Bruno Walter & New York Philharmonic/Columbia Symphony Orchestra – Schubert/Beethoven, Symphonies 8/5 (1999) {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Bruno Walter & New York Philharmonic / Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Schubert: Symphony No. 8 / Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 (1958) [Reissue 1999]

PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 57:36 minutes | Artwork (PDF) | 2,35 GB
or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Artwork (PDF) | 1,19 GB
Genre: Classical

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Scott Walker – The Collection 1967-1970 (2013) [Qobuz 24-96]

Scott Walker – The Collection 1967-1970 (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 193:02 minutes | 3,88 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz.com | Front covers
Genre: Pop, Rock

Scott Walker is an American singer-songwriter, composer and record producer. He is noted for his distinctive baritone voice and for the unorthodox career path which has taken him from 1960s pop icon to 21st century experimental musician. Originally coming to fame in the mid-1960s singing orchestral pop ballads as the frontman of The Walker Brothers, Walker went on to a solo career, with a series of acclaimed albums, balancing a light entertainment/MOR ballad approach with increasing artistic innovations in arrangement and writing perspective. This Hi-Res collection features his five albums: Scott, 2, 3, 4 and ‘Til the Band Comes In.

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Mitsuko Uchida – Schumann: G Minor Sonata, Waldszenen (2013) [Qobuz 24-96]

Mitsuko Uchida – Schumann: G Minor Sonata, Waldszenen (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Front Cover | 1.01 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz

Dame Mitsuko Uchida, universally acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost Schumann interpreters, follows her last album of the composer’s music (Davidsbündlertänze and Fantasie in C) with another sublime Schumann programme. Uchida’s latest Decca recording brings together the romantic fire and intensity of the Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor Op. 22 with two remarkable works from Schumann’s final years, Waldszenen and the Gesänge der Frühe.

Her album’s repertoire explores music created by an artist burdened by deep depression and mental illness. His Gesänge der Frühe (“Songs of Dawn”) were sketched within the space of four days in February 1854, shortly before Schumann attempted to commit suicide by throwing himself in the Rhine. The work proved to be his last complete piano composition.

Composer: Robert Schumann
Performer: Mitsuko Uchida

Reviews:

If Mitsuko Uchida’s latest foray into Schumann strikes certain listeners as micromanaged, italicized, and arch, it must be said that nearly everything she does has its basis in what the composer set down in his scores. Take, for example, Waldszenen’s first piece, Eintritt, where Uchida takes pains to differentiate slurs and staccatos. Many pianists play No. 2’s triple unison passages in the beginning too loudly, whereas Uchida’s relative understatement not only adheres to Schumann’s dynamic markings, but also makes an effective contrast to the louder, brasher repeated chords to come. In Jagdlied (No. 8) Uchida is one of the few pianists on disc to give a separate timbral character to chords with sforzando markings and those with accents, rather than assigning these a generalized quality of loudness. However, the pianist’s ritards at phrase endings throughout No. 3 somewhat diffuses the conversational continuity of the right-hand canonic lines; I prefer Wilhelm Kempff’s simpler, more direct interpretation where the few pungent harmonic clashes speak for themselves, without any underlining on the pianist’s part.

The G minor sonata’s outer movements often can sound thick and foursquare, but Uchida’s flexible yet fastidiously detailed interpretations circumvent that tendency. Although her reserve in the Scherzo doesn’t match Argerich’s animation and kinetic abandon, Uchida’s steadier rhythms and more thoughtful scaling of dynamics hold your attention. To give one example, there is a quick crescendo in bar 20 leading into the opening theme’s reiteration. In order for that crescendo to “read”, so to speak, Uchida makes an unwritten diminuendo in the previous measure, which serves to intensify the crescendo’s dramatic effect.

Uchida’s expansive and sensitively shaded performances of Schumann’s late-period Gesänge der Frühe capture the music’s reflective lyricism, although I prefer the brisker fluidity and more three-dimensional linear textures that Andras Schiff and Alexander Lonquich bring to the second piece. But while many pianists put the final piece’s steadily escalating 16th notes in the foreground, Uchida does the opposite, and focuses on the sustained chords and long melody notes, almost as if she were playing the organ instead of the piano. Clearly Uchida has processed, refined, and thought about these three Schumann works to the point where she can communicate her conceptions exactly as she wishes, and that’s no small achievement.

