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Daniel Barenboim: The Jubilee Concert from Buenos Aires & 'Multiple Identities'
Daniel Barenboim: The Jubilee Concert from Buenos Aires & 'Multiple Identities'
DVD ~ Daniel Barenboim
Price: $26.54
10 used & new from $22.55

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a supreme gift, March 11, 2007
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Disc 2 of this double DVD set is a pulsing look at Daniel Barenboim and his immense world of music and art, and indeed fine living - friends, discoveries, everything a gifted and elegant intelligence thrives within. He comes across an intriguing, interested man of tremendous gifts and sensibilities. It's a joy to watch him work and relax, to witness his world, and it's easy to understand his artistic preeminence after 50 yrs living a musician's life. It's a film unafraid to present its subject as one who tends well the requirements of extraordinary gifts, and man, does it make for a beautiful one! Artfully filmed and smartly edited, the pacing's just right and the sound is superb. As fine as the documentary is, the real gift of this set is Barenboim's concert at the Teatro Colon. The Mozart and Beethoven that open the concert are just the rumblings. From the Scarlatti sonata forward, he commits playing that in any age would be judged a supreme art. He treats Ginastera's gemlike Danza de la moza donosa with rapt ease and mysterious colors. Barenboim's magical intelligence absolutely possesses the music, spinning out Schubert and Chopin, a delectable Rosenthal, Villa-Lobos, then encore after encore until he finally he closes the piano lid, indicating the necessary end. The gods were with the maestro this night in Buenos Aires! The playing is simply STUPENDOUS, and I'm an old man with lots of experience up that river. It flat out overwhelmed me - I watched it twice in immediate succession! If you dont know this naturally elegant musician's musician, this 2-disc set is THE perfect moment to wake up! It's memorable beyond words. Honestly, the finest filmed concert I've experienced. The intense and loving air in the Teatro Colon comes right to you, beckoning. Dont miss it.

Horowitz Plays Scriabin
Horowitz Plays Scriabin
25 used & new from $9.78

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what a recording!, March 4, 2007
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This review is from: Horowitz Plays Scriabin (Audio CD)
It's impossible not to love this recording! I have for years, and it stands the test of time. I met Scriabin's music through this classic recording, played many of these pieces across the years, and return to it again and again as to a fountainhead. Say what you will about the art of Horowitz over the years, his handling of these Preludes and Etudes is inerrant. I've not heard another pianist play Scriabin with such intimacy and understanding, Richter included. The alchemy that was Horowitz's alone is in unpartitioned play from beginning to end. His inscrutable ear lets him choose one miniature masterpiece after another, each one vital to his master plan, in the end not only revealing Scriabin's mastery of musical thought, but giving us an indelible guide to Horowitz's own genius. If you want to understand the contribution of Horowitz, walk past his others straight to THIS Scriabin disc, AND the Horowitz Plays Scarlatti disc. For me, these two recordings provide unique evidence of this pianist's most revealing gifts. The B-major Prelude is beautiful enough to melt stone. This recording reminds me of Gould's recording of Byrd and Gibbons - unexpected and perfect, and impossible to live without. In a world on overload, the music made here is witness of a great art. Don't delay the indisputable experience.

High Lonesome - The Story of Bluegrass Music
High Lonesome - The Story of Bluegrass Music
DVD ~ Lester Flatt
Price: $14.97
31 used & new from $7.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars universal appeal, March 1, 2007
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You dont have to be a bluegrass fan to love this film, but you might end up one! Bill Monroe's life and music beautifully dominate a penetrating look at bluegrass music and the land that birthed it. Monroe's musicianship is astounding; his voice is like a lonesome wail, a tantalizing, gripping mix of pain and joy. He's an artist of immense stature, and High Lonesome does his legacy justice. This is a rowdy portrait of Appalachia and the hard South, salted with anecdotal contributions from people who live there, their music and stories of the artists who've succeeded in making a very persuasive art known and loved beyond a regional world. I gathered a bundle of heart from this film, and learned to love Monroe's music even more. One of the best moments is watching the grin wrap around Jimmy Dickens' face as he sings '20/20 vision, walkin' around blind...'. The film's chock full of nugget after nugget of pure music, resilient humanity, and an authentic film vision, all of it enriching to the max! High Lonesome delves into the importance of radio in its early days, and finishes with a blazing look at bluegrass festivals (lots of full performances are included!) and a number of current bluegrass performers, the unbeatable Allison Krauss among them. It's a film to watch again and again, one that stays true to its heart, and pulls you in for a memorable, at times haunting experience! Recommended enthusiastically - you wont be disappointed. And the music is stick-with-you SPECTACULAR!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 19, 2008 8:32 AM PST

