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Bartk: The String Quartets (3 CDs)
Bartk: The String Quartets (3 CDs)
Price: 12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An essential piece of civilisation, 28 July 2015
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While this music exists and is played this well, civilisation exists.

I have no idea whether the material accompanying the CD is any good because I merely downloaded the music - and found it to have been given an engaging, bracing, fascinating whirl of an interpretation. Here are all the anguish, the skill, the folkloric borrowings, the jokes, the pell-mell attack of a master of the modern string quartet, along with the tender lamenting of a composer who knew lost love, two world wars and a Europe stained by selfish squabbling and stamped on by jackbooted thuggery. Not for nothing is each movement of quartet No. 6 marked mesto (sorrowful).

Other complete sets of Bartók's six quartets - that by the Fine Arts Quartet, for instance - may be less assertive, may keep at a distance the hounds of hell that can leap at you from the music. When the Tokyo group, and its excellent sound engineers, laid down this recording, though, they were sent to your door, red-eyed and howling for your soul. Quite right too. Revel in their exciting presence.

This is great music, great art, deep emotion, high intelligence - all served by four musicians at the peak of their power, their sensiblity. Listen to it, for it is necessary, it is beautiful.


Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Studio Monitor Professional Headphones - Black
Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Studio Monitor Professional Headphones - Black
Price: 109.00

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A let-down, 15 July 2015
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It was difficult to get the right-side headphone into position because it was very stiff. Having done that, I found that the sound was good on CDs, but then I tried to listen to down-loaded tracks. The headphones banished the vocal and other parts of the music to a whisper in the distance, as though those had been placed very low, and distorted, in the mix. I sent the headphones back to Amazon for a refund.

I then bought a pair of Grado Labs SR80 headphones. These were cheaper, are lighter and easier to use, and the sound is very good, especially for classical music. These I got from a shop - Richer Sounds in London - the big advantage being that I was able to try them there before purchase, testing them on one of my own CDs.


Piano Works by Mozart & Prokofiev
Piano Works by Mozart & Prokofiev
Price: 27.47

5.0 out of 5 stars Hats off to Lise for a double delight, 6 July 2015
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"Close your eyes and try to imagine different pictures," Lise de la Salle invites us at the start of her very engaging and deft piece in the booklet that accompanies this exciting combination of two contrasted composers, of a choice of keyboard works very rarely found in one package. It is a bargain, with two CDs and a DVD. The record label, Nave, has also issued an alternative without the video.

"First of all, three very different Mozartian universes," she goes on, "a deep Mozart, with a loaded and heavy sky ... a work from the end of life" in the form of the rondo in A minor K511. Then there is the young Mozart's sonata in D major K284 - "impulsive and full of hope" - with its 12 variations; plus a C major piece, K 265, made up of a further 12 variations, those on the popular theme "Ah, vous dirai-je, maman" (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to us anglophones). Writes de la Salle: this is "a little jewel indeed, too often unjustly disparaged ... a simplicity of writing fit to take the breath away. [Mozart] is amusing himself and taking his pleasure."

To the second CD, where we find "three quite different universes, those of ... Prokofiev. A youthful work influenced by the industrial era, by its hard and implacable attitude", that being the technically very demanding toccata op. 11. Then the sonata No. 3 in D minor op.28 - "imagine songs of the people resonating in the Russian countryside" - before the Prokofiev CD concludes with six pieces from Romeo & Juliet - these being: Juliet the Young Girl, Masks, Montagues and Capulets, Minuet, Mercutio, Romeo bids goodbye to Juliet. (These are played in that order, although the booklet shows three of them in the wrong order. Sloppy proof-reading often visits Nave Records.)

Much of this music is played by de la Salle with vigour and youthful ethusiasm - perhaps a tad too much vigour and a tad too much rapidity for some tastes. Remember, though that, at date of recording, de la Salle was 18, a year younger than the Mozart of the sonata. Her manner here is often frisky, enterprising, yes, but also thoughtful, subtle - always appropriate to the various needs arising. Listen, for instance, to her interpretation of Romeo's goodbye - very fine throughout and at the end, slow, sliding away, fading away. This is surely the musical expression of a lovelorn person's aching disengagement from the beloved.

