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Mr. John Manning (Penarth, Vale of Glam Wales)

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Sonata Op. 35/Scherzos Op. 20, 31, 39, 54 (Sageman)
Sonata Op. 35/Scherzos Op. 20, 31, 39, 54 (Sageman)
Price: £26.46

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovingly and stylishly played Chopin, 5 Jan. 2010
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Caroline Sageman has injected her own distinct personality into this music; the sonata (no.2) especially is given with much care and affection, with great attention to detail and a finely calculated rubato. Where others display their virtuosity, she is content to let us take hers for granted and to invite us to listen anew to the music. I find her view very persuasive, and distinctive. There is no-one that I would venture to compare her with, to illustrate her style.
Rest assured the understated technique is at her command when required, both in the sonata and the scherzos. I found the latter less distinctive, but that is not criticism.

This SACD is stereo only, and within that limitation the sound is excellent, clean and clear, wide in dynamic and frequency range and sensitively miked. Some reverberation from the rear would have been welcomed, but it would be churlish to withhold a star for that reason. If you have wearied of hearing this music (perish the thought!) then Caroline Sageman will rekindle your interest.

An Organ Treasure
An Organ Treasure
Price: £15.16

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treat for organ lovers, 5 Jan. 2010
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This review is from: An Organ Treasure (Audio CD)
The details of this disc are:
OC 622 An Organ Treasure: The Munich Odeon Organ

BRUCKNER Prelude & fugue, for organ in C minor, WAB 131
GOLLER Festliches Präludium, for organ (a tribute to Bruckner)
LISZT Variations on a theme of Bach: Weinen, Klagen, for organ, S. 673 (LW E17)
RHEINBERGER Sonata for organ no.9 in B flat major, op. 142
REGER Chorale Fantasia for organ ("Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme"), op. 52/2

Andreas Götz, organ

The excellent notes with this SACD are well worth reading; suffice to say that the organ is now in a church environment with a commensurate decay time. Microphone placement is ideal, with very little mechanical noise, and clarity is not unduly sacrificed to the realistic reverberation. Direct sound is from the front speakers and the rear ones add greatly to the fine acoustic environment.
The Rheinberger work is the longest, at almost 30 mins, with Liszt and Reger at nearly 20 each. Overall the disc is almost 80 minutes long.
Andreas Götz displays the capabilities of the pristine instrument in fine style. I expected Liszt to be a test of both organ and player, and they passed with flying colours.
The overall sound is smooth, open, and wide in frequency and dynamic range; a most satisfying experience.
If your subwoofer is feeling neglected, this disc will show it that you care, and clean out any accumulated dust at the same time. I thoroughly recommend it to organ lovers and anyone who enjoys high fidelity audio.

Dvorak Symphony No.9 """"From The New World"""" (Discovering Masterpieces 3: Dvorak) [DVD] [2007] [NTSC]
Dvorak Symphony No.9 """"From The New World"""" (Discovering Masterpieces 3: Dvorak) [DVD] [2007] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Dvorak

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction, 27 Dec. 2009
Once again J Scott Morrison has produced a finely detailed description. I would like to add some comments about the technical aspects of the performance of the symphony.

The director has chosen his shots with care, and doesn't miss a trick where there are solo contributions to be highlighted. All sections of the orchestra are given their moments of glory, and the concert hall's more picturesque features are shown. Video quality is fully up to the best available from DVD.

Overall the sound is warm and pleasantly balanced ( my comments are based on my preferred DTS tracks). Whereas the modestly sized hall, well-filled with audience, has a fairly short decay time, discreet use of the rear speakers lifts the sound into the room and lends a staisfying airiness.
The woodwinds are balanced somewhat forwardly in tuttis, the brass held in check. In the first 2 movements, the important plucked double-basses are audible but a little uneven in volume - some notes are clearer than others, which may be a function of hall acoustics.
High frequency response is rather limited, as is dynamic range, but neither in a particularly noticeable way.
In the third movement the triangle is featured in close-up 3 times; it took me a while to overcome my inner ear's memory and to realise that on this recording it is barely audible. This is a little off-putting when it is obviously being played with vigour.

None of my comments should detract from what is a near-ideal introduction to this popular work. The purchaser can expect an excellent performance with well-judged pictures, and a more than acceptable sound. Those looking for the ultimate in high fidelity audio may prefer to look to SACD or blu-ray.

Respighi - Ballad of the Gnomes; (3) Botticelli Pictures
Respighi - Ballad of the Gnomes; (3) Botticelli Pictures
Price: £12.69

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric Respighi, 27 Nov. 2009
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For those who appreciate Respighi's Roman triptych, here is welcome proof that there is much more to enjoy. The four items on this disc fall roughly into 2 genres, the descriptive 'Ballad of the Gnomes' and '3 Botticelli pictures', and the more sedate 'Adagio with Variations' and 'Suite in G Major'.
As for the first two, the racy story of a gnome's wild night out and the audio-visual beauty of Botticelli are given pristine readings by the Philharmonia under Geoffrey Simon, with plenty of opportunity to savour Respighi's skilled orchestration.
Alexander Baillie is the sympathetic cello soloist in the Adagio and variations, and Leslie Pearson ramps up the volume in the organ part of the Suite in G.

The recording was made at the end of 1990 at Goldsmith's College, London, and issued in 1992 as a CD. Since I also own this CD, I can say that it is a well-balanced, clear recording, with a moderate-to-large amount of reverberation that does not compromise clarity.
The SACD hybrid adds to the reverberation by the use of the rear speakers, and the airy, atmospheric quality is heightened. Neither disc has notes that satisfy my curiosity about the original recording, but I have to assume that it was stereo and that additional channels have been electronically derived; whilst this may not be as effective as an original multi-channel recording, there is little to complain about. SACD seems to me to add a little smoothness to the high frequencies, and more inner clarity, but whether the original had higher definition than CD could make full use of, unlike SACD, I cannot tell.
The cello is not given artificial prominence, and blends in with the orchestra, while the organ has power and presence.
Respighi's Roman triptych cries out for a top-notch surround SACD, which at the time of writing this review seems not to exist, but this very pleasing disc will keep Respighi's name to the fore until one appears.*

* Update November 2010 - BIS release SACD of the triptych; first impressions are most encouraging.

Rachmaninov - Symphony No. 2 / Dances From Aleko / Scherzo
Rachmaninov - Symphony No. 2 / Dances From Aleko / Scherzo
Price: £15.44

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully balanced, 26 Nov. 2009
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Rachmaninov's second symphony is apparently the best loved - many recordings have given me pleasure, and this is the third SACD to enter my collection. As yet I have been unable to find SACDs of the other two symphonies, to my disappointment.
Jarvi opens at a slowish tempo, drawing out melodic lines lovingly, and I feared that his reading might be self-indulgent. After the first tempo change, however, my doubts were assuaged and there ensued a considered, heartfelt and beautifully-played rendition that left me totally satisfied. The second movement shows a marked contrast in tempo between the quick outer and slower central sections; the flowing melody of the third movement is splendidly played. To finish there is excitement without sacrificing accuracy.
Of the fillers, I particularly enjoy the man's dance from Aleko, bluff and boisterous.
From the opening of the symphony my ears remarked on the realism of the lower strings, and later I was delighted to hear the plucked double-basses clearly. Soon I found that all instruments were given the same clarity, and all in a fine surround sound. The rear speakers are not obvious, but add a great deal to the atmosphere. There is a fine soundstage with everything in its place. Indeed, the orchestral balance is so good that I suspect that it must be assisted by the engineer - or Jarvi has achieved a veritable triumph. There is nothing false-sounding, just the opposite, with a particularly deep and resonant bass drum. I have become accustomed to violins having rather more high frequency extension on SACD, but that is a comment rather than a criticism. This is Telarc at its finest.
Let's hope that the other symphonies are given the advantage of SACD. If Telarc decide to offer them to us with the same musicians, I'll be at the front of the queue.

Symphony No 4 / Symphony No 7 (Hybr) (Snys)
Symphony No 4 / Symphony No 7 (Hybr) (Snys)
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: £30.40

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chamber, but far from lightweight, 21 Nov. 2009
It is obvious from the name that this a is a chamber ensemble, and the performance is very much in accord with the fleet, light-footed (modern instrument) style that is currently in vogue. From the opening bars of the fourth symphony all cobwebs are cleared away from Beethoven to reveal the inner workings of his genius. Tempi are generally brisk without being hectic, and without putting any strain on the capabilities of the musicians. Adrenalin levels are kept pretty high, and these readings penetrate well below the surface of the music. Do not expect to luxuriate in a plush, upholstered sound and doze; this disc demands your full attention.
RCA have provided an analytical recording which nevertheless has an excellent ambience. Expect to be seated nearer to the action than in a more traditional big-orchestra recording, and to hear details you may have previously missed. I find it difficult to criticise, and I'm not easily satisfied. Rear speakers add to the atmosphere.
The big test, of course, for the recording engineer, is the ninth symphony - I thought I had all the recordings of the Beethoven symphonies that I could possibly want, and only bought this one because I was tempted by a bargain. Now I will have to look out for the rest of Jarvi's Beethoven symphony cycle, and see if the high level is maintained.