The Court of the Last Tsar: Pomp, Power and Pageantry in the Reign of Nicholas II
The Court of the Last Tsar: Pomp, Power and Pageantry in the Reign of Nicholas II
by Greg King
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $27.20
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars finding the real treasure, February 19, 2007
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This is a fine book on many levels. Subjects are parsed in sections - Personages, Palaces, Possessions, Pageantry, Pleasures - and the narrative is fluid and distinct. Chapters on the extensive Romanov family are fashioned with critically vivid directness, and the author comes into his own discussing the Romanov palaces. King needn't take a back seat to anyone with respect to understanding architecture and its many-layered meanings. Detailed descriptions of the various Romanov houses gives this book great value both historical and artistic, with a completeness missing in other literature on the subject. Along the way there are some real tidbits - about the emperor's library at the Winter Palace, he reveals that the Imperial Bindery provided the collection of rare volumes with new leather bindings: brown for works in Russian, blue for French, red for those in English, green for German. King reveals that the Chesme room at Peterhof took its name from twelve large canvases by Jacob Philippe Hackaert, depicting the Russian naval victory over Turkey in the Mediterranean in the early 1770s. When Hackaert worked on his commission, the Russian navy actually had a sixty-gun frigate blown up as it lay at anchor, so that the painter might accurately reflect the horrors of battle! The book contains three large sections of beautiful color photos. Unfortunately, a number of interesting photos are in black and white; one especially, the homely Lower Palace at Alexandria, Peterhof, I wish was color, but the photos are pungent and important, with the large color shots reproduced again in b/w miniature on those pages of text germane to them. Especially valuable is a rare photo of mediaeval-inspired Feodorovsky Sobor in the Alexander Park at Tsarkoye Selo, its hipped roofs and vaulted arcades topped with a single onion dome above its chapel. It's a magnificent edifice! Nicholas II, who nursed a love of mediaeval architecture, loved this anachronistic fantasy and commissioned additional buildings in the same style. The book dazzles with details, architectural and otherwise, each chosen with purpose. That purpose, it turns out, is the revealing of Nicholas and Alexandra. Strange as it seems, this book about the material, as it were, of the court of Nicholas II, ends by revealing profoundly the fated couple. Perhaps no other book has opened more deeply the mystery of Nicholas and his Empress. THIS is the real treasure of 'Court of the Last Tsar'. It's not surprising King's reputation for essential scholarship noticably rises. If you've an interest in, or better, a love for Romanov history, this is the book to read. By shaping the discussion around palaces and ceremonies and privileges, the intense mystical humanity of Nicholas and Alexandra comes screaming through - vibrant with tenderness and grief, misunderstood, sacrificial. I'm tremendously moved by this book and you will be too. One of the great mysteries of human history nobly emerges almost, it would seem, by accident. It's transfixing from beginning to end. Greatly, generously, unreservedly recommended reading.