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Schubert Wanderer’s Nachtlied – Matthias Goerne (2014) [eClassical 24-96]

Schubert: Wanderer’s Nachtlied – Matthias Goerne (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | 2 CDs | Digital Booklet | 2.01 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: eClassical

Not ‘just another Schubert recording, but a major artistic achievement’ [Christian Girardin, harmonia mundi] Matthias Goerne is totally invested in the recording and editing process. Vol. 9 (the last one in the series) is due out towards the end of 2014. Future recordings will include Brahms with Christophe Eschenbach and Mahler (arr. Berio) Early Songs to be recorded in September 2014 with Josep Pons and the BBCSO.

Composer: Franz Schubert
Performer: Matthias Goerne, Helmut Deutsch, Eric Schneider

Reviews: There is a predominantly dark feeling to the latest release in Matthias Goerne’s Schubert cycle, as befits the “Night Song” of the title. The songs tend to deal with mortality and farewells, but the artists that come together to assay them give us portrayals that are never morose but instead are thoughtful, insightful and deeply sensitive. Listening to the two discs together is not an altogether cheerful experience but a very profound one which left me very moved.

The opening song showcases the sensational legato that Goerne can bring to a vocal line, seeming to mirror in sound the very process of the setting sun about which he is singing. The sound manages to combine the episodic nature of the verses with the static contemplation of nature, and is a good showcase of variety to get the set going. Death and the Maiden is very beautiful. Deutsch’s opening piano line, so familiar from the String Quartet, is beautifully still, poignant in its solemnity, and Goerne brilliantly captures both the panic of the young girl’s voice and the dark, unarguable but reassuring figure of Death, who offers release from the world’s cares. Die Rose charts the brief flowering of a rose on a sunny day, who knows that she must die because of the conditions in which she flowers, and Erinnerung develops into a beautiful last stanza which looks to peace in a new world. The Litany for All Soul’s Day rests in a peaceful legato that never breaks out of its slow opening time signature, and Goerne’s voice, similarly, stays in a gentle pianissimo throughout, almost as an affected tribute to the souls of whom he is singing. All the while, Deutsch’s accompaniment gently undulates beneath the vocal line, serving as a bed of blissful sound on which to support the singer, and the effect is serenely hypnotic.

If Auf dem Wasser zu singen initially sounds like lighter relief then the effect is deceptive. The barcarolle-type accompaniment shelters words that sing of evening dancing around the boat of the soul and the hope of escaping the vagaries of time on lofty wings. Abendbilder moves at a gentle but insistent pace, each stanza seeming to bring a new revelation in the mind of the singer, until the final verse seeks rest and looks forward to the day of resurrection, and it is at this point that Goerne’s voice really flowers, finding a new well of feeling that had previously been absent; it’s a very moving effect. Nach einem Gewitter is a gentle piece of nature painting that serves as an interlude before the gothic horror of Der Zwerg. Its jittery piano accompaniment keeps the listener’s nerves jangling throughout, and Goerne manages miraculously to personify the queen, the dwarf and the observer with equal skill, sometimes pleading, sometimes breathless in his identification with the characters. After this, Im Frühling sounds like a gentle meditation, though the desperate melancholy of the subject matter is never far away.

I must admit I was left rather unmoved by Viola, the most substantial song on the set, for all that it is well sung and played, Goerne charting the tale of the violet’s early appearance in Spring and her subsequent pining away for loneliness. He injects a poignant sense of urgency to the artist’s search for his lost beloved in An die Entfernte and then finds a new feeling of optimism for the two songs that end the disc, both the hopefulness of Bei dir allein and the pantheistic hymn of Ganymed.

