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Reviews Written by
Larry VanDeSande (Mason Michigan USA)

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Quartet Piano/Quintet Piano
Quartet Piano/Quintet Piano
Price: CDN$ 23.64
13 used & new from CDN$ 17.84

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not many people's Brahms, June 15 2004
This CD features an Italian period group doing a couple of Brahms more famous pieces of chamber music, the Op. 60 quartet and Op. 34 piano quintet. This group has some passion and a little Brahmsian fervor, but no one will confuse them for an old time Brahms band. The period piano becomes very apparent in the first two movements of the quintet and its narrow tune gets in the way of enjoying the music. I listened to the Amazon excerpts before buying and did not realize this was a period group using a period piano. It was not apparent in the quartet. This is ultimately an unsatisfying effort by this group. In addition, the packaging leaves a very great deal to be desired. The CD comes in a hard cardboard box in an insert. There are no notes whatsoever and a four sheet foldout on the inside only offers some insipid quotes in English and Italian and some documentattion on the recording and instruments used by the players. For a full price CD listing at $18.98 in an era of downloads and the worldwide used CD aftermarket, you don't really get very much with this offering. The playing is secure but almost nothing else is up to snuff in the rest of this offering. Steer clear, I'd say.

Celtic Sym/Hebridean Sym/Witch
Celtic Sym/Hebridean Sym/Witch
Price: CDN$ 27.81
30 used & new from CDN$ 11.97

5.0 out of 5 stars A very Straussian Hebridean symphony, June 12 2004
Like another reviewer, my initial exposure to this music was through an NPR broadcast. I quickly purchased the CD and have enjoyed the echt-Richard Strauss "Hebridean" symphony many times. Like the other music on the CD -- none of which has the lasting effect of this symphony -- it heaves and rolls with all the emotions of a sea journey. For that reason, I burned my own CD, mating this version of the "Hebridean" with Handley's performance of Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" from "Peter Grimes" and his recording of Frank Bridge's "The Sea" suite. I think this places the Hebridean symphony in more appropriate company than with Bantock's lesser music. Still, this CD makes a wonderful introduction to the music of a composer not well-known in America. If you buy it, you won't be disappointed.

The Symphonies
The Symphonies
Price: CDN$ 18.58
40 used & new from CDN$ 5.70

5.0 out of 5 stars Some of the maestro's best work, May 31 2004
This review is from: The Symphonies (Audio CD)
I live in a part of America where the PBS classical programming director loves the Schumann symphonies and schedules a different recording 2-3 days a week while I listen via Internet stream. They are so ridiculously overscheduled a coworker and I send e-mails to each other announcing the obligatory "Schumann hour" has commenced for the day, in case one of us should miss it. Ergo, I have heard most of the famous and infamous versions of the Schumann symphonies, including a couple of Lenny's New York recordings. I don't think Schumann was a great symphonist (he certainly was not a great orchestrator) and I don't believe, all things considered, that his four symphonies stand up to the quad of Brahms, the Mendelssohn five, Tchaikovsky's half-dozen, the nine of Beethoven, Mahler and Bruckner, the 15 of Shostakovich, or even the 3 from Rachmaninoff. Well, maybe they're better than Rachmaninoff. But you'd never know there were any limitations by listening to these glorious CDs from Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic, whose concertmaster said the 1984-85 collaboration resulted in some of the most memorable recording sessions of his lifetime (all "live" by the way...meaning not dead?) It is easy to hear that enthusiasm on these CDs. Bernstein, who could be too loud, too fast, too indulgent and just about too everything except timid, seems to me more perfectly mated to Schumann's manic-depression than just about any conductor in history. For once, Lenny's overindulgence seems perfectly at home...when it comes in the beginning of the "Rhenish"...or in the return of the first movement's big subject in "Spring"...or the drama of the Fourth Symphony's concluding Lebhaft. I thought Lenny got everything just right in these recordings. He played up the schmaltz each time it was nearby and it always sounds wonderful, evocative and appropriate. That's something I could almost never say in his other Vienna recordings, which have been reissued by DG. His Beethoven symphonies, in particular, were in my view regularly marred by exaggeration, ill tempo or inappropriate tenuto. But those gooey effects seem to enhance the drama and schizophrenia of the Schumann symphonies. I don't know another conductor who could do such a sympathetic job with the symphonies of Robert Schumann.

