music had overcome all the many technical challenges of playing such music. The result of this expertise was an enhanced clarity of texture and an increased ease of musical dialogue between all the instruments and players. Christopher Hogwood had long since established himself as an expert in the field and this is apparent throughout this disc.

On this recording, Antony Pay plays the deeper ranged Basset clarinet for which the concerto was originally written. This not only increases the range downwards but it also deepens the tonal response of the instrument throughout its range. That is a considerable advantage and enhances the attractions of this disc. No such considerations need to be thought about in terms of the oboe concerto which is played with high skill and musicianship.

I would therefore suggest that, playing time apart, this disc remains an example of good Mozart playing practice and as such still deserves consideration as a pair of fine recorded performances.

Mahler: Symphony No.4 [Riccardo Chailly, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig] [Accentus: ACC10257] [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Mahler: Symphony No.4 [Riccardo Chailly, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig] [Accentus: ACC10257] [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig
Price: 29.45

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and fresh view of this, the shortest of the symphony cycle, 11 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This recording, compiled from two 'live' concerts in early 1212, is a very successful and compelling re-think of the symphony by Chailly. In the main bonus feature, Chailly explains in some detail how, after a considerable gap, he has returned to this symphony and in the course of so doing, he has substantially revised his previous views on interpretation.

The result has been an interesting mixture. This is now a fleeter view of the symphony but also one that manages to bring out the darker elements lurking below the surface. This may seem to be a contradiction in terms but in reality it makes for a compelling and illuminating performance.

The subject of tempo is very important to Chailly who has taken great pains to go back to original sources and performances practices in order to observe specific instructions and metronome markings that are sometimes not observed as well as they might be. Interestingly, his performance of the final three movements is faster than the current three recent performances that I have on DVD/Bluray, those being the two Abbado versions and the Gergiev version. The last movement in particular is given both a markedly faster performance than the others as well as delivering an altogether darker view of the text.

Only by comparing this performance with Reiner's from 1958 does one find a similar approach to such tempi. Reiner delivers the fastest first and third movements of these five comparisons and is also swift in the remaining two movements. Significantly, Reiner's version has long been much admired. Thus Chailly is closer to Reiner than either of the Abbado versions or that by Gergiev.

Chailly makes the point that even in the calmest or least troubled movements there is darkness or irony. That is obvious in the second movement and the climax of the otherwise serene third movement always comes as a troubled and unexpected surprise. The text of the last movement has a clear problem with so much slaughter of animals for the delight of the inhabitants of Heaven by saints and unlikely inhabitants of Heaven as Herod. How can this be a scene of peace or joy - or is this asking us to question this ourselves? Chailly takes that view and the upbeat tempi for this movement underlines the irony or questionable nature of the text relative to the carefree music that supports it.

This then is an interesting view of the work which makes us ask questions about possible sub-texts. There are two bonuses - those of Chailly's views on performance and a description of the Welte-Mignon piano player device. That is then heard as Mahler's recording of the last movement of this symphony is heard on a piano. This is an interesting experience but unlikely to make listeners wish for a return to times past for recording enjoyment.

The recording quality is superlative with detailed but unobtrusive camera work and crystal clear imaging. The sound is one of the best yet heard in this medium and is presented in DTS 5.1 and stereo.

I would suggest that this disc now has strong claims to be the current leader of video discs, and if that response is challenged, then its position of at least one of the very best is unlikely to be a cause for complaint.


Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)

I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)

I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
Keep up the good work!
Thank you (UK review)


Piano Sonatas 2 & 3
Piano Sonatas 2 & 3
Offered by marvelio-uk
Price: 16.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This recording was like an expressive thunderbolt in 1974 and so it remains, 9 Dec 2013
This review is from: Piano Sonatas 2 & 3 (Audio CD)
This recording, first published on LP in 1974, was a total re-think of Chopin's world and had the effect of an expressive thunderbolt. This was uncompromisingly powerful playing by a young Perahia who was clearly a pianist with plenty to say and the nerve and skill to deliver it.

