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Simon K. Ho "I'm a republican" RSS Feed (LA)

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Tchaikovsky / Mendelssohn: Concertos: Heifetz, Reiner, Munch
Tchaikovsky / Mendelssohn: Concertos: Heifetz, Reiner, Munch
Price: $8.69
43 used & new from $3.17

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virtuoso of virtuosos..., July 12, 2005
This disk features arguably the two greatest concertos ever written for the violin performed by the hands-down greatest violinist of the twentieth century and recorded in the absolute peak of his career. It really doesn't get much better than this for music lovers. If we all lived in a fair world, which we don't, performances on disks would be priced according to the amount of beauty and power it contains, not how recent it was released or supply-demand. Having said that, when it comes to these two recordings, 16 bucks doesn't seem like that great of a reach anymore.

I've listened to many recordings of both concertos, but out of Perlman, Milstein (second best), Stern, Oistrakh, Menuhin, and ect., Heifetz stands out on top in both. People will always say that the first movement of the Tchaikovsky is played too quickly, but I believe this is only so because no other violinist is ABLE to duplicate this kind of speed, hence Heifetz's recording being separated from the rest. I could certainly understand why a slower tempo is desired if the performer was tripping over the difficult passages and turning the movement into a mudslide, but that is certainly not the case with Maestro Heifetz; in fact, the opposite is true.

I believe Heifetz was a man who above all respected the composers. He also understood the art of "withholding". What do I mean? Here is a perfect example. In the first movement of the Mendelssohn, Heifetz has been infamously accused of playing the main theme using harmonics and flying through the movement with zero sentimentality. This demonstrates ignorance and a strong lack of respect on the modern generation. With the rise of 20th Century music (most of which Heifetz detested), appreciation for professionalism declined and indulgence in emotionalism became commonplace. Heifetz understood that there is no payoff, no climax to any piece of music, unless there is patience and sensitivity. After a slightly withheld first movement and a sweet second movement, Heifetz bursts open the doors in the third playing with more liveliness and accuracy than any other violinist can. The concerto climaxes towards the end when Heifetz passionately pounds through the main theme one last time then finishes with a flourish. This epiphany would not have been possible had he sentimentalized the whole concerto, as many violinists do nowadays.

As with most listeners, I often conjure up my own opinions on how certain concertos should be played based on my first hearing. After that first hearing, all others are labeled as inaccurate interpretations. I've found out through years of listening that there are only two musicians for which this does not apply: Heifetz and Rubinstein. Even if my first impression has already been set, it is they who play the concertos the way they were meant to be played. My advice on the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn is if you have nevered listen to these, listen to Heifetz first, after doing so, all other versions will pale in comparison. If you have already formed first impressions on how to interpret these concertos, give Heifetz a chance. I've found that just about every other violinist (save Milstein) seem to play with AWFUL intonation after listening to Heifetz.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 1, 2013 12:46 PM PST

The Godfather, Part II (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition)
The Godfather, Part II (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Al Pacino
Price: $16.98
99 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest film, April 2, 2005
In my opinion, Godfather II is THE greatest film of all time, yes, even greater than the first one. Before labeling what I've just said as heresy, hear me out. While this film depends a lot on it's predecessor, it not only manages to match it's level, but bring to a higher plateau. After Francis Ford Coppola establishes the background and characters in episode I, he brings us deeper into these characters and their pasts. Pacino, who in my opinion gave the most OUTSTANDING performance of anyone in episode I (yes, including Brando) does the impossible and gives one that is even greater. It is an absolute TRAVESTY that he was not awarded for his performance (Art Carney received it that year for "Harry and Tonto"...who knew!!??) and Deniro was. What Deniro has basically done in his portrayal of the young Vito Corleone is mimmick every move that Brando made in the prequel down to the most miniscule detail (notice the scene where Deniro is shown buying fruit at a small stand...look familiar?). But while his performance is not original, it is still excellent. The film is filled with numerous great scenes. In most films, the viewer is given one or perhaps two memorable scenes (ie taxi scene for "On the Waterfront" or the mirror scene in "Taxi Driver"). But in this, there is the Senator Geary scene with Michael during the party, the scene where Vito stalks Fanucci, the heartbreaking (in my opinion greatest scene of film history) betrayal scene with Michael and Fredo, the argument between Michael and Kay, and countless other's which i won't give away to spoil it for first-time viewers. At the heart of all the violence, betrayals, and plotting, I believe Coppola wants us to really concentrate on this one man Michael Corleone who thinks he is doing the right thing with all his cold-hearted acts because he firmly believes it is for the good of his family. The most tragic aspect of the film, is that in attempt to protect his family through a life of violence, we see that Michael ultimately loses them due to the it. The scenes with Pacino, Strasberg, and Deniro are ESPECIALLY well acted out. The music is stirring and the settings and backgrounds beautiful. The film garnered 6 academy awards and was nominated for many more. To put it into words, i would describe this film as having the visual and musical beauty of "Lawrence of Arabia", the characteristic intellect of "Citizen Kane", the seriousness of a film like "Taxi Driver", the memorability of "On the Waterfront", and a high standard of excellency in acting that is unmatched by any other film.