Besides, there is no doubting this pianist's technique when meeting any task, however daunting - that toccata of Prokofiev is rendered with great skill and forthright power. The recording quality - and that of the piano, tuned by Jol Jobé - is first class.

The DVD - "Lise de la Salle, Majeure!" - is charming, well made, unpretentious and at 26 minutes does not over-stay its welcome. (It's on the flip-side of the Prokofiev CD, in French, with English and German sub-titles available.) The young woman, wide-eyed and dedicated to music, gives an account of her upbringing (in love with the piano from the age of four), practises, performs concerts in great halls and al fresco, chats with her mum about the talent running in the family's female line - and even reveals her attempt, before a show, to keep her tumbling blonde hair in place.

All this is much to her credit - not least the moment when, listening in a recording studio to a playback of her work and following a score, she admits, "I made a mistake". Not every musician would have left that in a promotional DVD. Mademoiselle: Chapeau!


No Count Sarah + After Hours at The London House
No Count Sarah + After Hours at The London House
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 8.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Dear Count: Having a lovely time - wish you were here, 5 July 2015
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The jukeboxes in heaven all must have Cheek to Cheek from this album. Yes, there is divine jazz by vocalist and players in this combination of what were two LPs - a studio job (No Count Sarah) with nearly all of the Basie band, plus a session (After Hours at the London House) with a Basie-esque septet and an audience. Sarah was in fine fettle, from the extraordinary note, drawn from far below the soles of her shoes, by which she enters Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, the first track, to the high notes, never forced, with which she rides, la coloratura perfetta, above the brass when appropriate.

No count, eh. Indeed, Basie himself is absent. In his rightful place at the piano is Ronnell Bright, offering uninspired, heavy-handed work under the vocal on Darn That Dream (although the vocals and the horns allow him much less scope on other tracks, praise be). Why include an alternate take of Bright clumping through Dream again? Mind you, he was lumbered with an out-of-tune instrument, as he was on the After Hours session. The London House, now defunct, was a steak restaurant in Chicago. For the sake of the Windy City's digestion, I hope the beef served was better than the 88. Still, just think what Basie would have done at the gig - used a great deal more wit and taste as to what to play, when to play and when to lay out.

Never mind, there is some great music here because Sarah does not let us down, even when she's struggling a tad with lack of rehearsal and small-hours fatigue at the After Hours job, and all but the pianist are top-notch Basie-ites, steeped in skilled, inventive playing of the standards - sticking to the charts when required, flowering in delightful solos when opportunity occurs.

The accompanying booklet is mainly a mess of US showbiz froth and mistakes - and has the nerve, via a certain Richard Pete, to opine that "Bright is heard here in the Basie style." If only. Pete also writes: "Weather [sic] this was true or not ... " Another piece quotes an interview said to be from 1972. In it, Sarah refers to "Duke" (Ellington) as having died. No: in 1972, Ellington still had two years to live. The song Doodlin' is credited only to the composer Horace Silver, thus ignoring Jon Hendricks, who contributed one of his wittiest lyrics.


Sarah Vaughan - Original Album Series
Sarah Vaughan - Original Album Series
Price: 11.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Super-duper Sassy x 5 = very good value, 4 July 2015
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Five famous albums by Sassy at a very good price, starring her distinctive voice, with its velvet lining down which her contralto plunges used to dive, and up which her soprano runs used to soar - ever exciting, ever apt. Best of the five is the album with Count Basie and his band - the pell-mell frolic into Perdido, the first track, tells you this is going to be super-duper jazz for voice and big band. Sonny Payne was on drums - driving masterfully a band of the count's best men, not least trumpeter-arranger Thad Jones. The saccharine choice of Little Man, You've Had a Busy Day as sign-off can just about be forgiven.

However, it's harder to bless the work of the other two Joneses involved. Jimmy Jones, whose writing for strings is banal, was the arranger and conductor on the album Dreamy. Every time the bows engage with the cat-gut, the listener winces. On the album You're Mine You, that over-rated arranger Quincy Jones indulges his belief that every instrument at his command should be employed intrusively, loudly and at every opportunity. Only when, for a few numbers, he appears to have grasped the notion that less is more does the album reach the heights that the singer touches - ditto Dreamy.

