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Profile for N. E. M. Goulder > Reviews

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N. E. M. Goulder (Saffron Walden, England)

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A Handful Of Dust [1988] [DVD]
A Handful Of Dust [1988] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jackson Kyle
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £15.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite evocation of a tragic facet of Edwardianism, 3 Mar. 2016
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This is a pretty exquisite evocation of Evelyn Waugh's early novel of the same name. Scott Thomas and Wilby both put in quite outstanding performances, and Alec Guinness' chilling contribution, although only starting late in the film, is simply brilliant. The selection of locations for virtually every scene is in impeccably appropriate taste. The only wrinkle that I would have liked to have seen brought out in slightly sharper focus is the fact that Judy Dench (as the mother of Beaver, wonderfully played by Rupert Graves) has actually manipulated the entire catastrophe that unfolds upon Tony Last (Wilby), and has done so in complete cynicism: no criticism of Dench, but the screenplay and cutting leave this point (which actually is at the heart of Waugh's personal despair) a little too easily to be missed.
But it's undoubtedly a classic and not to be missed on any account. Hugely recommended.


The Erato Recordings - Pierre Boulez
The Erato Recordings - Pierre Boulez
Price: £25.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating., 5 Jun. 2015
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Fascinating. The survey here shows the exact collision between the commercial reality as to what would be economic for Erato to produce, and Boulez' most favoured interests in twentieth century music in the 1980s/90s. The professionalism behind both the performances and the production was always very high here, and the sound remains seriously impressive, even in huge orchestral expanses like the Schoenberg Pelleas. There is a wealth of interest on pretty much every disc - the Messiaen Et Exspecto is a complete classic, wonderfully and blazingly well done, and the three discs of Boulez's own music carry particular authority, but I am delighted to fill a gap with especially the Carter disc too. Patrice Chereau's voice makes an unexpected but delightful cameo in the Histoire du Soldat.
Many people will already have two or three of the discs here (I may have more than that) but the collection of fourteen is available at such a ridiculously cheap price that you should not hesitate.


The Hugo Wolf Edition (1931-38)
The Hugo Wolf Edition (1931-38)

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't recommend too highly, 5 Mar. 2015
This is a complete classic. The sound is astonishingly good for the period. The insight into the artistry of the 1930s is quite outstanding. The set is worth buying to hear Elena Gerhardt alone - imperious command of every breath and every emotion, an awesome sense of professional commitment combined with peerless technique, delivered with flawless confidence. Herbert Jansson, Karl Erb and Alexander Kipniss all deliver wonderful contributions. The songs are grouped intelligently. Really this is an exceptional document. I bought the vinyls in the 1980s (much too young to remember the originals coming out over 80 years ago) and they continue to be a treasure. I really wonder whether these songs have been better recorded as regards the performers' attitude to the music. I have a fair collection of Wolf: closest perhaps would be Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, who did a lovely version of the Spanisches Liederbuch with Dieskau and Moore. In more recent years Dieskau's Wolf efforts were tainted by being over-acted.
So a very strong recommendation, although the sound quality may deter listeners who get concerned about anything less than 21st century quality.


Berg: Lulu (Barbara Hannigan / Natascha Petrinsky / Tom Randle/Orchestre symphonique de la Monnaie / Paul Daniel) [DVD] [2014]
Berg: Lulu (Barbara Hannigan / Natascha Petrinsky / Tom Randle/Orchestre symphonique de la Monnaie / Paul Daniel) [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Barbara Hannigan
Price: £24.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So nearly so amazing, 3 Feb. 2015
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My initial response to this was of the highest astonishment, that Barbara Hannigan could do so much to transport herself into Lulu's persona, to sing so remarkably, and even to dance en pointe. I was also deeply impressed with Warlikowski's exceptional talent at weaving ballet movement into the opera, and at his skill in counterpointing the child in Lulu (both in the person of a child ballerina and in the context of a disturbed orphanage at the back of the stage) with the grown up action.

My disappointment came with the arrival of Jack the Ripper, costumed as a mature joker and moving across the stage with suave and gentle body language. Those qualities form the antithesis of the true Ripper character. He walks dreamily, dagger raised, towards Lulu, almost cheerful and as though in a trance, before somehow fitting in the thrust that is required. It's hard to see what Warlikowski is trying to achieve with this - if it casts Lulu as meekly welcoming her death, that's clearly a sentimental delusion that would have appalled Berg. I am left disoriented as to why Warlikowski would so wantonly wreck the emotional climax of this gritty and disturbing opera.

