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Robert M. Burns RSS Feed (Oregon's Willamette Valley)

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Mahler: Symphonies 2, 4, 7 & 9 / Das Lied von der Erde
Mahler: Symphonies 2, 4, 7 & 9 / Das Lied von der Erde
Price: $24.78
37 used & new from $13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Collectible Recording., July 29, 2014
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As an somewhat newly baptized Mahlerian, l found this boxed set absolutely fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable. Though remastered from earlier tapes, the production values are astonishingly full, clear and crisp. At times I wondered if each instrument was separately miked and adjusted in the final product. It simply amazed me. The bass tones were amazingly full and it seemed as though Klemperer reminds us this register is an equal part of a larger whole which seems given the short shrift in many other recordings.

The highlight of the set is without a doubt "Das Lied Von Der Erde" which is among the best I've heard anywhere. Christa Ludwig's and Fritz Wunderlich's performances here are stunning. I had always had special affection for Thomas Hampson's recording with the San Francisco and MTT (indeed, my ear seems to have a prejudice toward the lower voice) but here Ludwig really delivers the goods in this giving. Her "Abschied" is nothing short of superlative. Wunderlich, who tragically lost his life at 35 years old and at the peak of his career, absolutely knocked me over in the first bars of "Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde," setting the mood for Mahler's marvelous adaptations of ancient Chinese poems. This opening song requires extraordinary power and penetration from the tenor and Wunderlich does the part with incredible clarity; he magically takes us to some imaginary pavilion to see for ourselves what the singer sees in the moonlight night.

The 7th Symphony seems to be the bone of contention here among the reviewers. Indeed Maestro Klemperer's tempi are slower than most other recorded givings, but there is something to be said for his attention to the details of the inner voices and especially the polyphony, something Mahler was especially adept at, which gave me a chance to listen even more attentively to what he was doing. This applies to the entire work. I found this to be wonderfully fresh. Mov. I, with its opening mysteriousness of the double basses simply makes you sit up from the downbeat forward. The 1st "Nachtmusik" is as dark and shadowy as it could be, and the 2nd is as tender a serenade as I've ever heard. Mahler's use of the plucked guitar and mandolin are heard as never I've heard them in juxtaposition to the bowed strings of the orchestra and one wonders if such featuring could ever be heard in the same way in a concert hall. Klemperer and the Philharmonia display this contrast marvelously.

What did the composer want in his 7th symphony? Mahler was famous for reworking his compositions almost to the end of his life. He was, to say the least, never satisfied and was constantly tweaking much of his work long after their premiers. Indeed critical opinions vary all over the board as to Mahler's intent, particularly in the last movement's mood. I will not hazard a guess here, but Klemperer clearly leads us to light at the end of a somewhat somber tunnel in the finale. Mahler described this work as "essentially cheerful" yet Movs. II and IV are essentially dark and in some places frighterning. Mahler never lets us get comfortable or complacent in listening to his music. Mahlerians old and new will argue these points ad nauseum but in the end it is for the listener to take from Mahler what they will. To me, there is no definitive version of almost anything of Mahler, which is why his works are of such interest to so many. Whether you think Gustav Mahler is the last of the "Romantics" or the first of the "Moderns" it is for you to decide and to enjoy listening and thinking about.

Finally, as noted elsewhere, Klemperer was present at the premier of the 7th in Prague in 1908 (along with Bruno Walter, among others). This fact has to give his versions of Mahler some "cred" I would think.

But never mind. This set is a definite collectible and no Mahlerian should be without it.

Tchaikovsky: Symphonies no 4, 5, & 6 / Karajan, Berlin PO
Tchaikovsky: Symphonies no 4, 5, & 6 / Karajan, Berlin PO
Price: $13.18
68 used & new from $3.51

4.0 out of 5 stars What the Hay?, May 8, 2014
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Let me get the small stuff out of the way first:

1. Why the devil did DG put the 5th on 2 separate disks? That's ridiculous. Is a 3rd CD so expensive to add to the set?

2. Once I stuffed the disks into my machine, I buried the jewel case. I'm sick of looking at pictures of Von Karajan in the throes of this or that work he's trying to sell. His mug (and Lenny's, too) on just about all his CDs are so over-the-top you want to gag.
Then again, I guess the Deutsch Grammophone marketing people think Herbie's mug will sell more sets than a good portrait of the composer himself.

Now, for the music:

Recording quality: Outstanding. I actually ditched a recording I have of Reiner and the Chicago of the 6th which is just terrible, in terms of production values, at least on my systems. This one is rich in sound. Even the high strings playing at fortissimo are quite nice to my ears.

