Profile for T. Beers > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by T. Beers
Top Reviewer Ranking: 380,151
Helpful Votes: 14

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
T. Beers (Arlington, Virginia United States)
(REAL NAME)   

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
pixel
String Quartets
String Quartets
Price: CDN$ 19.80
14 used & new from CDN$ 14.24

4.0 out of 5 stars Schoenberg .... "mit Schlag", April 19 2002
This review is from: String Quartets (Audio CD)
If you order coffee in an Austrian coffee house and say "mit Schlag," you get a lovely dollop of whipped cream tossed on top. Very Viennese! These ripely romantic performances of Schoenberg's notoriously difficult string quartets are something like a musical equivalent of strong coffee 'mit Schlag.' By which I mean no disrespect .... after listening to these quartets for some years now, I've come to hear them the same way I hear the Brahms quartets. And Schoenberg would have been very pleased with that development. Janus-like, he always presented two faces to the world: Champion of Tradition and Fearless Modernist. The New Vienna Quartet emphasizes the former and to good and enjoyable effect. On the other hand, there is something to be said for the more precisely played - if more clinical sounding - performances by the Arditti or LaSalle quartets. They both celebrate Schoenberg the Modernist. I suspect most people will prefer these New Vienna performances: they humanize a composer whose music still suffers from the canard that it is more about mathematical manipulation than about feeling and melodic inspiration. Nonsense! Based on any honest musical criteria, the great quartet cycles of the 20th century are those by Bartok, Shostakovich, and Schoenberg, and no one who loves great chamber music can afford to ignore these three cycles. (Or a fourth: American Elliot Carter's masterful five quartets). So you really should make the acquaintance of the Schoenberg quartets. But if Schoenberg still scares you a little (or a lot), just remember to order "mit Schlag!" Given the price of the Philips "Duo" set, you're not risking much in any event.

Hungarian Rhaps 1-6
Hungarian Rhaps 1-6
4 used & new from CDN$ 34.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Explosively Colorful Performances, April 15 2002
This review is from: Hungarian Rhaps 1-6 (Audio CD)
These classic (true stereo) recordings of Liszt tone poems and rhapsodies were made in Vienna by Westminster in the late 1950s and are now reissued by Deutsche Grammophon. They sound better than ever in DG's exemplary CD transfers. Hermann Scherchen has come to be remembered chiefly as a champion of twentieth century music, beginning with Mahler; it's good to be reminded how well he conducted the 19th century repertory. Scherchen had a real love for music as dramatic and colorful as this, and ever since their original Lp issue these performances have been recognized as something special. Mostly, Scherchen's achievement is due to his sincere conviction that Liszt's music is better than its reputation. Too often, conductors turn in wishy-washy Liszt performances because they mistrust Liszt's sound and try to refine away the vulgarity. Not Scherchen. Where others heard vulgarity and held their noses, Scherchen (like Bartok) appreciated the elemental vitality of Liszt's music and reveled in its theatricality. You will not hear more dramatic or vibrant Liszt performances than these. So shell out a few bucks, and prepare yourself for an over-the-top, Great Romantic 'Pops' treat. Even "Les Preludes" and the Second Hungarian Rhapsody come up sounding fresh and newly minted!

1954-1988: Richter In Prague
1954-1988: Richter In Prague

5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure Trove of 'Live' Richter Performances, April 9 2002
Recorded by Czech Radio between the mid '50s and the late '80s, this fascinating CD set is one of the best available documents of the great Sviatoslav Richter in concert. Recorded sound is variable (the set rates 5 stars just the same), and most of the pre-1970s performances are mono, but no fan of great pianism should be without this set. And although many performances here are Richter "standards" (Skryabin sonatas, Beethoven's 'Appasionata' and 'Tempest' sonatas, Schumann's 'Fantasie,' to name just a few), there are some rarities as well. Let me give just three reasons why I find this set so indispensable. Richter didn't perform Beethoven's monumental 'Diabelli Variations' and 'Hammerklavier' sonata until quite late in his career; the very well recorded Prague concert recordings presented here are fully the equal of any released on other labels. Likewise, the performance of Brahms's First Piano Sonata (which exists in several Richter versions)is truly first-rate. Nevertheless, the Brahms disc is more valuable for presenting the best Richter performance I've heard of the less well-known Second Sonata, plus the only known Richter performance of the composer's 'Variations on a Hungarian Tune.' Finally, let me say to those who have long known - and loved - Richter's magnificent 1958 Sofia performance of Moussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition,' this set presents a roughly contemporary (1956) Prague account that is almost as good and much better recorded. So Richter fans shouldn't hesitate and those who don't know the the man's art will find in this set a convincing demonstration that the late Ukrainian/Soviet pianist was one of the greatest artists in the history of the instrument. One final note. This is a reissue of a boxed set that appeared several years ago, also on Harmonia Mundi. For the reissue, the fifteen discs have been transferred to sturdy cardboard envelopes and housed in a space saving 'soft' box that is elegant to behold and very space-efficient. Full liner notes duplicate those on the previous issue, but the price has been handsomely reduced: fifteen cds are now offered for the price of five!

