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B.D.A "Ohrenöffner" (Cologne, Germany)

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Handel: Semele [Blu-ray] [2009]
Handel: Semele [Blu-ray] [2009]
Dvd ~ Cecilia Bartoli
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £15.95

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a good production let down by the casting, 26 Jan. 2010
Having seen the production twice at the ENO in London (with Rosemary Joshua and Carolyn Sampson in the title role), I was looking forward to finally having it on DVD.

Frankly overall it was a bit of a let-down, as mentioned by other reviewers, the casting leaves one a bit underwhelmed. The singers' diction and pronounciation varies, which slightly imparts the fun on the production.

Cecilia Bartoli is, in my view, no natural handelian. She does a lot of huffing and puffing and even though the tone itself is attractive, the singing is too mannared and self-conscious to give real pleasure - she strikes a sympathetic figure on stage but her character comes off as too matronly. I wonder if she would not have been more suited to sing Juno, had she stayed in the mezzo repertoire rather than rebranding herself as a 'soprano'...

Likewise Birgit Remmert (towering over Bartoli in height) looks good on stage but her singing is missing a bit in style, leaving her character sounding anonymous. And as the staging gives her many hilarious moments, she is better seen than heard.

The secondary roles are mostly competently sung but there is noone to write home about.

That leaves Charles Workman, who stands out in the cast, being the only one sounding in style and presenting a credible Jupiter.

William Christie's conducting is very pointed and gives lots of pleasure, but this being an opera and not an instrumental work, he cannot disguise the shortcomings of some of the singers.

I fully agree that this would have been an outright winner if they had released the 'original' version with Rosemary Joshua - but then from the marketing and even the cover this is branded as a Bartoli project and as that not entirely successful. To be enjoyed to see a partly hilarious production, but if you want it well sung, one has to look elsewhere for most of the part!

Lorraine at Emmanuel: Bach Cantatas / Handel Arias
Lorraine at Emmanuel: Bach Cantatas / Handel Arias
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £14.29

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a singer to cherish, 18 Jun. 2008
as with her bach (ASIN: B0000AOVTI) and handel (ASIN: B00022LZW8) recitals, the late (and very much lamented) lorraine hunt lieberson reaches heights in interpretation here that go beyond singing, one can really speak of identification. captured in live recordings of items she has not recorded elsewhere (two bach arias and most of the role of dejanira from handels hercules), this is singing that not only moves the heart but captures the soul of the music. perfectly partnered by the orchestra of emmanuel music (where she started off as a viola player!), it is an experience profoundly moving. one can only hope that there will be more live recordings to emerge in the coming years, as sadly mrs hunt lieberson passed away two years ago and this cd only shows us once again what a wealth of talent the world has lost...

Bach: St.Matthew Passion
Bach: St.Matthew Passion
Price: £12.44

18 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars bach in slow motion, 22 Sept. 2007
having admired some of klemperer's recordings (his fidelio is stellar!) i was tempted by this st matthew passion, but after hearing it it seems - at least in my opinion - that the 'good old days' weren't always so good. over the last 30 years our ears have been retrained into period practices for this kind of music, and klemperer's approach just will not do. this is not bach but it is brahms and wagner disguised as bach ...

the tempi are so slow that i found it partly annoying (for instance a drawn out 'mache dich mein herze rein', not even walter berry's suave singing can save the day as the orchestra just drags on and on and on). i did not see any spirituality in it and it did not move me. the chorus is huge and bombastic which renders the chorales unbearably heavy. obviously the orchestra plays very well but not in a style appropriate to the music - at least not to my ears...

the singers are a mixed lot too - elisabeth schwarzkopf was in late career mode, which means that all she did was art but little of it was pure singing, sometimes it seems as if she is meowing her way through the music (don't get me wrong, she possessed a magnificent voice and up to the mid 50's her recordings are often great but after that point she overdid the artistry and became too mannered). bach needs heartfelt simplicity and no artistic overkill. christa ludwig is magnificent but she could have been even better in a better surrounding. ditto walter berry. fischer-diskau is fischer-diskau but his jesus is definately a man of statue...

to sum it up ... this st matthew passion is an experience, but certainly one i don't want to experience again. for me bach needs to be crisp as to convery a spiritual mission, but klemperer's 'vision' is too sticky for my taste. i know that i will probably divide opinion on this, but after all this is my view. i am not saying that this version is bad, it is just not a version i would recommend listening to more than once...
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 26, 2011 4:04 PM BST

Strauss - Four Last Songs 12 Orchestral Songs
Strauss - Four Last Songs 12 Orchestral Songs

34 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars maybe a classic ... but an intrusively mannered one!, 8 Jun. 2004
what to add to this recording that hasn't been written already? it has been hyped as probably THE recording of the four last songs ever since its initial release ... an opinion i strongly disagree with. true, szell and his orchestra weave the most delicate textures and its hard to fault them on that account - but i find it hard to be moved either. elisabeth schwarzkopf seems to be a 'monstre sacree' nowadays (i mean this ironic!), where criticism feels like starting a feud. on her account i have to say that she is more artist than an artist can ever hope to be, but i often find myself wondering where the singer is behind all the interpretation! i do adore the young schwarzkopf (mid 1940's up to the mid to late 1950's ... probably with around 1958 the breaking point) and her earlier recording of the four last songs under ackermann is truly magical. but by the mid 60's her singing was all about art and not so much about music anymore. her inflections, even if carefully weighed, can seem mannered in a way that defeats the flow of the music itself - and the strange colouration of the vowels will always be an acquired taste. to sum it up, in this version it all seems coldly calculated and presented but not lived. it's pretty (and frau legge can still float a gorgeous line ... but sometimes her cooing comes close to cats meowing as well!) but in a synthesized way, where the emotion is fake and not real.
if you want a really great recording of the four last songs, go for della casa, isokowski, norman, janowitz, fleming or mattila ... or indeed jurinac (although one has to get used to very dimn orchestral accompaniment), or if it has to be schwarzkopf (and in general schwarzkopf is a good choice!) then do choose the earlier version under ackermann!

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