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Classical - Released January 1, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

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Classical - Released January 1, 2009 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Booklet Distinctions 5 croches d'Opéra International
Mustering up his most menacing grimace for the front cover image -- and looking a little like the way Victor McLaglan looked in John Ford's The Informer -- bass-baritone Bryn Terfel delivers his latest DG offering, Bad Boys, a collection of arias drawn from the repertoire of the bad guys in opera: Mephistopheles, Scarpia, Iago, Sportin' Life, and others. Terfel is very much in his element and on his game here, and the recording is gloriously full and well detailed, featuring the Swedish Radio Symphony under Paul Daniel with the expert Swedish Radio Choir tipping in at key points. The orchestrations are all original, so those who complained about the contemporary-styled orchestrations on some of Terfel's more crossover-flavored projects should have no reason to carp with Bad Boys, save the one created for "Stars: There, out in the darkness" from Les Misérables. Indeed, the weakest selections seem to be the more contemporary ones -- "Moritat" and "It ain't necessarily so" -- but these make up only a small part of a menu consisting of 15 items here. Terfel has been struggling for some time leading up to this to deliver an album that will please his fan base, split between camps that either favors opera or those who just his like voice generally and don't necessarily care for opera. Bad Boys is a good concept and this disc should appeal to most everyone in Terfel's retinue; it gives every appearance of having been compiled with care with an eye toward good taste, even if the subjects of these various roles were inherently "bad." © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 10, 2006 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Casual pronouncements are made every so often that the lute songs (the lute is a plucked stringed instrument, an early cousin to the guitar) and madrigals of Elizabethan and Jacobean England were the popular music of their day. And Sting, who alludes to the likes of Vladimir Nabokov in his lyrics, is hardly uneducated in the legacy of fine arts, and he has a certain cerebral, inward sadness that matches the dominant mood of English music around 1600 well enough. Thus some might easily have thought it would be a short leap from Sting's own music to the lute songs of John Dowland (1563-1626). But the leap is anything but short, and Sting gets credit for having thought out fully the problems in making it. It is not just the issue of what pianist Katia Labèque, one of the classical musicians who introduced Sting to Dowland's music, called his "unschooled tenor" -- Dowland's songs are not really difficult. It is the great divide between rock (and other traditions ultimately rooted in Africa) and the European tradition: speaking in generalities, the former prizes "noise" -- sound extraneous to the pitch and to the intended timbre of an instrument or voice -- as a structural element, whereas in the latter it is strenuously eliminated. Sting's voice has plenty of "noise." The listener oriented toward classical music will object to its being there; the rock listener, noting that Sting is singing very quietly, may wonder why there isn't more of it. Why, then, does this album work well on the whole? The short answer is that Sting took 20 years to think about how to interpret the refined melancholy of Dowland songs like Come, heavy sleep. His booklet notes tell the long story of how he happened to make this album, and it's quite an interesting one, involving a "labyrinth" of encounters with Labèque, with the Bosnian lutenist Edin Karamazov who performs on this album, with a friend who gave Sting a lute inlaid with a labyrinth design based on a pattern in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France (Sting later reproduced the maze in his garden at home), and finally with a Swiss voice teacher who schooled him in pitch precision and the occasional octave run. Sting constructs two crossover points between this temporally remote music and his popular audience. First, he intersperses the songs with selections from Dowland's letters. This has surely been done before, at Elizabethan dinners and the like, and for modern listeners it has the beneficial effect of situating Dowland's music at the center of the social and political life of its time. Sting's second crossover point is more radical: he replaces the melody line in a few of Dowland's verses with multitracked harmonies, apparently consisting entirely of his own voice. These sections appear rather randomly, but they do break up the texture in a way that suggests an additional dimension of modern perspective. Sting passes a key test for vocal music of any kind: he understands and means what he is singing. The real gloomfests among Dowland's songs -- like Flow my tears and the final In darkness let me dwell -- lose none of their power in Sting's performances. And he brings something of his own sense of humor to the lighter ones; a certain smirk in his reading of Come again suggests that he is aware an audience of Dowland's time would have heard the line "To see, to hear, to touch, to kiss, to die with thee again" as a sexual allusion. He sounds like himself, even while purging rock's blues-based treatment of pitch from his singing; he also takes a few turns on the large archlute. And Karamazov proves an ideal collaborator, creating a sharp, edgy tone that stands up to Sting's rough voice. In making Dowland's songs his own, Sting has accomplished something that really has never been done before, and perhaps he'll show some of his own fans that Renaissance music is more than an accompaniment for silly jousting competitions -- it is a labyrinth that leads us toward the roots of our own culture. © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 27, 2008 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Booklet
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released January 1, 2008 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

