I`ve got a recording of Handel`s Concerti Grossi Opus 6 on the Linn label with The Avison Ensemble that I can`t stop listening to.It is very well lively and well played.The recorded sound is beyond belief!It is a hybrid super audio recording.The standard CD layer is amazing in it`s own right.The super audio layers are just perfect.I wish these forces would tackle Bach`s Brandenburg Concertos.Also have the Linn recording of Handel`s Messiah.Love the performance.Again,the sound quality in all formats is stunning.Philip Hobbs must surely be a wizard of sorts.
You are quite right, BW, about Linn production merits and the qualities of the Avison Ensemble. Most recently, they impressed me with Vivaldi's op. 8. Very exciting set, brilliantly recorded.
However, Messiah sounds better and, generally, is a better performance with Harnoncourt (in SACD as well, on Deutsce Harmonia Mundi).
The Brandemburg Concertos have such a saturated discography, even in SACD. Besides, the Avison is mostly, if not exclusively, a string ensemble! We'll see.
This disc of music for flute, harp and strings by French composer Jean Cras is wonderful! A recent Gramophone Editors Choice the composer is completely new to me. The music is not challenging by any stretch but is fresh and very engaging with echoes of Ravel and 20thC Brit composers.
It's on Spotify (where I usually trial before buying) and is now in the post heading my way.
Pause for thought.
Jean Crass is an obscure figure of French 20th century, but with some very luminous music. This label of the CD in question, namely the French Timpani, has an unusually extensive repertory of music of this otherwise fully (but unduly) neglected composer.
This label has, by the way, a wonderful catalogue of French masterworks that, most if not all, are neglected or forgotten. Try to explore it, (anyone interested in 20th century French music).
2. Elgar's 2nd: Boult (Lyrita): trying a better approach to this work as I like the first very much (a gramo rec).........
when it comes to Chopin's piano works, Moravec is a safe bet, isn't it?
Although I haven't done a detailed comparison Boult's Lyrita Elgar symphonies are possibly even better than his EMI versions despite (or perhaps because of) Boult's anger at the producer's insistence of non antiphonal violins against Boult's usual preference. I was fortunate to get the LPs in last year's Lyrita LP auction; quite superb.
Ivan Moravec certainly deserves to be much better known but then he's no showman with a vast publicity & PR machine behind him like certain of today's piano players. And presumably as he wasn't a party member the Czech government didn't allow him out too often in the communist days. His recording of the Ballades is simply outstanding and the finest I have ever heard (VAI) whilst his set of the complete nocturnes too (Warner) is one of the best. Here is a deeply thinking musical intellectual as well as a pianist. I should have included him my comment on the Beethoven post as a great Beethoven interpreter too.
On De Niese, I fully agree. I will invest in Poppea when I've recovered from her Giulio Cesare. It had me reaching for the old sherry bottle and my wife reminding me that I am at a difficult age. (Gosh, this difficult age is lasting a long time!)
Vic, FYI I watched the Haim/De Niese L’Incoronazione on the weekend. Spectacularly good, in every respect. In particular I’m happy to say Carsen didn’t go overboard this time. He manages to make his concepts work without trying to reinvent the opera. No weak points in the cast and Haim’s support, as usual, sounds exactly right. For me, Alice Coote’s Nerone steals the show. Wonderful singing and acting, giving us a Nero that reminds me of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas or Carlyle in Trainspotting, evil that borders on complete insanity.
Carsen’s one small miscalculation is the baby doll nightie he has De Niese wear up to the final act. Sure, she’s a sight for sore eyes but seems a bit self conscious, surreptitiously rearranging it to stay decent, which is at odds with the character. Anyway, she has the physique to produce the required effect in a full-length slip, as did Ewing playing the same role.
Half way through my wife said, “I think De Niese’s most attractive feature is her eyes.” I still haven’t thought of an appropriate response.
Picture and sound on the dvd are close to bluray standards and the price on Amazon has recently dropped significantly. Extras, for a change, are worthwhile. I’d recommend it without reservation.
Forgive the diversion, but that reminds me of a discussion I once had with a friend on femininine pulchritude in relation to film stars (as one does). I said that Catherine Deneuve was extremely attractive, at which he reacted strongly, saying "She's absolutely awful! I can't stand her eyebrows". I'd say that was the definition of 'picky'.
Sorry chaps, back to the music.
On De Niese, I fully agree. I will invest in Poppea when I've recovered from her Giulio Cesare. ...
