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Mozart Piano Concertos
Mozart Piano Concertos
Price: £11.52

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely sublime A major Concerto, 3 Aug 2012
This review is from: Mozart Piano Concertos (Audio CD)
Ivan Moravec's performance of the A major Concerto with the Prague Chamber Orchestra is distinguished by a wonderfully soulful and sublime Adagio. Yes, it is slow by modern standards, and the clarinets have that typical Czech vibrato that one does not expect automatically in Mozart, but these things really only add to the emotional impact of the music. This Adagio is of course not your average slow movement (F sharp minor is a very rare key in music from the classic period); and here, it sounds absolutely heart-breaking. This is simply sublime. The Adagio is surrounded by two nicely lively Allegro's (again with some individual clarinet sonorities). The Concerto is preceded by a good performance of No. 14 (not otherwise in Moravec' discography) and followed by No. 25 which is accompanied by the Czech Philharmonic and presented on an altogether grander scale. This is easily the most attractive Mozart Concerto disc in Moravec' discography (the other two comprise Nos. 20, 23, 24 and 25 with Neville Mariner on Hänssler; they are quite good but rather less special), and to my ears a 'must' for the A Major piece. The recorded sound of the mid-70s is wholly acceptable.


Schoenberg; Berg; Webern - String Quartets
Schoenberg; Berg; Webern - String Quartets
Price: £13.31

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reference recordings of the Schoenberg, Berg and Webern quartets, 2 Aug 2012
The LaSalle Quartet offers reference recordings of the quartets of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. The players produce a cultivated but wonderfully clear and transparent sound. They play expressively throughout but without ever sentimentalizing the music. A piece like Berg's Lyric Suite benefits enormously from such a clear-headed approach; the LaSalle players do not understate the strong emotions suggested by the music, but also emphasize its musical sophistication: listen for instance to the Presto fifth movement for a perfect example of how a clear-headed, 'analytical', approach can actually enhance the impact of the music. They play Webern as to the manner born, and invest the abstract textures of Opus 28 with elegance and real musicality. And they play the Schoenberg quartets as the canonical pieces that these deserve to be, making sense of both the post-Wagnerian chromatic harmonies of Opus 7 and the strictly serial writing in the later pieces. None of this is easy music, of course, save for the genial early D major quartet by Schoenberg that sounds like an utterly charming joint effort by Brahms and Dvorak. But all of this music happens to be immensely rewarding and even enjoyable, and the LaSalle players do it proud. On top of it all, Margaret Price gives definitive performances of the two songs from Schoenberg's Opus 10. At Brilliant's modest asking price, this is not to be missed.


Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 8
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 8
Price: £13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling performances all round, 28 July 2012
Paavo Järvi fully captures the heroic spirit of the Eroica. His first movement bustles with energy, but much of the excitement stems from the conductor's careful observance of Beethoven's dynamics. Listen, for example, to the sforzandi at bar 29 (from 0'27'' onwards): too often we get a generalised forte; here, the dynamic accents are placed against a background that is properly piano. Or take the wonderfully 'ugly' dissonances at 7'43 in the first episode of the development: here, they are not played simply as loud as possible, but only at the forte that Beethoven asks for. Or again, observe the clear differentiation between forte and fortissimo in the two-bar lead-in to the Recapitulation: such moments make the difference between a great performance and a merely good one. The Adagio offers a true Marche funèbre in the spirit of the French revolution. The maggiore section culminates in a genuinely 'military' climax, and the central fugato episode is truly devastating, with powerful blasts from the wind soloists. The Scherzo features sublime horns in the Trio, and the Prometheus variations of the Finale are fresh and energetic. Järvi has solo strings in the second variation of the theme (from bar 60 - 1'21 onwards - Järvi uses the new Bärenreiter edition), and the clarinets distinguish themselves in the gipsy-style variation at 3'57. Whatever great performances there have been in the past, no one catches the revolutionary élan of the piece as fully as Järvi, and his is likely to remain a reference recording for years to come.
Järvi also offers simply the best recording of the Eighth, arguably Beethoven's most richly inventive symphony. Here, the modest size of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen is again a huge advantage: the resulting clarity of texture is marvellous throughout, most notably perhaps in the Trio of the Menuet, where every note of the dialogues between cello, horns and clarinets and bassoons can be heard. The modest size of the orchestra also allow Järvi to take Beethoven's hugely demanding metronome marks as seriously as humanly possible: both outer movements are taken very quickly indeed, but without loss of flexibility: listen for instance to the gently rocking articulation of the syncopated second theme in the opening Allegro: a delight! Later in that same movement, the development is a real zone of turbulence, culminating in a blazing fff recapitulation of the first theme: on hearing that, you cannot possibly keep thinking of the Eight as a `small-scaled' symphony. After all this, the Allegretto scherzando sounds relatively relaxed at a more or less conventional tempo, but Järvi uses this extra space to achieve small miracles of articulation: listen for instance to the strings in the second statement of the theme (bar 41 onwards) or to the canonic exchange between clarinets and flutes and oboes 10 bars later. In the Menuet, the solo duet of the bassoons stands out (bar 25ff.) as does the whole of the Trio. The Finale is then very fast indeed, but sounds never rushed, and Järvi again offers a richly detailed reading of the score: listen for instance to the wonderful non-staccato articulation of the bridge to the second theme in the recapitulation. One could cite similar felicities on virtually every page of the score, but the bottom line is that this is a very exciting interpretation of a thrillingly inventive score. The recording allows it to come across with maximum impact.


Beethoven - Symphonies Nos 2 and 6 (LSO, Haitink)
Beethoven - Symphonies Nos 2 and 6 (LSO, Haitink)
Price: £8.91

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great Pastoral, and a less than great Second, 28 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
True, the Barbican in London will never be famous for its generous acoustics, and the sound of the LSO in its own hall, while very clear up to forte, tends to get just a little harsh and gritty in fortissimo passages. But one gets used to it, and its worth to do so, for Haitink's recording of the Pastoral Symphony goes straight to the top of the list. Haitink completely changed his view of the piece since his recordings with the Concertgebouw. He now adopts the lively tempos that Beethoven asks for, and offers the sharp articulation associated with the ,period instrument' movement. But he also offers a wonderful cantabile sound from the strings when appropriate and just enough flexibility of tempo to make this Pastorale sound relaxed and sunny. And that betrays the hand of an experienced maestro. Just listen to the clarinet triplets near the end of the first movement: the flexibility of phrasing is there, but so subtle that you hardly notice, and that is how things should be. The Szene am Bach flows along, and flute and oboe make the sun come through in their duet in the development. The Scherzo is merry, the Storm not overly theatrical (but the timpanist sounds like he is having a good time indeed) and the Allegretto brings the work to a jubilant close.
Unfortunately, Haitink's Second Symphony is on the heavy side, and here, the Barbican acousics do seem to work against the music. For these symphonies, it is worthwhile to get two different cds: Järvi for the Second, and Haitink for the Pastorale.


Beethoven: Symphonies No.6 "Pastoral" & No.2 (International Version)
Beethoven: Symphonies No.6 "Pastoral" & No.2 (International Version)
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £9.06

4.0 out of 5 stars Superb Second, slightly chilly Sixth, 28 July 2012
Paavo Järvi offers a definitive performance of Beethoven's Second Symphony. His rendition of the first movement is colourful and generates enormous tension. Järvi rightly gives us all the sforzandi, both in the introduction and in the main Allegro, and the climaxes in the development (listen to the horn signals at 7'23) and coda are thrilling. The Larghetto then flows at an ideal pace, and brings along warm and wonderfully atmospheric contributions from the winds (for example the second statement of the theme by clarinets, bassoons and horns at bar 9, 0'18"). The Scherzo is energetic, with a nicely sturdy Trio. And the Finale is energetic in the extreme, but it also exhibits extreme care for details as in the perfectly placed trills in the basses from bar 139 onwards. The Coda once again builds up tremendous tension (listen to the climax at 5'99!) before the ultimate release in the final bars. This is simply superb.
Unfortunately, Järvi's Pastoral is a rather stiff and chilly affair. To be sure, the playing is hugely accomplished, and there is little or nothing that is palpably `wrong', but what is missing here is a sense of flexibility and freedom: The triplets from the clarinet near the end of the first movement are very strictly in tempo and sound inhibited, and in the Szene am Bach, in the duet between the flute and oboe in the development, the players are given no time to inflect their lines and let the sunshine in. This is a Pastoral for a cloudy day, then. For the real thing, better try Haitink's marvellous LSO recording.


Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 1
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 1
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The sound of the Revolution, 28 July 2012
Though often viewed as looking back to the age of Haydn and Mozart, Beethovens's First Symphony is in fact a revolutionary work, albeit on a smaller scale than the Eroica. Starting with the famous 'dissonant' dominant seventh chord on C, the piece leaves no doubt about its author's iconoclastic intentions. Paavo Järvi offers an ideal reading of the piece. The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen is a chamber orchestra playing on modern instruments in a historically informed playing style. They offer an ideal compromise between beauty of tone and incisiveness of rhythm: just listen to the colourful, nicely prominent winds (as in the hymn-like tune immediately before the recapitulation of the first movement), and the incisive timpani (as in the Coda of the first movement and after bar 30 of the Finale). No wonder that a contemporary critic complained that the `Harmonie' (winds and timpani) was too dominant. All in all, a performance that makes one realise what was so new and special about the piece.
Similarly, Järvi's modest forces offer optimal impact and clarity in the Fifth. The first movement is lively and dramatic - not perhaps the traditional grand idea of Fate knocking on the door, but greatly impressive because every detail of the score can be heard, and there are so many things that enliven the textures: listen for instance to the wind crescendi at bars 34 and 36, or the anapaestic interjections from the winds at bars 182 and following in the development. The Andante con moto flows by at an ideal pace and with the utmost clarity. The Scherzo is distinguished by a magnificently articulated fugato from the strings in the Trio, and by a superb transition to the Finale. As Beethoven demands, that transition remains truly pianissimo until the last few bars and then shocks the listener with a truly grand crescendo. In the Finale itself, the addition of double bassoon and trombones give added weight to the sound, and the many veru audible interjections from the piccolo (as at bars 134 and 142-3, letter D) are a special delight. This is a tremendously exciting performance.


Concerto For Orchestra (Reiner, Chicago So)
Concerto For Orchestra (Reiner, Chicago So)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'must have' Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, 28 July 2012
Reiner's Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta remains a classic. This is arguably Bartók's greatest orchestral work, a tautly concentrated piece that has all the intensity of the best chamber works, such as the contemporaneous Fourth and Fifth Quartets. And Reiner's performance is both intense and warmly sympathetic. He shows an impressive feeling for the tempo giusto - all movements are performed with respect for Bartók's tempo markings and clock in within seconds from each other at around seven minutes. The opening Andante tranquillo especially benefits from being taken at a flowing tempo - most conductors are far too slow here. The 1958 recording sounds both warm and amazingly clear, and only adds to the impact of the performance. This surpasses the excellent mono recordings by Fricsay (DG) and Van Beinum (Reference Recordings), and easily outclasses all others.
It seems impossible to deny reference status to Reiner's Concerto for Orchestra, but here the slightly older recording (from 1955) sounds a bit harsh, and Reiner is rather on the slow side in the slow music, the Introduction and the central Elegia. Dorati (Philips) and Kocsis (Hungaroton) have shown how this music can sound when taken at the right pace, and their recordings are my preferred versions for the Concerto.