For most of my life I avoided Tchaikovsky. His music has always seemed maudlin: syrupy, overly romantic and pretty much representative of the end stage of the Romantic movement, when everything that could be done to music had already been done to it. (For that late 19th century period of time, I'm still a dedicated fan of Gustav Mahler when it comes to symphonic music.)
But I find that as I age, I'm gaining a new appreciation for Mr. T. Certainly, he was a terrific melodist and had a great command of the use of orchestral color. And, as one digs into his life, he comes to a certain understanding of him as a composer. So these three works, the 4th, 5th and 6th symphonies, are among the foundational recordings of my Tchaikovsky collection (along with his marvelous "Serenade for Strings," a totally mediocre recoding of it also I have with Herbie and the BPO, too.)

The reading of the 6th on this recording is "money," as my son likes to say. It's what makes the purchase more than worth it. Herbie owns this work in this recording, at least. His 4th movement has to make even the most jaded listener (at least!) blink. His tempi, contrary to what some other reviewer here wrote, were perfect. I think I caught a slightest little goof in a "tutti" attack, but I'm not complaining a bit. The BPO in the 70s, then—and arguably continues to be—a very high horsepower group. You always feel they have more muscle than they would ever need. The strings, from double bass to violins.....amazing! Brass..amazing,

Anyway, it's a very good set with the 6th standing out as both a work among three. Four stars because of Herbie's mug and the split disks. Otherwise, I'd give it 5.

Mahler: Symphony No. 8
Mahler: Symphony No. 8
Price: $26.98
55 used & new from $12.16

5.0 out of 5 stars About As Good AS It Gets....., March 6, 2014
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No. 8 (Audio CD)
I've been lucky enough to hear MTT and the SFS give two Mahlers (the 2nd and the 5th) on successive nights at Davies in the centenary year of his death. Hearing Mahler live for the first time ever was a life altering experience, as far as I'm concerned. I bought this version of the 8th based on my experience with the two I heard live. I was not disappointed.

The opening "Veni" with that magnificent Fratelli Ruffati, organ of 147 ranks of pipes leading the way into Mahlerwelt just grabs you immediately and presages what's to come in this enormous work calling for 2 SATB choirs, and childrens' choir and eight soloists. This work was Mahler's synthesis on just about every kind of musical genre from symphony to cantata and he wanted this work to be a kind of musical apotheosis of existence itself. A tall order indeed.

The 8th was Mahler's only unqualified symphonic success in his lifetime. His constant probing of the boundries of music, coupled to latent anti-Semitism in the fin de siècle Viennese press nearly guaranteed bitter notices. But the 8th premiered in Munich in 1910 and, according to De la Grange, it stunned the audience as if they had been rendered mute for a second or two, after which thunderous applause broke out for 20 minutes.

Michael Tilson Thomas, who has a great fondness for Mahler's music, and who has even made a documentary on Mahler. does the maestro proud in this magnificent recording. The symphony was an tip top shape, the singers were splendid, and the chorus (Ah! The chorus: with whom I sang fifty years ago!). Sure a few blemishes here and there but they are of such minor importance as to be not even worth spending any time writing about. In short, this giving of the 8th is very, very, good.

Some reviews here take MTT task for his interpretation: retinudos, tempo changes, accents here and not there, etc. In fact, among some reviewers here it seems to be de rigueur to ding Thomas, as if he's some second rate musician, which is hardly the case.It should be noted that all conductors have personal affectations of their own, based on his/her own sensibilities. For instance, Mahler's music makes great use of the music turn. (Think the last 5 minutes of the 9th, as an example) Thomas stresses these turns in many places as if to hand them to the listener, saying, "Look at this! Isn't it marvelous?"

But there's more, I think. MTT and the SFSO have, in his tenure risen to world class ranks - many rank it among the top 10 orchestras in the world, yet I think many people simply don't want to give credit where it's due. Relatively speaking, The SFSO is new on the major league orchestra touring scene. They've never toured more than with MTT. They knocked 'em dead at Carnegie a few years ago and have been playing venues all over Europe to great success. This band's notices are of high praise wherever they play. The orchestra has strongly supported new music, most notably Henry Adams ("Harmonielehre," "Short Ride in a Fast Machine.") among others, and are an integral part of the San Francisco community.

This Mahler 8th, and other SFSO Mahler recordings are wonderful and worth a place in any open-minded listener's collection.

Maxell P-10 Cassette Adapter
Maxell P-10 Cassette Adapter
Offered by Sonic Electronix, Inc
Price: $18.99
13 used & new from $8.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Works FIne. Nothing speical..., February 19, 2014
Mine finally crapped out after a good two years of service. I almost always listen to podcasts and music on my i-Pod and play it back through the radio of my Acura TL. Toward the end of its life it began "ticking" in the slot from time to time, probably tricking the radio into thinking it was a tape cassette. What did it in was that there was evidently a small break in the wire at the jack and I began losing one channel. So it's time to get another.

The real problem is that as cars get older and sent off to the wrecking yard, radios with cassette players with go away with them, and thus no one will manufacture cassette adapters anymore. Newer cars are coming with jack receptacles built into the radios. If you can't buy an adapter, then what?

Buy a new car, I guess!

Boardwalk Empire (Volume 1 Music From The HBO® Original Series)
Boardwalk Empire (Volume 1 Music From The HBO® Original Series)
Price: $10.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Music From a Bygone Age, December 14, 2013
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If you ever wonder why songs from 20's, 30's, and 40's have such staying power, this is as good an answer as there is out there. Rhythmic, full of melody and easy to follow harmony, this CD dares listener to keep his feet still and a little smile from his face. From "Livery Stable Blues" to "All By Myself" you just can't help but wanting to get up and "trip the light fantastic" with someone.....ANYONE!

Vince Giordano, whom I heard interviewed on Terry Gross's "Fresh Air" show on NPR, has put a real, museum quality series of three CDs

After it's over, you ask yourself if current pop songs will be listened to with such joy - if at all - a hundred years into the future. I, for one, don't think so.

I'm posting this reviews on my review of Volume 2. Different music, same opinion in every respect.

Boardwalk Empire Volume 2: Music From The HBO Original Series
Boardwalk Empire Volume 2: Music From The HBO Original Series
Price: $11.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Music from a Bygone Age..., December 14, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
If you ever wonder why songs from 20's, 30's, and 40's have such staying power, this is as good an answer as there is out there. Rhythmic, full of melody and easy to follow harmony, this CD dares listener to keep his feet still and a little smile from his face. From "Livery Stable Blues" to "All By Myself" you just can't help but wanting to get up and "trip the light fantastic" with someone.....ANYONE!

Vince Giordano, whom I heard interviewed on Terry Gross's "Fresh Air" show on NPR, has put a real, museum quality series of three CDs

After it's over, you ask yourself if current pop songs will be listened to with such joy - if at all - a hundred years into the future. I, for one, don't think so.

I'm posting this on my review of Volume 2. Different music, same opinion in every respect.

McAfee Internet Security 3PCs 2013
McAfee Internet Security 3PCs 2013
Offered by EELC
Price: $14.95
29 used & new from $1.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Better have a ton of RAM if you use this program, December 14, 2013
I downloaded "All-Access" off the internet after experiencing a couple of scares from possible malware contamination. I figured I needed a full-featured app to keep my computer (XP, Pentium 4 w/1.5 gigs of RAM. A couple of reviewers gave it good reviews (that's another whole issue: Many of these reviews are fake and paid for, just as with a lot of Amazon reviewers. They aren't objective at all). Anyway, it was a huge mistake.

McAfee slowed my machine down to a crawl. No way could I use it. So I uninstalled it, but continued to have Outlook and Firefox crashes and slowdowns. I found two more hidden McAfee files in a search for possible problems. I purged these two files out of the system and Voila! My machine worked fine.

Bottom line: No way, José! I gave them an extra star because I didn't have to spend any money for the "experiment" since I had a free 30-day download. Maybe someday they will write more elegant code instead of producing a memory hog of an app.

Korkers Chrome Wading Boot with Felt and Kling-On Outsole
Korkers Chrome Wading Boot with Felt and Kling-On Outsole
Price: $189.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Idea, Bad Execution, September 6, 2013
Good Idea, Bad Execution

I bought these boots 3 seasons ago (May, 2011) and they have been used perhaps 3 dozen times, wading in Oregon rivers. At this time (the end of the 3rd season) I have had problems with the BOA lacing "system, " specifically the wire which comprises the laces must pass through small tubes which protect the boot upper from being sliced up by the wire. In my boots, the tubes have come loose and no longer protect the boot. I'm sure that in time, I will have a breakdown in this area.

Also, the interchangeable Omnitrax felt sole is now peeling away from the base on to which it is glued. The glue has failed.

Inasmuch as Korkers only offers a 1 year warranty, I assume that they would not make good on my boots, which forces me to buy 40 dollar replacement soles while hoping that the boot BOA lacing system holds up for a while longer.

When I first bought them I tried on the boot size which is normally mine. I found that the boot wouldn't accept my foot with the waders on, so I had to move up one size. Unfortunately, the extra size is a bit too large for my foot (with the waders on) and therefore the boot has never correctly fit my foot, which has resulted in pretty sore feet after a day of wading on rocks common to Oregon streams.

In sum, I think Korkers has a boot (the Chrome) which has two great ideas (no lace-up and interchangeable soles) but the build quality and thought which goes into the product is lacking.

I cannot recommend these boots.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2014 12:30 PM PST

Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX Certified Computer Speaker System (Black)
Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX Certified Computer Speaker System (Black)
Offered by Klipsch Group, Inc
Price: $139.99
29 used & new from $79.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! What a speaker system for the money!, June 13, 2013
I was lucky enough to choose this system (after reading many of the product reviews here) for replacing my old Yamahas, which finally quit after 10 years or so of good service. All I can say is that the technology has advanced incredibly since I bought the Yamahas. The new Klipsch's far exceed my expectations! They pack plenty of muscle for just about anything you put through them.

Most of my listening is with classical and jazz and I must say that these speakers are just great. The easily adjustable sub-woofer can be trimmed for individual preferences and types of music. Since my computer is in a home office of about 250 sq. feet, there's no way I would ever turn these speakers all the way up. They're just too powerful.

My sort of acid test of these speakers is of solo piano music and stringed bass in combos, and I can happily say this system excels at picking up the fullness of the entire keyboard. Most impressive. The sound is clean, crisp and full. I've been listening to them for about three days now and they're getting better! The mid's have come way up (limbering up after a few initial hours?)

So....I say buy without hesitation. You won't be disappointed. And, you won't empty your pocketbook, either.

Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma
Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma
by Michael Kennedy
Edition: Paperback
Price: $65.55
27 used & new from $52.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Biased? Yes. Enlightening? Absolutely., May 27, 2013
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Having been a fan of Richard Strauss's music for years, I wanted to know more about him than the standard opinions out there. I got a glimpse of him in my reading of Henry de La Grange's epic biography of Gustav Mahler, who was contemporary to Strauss (having been born just 4 years before him in 1860). Both men, along with Wagner and Bruckner are considered the greatest Romantic symphonists and conductors, both in and since their own time.

Kennedy's book brings a complex and paradoxical man to life in this book, yet a lot of what he writes is spent trying to explain, perhaps even absolve Strauss's apparent shortcomings in the parts of his life which are most discussed among historians and music lovers, namely the depth of his creativity and his seeming blindness to horrors committed by the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 in Germany.

Certainly Strauss's body of work is varied and extensive and much of it has enjoyed enormous popularity over the years. But as Kennedy himself seems to imply, he wrote for the masses, looking with a keen eye for symphonic and operatic "hits." And score them he did with "Electra," "Salome," "Der Rosenkavalier," "Also Sprach Zarathustra, "Ein Heldenleben," "Till Eulenspiegel..," and scores of lieder and other works.

For this reader I was left with the persistent question as to what constitutes "great" art. If staying power is a key ingredient, than Strauss's music is certainly great. Most of his output has great "legs" and will be heard in concert and opera halls for many years to come, just as will Puccini's and Verdi's works.
On the other hand, it is not deep, in the sense of Beethoven, Bruckner, or in particular Mahler, who believed in asking the great philosophic questions in his own art: What it means to be human, where we fit in the cosmos, etc. In a way, Strauss comes off in this book as someone along the lines of a Broadway composer. Detailing his relationship and work with librettist Hugo Hoffmanstall, we see the constant give and take between a poet who wants to confront the larger world and a musician who understands how to fill the seats. It was absolutely fascinating to read.

As for Strauss's activities during the Third Reich, he has popularly lived with the tag of "collaborator" to the Hitler regime, and Kennedy points out that the post-war de-nazification commission ruled that Strauss was not a collaborationist, and I choose to accept its findings. But certainly, Strauss chose not to disturb the waters as Hitler silenced, imprisoned and murdered millions, including artists, as Strauss composed and conducted all over Germany, ever watchful of his royalties and income, and even enlisting the help of well known Nazis as Baldur von Shirach and Hans Frank ("the butcher of Poland") for favors. Kennedy quotes Klaus Mann (the son of Thomas Mann): "[Strauss's] naiveté, his wicked, completely amoral egoism could be, almost, disarming...Frightening is the word. An artist of such sensitivity yet silent when it comes to questions of conscience...A great man, yet without greatness. I cannot help but be frightened of such a phenomenon and find it somewhat distasteful."

In the end, Strauss, who never apologized for a thing after the war was over, remains an enigma for this writer; a man who made incredibly wonderful music and who painted orchestral color with as broad a palette as anyone in musical history yet had personal flaws which will stand out in his story for as long as his music is heard. For me he will always be a "Yes, but..."

Kennedy forces his reader to consider these things. For that, I am appreciative of his book. This is one which should be in the library of ever lover of good music.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 7, 2013 11:47 AM PDT

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