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Mozart: Requiem
Mozart: Requiem
Price: $18.46
37 used & new from $7.14

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Papageno's Requiem, June 30, 2015
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This review is from: Mozart: Requiem (Audio CD)
The notes with this CD, by Florence Badol-Bertrand, argue the case that Mozart intended his commissioned Requiem above all as a MUSICAL testament that "his friends and his enemies would study after his death" but also as a synthesis of his humanist-Masonic philosophy with the dictates of his Catholic faith. The latter was implicitly no easy task; the text of the Requiem is most vividly a depiction of the Day of Judgment and of the fear that Death should inspire in the mortal sinner, while Mozart the Mason had written to his father of Death as "this truest and best friend of mankind ... the key to our true happiness." How then shall we hear the Requiem, as a wrathful sermon of anguish or a serene prayer of consolation? Or is it possible to appreciate either, if not to amalgamate them?

Conductor Laurence Equilbey has clearly chosen to give us a Masonic, humanist, consolatory Requiem, and she makes her case in the music. I've never heard the quotes from and allusions to "The Magic Flute" so emphatically declaimed as in this performance; if you've never heard the voices of the Three Boys in the Requiem, you've never listened intelligently enough. The balance of passion in this performance shifts from the thunder of the Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum to the penitential sadness of the Lacrimosa and then, farther toward consolation, to the blessed confidence of the Sanctus and Benedictus. In fact, the quartet of soloists in this performance don't fully emerge in all their richness of timbres until the quartets of the latter sections, but then their perfection of ensemble is enough to reveal the Mozartean genius within the "completed" orchestrations by Mozart's colleagues Eybler and Süssmayr. Given Equilbey's devotion to a gentler, more optimistic, and surely wittier Mozart, it's not surprising that her orchestra reveals, and revels in, color and counterpoint. The outcome of such attention to inner voices and to musical allusions to works Handel, Haydn, and WF Bach is to emphasize the overarching structuralism -- the Baroque symmetry -- of the Requiem. That symmetry is asserted meaningfully in the reprise of musical material from the opening Introit/Kyrie in the concluding Lux Aeterna, when it sound so much kinder and gentler.

The four soloists in this performance -- Sandrine Piau, Sara Mingardo, Werner Güra, and Christopher Purves -- have already garnered my praise for their ensemble singing: unified, in tune, balanced, stately in a manner that would have thrilled an audience of Enlightenment aristocrats, and that thrills me now. Mingardo is unmatched as a contralto these days. Tenor Güra's voice is clarion clear and Italianate, and that's the highest praise available for a tenor. Basso Purves brings the robust magic of Sarastro, from the Magic Flute, to his declamatory solos in the Requiem.

There's an account which says that Mozart, on his death bed, requested to hear in his final moments ... what? Not the Requiem! but rather Papageno's cheerful aria "Der Vogelfanger bin ich ja." I can't confirm this; I wasn't there. But it sounds like the Mozart of the Clarinet Concerto, composed in the same weeks as the Requiem, and other masterpieces of musical ENTERTAINMENT. Is it somehow second-rate to love the Requiem, yes even the Requiem, purely as beautiful music? If so, I'm guilty.

I recently posted a review of the Requiem performed in a diametrically opposite manner -- all darkness, dread, and passion -- by the New Century Baroque Orchestra conducted by Leonardo Garcia Alarcon. I gave that CD five stars also. There's more than one way to skin a cat.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 30, 2015 3:06 PM PDT


Mozart: Requiem/Clarinet Concerto
Mozart: Requiem/Clarinet Concerto
Price: $23.90
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DEATH IS JUST THE BEGINNING ...., June 17, 2015
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... of your torments, Thing of Flesh! “Full of weeping shall be that day when from ashes guilty man will rise to be judged.” (Lacrimosa dies illa qua resurget ex favilla judicandus homo reus.) “The wondrous sound of the Trumpet shall summon from the tombs all before the Throne” of Judgment. (Tuba mirum spargens sonum per sepulchra regionum coget omnes ante thronum.) The text of the Requiem mass is a wail of terror, despair and rage; the first word may be ‘requiem’ but eternal peace is immediately repudiated and consolation is scant. We shall all be “purged,” though with grace a few of us may plea successfully for mercy. “The Day of Wrath will dissolve the world in ashes!” (Dies irae, dies illa, solvent saeculum in favilla.)

