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Haydn: The Symphonies
Haydn: The Symphonies
Price: £122.61

5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassed, 21 May 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Haydn: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
This box can claim to be a milestone in the history of recorded music, as the first set of all Haydn's symphonies on CD from a single conductor (Antal Dorati) and orchestra (Philharmonia Hungarica). Conducting and playing are both excellent and remarkably consistent, especially bearing in mind the discs were recorded over several years. The same can be said of the 70's recording quality, which stands up very well today. Of course, minor criticisms are possible of any of these areas, but that is only to be expected for such an ambitious project.

There are now several other versions of the complete symphonies on the market, and the other one I have (on Naxos, by several different ensembles) has great merit - but as far as I am concerned, Dorati's is the one I take to the desert island. It will truly offer a lifetime's listening enjoyment to some of the most life-affirming music ever written. And I make no apology for what might sound like hyperbole!

The only issue is the price, which for a new copy on Amazon has varied wildly and is now over twice what I paid eleven years ago. However, if you think you want this set, find the money and you almost certainly won't be disappointed.

The bottom line is that in well over 40 years this treasure trove has, deservedly, never been out of the catalogue.

Mozart: Mass K.427 "Great Mass"
Mozart: Mass K.427 "Great Mass"
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous recording, 21 May 2017
There is no shortage of fine recordings of this supreme masterpiece, but even if you have one or more others in your collection I highly recommend this one. Everything - the conducting, playing, and singing (especially the magnificent Maria Stader) - all come together to give a feeling of total rightness.

The sound, even if remastered, can be the weak link in such vintage recordings (this one is from 1960). Not here. Either the original recording was excellent anyway, or the engineers really did a great job on the remastering. Maybe both.

Oddly, the filler on my copy of the CD is Mozart's Masonic Funeral Music, K 477. This is in contrast to the listing on Amazon UK, which shows Haydn's Te Deum. I bought mine on another Amazon site, so there must be some region-specific variance. Although the main attraction is the Great Mass, I think the K 477 makes a better filler than the Haydn.

Dvorák: Symphony No.9 / Smetana: The Moldau / Liszt: Les Préludes
Dvorák: Symphony No.9 / Smetana: The Moldau / Liszt: Les Préludes
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great performances, 21 May 2017
This generously-filled CD (1 hr 13 minutes) includes a sprightly New World Symphony from Dvorak, plus "The Moldau" from Smetana's "Ma Vlast" and Liszt's exciting tone poem "Les Preludes". Under the very capable baton of Ferenc Fricsay, all the works are played with assurance by the Berlin Philharmonic (Dvorak and Smetana) and Radio Symphonie Orchestra, Berlin (Liszt). Together, they make up a highly enjoyable programme. Given the age of the recordings, the sound quality is more than acceptable, although not stellar.

Smetana; Ma Vlast
Smetana; Ma Vlast
Price: £13.91

5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous Ma Vlast and delightful Dvorak, 20 May 2017
This review is from: Smetana; Ma Vlast (Audio CD)
Antal Dorati was a somewhat underrated conductor who nonetheless did great things. Most notably, his pioneering complete Haydn symphony cycle Haydn: The Symphonies is still the finest example of its kind: apart from the numerous accolades it has received, the fact that it has been continously in print for over 40 years speaks for itself.

As for this album, the recording is unusual in that it is split over two discs. This is not that Dorati takes things very slowly, but because you also get an enjoyable Dvorak tone poem, "In Nature's Realm". As for the main attraction, Ma Vlast, I own several recordings of Smetana's most famous composition, and this might just be my favourite. Dorati and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra brings majesty and depth to reveal Ma Vlast as a serious and substantial orchestral work rather than a simple showpiece. That is not to say excitement is lacking: on the contrary, there is a real sense of the elan and joie de vivre that Smetana must have intended to be at the heart of such a patriotic composition.

Highly recommended either as your only recording of this fixture of the classical repertoire, or as an addition to any others you may own (such as by Rafael Kubelik).

The Saint - The Complete Monochrome Series [DVD]
The Saint - The Complete Monochrome Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Roger Moore
Offered by Champion Toys
Price: £44.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Say "halo" to Simon Templar, 20 May 2017
This landmark series set the standard for numerous later ITC programmes that would provide essential entertainment for many years. How does this series itself stand up, though? The short answer is, very well indeed. The stories are solid, exciting, and suspenseful, while being liberally laced with witty humour. As for the acting, first and foremost Roger Moore is perfect as Simon Templar, with just the right combination of suave charm and toughness. And you can have a lot of fun spotting numerous familar faces among the guest cast, many of whom would go on to become big stars.

