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Mr. Christian Hoskins (London, UK)

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Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 9
Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 9
Offered by Smaller World Future
Price: £25.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the version of the 5th I have been waiting for..., 19 Jun. 2011
Over the years, I've listened to many versions of the 5th and felt unsatisfied. Could it be that Shostakovich's attempt to write a symphony which was designed to please Stalin have resulted in an inhibition of the creative process, or was it that the recordings I'd heard failed to do the work justice? Or was it just that I had a blind spot where this work was concerned? Somehow I felt that the symphony was indeed one I should respond to and that it was just hadn't found the right version. I subsequently purchased a lot of recordings trying to find that ideal performance - Haitink, Berglund, Ashkenazy, Bernstein '79, Jarvi, Dmitri Shostakovich, Stokowski - without success. Finally I took a chance with this inexpensive Naxos release, which received a generally positive response from the critics.

Well, Rahbari's performance is rather good. There is drama in the first movement, excitement and irony in the second, and a thrillingly optimistic conclusion to the finale. Most importantly, the third movement is projected with incredible atmosphere and deep emotion. The orchestral playing is extremely good and the quality of the recording is excellent. This version is the one that I will always turn to when I want to hear the 5th Symphony.

Symphony No. 4 (Von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker)
Symphony No. 4 (Von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker)
Price: £20.58

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good Bruckner 4, but not outstanding, 24 Dec. 2008
I'm not sure that the ideal recording of Bruckner's 4th Symphony exists, since no one conductor seems to give a consistently fine performance throughout all four movements. However, this Karajan recording from 1970 stands reasonably high among the two dozen versions I know.

Karajan first conducted the 4th Symphony in 1936 and therefore had been performing the work for over three decades by the time he made this recording. At 70 minutes, it's a spacious performance, some six minutes longer than the one he recorded for DG five years later in 1975. The first three movements are very well done: majestic and exciting but not overblown. The only time the tempo seems slow is in the finale, which lacks tension.

The recording quality is spacious and clear, although there's a slight touch of brashness in the brass sound. However, the clarity of the recording is a welcome surprise after hearing the muddy recording given to Karajan's contemperaneous EMI recording of the 7th symphony.

If forced to choose one version of the 4th, I would probably go for Wand's BPO recording, but given the choice I would have this one too.

Bruckner: Symphony No. 8
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £13.23

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable performance from Günter Wand, 6 Sept. 2007
This recording of Bruckner's 8th Symphony from Günter Wand and the Berlin Philharmonic is a remarkable achievement. It is difficult to think of any other recording of the symphony which so successfully delivers the combination of splendour, excitement and spirituality found here. One has the sense that conductor and orchestra have worked together to shape every phrase and balance every texture as carefully as possible. At the same time, one never has the feeling that the care for individual details has been achieved at the expense of musical flow or the overall symphonic structure.

Although Wand was 89 when this performance was recorded in 2001, the symphony's climaxes are more exciting than in any other recording I know. In the final climax of the first movement, for example, I was taken aback by the snarling intensity of the music at this point. Equally remarkable is the galloping allegro around 14:50 into the finale, which thrilling beyond measure. Most other performances sound perfunctory at this point. Similarly, the great adagio also has a thrilling climax, and the long coda of the finale is sustained with enormous power.

If I were to be critical, I would have to say there are few places where I feel the tension ebbs a little. Why this is I do not know, but it is as if Wand were suddenly tired or distracted. One area where this can be felt is during the coda of the adagio, which is not as moving as with the Giulini or Karajan VPO recordings.

The Berlin Philharmonic play with a virtuosity and a unanimity which is extremely impressive. Despite being recorded live, the symphony is given a superb recording: the sound is clear, weighty and well balanced, and the engineers have managed to provide a sense of space around the musicians. There are a handful of faint coughs to be heard from the audience but I don't find this a problem.