Few indeed are the performances of Mozart’s Requiem that elicit sufficient terror from their audiences. This is one. The drums of God’s Wrath batter loud and clear while the feeble, febrile human cries for mercy sound fully anguished. The rhythms are those of Time itself running inexorably toward damnation. The trumpets and trombones do indeed summon.

Certainly the thunderous terror of this performance is heightend by conductor Leonardo Garcia Alarcon’s decision to omit the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei, composed not by Mozart but by Franz Süssmayr after Mozart’s death. In fact, Süssmayr never composed anything as fine as those three liturgical componets of the Mass again in his life, but they are incongruous with the Awe that Mozart expressed in the finished portions of his Requiem. Alarcon has exercised rigorous scholarship and displayed vigorous musical insight in assembling his own “edition” of the Requiem, drawing from the older reconstructions by Franz Beyer and Ricahrd Maunder. There are passges of counterpoint and choices of instrumentation in this performance that will surprise (and satisfy) listeners accustomed to modern-instrument, modern-vocalization recordings. The singular timbres of Alarcon’s “period” instruments, the clarity of tuning and articulation he elicits from the Choeur de Chambre de Namur, and the intense emotive voices of his soloists all render this performance sensational.

Mozart’s so early death, while working on this Requiem, has become one of the seminal myths of Romanticism: the mysterious anonymous commission, the pauper’s grave, the frantic forgery of a score by Süssmayr and widow Constanze ... pure Heldenhoopla! but hard to banish from one’s ears in order to hear the music as Mozart might have intended it to be heard, as an opera of eschatology.

How strange and complex to realize that Mozart composed the Concerto for Basset Clarinet at virtually the same time as the Requiem! No music from his hand is sweeter, livelier, more charming, more Italianate. The Requiem and the Concerto are emotional poles apart, and to my ears the Concert is the more sincere expression of “the Real Mozart,” particularly since it’s affectively and musically congruent with the sum of his operas and chamber works. I’d almost prefer to review this performance of it by clarinettist Bejamin Dieltjens separately, but I admire Alarcon’s boldness in juxtaposing the two works. Dieltjens plays a “clarinette de Basset” specially built for this work by Rudolf Tutz of Innsbruck. It’s not the first ‘reconstruction’ of a Mozart basset to be employed on a recording but it has the warmest, richest bottom register of any I’ve heard. Dieltjens plays with flawless effervescence.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 28, 2015 8:06 AM PDT


Johannes Ockeghem: Missa L'homme arme
Johannes Ockeghem: Missa L'homme arme
Price: $22.36
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I hate to slam a new ensemble ..., May 26, 2015
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... but this is a dreadful CD. If it weren't the ensemble's first, I'd have to one-star it. The singing is monochromatic in affect despite being "reinforced" by what I think must be studio resonance. The tempi are slower than the vote count in Ohio ... mournfully, lugubriously, shapelessly slow even on the three secular instrumental fantasies that have no authentic business being inserted being the 'ordinaries' of the missa. Played here on recorders, they sound "sanctified" enough to be funeral music, but in fact two of them were probably composed as challenges to the "musica ficta" skills of virtuoso players. There's no authenticity whatsoever to the decision of the ensemble to sing the syllables of the quite non-liturgical L'Homme Armé chanson in place of the words of the mass. It would NEVER have been done that way and it doesn't work, either with the affect of the liturgical celebration or with the demands of musical phrasing. Yes, polytextual motets had been quite common in the decades before Ockeghem, but they were carefully composed to take rhythmic adavantage of the clashing consonants. The effect here, especially with the dreary lethargy tempi, is just MUSH.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 15, 2015 4:40 PM PDT


Carissimi: Oratorios
Carissimi: Oratorios
Price: $43.96
14 used & new from $21.20

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Arion" of Rome and the Counter-Reformation, May 21, 2015
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This review is from: Carissimi: Oratorios (Audio CD)
Never heard of the composer "Arion Romanus?" Not surprising: Arion was a semi-mythical Ancient Greek, none of whose music has survived. His reputation, nevertheless, was once so powerful that Giacomo Carissimi (1604-1674) was lionized as the "Roman Arion." Twenty-eight of his motets were published in a collection entitled "Arion Romanus," and it's that collection which the ensemble Seicentonovecento has recorded. Their 2-CD performances of these motets, and their nine CDs of the complete Latin oratorios of Carissimi, have catapulted Carissimi into my pantheon of Baroque composers. No one in Rome in 1650 would have been shocked to hear Carissimi identified as "the greatest composer of the age."

