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Abert "AMY" (Hong Kong)

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Bach, J.S.: The well-tempered Clavier
Bach, J.S.: The well-tempered Clavier
Price: £13.58

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-tempered, in real flesh and blood., 10 Nov 2010
There's a tendency these days to judge performances by `perfection' rather than by expressiveness, passion, or less measurable aspects. In terms of the Preludes and Fugues, as the pieces lend so much for analyses, it is easy to miss the key point. As indeed, those who cannot evaluate things by way of depth and breadth often use detail and other much more superficial and artificial ideas as their ideal of perfection and excellence. "Perfect" is that realm becomes science, not art. In particular, when digitisation rules the day, minor quibbles like breathing or environmental noises, tolerated in live performances, become the 8th deadly sin.
The Well-tempered Claiver Book I of Maurizio Pollini blows away every accusation of his being `cool', `mechanical', `precise' (qualities that never had been his hallmark in the real sense). Pollini really makes the 24 pairs sing.
I began listening to these pieces with Ralph Kirkpatrick's harpsichord version. As a piano player, it did me much more harm than good for these works. To put it in simple terms, I disliked them: the clangy-bangy sound on the harpsichord coupled with Kirkpatrick's more Apollonian view of these works were quite enough to kill them for me.
Then follows Glenn Gould's and Friedrich Gulda's very `scientific' renditions, and S. Richter's rather uneven reading. They sounded some what better; then Angela Hewitt's first album did managed to alleviate the harm to some extent, but unfortunately her second volume is more willful and mannered. Indeed, Edwin Fischer had a much more appealing volume on his `historical' album dated back to the 1930's, but the sound quality could no way be matched with modern day hi-tech recordings.
It has always been a great shame that Wilhelm Kempff's set of "well-tempered clavier" has gone out of print on DG, and the great Bach expert organist Karl Richter had not, during his short life, recorded the well-tempered clavier on any keyboard instrument.
Luckily Pollini came to my aid in good time. His preludes and fugues are real joys to listen to. I don't care if they are `perfect' or not. Pollini's singing tone in the counterpoints is simply too beautiful for any distraction of a more inferior order. While you listen, you can imagine yourself sitting in a huge church, with a wonderful chorus singing out the contrapuntal melodies, and a small chamber orchestra making great accompaniment. Or more so still, you can imagine Bach's Brandenburg Concerti, his b Minor Mass, his Cantatas.... Pollini draws direct references to these other works of Bach in his performance. By far the most satisfying WTC I've encountered yet, largely because of the spontaneity and emotional depth manifested in these pieces.
The only question that remains is - will he record Volume 2?
I agree that the WTC in this performance sound much more 'vertical' or 'spherical' than most other great performances of the same work. What strikes me further, however, is how Pollini has dwelled into these works in real depth stylistically.
I have started to play the entire Vol. 1 since the age of 10. By now I have learned those pieces for decades. What sets Pollini's performance apart is his baroque style: grandiose and flambouyant. He weaves the phrases and counterpoints with real swerve and nuance. There is hardly any single idle phrase. This alarming state of concentration in performance is at the same time coupled with expressively beautiful touching, a hallmark of Pollini's since the earliest days he performs in public on the pianoforte. Listening to this set of WTC, the experience is akin to listening to a period baroque orchestra.
I emphasize 'period' here, because in comparison to Gulda's more modernist approach, Pollini's interpretation is more stylistically informed. It is more than evident that the Maestro has done extensive research into these compositions before putting them down in performance here. Not since Karl Richter have I heard more energised and nuanced Bach interpretation. Again, as I said, it is a great pity that Karl Richter did not leave any recording of the WTC.
Hats off to Maestro Pollini!

Slavic Opera Arias - Piotr Beczala
Slavic Opera Arias - Piotr Beczala
Price: £13.12

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Would this be Beczala best album so far?, 16 Aug 2010
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Acclaimed Polish tenor Piotr Beczala had in 2007 (also under Orfeo) issued a debut solo album on Italian and French operatic arias to critical acclaim.
Here is his second release on Orfeo, concentrating this time on Slavic operatic arias.
Not all tracks are familiar arias, but a majority come from Russian operas by Tchaikovsky and Rimsy-Korsakov, with Czech composer Dvorak, the compilation should be familiar enough for many listeners.
Beczala owns an exceedingly beautiful lyrical tenor voice, and he uses his voice with circumspection and chooses his repertoire with great care.
He is not considered to be a 'young tenor' any more, being 44 this year and rather late in gaining the recognition that's due to his credentials.
He is, however, a very intelligent singer. He does not tax his instrument unduly, and is hence able to reach his career's summit when past 40 years old.
These Slavic arias really showcase his artistry to the greatest light. The ease of delivery, the beauty of tone and above all, the expressiveness, mark this singer as a class apart in the lyrical tenor genre, whether present or in the past.
Probably time has really come for the classical operatic world to assemble another 'three tenors', with Beczala as one of the incumbents.

