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C. P. E. Bach: Complete Piano Solo Works [Ana-Marija Markovina] [Hanssler: 98.003]
C. P. E. Bach: Complete Piano Solo Works [Ana-Marija Markovina] [Hanssler: 98.003]
Price: £65.73

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An event, 25 April 2014
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I have always been annoyed by the way C P E Bach has been treated by posterity. As a supposedly 'transitional' figure between the high baroque (e.g. his dad) and the consolidated classicism of Haydn and Mozart, there is a faintly patronising attitude to him in many judgments I have read over the years. His music is remarkable, and to construct it as merely eccentric or maverick (as even Gramophone is doing this month) is awful. Similar was of course inflicted on Berlioz, Schumann, Bruckner, Mahler, others, and now look how embarrassing that turned out to be! In the 18th century, there was little doubt expressed as to his supremacy as a composer. I can guarantee if you like JS Bach, Haydn (maybe especially), Mozart, Beethoven et al, you will find years of pleasure in C P E Bach's keyboard output. Ana-Marija Markovina is not a household name but has devoted herself to recording this music over the last decade. She does a marvellous job of communicating the spirit of the composer on a modern piano. Dynamics and expression are everything in this composer so the modern piano is really perhaps the best device to get you hooked. I like JS Bach on the piano but there the issues are a little more complicated. Andreas Staier, Miklos Spanyi, Bob Van Asperen, and this year Mahan Esfahani, have made rather unselfserving efforts on Bach's behalf, on period instruments, all worth hearing. But as Pletnev among others has shown, he does sound great on a modern piano. When Scott Ross recorded all of Scarlatti's sonatas, it amounted to 34 Cds. This is usually noted to be an enormous output of sonatas, yet here, especially given the very generous playing time of the discs, we must have something strictly comparable, but the composer doesn't, or hasn't got the right credit! If the quality of the music was so so, perhaps the neglect would be understandable, but it is *on average* far better than much of Haydn's keyboard music, and the sense of an experimental restless mind is tempered by some of the most beautiful slow movements you will ever hear - and there are of course endless numbers of them :) I never know what I'd manage to cope with on the desert island, but if I were only stuck with these 26 discs, I'm sure I'd survive, and feel I was keeping in touch with the human condition in a realistic way. Lovely music and I urge you to try it.

Bartok: Concerto No. 2 / Eotvos: Seven / Ligeti: Violin Concerto
Bartok: Concerto No. 2 / Eotvos: Seven / Ligeti: Violin Concerto
Price: £8.00

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really special discs, 23 Sep 2013
I'm not going to say much, as this has just won the Gramophone record of the year, and so will hopefully get all the attention it deserves. Great performers, and Kopatchinskaja nearly levitates at times in her engagement with these three works. Totally absorbing. The Bartók is performed in a rather more "in your face" way than is normally the case, and is all the better for it, although I can assure potential purchasers that the softer passages are really really beautifully done. As for the Ligeti, well, it is in some way a "bonkers" work as we say in the UK, with many jaw-dropping things going on in it, including of course the ocarinas! It is also quite thrilling and moving, sometimes both simultaneously, and you really feel you are in the presence of a truly great piece of recent classical/ art music that's for sure. A masterpiece by a really fantastic crafts person of sound. Eotvos's own piece is actually pretty passionate and engaging too, absolutely not to be skipped over. Stretch your ears, and if you buy this you'll help emphasise that classical music is not all about a quick buck or compromise these days :)