1954-1988: Richter In Prague
1954-1988: Richter In Prague

5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure Trove of 'Live' Richter Performances, April 9 2002
Recorded by Czech Radio between the mid '50s and the late '80s, this fascinating CD set is one of the best available documents of the great Sviatoslav Richter in concert. Recorded sound is variable (the set rates 5 stars just the same), and most of the pre-1970s performances are mono, but no fan of great pianism should be without this set. And although many performances here are Richter "standards" (Skryabin sonatas, Beethoven's 'Appasionata' and 'Tempest' sonatas, Schumann's 'Fantasie,' to name just a few), there are some rarities as well. Let me give just three reasons why I find this set so indispensable. Richter didn't perform Beethoven's monumental 'Diabelli Variations' and 'Hammerklavier' sonata until quite late in his career; the very well recorded Prague concert recordings presented here are fully the equal of any released on other labels. Likewise, the performance of Brahms's First Piano Sonata (which exists in several Richter versions)is truly first-rate. Nevertheless, the Brahms disc is more valuable for presenting the best Richter performance I've heard of the less well-known Second Sonata, plus the only known Richter performance of the composer's 'Variations on a Hungarian Tune.' Finally, let me say to those who have long known - and loved - Richter's magnificent 1958 Sofia performance of Moussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition,' this set presents a roughly contemporary (1956) Prague account that is almost as good and much better recorded. So Richter fans shouldn't hesitate and those who don't know the the man's art will find in this set a convincing demonstration that the late Ukrainian/Soviet pianist was one of the greatest artists in the history of the instrument. One final note. This is a reissue of a boxed set that appeared several years ago, also on Harmonia Mundi. For the reissue, the fifteen discs have been transferred to sturdy cardboard envelopes and housed in a space saving 'soft' box that is elegant to behold and very space-efficient. Full liner notes duplicate those on the previous issue, but the price has been handsomely reduced: fifteen cds are now offered for the price of five!

Sym 4/Nutcracker
Sym 4/Nutcracker
Price: CDN$ 26.25
14 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Performances!, March 26 2002
This review is from: Sym 4/Nutcracker (Audio CD)
There aren't many Artur Rodzinski performances in the current catalog which is a great shame. Good as is the competition from Dorati, Mackerras, Tilson Thomas and others, I have to agree that this performance of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker is still the performance to own. And the Fourth Symphony is a delicious bonus. Both performances are marvels of orchestral clarity and superb phrasing. Yes, you will notice details in both scores that you've never noticed before. More important, Rodzinski had an uncanny talent for springing rhythms in ways that make many accompaniment parts and transitional sections seem as interesting (& meaningful) as the main lines of musical argument. Delightful! Although the recordings now are almost 50 years old, both are genuine stereo, resplendently re-mastered by Deutsche Grammophon from the Westminster originals. (Westminster was a high fidelity leader in the 1950s, so recording quality here is better than almost any other label could provide at the time.) Over the past year and a half, DG have released a number of Westminster recordings, by Rodzinski, Scherchen and others. I only hope this means that some of Westminster's vast catalog of chamber music and solo instrumental performances will also be released. Having acquired the rights to the Westminster catalog, DG is sitting on a true treasure trove; please release more!

Sym 6
Sym 6
Price: CDN$ 24.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Viennese Mahler, Recorded 'Live', March 19 2002
This review is from: Sym 6 (Audio CD)
Most of the reviews I've seen pan this recording as dull and badly played. I don't agree. Leinsdorf was a classicist, and his Mahler performances always strike some people as too cautious and studied while others find them balanced and mature. I guess I fall into the second category. Although I don't associate Leinsdorf with Viennese charm (in spite of the fact that he was Vienna born and bred), that's exactly what I hear throughout this marvelously well-integrated performance. It's almost as if, on this one occasion, Leinsdorf decided to try to find the Schubert in one of Mahler's knottiest scores. I find it fully persuasive, but certainly not the only way to play the music. Note: this is a live performance with the Bavarian Radio Symphony, recorded in very good digital sound in 1983. It is not a re-issue of Leinsdorf's Boston Symphony studio performance recorded by RCA in 1965-66. The RCA (never reissued, unfortunately) is a much tougher performance conceptually and better played. (There are some executive glitches in Munich that are par for the course in a live performance of music as taxing as this. They're not distracting.) Anyway, given recent cutbacks at BMG don't hold your breath waiting for a reissue of Leinsdorf/Boston. Just thank Orfeo for issuing this fine memorial to Leinsdorf's later career.