All things considered, I would put this Wand performance at the top of the current list of recommendable recordings of Bruckner's 8th. Incidentally, prospective purchasers may wish to know that Wand uses the Haas version of the symphony.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 19, 2012 3:39 AM BST

Bruckner: Symphony No 9
Bruckner: Symphony No 9
Offered by nagiry
Price: £8.17

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good Bruckner 9, but not Wand's absolute best, 4 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No 9 (Audio CD)
There has arguably been no finer interpreter of Bruckner's 9th Symphony over the last few decades than Günter Wand, and a number of his performances have been issued on CD. This particular version was recorded live in September 1998 and collectors may well be tempted by the fact that the orchestra is the Berlin Philharmonic, with whom Wand worked with fairly regularly in the last decade of his life.

The performance of the 9th Symphony in this 1988 recording is warm, powerful and profound. The 86 year old Wand secures superb playing from all departments of the orchestra, and the recording quality is excellent.

However, there are at least three performances of Bruckner's 9th which I think are even finer. First and foremost among these is Wand's performance with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, dating from 1979. It is a dramatic, powerful reading and an emotionally engulfing experience. Currently only available as part of a collected edition of the nine Bruckner symphonies, the quality of the 1979 performance almost justifies the purchase of the whole set.

Another outstanding version is Carlo Maria Giulini's 1998 recording with the Vienna Philharmonic. It is an immensely spacious, intense and spiritual performance. I've not heard a more moving version of the coda of the Adagio than the one on this recording.

Finally, there is Daniel Barenboim's 1991 performance with the Berlin Philharmonic, which finds a satisfying balance between the emotional power of the Cologne Wand performance and the spirituality of the Giulini. Like Wand's Cologne recording, it is currently only available as part of a nine disc set. However, Barenboim's set also has outstanding performances of symphonies 5 and 7 and is altogether very recommendable.

Although Wand's Berlin performance is impressive, ultimately I do find the other three versions more satisfying.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 29, 2016 7:32 PM GMT

Schreker - Orchestral Works
Schreker - Orchestral Works
Offered by encorerecords
Price: £11.33

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but Sinaisky's performances are the ones to go for, 2 Sept. 2007
Conlon's collection of these Schreker orchestral pieces appeared around the same time as a couple of Chandos discs conducted by Sinaisky featuring a similar but broader selection of Schreker works.

In both the 'Intermezzo' and the 'Romantic Suite', works from early in Schreker's career, there is little to choose between the two conductors. However, in the two weightier works, 'Prelude to a Drama' and 'Vorspiel zu einer grossen Oper', Sinaisky conveys the infectious lyricism and sumptuousness of the music to a much greater degree than Conlon.

The EMI recording quality is good, but ultimately the rival Sinaisky performances are the ones to go for. I would also highly recommend the Euroarts DVD of 'Die Gezeicheneten' for those interested in Schreker's music.

Bruckner - Symphony No 8
Bruckner - Symphony No 8
Price: £20.35

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A well played but unexceptional Bruckner 8, 29 Aug. 2007
Bernard Haitink has been one of the greatest exponents of Bruckner's 8th Symphony over the last few decades, matched in his interpretative insight only by the likes of Günter Wand and Herbert von Karajan.

Unfortunately I don't feel that this live recording from 2005 captures Haitink at his best. There is nothing in particular to criticise in the performance: the symphonic structure is laid out expertly for us, and the playing of the Royal Concertgebouw (the orchestra with which Haitink was for so long associated) is of the highest order. It's just that I find the performance here slightly muted when compared with the best rival recordings, notably Günter Wand's.

Although recorded in SACD format, the sound quality is slightly cloudy, and the multichannel option doesn't add much to the experience. The disc is also playable on standard CD equipment. Incidentally, Haitink performs the Haas version of the symphony.

Schreker:Die Gezeichneten
Schreker:Die Gezeichneten

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine performance of Schreker's opera, 27 Aug. 2007
In the 1990s, Decca's Entartete Musik series unearthed many valuable works which had been banned by the Nazis and forgotten by the world at large. Among the most interesting releases was this recording of Schreker's "Die Gezeichneten", which originally premiered in 1918 and is revealed as one of the most impressive operas of the 20th century.

The music of "Die Gezeichneten", Schreker's 5th opera, is melodic, lusciously orchestrated and often exquisitely beautiful. The duet between Alvano and Carlotta at the end of Act 1 is especially haunting.