Concerto For Orchestra
Concerto For Orchestra
Price: £14.58

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely idiomatic performances in stunningly atmospheric sound., 28 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Concerto For Orchestra (Audio CD)
This disc is absolutely stunning. The Concerto for Orchestra and Dance Suite are presented in incredibly atmospheric recordings, by an orchestra with an absolutely idiomatic sound, and the programme is conducted by a Bartok expert who gives each piece the right character and (almost always) the tempo that Bartok demands. In the Concerto, you know that something special is going to happen when you hear the atmospheric fluttering of the flutes only nine bars into the piece. And so it turns out. The Scherzando movements are lively, the Elegia is again wonderfully atmospheric, and the Finale simply raises the roof. I still incline towards Dorati's even more fluent handling of the slow music (Introduction and Elegy - in his Philips recording with the Concertgebouw), but Kocsis is given a far better recording and has an orchestra with a truly Hungarian sound at his disposal. Classics like Reiner (RCA), Fricsay (DG, in mono), Ancerl (Supraphon), Kubelik (DG) and the aforementioned Dorati will always remain cherished, but it is good to have a reference recording in truly modern sound. In the Dance Suite, Kocsis again offers stunning playing and a lively sense of dance rhythms. This now seems to be the best performance around - ahead even of Fricsay (DG and Audite). The Hungarian Peasant Songs are marvellous fillers. This disc may be hard to find, but it is a 'must have' for Bartok fans.


Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 7
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 7
Price: £16.07

4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful Fourth and a light-weight Seventh, 28 July 2012
Järvi's Fourth is a tremendous success. He achieves absolute clarity and makes sure that every note can be heard, but with no loss of impact. On the contrary, the dark hues of the Introduction come across more vividly than ever before: just listen to the dark, rasping fp diminuendo in the horns at bar 13 and be assured that you are in for something very special indeed. In the main Allegro, the wonderful articulation of the syncopated ,bridge' theme in the woodwinds (figure B in the score) is a special delight. The Adagio goes at an ideally flowing pace, and it features the most clearly articulated and recorded climax ever (bars 50-53): what an impact the double basses make when they finally share the repeated notes of the other strings in bar 53!. The Scherzo is vividly done, with a beautiful crescendo from the horns at the very end, and the Finale is playful and energetic. This sounds like chamber music for a full orchestra: a piece like the second final for Opus 130 comes to mind. Again, Järvi offers a reading rich in clarity and colourful detail: listen for instance to the triplets in the second clarinet at bars 215 and following. In all, the Fourth has been extremely lucky on disc, with recent successes such as Haitink's fabulous LSO Live recording, but Järvi just beats them all.
However, the Seventh is less sucessful: here, the smallish orchestral forces seem to lack weight, and Järvi's approach is a bit unsmiling and inhibited. Compare the rather stiff opening of the Allegretto second movement to that by Kleiber (DG): that more or less sums up the difference.


Ravel: Piano Concertos; Sonatine; Valses (DG The Originals)
Ravel: Piano Concertos; Sonatine; Valses (DG The Originals)
Price: £9.57

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic!, 8 Jan 2012
If you do not mind an older recording in perfectly acceptable stereo with some slight tape hiss, and an orchestra that sounds characteristically French but not always as technically accomplished as its modern counterparts, you are not going to find more idiomatic playing in these Concertos than this. Monique Haas was a pupil of the legendary Jean Casadesus, and her playing has all the classicism, restraint and clarté of that legendary master. That of course is just perfect for the Ravel G Major Concerto, which was after all consciously modelled on the examples of Mozart and Saint-SaŽns. Too often, pianists cannot resist the temptation to make the slower sections in this music sound much more `romantic' than they should, thereby sentimentalizing the piece. Haas certainly does not do that: the Meno vivo sections in the first movement are just a notch slower than the main Allegramente, and the Adagio flows at a pace that comes very close to the 76 quavers a minute demanded by Ravel's score. Paradoxically, this makes the music actually sound more moving, and the Reprise of the Adagio theme, in which one can hear the French cor anglais payer struggle to produce all the notes, is quite heartbreaking. The Concerto for the Left Hand demands a less restrained style, and Haas is quite successful in bringing out its sweep and menace. The solo pieces date from earlier sessions; both are elegantly done, but it is for the Concertos that you absolutely need this disc.


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