Eric Schneider takes over the pianistic honour for the second disc, which begins with the titular Wanderers Nachtlied, and the hymn-like chords that both announce and accompany it ground us firmly in Schubert and Goethe’s contemplation of mortality through nature. The Shepherd’s Lament is almost stunning in its bleakness, but there is then a charming naïveté to Heidenröslein and magnificent ambiguity to Rastlose Liebe, which cannot decide whether it is excited, optimistic or forlorn. An den Mond manages to combine stillness with quiet yearning, and in the dialogue song Trost in Tränen Goerne inhabits both personae convincingly, if without as much distinction as in, say, Der Zwerg. In marked contrast to Erster Verlust, Der Musensohn bounds across the stave with confidence, and introduces a more optimistic trio of songs that comes as a welcome sunny interlude, though the mood becomes serious again with An Schwager Kronos and its theme of Time as the coachman driving us towards the final inn of death. Geisternähe is a beautiful contemplation of the nearness of spirits, and Schneider’s gentle, undulating accompaniment is especially transfixing here. Das war ich introduces a section of gentler, more whimsical songs, until Die Liebe hat gelogen darkens the mood again, even if it is tempered with a spiritual sense of acceptance, and Dass sie hier gewesen is even more intense. The remarkable thing about Goerne’s singing in this sequence is the sense of gentleness, almost breathlessness with which he approaches each song, almost treating each as an individual act of mourning and drawing the listener as deeply into the sound world as it is possible to get. Even in the final two tracks there is a cloud: the folksy, winsome piano line of Der Einsame underpins a vocal line that sounds strangely weary, as if the artist is trying too hard to convince himself of the truth of his words, and the thoughtful rapture of Die Sterne is underpinned by a longing to flee from this world.

I struggled to believe that the discs were recorded in Berlin’s Teldex Studio: the echo and reverberation that the engineers have left around the song is much more reminiscent of a church or an empty concert hall. This is effective enough in its own way, though, and at times it seems almost to emphasise the isolation of the artist, singing into a void where there are no people to hear him, but just rebounding nature.

This is every bit as good as the previous volume in this series, and surely only helps to confirm that Goerne is one of the leading Schubert baritones of our (or perhaps any) age, with singing full of sensitivity to the vocal line, coupled with gentle care for the words. Why hesitate?

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Bon Jovi – This Left Feels Right (2003) [2.0 & 5.1] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Bon Jovi – This Left Feels Right (2003) [2.0 & 5.1]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DST64 2.0 & 5.1 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 51:32 minutes | Scans included | 3,19 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | 51:11 mins | Scans | 1,03 GB
Features 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 multichannel surround sound
Genre: Rock

God knows why Bon Jovi felt the need to recut its best songs in an adult alternative style with Patrick Leonard as the producer. In the thorough liner notes — presented as an interview between Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora — by the suddenly ubiquitous David Wild, Jon claims that the roots of the album derive from a Japanese show he recorded where the intent was to release live, acoustic versions of the band’s standards. Alas, the recordings weren’t up to snuff, so the band reentered the studio and cut versions that have more overdubs than the original releases. To its credit, the band sounds committed to this rather bizarre project, an endeavor so unconnected to reality that actress Olivia d’Abo — best known for either her role on The Wonder Years or her lead in the brilliant ’90s indie film Kicking and Screaming, depending on your viewpoint — provides counterpoint vocals to “Living on a Prayer,” while “Bad Medicine” boasts breathy, echoed vocals that suggest it was conceived as a reflective affair, not as a dumb hard rock song. This holds true throughout the album, and while the arrangements are relatively interesting, they’re rarely improvements on the originals and rarely rise above the level of novelties. And while longtime fans may find it worthwhile on that level, it doesn’t offer proof that the band’s songs are resilient enough to withstand new arrangements, nor does it shed new light on Bon Jovi or prove that the group is maturing gracefully. And all of that is really too bad, because the songs have stood the test of time, sounding better in their original incarnations than they did upon release, plus the group was moving in the right direction with its last album, adjusting to the sound and feel of middle-aged maturity seemingly effortlessly. This, however, sounds simultaneously safe and hazy; it’s the sound of a band that’s earned the right to indulge itself and has followed that inclination here.

