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Reviews: Mendelssohn: Complete Concertos - Markiz

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Reviews: 3

Review by aoqd22 February 1, 2008 (7 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
There is much to admire and enjoy in this collection of Mendelssohn concertos originally issued by BIS in the mid 1990s on single cds and as a '4 for the price of 3' cd boxed set.

Many of the concerto compilations I have purchased in the past draw on recordings made with different soloists, orchestras and conductors. This has often lead to a quick exit off my shelves because of the resulting variable performance and recording standards. None of that with any of the performances on offer here. A seamless join. Lev Markiz and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta (who play throughout) and the soloists are excellent. BIS gives us a detailed but natural soundstage that has been transferred from PCM to DSD to allow release on SACD.

Those familiar with these recordings will know Isabelle van Keulen plays the original 1844 rather than the usually heard version of the well known E minor violin concerto. This makes this release that much more desirable. The minor differences between the versions are of interest rather than disturbing. The soloist captures your attention early on with her warm tone (she plays a 1732 Stradivarius) and the timpani are well caught by the recording. The perfect alternative to the rather high speed Heifetz 1959 RCA Living Stereo performance I usually listen to.

The D minor concerto for violin and strings, written when Mendelssohn was barely a teenager, pre dates the more familiar E minor concerto and has a lovely Andante and short Allegro with a hint of gypsy. You can tell by the performance that soloist and orchestra have often and enjoy working together. The D minor concerto for violin, piano and string orchestra suffers in my opinion from a first movement that could have done with some revision. Isabelle van Keulen, Ronald Brautigam and the orchestra do their best to convince but its no use as far as I am concerned. I do forgive Mendelssohn he was only 14 when he wrote it I think he was just trying too hard! The remaining two movements of the concerto are a joy to listen to.

Ronald Brautigam's piano playing throughout the concertos and shorter works for piano and orchestra has all the vitality, expression and nimble finger work you would want. The recording captures the interplay between soloist and orchestra very well allowing you to easily hear the layers of writing (try track 13 the first movement of the A minor concerto for piano and string orchestra). The Swedish pianists Ronald Pöntinen and Love Derwinger join Ronald Brautigam for the final two works on this disc the concertos for two pianos in E major and A flat major. Once again wonderful performances by one and all.

As I do not have Hyperion's RBCD releases of the piano and double concertos my comparisons have had to be with Benjamin Frith's Naxos RBCD (8.550681) of concertos 1 & 2, Capriccio Brilliant and Rondo recorded in the early 1990s and Moura Lympany's Ivory Classics RBCD recording of concerto 1 made for Reader's Digest in 1964. The later I shall keep because of the rather good performance of Falla's 'Nights in the Garden of Spain' the Naxos disc has now left my shelves.

Value for money. At the time of posting this review you can still buy the original single RBCDs and the '4 for 3' boxed set of these recordings. This release, which contains all the music in the boxed set except for the Scherzo from the Octet, is offered for the price of a single full price SACD. So, I conclude this Mendelssohn concerto compilation is a bargain.

I have been interested in recorded music since the days when all you got on a blue cylinder was a Suppe overture and Beethoven's 5th came on two sides of a 10 inch vinyl. I have always hated having to change sides or discs when I am part way through playing a piece. A good deal of my listening is done in blocks of at least an hour me working at my desk with music playing in the background. Therefore the fact all the music on this new BIS release comes on one disc is for me a major plus. Thank you BIS for doing what no other company has done which is to think laterally and realise you can use available now SACD technology to deliver a disc with just under 4 hours and 16 minutes of music, enhanced sound quality and not one blasted side change!

This is not the first time BIS have offered us extended playing time on a single layer SACD they released all of J S Bach's organ music in a box set containing 5 discs in April 2005. That has so far proved a bit of a mouth full for me even at the '5 for 2' bargain price. Here we have a bite sized chunk that will surely appeal to a wide audience including those with SACD playing capability (over 13 million of us worldwide in 2006) who are new to 'classical' music.