The playing was at considerable variance with the norm at that time. Rubinstein's cool and chiselled elegance was one yardstick and that itself stood out against what could be loosely described as more 'salon' inspired Chopin concepts. The idea that Chopin could be tough and combative had not been proposed.

When considering Chopin as a composer and bearing in mind his life experiences it is not surprising that below the elegant exterior there lurked a personality that was confused, frustrated and, at times, angry. These socially discordant elements are there in the music with expressive extremes of dynamics, tempo and harmony. However, until this disc appeared pianists often used to play down the discordant elements and to emphasise the more lyrical aspects. Perahia simply played the music as it was and suddenly we became aware of a completely different personality that was Chopin. This was not always the comfortable experience it was had been. Perahia's version of the Preludes was another similar ground breaking experience in comprehensively not so far released on CD. Those two discs changed the way the world regarded Chopin.

There have been comments that the recorded sound of this disc is inclined to be on the aggressive side. This is simply not true of my own playback equipment at present or for as long as I can remember it in previous generations of equipment. The CD has been in my possession since 1989 and previously was represented as an LP since the mid 1970's. At no time has the recording quality given me anything other than adequate reward.

I would suggest that, in the absence of a remastered 24 bit version, collectors would be well advised to obtain a copy of this disc while they can. It always was an expressive thunderbolt and age has not lessened its impact.

Debussy: Sonata for Flute, Viola & Harp / Franck: Sonata for Violin & Piano / Ravel: Introduction & Allegro
Debussy: Sonata for Flute, Viola & Harp / Franck: Sonata for Violin & Piano / Ravel: Introduction & Allegro
Price: 7.18

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding collection of major French chamber music performed and recorded to perfection, 9 Dec 2013
This disc brings together a choice collection of French chamber music culled from recordings made in 1962 and 1977. The violin sonatas were made in 1977 with the rest of the program dating from 1962.

The Melos Ensemble's recording of the Ravel Introduction and Allegro have dominated the catalogue since it was first issued. Its blend of wistful Gallic grace and textural clarity within a perfect recorded ambiance has proved to be virtually unassailable. The Debussy sonata inhabits the same rarefied atmosphere.

To this has been added a performance of the Franck violin sonata that makes the most of Radu Lupu's sensitive pianism coupled to Kyung Wha Chung quicksilvered violin timbres. The balance allows sufficient airy space to surround the players to enable the sonata to float free rather than to be imposed upon the listener with too strong an insistence upon drama. The Debussy violin sonata inhabits the same sonic world as both a recording and as a performance. The final result is a disc comprising peerless performances and making a totally unified and special artistic event.

This is a very special disc combining musical performances of sensitivity and complete empathy with perfectly matched recording values. As a reduced mid-priced compilation this can therefore be considered as something of a bargain not to be missed. I would therefore suggest that potential purchasers tempted by this program should seriously consider acquiring a copy before it disappears from the catalogues.

Chopin: The Complete Waltzes
Chopin: The Complete Waltzes
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 14.58

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A supremely confident and mesmerising pianistic vision of these miniature masterpieces, 9 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This disc, very well recorded in 2009, confirmed Ingrid Fliter's status on the world stage as a Chopin pianist impossible to ignore. This was not her first recorded example of Chopin performance but it was her first disc totally specialising in Chopin. This was some task as there have been so many famous exponents of this core repertoire from Lipatti onwards.

Suffice it to say that with this disc she confirmed all her earlier promise as an exceptional artist with a set of performances that were refreshingly individual yet totally acceptable to established critical opinion. With these waltzes there is the strong sense of Chopin speaking directly to the listener without any intermediary.

Fliter has a sparkling command of the required dexterity and is fearless in her delivery of her own vision. The result is a spontaneous display of instinctive musicianship that has had tremendous critical acclaim. Without going into piece by piece comment it is safe to remark that this disc offers enough reward to interest and even excite even the most jaded of musical pallets.

I would therefore suggest that there is ample informed critical opinion at any level to entice collectors to add yet one more set of these waltzes to current collections and to subsequently expect to be mesmerised and enchanted. Those who succumb will not be disappointed.

