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Featuring the best reviews from our loyal ClassicsOnline members.
 (8 December – 21 December)





MASSENET, G.: Herodiade (Plasson) (Chatman)
(EMI Classics: 0724355537850)


Reviewer: JR113492
Date Reviewed: 12/03/11
MASSENET, G.: Herodiade (Plasson) (Chatman)

Massenet, Herodiade

When performed in the way of this recording from 1994, idiomatically sung by a starry cast and played by an orchestra imbued in the French operatic tradition, Herodiade is French grand opera at its best. In the context of the 20th-century revival of Massenet's operas this one has rarely been performed and recorded. It is wonderful therefore to have it presented in such supreme form as is the case throughout this studio version conducted by Michel Plasson.

The story of Herodiade, composed in 1880, is loosely based on the Bible, with characters such as John the Baptist, King Herod and his stepdaughter Salome, but the most striking elements of the libretto are sex, violence and various forms of male domination, mixed in a historical setting with a tasty touch of the Roman Orient. Nearly all the characters present here re-appear in the better-known and more frequently recorded opera Salome composed by Richard Strauss some 20 years later than Herodiade, but the two compositions have little more than just the names of the characters in common.

There is glorious singing, in the first place by Cheryl Studer (an intensely brilliant Salome), Thomas Hampson (an equally brilliant Herod, perhaps sounding a little too attractive to fully convey the disgusting sides of this character), and Ben Heppner (an insuperable John the Baptist whose power to inspire Salome's passion for him can surprise no listener), and impressive playing and singing by the Capitole de Toulouse orchestra and chorus. Together they create an infinitely fascinating drama that, thanks to the backing of Massenet's powerful music – and in spite of some loose ends in the dramatic structure – has a potential to win over new friends to the riches of 19th-century opera outside the Wagner tradition.



CHOPIN, F.: Nocturnes (Complete) (Katz)
(Oehms Classics: OC779)


Reviewer: LS100150
Date Reviewed: 12/03/11
CHOPIN, F.: Nocturnes (Complete) (Katz)

Nocturnes by Chopin

I loved every track! I am currently studying for my piano ATCL and I'm in no hurry to complete it as I enjoy every new song my teacher presents to me, in the hope of widening my musicality and repertoire.

I was introduced to the nocturne in C minor by her and I found the music to be especially melancholic and deep putting me in a pensive mode.

Naturally I went to my trusted music download source to find the complete set of nocturnes and as expected they were all there! I purchased it on the spot and have been hearing all the tracks every other day, each hearing a different perspective. All beautifully played and mastered...

Thank you ClassicsOnline!



BEETHOVEN, L. van: Violin Concerto / BRUCH, M.: Violin Concerto No. 1 (Scholz, Berlin Chamber Orchestra, M. Sanderling)
(Berlin Classics: 0017712BC)


Reviewer: GR113743
Date Reviewed: 12/02/11
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Violin Concerto / BRUCH, M.: Violin Concerto No. 1 (Scholz, Berlin Chamber Orchestra, M. Sanderling)

Purity

If you listen to Katrin Scholz you get the impression that violin playing must be the easiest thing in the world. She doesn't seem to know any technical difficulties at all. Many violinists, even Itzhak Perlman, say Beethoven is the most difficult concerto of all. The reason: There are no showpieces where you can hide behind virtuosity. The music is clear and transparent and has to be played that way.

I think, purity is the one word which describes best how Katrin Scholz plays. Her tone is clear and brilliant, never sharp or cutting, and never sterile. She feels the music and she knows how to transmit these emotions.

In the first movement she plays a cadenza which I have never heard before, and it is absolutely stunning. There she shows that she is not only a very good musician but also a world class virtuoso. She uses themes and side themes and weaves an amazing new piece of music out of it. Beethoven would have applauded if he could have had heard it.

Sorry if this review sounds as if someone had been paying me for writing praise - and praise only. But if I had to go on a deserted island and could take only one version with me and had to choose among the recordings of all the great violinist of the last 50 years - I would pick this one of Katrin Scholz any time.






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