Pno Qrts
Pno Qrts
Price: CDN$ 21.98
18 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid, May 29 2004
This review is from: Pno Qrts (Audio CD)
With this splendid recording, Paul Lewis continues to move fruther from under the shadow of his mentor, Alfred Brendel. While Brendel is considered today's most esteemed Mozart player, Lewis shows a special affinity for Mozart that might surpass his famous teacher in sympathy and lucidity. The collaboration of Lewis and the Leopold String Trio here sounds more like two players than four -- Lewis and the trio. When one is dominant, the other moves to the background. Lewis is clearly the star of this recording and the trio makes way for him when the piano carries the tune. This is very different than the more democratically homogenous performance of these works by the Beaux Arts Trio, which is considered by most critics to be the best modern version of this music. Another difference is the level of intimacy projected by Lewis and the members of the trio (none of whom are named Leopold, by the way.) When a single string player accompanies the piano, it seems to the listener she is playing only for you. Perhaps this is because the Leopold Trio's violinist and cellist are women? Whatever the reason, all four members are able to explode in forte when the score calls for it, such as in the return of the opening theme of the K. 493 quartet while never brutalizing the music. The sound on this 2002 recording is good but not the best we have come to expect in the new century. The clarity is inferior to the still wonderful-sounding Beaux Arts recording on Philips. That may be a consideration for audiophiles but it should not deter music lovers that want to hear Mozart played this sympathetically. The 2003-04 Penguin Guide update lists this recording with the best available versions of this music. I'm certain subsequent reprints of Third Ear and the Rough Guide will do the same.

A Life in Music, Volume 13: Isaac Stern
A Life in Music, Volume 13: Isaac Stern
Offered by USA_Seller_4_Canada
Price: CDN$ 28.65
5 used & new from CDN$ 6.45

5.0 out of 5 stars Barber de rigeur but why Maxwell Davies?, May 24 2004
The Issac Stern-Leonard Bernstein collaboration of Barber's wonderful Violin Concerto has stood the test of time to defeat the best of today's young violinists -- including Hilary Hahn and Joshua Bell -- and the biggest names in the business -- Shahan and Perlman -- and some others -- Oliveira and McDuffie -- to retain the title of greatest recording of the Barber concerto. Stern's understanding of the score and Bernstein's white hot conducting make a pairing the newer recordings can't match, good as many of them are. I greatly enjoyed the Hahn and Oliveira performances (Shahan less so, I'm sorry to say) but none of them receive the insightful support Bernstein and New York Philharmonic provide for Stern. The rapport between partners remains the classic rendering of the score, matching today's DDD recordings in scope and detail, though without the warmth of Hahn's recording. The Maxwell Davies concerto, another 20th century piece, does not add anything to this CD. This hybrid of 20th century nature ideas has little lasting effect for the listener. I thought this concerto was better represented when it was mated on a Bernstein heritage disk with his interpretation of the Barber "Adagio for Strings" that Oliver Stone selected as theme for his film "Platoon". So waste neither time nor space on the Maxwell Davies, for the Barber is the gem on this record. It will take a very special recording from another orchestra, conductor and soloist to displace this from its position on Mt. Olympus.