Peter Hofmann Singt Arien Von Richard Wa
Peter Hofmann Singt Arien Von Richard Wa
Price: £7.48

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's one of the greatest Wagnerian tenors that graced the operatic stage!, 4 Aug 2010
Nowadays, very few opera goers remembered Peter Hofmann.
From the liner notes of this album, one reads about the short-lived but extremely glorious operatic career of Peter Hofmann - his meteoric rise to stardom after singing Parsifal at Bayreuth in the late 1970's, shortly following his graduation from music academy after release from conscription.
Hofmann's timbre is unique - it is not heroic or large in the sense of Lauritz Melchior, but in terms of lyricism, is reminiscent of Wolfgang Windgassen. As Hofmann himself rightfully pointed out in the liner notes - heldentenors are not expected to be 'loud' in the 'piano' passages of a score! True that Hofmann's frequent resort to Mezza di Voce brings out the expressive lyricisms of the arias like no other heldentenor!
It was a great pity that Hofmann had a much shorter vocal demise than either of the two predecessors. His early contraction of Parkinson's disease shortly after the first hint of vocal decline marked the premature departure of this wonderful singing actor from the operatic stage.
Excerpts from the Lohengrin, Meistersinger, Rienzi, Tanhausser, Siegfried and Die Walkure gave a sort of overview of Hofmann's Wagner portrayals that one could not find elsewhere.
A most valuable item in the collection of any true classical music lover.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 26, 2011 3:35 AM GMT

Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 4
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 4
Price: £12.43

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lang Lang's musical anchorage., 30 July 2010
I could not agree more with Christoph Eschenbach's observation about Lang Lang - of the multi-repertoire that young Lang has savoured since his child prodigy days, he requires a specialty composer so as to be able to dwell deeper into the musical language, and Beethoven is probably the best choice for him.
I have listened and greatly admired the Harnoncourt Beethoven piano concerti (Harnoncourt being one of my favorite contemproary conductors since the 1970's). The orchestration in that recording was simply superb, and the character, style and soul of Harnoncourt in Beethoven's works hard to beat.
Eschenbach's conducting here is also good, but to my personal view, not as good as Harnoncourt's. This may be subjective, but I do find the `Beethoven style' some what lacking here, especially the tutti parts of these two works.
As for Lang Lang in the solo parts, this not to say that Lang's playing is perfect, nor the best, but it is not one jot `bad' as many would claim. Why compare him with Argerich? Argerich had declined Harnoncourt's invitation to record for HIM then, because she does not play the entire set of Beethoven Concerti, and would not want to learn those that she did not know.
So much for the mature pianist. The two concerti chosen here could indeed still be improved upon, though one must bear in mind that the 4th is considered to be the most introverted piano concertos of Beethoven, and Lang Lang had tuned down much of his highly inflammatory style.
The 3rd movement of the 1st concerto really should be more fiery, but Lang Lang some how missed the fireworks in this movement.
Lang Lang, so far, has NOT established himself as a virtuoso of any specialty, much unlike his compatriot Yundi Li. Well, IMHV this is something that he should do right now. Let us hope that he is going to horn his musicality further with Beethoven's works.
He still needs more work in the classical repertoire, if he wishes to move higher in the performance arena among top pianists. And this album shows that he is fully capable of doing so, if he is bent on it.

Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin
Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin
Price: £10.75

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most welcomed change of expressiveness, 30 July 2010
Die Schone Mullerin, one of the most popular song cycles of Schubert, sung and recorded by numerous artists in the past and present, from tenor to baritone (to even some sopranos).
Lieder singing is not limited to small voices, I believe. And Jonas Kaufmann just simply offered, with his partner Helmut Deutsche, a glaringly striking example of how lieder singing 'could' be apart from the traditional 'smallish-voiced' singing.
True that the opening pieces may offer the listener certain discomfort, especially if the listener has got 'used to' listening to threads of voices in these pieces. It takes around 4 to 5 numbers before unaccustomed listeners got attuned to Kaufmann's style.
Once got used to, wow, what a jaw-dropping interpretation! What glorious expressiveness! What depth of emotional outpouring!
I cannot find adequate words (given my limited vocabulary) to describe the absolutlely stunned feeling of listening to Kaufmann's Die Schone Mullerin. Let me admit - no one single lieder singer had managed to grip my attention to the extent as Mr. Kaufmann in this entire cycle, not even Fischer-Dieskau, let alone Wunderlich or Gerhaher.
Helmut Deutsche accounts for half of this live performance's success. Both he and Kaufmann presented the cycle as a compact and composite entirety, closely knit in emotion and musicality. Kaufmann's great vocal capacity blends in well with Deutsche's almost aggressively expressive 'accompaniment' - accompaniment may not be the right word, since it is not secondary to the vocal line but everywhere going parallel with it. Without Kaufmann's large vocal expressive capacity, however, even Deutsche's 'accompaniment' would not have worked so effectively.
A marvellous pair in all respects.
If any one seeks to dismiss this wonderful recital as 'another' Die Schone Mullerin, he would be missing out a big deal!

