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I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland)
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Britten: Piano and Violin Concertos
Britten: Piano and Violin Concertos
Price: 9.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect coupling in arguably close to definitive performances, 8 Dec 2013
This disc, well recorded in 1970, pairs together Britten's only two concertos which were written towards the end of the 1930's and before there were any obvious signs of his future focus as a pre-eminent opera composer of his generation.

The piano concerto was later revised to the current version in 1945 with the original Recitative and Aria movement replaced with the Impromptu as played here. That impromptu, really a passacaglia, matched the Passacaglia last movement of the violin concerto.

Both concertos are very well played on this recording which, like most if not all of Britten's recordings, has claim to be considered a defining statement of the composer's intent. Britten was well-known as an excellent conductor of his own work. In the case of the piano concerto he has here not only a renowned virtuoso pianist to work with, but also a close friend. Naturally enough the result is one that would be hard to match let alone improve upon.

Much the same can be said about the quality of the playing in the violin concerto with Mark Lubotsky proving to be both an incisive and sensitive player of considerable technical resource. Of the two concertos, the violin concerto has been the more frequently played and the recording with Lorraine McAslan is well worth searching out although copies are hard to find these days.

I would suggest that this pair of recordings is as close to self-recommending as it is possible to be. It makes a strong case for consideration as the obvious purchase option.


Schubert-Piano Sonatas
Schubert-Piano Sonatas
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 6.52

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Volodos qualifies as a supreme Schubert player with this disc, 8 Dec 2013
This review is from: Schubert-Piano Sonatas (Audio CD)
This very well recorded disc from 2001 is far removed from the technical show-pieces of Volodos' previous two, and very fine, discs. Here, the emphasis is entirely upon the far more intimate recesses of Schubert's late 18th sonata which is contrasted with his early first sonata. The disc concludes with a ravishing performance of Der Muller und der Bach arranged by Liszt and a portrayal of the love-lorn miller's thoughts on finding consolation in drowning. This then, is essentially a serious minded program but one ideally suited to the limitless finesse of Volodos' range of touch.

The early sonata, not completed as it ends with the minuet, makes for a gentle start to the program and immediately alerts us to the subtleties to come with some wonderfully placed chords and even scale passages. Throughout the sonata Volodos displays great sensitivity supported by peerless technique.

The 18th sonata is one of Schubert's deeper utterances and is taken to reflect his inner turmoil as he increasingly faced his own impending and premature mortality. Volodos takes a very steady view of the long first movement which is able to unfold with considerable depth without over-staying its welcome. The mood slightly lightens for the remaining three movements with the concluding Allegretto achieving grace. This vision of the complete sonata is on a large emotional scale with the dramatic moments standing in stark relief against the more reflective and quieter passages. This sonata is considered by many lovers of Schubert's final sonatas as arguably his finest and Volodos does not disappoint.

This is a very fine and penetrating recital employing Volodos' considerable range of touch and minute gradations of expression. Collectors will want to purchase a copy and those seeking an 'only' version would be secure with this disc. Well worth considering seriously for all potential purchasers therefore.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 12, 2014 12:25 AM GMT


Beethoven: Sextet, Op.71; Octet, Op.103; Quintet, H19
Beethoven: Sextet, Op.71; Octet, Op.103; Quintet, H19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A disc offering a most desirable combination of infectious joy and precision playing, 8 Dec 2013
This well recorded disc first published in 1985 brings together a perfect group of wind works. In addition the playing by the wind soloists of the COE is exceptionally fine with a winning combination of precision and spontaneity.

The major works are the opening sextet and the concluding octet which are on a par with the wind serenades of Mozart. The Quintet was not completed by Beethoven but a very creditable performing edition was produced by Alexander Zellner, an Austrian composer and teacher, in 1862 and it is that which we hear on this disc. Beethoven's original intention seems to have been for a sextet but the clarinet part was never started beyond the clef sign and key signature. In this performing edition the absence of the clarinet is of no consequence. The strangely titles Rondino was a single movement example of 'table music' written for the Elector of Cologne.