Mozart: Piano Concertos (DG Collectors Edition)
Mozart: Piano Concertos (DG Collectors Edition)
Price: £34.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really excellent, 13 Feb 2013
I don't always like everything Gardiner does, and I don't generally prefer recordings of classical period music on the fortepiano over modern instruments. Yet seeing that there is a very self-indulgent review thats been posted earlier unjustly depressing the ratings in this case, I'll add something short and appreciative.
I have far too many complete sets of the Mozart piano concertos, as well as a number of one off discs or parts of sets. I very often gravitate back to this set because of the balances between the orchestral instruments and the keyboard and between different sections of the orchestra. I also like the period sonorities and Bilson's fortepiano sounds very well indeed.
I wouldn't just recommend this for the balances and period sonority, however - these are really great performaces of the Mozart concerti, crisp and clean without being at all raw or scratchy, moving in the right way and expertly played as you would expect, and far less annoying than some of the more moody accounts by star players on the modern piano pitted against a more mushy orchestral sound. Bilson is not only a scholar but a fantastic artist and player. If I had to grab one set of the concerti in the proverbial house fire, I think it would be this one (Schiff and Perahia are my other preferred series but neither has the sense of keyboard *and* orchestra that you get here, just lovely).

Giuseppe Verdi: The Complete Works (Decca box set)
Giuseppe Verdi: The Complete Works (Decca box set)
Price: £170.07

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provisional information, 5 Feb 2013
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I will make an effort to review this properly in time, but I received it today and I already know that the performances are about the best you can get for post-mono renditions of Verdi's output, and that Decca (Universal) have made some loving effort to create a comprehensive product. It looks very nice as well.
I'm writing a premature review as some potential buyers are, I know, concerned about whether or not there are texts and translations included, perhaps on a CD rom or via a link to a website. Alas I have to inform you that all you get are detailed cued synopses. I don't know how easy it is to get translations of Verdi libretti on the net (it might be easier than I think) but if you are thinking of consolidating your collection you might bear this in mind and hang on to some of your booklets... Anyhow this is much better than most of the Wagner anniversary issues ( and frankly I can't think of a better comprehensive and consolidated opera issue to acquire). I'll now go listen to more and see if my judgment changes, but my feeling is that *at the price* the lack of libretti is understandable given that the recordings here are mostly pretty recent...
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2014 7:06 PM BST

Haydn: Symphonies
Haydn: Symphonies
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £95.54

34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unfinished monument and well worth exploring, 3 Feb 2013
This review is from: Haydn: Symphonies (Audio CD)
The only reason I haven't given this 5 stars is because DECCA refused to finish the project, one of the more shameful episodes in the scaling back of the production of CDs at the end of the 1990s CD boom. Honestly, if they had even sanctioned the completion up to the start of the Paris Symphonies - three more discs- they'd have been doing us all a favour (plenty 'period' performances of the symphonies after that). Symphonies 76 and 77 were recorded, at least, and were released on a very valuable BBC Music Magazine cover disc a few years back, so its a shame they haven't apparently been included in this re-release (another reason for withholding that other star).
I'm sure listeners have different tastes in Haydn performance, but these are by and large absorbing performances, with fascinating sonority even if you are used to more turbo-charged playing in, for example, some of the Sturm und Drang examples. All repeats are taken, which means some slow movements in particular are very extended, the symphonies take up more discs than usual, and perhaps they lose some of their accepted character as shortish and fun as a result. Here many of them are as long or longer than most of the Beethoven symphonies and Hogwood forces us to hear them differently, whether we like it or not, as extended (and of course entertaining) artworks rather than as frothy entertainments, precursors of something more serious and elaborate.
The original issues included very interesting and detailed notes by James Webster that I don't think you'll get here. Perhaps the length and care going on in this project preclude some of the excitement you might get elsewhere, and there is some controversy over the forces used for the earlier symphonies (quite small, and some would prefer firmer bass-lines than this makes possible). Haydn might of course have preferred larger forces for all his symphonies up to the ones numbered in the late 70s (the first for public performance), but this set takes the line of trying to do them with forces plausibly available to the composer in his real performing life.
I notice that Mr Hurwitz on Classicstoday has written a typically arrogant and derisive review of this set already. To my mind some of his own preferences in Haydn performance are distinctly odd, or at least arguable, but his churlishness at such bounty reminds me of the context of the 1990s when this set was originally cancelled. It was a time when so many discs were being recorded by everybody that most people didn't see the writing on the wall for beautifully documented products by the then major labels. So a great deal of nit-picking ensued of many discs we would be lucky to have issued now. A few years later, after the demise of several Haydn series, Adam Fischer's set on Brilliant classics was, correspondingly over-praised as a complete Haydn symphony set suddenly seemed like an improbable luxury.. Go figure. I like the Fischer set and have it, but it has some serious problems of its own. If Hogwood released all of this now as a complete set, I'm sure reactions would be rather different, if of course still mixed. If you like Haydn, I'd suggest this is pretty essential, as you will have other recordings, but not so many that realise the full potential of their scale and of course for many of them without that period sonority. I should add, as some find this essential info, there is no harpsichord or fortepiano continuo. I prefer it this way, as does Hurwitz, funnily enough, but others may not. Anyhow, its a classic of the supposed crisis of the classical music industry back then, so it is a historical set in more ways than one....
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 31, 2014 9:31 AM BST