Mozart: Mass No4; Misericordias Domini in Dm
Mozart: Mass No4; Misericordias Domini in Dm
Offered by Polar Bear Store
Price: CDN$ 19.82
14 used & new from CDN$ 2.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Mature beyond its years, May 22 2004
The K. 139 "Waisenhausemesse", here called a Missa Solemnis, is a mature work of the young Mozart, you might say. It is not fully developed to the point of Coronation Mass or the great C Minor Mass, but it can bear witness, and comparison, to better-known works including the K. 337 Missa Solemnis. This performance by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra with Walton Gronroos, Werner Hollweg, Celina Lindsley, Gabriele Schreckenbach and conducted by Marcus Creed is much better than versions led by Cleobury and Harnoncourt. The recording belies its ultra-cheap price tag by sounding wonderfully. It is literally worth 10 times the price. For less than a cup of expensive coffee you can have a satisfying Mozart Mass led by a young stud on a recording that sounds great. What's stopping you?

Brandenburg Ctos (Reissue)
Brandenburg Ctos (Reissue)
Price: CDN$ 26.00
7 used & new from CDN$ 21.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bach's best orchestral well done, May 19 2004
The British magazine International Record Review recounted and reviewed every recording of the Brandenburg concertos made through December 2000 during the Bach celebration that year. They listed and reviewed about 140 recordings with the first made by Alfred Cortot and a French group during 1931-33. Seems like I owned at least 100 of those recordings in my lifetime, trying to ferret out the one that best promotes Bach's intentions and gives me satisfaction. This is the one I have chosen to live with for reasons that are not hard to explain: musical simplicity, execution of the score as written, style and sympathy to Bach's intentions. While these are period performances they eschew the wearisome antics of poor period performance -- no wiry strings, no speeds so fast you wonder if they are trying to squeeze all six concerti on one CD, no oblong effects with old, tired instruments, no bizarre interpretations. In fact, I would say what makes this performance the best is its moderation in all musical areas and the players near complete lack of interpretation. These extremely well-known players let Bach do the interpreting, while they let you do the listening. I often wonder why it is so hard for other bands to do this? This is a question I've asked since 1968, when I purchased the Collegium Aureum's then somewhat pioneering period version on Harmonia Mundi. Since that time I dabbled with recordings led by Richter, Britten, Casals, Karajan (ugh!), Munchinger, Leppard, Zukerman, Baumgartner, Harnoncourt (double ugh!!), Pinnock, Pommer, Hogwood, Ledger, Goebel, Parrot, Halstead, Pickett, Kuijken and Muller-Bruhl, as well as the leaderless Acadamie fur Alte Musik Berlin, with varying degrees of satisfaction. It wasn't until I happened onto this set in 2003 that I found a group that matched the selfless determination to uncover Bach's creation the 1965 Collegium Aureum set espoused. The well-known soloists on this set -- Sigiswald Kuijken, Claude Rippas, Gustav Leonhardt, Frans Bruggen, Anner Bylsma and Lucy van Dael -- perform their roles admirably, in tune, with never a lick of interference between their playing and the score. So along with the other sparkling reviews of this set, I too give it five stars and urge you to buy it at your earliest convenience.

Concerti for Clarinet
Concerti for Clarinet

5.0 out of 5 stars Well done but not well-known, May 15 2004
This review is from: Concerti for Clarinet (Audio CD)
For whatever reason, this recording was never considered among the best in this Krommer repertoire. It should be, for the players -- clarinetists Thomas Friedli and clarinetist/conductor Antony Pay -- take a back seat to no one in this music. Friedli's performance in the more famous E major Clarinet Concerto is technically secure and emotionally charged. He matches Pay's hard-driven approach, taking the listener on an up, down and sideways whirlybird ride through Krommer's creation. Friedli's playing has extreme polish, strong technique and spirited enunciation. While the more mature discmates are not peer to the Op. 36 concerto, they provide added enjoyment on this very romantic performance where, with a great assist from conductor/accompanist Pay, the demarcation between Krommer and Mozart becomes most evident. Listening to this CD one understands that Krommer, who was born the same year as Mozart and outlived Beethoven, composed across the divide between the Classical and Romantic eras. This music makes it clear Krommer was a more romantic composer than Mozart evne early in his career. While this disk may no longer be available, it is an eye-opening experience in music often considered second drawer.