All these pieces were early works in terms of Beethoven's entire output and were all completed before 1830 and were therefore conceived very much in the Classical mould. The Sextet was completed in 1796, the incomplete Quintet in 1793, the Rondino in 1792 and the octet in 1792 also. The octet also exists as a string quintet in a later version published in 1796.

As mentioned above in the opening paragraph, the playing here is exemplary with playing notable for its high spirits and evident enjoyment radiating from the players. For those who know the fine discs of the Mozart serenades by the same group, now available as moderately priced re-issues, this disc is easily of a similar standard and may even have the edge.

I note that this is difficult to locate these days and that prices can be very high. However, this does not detract from the fact that the disc is an example of very high performing standards coupled with good recording standards. A reasonably priced re-issue like the Mozart discs would be desirable.


"Vivaldi con moto" Violin Concertos
"Vivaldi con moto" Violin Concertos
Price: 13.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another Vivaldi triumph for Carmignola and his colleagues, 7 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This very well recorded disc from 2012 presents another five violin concertos to add to Carmignola's growing list of recorded Vivaldi concertos. In this case there are two concertos which are presented in their original form, one that is a premier recording plus two others. All of the concertos come from Vivaldi's last stage as a composer when he was further extending his range of expression and the means with which to achieve those.

Vivaldi was, like other composers of his time and as witnessed in the works of Bach and Handel for example, quite open to the idea of adapting previous compositions in order to fit with new performing circumstances or to create extra income. The first two concertos are thus important in so far as they go back to the original manuscripts and otherwise familiar concertos may therefore seem slightly less familiar according to whichever version is known to the listener.

The premier recording applies to the third concerto on the disc, RV 283. Carmignola's point here, made in his booklet article, is that the pyrotechnics of the outer movements of this work, as with others, makes the imaginative quality of the slow movements even more notable.

The final two concertos conclude with RV 243 known as the concerto without the 'e' string. This does not mean that high notes are avoided but that they are achieved with high positions on the lower strings thus creating a totally different tonal effect.

All of these concertos have plenty of interest to occupy the listener and the accompanying booklet supplies much information not included here. The playing of Carmignola and his colleagues is beyond criticism as to be expected and one can only suggest that, once again, here is another example of the players' and the composer's art combined which makes the disc another most attractive purchase prospect.


Schubert - Sonate D.574, Rondo op.70, Fantasie D.934
Schubert - Sonate D.574, Rondo op.70, Fantasie D.934
Price: 15.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The wonderful voyage of discovery and education is always open to seekers, 7 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This very well recorded disc from 2004 was bought simply as a response to hearing the small samples from tracks on Amazon. In particular I was struck by the beauty of the opening to the Fantaisie, almost like sounds from another world, and which sounded unlike any other Schubert that I had ever heard.

That early promise has been amply fulfilled as indeed the introduction and ending of that Fantaisie really does inhabit a world apart, of half lights and tones and is wonderfully caught by Faust and Melnikov. The remainder of the four movements clearly demonstrate Schubert's quality as a composer in an area of composition, for solo violin, that is relatively rare in his output. In general terms this work is a sunny piece as is the great majority of the remaining two pieces. Although a late work, it does not contain those darker moments so often to be found in the late quartets or piano sonatas.

The concluding Rondo brillant in two movements, andante and allegro, is exactly what it suggests and is an enjoyable salon piece of considerable technical challenge. This is an earlier work being written some ten years before and makes an excellent encore item which is now this disc concludes.

The sonata, while being more weighty in terms of the two outer movements than the Fantaisie, is still an optimistic work overall. The scherzo presto is a tour de force and the following andantino is an example of typical Schubert lyricism.

All of these pieces are relatively rarely played and have come to my notice by chance at a late stage in my collecting days. It only goes to illustrate that there is no end to the voyage of discovery and there are always unexpected treats to be found in unexpected places. it just requires an open mind.

