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P. SIMPSON "nucaleena" (North Yorkshire, United Kingdom)
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Auferstehungshistorie - Dresdner Kammerchor
Auferstehungshistorie - Dresdner Kammerchor
Price: 13.38

1.0 out of 5 stars Caveat Emptor: This is NOT an SACD, 19 April 2014
I've had two copies sent to me and both were ordinary cds. If you look at the rear cover reproduced above you'll also note the absence of an SACD logo.

The music is fine and the performances more than competent but they're in 16 bit stereo only.


Bruch: Violin concerto
Bruch: Violin concerto
Price: 13.66

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this, 13 Jun 2011
This review is from: Bruch: Violin concerto (Audio CD)
Buy this. There are many fine versions of the Bruch, this is easily among the finest. Gluzman clearly out performs Janicke, also on SACD and is at least as good as Grumiaux, Midori and Accardo. His tone is sweet and pure and his playing effortless.I can't imagine this being bettered.

The Romance is equally rapt and the Quintet is a real find, raising memories of the two Mendelssohn Quintets.

Sound is splendid, detailed and clean. I thought it just a trifle bassy in the Concerto, less so in the Quintet. In neither work did that detract from the silver stream of sound emanating from Gluzman and the splendid Bergeners.

No hesitation, five stars.


Mozart: La Clemenza Di Tito (In Paris 2005) [Blu-ray] [2010]
Mozart: La Clemenza Di Tito (In Paris 2005) [Blu-ray] [2010]
Dvd ~ Susan Graham
Price: 21.11

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but with the "usual" flaws., 13 Jun 2011
Once again, a period opera is let down by some silly staging, abysmal "acting" and extraneous and imposed ideas.

It goes without saying that a cast which includes Susan Graham and Christoph Pregardien sing very well. Similarly the Orch. Opera National de Paris under Sylvian Gambreling play their hearts out.

Sound is good, but a little too focussed on the centre speaker and therefore lacking in width and depth. On the whole though, that's not a huge problem. Nor is the blu ray picture, which is light but well contrasted and very clear indeed. It is in fact, spectacularly good.

The set is at least adequate, serving as a one-size fits all setting. And its lit well enough to offer genuine contrast and clarity

However, how often do we have to put up with designers saying (ref booklet) that they've unified the periods of setting (past, composition and now) with costume? The result here is one character with a Roman breastplate but modernish clothes, several with either evening dress or generic enlightenment era costuming and one in a 1990's summer dress with ankle socks. The effect is totally disparate, not unified, and looks silly.

So to, throughout the opera, do the Sesto of Susan Graham and the Annio of Hannah Minutillo. The latter looks and acts constantly as though she is performing a soubrette role, and Minutillo is pretty damned coquettish for a Roman warrior. His/Her homosexual attraction to Sesto is one of the extraneous and imposed ideas I complained about. First he/she attempts to kiss Sesto then he/she goes off to sing her heterosexual love for Servilia. I've read the libretto over and over but there's no suggestion of such bisexuality and the opera suffers for it. It's impossible to accept Annio as a Roman soldier when the character is so coquettish. I accept that a female opera singer can't always look male, but does she have to gurn and pirouette and play the wench?

Sadly, similar things can be said for the otherwise estimable Graham. Although she is six foot tall and so can impersonate manly bulk, Graham's face looks far too female to be acceptable as Sesto. Far more worryingly though, her acting and poses are totally at odds with what Mozart gives us of Sesto's underlying character. At one point, the stricken Sesto is found hiding under his cloak. This is simply inconceivable. Yes, he's confused and lovestruck but Sesto is a brave fool, not a cowardly one. This is just one piece of "business" that stage directors Ursel and Karl-Ernst Herrmann have given to Graham and other cast members that has absolutely nothing to do with the libretto or with Mozart's music and Metastasio's original conception (as far as I can tell). And Graham's acting still hasn't improved from her early days.

I'd recommend getting the excellent Jacob's SACD set if you want high definition for "Tito". This is certainly adequate in most respects and better than that in vocal terms, but if you want a good, psychologically credible and well-acted production, wait.