Now I have MCH capability I tend, as I am sure others do, not to buy anything other than a MCH release. So, why buy this BIS stereo layer only release? Life's full of compromises we can rarely have what we want when we want it. Yes, you or I could wait for equal in quality performances of all the repertoire on this new disc to appear in MCH but that will likely involve buying at least two full price SACDs.

Virtually all of my SACDs are 3 layer with the RBCD layer being my safety net if my SACD player fails and I cannot afford to replace it or SACD technology is no longer available. Why then be tempted by this release? Its all to do with repertoire, risk and reward. At the asking price this release is simply a cost effective way to add satisfying performances of familiar and, in the case of the E minor violin concerto, unfamiliar versions of repertoire to your collection.

This new BIS release comes in a Super Jewel Box with booklet containing informative notes drawn I presume from the original RBCD releases.


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Review by vsoft December 4, 2008 (2 of 20 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
From sound point of view, this disc is pure disappointment! I felt suspicious about extra-long playing BIS SACDs after buying the box Bach: Complete Organ Music - Hans Fagius - but then I bought Dowland: The Complete Solo Lute Music - Jakob Lindberg and changed my mind. Solo lute sounds pretty good. Well, a single instrument doesn't require such a dynamic range as an orchestra does.
I cannot even say that it is the worst SACD in my collection - I cannot call it SACD because it doesn't sound as SACD. At all. It sounds like mp3 collection. Bargain, yes.

If sound quality matters something to you, avoid the temptation to get more music for the same price.

At the same time, the performance is excellent, as well as musical content itself. The disc will find its use for late evening hours when neighbours would not appreciate symphonic music playing at full volume. I still keep a few regular CDs with music which has not been published on SACD yet. I'll keep one more.

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Review by AmirKessner April 9, 2009 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
First, just a clarification to the previous review by vsoft: He may be right that this may not sound like a good SUPER-AUDIO disc, but neither does it sound like MP3. Actually, it sounds exactly like the pretty good-sounding original PLAIN discs (RBCDs) from BIS.

BIS explain the process in the booklet: " we transferred the original PCM (=16 bit CD quality) tapes to DSD (Direct Stream Digital = high resolution SACD quality) format". This explanation is misleading, as the format conversion increases neither the resolution nor the quality, but this does explain the sonic results.

I've owned two out of the four of the original RBCDs, and bought this SACD for completing the set and in some hope of improving the sound. Well, the sound was not much of an improvement, but it definitely was not any deterioration at any level (in quite a revealing system - see /showuser/1998 - only that then I had the B&W Nautilus 802s as the front speakers). The SACD sounded pretty much the same as did the RBCDs, maybe a slight bit better, if at all.

Second, as opposed to my learned colleague aoqd22, neither Ms. van Keulen's interpretations (and violin sound), nor the original version of the E minor violin concerto, are to my personal taste (maybe Mendelssohn did know what he was doing when he revised the concerto :-). I do greatly prefer the Heifetz/Munch version. In the early concerti for violin and for violin and piano, I prefer the Kremer/Argerich/Orpheus versions (DG RBCD), without being crazy about Kremer either.

However, I think Mr. Brautigam's versions of the piano concerti with full orchestra are among the best available, and, IMHO, stand comparison with (and sometimes maybe even improve upon) the likes of Perahia/Marriner, Schiff/Dutoit, Lang Lang/Barenboim (No. 1), Serkin/Ormandy, Hough/Foster and Thibaudet/Blomstedt. His versions of the other concertante pieces are excellent too.

Lev Markiz is a superb accompanist, as is the Amsterdam Sinfonietta (called "Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam" at the time).

The 4 1/2 stars for performance refer only to Brautigam's performances (i.e., most of the disc). I'd give only 2 1/2 stars to van Keulen's.

All things considered, it's a pretty good and enjoyable bargain.


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