I therefore confidently suggest that this disc is really worth investigating and that it offers some lovely music played with the greatest empathy and skill. Well worth considering as a purchase.


Bela Bartok: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 - Isabelle Faust
Bela Bartok: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 - Isabelle Faust
Price: 15.17

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bartok recording of striking thoughtfulness and sheer high quality, 7 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This disc, extremely well played and recorded in 2012 effortlessly confirms the status of these two works, and especially the second concerto, as among the elite of the twentieth century violin concertos. Isabelle Faust's first disc was of Bartok and this makes a triumphant return to that beginning landmark.

The first concerto was not published or performed until after Bartok's death, having been composed with the love of his life in mind. This love did not come to fruition and the recipient and dedicatee, Stefi Geyer, did not play the work at all. Isabelle Faust has researched the manuscripts and other relevant documentation as regards this concerto, copious notes explain this in the booklet, and she found that there were numerous clues as to performance that simply were omitted from the published edition. These key descriptions are very specific about the emotional content of the piece and include instructions such as 'utterly desperate,' 'always volatile,' 'always tranquil,' 'unforced,' 'exhausted,' etc. Played with complete adherence to these very specific ideas, what we now hear is a far more subtle work which is considerably enhanced in stature.

The second concerto, of course, is incomparably the greater work and incorporates everything that Bartok knew about composition towards the end part of his life. In particular, Bartok, had researched and incorporated a great deal of Hungarian folk music, or the idioms of Hungarian folk music, into his own compositions. This second violin concerto differs markedly from the first in that respect especially. In addition he was able to incorporate such disparate elements such as that folk music influence with more modern compositional ideas such as the 12 note tone row so that the whole structure becomes a unified experience as briefly described below.

The first movement thus starts with a folk dance idea, a verkunkos, but for the second theme he uses a 12 tone row but within a tonal context. This tone row is more flexible than that envisioned by Schoenberg in so far as the exact sequence of the pitching of the notes within the row is varied for melodic reasons and the initial note is repeated, in effect creating a 13 note tone row. None of this should be of concern to the listener as this should be a musical experience rather than an academic exercise. The second movement takes the form of a series of a theme with six variations with fully explore the possibilities of the violin. The final movement takes the form of a variation of the first movement.

Once more, Isabelle Faust has researched the intentions of the work in considerable detail. As a result the work has, on this recording, become more unified and makes complete sense as a whole musical experience. The accompanying booklet gives plenty of detail in these respects and makes for interesting reading.

This recording is notably effective in blending these elements in such a way as the whole piece flows logically and apparently simply. This is a considerable achievement with such a complex work. The interpretation is far less driven than that of the Chung/Solti recording where one suspects Solti of having a considerable influence on the interpretation. Chung's later recording with Rattle is an altogether gentler response with less drive and more lyrical awareness of the folk elements. Andre Gertler, a close performing colleague of Bartok for many years, offers probably the closest recording to Bartok's intentions but Isabelle Faust on this disc runs him pretty close and has a much more modern recording to her advantage. Arabella Steinbacher provides an interpretation of great accuracy and empathy which falls roughly in the middle of these alternatives.

On balance I would suggest that Isabella Faust's disc has claim to be one of the best recordings of these two works yet produced since Gertler's highly authentic accounts. Collectors would probably want at least both of these discs but those interested in just one recording could well be totally satisfied with Faust's fine new recordings on this disc.

I would therefore suggest that this disc has rather special claims to be considered for purchase by anyone looking for a suitable recording.

............................................

