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Michael Lee Davis "Mikie" (Finland)

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Beethoven: Violin Concerto
Beethoven: Violin Concerto
Price: £9.06

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Far Greater "Recording of the Century", 24 Dec 2013
I have owned and cherished this incredible live recording of Beethoven's violin concerto since its release in 1989. I would even go so far as to assert that this recording surpasses Perlman's earlier recording with Giulini in every respect. In terms of sound quality, orchestra-soloist-conductor report (The Berliner Philharmoniker, Barenboim and Perlman are simply staggering here), and that elusive, unexplainable "rightness" that pervades the first self-assured timpani strokes right through to the final longing phrases of the 2nd Violin Romance, this is surely an even greater "Recording of the Century"!
I have heard and been roundly disappointed with at least a dozen other recordings of this repertoire, all of which fell shamefully short of the daunting mark laid down by this miracle of the fledgling digital age.
As I have recently discovered, it's so very simple to find joy: Come to the inevitable conclusion that Itzhak Perlman is the greatest violinist to ever hold a Stradivarius, acquire as many of his EMI and DG recordings as you possibly can, and live in unparalleled virtuoso violin happiness for the rest of your days.
If live recordings have been a past concern, you may rest assured that this is one of the most well behaved (and fortunate!) audiences never heard on CD... that is until the triumphant conclusion of this masterful performance in which they all - men, women, children, great-grandparents and all! - erupt into a standing ovation that will simply shake the rafters above your listening room... and you will find yourself wanting desperately to join in the ruckus. Warm-heartedly recommended!


Fauré: Chamber Music
Fauré: Chamber Music
Offered by shakedownrecords
Price: £26.94

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars French Musical Illusions that will Leave You Mesmerized!, 15 Sep 2012
This review is from: Fauré: Chamber Music (Audio CD)
Although understandably less well known than the "new" music of his contemporaries Ravel and Debussy, Faure's thoroughly Gallic oeuvre is in a class all its own. Yes, his Bereceuse, Op. 16 and Sicilienne, Op. 78 - heard here in their original form for piano & violin - are instantly recognizable to anyone even vaguely familiar with French classical music, but how many of us can claim familiarity with his violin sonatas, cello sonatas, piano quartets and string quartet? The silence you just heard is very telling.

I said "understandably less well known" for the simple reason that Faure's music is a stupefying mixture of accessibility and cold indifference. Now don't misunderstand me: Faure's music isn't "cold" by any stretch of the imagination, it's just that his compositions speak so clearly to the depths of our souls... and then turn away as if to say, "You wouldn't understand what I'm trying to say anyway..."

It's a maddening paradox that is both infuriating and infatuating! Sir/Madame, have you ever felt the same way about that very special someone in your life? Yes, you have... and you loved it!

It's true that you never know just where you have Faure, but one thing is certain: once you've experienced the musical illusions of this mercurial French magician, you will find yourself returning often to the place where he mesmerized you with his magic.

Recorded in the late 1970s - at the very pinnacle of the LP age - these performances are by far the most satisfying and convincing I've ever heard. All the musicians are French and they play as if their very lives depended on your positive response... which was overwhelmingly positive in my case! The recorded sound is rich and open (with just the right amount of hall acoustic) and wonderfully airy around the instruments; I just can't imagine a more appealing sound picture.

I have heard many other French ensembles attempt to interpret "passions" and "mannerisms" into this music that would have troubled and deeply saddened the composer, thereby misrepresenting that which they were trying to ennoble. NOT SO HERE! Yes, these are passionate performances to be sure, but tempered with respect and that all-important (and thoroughly tasteful) French musical intellect.

For the same reason that the old 19th Century French garden roses are still popular to this day, you will find these performances of Faure's heavenly chamber music tasting as magnificent as a Loire Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for many enjoyable years to come.

Warmly recommended!


Faure: Chamber Music 1
Faure: Chamber Music 1
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £13.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars French Musical Illusions that will Leave You Mesmerized!, 15 Sep 2012
This review is from: Faure: Chamber Music 1 (Audio CD)
Although understandably less well known than the "new" music of his contemporaries Ravel and Debussy, Faure's thoroughly Gallic oeuvre is in a class all its own. Yes, his Bereceuse, Op. 16 and Sicilienne, Op. 78 - heard here in their original form for piano & violin - are instantly recognizable to anyone even vaguely familiar with French classical music, but how many of us can claim familiarity with his violin sonatas, cello sonatas, piano quartets and string quartet? The silence you just heard is very telling.

I said "understandably less well known" for the simple reason that Faure's music is a stupefying mixture of accessibility and cold indifference. Now don't misunderstand me: Faure's music isn't "cold" by any stretch of the imagination, it's just that his compositions speak so clearly to the depths of our souls... and then turn away as if to say, "You wouldn't understand what I'm trying to say anyway..."

It's a maddening paradox that is both infuriating and infatuating! Sir/Madame, have you ever felt the same way about that very special someone in your life? Yes, you have... and you loved it!

It's true that you never know just where you have Faure, but one thing is certain: once you've experienced the musical illusions of this mercurial French magician, you will find yourself returning often to the place where he mesmerized you with his magic.

Recorded in the late 1970s - at the very pinnacle of the LP age - these performances are by far the most satisfying and convincing I've ever heard. All the musicians are French and they play as if their very lives depended on your positive response... which was overwhelmingly positive in my case! The recorded sound is rich and open (with just the right amount of hall acoustic) and wonderfully airy around the instruments; I just can't imagine a more appealing sound picture.

I have heard many other French ensembles attempt to interpret "passions" and "mannerisms" into this music that would have troubled and deeply saddened the composer, thereby misrepresenting that which they were trying to ennoble. NOT SO HERE! Yes, these are passionate performances to be sure, but tempered with respect and that all-important (and thoroughly tasteful) French musical intellect.

For the same reason that the old 19th Century French garden roses are still popular to this day, you will find these performances of Faure's heavenly chamber music tasting as magnificent as a Loire Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for many enjoyable years to come.

Warmly recommended!


Beethoven:  The Complete Piano Sonatas
Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas
Price: £39.33

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Overstepping the Boundries of Taste and Character, 5 Sep 2012
I do not intend to waste any more of your time on this veritable catastrophe than is absolutely necessary, but the Beethoven's Piano Sonatas are so close to my heart that I cannot allow such blatant disrespect for such beautiful music to go unchallenged.

First of all, when a pianist - any pianist! - implies in the liner notes of their "complete" Beethoven Sonatas that the two Op. 49 sonatas were omitted because "they don't count," I cannot but regard such incredible presumption as criminally unjust to those unfamiliar with this music. If you have not already heard Beethoven's Op. 49 sonatas, let me assure you that they are, in their Haydenesque charm and grace, simply marvellous beyond measure!

In the light of the above logic - propounded by that great Beethoven scholar, HJ Lim, all of 20-something years young! - why not commission a "complete" set of Beethoven's Symphonies... minus that understated and unnecessarily lyrical 6th Symphony... you know, to keep that "fresh, new vision" rolling?

EMI really needs to hang its head in shame for allowing such an atrocity!

And secondly - after suffering through 8 excerpts of these painfully crude and comic interpretations; I could not bear to hear more! - I can do no better to state my case against these heinous performances than to quote no less a Beethoven scholar than Alfred Brendel on the subject of the performer as classical music interpreter:

"If I belong to a tradition it is a tradition that makes the masterpiece tell the performer what he should do and not the performer telling the piece what it should be like, or the composer what he ought to have composed."

And finally:

"Every piece has a structure, but it also has its own character. Each piece has its own personality, with different qualities, capabilities and frailties, but there's a borderline that closes the character; outside that borderline, the character doesn't exist. The same applies to a piece of music. Within the borderlines there's a certain amount of freedom for the player, but if you don't recognize the borderlines, and overstep and ignore them, you misrepresent and falsify the piece."

No, there is no "right" way to play Beethoven, but there are such things as responsibility, respect and taste! Only purchase complete recordings of Beethoven's piano sonatas - unedited by presumptuous, self aggrandizing "artists" who have no authority to deny anyone the right to hear all of these masterpieces - and you cannot go far wrong. Profound respect for this music can be found in masterful performances by Brendel, Kempff and Gilels, but more adventurous listeners may want to consider Pollini, Barenboim or the marvellous ongoing cycle by Bavouzet as possible alternatives.


Szymanowski: Violin & Piano Music
Szymanowski: Violin & Piano Music
Price: £14.69

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Scintillating Szymanowski, 30 Aug 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Even though most (if not all) of the music presented on this shimmering disc cannot be well known to those who came to love classical music via Bach, Beethoven & Brahms, it struck me almost immediately WHY this music is so rarely performed: the technical and emotional difficulties involved in presenting even a passable performance of Szymanowski's music for piano and violin are simply staggering!

Yes, you must be a virtuoso, with irreproachable interpretive style and technique, but you must be so much more than that; you must be able to step outside yourself and look at this music from a "bird's-eye" perspective, darting this way and then that, landing only temporarily to find your bearings, and then off again around the next twisting and turning phrase that only carries you all the further away from yourself and what you thought was possible.

Sound impossible? For mere mortals, yes, but not for Ibragimova and Tiberghien!

If you have heard their traversal of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas (recorded LIVE, no less, at the Wigmore Hall in London) than you will know how fiercely talented these two relative newcomers are and how everything they seem to touch - from Beethoven to Ravel to Szymanowski - will make you declare, possibly even against your own will, that "I just heard this music for the very first time!"

In all fairness, this is not music for the faint of heart, very much in the vain of his countryman Chopin in that it is so unashamedly emotional. In fact, a great deal of this amazing music is hair-raising, but maybe not for the reasons you might think. Everyone and their Mother have been drilled from early childhood to keep their emotions in check, for "What would the world come to if everyone expressed themselves without sensible restraint?"

Szymanowski apparently missed that lecture - along with the two performers herewith - as you will not hear even one micro-second of music that did not originate in the very depths of his overly emotional Polish soul.

You can wait around... and hope that other more "well known" and "established" musicians take up this flaming torch... but THIS performance of THIS music will remain a milestone of the glory that is Szymanowski for many long years to come.

Beyond gorgeous, wonderfully scintillating and whole-heartedly recommended!


Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Vol 3 (Op 30 No 1, Op 12 No 3 & Op 47)
Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Vol 3 (Op 30 No 1, Op 12 No 3 & Op 47)
Price: £6.63

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intimate Pleasures that will Last You a Lifetime!, 27 Aug 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This will surely be a very short review and the reason for its brevity has everything to do with the simplicity of my response to all three of these magical recordings of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas: I cannot banish any of these performances from my mind anymore than I can remove them from my CD player...

...What a wonderful predicament!

With over 35 years of classical music experience behind me, I can assure you that such a reaction to even the finest recordings is exceedingly rare. Kempff & Menuhin were extraordinary... Ashkenazy & Perlman were sublime... Arrau & Grumiaux were incredible in every sense of the word... but these two relative newcomers have somehow managed to surpass ALL those who have gone before them... amazing!

These are impeccable and masterful live performances that sound for all the world like they were played by musicians with far greater life-experience than the "youngsters" in question. It warms my heart beyond measure that musicians of this quality are still coming out of nowhere to blast the notion that Classical Music is on its last leg. Balderdash, I say, and long may Ibragimova and Tiberghien astound us with their seemingly infinite variety, vast musical intelligence and sheer passion for the wondrous classical duo (their latest collaberations of violin and piano music by Szymanowsky and Ravel are no doubt equally superb).

In terms of sound quality, it is refreshingly up front and detailed for a live recording, with plenty of air and atmosphere around the instruments. The applause at the end of each sonata will not detract in the least from your listening experience in that you will most likely be joining in that applause with those very fortunate few who were present at Wigmore Hall on the night.

These are all uniquely satisfying and highly recommendable recordings that I suggest you hear as soon as humanly possible. And might I also suggest that you acquire a second CD player as extracting these CDs from my own player has proved to be undesirable in the extreme; intimate pleasures such as these were meant to last a lifetime!


Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Vol. 2 (Op 24, Op 12 No 2 & Op 96)
Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Vol. 2 (Op 24, Op 12 No 2 & Op 96)
Price: £6.63

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intimate Pleasures that will Last You a Lifetime!, 25 Aug 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This will surely be a very short review and the reason for its brevity has everything to do with the simplicity of my response to all three of these magical recordings of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas: I cannot banish any of these performances from my mind anymore than I can remove them from my CD player...

...What a wonderful predicament!

With over 35 years of classical music experience behind me, I can assure you that such a reaction to even the finest recordings is exceedingly rare. Kempff & Menuhin were extraordinary... Ashkenazy & Perlman were sublime... Arrau & Grumiaux were incredible in every sense of the word... but these two relative newcomers have somehow managed to surpass ALL those who have gone before them... amazing!

These are impeccable and masterful live performances that sound for all the world like they were played by musicians with far greater life-experience than the "youngsters" in question. It warms my heart beyond measure that musicians of this quality are still coming out of nowhere to blast the notion that Classical Music is on its last leg. Balderdash, I say, and long may Ibragimova and Tiberghien astound us with their seemingly infinite variety, vast musical intelligence and sheer passion for the wondrous classical duo (their latest collaberations of violin and piano music by Szymanowsky and Ravel are no doubt equally superb).

In terms of sound quality, it is refreshingly up front and detailed for a live recording, with plenty of air and atmosphere around the instruments. The applause at the end of each sonata will not detract in the least from your listening experience in that you will most likely be joining in that applause with those very fortunate few who were present at Wigmore Hall on the night.

These are all uniquely satisfying and highly recommendable recordings that I suggest you hear as soon as humanly possible. And might I also suggest that you acquire a second CD player as extracting these CDs from my own player has proved to be undesirable in the extreme; intimate pleasures such as these were meant to last a lifetime!


Chopin: The Nocturnes
Chopin: The Nocturnes
Price: £7.43

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old School Chopin alla Leonskaja, 18 Aug 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Chopin: The Nocturnes (Audio CD)
Elisabeth Leonskaja's reissued Chopin Nocturnes are - from first to last - unhurriedly beautiful in the grand romantic late 19th century style, more reminiscent of Rubinstein and Freire than Pires and Pollini, incorporating rather deliberate and expansive rubato that will not be to everyone's taste.

For example, the f-sharp minor Nocturne, Op. 15, No. 2, almost loses its "Chopinesque" way entirely and only just avoids morphing into something altogether Debussian! But this is an extreme example - and a very personal quibble - and should in no way dissuade you from adding this most remarkable (and inexpensive!) account of Chopin's Nocturnes to your collection.

I would not, however, recommend this recording to a first time Chopin Nocturne listener; the first recording I heard was Ashkenazy's on Decca from the early 1990s and although rather straight-forward and "by the book," they remain exceedingly accessible and hauntingly beautiful despite Decca's overly spacious acoustic.

A very strong 4½ stars for a fiendishly talented and intelligent pianist... that I completely missed in the early 90s! I have since heard a selection of her Schubert piano sonatas and I say, without reservations, that they are on an artistic and aesthetic par with Uchida and Brendel... that is to say, mightily impressive! Elisabeth Leonskaja - whose "old school" phrasing, pedalling and rubato remind me irresistibly of no less a pianistic giant than Sviatoslav Richter - needs to be completely rediscovered!


Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Volume 1 (Chandos: CHAN 10720(3))
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Volume 1 (Chandos: CHAN 10720(3))
Price: £24.65

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stylish and Refreshingly Imaginative Beethoven, 5 Aug 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I don't know why so many people have hesitated to buy this recording of Beethoven's first ten piano sonatas by the masterful French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (the first in a projected series of three admitedly pricy 3-disc-sets), but let me say without reservations that this is one of the best performances of Beethoven's early sonatas that I've heard in over 30 years!

Considering the competition in this repertoire - and to call it "massive" would be the mother of all understatements! - Bavouzet (who has been greatly praised for his recordings of Haydn, Debussy and Ravel) more than holds his own with the best of the best. Stylish and refreshingly imaginative playing is consistently accompanied by breathtakingly fearless technique.

My goodness! Just listen to the fire and self assurance that Bavouset unleashes with the first chords of the `Pathetique' sonata... and the fire only seems to build and spread as the sonata moves to its incendiary conclusion. Magnificent!

Chandos' recorded sounds is, as always, lush and detailed and simply smothered in a warm and creamy accoustic; "not the perfect sound-picture for Beethoven's sonatas," you may be thinking, but rest assured that it will simply win you over from first note to last.

My only thoughts after living with these remarkable recordings for over two months is how in the world is Bavouzet going to continue with the rest of his Beethoven cycle, maintaining the same level of enthusiasm, spontaneity and outright pianistic genius in the next 23 sonatas (just imagine the 'Waldstein' and 'Tempest' and 'Hammerklavier' sonatas in the hands of this inspired Frenchman!) and when, Mr. Bavouzet, may we expect the second instalment of your highly enjoyable cycle to be released?

It cannot be too soon!

UPDATE: 21.12.2013
To answer my own question, Volume 2 of this incredible series - containing the "Moonlight," "Tempest" and "Waldstein" sonatas (!) and the Andante favori, WoO 57 - will be released on the 6th of January, 2014. Mine is already pre-ordered... is yours? Don't miss it!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 13, 2014 10:53 AM BST


Vivaldi: Four Seasons & Concertos RV257, 376 & 211
Vivaldi: Four Seasons & Concertos RV257, 376 & 211
Price: £7.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Staggering Vivaldi!, 30 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Let me say at once that I truly love and adore Baroque music, but I'm not in the least enthusiastic about "authentic period" performances played on "authentic period" instruments.

The majority of such "authentic" offerings - from Bach to Beethoven - have always struck me as being hopelessly self-conscious, pretentious and exceedingly insecure. I am convinced that J. S. Bach would have loved the modern concert grand piano and after hearing this mighty instrument bring forth the glories of his Partitas, Suites and Keyboard Concertos, he would surely have set his harpsichord alight and danced around the pyre as the flames consumed the instrument of utter mediocrity (my deepest sympathies to those who still consider the harpsichord, the lute, or the Baroque viola suitable instruments for the 21st Century concert hall)...

...Or such was my fervent belief until I purchased - with some little trepidation - this "authentic period everything" recording of Vivaldi's undisputed 17th Century masterpiece. I can honestly say that I was shocked by my own reaction: Here, finally, was a truly sublime Baraoque period instrument performance that was completely devoid of insecure self-consciousness and high-born snobbery that simply seared its way into the depths of my heart and soul!

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is staggering stuff, flying straight in the face of 70 years of Vivaldi performance tradition. In the blink of an eye, I had to redefine ALL my cherished notions of what constituted a "proper" performance of Baroque music. To say that this performance lives and breathes and exudes swaggering self assurance is only the beginning; there's real life-blood here, red and pulsating, and a sound-world that will linger on in your mind until lesser "modern instrument" recordings seem to pale and wither by comparison.

To Carmignola & Company, I simply say, "I stand corrected!"

So, here's to thinking twice about obliterating our harpsichords and trampling our lutes and violas merrily underfoot. NAY, in the hands of such masterful musicians as these, and there is more than divine musical genius at work here, the violins and violas of the Baroque cannot help but rise again from the ashes of fiery neglect.

Fervently (if not feverishly) recommended!


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