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Opera Extracts - Released October 27, 2008 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Booklet
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Symphonic Music - Released January 1, 2007 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Drawn from Herbert von Karajan's numerous recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic, Karajan Gold is a two-volume introduction to the famous conductor's work. All the selections are equally famous, so this twofer may be regarded as a greatest-hits album of classical music, with Karajan providing a consistency of approach that other compilations lack. Whether the tracks are light in nature, as the Radetzky March, the Light Cavalry Overture, and On the Beautiful Blue Danube undoubtedly are, or taken from more serious works, such as Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 or Dvorák's Symphony No. 9, "From the New World," every piece is beloved by classical listeners, and Karajan's versions are favorites for many. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2007 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

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Classical - Released January 1, 2007 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Booklet
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Classical - Released October 10, 2006 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Casual pronouncements are made every so often that the lute songs (the lute is a plucked stringed instrument, an early cousin to the guitar) and madrigals of Elizabethan and Jacobean England were the popular music of their day. And Sting, who alludes to the likes of Vladimir Nabokov in his lyrics, is hardly uneducated in the legacy of fine arts, and he has a certain cerebral, inward sadness that matches the dominant mood of English music around 1600 well enough. Thus some might easily have thought it would be a short leap from Sting's own music to the lute songs of John Dowland (1563-1626). But the leap is anything but short, and Sting gets credit for having thought out fully the problems in making it. It is not just the issue of what pianist Katia Labèque, one of the classical musicians who introduced Sting to Dowland's music, called his "unschooled tenor" -- Dowland's songs are not really difficult. It is the great divide between rock (and other traditions ultimately rooted in Africa) and the European tradition: speaking in generalities, the former prizes "noise" -- sound extraneous to the pitch and to the intended timbre of an instrument or voice -- as a structural element, whereas in the latter it is strenuously eliminated. Sting's voice has plenty of "noise." The listener oriented toward classical music will object to its being there; the rock listener, noting that Sting is singing very quietly, may wonder why there isn't more of it. Why, then, does this album work well on the whole? The short answer is that Sting took 20 years to think about how to interpret the refined melancholy of Dowland songs like Come, heavy sleep. His booklet notes tell the long story of how he happened to make this album, and it's quite an interesting one, involving a "labyrinth" of encounters with Labèque, with the Bosnian lutenist Edin Karamazov who performs on this album, with a friend who gave Sting a lute inlaid with a labyrinth design based on a pattern in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France (Sting later reproduced the maze in his garden at home), and finally with a Swiss voice teacher who schooled him in pitch precision and the occasional octave run. Sting constructs two crossover points between this temporally remote music and his popular audience. First, he intersperses the songs with selections from Dowland's letters. This has surely been done before, at Elizabethan dinners and the like, and for modern listeners it has the beneficial effect of situating Dowland's music at the center of the social and political life of its time. Sting's second crossover point is more radical: he replaces the melody line in a few of Dowland's verses with multitracked harmonies, apparently consisting entirely of his own voice. These sections appear rather randomly, but they do break up the texture in a way that suggests an additional dimension of modern perspective. Sting passes a key test for vocal music of any kind: he understands and means what he is singing. The real gloomfests among Dowland's songs -- like Flow my tears and the final In darkness let me dwell -- lose none of their power in Sting's performances. And he brings something of his own sense of humor to the lighter ones; a certain smirk in his reading of Come again suggests that he is aware an audience of Dowland's time would have heard the line "To see, to hear, to touch, to kiss, to die with thee again" as a sexual allusion. He sounds like himself, even while purging rock's blues-based treatment of pitch from his singing; he also takes a few turns on the large archlute. And Karamazov proves an ideal collaborator, creating a sharp, edgy tone that stands up to Sting's rough voice. In making Dowland's songs his own, Sting has accomplished something that really has never been done before, and perhaps he'll show some of his own fans that Renaissance music is more than an accompaniment for silly jousting competitions -- it is a labyrinth that leads us toward the roots of our own culture. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2006 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Booklet
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Film Soundtracks - Released January 1, 2006 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Imagine Debussy's pentatonic melodies and Satie's ironic harmonies coupled with Legrand's grandly sweeping strings and Glass' minimalist ostinatos and you've more or less imagined Alexandre Desplat's score for the film The Painted Veil (2006). The composer of the scores for Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003) and The Queen (2006), the French Desplat sets Somerset Maugham's story of moral redemption in a Chinese cholera epidemic as a sequence of strongly evocative cues with haunting themes, striking orchestrations, and infectious rhythms. Ably conducted by the composer and superbly played by the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the score features Chinese super virtuoso pianist Lang Lang as a soloist on several tracks, and the disc also includes his deeply nostalgic performance of Satie's aptly chosen Gnossienne No. 1 that follows the film's opening title music. Recorded in widescreen technical sound by Deutsche Grammophon, Desplat's score for The Painted Veil catches the film's mood of morbid romanticism, and anyone who saw the movie and wants to hear the music independent of the images will be more than satisfied with this 54-minute soundtrack. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2006 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