The Art of Beverly Sills
The Art of Beverly Sills
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars two beautiful discs!, February 17, 2007
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Beverly Sills not only survived being a child prodigy - a rare enough thing among singing musicians - she triumphed in a big way. Her fertile and beautiful art is wonderfully represented on this double disc set from Deutsche Grammophon. I sense today a resurgence of appreciation for her art, and to call it well deserved is saying the least. The singing's jam packed with pure musicianship, attention to nuance, fidelity to composer and character - in a word, everything requisite to making the operatic art thrive, qualities in short enough supply today among many opera stars, and it makes this package even more attractive. Sills not only understood bel canto art, she accomplished it memorably. Highlights include 'Ah! Tardai troppo...' (Linda di Chamounix), &an unearthly 'Regnava nel silenzio...' (Lucia), which I might prefer to Sutherland's for its committment and munificence. The gone too soon Thomas Schippers conducts a great performance - how that man could possess whatever orchestra and score he worked with. Two arias from I Puritani - especially 'Vieni, vieni fra queste braccia' with the singing of the genius Nicolai Gedda as Arturo, and an opening to Anna Bolena's aria 'Cielo, a' miei lunghi spasimi' that wipes clean every memory of other versions. All that on disc 1! I had forgotten Sills' beautiful pianissimos, singing so musicianly and free of ego - her interpretation is always only her adherence to score and composer, and greater praise cant be given a classical singer. Disc 2 offers a definitive version of Korngold's 'Gluck, das mir verblieb' (Die Tote Stadt) among a number of fine versions out there. The slowest version available and I feel I'm hearing it for the first time, and with a true Viennese (Rudel) conducting! You can put this track alone on repeat and live out the day in freedom! If you dont know Sills' art, or dont remember it well and truly, this set is a fine place to begin what will become transfixion with a musical art that proves itself urgent and inextinguishable! Highest recommendation.

Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre
Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre
Price: $8.69
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the faithful artist, February 14, 2007
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Three unalterably supreme elements contribute to the abiding love I hold for this, my favorite recorded Traviata: the singing of Montserrat Caballe and Carlo Bergonzi, and these two artists' faithfulness to Verdi's score. There is little I can add to the perfect comments below of Bartolome Mesa Gil "TOLO". With a few knowing words, he hits upon the essence of a genuine singing art - fidelity to the composer's indicated markings, and the gifts of humility that lead a singer to trust the music, finding through that faithfulness alone all the drama required to bring an operatic score to eternal life. Caballe is the finest purveyor of these irreplaceable qualities of muscianship I've ever encountered in a singer. This recording holds those elements supremely to the fore, qualities that make it the most fulfilling Traviata I've heard in forty years of listening. Search far and wide; a singer who trusts the score is a singer who will inevitably divulge its riches with everlasting conviction. Caballe and Bergonzi meet that test with a devoted embrace, and raise the operatic art by the gift of their musical faithfulness. A recording to treasure.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 27, 2008 4:45 PM PDT

The Breakthrough
The Breakthrough
Price: $5.99
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars nothing finer, February 12, 2007
This review is from: The Breakthrough (Audio CD)
I love Mary living free in personal redemption she's struggled to achieve, and her music moves me in a way few singers do. I downloaded this CD from Itunes, havent read the liner notes,etc., so cant comment on the musicians/producers she works with here, but the writing, the musical arrangements and cohesion of the material, and unforgettable singing indicate that Blige is working at the top of her game. Breakthrough's the kind of deep soul effort I hoped Mary would do. 'Take Me As I Am', 'Be Without You', her collaboration with U2 on 'One', 'Father in You', and 'About You' that magically weaves musical goddess Nina Simone's take of 'Feelin Good' and f/Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am are real highlights of an CD that never lets up, breathing peace every step of the way. Blige's giant musicianship proves her as a vivid creative force &Breakthrough's a liberating joy from beginning to end.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 31, 2007 3:15 PM PDT

Andrea Bocelli - Under the Desert Sky [CD Included]
Andrea Bocelli - Under the Desert Sky [CD Included]
DVD ~ Andrea Bocelli
Price: $19.21
44 used & new from $6.53

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romance from Las Vegas, February 4, 2007
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Doesn't surpass the Night in Tuscany concert dvd, but there's a lot of good here. The ever-bubbling debate about Bocelli as classical singer or not goes on. Truth is, he not only sings operatic arias beautifully (if not always traditionally), but his voice opens into new vistas with classical music. Some people dont know that before he hit the American music scene, Bocelli's big success in Italy came as a singer of Italian/European pop music, not opera. Bocelli has princely taste in musical selections, and in this concert manages to overcome Foster's fountains-of-lasagna musical arrangements with sensational singing, and an invigorating personality. He includes 'The Prayer' - this time with Heather Headley. No classical arias are included. Fan or not, there's little here to disappoint. A Night in Tuscany offers more variety, and more muscular singing by Bocelli, but this concert's designed for romance and it delivers the goods.

