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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Unreservedly Excellent
Four items make this a must-have. The first is Josh Groban singing the classic "Anthem", where, as the Russian chess champion, he avows his love for his homeland. As the Russian's discarded wife, Svetlana, Kerry Ellis turns in an awesome, heartfelt nailing of "Someone Else's Story." Then there's "The Story of Chess", where the chorus brilliantly performed Tim Rice's...
Published on 11 Jun 2009 by Anonymous

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice, could be much better
This version has some interesting aspects: the story is easy to follow, some really nice in-between songs are finally recorded and most of the singing is really good.
However: Josh Groban may have a brilliant voice, but is too classical for the more uptempo songs he has to sing. Good, but he's no Tommy Korberg from the original version (and the Swedish production...
Published on 31 July 2009 by J. Alberda


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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Unreservedly Excellent, 11 Jun 2009
This review is from: Chess In Concert (Audio CD)
Four items make this a must-have. The first is Josh Groban singing the classic "Anthem", where, as the Russian chess champion, he avows his love for his homeland. As the Russian's discarded wife, Svetlana, Kerry Ellis turns in an awesome, heartfelt nailing of "Someone Else's Story." Then there's "The Story of Chess", where the chorus brilliantly performed Tim Rice's witty take on the evolution of chess. Finally, the Quartet, where Florence (Idina Menzel), the Russian Anatoly, his minder Molokov and the Arbiter deplore how chess has sunk from "a model of decorum and tranquillity" to a battleground where people "slug it out with glee."

I was lucky enough to witness this superb 21st Anniversary concert production in the Royal Albert Hall, London, last year. The story is not entirely gripping - love, betrayal, - but the subject is fascinating: Cold War and Chess. The songs are uniformly outstanding.

As to the cast, Groban was a revelation: a brilliant actor as well as singer. As Florence, Idina Menzel, although superb in Wicked (2003 Original Broadway Cast), was too strident for my taste, lacking subtlety and roundness in acting. David Bedella, wonderful in Jerry Springer: the Opera, was a great, sinister Molokov. Marti Pellow (of pop group Wet Wet Wet) was a disappointment as the Arbiter, a little under-performed I felt.

Rice's lyrics are trenchant, tender, intelligent, witty. The music, by Benny and Bjorn of ABBA, is a perfect rock score, conveying all the emotions and tensions necessary and fully matching the lyrics.

In the main, this is a superb production of a classic and underestimated musical.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars checkmate for chess?, 30 Jun 2009
By 
D. Jones "Tink" (Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Chess In Concert (Audio CD)
This recording had the oppurtunity to be the best recording of 'Chess' yet. I'm not sure it is that, however.
The wonderful score and lyrics sound truly amazing and the concert boasted some strong cast members; such as Josh Groban as the Russian, his voice soaring and rich; Kerry Ellis, as Svetlana, whose smooth vocals are by far the best of the women on the album; Adam Pascal delivers a confident and seemingly effortless performance as the American, whose part is notoriously difficult for most tenors.
The album unfortunately suffers from some weaker performances; Marti Pellow as the Arbiter sometimes suffers as being underwhelming at times, though perhaps this is just a rather different take to a somewhat unusual character. But by far the weakest link is Idina Menzel who is terribly mis-cast as Florence. Her vocals in the higher registers sound strained and quite shouty. Her acting is quite one-dimensional also and, with her character having the most to sing, her weakness as a performer is glaringly obvious here where her diction is hard to make out and even whole words are missing! Menzel has a particular way of bending phrases and her timing often ruins some her numbers; her performance in 'I Know Him So Well' is probably the most glaring where it seems she's simply anxious to finish way ahead of the orchestra at times. 'Heaven Help My Heart' is another example.
The supporting cast, however, are strong; especially David Bedella, as Molokov, giving a delicious performance with husky vocals both strong and resonant.
The album also sadly suffers from some unusual editing choices; the number 'Florence and Molokov', expositionally important if nothing else, has been left off the album (despite the title still appearing on the cd) and an awkward cut directly to '1956 Budapest is Rising' is made.
I'm sure many fans have been waiting for THE 'Chess' album, but I think we'll have to wait a little while longer...
Still, all said, it is always good to see 'Chess' back in the public eye and things could have been far worse - the concert could have been based on the awful Broadway version!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars chess in concert., 10 Jan 2014
This review is from: Chess In Concert (Audio CD)
I bought Chess in Concert for my Husband who was an original, regular, West End Chess goer. He saw the production 20 times. He was completely blown away by this video. He reckoned it far outweighed the original. The production was incredible, clarity and sound amazing. HE THOUGHT FLORENCE WAS BRILLIANT. after reading the reviews I was nearly put off purchasing this item. I am so very happy with the purchase. for the man who has got everything this is classed as the best gift ever!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chess in Concert, 20 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Chess In Concert (Audio CD)
This might have been 5 stars had it not been for the leading ladies. Sorry but both Ms Mendel and Ms Ellis have nasal voices that just grate on me and both Elaine Paige and Judy Kuhn (Florence) and Barbara Dickson (Svetlana) from the original West End and Broadway recordings are far better. But I suppose you can't have everything. What I wanted was the complete score not a selection, and this gives you that. Great chorus work too!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Benny/Bjorn & Tim deserve more credit for this Masterpiece, 19 Oct 2009
By 
Mr. A. Crawford "Crawfty" (Belfast N.I.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Chess In Concert (Audio CD)
I got both the CD & DVD of Chess In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall & after 25 years it has matured with age. All performers should be congratulated, The soloists, choir, orchestra & graphics to me were fantastic. I think Anthem is the best piece of music that Benny & Bjorn ever wrote, it is so powerful & always sends shivers down my spine.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Nice, could be much better, 31 July 2009
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J. Alberda (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Chess In Concert (Audio CD)
This version has some interesting aspects: the story is easy to follow, some really nice in-between songs are finally recorded and most of the singing is really good.
However: Josh Groban may have a brilliant voice, but is too classical for the more uptempo songs he has to sing. Good, but he's no Tommy Korberg from the original version (and the Swedish production "Chess in Concert") who can do both Anthem and the rock-numbers.
Idina Menzel has some nice moments as Florence. But too often she falls short. A few songs are clearly not in her natural range, and she can't keep up with Josh Groban. At times, she is nearly screaming, instead of singing. Not so good at succesfully carrying really long notes as well. She doesn't ruin the whole CD, but at times she gets close.

Still, with all the new musical pieces and a lot of good singing, it is a worthwhile addition.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a shame, 25 Sep 2009
This review is from: Chess In Concert (Audio CD)
I've been a fan of Chess ever since I saw the West End production with Anthony Head playing the American. I heard Tim Rice giving this version a plug on the radio a few days before it was released and thought, by what he said, that it would be superb.

Sadly, I thought it was ruined by the shrieking and tortured vocals of Idina Menzel as Florence. (I'm listening to it as I write this review and on 'You and I' she sounds like Minnie Mouse). The male parts were pretty well rendered (although the phrasing on 'One Night in Bangkok' wasn't great) and the chorus was excellent.

I haven't seen the DVD, so maybe the whole ambience of the live performance doesn't come across properly, which is a shame. On the whole though this simply isn't good enough. Compare it with the live anniversary concert of Les Mis and it's easy to see what it could have been - but it's nowhere near.

If I could have given this 0 stars - I would have.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alas...still not the definitive version, 4 Aug 2009
By 
amcarn15 "amcarn15" (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Chess In Concert (Audio CD)
I own all the official recordings of Chess...in sequential order...Original 1984 Concept Album, Broadway Cast, 1994 Gothenburg Concert, 2001 Danish Cast, 2002 Swedish Cast...and was hugely excited about this release. I suppose mainly for the fact that it included the rare tracks "Commie Newspapers", "Press Conference", "One More Opponent" etc. which were removed from the original Danish release - now deleted. (Although I have finally just found a copy of the deleted complete Danish recording).

So much of this recording should have blown the socks off all the others, but sadly where it succeeds in a few places it hugely disappoints in others. However, to review this Royal Albert Hall concert it's impossible not to compare it with the others.

The success of any recording of Chess largely depends on the three principals. Not surprisingly, the strongest trio of all is the Swedish Cast. I know the fact that the recording is in a foreign language may put people off but believe me there is no better recorded Florence than Helen Sjöholm. Even in Swedish you are hit by the full extent of her emotive singing. Anders Ekborg is a stunning Freddie, coping admirably with the demands of the role whilst Tommy Korberg cements his role of Anatoly in his third recording; the years having hardly touched his voice. You simply cannot better these three and it's a huge regret that they didn't record an English version - although you can find Sjöholm singing "Someone Else's Story" in English on YouTube.