Vic, FYI I watched the Haim/De Niese L’Incoronazione on the weekend. Spectacularly good, in every respect.
Picture and sound on the dvd are close to bluray standards ... I’d recommend it without reservation.
Thanks for the recommendation tagalie. I bought it and dipped into it last night and will prepare myself for a full viewing later. The early scene with Alice Coote was amazing (and flagged up the need for the sherry bottle yet again). It made me smile and think of the exchanges in another thread between Parla and others on the extra-musical talents required in opera these days. After De Niese's Cleopatra and Poppea, no over-weight, aging soprano could compete in verisimilitude even with an edge in voice - though to me, she yields very little in this department.
An earlier comment made me think of the use I make of reviews and critics. When I bought Paul Lewis' latest Schubert, mostly on Harriet Smith's enthusiastic review, I was delighted and not bothered that someone thought another version superior. I am still adding core repetoire and need to direct funds wisely. I don't need multiple versions of most pieces - though there are a few exceptions to this. When I purchase on reviews that praise highly I am never disappointed. When a new version is lauded to the skies it takes nothing from an earlier one which impressed before it. Either will do the biz for me though I can see its value in driving up standards. Personal differences in opinion between critics is within a margin that will be insignificant for someone new-ish to this field like me. All credit to critics here and on BBC MM, my other main source of wisdom. They provide a great service to someone in my position.
I'm also influenced by critics, though I tend to use them more to screen out bad recordings than for subtle differentiation between acknowledged masterpieces. In the end, for me, it often hinges on price and availability.
I tend to buy a lot of used CDs. I live in the Los Angeles area, so there are still a few used record/CD stores around. Used classical CDs are pretty cheap, averaging around $3.99 to $5.99 (US). There's usually a selection of cut-rate discs for $1 – mostly "greatest hits" compilations, which I normally skip unless they include complete versions of pieces. When I find a disc I'm interested in, I'll scan the bar code on the front or back side with the Amazon app on my iPhone and do a quick check of the Amazon reviews. If the reviews are tepid, I'll move on to something else. If the reviews are pretty solid and I don't own another version, then I'll usually buy it, even if there may be a superior recording available on Amazon. I figure I can't go too wrong with a $4 investment. I can always buy the superior version sometime down the road.
I will occasionally consult the Gramophone archives to help me make a decision. This usually isn't too convenient on the iPhone, but sometimes I'll do it back at home. I've made a few purchase when there were no Amazon reviews but a favorable – or at least lukewarm – review in the Gramophone archives.
These days I mostly use Amazon for the (very) occasional new release, for a boxed set or for recordings I'll likely never find in the used bins (say, anything by Handel that ISN'T Messiah highlights or Water Music). I tend to be much more selective at this point and will consult a wider range of reviews.
Thanks for the recommendation tagalie. I bought it and dipped into it last night and will prepare myself for a full viewing later. The early scene with Alice Coote was amazing (and flagged up the need for the sherry bottle yet again). It made me smile and think of the exchanges in another thread between Parla and others on the extra-musical talents required in opera these days.
You're welcome, Vic. I wondered where you'd got to for a while there, thought perhaps you'd overdone the Danny thing. Boy, has she ever lost her accent (in the extras). Sounds almost totally Home Counties now, to my ears. I agree with you, too, on her vocal talents. And Coote is staggeringly good. Regardless of the beloved Mr. P's fossilized rantings this is an opera in which text and music carry similar weight. I've studied Busenello's work in the original, and it's wonderful stuff. Lots of timeless human insights. Thankfully it's presented here pretty well intact. I seem to recall the old Ewing performance was cut somewhat.
Tsaraslondon, I think it is, has referred elsewhere to another performance I'd highly recommend. The Caballe Norma is one of two dvds in my collection that I treasure as much for the sense of a great occasion caught on the fly, as anything else. It was filmed at the Orange Festival during a gale. Perhaps it was the weather that put everyone right on their mettle. Caballe and Vickers are superb. Acting is rather old fashioned but there's an electricity that transcends all.
When I find a disc I'm interested in, I'll scan the bar code on the front or back side with the Amazon app on my iPhone and do a quick check of the Amazon reviews. If the reviews are tepid, I'll move on to something else. If the reviews are pretty solid and I don't own another version, then I'll usually buy it, even if there may be a superior recording available on Amazon. I figure I can't go too wrong with a $4 investment. I can always buy the superior version sometime down the road.