Szymanowski: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2
Szymanowski: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2
Price: 10.15

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but scope for better measure and sound, 11 Jun 2011
This is a pretty good disc though it could have been better.

The music

The first symphony was written in 1906-7 and shows quite a few echoes of Wagner and Strauss, with the second, of 1911 also showing hints of Mahler, Zemlinsky and Reger as well. Despite these early influences, some of which Szymanowski later rejected, the first Symphony is a compact and impactful utterance, a first symphony to be proud of.

Although derivative the second symphony has an unusual structure, a first movement followed by a Theme and (6) Variations, concluded by a Fuga with, as the booklet notes put it "its chromatic subject ....(and) contrapuntal character....interrupted by a lyrical section leading to the massive conclusion of the work" (Reger's influence?). To be honest, the 2nd doesn't have the impact or cogency of the first, probably to be expected with a Variation form. It certainly doesn't come close to the marvellous 3rd (the Symphony of the night) for attractiveness and singularity of vision combined.

As a performance this is as good as the older BBC Phil recording cond. by Sinaisky on Chandos, and I think it's superior to a previous Naxos disc (of which I'm afraid I can't remember the conductor). There's also a Telarc disc of the second, but I haven't heard it.

Duration

So far, all is pretty positive, but one of my problems with this disc is that there simply isn't enough of it. Blu Ray can easily provide 3 hours of hi-res music (ref. the marvellous Barenboim Beethoven concertos disc or any opera you care to name). But here we're only given 53 minutes and two symphonies when there's easily room for the third and fourth as well, plus Szymanowski's occasional pieces such as the Concert Overture. 53' would be stingy for a cd but for a blu ray is just mean.

Sound

The second problem is the sound. Whilst not as reverberant as the Chandos disc, its still opaque. Not that the sound is bad, just that it isn't quite good enough. Stereo separation is good and surround adds a genuine extra dimensionality to the sound. Crescendos are adequately handled with some space around the orchestra. However, if you compare the sound, adequate though it is, to a pure-DSD or DXD recording on SACD, or to a Blu-Ray at 24/192 (like the 2L discs) then you'll become acutely aware of the sense of limitation. With the genuinely higher resolution formats, you get a sense of the sound having no limits, of height without ceiling and width without walls. Here, you're aware of the confines of the recording venue.

Naxos need to be aware that 24/88.2 doesn't cut it as high resolution, or at least not as much as 24/192 or DXD (32 bit floating head @ 356).

Conclusion

So, an enjoyable and decently recorded disc of two fine pieces but very short measure and scope for further sonic improvement (over cd).


Beethoven: Fidelio (Beethoven: Fidelio Feat.Gallo/ Sacca/ Strazanac) [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free]
Beethoven: Fidelio (Beethoven: Fidelio Feat.Gallo/ Sacca/ Strazanac) [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Kresimir Strazanac
Price: 28.66

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very good Fidelio, with a few (minor) flaws, 9 Jun 2011
This disc features excellent singing, playing, sound and sets.

The Leonor of Melanie Diener is quite heroic and believable as both male and female. Sandra Trattnigg is equally good in the role of Marzelline. Of the males, the Rocco of Alfred Muff is both avuncular and authoritative. Even the Jaquino is good, as is Don Fernando, though a little more authority would not have gone amiss.

Haitink and his Zurich orchestra are excellent, - punchy and weighty, and given very good sound which is neither light in the middle nor in the centre.

Picture quality is superb, with the gloom of the dungeon being well realised and represented. The sets, by the way, are very good, - the goal good and the dungeon excellent.

So why only three stars? Two factors. The first is the inconsistent staging of Katharina Thalbach. The costuming provides several examples.

- Florestan's bedraggled suit looks ridiculous, - artfully torn rather than worn. You have to see it to understand what I mean, but it detracts significantly from his stature. And I understand why you couldnt have a starved wraith in the role but after two years, how can he be clean shaven?
- most of the principals bar one wear 1800-era clothing but the prisoners, face painted in yellow, red and white wear Texas chain gang overalls, also painted, which makes them look as deprived as a painting gang on a suburban house.
- the guards wear 1930's pseudo fascist uniforms, totally out of keeping with the principal's costumes (bar one).