Mendelssohn Piano Concertos
Mendelssohn Piano Concertos
Price: 13.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shelley gets the sparkle right and at a speed where every note can still be heard, 9 Dec 2013
This well recorded disc from 1992 offers sparkling performances of all three works within a believable ambiance and sound-stage. The balance is excellent.

These are works that should not be driven too hard and some pianists are tempted to do just that. Compared to Shelley, Thibaudet for example drives too hard and the effect is pressured rather than joyful. Thibaudet's recorded balance is also just a bit too close and that, combined with the speed, makes the total effect acoustically claustrophobic. There is also less clarity when it comes to hearing all the notes. All of these things are better handled on this disc with Shelley.

The best alternative is the disc by the young Perahia with Marriner. Once again, the orchestra is too close and there is less space around the sound. However the tempi are just right as is the sense of joy. Every note is played to perfection and despite the sonic reservations this too is a disc that really sparkles. Perahia offers more generous extra items but if the focus is on the two concertos in a good recorded ambiance with good balancing and at a tempo which allows the music to sparkle rather than be a drive to show virtuosity rather than musical satisfaction, then Shelley is hard to match.

I note that the Perahia disc has now been remastered and that should improve sense of space but I am not sure about the close balance. Nevertheless I have just ordered the remastered Perahia to check and to then make a footnote at the end of this review.

In the meantime I would suggest that Shelley provides the best current disc of the two concertos with an equally excellent Capriccio brillant. The Perahia option offers the early piano sonata and a Prelude & Fugue as a coupling. I would suggest that the Shelley offering of the Capriccio brillant is more in keeping with the mood of the two concertos so the whole disc works well as a balanced musical program.

I can confirm that the 2006 remastering of the Perahia recording has been completely successful and its sound issues need no longer be a matter of concern. Perahia's performances of the concertos are exemplary and are now able to glow as they probably did at the time of the recording

Bax: Tone Poems / In the Faery Hills / November Woods / The Garden of Fand / Sinfonietta
Bax: Tone Poems / In the Faery Hills / November Woods / The Garden of Fand / Sinfonietta
Price: 14.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handley proves once more to be a fine guide through the Bax imagination, 9 Dec 2013
This disc, very well recorded in 2005, makes the perfect partner to the set of symphonies and to the companion disc of tone poems. Handley has been associated with the works of Bax for most of my collecting life, initially hampered by technically limited orchestras. However, since his relationship with Chandos has become established, his expertise and experience with the individual sound-world and musical imagination of Bax has been fully realised to the great benefit of collectors.

Bax's imagination needs a firm guiding hand and grip on the long-term goals if the structures of the pieces is to hold together and not become merely a set of fragmentary ideas. Handley is able to do this very well. taking a less emotional viewpoint than Barbirolli for instance and being nearer Boult in his vision of the composer. In general terms this more objective stance yields more structured performances and that is what we are able to witness on this group of recordings.

The tone poems are among the best works of the composer and the link between the pictorial or literary idea and their expression as sound is kept within the bounds of relatively short length compared to the symphonies for example. In this case Bax's love of Ireland is reflected in the 'Faery Hills' and 'Garden of Fand' poems while the remaining works are not so connected. November Woods is associated with his extra-marital affair with Harriet Cohen, an affair that lasted for many further years, and there is speculation as to the whereabouts of these woods. All three of the works are essentially exercises in free-wheeling imagination with the Garden of Fand being the most well known which may be partly due to Barbirolli's passionate advocacy in his earlier recording for Pye/EMI.

The concluding Sinfonietta is a late work from 1932 and was not performed during Bax's lifetime. Described as a 'Symphonic Phantasy' the work actually falls into three continuous sections and may have been influenced by the continuous form of Sibelius' 7th symphony. However, there the comparison ceases as this work is more akin to Bax's series of symphonic poems with this one simply falling into recognisable sections.

All the above works receive fine performances of complete empathy. I would suggest that this and the companion disc of tone poems makes an obvious coupling with Handley's boxed account of the symphonies as no doubt intended. Otherwise the two discs would also be very enjoyable on their own but Tintagel would then be missing. An alternative collection of tone poems including Tintagel is available on Lyrita with Boult conducting and that would also be well worth investigating.

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