This Decca performance under Lothar Zagrosek is very fine and a few years ago I would have given a 5 star rating. However, there is now a Euroarts DVD of the 2005 production at the Salzburg Festival conducted by Kent Nagano. Despite the bizarre staging by Lehnhoff, the performance under Nagano is even more impressive than Zagrosek's. However, the Salzburg performance contains cuts amounting to at least 20 minutes of the music, while the Decca release presents Schreker's music complete, so this CD version is still well worth considering.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 30, 2014 12:17 AM GMT

Schreker-Orchestral Works
Schreker-Orchestral Works
Price: £10.00

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A desert island disc, 27 Aug. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is probably the best introduction to Schreker's music in the catalogue. Not only does it provide a good cross section of Schreker's late romantic musical style, but the performances by the BBC Philharmonic under Vassily Sinaisky are superb.

The earliest piece here is the Symphonic Overture "Ekkehard" from 1903, while the latest is the Symphonic Interlude from "Der Schatzgräber" dating from 1918. All of the music is good, and some of it is outstanding, notably the "Nachtstück" (1909) and the "Prelude to a Drama" (1913). The "Nachtstück", taken from the opera "Der ferne Klang", features melodies of an enormously appealing sinuous nature and climaxes of the utmost romantic ardour. The "Prelude to a Drama" comprises the Prelude to Act 1 of "Die Gezeichneten" with additional music from Act 3 of the opera. The orchestration is shimmering and iridescent, and once again the music reaches climaxes of sumptuous power.

Sinaisky really has a feel for this music and the performances are everything one could hope for. The version of "Prelude to a Drama" presented here is superior to the rival version by Conlon on EMI and even outclasses the version on a Euroarts DVD of "Die Gezeichneten" conducted by Nagano. Similarly, Sinaisky's performance of the "Nachtstück" is significantly better the version from the Naxos set of "Der ferne Klang" under Halasz.

I would recommend to anyone who enjoys this music that they try the Euroarts "Die Gezeichneten". Although there are some small cuts in the music, and the production by Nikolaus Lehnhoff is somewhat bizarre, the performance of the opera is hauntingly beautiful.

Sennheiser CX300-B High Quality Stereo Ear-Canal Headphones - Black
Sennheiser CX300-B High Quality Stereo Ear-Canal Headphones - Black

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value for money, 14 Aug. 2007
In my view, the Sennheiser CX300s are excellent value. They're vastly superior to all the other bud-style headphones I've owned over the last 20 years, and they provide comparable sound quality and noise insulation to my full size Sennheiser HD270 and HD280 headphones. If I were being critical, I would say that the CX300s have a slight emphasis at the bass end and that the top end is slightly restricted, but this is only noticeable when comparing them to much more expensive headphones.

The quoted sound pressure level is 112dB, which means the CX300s deliver a lot of volume from low powered devices such as iPods. On the other hand, the sensitivity means they're less suitable for mains powered devices such as PCs and amplifiers since they tend to reveal a lot of background noise.

I've been using my CX300s every day for nearly 18 months now and have not had any problems with reliability or build quality. Highly recommended, unless you are using them in an environment where you need to hear people speak to you.

Professional Closed Back Headphones 64 Ohms
Professional Closed Back Headphones 64 Ohms

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Acceptable, but not up to Sennheiser's normal standard, 14 Aug. 2007
I bought these HD270s because I wanted a closed back set of headphones which wouldn't disturb other people when listening late at night and which would also provide some sound insulation in noisy environments.

Before buying them, I was aware that closed back headphones do not generally provide the same sound quality as the open back headphones I normally use. Even so, I was slightly disappointed with the light bass and lack of clarity when I first used the HD270s.

I subsequently purchased a set of Sennheiser HD280s, having read they were better quality than the HD270s. However, I found that despite their higher price, the HD280s had even less bass and clarity. Meanwhile, by adding around 4-6 dB of bass, the sound of the HD270s can be made quite acceptable.

Despite a quoted sound pressure level of 106 dB, I found that the HD270s are not very sensitive. This is not an issue when using them with an amplifier at home, but it may cause a problem for people using portable devices such as MP3 players in noisy environments.

In summary, although I find my HD270s quite useful, I don't think they are up to Sennheiser's normal standard.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 16, 2009 9:57 PM BST

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