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Reviews Written by
Peter T. Wolf "Gilded Age Lover" RSS Feed (lake forest, ca United States)
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Wagner: Orchestral Pieces from Parsifal . Tristan & Isolde . Tannhäuser
Wagner: Orchestral Pieces from Parsifal . Tristan & Isolde . Tannhäuser
Price: $9.49

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What's with the bowling balls??, May 12, 2014
How is it that one of the world's greatest orchestra under the baton of a first class conductor screws up the Tannhauser Overture?? In the finale of the overture ( the acid test of any performance) we hear what sounds like bowling balls being rolled down a bowling alley. What it is of course is a gross overuse of tympani that practically drowns out the rest of the orchestra. Further, its all played to fast. At least the final bars are drawn out to a dramatic conclusion but not enough to rescue the entire performance. As usual the best performances of this overture remain as follows in this order;
a) Chicago Symphony under Barenboim.
b) Berlin Staatskapelle under Barenboim (see a pattern here?)
c) Berlin Philharmonic under Claus Tennstedt.
d) Chicago Symphony under Solti.


Tchaikovsky: Romeo & Juliet; String Serenade; Francesca Da Rimini / Ewald: Brass Quintets Nos. 1 & 3
Tchaikovsky: Romeo & Juliet; String Serenade; Francesca Da Rimini / Ewald: Brass Quintets Nos. 1 & 3
Price: $33.53
37 used & new from $14.86

1.0 out of 5 stars Did the conductor fall asleep at the finale??, April 30, 2014
What an awful performance of the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy !! I can't believe the famed Phili Orchestra didn't throw Eschenbach off the podium. The finale of the overture is one of great dramatic pieces of music, as so many finales of Tchaikowsky are. Yet in this performance it sounds like the RPM's of the disc slowed down and the roll of the tympani and roar of the brass comes out like a weak burp. Now, if you want to hear what this music REALLY is supposed to sound like then you want, of course, the Bernstein NY Phil performance, widely considered the best of them all. And rightly so when you hear how the finale is performed by Mr. Drama himself.


Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4
Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4
14 used & new from $12.51

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CSO at it's best , as usual, April 30, 2014
There's no getting around the fact that the CSO is arguably America's greatest orchestra. No other American orchestra puts out such a massive sound. And it's not just the skill of the sound engineers since I hear this distinctive power regardless of the label under which it was recorded. And Barenboim, like few other conductors, relishes producing that kind of power. I saw him live with the Berlin Staatskappelle some years ago ( front row, left of center) and got the same full monty, Barenboim blast performing one of these same Schumann symphonies. So the combo of CSO and Barenboim is THE mix you want for big Romantic pieces. To wit, his CSO recording of the Organ Symphony and of course the incomparable Tannhauser Overture.


Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 5, 6 & 8
Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 5, 6 & 8
21 used & new from $8.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone still doubt Mozart's genius??, April 25, 2014
If you do then you've not listened to his early piano concertos. It's astounding to think these were written and performed by essentially a child. But what a child !! Number 5 is by itself a tour de force. And when performed by Barenboim ( one of my favorite musicians and conductors) it dazzles. I wish I could own every recording of Mozart's piano concertos, but too little time.


Symphonies 5 & 7
Symphonies 5 & 7
10 used & new from $1.12

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fifth Symphony for the Ages, April 4, 2014
This review is from: Symphonies 5 & 7 (Audio CD)
This is one of the best performances/recordings of the Fifth Symphony I've ever heard, and I've heard lots. Ordinarily I find Abbado's conducting a little too soft, even with the big pieces, but here he goes to town!! And he does it with an orchestra that can do it like no other. The performance is wonderfully loud (especially the scherzo) without a hint of distortion as the orchestra ratchets up the intensity. If you've ever seen the Vienna live performing a major symphony like this, then you know what I mean. Yet Abbado manages to 'sweeten' the softer passages, in the manner I'm used to with his performances, but then back to the aggressive passages he pulls out all the stops. Abbado does a great job in drawing out final chords and downbeats throughout the performance in much the same way Klieber did in his famous recording of this symphony with the same orchestra. And of course there's the famous DG recording technology to capture it all. In summary, a fabulous CD that exhausts you when it's over.