Haydn / Dvorak Cello Concertos
Haydn / Dvorak Cello Concertos
18 used & new from $6.74

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HIstorical Dvorak, March 5, 2005
In my opinion, Feuermann is bar none the greatest cellist who ever lived, yes, greater than Rostropovich and Casals. And before you label what i just said as blasphemy, i ask you this: buy the recording. I ahve owned the Casals and Rostropovich interpretations of the Dvorak for many years. And being a cellist myself, i have always felt that while these recordings are respectable, they aren't played with the speed that Dvorak had intended this concerto to be played. And that is definately understandable considering that this is perhaps the most technically difficult of the cello repetoire. Then when i got a hold of the Feuermann interpretation, i was blown away at the sheer mastery of this concerto both in the technical and interpretation departments. Yes, the accompaniment is plain AWFUL in this recording, but i personally employed a skill whcih i learned from watching Fahrenheit 911: block it out. For an example of Feuermann's mastery, listen to the "Allegro: conclusion" sample that is provided. That is one of the most difficult passages that i have ever been presented with and Feuermann makes it sound like cheesecake. In my opinion, Feuermann is to the cello what Heifetz is to the violin. and the Dvorak is Feuermann at is absolute finest.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 5, 2013 2:11 AM PDT

Mendelssohn: Piano Trios Nos. 1 & 2, Opp. 49,66
Mendelssohn: Piano Trios Nos. 1 & 2, Opp. 49,66
24 used & new from $3.40

17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Near perfect, March 5, 2005
The Mendelssohn trios are some of the most beautiful music ever written. While I thoroughly enjoyed this recording and would highly reccomend buying it (at a bargain price here), i do have one small problem with it. Stern and Rose accompany each other quite well and while Stern here is at his usual, fiery and passionate, i feel that the pianist, Istomin, failed to match the fire that his accompanists create. Mendelssohn is said to have called his piano trios, "piano sonatas with accompaniment", as Mozarts works; which puts more emphasis on the piano part. And unfortunately here, there are more passages in whcih Istomin fails to live up to that than there should be. But where he fails, Stern makes up for, and that is why this recording is worth it.

Schindler's List (Full Screen Edition)
Schindler's List (Full Screen Edition)
DVD ~ Liam Neeson
44 used & new from $3.93

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Left me depressed for weeks, February 16, 2005
This is truly one of the most powerful films of all time. ONe cannot help but be impacted by the raw reality that Spielberg reveals. Liam Neeson is the character whom Spielberg wants us all to be identified with. Neeson's character, underneath all the the seemingly inpenetrable disguise which he puts on, has a soft heart. This is especially seen in the scene whcih he drops to his knees and weeps knowing that he should have done more to save lives. Spielberg intertwines authentic Holocaust footage with personal character studies. THis is truly one of the few films that will not only stay with you many days after it is seen, but prompt you to do a little heart searching of your own. ONe cannot be unaffected by the showing of this absolute disregard for humanity and the atrocities which was committed by the Nazis. Spielbergs central character, Schindler, is one whom he and we all can identify with. Throughout the film, we can feel and understand every action and emotion which he goes through. The final scene in whcih some valuable stats are provided will absolutely shock you.

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