The Complete Symphonies
The Complete Symphonies
3 used & new from CDN$ 89.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, Unique Bruckner from a Remarkable Conductor, March 1 2002
This review is from: The Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
I recently reviewed the EMI "soft box" reissue of Jochum's Dresden recordings of the nine Bruckner symphonies as a first rate bargain, and here's another! Tintner was a superb Bruckner conductor, trained (by Felix Weingartner) in Vienna in the 1930s. After fleeing the Nazis, Tintner took up various conducting assignments in Australia and New Zealand, opting out of a more glamorous career in the major international music centers. He eventually ended up in Canada where he died in 1999, well-respected if relatively unknown (but with a growing reputation as a Bruckner interpreter). Naxos had the brilliant idea of commissioning him to record their Bruckner cycle and the results are very impressive. Tintner's performances are completely idiomatic and convincing, but what really sets this recording apart are his choices about what versions of the symphonies to perform. (Bruckner's symphonies exist in multiple versions made by the composer himself. In addition, these versions appear in different editions prepared by various editors, the most prominent being Robert Haas and Leopold Nowak. The first thing a conductor who performs Bruckner must do is choose among versions and editions. Yes, it's very complicated!) So, when considering whether to buy this wonderful set, think about these three factors. First, whereas Eugen Jochum, for example, recorded the standard nine symphonies in the Nowak editions, Tintner also gives us the early symphonies (nos. "0" and "00") making a total of 11 completely authentic Bruckner symphonies. (Although clearly early works, symphonies "0" and "00" are substantial and enjoyable compositions that should be heard.) Second, and again unlike Jochum, Tintner regularly performs the Haas editions rather than Nowak. Third, and most important, instead of recording what have become the standard Bruckner versions of symphonies 2, 3, and 8, Tintner went back to Bruckner's earliest versions [...1872, ed. Carragan; ...1873, ed. Nowak; and ...1888, ed. Nowak]. These earliest versions are substantially different from the versions most conductors play (...1876; ...1877 or 1889; ...1890). My personal opinion? I can't say I prefer Tintner's choices over other versions, but I don't need to exclude one or the other. Tintner is a very persuasive advocate for the earlier (and significantly more expansive) versions and I wouldn't want to be without his recordings. Moreover, Naxos provides generally excellent digital engineering for the three orchestras that perform in this fascinating set. (The lion's share of performances come from the excellent Royal Scottish National Orchestra.) All of this thought-provoking excellence is presented in a slim and elegant, white "soft box" format which includes a substantial booklet with full notes (by the conductor). To sum up, this set is more a complement than a rival to other versions. But it need fear competition from no other set, and the performances of the more famous Bruckner symphonies (4, 5, 6, 7 & 9, all performed in the standard versions) are among the best currently available. If you need any other reason to buy this magnificent recording, just look at the price!

Comp Syms
Comp Syms
Price: CDN$ 16.50
4 used & new from CDN$ 16.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Tough-Minded, Warm-Hearted Brahms at a Bargain Price, Feb. 25 2002
This review is from: Comp Syms (Audio CD)
These performances were recorded in analog stereo in Vienna between 1959 and 1963 and, by and large, they've earned only tepid praise from the English and American musical press. For the life of me, I don't understand why. Well, maybe I can guess. Wolfgang Sawallisch is not the sort of Brahms conductor to go in for showy dramatics or a plush, luxurious sound. So if you're that kind of Brahms listener (as I am, on some days!), you'll probably want to stay away from this set. On the other hand if you like your Brahms lean and trenchantly articulated, Sawallisch is a front line contender, right up there with Brahmsians like Weingartner and Szell, if not Toscanini. If I prefer Sawallisch to Weingartner and Toscanini, it's probably because the sound of the Vienna Symphony somewhat softens the contours of Sawallisch's performances so that they achieve a marvelous balance between intellectual rigor and lyric sentiment. (Szell's recordings are in a special category because of the sheer quality of playing by his phenomenal Cleveland Orchestra.) Sound quality is very good, considering the date of the recordings, and the price is quite wonderful. (All four symphonies are contained on two discs and at a budget price!) Sawallisch recorded another Brahms cycle just a few years ago for EMI/Angel and these digital recordings (with the London Philharmonic) are now available as three single CD reissues on the Seraphim label. But the earlier Philips two-fer represents better value, not just because of price but also because the Vienna Symphony consistently plays better than the surprisingly raw and rough-sounding London orchestra.

