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Product: Audio CD
Title: Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No1, Op107; Violin Concerto No1 (revised), Op99
Label: Sony
Artist:
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
An extraordinary CD


Shostakovich's Violin Concerto #1 in A minor is indeed one of the composer's most profound works. Highly autobiographical, like many of his other works that were written during crises in his life, the concerto is a serious, introspective work relieved in the second movement by biting satire and in the final movement by one of his short "burlesca" movements which he always wrote so well. The music also reflects the torment of the Russian people during that time -- a soulful project that Shostakovich took upon himself to document during and after the Stalin years. The concerto is certainly one of the greatest works of the twentieth century, and, in my opinion, this recording is one of the most intense and heartfelt performances ever captured on tape. Listen to the poignant and brooding theme of the first movement, marked "Nocturne. Adagio." The theme is insistent, and David Oistrakh plays it with warmth, depth and nobility. Mitropoulos, one of the most sensitive of conductors, forms each phrase expressively. The second movement, filled with rhythmic complexities and featuring a blazing, manic Jewish dance, is played brilliantly by the orchestra and soloist. No other recording of the piece captures that intensity of Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic, who was, at the time, at the peak of their form. The long Passacaglia of the third movement seems to speaking for the entire nation of Russia, with a heart-rending theme, beautifully developed and performed, that later becomes the basis of Shostakovich's finest cadenza, an extended emotional passage that leads directly into the short, violent "Burlesca" concluding the masterpiece. The performance is a historic document, recorded in excellent mono sound in 1956 at Carnegie Hall, a day after the successful American premier of the work. Newer recordings by Mullova, Perlman, and Salerno-Sonnenberg have more vivid stereo sound, but none of them can match the intensity of the Mitropoulos-Oistrakh recording. This recording is in a class by itself. I had bought the original LP while I was at college and wore it out. I was overjoyed to find that Sony had reissued it on CD at mid-price and with pages of documentation and photographs of the original sessions. The Sony CD also includes the brilliant Shostakovich Cello Concerto #1 with Rostropovich (for whom the work was written) and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, captured on tape in 1959 stereo sound with Shostakovich, himself, at the recording session. The concerto begins with the driving four-note theme that Shostakovich had used is other works and which had become a sort of motto for him, and leads the listener through a mournful second movement, an prolonged cadenza based on the brooding theme, and a concluding allegro with another of Shostakovich's vigorous Russian dances. Rostropovich literally tears into this concerto. The listener will rarely hear more committed cello playing; Rostropovich bites into the cadenza with noble passion. In short, these are recordings that all Shostakovich enthusiasts greatly admire and have in their collections. It is generous of Sony to put these two incredible recordings onto one CD at mid-price, with good sound and excellent documentation, adequate program notes, and interesting cardboard packaging designed to appear like the original LP's.



Product: Audio CD
Title: Emotions
Label: Sony
Artist: Mariah Carey
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
A more "fun" album, but retaining some elegance.


When Mariah Carey turned to David Cole/Robert Clivilles of C&C Music Factory fame for production help on her dance recordings on Emotions, it was a sign of things to come. C&C had a distinctively catchy sound and Cole was a good solid producer, but the C&C musical signature didn't suit Carey well at all. Emotions also began a partnership between Carey and Walter Afanasieff (who produced "Love Takes Time" from the debut album) that grew incredibly stale after 1993. But on Emotions, the weaknesses were overcome by catchy songwriting and a youthful, infectious energy that elevated beyond the banal lyrics, uneasy dance beats and conventional production.
"Can't Let Go" is a classic, bombastic Carey ballad revelling in its own heartbreak. But at this stage Carey still hasn't quite gotten the bad habit of overusing syllables (dragging one syllable over an insane number of notes, thus destroying the central melody, a curse of Carey's since 1995), and the song is filled with big vocal hooks perfect for pop radio. "Emotions" has a bouncy piano figure supporting Carey's fly-high voice; "Till the End of Time" and "And You Don't Remember" are lovely balladry; and "So Blessed" is a welcome, celebratory ballad with an uplifting theme and remarkably subtle arrangements. The weak points include "Make It Happen", a feel-good lyric pairing with a limp production job that ends up sounding meek and boring, and "The Wind", which takes Carey's neoclassical leanings too far, resulting in a recording that's a novelty at best, a deformity at worst.
It's nice to hear the then-21-year-old Carey making records that are free of marketing ploys, image shifts (all that flesh in the Rainbow campaign screams "sellout") and trends.



Product: Audio CD
Title: Mozart: Clarinet Concerto; Horn Concertos Nos. 1 & 4
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Artist:
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Brilliance Brilliantly Portrayed


This CD is simply one of the best recordings of the Mozart Clarinet and Horn Concertos (or for that measure, any music.) Despite the fact that this is a fairly old recording, it was one of the first purely digitally recorded (DDD) classical CD's. Technically the performance is flawless, and certainly the best Mozart I have ever heard. The recording matches the performance in every way, and I could not endorse this CD more highly. It is so good, in fact, that I have purchased two of them, one for the house and one for the car.



Product: Audio CD
Title: Ice on Fire
Label: Mca
Artist: Elton John
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Very Good


Is this the best Captain Fantastic cd?..............NO. Is it a very good cd?..............Yes. That's the key. Never compare Elton John to himself.........Compare him to the other's on the radio. That's when you can start appreciating his brilliance even on a cd like Ice On Fire. It's Very Good.