So the good points about the RAH concert...
The recording boasts the very best start to "Endgame: the chorus of the past masters". Listen to this with the volume up full, it's amazing! The CD is worth it for that alone. Generally, the chorus work on "Merano", "Merchandisers" etc. is stunning and it's fantastic to hear such a large choir. David Bedella turns in the best recorded Molokov period - even outshining Denis Quilley on the concept album. Kerry Ellis gives a fantastic portrayal of Svetlana and sings "Someone Else's Story" very well indeed - although I do prefer Judy Kuhn's take on the Broadway Cast. So the 3 principals: Adam Pascal is definitely the best English speaking Freddie, the right level of petulance, strong control and a very touching rendition of "Pity The Child". Josh Groban does his best, sometimes producing beautiful tone and it's hard to decide whether he is better or worse than Stig Rossen on the Danish Cast. It's true he improves as the concert carries on but there is some emotional depth lacking but he can't match Korberg. As Florence, Idina Menzel is a huge disappointment. As others have argued more eloquently, it just doesn't work. This is nothing against Ms Menzel per se, it's just that she doesn't have a voice naturally suited to the role. She is too shrieky and yet lacks power; far better to listen to Emma Kershaw on the Danish Cast. Also Menzel and Groban don't have a great rapport, the voices don't gel well together. And strange that they reverted to the awful amateurish Broadway lyrics for "You And I (reprise)"

So in my order of preference:
1. Swedish Cast - best trio of principals, and some interesting and moving changes to the score - watch the DVD, the stage production is brilliant.
2. Danish cast - even if you can't get the deleted version, the re-release is almost the entire London production.
3. Royal Albert Hall - mainly for completeness, David Bedella, Adam Pascal and the Chess Masters Intro
4. Original Concept Album - Paige and Korberg nailing the roles.
5. 1994 Gothenburg Cast - awful histrionics from Anders Glenmark, but Korberg is fantastic, and Karin Glenmark (Florence) sings the [] out of it. Also a great encore of "Merano" but terrible supporting performances.
6. Broadway Cast - only for Judy Kuhn; a terribly mangled version of a fantastic score.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been great - ruined by Idina Menzel, 19 Jun 2009
By 
S. P. Long "Simon Long" (Cambridge) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Chess In Concert (Audio CD)
I've been a fan of Chess for years, and I own pretty much every official recording of the various productions worldwide - I couldn't pass up the chance to hear a new one!

There are numerous different versions of the production, and this one is pretty much the definitive track listing - as per the Danish Complete Cast recording that came out a few years ago (now sadly deleted), this is all the songs from the original West End version in the right order, with the addition of the excellent "Someone Else's Story" from the Broadway production. So it's pretty much all of Chess, which is good.

The recording quality is ok, although I think it suffers slightly from being a live recording, as there is the odd bit of sibilance on some vocals. I'm probably nitpicking here, though.

The performances are in general very good, with one significant exception. Josh Groban and Adam Pascal are both very good as Anatoly and Freddy, and the supporting players also put in creditable performances.

However, the whole thing is completely ruined, for me, by Idina Menzel's massacring of the role of Florence. Her voice is dreadful - weak, shrill and strident, with an unpleasant country-and-western twang in places. She is out of tune on occasion, and even misses out syllables from the lyrics whenever she feels like it. OK, she's got big shoes to fill in a role that Elaine Paige made her own on the original recording, but Menzel's performance is a travesty, and it sets my teeth on edge whenever she appears. Given that several of the set pieces in Chess are performed by Florence ("Nobody's Side", "Heaven Help My Heart" etc), this is a key role, and Menzel simply isn't good enough for the part.

A real shame - with a decent singer in the role of Florence, this could have been the definitive version of Chess. As it is, it is hard to recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Chess wherever I go", 26 May 2013
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This review is from: Chess In Concert (Audio CD)
Having been completely knocked-out by the DVD version, I just had to have it on CD as well. Now I can hear it wherever I go. Come on you three chaps... how about a film version?
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