The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel
DVD ~ Willem Dafoe
Price: $7.50
73 used & new from $3.33

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHEN CAN I CHECK IN ??, March 31, 2014
This review is from: The Grand Budapest Hotel (DVD)
Just got back from seeing this movie. It's a total no-brainer folks. GO SEE IT !! Beautifully put together. The pacing is perfect and never a dull moment. Wonderfully nostalgic. Great soundtrack by Alexander Desplat (Be sure to stay to the very end of the credits so you don't miss a note of the music.) Terrific performance ( as usual ) by Ralph Fiennes. I count at least 5 Oscar nominations: Best Picture. Best Director. Best Actor ( Fiennes). Best Original Music ( Desplat). Best Set Design. Etc. Can't wait to get the DVD.


John Von Neumann and Norbert Wiener: From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death
John Von Neumann and Norbert Wiener: From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death
by Steve J. Heims
Edition: Hardcover
34 used & new from $19.85

5.0 out of 5 stars A Superlative Double Biography, February 22, 2014
This is a monumental book. The author has hit upon the terrific idea of a dual biography of two of the 20th century's greatest scientists, who while vastly different in personality, came to define the modern era of technological warfare. Wiener as the reserved and quite genius, who's entire pacifistic being cried out for the peaceful and beneficial exploitation of his ground breaking theory of cybernetics. And the polymath Von Neumann, who's range of discoveries always found their way into the advancement of the technologies of death. The author does a marvelous job of blending difficult science and math with the socio-political milieu these men were absorbed in. An era of hair trigger expectations of nuclear obliteration. I especially liked the description of Von Neumann's seduction by the military-industrial complex of the 1940's and 50's into a life of privilege and influence where he reveled in his power at the highest reaches of government and the Pentagon. Von Neumann thrilled at 'the thump of the helicopter on his front lawn' to whisk him away to some top secret meeting where the fate of the world hung in the balance.
This is a must read for anyone interested in great science and technology that changed the course of history and did much to create the world we still live in, for better or worse.


Peter the Great [VHS]
Peter the Great [VHS]
VHS
32 used & new from $1.43

5.0 out of 5 stars Where's the &%$!*^ DVD !!, February 6, 2014
This review is from: Peter the Great [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Another one of these inexplicable mysteries in the film industry: Why on earth is this not on DVD yet?? It is excellent !! Max Schell, as usual, is wonderful. But so is the entire supporting cast, especially Jeremy Kemp, Helmut Griem, Ursuala Andress, and Christoph Eichorn. For some odd reason, great TV historical mini-series from the 80's were ignored when DVD's came out. For example: 'Son of the Morning Star' and 'Marco Polo' never made it as well. But fear not, we can all sit back and watch DVD's of Charlie Sheen sitcoms.


Barrymore
Barrymore
DVD ~ Christopher Plummer
Price: $22.99
32 used & new from $3.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning. Simply Stunning, January 31, 2014
This review is from: Barrymore (DVD)
It is hard to believe that Plummer is in his 80's when he did this. The physicality. The sharpness of the delivery. Others have said it before, but I'll add my two cents: This is easily Christopher Plummer's finest performance. Where's the Emmy??


Humoresque
Humoresque
DVD ~ Joan Crawford
Offered by Surplus DVD Source
Price: $7.16
74 used & new from $1.83

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's hard to know where to begin praising this film, January 24, 2014
This review is from: Humoresque (DVD)
Amazingly, I saw this movie last night for the first time ever and I was blown away. I was glued to the TV. Like all great movies, it works on multiple levels. You have a very intelligent and erudite script. You have the glorious classical music and musicianship of Oscar Levant at the keyboard and Issac Stern (dubbing for John Garfield) on violin. You have superb acting from Garfield and Joan Crawford ( their best performances in my opinion). Plus Ruth Nelson as Garfield's mother steals all the scenes she's in. You have great sets and scenes and clothes of New York CIty of the 1940's. And it's all brought together by one of Hollywood's finest directors. If you haven't seen this movie, see it. I am buying a copy of it today.


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