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Bon Jovi – Bounce (2002) [2.0 & 5.1] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Bon Jovi – Bounce (2002) [2.0 & 5.1]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DST64 2.0 & 5.1 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 49:09 minutes | Scans included | 3,65 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 1,12 GB
Features 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 multichannel surround sound
Genre: Rock

Given that Bon Jovi successfully pulled off a comeback in 2000 with Crush, a shiny pop album pitched directly at the mainstream, it’s kind of a surprise that they returned two years later with a record as turgid as Bounce. Instead of continuing the colorful blueprint of Crush, they fearlessly backpedal, turning out dull, heavy, serious rock — the kind of music that sounds “serious” even when it’s about trivial things. Of course, much of the record is given over to “serious” topics, as if the band felt that the events of 2001 necessitated a grave response for Bounce, regardless of what they were singing. Such sobriety would not have been a problem if the band had solid material, but they’re not only lacking songs, they’ve inexplicably altered their musical approach. In particular, guitarist Richie Sambora sounds as if he’s aping James Hetfield’s lumbering downstrokes throughout the album, giving the record an oppressively heavy sound that never lets the music breathe. This casts a pall over the record, but this stumble is not the sole reason Bounce is such a misstep for the band. After all, this is a record where Bon Jovi seems to have consciously decided to avoid everything that gives their music character, melody, and muscle, a move that would have been odd at any point during their career, but is particularly puzzling after they delivered an album that found them growing old gracefully. It’s as if they want to undo everything Crush did for them.

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Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings – Struttin’ Our Stuff: In Concert (2004) [2.0 & 5.1] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings – Struttin’ Our Stuff: In Concert (2004) [2.0 & 5.1]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DST64 2.0 & 5.1 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 65:08 minutes | Scans included | 3,84 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 1,36 GB
Genre: Rock

The late ’90s saw former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman return to recording/touring duty with a new outfit, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. As expected, Wyman managed to retain some bluesy elements from his previous band, but the Rhythm Kings primarily specialized in a musical form that made a surprise comeback during this time – swing.

Together with his star-studded and enthusiastic band – The Rhythm Kings – he enjoys the Good Old Times live. Wyman s fame came after hearing a bass guitar at a Barron Knights’ concert, which he fell in love with and decided this would be his signature instrument. He created the first fretless electric bass by removing the frets from a bass guitar he was reworking, which highly impressed the Stones and made a name for himself within the band. After his departure from the Stones, Wyman released three solo albums, the last of which yielded a European hit single, “(Si, Si) Je Suis Un Rock Star”, a parody of his French rock star exile status. He has also composed music for two films by Italian film director Dario Argento: 1985′s Phenomena and 1987′s Terror At The Opera, and has written an autobiography, Stone Alone , about his time with the band. This CD was recorded at a TV concert Show in Baden-Baden on 26 April 2000. Newly mixed with great sound quality, it also includes an additional bonus track. Featuring Bill Wyman, Georgie Fame, Gary Brooker, Albert Lee, Beverley Skeete, Terry Taylor and Graham Broad, this is Bill Wyman s Rhythm Kings Struttin their stuff!

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Olga Borodina, Wiener Philharmoniker, Valery Gergiev – Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique & La Mort de Cléopâtre (2003) {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique & La Mort de Cléopâtre
Olga Borodina, Wiener Philharmoniker, Valery Gergiev (2003)

PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DST64 2.0 & 5.1 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 72:07 minutes | Artwork (PDF) | 4,29 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Artwork (PDF) | 1,32 GB
Features 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 multichannel surround sound | Decca/Philips # 470 632-2
Genre: Classical