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Classical - Released January 1, 2006 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

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Classical - Released January 1, 2005 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Incredibly, the world's greatest living conductor is getting better as he gets older. It's true -- Claudio Abbado, whose combination of effortless technique, lucid textures, and luminous tone coupled with his endless love for music has made him the preeminent conductor of our time, has only gotten better with age. Abbado's first Mahler's Fourth from 1978 is beautifully played by the Vienna Philharmonic, radiantly sung by Frederica von Stade, and joyously conducted by the young Maestro at the first peak of his powers. After his successful years with the Berlin Philharmonic and especially after some health problems, Abbado's second Mahler's Fourth from 2005 is extraordinarily spiritually led by the old Master at the peak of his interpretative abilities. His fluent technique is even more refined, but Abbado now seems more relaxed and thus more expressive than before, allowing and even encouraging portamento and vibrato. His lucid textures are less contrapuntal now and more flowing and his luminous lines are more lyrical and even more luminous. And his endless love of music -- and of life -- has infused the performance with a tangible sense of transcendence. The Berlin Philharmonic responds to its former music director with obvious affection and consummate artistry. Some listeners might find that Renée Fleming is too ironically maternal for the child's view of heaven that closes the symphony, but no listener will complain that Fleming is anything less than incandescently erotic in Berg's Sieben frühe Lieder that closes the disc. Deutsche Grammophon's live sound is entirely translucent. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2005 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Booklet
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Classical - Released January 1, 2005 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

Russian chamber music from the Silver Age -- is there any? Yes, some -- Tchaikovsky wrote three string quartets, a string sextet, and a piano trio, plus Borodin wrote a couple of string quartets and Rachmaninov a couple of piano trios -- but otherwise, no, not much. Indeed, the very idea is so far from the reality that one cannot even imagine what chamber music by Mussorgsky or Scriabin would sound like. But there was one Russian composer of the Silver Age who specialized in chamber music: Sergey Taneyev. Indeed, with six string quartets and two string quintets plus a piano trio, and a piano quartet to his credit, Taneyev's chamber works far outnumber his four symphonies, one overture, and one piano concerto. But is any of Taneyev's chamber music worth hearing? Some may be, but it's not on this disc. Technically, Taneyev's piano quintet and piano trio are impeccable. Taneyev was clearly one of the great contrapuntists with thorough command of chromatic harmony plus complete control of form and structure. Emotionally, however, his quintet and trio are null, void, and empty. His melodies are either bombastic or pathetic. His harmonies are either affected or bathetic. His forms are either pompous or ponderous. One cannot blame the players. Virtuoso pianist Mikhail Pletnev appears persuaded of the music's worth and he seems to have convinced his all-star string players, but even the most dedicated fan of Russian music from the Silver Age may find it difficult to feel the same way. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is a tad too hard and a bit too close. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2005 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

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Concertos - Released January 1, 2005 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg

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Classical - Released January 1, 2004 | Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg