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Reviews Written by
Raymond Vacchino "Music Begins And Ends In The Imagination" RSS Feed (Toronto, ON. Canada)

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Mozart: 3 Piano Sonatas Klaviersonaten KV309, 310 and 311
Mozart: 3 Piano Sonatas Klaviersonaten KV309, 310 and 311
35 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uchida Defines Mozart's Found Style And Musical Language, September 26, 2007
Mitsuko Uchida has discovered Mozart's style and voice. Henceforth, Uchida conveys a recognizeable, identifiable language in her playing embodying Mozart's rhetoric, his devices, his formal structures. Uchida exemplifies the supreme artist transcending issues of personality, of self-revelation, of originality. In this view, perfection, beauty, and universality issue from the suppression of individuality. Uchida demonstrates the inner compositional originality and the unprecedented expressivity of his work. Mozart was indeed a master imitator, capable of working in a large variety of styles; opera, instrumental and church music, string quartetes. In every note, phrase, movement, Uchida's ability to bring this lyricism and bel canto line to the
sonatas is magnificant. She plays on the edge by modifying naive psychological atmosphere, sharpening contrasts, and deepening expressivity. Uchida's outer movements take on a new character, the opening movements now exhibiting an exuberant, festive brilliance and the slow movements conveying an unaccustomed inwardness of expression, with occasional darkenings through minor keys, underscoring a thoughtful pathos while retaining the expected qualities of grace and tenderness. The dance movements too, acquire an unencumbered freshness and solidity, with highlighting the burlesque and folkish elements, without a hint of coarseness. In all of Uchida's playing the works are filled with a "subjective tension, giving up diffuse psychological indifference and developing in the direction of a deepened world of feeling."
Always viewing the world from novel perspectives, Mozart cannot help but reshape traditions, however comforting they may be; he cannot help probing beyond the gentle longings of the serenader, who keeps his darker passions at bay, hidden within the lulling rhythms of the simulated lute accompaniment.

Author: Raymond Vacchino M.Mus.(MT) A.Mus. L.R.S.M. Licentiate (hon.)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 13, 2014 4:36 AM PDT


Anna Netrebko & Rolando Villazon: Duets
Anna Netrebko & Rolando Villazon: Duets
Price: $12.48
57 used & new from $2.06

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Netrebko and Villazon, Opera's Golden Couple!, September 21, 2007
The world of opera is beginning to sizzle with breathtaking new talent. Netrebko and Villazon are certainly earning the right to be considered the cellebrated opera singers of their young generation. The combining of their voices appeals to our imagination despite the difference of their backgrounds. Netrebko's bright voice seems reduced enough to distribute the lighting more evenly. However it is still not the voice of a Mimi (lacking in warmth) and not a Lucia (lacking vulnerability). There is however, some wonderful singing produced by Villazon in the phrases from the Lucia duet, matched by his grace and beautiful, lyrical tone. The excerpts in French are appealing in Manon with some fine characterization.
While there are splendid moments, they are not as memorable as their solos. When we think of the early careers of Callas and di Stefano, one thinks of their magnificant collaborations. Yet with Netrebko and Villazon the voices don't really complement one an-other's, they are both just superb artists still in their prime. However, this CD provides considerable pleasure. In the opening duet that closes the first act of Boheme, the singing is lusciously conveyed. Both singers are in rapturous voice, with phrasing that is sensitive and sincere. When the time comes for Mimi to respond, the tempo virtually slows to a crawl, the singers seem to be leading the conductor, Luisotti. However odd it may seem, it is effective and allows the pair to linger awhile on their off-stage high C. There are moments when tiny pitch variations occur when singing on the same note; it seems that Netrebko is slightly sharp. Despite the fact that there is room for improvement, there is something undeniably special about this "golden couple". Netrebko and Villazon deliver enough charisma to justify the overall presentation. It is easy to "spilt hairs", but as a whole, Netrebko and Villazon deliver a magical performance!

Author: Raymond Vacchino M.Mus.(MT) A.Mus. L.R.S.M. Licentiate (honorary)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 28, 2010 12:54 PM PST


Anna Netrebko: Opera Arias
Anna Netrebko: Opera Arias
Price: $14.59
78 used & new from $1.62

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Captivating!, August 30, 2007
Unlike the passion, intimacy, and beautiful tone Netrebko brought to the Russian Album, the Opera Arias miss these wonderful qualities. There's room at the top for a new operatic power couple and the glamorous Netrebko and rising Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon are desperate to seize. I confess that there is an element of conviction in Netrebko's voice, a significant figure in Russia for more than a decade. No sooner had she arrived on the world stage, her "hype" started describing her as the new Callas, which she isn't, and suspect will never be. She may have the temperament of Callas and her petulance, but vocally the comparison just is not there! In the magnificant arias from Mozart to Puccini, Netrebko shows a lack of being able to convey the utmost of subtleties, and injecting every aria with the personality of the character she was assuming. Netrebko crashes through everything, with a glorious voice capable of conveying the the justice of both dramatic and lyric arias, but with minimal vocal characterization. Netrebko is at times very capable of expressing genuine emotion in her singing as heard in the Russian CD with music from her homeland. Netrebko is capable of becoming a most formidable artist if she continues to learn; especially if she works hard on the Italian and French repertoire as she demonstrates in her Russian work, and with the watchful direction of the Marlinsky's Valery Gergiev. In that regard it's encouraging to hear she's preparing for an important Bellini run at the Met with Renata Scotto. Her Russian aria was fine, but her Gounod aria seems to wash away from its inner qualities, not helped by some disturbing French.
Netrebko is without doubt, an inspiring, extremely talented artist, and with the experience and maturity her voice will command in the future, she will rise to the occasion of becoming one of the world's greatest 21st century singers!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 21, 2014 10:29 AM PDT


Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs, Songs with Orchestra, Der Rosenkavalier Suite
Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs, Songs with Orchestra, Der Rosenkavalier Suite
Price: $10.88
65 used & new from $0.01

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fleming's Glorious Voice Injects Intimacy Into Four Last Songs, August 26, 2007
As Renee Fleming conveyed her dramatic ability in "Homage The Age Of The Diva", she also demonstrates superb depth and intimacy in the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss!
Fleming has outdone herself here, by the remarkable serenity she delivers throughout all of the songs. Fleming's musical output is enormously varied, and when she encounters Strauss's moments of operatic oeuvre, her expansive sound allows these moments to blossom with superb adore! Fleming's respect to the texts is quite distinguished. Her capacity for sublime melody and rhapsodic melodic variation, or "Schwung", is almost always strung together, and creates an element of fantasy or fable with real drive and eloquence. The Four Last Songs are, I think, Strauss's most perfect realization of the form. The songs are extremely difficult, but Fleming never hesitates in diction, expression or balance between herself and the ensemble, consequently never tearing the fabric, or rendering it banal and awkward. Even when Fleming is concluding, she lingers, moves, and sidesteps as if asking the songs to last a little longer. This is Fleming's way of linking herself to the modernist movement. It is strangely fitting that the last of the Songs,"Aberdrot," (At Dusk), is literally elegiac, but in fact opens out at the end, with a quizzical doubt as if the actual reality of ending--"can this perhaps be death?"- as if to suggest that it might not be! Throughout the Four Songs, and even the additional ones, Fleming's resolutely minute economy of aesthetic, makes her a sovereign, as well as a supreme figure, in the genre of post-Romanticism.
In the surely, popular Der Rosenkavalier, Fleming comes to the forefront, conveying Strauss's own imaginary Rococo, Vienna style-veritably creating invitation to the waltz, its dance now sensuous, aristocratic. Steeped with nostalgia, Fleming's sensationalism provides a fairy-tale atmosphere that brings all the delights to an enlightened finale!

Author: Raymond Vacchino M.Mus.(MT) A.Mus. L.R.S.M. Licentiate (Honorary)


Evgeny Kissin Plays Chopin
Evgeny Kissin Plays Chopin
Price: $9.18
20 used & new from $2.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evgeny Kissin Carries Chopin Tradition Into the 21st Century, August 23, 2007
I first heard Kissin when he gave his Canadian Debut at Roy Thompson Hall. The young star we were hearing so much about was dedicating the concert to the memory of his idol, Glen Gould. As he walked across the stage his manner was filled with curiosity and wonder, his eyes glancing all around the great hall! Once his fingers touched the keys, this "youthful" look turned into a command of the keyboard, the command displayed by great artists! The Chopin CD takes off with the two Op.26 Polonaises. We are immediately grasped with virtually unparalleled tension and sonority, coupled to one of the most flawless techniques in instrumental history. The Impromptu in A flat, Op.29, has been played so frequently, but in Kissin's hands it is the little masterpiece Chopin intended it to be. The F sharp Impromptu Op.36 contains some interesting hints of variation form. The arabesques in the final section display Kissin's sensitivity and delicate handling of this florid writing. He conveys the left hand expressively, but not at the expense of the right. The Impromptu in G flat Op.51, is little played;it is one of those treacherous pieces; but again Kissin's fluency and technical freedom, make it sound much easier than it is.The Fantaisie-Impromptu Op.66 is the earliest of the series and can become less interesting played by some, yet Kissin carries Chopin tradition throughout this performance, displaying the elegance and charm of the semiquaver figuration; the middle section in D flat has the needed element of sentiment, without the sentimental salon style, that is so unbecoming to anything composed by Chopin.The Polonaise, Op.40 No.2 in C minor-a work that has lately fallen into undeserved neglect, carries an extraordinary amount of harmonic felicities. Kissin keeps the bridge work particularly stable, and the dark,somber character is successfully conveyed. The far end is a magnificent engineering feat and the result is a most poetical enrichment of texture. The final Polonaise, Op.53 in A flat reveals amazing harmonic asymmetry and then springs into rapid life.Kissin again commands our attention through all the triadic positions in forceful octaves; but again, it is the embattled stateliness that Kissin maintains throughout the polonaise rhythm, that positions this festival recital CD, as one of the most expressive and captivating displays of "true Chopin tradition."

Author: Raymond S. Vacchino M.Mus.(MT) A.Mus. L.R.S.M. Licentiate (honorary)


Russian Album
Russian Album
Price: $14.49
79 used & new from $0.07

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Netrebko Waits Many Years! Russian Album Worth Waiting For!, August 22, 2007
This review is from: Russian Album (Audio CD)
" Two summers ago, she created a sensation in Verdi's Traviata at the Salzburg Festival." The voice is not a classic Mozart or bel canto voice: It is a little dark, and a little unbending." However, it is a wonderful voice, and Netrebko handles it with conviction. What she has, in abundance, is charisma, and magnetism. She is a real singing actress. Where she is most convincing is in her native repertoire; the Russian repertoire. Many noticed her when she made her Met debut in Prokofiev's War and Peace. It was a sensational debut. Netrebko's timbre tends to suit Russian music, and her use of the language is enchanting. Her latest CD is the Russian Album. Netrebko performs various arias, scenes, and songs with conductor Valery Geriev and the Orchestra of the Marlinsky Theatre. Gergiev has been something of an icon for Russian opera, introducing the West to unknown repertoire. Netrebko begins with a beautiful piece: the Arioso from Tchaikovsky's Iolanta. She continues with two songs by Rachmaninoff, with piano accompaniments arranged for orchestra. She conveys a wonderful element of coolness and vulnerability. Netrebko includes works by Korsakov, Glinka, and Prokofiev. As well she performs a "tableau" from Rachmaninoff's one act opera Francesca da Rimini.The singing is superb and displays Netrebko's passion in this genre. I look forward to hearing Netrebko begin to perform the recital repertoire in the near future.
(Reference source;National Review,Inc.)

Author: Raymond Vacchino M.Mus.(MT) A.Mus. L.R.S.M. Licentiate (hon.)


Chopin: The Concertos
Chopin: The Concertos
35 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FILLED WITH ALMOST UNBEARABLE EXCITEMENT, August 22, 2007
This review is from: Chopin: The Concertos (Audio CD)
I had the great privilege of hearing Rubinstein play the Chopin Concertos at Massey Hall in Toronto. In a generally anti-romantic age, two great pianists remained to carry the flag of romanticism. One is Horowitz and the other Arthur Rubinstein. His career mounted to the point where many considered him the greatest living all-round pianist: an artist at home with Beethoven, a Chopin pianist in the greatest tradition, a specialist in Spanish and impressionist music. The Chopin concertos display Rubinstein's poise and joie de vivre.To his overflowing temperament was added discipline,color and a fine musical mind. His playing of Chopin's music earned him the title, the romantic pianist "par excellence"-but the modern kind of romantic pianist. Romantic as it is, it is entirely unmannered, and almost always true to the text. His performances of these concertos shows playing expressed with a gorgeous tone, with bigness, sanity, directness and emotional clarity.
Considering the generation in which Rubinstein was reared, his respect for the text and his direct rhythm are all the more a miracle. His Chopin playing--and he was the greatest living Chopinist- unfolds with suavity, poetry and aristocracy, and above all, with ardor. As the man, so his music!

Author: Raymond Vacchino M.Mus. (MT) A.Mus. Licentiate,(honorary) L.R.S.M.


Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas
Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas
Price: $46.47
34 used & new from $18.96

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars KEMPFF EXEMPLIFIES THE GENIUS OF BEETHOVEN, August 20, 2007
It could be said that Schnabel was the archetype of the modern German pianist. In our day his school is represented by such pianists as Backhaus, Serkin and predominantly by Wilhelm Kempff. In all groupings of the Beethoven sonatas, Kempff defines the German school of piano playing through his scrupulous musicianship, severity, strength rather than charm, solidity rather than sensuosity, intellect rather than instinct, sobriety rather than brilliance. It is an approach that stresses planning and leaves nothing to chance. Beethoven's piano sonatas are unique in three respects. First, they represent the whole development of a genius, from his beginnings to the threshold of the late quartets. Secondly, there is not an inferior work among them-in contrast to many of the sets of variations, for example, which tend to be uneven. Thirdly, Beethoven does not repeat himself in his sonatas, each work, each movement is a new organism. In Kempff's performances of the sonatas, he defines the drama of Beethoven's sonata form more precisely, we are bound to notice that it is drama in which the character of the principal theme predominates. In the hands of Kempff, we never lose our bearings, we always know where we are. Kempff performs like an architect draws. We learn more about the architecture of Beethoven through his treatment of harmony. In Beethoven a new movement or theme in a chromatic neighbouring key is unthinkable. (Before him, however, that tireless adventurer Haydn had in his great Sonata in E flat major a slow movement in E major.) When Beethoven does make his way to a distant key-which happens only rarely, and then with logical preparation-there are far-reaching consequences for the whole work. It is not Kempff's duty to give or teach the history of Beethoven's music, history and style can be taught from reproductions; masterpieces such as the performances given by Kempff have something quite different to say....In a museum only artistic incomparability counts; this has nothing to do with artistic style, for works of art are thoroughly comparable in style, independent of their quality. In Beethoven's sonata Op.54, Kempff's performance particularly resembles all other works, great and small, late, middle and early. If Beethoven uses an old convention, Kempff shows how it fits the use he makes of it, instead of imagining that its origin elsewhere explains its presence here. If Beethoven writes in a form and style which cannot be found elsewhere, we must, as Hans Sachs says, find its own rules without worrying because it does not fit ours.
What makes Kempff a pianistic leader in the performances of Beethoven's sonatas from my point of view, is his use of cantabile, emphasis on one or several notes, usually in a lyrical context as shown in the slow movements of Sonatas Op.7, Op.10, No. 2, and Op.10, No.3. Pianissimo and dolce; Kempff uses the dynamic degrees between p and ff to serve a wide range of expressive purposes, according to the character of the passage, Beethoven's pianissimo is what Rudolf Kolisch called a 'pianissimo misterioso'. Kempff enters into a sphere distinctly removed from piano, a sphere of awe and wonder. His dolce, too, has its own emotional climate: my translation is 'tenderly committed'.
Dolce tells the listener: 'Identify yourself with this phrase; do not control it from outside.' Kempff's playing begs for loving attention, and flinches from mechanical coldness. The projection of simplicity can be a very complex business, but in the hands of Kempff, it becomes apart of his being, as does his exceptional reservoir of nuances-even though they may remain unused-and a considerable degree of sensitivity and inner freedom are always present, if the result is not to be one of simplicity, emptiness and boredom. As well, Kempff will always give the 'psychological' listener the impression that he is 'staying in tempo.'
Those who are more at ease when they can use their own discretion will now feel relieved. I share their feelings. But the free elements-fire, water and air- will not carry us unless we have first practised our steps on firm ground. We follow rules in order to make the exceptions more impressive. From the letter we distil our vision, and on turning back observe the letters with new eyes. The growing precision of our understanding should enhance, and not diminish, our sense of wonder.

Author: Raymond Vacchino M.Mus.(MT) A.Mus. L.R.S.M. Licentiate (hon.)


Homage: Art of Diva
Homage: Art of Diva
17 used & new from $0.33

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FLEMING CONVEYS "HOMAGE" TO THE GREAT DIVAS', July 25, 2007
This review is from: Homage: Art of Diva (Audio CD)
When Toscanini declared Canadian soprano Lois Marshall the voice of the 20th century, this may well describe what soprano Renee Fleming is to the 21st century! In the overall scheme of things, Fleming brings life back to some of the greatest "DIVAS" vocal icons, that ever stood on the concert stages of the world! Through the grace, dignity, temperament and eloquence that Fleming's voice is able to provide she has created a hallmark, a collection of treasures never to be forgotten in the world of opera! With some of the greatest artists' like Yveta Graf, Yelena Kurdina, Gerald Moore and Darrell Panethiere there to give supreme support, Renee Fleming spectacularly stirs our souls, energizes our minds and enlightens our hearts!
Whether conveying hope in the darkest theatrical role, or expressing sincere joy at the extraordinariness of a climatic moment, Fleming takes us on a remarkable journey of many of the most memorable operatic arias from Smetana, Tchaikovsky, Korngold, Strauss, Verdi, Massenet, Rimsky-Korsakov and more.
What makes this such a celebration of events is the collaborative genius behind it! Valery Geriev and the Mariinsky orchestra brings an element of rarely found creativity, style, sensitivity and overall "tour de force."
Homage, The Age Of The Diva is a champion for every opera lover and the interpretations and vocal achievements of Renee Fleming are to be shared and cherished.

Author; Raymond Vacchino M.Mus.(MT) A.Mus. Licentiate (hon.) L.R.S.M.


Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had
Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had
by Brad Cohen
Edition: Hardcover
76 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A TEACHER CAN MAKE OR BREAK THE LIVES OF STUDENTS, July 10, 2007
As an accomplished pianist, teacher and adjudicator I spend most of my time with individuals of all ages. Teaching and adjudicating are perhaps the most challenging of all! Like Brad Cohen, I have Tourette Syndrome and growing up as a "baby boomer", a time when extremely little was known about Tourettes, teasing, being bullied and considered a virtual headache to my teacher's made my life a living hell. All I had to turn to was my God given gift of music!
Brad Cohen grew up with the same horrific challenges that Tourettes brings with it. A teacher is someone every student should be able to turn to for support, a shoulder to lean on, a friend, when you feel your own are not there for you. Growing up in this day and age is a daunting task. Brad Cohen knows this all too well, and shows his understanding of it through his actions as a teacher. He knows what it is like to not have teachers there when he needed them most in his life. He turned having TS, a debilitating disorder into a tool of support and understanding for those lives he touches everyday. New disorders are being discovered at an alarming rate. The future teachers and classrooms are not yet equipped to handle what lies ahead for them. My niece is a teacher and she can hardly cope with the demands of her position as they stand. Teachers will need the support of people like Brad Cohen travelling to various school boards as I do as a Music Therapist to educate new teachers on how to integrate students with disorders and other issues into the classroom. Teachers' Colleges will have to provide the means to offer clinical studies in what lies ahead such as Tourette Syndrome, ADD, ADHD, learning disorders , behavioral problems and so much more. Educating our teachers as Brad Cohen has educated his students and fellow teachers is paramount if the future of our world's children will have a chance to survive what lies ahead of them. Teacher Assistant's will need to become a necessity in every classroom, and trained in specific areas. One teacher per class will no longer be enough, if those students who require extra attention are going to be successfully integrated into the classroom of the public school system.
Brad Cohen has touched the lives of so many students in his life as a teacher! They say that if you can touch the life of one person, you have done your job. Brad Cohen has surpassed this objective time and time again!
I can only hope, that more people like Brad Cohen will give of their talent's as I try to do as a music therapist, to educate and help prepare the schools, teachers' and students' of tomorrow!
I once received a letter from a student I adjudicated in a competition, and it said; "not often enough in life, do we take the time to say "Thank You", thank you sir for your knowledge and encouragement, it means so much!"
Now it is time for me to say "THANK YOU" to Brad Cohen, a teacher who has touched many lives."
To everyone in the profession of teaching, this is a book that will positively "re-charge" your love of being an educator!

Author: Raymond Vacchino M.Mus.(MT) A.Mus. L.R.S.M. Licentiate (hon.)


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