Symphonie Fantastique / Hungarian March
Symphonie Fantastique / Hungarian March
Offered by Rarewaves-US
Price: CDN$ 25.10
8 used & new from CDN$ 12.84

5.0 out of 5 stars A peak for conductor, composer, symphony, May 10 2004
Today, Detroit is one of America's struggling cities. Its days as the world's manufacturing center now in the distant past, the city is laying off teachers and police in a lingering slow economy. This scene could not have been more different in the 1950s, when Detroit produced half of all the cars in the world and was home to more than 2 million residents -- more than twice as many as today. Even the perennially poor Detroit Lions won three NFL championships in the 1950s and played in another. It was at the end of that glorious decade that Paul Paray and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra recorded this once-in-a-lifetime performance of Berlioz's most fantastic symphony in the then-new Detroit Cass Technical High School auditorium. Everyone on this muscial assembly line got it right: Paray blazed through the pages of Berlioz's score, the engineers brought forth a recording that might still be the best the Detroit Symphony has ever made, and the symphony itself was magnificent, as good or better than anytime since. How can such a time in history come forth in a city hardly known as a paragon of culture? The answer would be Paray, a passionate Frenchman that build a great orchestra in Detroit and with it made some of Mercury's most wonderful recordings. Others in this sequence included Paray's own Mass, the St. Saens "Organ" Symphony and a lively Mendelssohn "Midsummer Night's Dream" sequence. Paray brought out more from the Detroiters in his rapid fire romantic way than any resident conductor until Neemi Jarvi, who took the band on Europena tour, made a ton of recordings and again brought the orchestra to international promience. No recording more encompasses the match made in Heavan quality of Paul Paray and the Detroit Symphony than this Symphonie Fantastique. It is a rendeition most critics still hail as peer to Beecham, Ansermet, Davis and all the others that delivered a wallop in this music.

Symphony 2 Resurrection
Symphony 2 Resurrection
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 96.20
6 used & new from CDN$ 47.11

5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding achievement, May 7 2004
This review is from: Symphony 2 Resurrection (Audio CD)
This is simply one of the greatest recordings of the Mahler "Resurrection" Symphony ever recorded. It is a centrist recording that uses moderate timing and lacks highly theatrical affects espoused by Bernstein, who was the only other conductor in the U.S. in the 1960s to record the entire Mahler symphonic oeuvre. Abravanel's orchestra won't be confused for the Berlin or Vienna philharmonics. Still, the players are deeply committed and perform universally well. Abravanel's soloists are outstanding, as is the University of Utah Chorale. Florence Koploff's singing in "Urlicht" is otherworldly. Critics on both sides of the Atlantic agree this has been one of the best Mahler 2's since it came out in 1967. In his 1968 book, "Guide to Low-Priced Classical Records", Herbert Russcol called it "a performance to rank with most from the European Mahler tradition ensembles...playing and singing of the highest order." Thiry years later, in 1998, the august "Penguin Guide to Bargain Compact Discs" gave it two-and-one-half (of 3) stars. "Abravanel sustains the argument without exaggeration," they said. "The choir and solists as well as the orchestra are most impressive, obviously feeling the music deeply, and the Utah recording is spaciously excellent with a pleasing overall bloom." This CD competes just as splendidly today against the greatest Mahler ensembles in the world and every Mahler specialist. Because Abravanel consistently underplays the drama that many conductors overdo, his reading will always be fresh. His commitment to Mahler's intention is obvious and his partners are with him every step of the way. My only quibble is the current packaging requires you to purchase a two-CD set. If you can find this CD used, pick it up now. As well as being one of the best performances of this music, it is also one of the best buys in classical music. This is an essential performance all Mahler lovers should have in their library.

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