Georges Bizet - Carmen / Peter Hall, Bernard Haitink, Maria Ewing, Barry McCauley, London Philharmonic, Glyndebourne Festival Opera
Georges Bizet - Carmen / Peter Hall, Bernard Haitink, Maria Ewing, Barry McCauley, London Philharmonic, Glyndebourne Festival Opera
DVD ~ Barry McCauley
Offered by Convertible Films
Price: $15.90
15 used & new from $14.37

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FIRE!, February 3, 2007
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As unpredictable (and occasionally unsettling) as Maria Ewing has proven to be as a singing actor, her performance as Carmen in this film is unassailable. She owns every inch of it, and from her stunning committment the whole piece blazes like a fire. The results can be unsatisfying when Ewing takes on a role (her Salome comes to mind), but, as a voice teacher and coach, I've yet to find a performance of hers that fails to completely exemplify an unyielding prescription: I tell my students - singing is an act of daring and committment in which you must literally be willing to die. It's that simple - and that profound. Ewing grabs hold of her art in the way Callas did. Like Callas, she has suffered in the voice department - willingly and knowingly, I suspect. Her Carmen misses no opportunity to rebel, to ignite, but Ewing is an actor of magnitude and knows the boundaries; pushes against them, but never at the cost of making real art. She's manifestly a singer of intelligence, breathtaking risk and seduction, always. This particular Carmen strikes me as her finest performance committed to film. I like this version filmed without an audience because it doesnt attempt to become an 'outdoor' film. Bizet's original ideas are thereby showcased to magnificent advantage, musically and dramatically. Kudos to this one-of-a-kind artist for an incomparable Carmen here; it's a take no prisoners performance. McCauley's thick and unwieldy tenor fails to impress, whatever the macho/puppydog presence may provide. An able actor, his singing is generic, if reliable. I've enjoyed Marie McLaughlin at Glyndebourne, and her turn as Micaela is satisfactory, a bit wary - better than tenor McCauley - but I could name a number of memorable Micaelas without mentioning her. Maria Ewing is firepit, kindling, logs, match, and blazing glory from beginning to end in this film, and she alone makes it worth double the price here! On her bewitching account alone, hotly recommended!

Tony Palmer's Film About The Salzburg Festival
Tony Palmer's Film About The Salzburg Festival
DVD ~ Tony Palmer's Film About the Salzburg Festival
Price: $18.43
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tony Palmer's gold, February 1, 2007
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Another superb film by this master, and first rate in every way. Palmer spends ample time on the war years, with valuable contributions from artists, patrons, and bundles of magnificent footage, among which is auspicious footage of the building of the Grosse Festspielhaus, after Karajan forced the Salzburg government to cut loose with the funds to achieve a hall large enough for the big works. The film naturally converges on Karajan's incontestable influence on the Festival, and presents a wonderful, multi-faceted look at the courageous and controversial conductor. Some of the comments from various historians I found to be off the mark, especially one who snidely insists that Karajan was simply a Nazi. Well... that is hardly a viewpoint able to stand on its own, as a reality unto itself and separate from many contributing factors. Bohm and Furtwangler are not treated in the same way by historians, though the three conductors are generally understood to have suffered in the same way throughout the Nazi period. But Palmer should be lauded for his completeness in surveying Karajan. Christa Ludwig's remarks are funny and pungent throughout, as might be expected from this great singer. I'm always struck by the remarks of viewers who criticize films like this because they are not simply films of performances. Ignore that kind of criticism. Tony Palmer goes deep with every effort he makes, and I think this examination of one of the great music festivals in the world is one of his finest films. The length of the film is but one indicator of the depth of his presentation. It's refreshing to watch something not expected to be fathomed and disposed of in 60 minutes. If you want to really understand the Salzburg Festival, this film is the perfect place to start. Unqualified recommendation.

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