Kaufmann: Mozart/Schubert/Beethoven/Wagner
Kaufmann: Mozart/Schubert/Beethoven/Wagner
Price: £11.72

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A not inconsiderable achievement., 30 July 2010
May be to most opera goers globally Jonas Kaufmann is a relatively new name. However, research shows this tenor has been around for almost two decades, with solid vocal credentials to his credit by singing in mostly European houses.
Some of the operatic excerpts in this new album are from operas that Kaufmann has sung on stage and recorded over the years: Fierrabras, Fidelio, Die Zauberflote, Parsifal, though I don't think he has performed Die Walkure yet.
I am not sure if he is a heldentenor in the specie of Melchior, but his similarity with Vickers has been noted by many. I think one major difference between Kaufmann and Vickers is that Kaufmann is able to tackle roles for smaller voices that Vickers was not adept.
If Kaufmann is able to keep his performances mostly in Europe and smaller houses, there is an overwhelming chance that he would become the next standard bearer of German opera.
One very good thing about Kaufmann's singing is that he is always very affecting, no matter in Mozart, Schubert, Wagner, Beethoven or what not.
Some have queried his interpretation in Dies Bildnis as being 'over'. To me, Kaufmann's version is 'just fine', more affecting and human than the vocally 100% performance of Fritz Wunderlich more than half a century ago. It is exactly this aspect of Kaufmann's singing that will set him apart from other big names in German or other repertoire.
I fully agree that this album is among the finest vocal album to come out this past decade.

Wagner: Lohengrin - The Sony Opera House
Wagner: Lohengrin - The Sony Opera House
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £12.07

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must get hold of the DVD version of this recording!, 30 July 2010
Age has a lot to do with a heldentenor's voice.
This early performance shows Peter Hofmann's exceptional voice in its prime. What a pity - but that is how things go for this special breed of tenors.
Yes, the chorus in this Bayreuth version is far superior to Levine's MET chorus. So is the general accoustics: Leif Roar is also better in this version, though dramatically I find it hard to convince myself that this Telarund is a tragic character: Roar's is an outright base creature.
Elizabeth Connell shines out as the wicked character Ortrud. She subsequently changed her fach to soprano, and the move is right, judging from her timbre here. She also has the edge over Armstrong in that her stage presence in this performance is immense.
Of course, being a CD version, one misses the other great aspect of this recording - the wonderful stage presence of Peter Hofmann's knight of the Holy Grail. If you do not like Wagner (or do not know anything about Wagner's works), you would do no wrong by getting this Lohengrin as a starter. Hofmann conveys everything in the drama - through his voice, his acting, and of course, his looks.
Nowhere could you find a better portrayal of Lohengrin that is faithful to the script to the last detail, and made very much alive onstage.
If possible, MUST get hold of the DVD version!

Piano Trios
Piano Trios
Price: £20.79

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A winner all the way., 30 July 2010
This review is from: Piano Trios (Audio CD)
There are two pieces in this CD, the first one Trio élégiaque No.1 in g minor by Rachmaninoff is sort of a filler, and the Tchaikovsky Trio in a minor Op. 50 the main piece.
I would say that both the filler and the main piece are equally good.
The pieces were composed when the composers were relatively young. In the Trio élégiaque case, Rachmaninoff was only 19. That aspect gives a good chance for this recording to have an edge over other more 'mature' readings (such as by the Beaux Arts Trio). Lang Lang's youthful enthusiasm, even in melancholy moments, lends more drama and pathos to the piece that is essential for a youthful composition.
Likewise, the Tchaikovsky Piano Trio was composed relatively early in Tchaikovsky's life. Similar to the Rachmaninoff piece, the theme is on death and pathos.
If you wonder why Lang Lang chose these pieces, you may be interested to learn that he is a great fan of the 'Schindler' music - the original soundtrack of the film 'Schindler's List'. According to his father, Lang Lang would 'loss' himself in the music on the soundtrack once he starts listening.
The two pieces recorded here echo the pathos and emotion of the Schindler music, and even if one of the performer is young, he is fully aided by two seasoned string players here. The ensemble works in both pieces are splendid in this recording.
I have not heard Maisky in his earlier recording of the Tchaikovsky Trio with Martha Argerich, and could not make any comparisons. However, judging from the result here, this one would not be far off even if not better.
I have listened to this album three times in a row, and got more and more satisfied with each listening.