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...
Thank you (UK review)

I'd also add to this. When you in particular review a particular CD, I pay pretty close attention. I would say the characteristics of your reviews I value the most are the detail and general sense of balance and fairness that comes across. That's a great help. Thanks for taking the time on your reviews. (US review)

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Vivaldi - Le Quattro Stagioni - La Magnifica Comunita (2 CD Set)
Vivaldi - Le Quattro Stagioni - La Magnifica Comunita (2 CD Set)
Offered by TOP-MUSIC-UK
Price: 11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A freewheeling, imaginative and thoroughly enjoyable version of these 12 concertos, 7 Dec 2013
This well recorded set from 2006 features Enrico Casazza and his orchestra, La Magnifica Comunita in free-wheeling, imaginative and thoroughly enjoyable performances of these twelve concertos. Casazza has been involved with other period players of this period for many years and with distinction. This orchestra was formed by him in 1990 and is made up, like so many others these days, of specialist period instrument players of enormous skill.

This set takes a fleet view of these concertos but that description does not do it sufficient justice as it implies a fixed and speedy approach to all the works. What is true is that generally the performances are fleet but within that overall concept, there is an enormous amount of variation involving tempo, phrasing, the use of a wide range of continuo instruments as well as the normal textural opportunities resulting from period instrumentation. This explains the description of 'free-wheeling.'

In terms of the Four Seasons which open this set, there is obviously scrupulous attention paid to the inspirational sonnets which lie behind the works themselves. For those who do not fully understand this, the sonnets are very detailed and individual lines, or segments of lines of script were incorporated into the musical parts by Vivaldi. Vivaldi therefore expected considerable flexibility from his players on almost a bar by bar basis. That is what we hear on these discs and it is very convincing.

The remaining concertos do not have such a constructional program but nevertheless they respond equally well to a similar approach. Casazza is a superb technician and this enables him to deliver imaginative and demanding performances with apparent ease. The orchestra is also highly skilled. The recording is faithful and the whole project makes this one of the outstanding sets currently available.

I would therefore suggest that this moderately prices set warrants very serious consideration by both multiple version collectors and those looking for one really good set.


Dvorak: Symphony No. 6 & 8
Dvorak: Symphony No. 6 & 8
Price: 21.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This makes a good coupling and companion with the disc of the symphonies 3 and 7, 6 Dec 2013
This recording, well made in 1999, joins the disc containing symphonies 3 and 7. As both have been of refreshingly high quality the hope was that there would be a third disc in the series coupling the lovely fifth symphony with the ninth. This has not so far materialised so collectors must be happy with what we have so far received.

Chung's approach to all of these works is essentially straightforward allowing Dvorak's inspiration to make its effect without hindrance or interference. Tempi are generally forward moving without being excessive and the emotional temperature is warmly affectionate. The Czech dance element, so important to Dvorak's music, is allowed to remind us of its origin and important textural points such as Dvorak's love of the horns, are enabled to cut through.

The sixth symphony is not over-endowed with competition so this bright and sparking performance is doubly welcome. It is on a par with the fine version from Jarvi who also takes a straightforward view with an awareness of drama. The eighth symphony is a far more regularly played work and there are many good recordings to choose from but this is also very good indeed and the two symphonies make a generous and very attractive pair.

The VPO play with the full string tone that they are known for and the woodwind and brass are able to make themselves heard with apparent ease. The woodwind dialogues are always important in Dvorak and the brass must be able to cut though at climatic moments. All of this is achieved on this disc.

I would therefore suggest that this disc makes a very attractive proposition for anyone interested in these two symphonies as a coupling. I would also suggest that the companion disc of symphonies 3 and 7 is equally worth considering.


ANTONIN DVORAK: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 8
ANTONIN DVORAK: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 8
Offered by silver-disc-uk
Price: 18.52

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This makes a good coupling and companion with the disc of the symphonies 3 and 7, 6 Dec 2013
This recording, well made in 1999, joins the disc containing symphonies 3 and 7. As both have been of refreshingly high quality the hope was that there would be a third disc in the series coupling the lovely fifth symphony with the ninth. This has not so far materialised so collectors must be happy with what we have so far received.

Chung's approach to all of these works is essentially straightforward allowing Dvorak's inspiration to make its effect without hindrance or interference. Tempi are generally forward moving without being excessive and the emotional temperature is warmly affectionate. The Czech dance element, so important to Dvorak's music, is allowed to remind us of its origin and important textural points such as Dvorak's love of the horns, are enabled to cut through.

The sixth symphony is not over-endowed with competition so this bright and sparking performance is doubly welcome. It is on a par with the fine version from Jarvi who also takes a straightforward view with an awareness of drama. The eighth symphony is a far more regularly played work and there are many good recordings to choose from but this is also very good indeed and the two symphonies make a generous and very attractive pair.

The VPO play with the full string tone that they are known for and the woodwind and brass are able to make themselves heard with apparent ease. The woodwind dialogues are always important in Dvorak and the brass must be able to cut though at climatic moments. All of this is achieved on this disc.

I would therefore suggest that this disc makes a very attractive proposition for anyone interested in these two symphonies as a coupling. I would also suggest that the companion disc of symphonies 3 and 7 is equally worth considering.


Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: 26.10

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solidly impressive in all departments except raw emotion, 6 Dec 2013
This disc, first issued in 1983, was one of the first in Haitink's series and it set the bar high. The recording was always impressive with wide range and depth. The performance and interpretation are also also both impressive as one might expect from this well-tried and trusted combination. Thirty years later it still sounds, and is, impressive.

The playing of the Dutch orchestra is of the highest and both Decca and Haitink make sure that everything can be heard and that it is effective in a controlled. non-emotional way. What is not attempted is the sort of raw emotional edge that Mravinsky provided in his 1982 'live' performance and available on Philips. That has an intensity that is very special but Haitink's version still delivers a very satisfying version.

Previn, in his first much admired LSO version on EMI, gives a more showy version where the speed adopted for the third movement, for example, is just a bit too fast for the trombones to articulate cleanly after the more nimble trumpets. This is counter productive as it introduces an element of heaviness and this is not to be found in Haitink's concept where everything he does is definitely attainable by his excellent orchestra.

Since those performances there have been others, the most notable recent one being the fine version with Petrenko on Naxos. That has more fire than Haitink, less than Mravinsky and a standard of playing that is also excellent. The Dutch orchestra has more sheer weight at the big moments though.

My solution to all of this has been to retain Haitink, to add Petrenko and to delete all other performances previously owned on disc. I find that this gives a good coverage of the two symphonies and both are in good sound.

I would suggest that either Haitink or Petrenko would make an excellent 'only' version but that collectors would probably benefit by owning at least both of these. Beyond that I would suggest that Sanderling is impressive and Mravinsky is a uniquely driven performance.

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Further informative comment from the UK comments section with thanks to Raymond Clarke:

This is indeed a fine recording, but I hope that one day ICA (the successor to BBC Legends, it seems) will issue Haitink's performance of this symphony from the 1983 Proms; hearing it on BBC Radio 3 I remember it as being even more intense than this Decca recording, but memory can be unreliable and we can sometimes idealise performances which we heard only once!

To which Previn LSO performance do you refer? When editing, correcting (and in many places having to rewrite) Ian MacDonald's book on Shostakovich, I had cause to contact Mr Previn about his EMI recording of No. 8, and in his reply he commented that he "infinitely prefers" (his words) his later DG version with the same orchestra.

Mravinsky's Philips performance is unrecommendable, for technical reasons: the reel-to-reel master tape was running about 5% too fast when the transfer was made so the tempi are falsified, as is the pitch, which is a semitone too high. The recording has subsequently been reissued in a corrected transfer, but as a performance it falls short of other Mravinsky recordings of the symphony from 1947, 1960, 1961 & 1976. What is so frustrating is that his finest recording of the Eighth Symphony (from 1976) remains unpublished - the tape was authenticated by Mravinsky's regular sound engineer, Mravinsky's widow authorised its release, I wrote (and was paid for) the booklet notes for its projected CD issue, but somehow the disc was never issued and only a handful of us involved in the production ever heard the tape. I left some comments about it after one of the reviews of a transfer of the 1982 recording: Symphony 8
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 28, 2014 7:40 AM BST


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