Complete Symphonies
Complete Symphonies
Price: CDN$ 57.80
23 used & new from CDN$ 30.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Jochum's Fabulous Bruckner, Feb. 14 2002
This review is from: Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
This set is a wonderful bargain, preserving the second of Jochum's integral recordings of the Bruckner symphonies. On Lp these performances, recorded in Dresden's Lukaskirche in the 1970s, sounded a little diffuse when compared with the Bruckner Jochum recorded for DGG in the '50s and '60s. Digital remastering has brought admirable focus to the EMI analog masters and these recordings now sound as good or better than their DGG counterparts. The performances are quite similar, except that the Dresden Staatskapelle plays with a warmth and tonal lustre that is superior to the Berlin and Munich orchestras featured in the DGG set. In all cases, Jochum is the conductor for those people who enjoy the Schubert in Bruckner: melodic lines are flexibly projected with an inerrant sense of how they should relate to the structural argument. Some might find that Jochum's lyrical approach scants the rigors of Bruckner's architecture, that it's too "soft." They should seek out Klemperer and others. But for most people, Jochum is one of the three or four greatest Bruckner conductors ever and his recordings are, if not the last word on Bruckner interpretation, "must buys." Three things to note. First, throughout his career, Jochum only played the canonical Bruckner symphonies, 1 thru 9; you won't find symphonies "0" and "00" in this set. Second, Bruckner exists in different peforming editions, the most famous being those prepared by scholars Robert Haas (in the 1930s and '40s) and Leopold Nowak (in the 1950s). I should point out that Jochum consistently favored the Nowak editions. (The differences between Haas and Nowak aren't really important except to scholars. But Amazon's description of this set claims that Jochum used the now-discredited Schalk editions. Not true!) Third, setting aside whose edition you play, Bruckner himself prepared various versions of many of his symphonies and these differences matter. Mostly, Jochum plays the Bruckner versions that have come to be regarded as standard. But, in the case of the Third Symphony, Jochum, like most conductors of the old school, plays Bruckner's 1889 (third and final) version. Most conductors today favor Bruckner's second version from 1876-1877. (On Naxos, Bruckner maverick Georg Tintner prefers Bruckner's even more expansive first version from 1873. See my review of the new [2/2002] Naxos 'White Box' collection of all Tintner's Bruckner performances, also available at a budget price!) The 1889 version is the one I grew up with and Jochum's performance is superb; but, like many people, I have come to prefer the more expansively argued 1876/1877 version. OK, back to the set. Sound quality is fine throughout, and the price is fantastic. And about the packaging. Bravo, EMI, for ending the lunacy of gigantic boxes of jewel trays that look ugly and take up half a foot or more on your shelf! This soft box format is slim and elegant. The individual CDs are held safe and snug in rigid cardboard envelopes, and the box itself is nice to look at and plenty sturdy. In other words, unless you use your CD boxes as hockey pucks, I don't see any reason to believe that the packaging won't last longer than you do. But hey, if you really need to own those old, clunky, plastic jewel boxes and multiples, look elsewhere. If you're interested in the music, this set is a fabulous bargain!

The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man
DVD ~ Claude Rains
Offered by PaperbackshopCA
Price: CDN$ 10.24
22 used & new from CDN$ 10.04

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Classic from James Whale, Feb. 12 2002
This review is from: The Invisible Man (DVD)
James Whale was one of Universal's best directors in the 1930s; hell, let's just say he was one of Hollywood's best directors. Besides "Frankenstein" and "The Bride of Frankenstein," he also directed this first sound adaptation of H.G. Wells's thriller. And in it he provided a Hollywood debut for English actor Claude Rains. Rains is marvelous as the Invisible One (as he's identified in the opening credits), a fabulously over-the-top performance reveling in the character's madness and wit. Rains is aptly partnered by a young Gloria Stuart (who went on to play the old lady in James Cameron's "Titanic" about 60 years later, as well as lead an extraordinarily interesting life as an artist and a friend to the wonderful writer MFK Fisher, but I digress!) and Henry Travers (aka the angel wannabe Clarence in Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life.") But the real scene stealer in this thoroughly entertaining, masterfully paced film is the great Una O'Connor as the Inn-keeper's wife. Just watching this woman's face is one of the great delights of going to the movies, even at home. Good screen adaptation from the writers and excellent camera work, but it's Whale's show and the direction displays all his trademark creepy atmospherics and sly wit. A real gem, and with marvelous DVD bonus features to boot!

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8