The Penguin Guide to the 1000 Finest Classical Recordings: The Must-Have CDs and DVDs
The Penguin Guide to the 1000 Finest Classical Recordings: The Must-Have CDs and DVDs
by Ivan March
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Reductio ad absurdam, 30 Jan 2013
Like other reviewers, I have a love-hate relationship with the longstanding efforts of the editors of the Penguin Guides to Classical recordings. There are always particular choices they make, and relative evaluations of recordings, where we can disagree with them, as in similar products. There are, however, some uses the previous, larger, Penguin Guides have had, in terms of checking for obvious problems in terms of recorded sound, or serious problems in terms of performance. I would not be as negative about this particular incarnation if it were merely a matter of what recordings I like vis-a-vis the preferences of the authors.
The introduction makes clear that there is an ambiguity about what this much reduced successor to the rather more comprehensive Penguin Guides we are used to is aiming at. It claims to be the 1000 best recordings, but is apparently also the authors' favourite recordings. The tension here has produced a really muddled product.
Arguably, about 10 or 15 years ago at least, the long-standing 'editors' of the guide should have recruited some help, because of (a) the proliferation of recordings on labels beyond the core Decca/ DG/ EMI/ Warner/ Sony/ Hyperion/ Naxos labels which made it difficult for them to remain up to date with new releases and (b) changing tastes, in particular increased interest in music composed prior to 1700 and in the music of the later 20th century and early 21st century. Another editor was recruited, and in a non personalised way, I'd suggest that adding someone interested in British 'light' music of the early to mid 20th century was a big mistake.
The result is predictable, especially when in such a compressed version of the tastes of the editors, the limitations of their strategy become even clearer. I get irritated at non-British assertions of the bias of British critics to British music and British artists, but I have to say this version of the guide is merely adding fuel to their fire. There is apparently nothing, for example, that Janet Baker did do better than anyone else, including Dido and Aeneas, for which we might have expected a more recent and in-tune-with-the baroque recommendation. She was a fantastic artist but still.. Ditto various overenthusiastic recommendations of recent Decca re-releases from Australia - really, on balance, are 1960s recordings of Rameau the best recommendations for music that depends so much on the colour of 18th century instruments and has received so many revelatory recordings on such in the last 3 decades? As other reviewers point out, there are pages and pages devoted to relatively obscure British composers, and to recordings of, for example, 'My Fair Lady' and Noel Coward that are excellent but have arguably no place in a guide like this.
I agree with other reviewers that taking page after page of the guide up on very large box sets of miscellaneous artists or repertoire is not very helpful, especially to newcomers, especially as some of these are special editions that may not be around for long.
It is always interesting to read about a composer one might not have thought much about. Nonetheless, it is very doubtful that some of the recordings of minor, especially British (and Scandinavian), composers featured here could possibly be construed in the big picture as being among the 1000 greatest recordings of all time. Surely there must be some sense, in a guide such as this, of what the really important and pathbreaking music might be, over the centuries and overall. Others have pointed out the absence of a recording of the 'Well-Tempered Clavier'. I have some other examples which to me are equally telling
-Nothing by Guillaume Dufay, the most remarkable composer perhaps before 1600
-No reasonable recommendation for a set of the Beethoven symphonies. I mean, really, does anyone think a DVD set of Karajan conducting these in the 1980s is the most recommendable way of hearing these?
-In the later 20th century, we get some Messiaen, Lutoslawski, Adams, Ades and Birtwistle (the last two presumably included as British), among others. No entries for Cage (!), Boulez, Feldman, Reich, Glass, Ligeti, Rihm, Kagel, Lachenmann, Carter, Harvey, Weir, Schnittke, Gubaidulina, and just about anyone else you can think of in the music of the last 60 years. Xenakis gets included, strangely, in an entry that merely reminds us of the patronising way in which the Guide has tended over the decades to deal with anything post-tonal and new. Ligeti is at least included as a fill-up to a chamber work of Beethoven and what is probably the Horn Trio is described as a masterwork, but seriously, this is an inadequate way of recommending important music to newcomers. As it is increasingly obvious that younger audiences in particular are drawn to recent music, this inability of the editors to respond to it in a generous and timely way is, as it always was, a terrific shame.
I was also annoyed that there wasn't even a recommended recording of an early 20th century masterpiece, Berg's Lulu, but I suspect if I went over the product in more detail there would many more examples of clear masterpieces from various periods passed over in favour of relatively minor works the authors perhaps had a thing about at the moment of compilation.
I really can't recommend this volume, which has become a misrepresentation of what matters in terms of both composers and recordings. I've often thought about reviewing its previous incarnations but persuaded myself that I didn't have the time and it might get better. It hasn't. For the same money, buy a recording of Dufay's Motets or of Cage's Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano instead. Much better spent.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 7, 2014 10:20 AM BST

Beethoven/Schumann - Symphonies No 4. Mahler - Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Beethoven/Schumann - Symphonies No 4. Mahler - Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Price: £11.65

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Special, I think, 18 Jan 2013
This disc has been around for a while but I see there isn't a review so as I am listening to it right now, I thought I should say something on Amazon. It is heterogeneous in terms of repertoire and the sound is a bit 'historical' (1969 stereo however), and interested customers will have recordings of all three works I'm sure. Yet, its is a rather special disc. Karl Boehm is sometimes thought of as a brilliant but not very flamboyant or thrilling conductor. I challenge anyone to listen to his performance of the Schumann Symphony 4 here to remain of the same opinion, it has an aura of greatness about it and is really very exciting, especially in the finale, where he and the orchestra even get a bit carried away at the end. Ludwig is absolutely riveting in the Mahler and the Beethoven is pretty exciting too. Live, but some seconds shy of 80 minutes, its a very generous and exciting CD. I've listened to it several times now (the Schumann even more than several times!) so I would strongly recommend it!

Berg: Wozzeck (Georg Nigl, Mardi Byers, Bolshoi Opera / Currentzis) [DVD] [2010] [2012]
Berg: Wozzeck (Georg Nigl, Mardi Byers, Bolshoi Opera / Currentzis) [DVD] [2010] [2012]
Dvd ~ Dmitri Tcherniakov
Price: £28.20

4.0 out of 5 stars Arresting..., 21 Dec 2012
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I think this opera is, if I were forced to choose, the most remarkable of the last century. Everyone who cares about music should see and hear it. It is intensely uncomfortable and Berg refuses to gratify us until the last 10 minutes or so. This is a very well acted and played version which portrays the central character less sympathetically than usual. This is a valid interpretation, but (spoiler but I can't review otherwise) Wozzeck left alive and chattering to his indifferent child at the end does rob the drama of the compensation for Marie's death that makes the last tonal interlude make sense. I liked the fact that this Bolshoi production set a great deal of the action in bars with video screens that are all too familiar to us now, although the 'trashy' Russian environment may be something some viewers find difficult to relate to. I might need to let my thoughts about this production settle. I felt that it could have done more with the potential for showing action in multiple rooms at once - this possibility only comes through clearly at the end to my disappointment. Nonetheless, it did unsettle me. Wozzeck is a masterpiece because it can do this and you do not approach it for fun. The singing and acting are very impressive.

Leon Fleisher plays Beethoven and Brahms Concertos
Leon Fleisher plays Beethoven and Brahms Concertos
Price: £12.95

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars startlingly good, 2 Jun 2012
If you haven't heard the Fleisher/ Szell recordings of the Beethoven/ Brahms piano concertos, here's your chance at an almost depressingly low price. Its a matter of taste of course, but I haven't heard better. The Brahms, in particular, is quite electrifying when set alongside recent recordings such as Freire/ Chailly (beautifully done but to my ears a lack of excitement and drive where these things count).

Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra No. 6 1990-2000
Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra No. 6 1990-2000
Price: £92.25

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's great it's still going strong, 8 Sep 2011
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A few years ago, you would commonly see comments on the internet suggesting that it couldn't be the case that the Concertgebouw would be able to keep releasing these compilations. They are very expensive, at prices reminiscent of the 1980s and 1990s as compared to now, and it might be hard to see how ordinary music lovers would be prepared to buy them in enough quantity to justify their existence. In short, with a few other releases such as some other own-label orchestral boxes and such things as Koopman's Bach Cantatas, the Anthologies of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra are steaming on as though Naxos, Brilliant Classics, internet downloads and the financial crisis had never happened. This set has, immediately on actually being released, as opposed to available for pre-order, leaped in price by about 30 pounds sterling on Amazon, and further exploration will reveal that collecting the whole sequence of anthologies from volumes one to this is a very, very expensive proposition indeed. The orchestra website suggests that all of the anthologies will be re-released, along with volume 7 (2000-2010) in 2013. Let's hope that the re-release is a bit more affordable for more listeners! I should say that, although we don't get texts and translations for vocal items, the production values are very good, with each sturdy glossy cd envelope bearing the track listings, and there are excellent notes on all the works, as well as an interesting essay on developments at the Concertgebouw in the 1990s.

Having gotten that out of the way, there are few series of classical music releases that I have more eagerly awaited the next instalment of. The sound quality is variable, as we are dealing here with radio recordings. Yet the sheer quality and diversity of the music and performances on offer, taking the series as a whole, must surely make this one of the most significant classical music releases in existence, and almost more interesting because it has accumulated slowly over several years without a great deal of fanfare. If you add the boxes the same source has released of Concertgebouw performances by the various chief conductors (Mengelberg, Van Beinum, Haitink and Chailly so far) we are talking over 130 CDs of (mainly) 19th and 20th century orchestral repertoire... And the Concertgebouw has been, of course, a startlingly great orchestra over many decades (we do not need to enter into overstatements about 'the world's greatest orchestra' to be very clear about this).

So, what's Volume 6 like? As you might expect, in one way it is less exciting than some of the earlier volumes as it is populated by conductors and soloists that we are very familiar with from recent digital live and studio recordings, and some of the works here are duplicated in recordings you may have by the very same people (if not the same orchestra). This is the Chailly era at the Concertgebouw but, as we have already had a (superb) box devoted to his radio broadcasts, he does not dominate the performances here quite as much as you might expect. Repertoire-wise, however, I think the contents are a little more interesting than those of volume 5 (although a quick guilty glance at volume 5 suggests I may be underestimating it!) I'll give some initial reactions to each disc.

Disc 1. A good performance of Bartok's 'Bluebeard's Castle', conducted by Ivan Fischer, with Hungarian soloists. Slightly recessed recording, but climaxes come over well enough.
Disc 2. Tennstedt conducting Mahler 5. The notes suggest the compilers were very impressed by this. I am a little bit of a sceptic about the hype about Tennstedt and although this is a very serviceable recording of the symphony, its not one of the best I have heard. The Adagietto is dragged out annoyingly in particular. But it's great that the series has got around to Mahler 5 and I have no doubt many others will be more excited than me to hear him with this orchestra.
Disc 3. I Like Sawallisch's performance of the Beethoven 'Pastoral' very much. Slightly congested sound in climaxes in the finale. Berglund gives us a very effective Sibelius 4, which is recorded in such a way that what can seem a very elusive and quiet thing in some versions has some bite and there's a sense of risk-taking I rather like.
Disc 4. A performance of Martin's concerto for 7 wind instruments by the Concertgebouw under Chailly. Tart neoclassical Martin and exactly the sort of work you buy these boxes to hear. Ditto Dutilleux's violin concerto and a very effective performance of Shostakovich 1 from Solti, who is a newcomer in this context and not someone I associate with Shostakovich (oddly, as it would seem a natural combination).
Disc 5. I want to like Elgar's second symphony but simply can't grasp it (this is my fault not his). Andre Previn is the conductor. Skrowaczewski gives us an excellent performance of the Lutoslawski Concerto for orchestra.
Disc 6. Mariss Jansons appears, giving us a straightforward performance of the Rienzi overture of Wagner. Haitink is predictably good in Mother Goose by Ravel and then we get Willard White in the Symphonic Songs of Zemlinsky, conducted by Chailly. These are very worth hearing, although Chailly and the same artist have recorded them before and you may have them already.
Disc 7. I havent heard Martha Argerich's other recordings of the Bartok 3rd Piano concerto but this is very, very good. This series has introduced me to a number of works by Dallapiccola and so I wasn't surprised that the Liriche Greche turn out to be beautiful and absorbing. As for the other vocal works here, we get no texts and translations for our exorbitant outlay, but in the context of the current crisis, I felt privileged to spend some time with these. The Anthology has taken a long, long time to get around to including something by Messiaen, so I'm glad to report that the Trois Petites Liturgies that close this disc, with Marc-Andre Hamelin (no less) on piano, are absolutely splendid.
Disc 8. Debussy's Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune is a familiar piece, receiving a rather lovely performance here under Jean Fournet, and I don't think it has appeared before in this series. Chailly conducts Hindemith's rather wonderful Symphonic Metamorphoses after Weber, and then De Waart (strangely I don't think we have heard him before in this context) leads a performance of Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Trumpet concerto with Peter Masseurs as soloist. This is a bit of a change from the Mozart 4th horn concerto that managed to turn up in both volumes 4 and 5 for whatever reason, but if you are nervous it is only 13 minutes long! Fascinating. Pierre Boulez apparently now has to be accompanied by Deutsche Grammophon logos if he is to be included (perhaps his contributions on Volume 3 didn't attract these as he wasn't under contract to them in the 1960s). Never mind, we get Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht here, which he can do awfully well. Perhaps this isn't quite so interesting as hearing Klemperer do it on an earlier volume, but honestly, who is going to mind?
Disc 9. Brahms' Tragic Overture under Harnoncourt. I find this a quite riveting performance. Then we get Schumann's Fantasie for violin and orchestra, Zehetmair as soloist. Best case for a work you are unlikely to have heard before, and I think its rather good. Gardiner has recorded the Schubert 9th symphony to my knowledge twice before with a 'modern' orchestra (most recently a fabulous performance with the VPO on DG). I'm very happy the series has included this great work in this volume. My memory may be deceiving me, but this is in many ways a more interesting performance than the VPO one - brisker and more bracing - and rather more like something you'd expect from this conductor. It's excellent!
Disc 10. I was quite happy to see another performance from this source of Schoenberg's 5 pieces for orchestra, as the earlier performance by Van Beinum, however fascinating because unexpected, was not in the best sound and a little unsettled. However, I don't think Janson's performance here is really anything special. See what you think. The Loevendie piano concerto, as is often the case with Dutch works in this series, is something I haven't heard before and am unlikely to hear again, but well worth a listen. Harnoncourt gives us a rather good account of Mozart's Symphony 40 (which the compilers have deliberately included various performances of from over the years). I don't always like him in Mozart but I found this quite stimulating.
Disc 11. As there are only potentially two of these boxes left in the foreseeable future (2000-10 and, depending on circumstances, a Jansons box) I was slightly disappointed that Symphony number 3 by Bruckner was chosen, under Kurt Sanderling, as there has already been a performance of this under Kubelik in Volume 2, and it would be good to hear a Nr 5 or Nr 8. Nonetheless, I don't suppose the idea is to be comprehensive in this way, and this is a good performance- though not preferable to the Kubelik except on sonic grounds. More Dutch music in the form of a lengthy piece for contralto and orchestra by Diepenbrock with a text by Novalis. Chailly conducts. I quite like Diepenbrock's particular late-romantic vibe, his music is not recorded that often, and so this is worth having.
Disc 12. I hadn't paid much attention to Stravinsky's Fairy's Kiss before, despite having the composer's own recording of the ballet. Hearing the 'Divertimento after the ballet' here has been a great surprise. It does not sound like cod-Tchaikovsky at all, and has an urgency and pungency that some of Stravinsky's original neo-classical works of this period do not have. Highly recommended (Rozhdestvensky is the very effective conductor but that's not the point!) The inclusion of Morton Feldman's Coptic Light in this box was, I confess, one of the reasons I parted with the money. I had also, strangely, never heard- as opposed to heard about- the Sinfonia of Berio, here conducted by Berio himself. There are obviously cheaper options for both, but I was bowled over by both of them and by the performances.
Disc 13. This disc opens with some music by Willem Pijper, six 'symphonic epigrams' of Webernesque brevity, conducted by Haitink. I liked them. Anne Murray sings Berlioz's 'Nuits d'ete' next and it's great music, although there are so many alternatives for this its best just to enjoy the particular qualities of this one rather than wondering how it stacks up against the competition. Strauss' 'Death and Transfiguration' is then conducted by Masur and the choice of this particular tone poem is great, given what has been in the previous issues. I rather like the performance. John Adams then conducts 'Three Places in New England' by Ives, again a welcome diversifying of repertoire in these boxes, and I'm not sure we have any non-Adams Adams conducting on disc already. It's great and obvious that Adams has a great love for these pieces. He returns on the final disc.
Disc 14. I'm happy to hear the Concertgebouw, under John Adams, in Takemitsu's 'A Flock descends into the pentagonal garden.' This isn't the first Takemitsu piece from this source (there's a piece in the Haitink box, I think) but its great to have. Sanderling then conducts a performance of Shostakovich's 5th Symphony which is, like the Bruckner 3, perhaps a little deliberate in places, but beautifully played and intense. The set ends with a rarely-heard vocal piece by Schreker, who is surely one of the most unjustly neglected early 20th century composers, and not just because tastes change, but because of anti-semitism. Like Zemlinsky, who Chailly has done so much to re-promote, his work is almost always fascinating to hear, and I have to say that of the operas I have heard by him, their sense of dramatic line is actually a bit better than Zemlinsky's (although I would encourage any curious listeners to explore them both). 'Vom ewigen Liebe' is not the most striking Schreker work I have heard but it is relatively late, and doesn't exhibit the super-lushness/ syrupyness usually (and sometimes mistakenly) attributed to him. Gerd Albrecht is the conductor here, but with Whitman lyrics, this makes a nice counterpart to the Zemlinsky earlier in the set.

Hopefully, as this sort of thing is a big investment, and Amazon don't have a track listing, my disc-by-disc review will be of some use to you if you are curious about this particular issue or have been collecting the whole series. I apologise for not listing every single soloist or singer but its taken me a while to listen through the whole thing and write this and I must stop. The bottom line is that this is another superb set. I'm sure I'll dip into it over and over again for years, as I have surprisingly often with the others. Its wonderful that the Concertgebouw have sustained the whole series in difficult times, however costly it is for audiences to support it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 26, 2012 9:47 PM GMT

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