All this combines to provide the TV equivalent of a delicious sparkling wine. Never mind the episodes being in black and white, or the low-key action. They really don't make them like this any more, so just enjoy! And then pick up the later colour episodes, if you haven't already.

Interpol Calling - The Complete Series [DVD]
Interpol Calling - The Complete Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Charles Korvin
Price: £17.81

5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage televison crime-fighting still entertains, 20 May 2017
This early ITC series has a very different feel from their more famous later efforts such as "The Champions" or "Department S". The theme is still crime-fighting, but here everything is grounded in reality and more about standard police work. There is much to enjoy: the acting from both the regular cast and guest stars is solid, and as usual with programmes from this era you can have fun spotting actors in minor roles who would become big stars.

The half-hour (really, just under 25 minute) format is of course limiting, as it was with "Danger Man" in its early years, so don't expect overly complex stories. That said, quite a few of the stories manage to pack in some neat twists and turns in the time available.

Production values are particularly notable. Although little or no location filming was done, the makers cleverly used stock footage, back projection, and some very detailed sets to give the viewer a convincing feel of being in whatever location a given story was set in.

Not recommended if you want non-stop spectacular action (although the opening credits have an impressive scene of a car smashing through a roadblock). Recommended if you want to see traditional crime-fighting stories that for the most part stand up very well.

Danger Man: The Complete 1964-1968 Series [DVD]
Danger Man: The Complete 1964-1968 Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patrick McGoohan
Price: £23.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb classic TV, 19 May 2017
Now overshadowed by his later and more controversial "The Prisoner", the long-running "Danger Man" was a very fine series indeed, which at its compelling peak in outstanding episodes such as "Yesterday's Enemies" could stand comparison with the greatest TV drama.

Production values are generally very high, with many sets being of cinematic quality. And don't be put off by this series not being in colour: the black and white photography is superb, and an asset rather than a drawback.

As for the characters and actors, the series is a veritable "Who's Who" of top British acting talent. Performances are almost uniformly first rate, and that includes Mr. McGoohan, who makes what could have been a stereotypical TV spy into a fascinating and compelling character.

This series gets my highest possible recommendation for anyone who enjoys great television.

Beethoven: Piano Trios - "Archduke" & "Ghost" (Virtuoso series)
Beethoven: Piano Trios - "Archduke" & "Ghost" (Virtuoso series)
Price: £4.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Beethoven chamber music, 19 May 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Curiously enough, although most music lovers would place Beethoven at (or at least near) the top of a list of greatest composers, not so many might associate his name with chamber music. Yet his output in this genre by by no means neglible, and not inferior to his symphonies and string quartets.

If you are unfamiliar with Beethoven's significant contribution here, this CD would make a great introduction, offering two of his finest piano trios, the "Archduke" and "Ghost". Both are brimful of beautiful music that must have delighted their orginal listeners. The works receive expert and enthusiastic interpretation from the highly-regarded Beaux Arts Trio, and recording quality is fine. Highly recommended, especially at the current price of just over a fiver.

Haydn: Complete Piano Trios
Haydn: Complete Piano Trios
Price: £40.71

5.0 out of 5 stars Peerless, 19 May 2017
Haydn's piano trios have never been given the recognition his symphonies and string quartets have deservedly received. This situation has been reflected in the relative paucity of recordings, so it is to all the more to the credit of the Beaux Arts Trio and Philips that they undertook creation of a complete set over several years in the 70s, when analogue recording quality was at its peak (which was very fine indeed).

As for the playing, I'd say it's unlikely ever to be surpassed. Sparkling, witty, exuberant, and joyous are some of the words that come to mind. There is never a sense of the routine from the Beaux Arts Trio in any of the CDs. The seemingly limitless originality of this still-underrated composer is on full display here.

If you enjoy Haydn's better-known works, buy this and be delighted.

Schubert: Complete String Quartets
Schubert: Complete String Quartets
Price: £42.66

5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 18 May 2017
For some reason, there are not all that many sets of complete Schubert quartets on the market. Even if there were, this wonderful box from the Auryn Quartet would hold its own. This ensemble has plenty of energy: there is a real sense of drive that demands listening attention. This does not, however, in any way come at the expense of the sublime and scintillating beauty of these magnificent works. Add superb recording quality and you have a real winner.

If you enjoy the late Schubert quartets, you will almost certainly enjoy hearing their predecessors. And if by any chance everything here is new to you, this set would be a perfect one-stop shop. Either way, a very easy recommendation.

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