The whole impression derived from costumes and direction is of thoughtlessness and inconsistency. But no one suffers more from this malaise than the Don Pizzaro (Lucio Gallo) who is dressed as a 1930's style Chicago gangster. His white suit and silly hat are so ridiculous that it it impossible to respect the character. And so I come to the second factor, which is Mr. Gallo himself. He gurns, he overacts, he is arch and a little camp and he'd be laughed out of any Mafia gathering. Without a dangerous, forceful and well-acted Pizzaro, "Fidelio" falls down.

So, what could have been really excellent is let down. You might feel I've been picky and petty given my overall praise, and I might revise my judgement if I can learn to ignore the two spoilers, but I'm pretty sure that while I play this for the soundtrack alone, I won't be watching the vision too often. Most likely I'll stick to my beloved DVD version with Leonard Bernstein, Lucia Popp, Gundula Janowitz et al, - re-released with DTS sound it remains very hard to beat.


Mozart - Le Nozze Di Figaro [Blu-Ray DVD] [2008]
Mozart - Le Nozze Di Figaro [Blu-Ray DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Anna Netrebko
Price: 11.20

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ruined by sloppy thinking, 16 May 2011
This is a well sung production, Netrebko et al being all at least comepent and in some cases quite excellent. Picture is marvellous, sound okay, - there seems to be something missing at the centre of the sound stage, which is contrary to the usual blu ray failing. As a result, I'd normally rate this 3 or 4 out of 5.

However, the staging is the problem. As another reviewer has already mentioned, the director has introduced a flibberdigibit Seraphim "character" who acts not merely as an irritant, but as a deus ex machina. The result robs Beaumarchais' and Da Ponte's play/libretto of all human motivation: the seraphim leads, cajoles, magically influences etc. As this is one of the most human of all operas, the result is disastrous, stripping Figaro of the humanity and the human foibles and psychology which are its very essence.

My copy has acccordingly been put on sale. I did consider keeping it for the singing but will stick with my treasured Solti RBCD set until a decently staged, psychologically astute Blu Ray version comes along, as it must eventually. Exercise caution: caveat emptor.


Chopin: The Warsaw Recital [Blu-ray] [2011]
Chopin: The Warsaw Recital [Blu-ray] [2011]
Dvd ~ Daniel Barenboim
Price: 21.54

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not brilliant but not bad either, 24 Feb 2011
I'm writing to correct Springer's review rating, which is just not fair to anyone, incl. Mr Springer, who I am sure is capable of being more objective. He awards this disc 1 star because it "doesnt take off". No further detail is provided.

Now a 1 star review, given there's no provision for 0, means that a disc is utterly unacceptable and unlistenable. That is quite untrue in this case. Barenboim sounds a bit "samey" throughout the recital but is never less than competent.

Also untrue are Mr Springer's remarks about lack of interest among the audience. The audience is appreciative and loudly so througout the concert.

If people are going to review on amazon then they have an obligation to provide detail of their complaints and to consider where a disc falls along the judging scale from 1 to 5. Mr Springer has failed to do that and in so doing has failed the amazon audience as well as Mr Barenboim. His assessment should be disregarded.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 1, 2011 12:24 AM BST


Mozart: Die Zauberflote [Blu-ray] [2008] [2010] [Region Free]
Mozart: Die Zauberflote [Blu-ray] [2008] [2010] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ David McVicar
Price: 17.99

8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good singing but a pity about the rest, 4 Feb 2011
Keelyside and co all sing well, mostly very well, so there's a positive. Also a positive is that for once Davis doesn't sing (or hum) too. Sadly, the other news is not so good.

The sound is limited and seems both monaural and compressed. The soundtrack is presented in LPCM 2.0 or 5.1 but the lack of any directionality or surround staging in 5.1 suggests that it has been spatialised from just a stereo master. The constrained sound also suggests that the track has been simply upsampled from 16 bit/44.1 herz. I could be wrong on both counts. Certainly the date of production (2003) preceeds and precluded DTS HD reording.

Also, in this age of multi-miking and hi-res recording, why is it not possible to mike the orchestra to provide better sound than the boxed-in and boxy orchestral sound we're given here. The woodwinds (other than the flute's solo spots) might as well not have bothered turning up.