One has to wonder why, of all Carissimi's oratorios and cantatas, his "Jepthe" was designated by musicologists as his masterpiece and therefore subjected to so many hideous bellowing walloping quasi-Wagnerian choral performances throughout the 20th C. You can still find several such travesties on CDs today. If you had the misfortune of hearing the Hermann Scherchen Jepthe as a teenager, as I did, you may have passed decades of your life without crediting Carissimi's genius. But you'll be astounded to hear none of the lugubrious Big Bow-wow of Romantic interpretations in the sprightly virtuosity of singing from Ensemble Seicentonovecento. Instead of profound pomposity, you'll hear clarity, delicacy, and variety of affect. Even if you can't comprehend Latin when sung -- smirk! -- you'll sense the theatricality of Carissimi's settings. He was, after all, explicitly the Counter-reformation's answer to secular opera. Seicentonovecento is a mixed ensemble of male and female voices, supported by superb continuo instruments of the 17th C. The vocal technique of that era required athleticism as well as tonal beauty, a basso profundo as flexible as any soprano and a soprano as forthright as any basso. One characteristic of Carissimi's style is his predilection for resonant ultra-deep basso solo and for coloratura soprano duets in close counterpoint. The effect is distinctive, presenting "humanity" in the lower voices while implying an angelic serenity in the upper, even during the most flamboyant passagi.

Ensemble director Flavio Colusso has devoted much of his career to editing the works of Giacomo Carissimi. These performances employ his editions as well as his "realizations" of continuo instrumentation. The variety of timbres and affects in these realizations is astonishing, given the authentically narrow musical vocabulary of the 17th C. Carissimi's sacred music emerges here as a gorgeous "popular" entertainment, just the sort of art that the protagonists of the Counter-Reformation intended to attract the populace back to the precincts of Catholicism.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 21, 2015 5:15 PM PDT


Carissimi: Complete Motets of Arion Romanus
Carissimi: Complete Motets of Arion Romanus
Offered by Fulfillment Express US
Price: $17.91
40 used & new from $8.63

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Star Power in Baroque Rome, May 21, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Never heard of the composer "Arion Romanus?" Not surprising: Arion was a semi-mythical Ancient Greek, none of whose music has survived. His reputation, nevertheless, was once so powerful that Giacomo Carissimi (1604-1674) was lionized as the "Roman Arion." Twenty-eight of his motets were published in a collection entitled "Arion Romanus," and it's that collection which the ensemble Seicentonovecento has recorded. Their performances of these motets, and of the complete Latin oratorios of Carissimi in a 9-CD set, have catapulted Carissimi into my personal top rank of Baroque composers, which would not have surprised anyone living in Rome in 1650.

One has to wonder why, of all Carissimi's oratorios and cantatas, his "Jepthe" was designated by musicologists as his masterpiece and therefore subjected to so many hideous bellowing walloping quasi-Wagnerian choral performances throughout the 20th C. You can still find several such travesties on CDs today. If you had the misfortune of hearing the Hermann Scherchen Jepthe as a teenager, as I did, you may have passed decades of your life without crediting Carissimi's genius. But you'll be astounded to hear none of the lugubrious Big Bow-wow of Romantic interpretations in the sprightly virtuosity of singing from Ensemble Seicentonovecento. Instead of profound pomposity, you'll hear clarity, delicacy, and variety of affect. Even if you can't comprehend Latin when sung -- smirk! -- you'll sense the theatricality of Carissimi's settings. He was, after all, explicitly the Counter-reformation's answer to secular opera. Seicentonovecento is a mixed ensemble of male and female voices, supported by superb continuo instruments of the 17th C. The vocal technique of that era required athleticism as well as tonal beauty, a basso profundo as flexible as any soprano and a soprano as forthright as any basso. One characteristic of Carissimi's style is his predilection for resonant ultra-deep basso solo and for coloratura soprano duets in close counterpoint. The effect is distinctive, presenting "humanity" in the lower voices while implying an angelic serenity in the upper, even during the most flamboyant passagi.

Ensemble director Flavio Colusso has devoted much of his career to editing the works of Giacomo Carissimi. These performances employ his editions as well as his "realizations" of continuo instrumentation. The variety of timbres and affects in these realizations is astonishing, given the authentically narrow musical vocabulary of the 17th C. Carissimi's sacred music emerges here as a gorgeous "popular" entertainment, just the sort of art that the protagonists of the Counter-Reformation intended to attract the populace back to the precincts of Catholicism.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 21, 2015 10:14 AM PDT


Keiser: Brockes-Passion
Keiser: Brockes-Passion
Price: $23.44
42 used & new from $18.45

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revival of One of the Founders of Modern Music, May 18, 2015
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This review is from: Keiser: Brockes-Passion (Audio CD)
Superb performance of the earliest and perhaps the most musically coherent setting of the Brockes Passion, which was also set by Stolzel, Telemann, and Handel among others. You can learn all about Brockes from Wikipedia or from the album notes accompanying this CD. Reinhard Keiser was arguably the most influential composer you've never heard of. His career was chiefly devoted to opera; he was indeed widely regarded as the "greatest composer of operas" of his era, and his role as an impresario entitles him to be venerated (or despised) as one of the founders of the public concert hall. His music must have sounded radically colorful to his contemporaries because of his flamboyant instrumentation. He assigned his distinctive instruments not only the traditional "obbligato" passages of other baroque composers but also surprising and delightful roles in the full orchestra. Therein he was certainly the direct progenitor of Haydn, Mozart and Co. I can almost guarantee that, once you hear this major musical monument, you'll be combing the listings for more of Reinhard Keiser.
Vox Luminis is one of the choicest vocal ensembles to have emerged from Europe in recent years. All of their CDs are gorgeously sung. And here's some good news for American music cognoscenti: Vox Luminis will be featured at the Boston Early Music Festival this June 2015 and at the Berkeley Early Music Festival in June 2016.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 18, 2015 7:01 PM PDT


Bruckner: Symphony No. 8
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8
Price: $10.48
65 used & new from $4.65

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All Pomp and Portent! But where's the Plot?, May 13, 2015
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I'm almost serious; any Bruckner symphony sounds to my ears like an 80-minute overture to a Wagner opera for which the libretto never got written. What's there otherwise? Is it supposed to be an emotional narrative? If anything, it's emotional bullying, pounding the listener into a state of "romantischen Weltschmerz." Or is it the threnody of the Enlightenment and Humanism that we're supposed to hold our breath and our seats -- oh, endlessly, the seats -- for? But where's the beauty, or the acknowledgment of beauty? Where's the entertainment? Of course, there are 19thCenturyphiles who think beauty and entertainment are trivial values, and I suppose such listeners would be less unmoved by Bruckner's bombast. Me, I wish this Anton had been coached by the later Austrian Anton --- Webern -- who might well have been able to reduce this Eighth Symphony to eight minutes of musical cogency.

I bought this re-egineered "classic" recording of the Eight Symphony more out of curiosity than out of conviction. I'm anything but a fan of Herbert von Karajan, either as a conductor or as a human being. Possibly, I thought, one person whose life will not bear scrutiny would be the proper interpreter of another such. The reviews of this CD here on amazon are nearly all adulatory; if you want to "give Bruckner a chance," you might well start with "the best." I've done that. I won't need to do it again.

Bruckner also wrote large-scale sacred vocal music -- masses and motets -- that are less "heroic" and, to my ears, more emotionally honest. Unfortunately, nearly all the recordings of such works have been produced by large growly-wallowy choirs, particularly those associated with British universities and cathedrals. At his best, Bruckner seemed to aspire to the passion and lucidity of Orlando di Lasso, the 16th Century's most canonized composer, whose chromaticism launched the Baroque. Lasso also composed the best of his religious works in what is now Austria. Maybe it's the Alps ...
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 24, 2015 8:14 AM PDT


Telemann: 12 Fantasias - 12 Recorders
Telemann: 12 Fantasias - 12 Recorders
Price: $21.11
26 used & new from $11.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Twelve Peaks, May 10, 2015
A Fourteener, in mountain parlance, is a peak over 14,000 feet above sea level. There are twelve Fourteeners in California, and it’s a hiker’s pride to have climbed all of them. Really, the Sierras of California are charming miniatures in comparison to the Himalayas. Perhaps the same must be said of the Twelve Fantasias for solo flute by Georg Philipp Telemann; they are chaming miniatures alongside the solo cellos suites of JS Bach or the solo lute suites of Sylvius Weiss. But Telemann had a special appreciation for the recorder; the duets and the parts he assigned to recorders in both his chamber works and his oratorios are the grandest cordillera of music for recorders ever composed.