Less is more - indeed, as is well demonstrated on the After Hours album, where Sassy is accompanied only by guitarist Mundell Lowe and bassist George Duvivier, two sensitive gentlemen of jazz who do a fine job. Mind you, their credit on the album sleeve occurs deep in the tiny liner notes. Like all the CD albums in this set, the back cover is a much shrunken reproduction of the back of the original LP sleeve. Get your magnifying glass ready.

So, there are imperfections, disappointments here, arising one suspects from the urge by record companies of her day to make more profit out of Sarah by steering her away from outright jazz performance and towards the middle of the road. The old problem for jazzers: When can we play hot for a living?

But consider that you can get five albums - three of them superlative for let's include The Divine One - without putting a big dent in your wallet, that you're offered a tour of some of the best rarities of the Great American Songbook and that you're hearing a distinctive voice it is our privilege to know and understand. "I was always much more infuenced by horns than by vocalists," said Sarah. It shows - and what a supple horn of a voice, guided by a nimble intelligence, she brought to music.


NRS Healthcare Coopers Walking Stick - Adjustable Height - Large
NRS Healthcare Coopers Walking Stick - Adjustable Height - Large
Price: 7.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Makes being old and wobbly less of a burden, 7 Dec. 2014
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Very good price. Quickly and securely delivered. Easy for this six-footer to carry, to adjust and to use when walking. It helps my balance, and the sight of it makes many another pedestrian veer out of my way. My first walking-stick - I'm old for sure. This thing means I don't feel too bad about it.


Mozart: Desperate Heroines (Sandrine Piau)
Mozart: Desperate Heroines (Sandrine Piau)
Price: 12.25

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still high summer - but seeming shorter, 19 Oct. 2014
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It is splendid - but...

In 2001, when Piau's first CD on Nave of arias from Mozart operas appeared, her voice was, as it were, still in the June of its summer. Now, here comes her second CD of such arias, and one finds the voice in late-August. It is still a grand instrument, secure and thrilling at the top of its range, ever deployed with intelligence and passion - yet, the full bloom seems just passed. At the bottom of the range, for instance, there is, a few times, a diminution of power so as to reach the note.

The arias here are not altogether well chosen - Crudeli, oh dio! ... from La Finta Giardiniera lacks variety and exposes this opera as not among Mozart's best. The orchestra is not the caressing and perfectly supportive Freiburger Barockorchester under Gottfried von der Goltz of the 2001 recording. Now, we have the less subtle work, albeit very acceptable, of the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg directed by Ivor Bolton. Furthermore, the new CD, at some 47 minutes only, provides rather short measure.

So, if you are choosing between the 2001 and the 2014 CDs, the earlier disc must be picked - sublime, faultless and a notably larger helping of music, making up an optimal harvest from Mozart's operatic material for the soprano voice. Piau's high summer indeed.

However, be assured that the new CD, which many sopranos might well regard as their best work, is not to be tossed aside as unfit for listening - far from it. One's best course is to enjoy both recordings of a marvellous singer bringing to market the compositions of a genius of the operatic form.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 3, 2014 1:18 PM GMT


Schumann: Kinderszenen Op.15, Abegg Variations Op.1, Fantasie in C major Op.17
Schumann: Kinderszenen Op.15, Abegg Variations Op.1, Fantasie in C major Op.17
Price: 14.88

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent impression, 2 Jun. 2014
(This is a translation of the review I posted last month on Amazon.france, where I bought the CD.)

At last, a new recording from Lise de la Salle. As before, when dealing with other composers, the pianist applies herself to giving her assurance, her intelligence, her poise to well-known music. This time, to that of Robert Schumann.

Let's understand that her pianism is neither cold nor distant. During the Scenes of Childhood, one finds a parent's observation of the nursery - a mother's perhaps - whose hands are caressing and always skilful, and who tells of the caprices, the noises, the enthusiasms, the hesitations, the dozes of childhood. Also, it's a parent who cannot hold back, when closing the door of the children's bedroom, a tear provoked by the necessary disappearance of their youth.