Valery Gergiev turns in a generally fine Symphonie fantastique, one that really heats up in the last two movements, as any good performance must. The March to the Scaffold has an aptly menacing character, with very clearly voiced timpani and plenty of panache to the brass playing. The finale begins quite quickly and never lets up; it has the special Berliozian frenzy that so many versions never manage to capture. Elsewhere the results are a bit more variable. The first movement goes quite well on the whole, barring a pointless slow-down at one point toward the end, but the second-movement waltz is strange, with oddly Stravinskian accents disrupting its flow and a general lack of rhythmic tension. However Gergiev does find pretty much the ideal tempo for the slow movement, and the oboe and English horn solos have an appealingly plaintive, pastoral character.
La Mort de Cléopatre makes a generous bonus, but not in this performance. Without getting hung up on the details, Gergiev certainly conducts it well enough, but Olga Borodina simply has the wrong voice for the part: thick, heavy, and often unsteady. She sounds dead before the music even begins–okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but compared to singers like Jessye Norman, Véronique Gens, or Janet Baker, she captures neither the nobility of the Egyptian queen nor the pathos of her predicament. Happily, given that many discs offer just the symphony, we can ignore this particular “bonus”, and the rating reflects this. Philips offers vivid live sonics that project the unique timbres of the Vienna Philharmonic horns and strings particularly well, though the harps in the second movement should sound more seductive. Fantastique collectors will find plenty to enjoy here.

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Barry Manilow – A Christmas Gift Of Love (2002) [2.0 & 5.1] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

 

Barry Manilow – A Christmas Gift Of Love (2002) [2.0 & 5.1]
PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 & DST64 5.1 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 30:32 minutess | Scans included | 2,67 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 822 MB
Genre: Vocal Pop

Barry Manilow’s second seasonal collection, following 1990′s Because It’s Christmas, was released on Columbia Records, but that label berth appears to be a one-off for the singer, who followed his long tenure at Arista by signing to the jazz independent Concord for his last album, 2001′s Here at the Mayflower. Maybe Columbia offered a bigger budget, since Manilow is awash in strings on a set of holiday standards. Those strings are arranged festively, and Manilow is in an appropriately festive mood, really throwing himself into the proceedings; it’s his enthusiasm that makes this Christmas album a winner. There are songs actually written as Christmas carols, such as “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” but Manilow also expands the usual repertoire to take in a number of tunes that have become associated with the holiday season over the years, even if they were not intended to be originally, notably Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music and Joni Mitchell’s melancholy “River” from her Blue album, which is certainly set at Christmas time even if it doesn’t share the usual holiday sentiments. Inevitably, Manilow ends with his own new Christmas original, “A Gift of Love,” which is a good song even if it isn’t likely to join the ranks of the perennial copyrights. This is an enjoyable Christmas album in a traditional pop style likely to please both Manilow fans and others.

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Ann Hampton Callaway – Blues In The Night (2006) [2.0 & 5.1] {SACD-R + FLAC 24-88.2}

Ann Hampton Callaway – Blues In The Night (2006)
PS3 Rip | ISO | SACD DST64 2.0 & 5.1 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 55:14 minutes | Artwork | 3,74 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo (converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Artwork | 1,1 GB
Features 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 multichannel surround sound | Telarc # SACD-63641
Genre: Vocal, Pop

Ann Hampton Callaway is not your typical jazz songbird. For one thing, she’s an accomplished and award-winning songwriter, which is unusual in a field dominated by interpreters. But what’s most surprising is her voice — it’s a low alto instrument with a rich, dark, butterscotchy tone, and when she gets way down into her lower range the effect can be downright startling. Her latest album is a pleasing mixture of originals and standards, some performed with a small combo that includes bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash, others with the all-female Diva Jazz Orchestra. The big-band pieces pack the most wallop, which is no surprise given both the quality of the band and the fact that the arrangements were written by the great Tommy Newsom; a powerhouse rendition of her own “Swingin’ Away the Blues” opens the program with a serious bang, and her small-scale but equally powerful take on the chestnut “Blue Moon” carries the energy forward nicely. The rest of the album is a mix of tender ballads and vibrant uptempo numbers, most with a theme related to the blues, either in a mood of resigned acceptance (“Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” “Willow Weep for Me”) or defiant opposition (the Callaway original “Hip to Be Happy”). She imbues most of these songs with a smoldering, torchy quality that brings new energy to old material, and her new songs stand up very nicely next to the established standards. Highly recommended.

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