Chopin - Piano Concertos - Zimerman - Giulini
Chopin - Piano Concertos - Zimerman - Giulini
Offered by sellerfellauk
Price: £29.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Youthful, poetic and affecting reading of the two Chopin concerti, 30 July 2010
After DG issued in 1999 the dual-CD of Chopin's two piano concerti with Zimerman conducting from the keyboard, this earlier release featuring the LA Philharmonic Orchestra with Giulini conducting has largely been forgotten, and have sadly gone out of print.
Too bad, since of the two recordings by Krystian Zimerman of the Chopin concerti for piano, this earlier one in 1986 is the one of my personal preference.
Firstly, I think for a pianist to be able to record both of Chopin's piano concerti with 'equal' distinction is some thing of a real marvel. Not many top pianists managed to succeed in this respect. Either they are more adept in the No. 1 (in fact the No. 2), or they offer a better No. 2 (in fact No. 1). Many 'popular' young pianists have tried their hands on a dual-concerti set in recent years: Lang Lang, Sa Chen, Rafal Blechacz, and the not too young Dang Thai Son on period instruments.
While I marvel at Mr. Dang's No. 2 and Mr. Blechacz's No. 1, both these pianists do not have a very 'even-handed' treatment of the two pieces in the same way as Krystian Zimerman in this 1986 recording.
Zimerman was younger (less than 30) when he recorded this pair. This, to me at least, is a great asset over his later 1999 second recording. I in fact owned the latter set much earlier, but that set simply failed to ignite me with each repeated listening time after time in the same way this earlier set does.
I in fact started listening to this Giulini/Zimerman version early this year. And it immediately became clear to me why Zimerman, for many past decades, has been regarded as a 'top-Chopin' performer. Here, he had none of the heavy-handed approaches to Chopin as he has now. Instead, here is much more youthful passion and poetic verve that the second recording lacked. The No. 1 Concerto in particular is a sheer composite breath of vitality and wistfulness, well-balanced in elegance and passion, and even with a deep sense of infinity. In every sense, this performance is on par with Rafal Blechacz's immaculate interpretation of this piece in 2005 at the International Chopin Competition.
As for the No. 2 Concerto, my personal favorite has always been Dang Thai Son's whether period or otherwise. Zimerman's reading here with Giulini comes very very close to Dang's, and even tops other great pianists' readings, Rubinstein, Argerich, Ohlsson included. The No. 2 concerto is more 'masculine' in certain sense than the No. 1, but the second movement calls for a great change of mood from the first, and the emotional challenges in this piece may even be greater than No. 1. Here, as in the No.1, Zimerman brings forth a reading with paramount poetry that knocks the listeners right off.
In both pieces, the pianism displayed is awesome. If you like Zimerman's 1999 set, this one should under no circumstances be missed, too!

Wagner: Tristan und Isolde
Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Individual and very profound reading by Bernstein., 30 July 2010
Leonard Bernstein's Tristan und Isolde left me choked up for other versions, however brilliant.
I am too unlucky (or lucky) to have owned this version for a starter.
The casting is very even - the six main characters do not have any one outshing the other, but this is not a vice.
All six were brought out by a brilliantly sung sailor, though. Sung without accompaniment by Thomas Moser, the voice really heralded the theme of the entire opera: a far cry of youthful yearning for love and passion.
Behrens and Hofmann are more-than adequate for the title roles, even if they did not manage to outshine any predecessor. They worked well under Bernstein's slow tempo. Their duets in the later scenes evoke high voltages of passion, and in this respect, their performances actually outshined many other pairs on disc, even Windgassen and Nilsson for Boehm, who may be more vocally powerful, but not necessarily as moving and emotionally committed. In this respect, this Bernstein version rightfully boasts as being on top of the field in this opera's recorded versions.
Of course, none would say Behrens and Hofmann are adequately 'big voices' for their roles, if loudness is what you look for as the foremost criteria for choosing singers for Tristan and Isolde.

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