The vocal contributions are excellent; the orchestral parts are poorly recorded and you often long for Berg's searing, lyrical lines (when he permits himself that luxury, which is not so often) to power through. Alwa and Geschwitz of course have the best music and Paul Daniel gives each of them space to sing their lines as melodies. Tom Randle is superb as the Artist. The casting of Dr Schön and Alwa feels problematic all through, as the ages of the singers belie the father-and-son relationship of the parts, but I could overlook that. Hannigan contributes a wonderful open-hearted note to describe her phenomenal commitment here. She is just fabulous. I have hopes that she will do this even better quite soon.


Galina Ustvolskaya: Trio, Sonata, Duet
Galina Ustvolskaya: Trio, Sonata, Duet
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £12.15

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sharp edges but excellently done, 13 Nov. 2014
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This is rather spiky stuff, perhaps a rather good response to the terrible regime under which it was composed. I got to know Ustvolskaya with a brave disc of her six piano sonatas - they, if anything, are even more uncompromising than the chamber works here. I have a slight suspicion that she never really matured as a composer - the writing too often gets bogged down in a single manner of creation - and another slight suspicion that we take extra notice of her because of the special relationship that she had with Dmitri Shostakovich. I don't hear a lot of his teaching coming through here - the sound is closer to Xenakis and Ruggles, although it's rooted in contrapuntal thinking. But if you have an appetite for hearing new approaches to composition, give it a try. I really commend the three soloists here, who make a bold and strong case for the music - chapeau to all three. And the production is first class.


Bach, J.S.: Art of Fugue
Bach, J.S.: Art of Fugue
Price: £8.29

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 13 Nov. 2014
I recently spent much time studying three versions of the Art of Fugue, being enough irritated with a harpsichord version that I went out and bought Aimard on piano and the Emerson Quartet doing it on four string instruments. These add to the old vinyls I had from years ago of a chamber orchestral arrangement and the lean, intellectual playing of Charles Rosen on the piano, long out of the catalogue. So now I have five versions, plus the score itself, a fair portion of which I play in my own semi-competent way.

Of the five, I think Aimard and the Emerson win pretty easily.

There’s no doubt that the four string players bring out the individual voice lines far more effectively than could ever be possible on a keyboard, so, in music that is fundamentally and supremely contrapuntal, this really is the answer. The Emerson also do a lovely job of it, although I regret their acquiescing in a sentimental tradition of playing a completely irrelevant chorale at the end. They’re particularly good in the bigger fugues, and bring the unfinished one to its open end really effectively.

But I put Aimard up alongside them because he is so musical. He brings a delightful variety of touch and mood, winning me over especially to some of the canons which I had never taken too seriously – he makes the long slow one sound a counterpart to the transcendent 25th Goldberg variation, which pays a high compliment to the music. He also shapes the conclusions to the fugues handsomely, using precisely paced ritardandi to great effect when Bach himself sometimes falls a little short in preparing for the final bars.

I am unimpressed by Davitt Moroney’s harpsichord version. His instrument is supposed to be made to sound as an eighteenth century harpsichord would have done, but its sound is heavily “in your face” and the lack of variety in its qualities only make me regret once more the pain that the “authentic instruments at all costs” outlook causes. Of course Bach would have been much surprised to hear his music played on a modern grand piano, but for me the objective is to hear creative performance.

Lastly I think the chamber orchestral options are really a bit much. It’s interesting to hear this great series of compositions in so much instrumental colour, but in the end I think it makes for a distraction even allowing for the repetition inherent in the work’s themes. Go for Aimard or the Emerson.


Bach, J.S.: The Art of Fugue - Emerson String Quartet
Bach, J.S.: The Art of Fugue - Emerson String Quartet
Price: £7.78

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 13 Nov. 2014
I recently spent much time studying three versions of the Art of Fugue, being enough irritated with a harpsichord version that I went out and bought Aimard on piano and the Emerson Quartet doing it on four string instruments. These add to the old vinyls I had from years ago of a chamber orchestral arrangement and the lean, intellectual playing of Charles Rosen on the piano, long out of the catalogue. So now I have five versions, plus the score itself, a fair portion of which I play in my own semi-competent way.