The picture is fine but doesn't have much to do. The stage is basic and severe and usually in semi-darkness. No need for detail. And the tableau like nature of many (literally) set pieces means that picture resolution is not challenegd by movement. My guess is that the picture was low-res as per 2003 standards, and is simply upscaled to provide "higher" definition.

Basically, and in sum, this feels like an ordinary, limited DVD masquerading as a Blu Ray.

As significantly, the production is inconsistent and, at times, silly. To begin with, there are some pointless bits of staging, such as Tamino entering a door to nowhere in the overture. Also in the overture, two people portentously enter the stage with glowing bowls? Why? - they never re-appear.

The Queen and her ladies look ludicrous in their space-opera headgear. They resemble a cross between Macbeth's three witches and Mimbari from Babylon 5.

Monastotos is simply a buffoon, - no menace here. His minions are surely too numerous and wicked for Sorastro's perfect kingdom. Not to mention that they look like extras from George A Romero zombie flick set in the French revolution.

Pamina and Tamino and Sorastro look like they at least come from the same period as that, but inexplicably Papageno looks like a 1930's tramp with a duck on his head and the three boys look like they've stepped from the same 1930's milieu. I won't mention Papagena as old lady come 60's British comedy tart, - its just too sad for words. And too silly for words is that in this otherwise Enlightment era mileau and staging, the three boys move across the stage in a flying billycart.

The "dances" of fire and waves in the Finale look like something as professional as a high-school musical.

"Business" on the side and the use of the extras involved in it is often mystifying and random.

Sadly, whilst everyone can sing well, few can act and performances are generally either fruity or wooden. The tableau like presentation doesn't help counter this impression. Any "humour" is strictly of a pantomime nature and level.

In conclusion, the singing is excellent and that's what opera rides on, BUT I have seen much better in the Opera House and heard much better sound on disc. As for David McVickar's "direction", that term is surely a misnomer. My advice would be to wait till a better version comes along on blu-ray, as it surely must. This may do until then but I think i'll be playing my RB and SA CDs instead of it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 13, 2012 8:51 PM BST


Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 - 5 ( Daniel Barenboim Staatskapelle Berlin) [Blu-ray] [2009] [NTSC]
Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 - 5 ( Daniel Barenboim Staatskapelle Berlin) [Blu-ray] [2009] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Daniel Barenboim
Price: 21.83

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A correction to another review, 1 Feb 2011
An earlier review of this VERY FINE disc states that the viewer has to watch the entire DVD in one go. The reviewer (Chris) then proceeds to rate the disc very harshly based on this. Let me say at once that his criticism is NOT based in fact. Use of the chapters function allows the viewer to start and stop for each concerto separately. If the reviewer had spent a few seonds familiarising himself with the menu he would have had no grounds for criticism other than that he dislikes the setting of the concerts (!!!!). Please ignore his "review". This is without question a 5 star production which comfortably surpasses the only other hi-res productions, - Brautigam and Mustonen on SACD.


Murray Perahia Plays Bach (Ms) (Sl)
Murray Perahia Plays Bach (Ms) (Sl)

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old fashioned Bach playing but good for what it is, 25 May 2007
Please ignore the review below, which allocates one star on the basis that the reviewer wasn't aware that this, being a Sony SACD was playable only in SACD players. Both the performances and the sound deserve better than that.

However, the overall concept is the drawback, - Bach on the piano is to my taste but even for me this is old fashioned and heavy. Its also almost entirely geared at the performer, rather than the music, everything having been arranged to make Perahia the star, even the Brandenburg #5. Don't get me wrong, Perahia is a wonderful artist and plays with both balance and freedom, but the result is still old fashioned in "feel" and a little sluggish.

The triple concerto suffers a bit more than the Brandenburg as the all important internal balance of this piece is distorted towards the piano rather than/at the expense of the violin and flute.

As another reviewer has said (on SACD.net), the playing and recording are both good (as you'd expect) but this is a disc "about Perahia (rather than Bach)".

Five stars for the sound but only three for the piano-focussed recording techniqe and five for the performances but only three for the concept and focus. An average of 4.


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