The Twelve Fantasias performed by Simon Borutzki on this CD were perhaps originally conceived for traverso flute, though the first printing of them assigned them to solo violin. They are not convincingly idiomatic for fiddle, while they are exactly that for baroque flute and even more so for baroque recorder, once the appropriate transpositions are made. Simon Borutzki has cleverly taken transposition farther than most previous editors of the XII Fantasias, choosing to perform them on twelve different recorders of various sizes and home keys: altos in F at A415, altos in G at A440 and A415, and voice-flutes (tenors) in D at both pitches. The makers of his instruments include Friedrich von Huene, Fred Morgan, Joachim Rohmer, Hans Schimmel, Guido Klemisch, Tim Cranmore, and Ralf Netsch, all replicating mseum instruments by Bressan, Denner, Stanesby and others. The recording is in effect an acoustic tour through the timbres that various craftsmen have extracted from the seemingly simple fipple flute called, in English, the recorder.

These little suites are all about vivacious virtuosity. Affect and elegance. “Sentiment” in the 18th Century sense, Amusement for the modern listener or player. Indeed they were composed for players rather than for concert-goers, and every skilled recorderist in the world has found them wonderfully entertaining to play in his or her own salon. Borutzki’s transpositions and his choices of recorders with distinctive personalities, along with the witty extravagance of Telemann’s musical imagination,preclude any sense of monotony from listening to 53 minutes of a solo instrument.

Borutzki handles the tempi, from grave to presto by way of affetuoso and dolce, with consummate freedom. Dance rhythms flutter in and out, rubato rules, expressiveness is teh only meter. Recorder technique, at this level, is a matter of flying fingers and a super fluid tongue. Yes, the recorder is an easy instrument to pick up and play badly, but to play it as well as Borutzki does requires athleticism of the highest sort.

There are two kinds of music-lovers who MUST hear this CD: 1) If you’ve ever found pleasure in playing a recorder yourself, you will be dazzled by Borutzki’s artistry. Indeed you may be so awestricken that you’ll convert your own recorders to shish-kebob skewers. 2) If you never found pleasure in listening to recorder music ... if you’ve defined the recorder as an untuneable toy played by third-graders in private schools ... you WILL be impressed by the passionate exuberance of Telemann’s fantasies and Borutzki’s realizations of them.


Leif Ove Andsnes Plays Bach & Mozart
Leif Ove Andsnes Plays Bach & Mozart
DVD ~ Leif Ove Andsnes
Offered by livingroom conductor
Price: $27.95
11 used & new from $11.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tantalizing, April 22, 2015
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No doubt I should have read the posted reviews before I ordered this DVD. But Andsnes is one of my musical heroes these days and I couldn't imagine not enjoying a filmed performance by him. Had I read those reviews, however, I would have known that this is a set of snippets! Single movements from works by Mozart and Bach! Very frustrating. Tantalizing, and I don't mean that in a positive since! The Greek Tantalus had to stand in a pool of tepid water for eternity; whenever he tried to drink, the pool receded from his lips, and whenever he tried to eat a grape from the cluster above his head, the cluster soared away.


Six-Pack of Blood
Six-Pack of Blood
Price: $0.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bit of O Henry Survives ..., April 21, 2015
This review is from: Six-Pack of Blood (Kindle Edition)
... in the coy twists and quirky conclusions of the short and very short stories of "Six-Pack of Blood." More than a bit of Stephen King extrudes, however, like a cadaver's hand from a violated grave. As the title implies, these are tales of gore and gristle, ghosts and suspicions of the ghostly-ghastly innate in human beings. And there's just a hinty bit of Jorge Luis Borges concealed here and there, almost metaphysical conceits although without the intellectual maze-amazement of the Argentine master. These are not intellectualizing stories; like many crime and horror stories, they're diversions from the heavy labor of intelligence. (After all, in our times, reading anything is proof presumptive of intelligence.)

"Style" is not of the essence for authors Betty Dravis and Barbara Watkins. Entertainment is. If you relish the ghost stories of Henry James but find his style impenetrably laborious, Six-Pack of Blood will suit you just fine. Load it on your Kindle, read a tale as you wait for an airplane, sit through a half-time or an intermission. One story now, one story then will be best. Don't expect prurience or scatology! If you crave nastiness, try the Kindle works of Bernard Michael O'Hanlon. I have an image of the authors of Six-Pack as lively grandmotherly gentle souls who happen to delight in fey wickedness. I would expect readers of similar dispositions to enjoy this collection.


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