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Gerhard P. Knapp "gpk" (Salt Lake City, UT, United States)
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Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 & 6 (Mariinsky Orchestra / Gergiev) [Blu-ray][Region Free]
Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 & 6 (Mariinsky Orchestra / Gergiev) [Blu-ray][Region Free]

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic performances, 15 Oct. 2011
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Yes, Tchaikovsky's music can be noisy, repetitive, even banal and sentimental in some passages, especially when it is not played "right" and without the proper feeling for its many layers of emotion, its surprisingly complex structures and its idiomatic syntax. When I approached Gergiev's set of the mature symphonies, my yardstick of excellence was the 1991 DVD Tchaikovsky Cycle by Vladimir Fedoseyev with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra (see my review). These are marvelous, idiomatic performances - though the video and audio are now somewhat dated - and I will return to them. Gergiev has the advantage of state-of-the-art audio and video. He also conducts one of the world's premier orchestras, the musicians on the tip of their collective toes during their tour, here captured in the acoustically benevolent Salle Pleyel in Paris. Gergiev's approach to the scores is free in the best sense: he uses frequent tempo shifts, a wide spectrum of sound from ppp to fff as well as much portamento, rubato, accelerando and diminuendo. He manages to bring off the Fourth (an uneven symphony) with passion and insight, lending it a stature rarely encountered in other performances. Both the Fifth and the Pathétique are poignantly felt, the former as an arduous, but ultimate affirmation of life, the latter in its shattering progression to final dark resignation. These are incredible, stunning and moving performances one must hear to appreciate. The interview with Gergiev shows him as an articulate, thoughtful musician who sheds new light on Tchaikovsky's music and the art of performance.


Chopin: Piano Concertos (Symphony In E Minor/ Chopin Piano Concertos/ Valse Brilliante) [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
Chopin: Piano Concertos (Symphony In E Minor/ Chopin Piano Concertos/ Valse Brilliante) [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Daniel Barenboim
Price: £19.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful fresh readings, 15 Oct. 2011
Hard on the heels of the excellent Warsaw 2010 Accentus production (the Chopin concertos with Demidenko, Kissin and Wit, see my review) comes Barenboim with the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Andris Nelsons in a live recording from the 2010 Ruhr Festival. A direct comparison is not productive, because the three soloists - each technically perfect and very much in tune with the music's idiom - display a radically different approach to the concertos: where Demidenko is thoughtful and introverted, Kissin temperamental and overwhelmingly brilliant, Barenboim appears to be exploring the spirit of these scores anew in an almost searching way. He can be ham-fisted and hard- hitting (see his DVD recording of the Beethoven concertos), but certainly not in his approach to Chopin which is refined and sensitive to every nuance. His performances are fresh and unique and I will return to them often. The Staatskapelle under the baton of the inspired and enthusiastic Nelsons marvelously supports him every step of the way. The Haydn E minor symphony is a nice filler and played very well. The video is very good. As to the audio, I can not quite agree with John R. Springer. I find the (stereo) soundtrack more than acceptable and fairly free from distortion, though not among today's best. If you love Chopin, get this disk.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 21, 2012 2:28 PM BST


David Fray Records Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 22, 25 [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
David Fray Records Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 22, 25 [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ David Fray
Price: £7.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous Mozart, 16 Jun. 2011
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The phenomenally talented young French pianist David Fray has given these two Mozart concertos much thought. It is illuminating to watch him in rehearsal with Jaap van Zweden, so far unknown to me as a Mozart conductor. Van Zweden has produced a remarkable cycle of Beethoven symphonies with the Den Haag Residentie Orchestra (2003), and he excels here as a first-rank Mozart interpreter and sympathetic, unflappable accompanist with a highly responsive - rejuvenated - and spirited Philharmonia Orchestra. The collaboration is felicitous and the results are wonderful: you get not only the rehearsal excerpts, but also the complete recordings (in the famous Abbey Road studios in London in 2010 in excellent sound and film) of these festive concertos. Needless to say: Fray's readings are technically stunning as well as deeply felt, nuanced and thoughtful in every note. He easily outclasses most other contemporary Mozart pianists. After listening many times to this disk (and its companion piece with the Bach concertos and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen), I can only hope that Fray and van Zweden will give us more of the later Mozart concertos.


Beethoven: Jurowski (Coriolan Overture/ Symphony Nos.4/ 7) [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
Beethoven: Jurowski (Coriolan Overture/ Symphony Nos.4/ 7) [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment
Offered by KAOZI168 Classical_ ''Dispatch within 1 day to the world ''
Price: £15.00

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful period Beethoven, 14 Jun. 2011
From the very first bars of the Coriolan Overture, it is apparent that this is Beethoven at his very best. Vladimir Jurowski and his absolutely brilliant Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment give us a new reading of old favorites that may well blow you out of your chair. There is plenty to discover: sounds and textures never heard before, an orchestral timbre as the composer himself may have envisaged and heard, incredible strength and cohesion and, on the other hand, sensitive nuances that often disappear under a blanket of massed strings in more traditional interpretations. Listen to the period woodwinds, the valveless trumpets and horns, the timpani actually striking the music's beat! Enough. As the interpretations go, all three are glorious and fully in tune with the respective works. In the symphonies, Jurowski lovingly takes his time with the first two movements to press on rather relentlessly in the final movements. Believe me: it works. Sound and video of the 2010 recording are great and the Paris audience in the beautiful Théatre des Champs-Elysées is rightly bowled over. Do not miss this disk.


Joshua Bell Nobel Prize Concert [DVD] [2011]
Joshua Bell Nobel Prize Concert [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Joshua Bell
Price: £19.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb in every respect, 14 Jun. 2011
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For many listeners, Joshua Bell may be the main attraction on this disk. And he is very, very good indeed. This is a highly charged "romantic" reading of the Tchaikovsky concerto, portamenti galore, high gloss and all. If you seek the depth and desperation, the poignant melancholy in Tchaikovsky's music, this may not be for you. In itself, however, it is absolutely irresistible and very deserving of the standing ovation, even from the Swedish Royal family. The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra -- a world-class ensemble -- and the Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo give perfect support to Bell. Both the flanking works, the third Leonore Overture (with valveless period trumpets!) and the Sibelius Fifth are exceptional in every respect. The Beethoven is heaven storming and finely shaded in its various moods and dynamics, the Sibelius symphony stunningly powerful and idiomatic: for me the high point of the concert. It brings to mind long gone great LP interpretations of Alexander Gibson et al. You can find no better reading of this symphony in any medium today. Outstanding audio and video as well as interviews with Bell and Oramo make this a first choice of the season.


Mahler: Pierre Boulez (Des Knaben Wunderhorn/ |Adagio From Symphony No. 10) [DVD] [2011]
Mahler: Pierre Boulez (Des Knaben Wunderhorn/ |Adagio From Symphony No. 10) [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Magdalena Koená
Price: £19.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Adagio, joyful Wunderhorn, 14 Jun. 2011
To my regret, Pierre Boulez eschews any of the various "performing versions" of Mahler's Tenth. I am sure he, like other conductors, has his good reasons. Still, and especially after hearing what he does to the first movement with the superb Clevelanders, I feel quite deprived of the symphony's rest. This is the most breath-taking reading of the Adagio one could imagine: searing, utterly moving, multi-layered in the different string sections, heart-rending in the quiet moments and other-worldly at the end. Enough said: you must hear it in order to believe it! In comparison, the early songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (after a collection of romantic folk poems by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano) are entertaining, light fare, a testament to Mahler's youthful infatuation with German Romanticism. They are brought off with great gusto by the fine soloists and the brilliant Clevelanders with minimal directions from Boulez. Sound and video are perfect. An impressive interview with Pierre Boulez is included. This disk is a treasure, not only for Mahlerians.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 15, 2013 1:17 AM GMT


Bruckner: Symphony No.8 [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
Bruckner: Symphony No.8 [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Bruckner
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bruckner par excellence, 24 May 2011
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Franz Welser-Möst's Cleveland Bruckner series continues with a majestic recording of the Eighth, captured in splendid sound and video in Severance Hall and based on the second (1887) Leopold Nowak edition. The latter is unusual in itself, as most modern performances use either the Robert Haas or the earlier Nowak edition with cuts and drastic changes in the orchestration. Thus, Welser-Möst's choice restores the score in all its glory of 90 minutes duration as close as possible to the composer's intentions. And a glorious performance it is! Welser-Möst is perhaps the greatest living Bruckner interpreter alongside Christian Thielemann. For Welser-Möst, Bruckner clearly is his heart and soul. When you sit down with this disk, be prepared to spend the next ninety minutes in rapt attention, as the Cleveland audience does. This is Bruckner par excellence, with ideal tempi, an uncanny attention to detail as well as to the multiple dynamic shades, the different layers of expression and the whole spectrum of emotions from the mysterious through the spiritually sublime to the ultimate confrontation with death.


Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 13 And 20 [DVD] [2006]
Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 13 And 20 [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Mitsuko Uchida
Price: £15.67

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem, 22 May 2011
This Salzburg 2001 recording of two Mozart piano concertos in brilliant sound and film is a gem. Mitsuko Uchida is at her best: her stunning technique is complemented, even surpassed, by her deep understanding of the music's spirit. The C major concerto K. 415 is a festive, ceremonial affair with trumpets and drums, full of innovative twists that foreshadow the later Mozart and perhaps even the early Beethoven. Uchida brings it off lovingly with great bravura. In the D minor concerto K. 466 - my favorite of the whole Mozart series - her emotional range from the dark and tempestuous to the sublime is overwhelming. Mitsuko Uchida is no conductor. Still, she holds her own in setting the mood and inspiring the excellent Camerata Salzburg. The fabulous concert-mistress Natalee Chee (who should have been on the podium) discretely and effectively directs the proceedings, and the end result is just wonderful. We are quite fortunate to have three outstanding performances of the D minor on DVD: Uchidas extraverted, proto-romantic and emotionally charged one, Andras Schiff's more introspective, "classicist" and structure-conscious rendition, and the brilliant, sparkling, spontaneous one by Stefan Vladar who takes the concerto (with beautiful ornamentations) rather as a Storm-and-Stress piece. Only Vladar is supported by a real conductor, the great Hartmut Haenchen (see my respective reviews). If you love the piece as I do, get all three. The fourth DVD version with Ivan Klansky and Jiri Belohlavek, fine as it is, sadly never catches fire.


Gergiev Conducts Brahms (Ein Deutsches Requiem) [DVD] [NTSC]
Gergiev Conducts Brahms (Ein Deutsches Requiem) [DVD] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Swedish Radio Choir
Price: £14.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 17 April 2011
Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem has never quite enjoyed the same wide audience appeal as some of its more spectacular Latin counterparts of the nineteenth century, in particular Berlioz', Verdi's and Dvorak's requiem mass settings. This could be due in part to the German Lutheran biblical texts which may appear unorthodox for a requiem mass, in part to the work itself and its predominantly elegiac or serene, rather than "dramatic" voice. There are, however, many sublime moments in the score as well as surprising underlying strength that can be revealed in an inspired rendition (listen to Gardiner or Norrington on CD). On DVD, the work has not fared well so far. Abbado's version (recorded in 1977) with the Berliner Philharmoniker--who are still very much in tune with Karajan's homogenized and blended sound--has never moved me much. For me, it is devotional to the point of monochrome: no sharp edges here, no subtexts of angst, no grit, and the forceful passages are mostly leveled. I find it altogether too mellow to hold my attention. In contrast, Gergiev and his excellent Rotterdam players, combined with the Swedish Radio Choir (as in Abbado's recording) and two outstanding soloists for their respective brief parts, perform an entirely different work. In perfect audio and video--both thanks to the beautiful Doelen Concert Hall and a top-notch recording team--we participate in an extraordinary musical event. I have never before seen or heard Gergiev's work at Rotterdam, and I am stunned by the result. The timings are rather conventional (total time: 79:20), but the inner dynamics within movements and in relation to the entire work are highly individual: every note is given its due value, there is an enormous expressive range between pianissimo and fortissimo, and the emotional spectrum of the work is fully explored. There is exuberant joy at the end of the frightful second movement, there is hope and light next to darkness, fear and despair, and the whole work is interwoven with the leitmotifs of faith and consolation. All this and more is revealed in Gergiev's 2008 interpretation. The Rotterdam musicians, each one a soloist in his/her own right, play with enthusiasm and the Choir members sing equally well. In the end, Gergiev stands visibly moved by this collective achievement. I can not recommend this great recording strongly enough.


The Berlin Philharmoniker in Tokyo (2011) [DVD]  [NTSC]
The Berlin Philharmoniker in Tokyo (2011) [DVD] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Hilary Hahn, Mariss Jansons Berliner Philharmoniker
Price: £21.15

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Dvorak Eight, 5 April 2011
This live recording dates from 2000 and was made in the Tokyo Suntory Hall in excellent video and uncompressed (Stereo) sound. If you like the program, it is a clear winner. My minor, subjective quibbles concern the selection of works. The lightweight Oberon overture is not particularly memorable. Neither is the Shostakovich First Violin Concerto, which, with the exception of the third movement, betrays a certain lack of musical substance. As a friend of mine would say: I can take it or leave it. Regardless, Hilary Hahn plays it brilliantly, passionately and with great panache and makes me want to hear it again. Her virtuosity is utterly phenomenal. For me, however, the real treasure here is the Dvorak Eight: a glowing, idiomatic, strikingly dramatic and thoroughly musical performance reminiscent of the best efforts of the great Czech maestros and orchestras. It is liltingly beautiful and certainly outshines by far Petr Altrichters reading in the otherwise remarkable Arthaus Antonin Dvorak Cycle (see my review). The great Mariss Jansons transports the often brittle, self-conscious and highly drilled Berliners into a different sphere of smiling music making: no small feat indeed. You will not be disappointed: this is perhaps the best recent Dvorak Eight available in any medium.


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