Of the five, I think Aimard and the Emerson win pretty easily.

There’s no doubt that the four string players bring out the individual voice lines far more effectively than could ever be possible on a keyboard, so, in music that is fundamentally and supremely contrapuntal, this really is the answer. The Emerson also do a lovely job of it, although I regret their acquiescing in a sentimental tradition of playing a completely irrelevant chorale at the end. They’re particularly good in the bigger fugues, and bring the unfinished one to its open end really effectively.

But I put Aimard up alongside them because he is so musical. He brings a delightful variety of touch and mood, winning me over especially to some of the canons which I had never taken too seriously – he makes the long slow one sound a counterpart to the transcendent 25th Goldberg variation, which pays a high compliment to the music. He also shapes the conclusions to the fugues handsomely, using precisely paced ritardandi to great effect when Bach himself sometimes falls a little short in preparing for the final bars.

I am unimpressed by Davitt Moroney’s harpsichord version. His instrument is supposed to be made to sound as an eighteenth century harpsichord would have done, but its sound is heavily “in your face” and the lack of variety in its qualities only make me regret once more the pain that the “authentic instruments at all costs” outlook causes. Of course Bach would have been much surprised to hear his music played on a modern grand piano, but for me the objective is to hear creative performance.

Lastly I think the chamber orchestral options are really a bit much. It’s interesting to hear this great series of compositions in so much instrumental colour, but in the end I think it makes for a distraction even allowing for the repetition inherent in the work’s themes. Go for Aimard or the Emerson.


Harrison Birtwistle: Chamber Music
Harrison Birtwistle: Chamber Music
Price: £15.09

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unreservedly an admirer, 2 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have written elsewhere of the generally mixed experience I have had with Birtwistle’s music (see e.g. the Arditti CD of his Quartet music, which I admired greatly). Here I am unreservedly a fan. The Niedecker settings are a revelation, Birtwistle in spare, thoughtful mood creating miniatures of great beauty. The Piano Trio is concise, gutsy and impressive. Lastly the five-movement Bogenstrich is the largest structure here, which I find I enjoy more each time I hear it.
I’d also commend the wonderful professionalism of the performances. Amy Freston has the exact measure of the sparse elegance of the Niedecker settings, all three instrumentalists feel comfortably at home in this late-Birtwistle idiom, and I like the way Roderick Williams allows the music to speak for itself in Bogenstrich.
In all, with the technical recording being of the first class, this is a quality product which makes me grateful I persevered with this robust but ultimately warm-hearted composer.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 27, 2015 9:40 PM BST


Ludwig: Her First Recordings- The Greatest Successes
Ludwig: Her First Recordings- The Greatest Successes
Offered by Music-Shop
Price: £9.55

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Youthful bloom, 23 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Christa Ludwig was undoubtedly one of the most distinguished mezzo-sopranos of her time. This slightly mixed group collects together recordings up to 1960. On the plus side, this period focuses on the voice in the fullest bloom of youth and early maturity (to age 32); on the other hand, the quality of the sound is dated while often being good for that age. Some operatic excerpts sparkle – I particularly enjoyed the Rosenkavalier disc – while inevitably some suffer from being heard out of context. Several discs include fine contributions from Gerald Moore on the piano, with whom she worked to wonderful effect. I must be fair and mention that e.g. the Mahler disc has her scooping in a pre-50s manner that some will find a bit eye-popping. But there are so many felicitous touches that I am easily swayed to share my pleasure in this compilation. I doubt anyone who ever heard her sing Brangäne with Windgassen, Nilsson, Talvela and Wächter under Karl Böhm in the immortal 1966 Bayreuth version will hesitate. The richness of the voice, the power, the control that harnessed the power, the colour, the range … just marvellous.


Colonel Redl [DVD] [1985]
Colonel Redl [DVD] [1985]
Dvd ~ Klaus Maria Brandauer
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsory viewing, 27 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Colonel Redl [DVD] [1985] (DVD)
This is a total classic. Szabo lavishes attention on every period detail and extracts jaw-dropping performances from all his actors. Brandauer is obviously the critical casting, and delivers especially the incredible final scene (where else in cinema can you recall the lead being pressurised into committing suicide?) with amazing conviction. The whole tale scythes open the vanity, prejudice and arrogance of the Habsburgs with devastating precision. It's exquisitely done, one of my top ten films ever.


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