But get to know your reviewers, Lance. We all have our biases and as much as there are excellent reviewers on Amazon, there are lulus too. And try Amazon in different countries. There are national biases - opera fans in your country tend to dislike modern productions, dismissed as 'eurotrash'.
Vic, I have a question on the recommendation thing of the two magazines you exclusively read and consult for your actual purchases.
Because I read both of them too, I've noticed that it's not such a happy coincidence their (re)views to coincide. Quite often, their differences are striking, like with the latest version of Beethoven's Symphonies of Chailly (for Gramophone was the No.1 Editor's Choice CD of the month and for BBC MM was a mere three star category item, namely simply "average"). In this case, what do you do? Do you ignore both or you opt for one of them and, in this case, which one and with which criteria?
Because I read another two French and occasionally a German too, I have to tell you the situation is close to madness with the variety of grading the different recordings. Fortunately, by the years, it seems (not only to me) that the label thing plays a major role. The French praises mostly their own label's products, the British likewise and the Germans unashamedly too. In the rare occasion of a truly master recording, then, they...converge, with a small margin, sometimes.
Because I read both of them too, I've noticed that it's not such a happy coincidence their (re)views to coincide. Quite often, their differences are striking...
I agree with your assessment fully. The same happens with online reviews to some extent.
When I first started listening to classical music I replied on Gramophone and a worn copy of the Penguin Guide. That quickly ended when I realised that there were some critics I just found plain wrong headed. In the beginning I was also stuck a little on labels - 'if its by DG it must be good' etc. After a few years I realised that I was just happier going on my instincts. If it is new repertoire for me then I might search out a few reviews and sample, but with music I am familiar with the deciding factor will be if the artist interests me. One of the best aspects about exploring contemporary music is that often you find there is only one (or perhaps two) recordings, so choosing is far easier.
One thing I have also noticed is how important that first recording can be; it really can have a powerful effect on how you view a piece. Take for example something as varied and magnificent as the Goldberg Variations. My first recording was Gavrilov and I listened to it over and over again for two years before trying other interpretations. Coming back to that first recording is a little like getting some home cooking after being away for a while.
Not quite exclusively, Parla. There is BBC Radio 3's "Building a Library" recommendations; Presto Classical's site gives a summary of good reviews from various sources, and of course, this forum - including some of yours, I might add. (For which, much thanks.)
But I take your point about conflicting reviews. I take the view that if a work is highly praised by a reviewer I am unlikely to dislike it (on artistic or interpretive grounds, that is). It doesn't matter to me that it might not be the best version available, just a good one. I am not a collector of versions, I don't have a vast knowledge of the repertoire so I have to rely on advice, and I suppose I am not as discriminating as some.
However, that said, there are a few favourite works that I particularly love that have inspired the search for the impossible definitive version. I have a fair collection of Saint Saens' Organ Symphony, for example. (Eschenbach's with the Philadelphia Orchestra tops that list for me, though I would appreciate any recommendation you might have.)
As I say above, I have never been dissatisfied by a reviewer's recommendation, so this method of selection works for me. Perhaps I will become more discriminating with more experience, but for now, I love the music I buy - and thank reviewers for their work.
Reviews are often best taken with a pinch of salt and as I get older I take them less seriously (or am more likely to disagree with them), certainly for mainstream repertoire when I know what I like (or like what I know).Look at the controversy on here when Rob Cowan chose Davis's LSO Live Fantastic Symphony for example on BBC Record Review. I do have a dog eared second edition Penguin Guide (and one or two more recent ones) and have taken Gramophone almost continually for over 40 years. One gets to know whether one can trust a reviewer and with a significant collection of piano recordings, probably my main interest, I know for example that will often exclude Bryce Morrison's recommendations but not Jeremy Nicholas's. Sometimes I know a work so well from the first recording I bought others are automatically compared and rejected, a case in point being the Paul Lewis Schubert piece on the G player which did nothing for me at all despite Harriet Smith's ravings, perhaps because I am totally wedded to Brendel's Vox recording which I consider unsurpassable although I do like Imogen Cooper's version too (and both have a recorded sound more amenable to my ears than the new Lewis). I did though find Lewis's earlier D959 and D960 enjoyable although Schnabel is still unsurpassed in D960 (my first version again) and Brendel and Cooper get joint first for D959.
I can however listen quite happily to any of my three versions of Saint Saens third symphony which if Vic is interested are Fremaux/Birmingham, Munch/Boston and Alsop/BBC Phil. If pushed I would probably take the latter which was a BBC MM cover disc.