Flute Concertos Nos. 1 And 2 (Gallois, Swedish Co)
Flute Concertos Nos. 1 And 2 (Gallois, Swedish Co)

5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Mozart, 10 Nov. 2009
It seems that these works are not considered by musicologists to be among Mozart's best - much to my surprise, as I find them a delight, unmistakeably Mozart with catchy melodies and infectious rhythms. Patrick Gallois directs the attentive Swedish Chamber Orchestra as well as taking the solo flute part in performances of affectionate panache.
Naxos has given us a clear and analytical recording with a pleasant ambience. The soloists are to the fore, but not overly so, the rear channels add discreet atmosphere, and as a whole it is an intimate recording as befits a chamber ensemble.
Sharon Bezaly provides strong competition on BIS, but I find Gallois' cadenzas more in keeping with Mozart then the ones by Aho on Bezaly's disc. A matter of taste, and both recordings are excellent.

Piano Concertos Nos. 2 And 3 (Yablonsky) [Sacd/CD Hybrid]
Piano Concertos Nos. 2 And 3 (Yablonsky) [Sacd/CD Hybrid]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine performances, good sound, 9 Nov. 2009
Konstantin Scherbakov and conductor Dmitry Yablonsky went on to record Tchaikovsky's piano concertos 1 and 3 (Naxos 6.110051) in what appears to be the same location, studio 5 of Moscow State Broadcasting and Recording House, just 10 months after this one. J Scott Morrison has written an excellent review of that disc, and I recommend reading this together with mine, as much of what I feel about the Tchaikovsky recording applies to this one too.
The soloist begins the second concerto simply and at a moderately fast pace, and goes on to give a big-hearted and honest account. There is no self-consciousness, but neither is it anonymous or bland music-making. Rachmaninov is well served.
Scherbakov gets well under the skin of the third concerto, conquering its technical difficulties with little apparent effort. Yablonsky and his orchestra give a sympathetic and characterful accompaniment to both works.

As in the Tchaikovsky disc, the surround sound imaging is somewhat diffuse, but other aspects are very good. This time it is 5.0 as opposed to the other's 5.1, but I cannot associate this with any difference in the overall result. Again the imaging is better in stereo.

It's a shame that Naxos haven't issued SACDs of the other Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky works for piano and orchestra with the same artists. They'd have at least one eager customer.

Piano Concertos Nos. 1 And 3 (Yablonsky) [Sacd/CD Hybrid]
Piano Concertos Nos. 1 And 3 (Yablonsky) [Sacd/CD Hybrid]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few words more, 9 Nov. 2009
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J Scott Morrison has described the performances here most succinctly, and I hope he will not mind if I add a little more about the recording.

It's a shame that Naxos abandoned SACD as they were issuing interesting discs. I was very disappointed that only the first of the Brahms symphonies, conducted by Marin Alsop, was issued in this medium as I had intended buying all four.
This recording was apparently made in March 2003 in Studio 5, Kultura state TV and Radio company. As J Scott Morrison has said, it is indeed rich and full. The rear speakers carry a lot of information, which appears not to be simply reverberation, as the lateral imaging from the front speakers is made a little vague and unfocused. I was bemused to find a trombone had managed to place itself in my right rear speaker. Woodwinds fare best, in their central position.
The piano sound is somewhat wide, larger than life, and brought slightly forward of the front speakers, but not enough to render the overall result very unnatural.
Frequency and dynamic range, and orchestral balance, are fine.
Listening in stereo loses the 'airiness' of the sound, but improves the imaging. The location used for the recording may well be the main reason for the overall effect, as the same soloist and conductor playing Rachmaninov's second and third concertos create a very similar soundstage from the same studio.
I have deducted one star because I feel that the surround sound just falls short of the best.

Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition (Piano & Orchestral Versions)
Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition (Piano & Orchestral Versions)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A big mistake, 8 Nov. 2009
The thought of both versions of the Pictures at an Exhibition together on one superlative surround-sound SACD tempted me, and I fell for it.
The piano version is played in a rather four-square manner, and hampered by a hard metallic piano sound with little ambience suggestive of an acoustic environment.
The same lack of ambience does the live recording of the orchestral version no favours. I listened to this disc through only in order to supply this review.

Cover notes give little clue as to the recording dates, just that the originals were DDD and the issue date 2005. I have no evidence to support my assumption that these are older stereo recordings re-vamped as SACD, but in any case I won't be keeping this one.

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