In general, this pianist's stye, like her interpretations here, persuades and pleases. The Abegg Variations and the Fantasy in C major - mainly because the music is more profound and more generous than that of the Scenes of Childhood - are more effective in engaging the listener's attention.

De la Salle has the measure of these works, and her technique always makes an excellent impression.


Amore e Morte Dell' Amore: Duets by Monteverdi, Marcello, Handel, Scarlatti, Lotti, Durante
Amore e Morte Dell' Amore: Duets by Monteverdi, Marcello, Handel, Scarlatti, Lotti, Durante
Price: 10.62

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful duets of passion and precision, 1 Dec. 2013
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On the Corso Umberto I in Naples the other day, two women were on the opposite pavement of the busy street in - well, to call it conversation doesn't begin to do them justice. They were in passionate communication, a long pace apart to allow each other the full benefit of dramatic postures, gestures and speech. I was too far away to hear the pair clearly, but now I have a soundtrack to fit the recollection well. Here, via this delightful CD, are two more Italian women in full-blooded vocal combination with each other.

It offers a plunge into rarely explored 17th and 18th century chamber duets by the famous masters Monteverdi and Handel, plus more of the genre by Marcello, Lotti and Durante. These employ paired voices with lightweight accompaniment. And what voices here - the soprano Roberta Invernizzi and the contralto Sonia Prina. Their shapely vocalising, placed close in the mix, catches every mood exactly, times impeccably every pause and entry, sparkles through every cascade of notes, reclines at every languor, releases eager butterflies of sound at the fastest tempi. Each woman slips neatly into the other's vocal range when required. Also, both singers, especially Invernizzi, bravely essay the dissonances of Se morto mi brami by Marcello, not at all tempted to sand them down towards the pretty.

Those of you not familiar with Prina - whose vocal range entails that she is less often recorded than her soprano colleague - be assured here is proof certain that she is a young empress of the contralto voice. Invernizzi has long worn a similar coronet at soprano.

The enterprise is finely served by the self-effacing skill and spare, vigorous arrangements of Ensemble Claudiana and Luca Pianca, directing from the theorbo (not every day one writes that). They provide a well-picked interval diversion, voices silent, by way of the sonata K90 by Domenico Scarlatti. The lean work by the mere five instrumentalists is particularly striking in the most familiar piece here - the duet Pur ti miro from Monteverdi's opera L'Incoronazione di Poppea. It's taken a tad faster than usual, and this joins with a thrust in the singing to lay down a cutting hint that the duet represents a congress amid an amoral milieu.

The essay by Pianca in the CD booklet is good, easy for the non-specialist. The translation into English of the song texts is less than ideal - ditto the proof-reading. Not for the first time, the Nave label falls down over such details, having done grand technical work in the recording studio.


Rachmaninov: Etudes-Tableaux; Ravel: Sonatine; Miroirs
Rachmaninov: Etudes-Tableaux; Ravel: Sonatine; Miroirs
Price: 15.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear and poised, 27 Aug. 2013
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An admirable technique, at the service of a sparkling mind, makes for an engaging recital on this CD.
Ravel wrote of his worry as to how his new work Miroirs, "which I can't manage to play properly myself", would be received, Emmanuel Hondré reports here in his helpful booklet essay. No danger of stumbles when Lise de la Salle is at the keys. Here are fault-free, clean, modest interpretations of famous - and not so famous - solo piano pieces by two much-liked and much-revisited composers of the first half of the 20th century.
In 2002, when she recorded this CD, de la Salle was sounding well-schooled, albeit a little too reined-in for some tastes, perhaps being a little too careful not to appear idiosyncratic. Thus she avoids the temptation - always hovering over players working on much-recorded repertoire - to seek attention by indulging in personal elaborations and departures.
In her subsequent recordings, de la Salle has offered more of her own shaping, more daemon even, without losing the poise afforded by her clear thought and while still exercising her fine skill.
Even so, this is a valuable, early part of her oeuvre.


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