Sep 29

Schumann Masterworks: Multiple performers, produced by Deutsche Grammophon ?????

This is a wonderful mix of Schumann’s compositions, including his symphonies and other orchestral works, concertos, large choral works, songs, chamber music, and a rather comprehensive mix of his solo piano works. There are multiple performers, so that even in the piano works, you’ll hear a number of different pianists, including Pollini, Ashkenazy and others. Not all the works are the best of Schumann. As an example, Karajan does a much better job of the symphonies than does Gardner included in this set. The Lieder (songs) are very compelling, and offer a superb portrayal of Schumann at his best. Before my listening of Karajan’s rendering of the Schumann symphonies, I have never paid much attention to the works of Schumann as they have tended to be bland. Between Karajan, Kempff, and this set of Schumann Masterworks, life is brought into the Schumann compositions that has stirred my interest in this composer. This set contains 35 CDs and is well worth the price that one can find on the internet.

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Sep 29

Schumann Piano Works, by Wilhelm Kempff ?????

This is not a comprehensive collection of Schumann’s piano works, but rather an assembly of his most popular romantic works. Kempff performs flawlessly and with spirit, making them appealing. As with his Schubert performances, Kempff is one of the best interpreters of the early Romantic composers, and deserves a careful listening. This set consists of 4 CDs, and is usually sold quite reasonably through Amazon.com.

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Sep 29

Avatar

By Kenneth Feucht Media, Movies 2 Comments »

Avatar ??

This has to be one of worst films that I’ve seen in recent times. The only reason for two stars is that the graphics are incredibly well done.  The story is how a group of earthmen (mostly Marines and scientists) have need for a certain ore on a distant planet Pandora occupied by tall blue people called Navi. The earthmen have no regard for the environment of the planet, and run ripshod to tear up “sacred” landscape in order to obtain their ore. Eventually, the natives win out and are able to drive out the earthlings. So, what’s wrong with the film? 1. Character development: acting was poor. None of the characters in the film could be called admirable. Most were sullen, angry people (or Navi) bent on idolization of themselves. Sig. Weaver was a worn out hag. The Navi were angry, never happy, quite war-like and certainly not at peace even with themselves. The military marines and scientists were painted at thoughtless, brain-dead, clueless. The earth “traitors” that went over to the Navi side lacked any sort of insightful virtue. 2. Plot. This film has often been criticized for portraying developers and industrialists against environmentalists. That is too simple of an analysis. It one looks at the  Navi, they are essentially dressed with African animistic paraphernalia, and the thematic structure of their “religion” is essentially animistic and pantheistic, with the world “force” emanating out though every living being that is connected to the “mother”. Animism didn’t get the Africans and other primitive tribes too far, and fantasy films are now necessary to promote such religion of animism that is taking over America by storm. In total, this film make it for its graphics arts effects and not for its story, and so barely deserves two stars.

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Sep 26

Claude Chabrol Collection ????

Each of the films will be reviewed separately. Chabrol has a very distinctive style in his movies, and oftentimes uses his wife as the main female character. Many of his actors are repeat players, and it’s fun to meet different people playing differing roles.  All in all, the collection deserves four stars, though with its criticisms. These are very unlike American films! All the films are in French, with English subtitles optional. The speaking is usually not too difficult to follow in French, though the subtitles definitely help.

Juste avant la nuit ????

This is the story evolves around a central character Charles Masson secretly murdering his best friend’s wife after having an affair with her. Charles is riddled with guilt, initially telling his wife, and then his best friend, both offering acceptance and forgiveness. Regardless, Charles is unable to psychologically cope with this guilt, which ultimately leads to his ruin. The gist of the movie is the absence of an absolute morality, and that psychological internal factors are our judge. Chabrol is masterful at exploring the psychology of guilt in this movie, similar to that seen in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. Though the movie starts with a brief episode of female nudity, the remainder is clean enough for general viewing, and would be a shame to refuse a good film thinking that the film was going to mostly be off-color.

La femme infidele  ????

This is a suspenseful story of a lawyer from Paris living in the countryside close to Versaille, who discovers that his wife is having an affair with somebody in town. He learns of his identify and then murders him. The police remain on the track of the murderer, who never solve the murder mystery. His wife does discover that he is probably the murderer but remains silent. Chabrol is skillful at holding suspense but never in an on-the-edge-of-your-seat fashion. Thus, the art of a slowly unfolding plot that never is obvious as to direction.

Le Boucher ????

The film starts at a wedding, at which the young but well-known butcher in town Popaul encounters the town head school mistress Helene and falls in love with her. Simultaneously, a series of brutal murders takes place. Slowly, Helene sorts out that it is Popaul who is committing the killings. Eventually, Popaul commits suicide. Though a simple plot, the story unveils in a Hitchcock style that holds suspense while typically leaving one unsure as to who-done-it. This is considered one of Chabrol’s best films.

Les Biches ???

This is an odd film, entertaining the mixing of complex though maladjusted characters. A rich woman Frederique encounters a street artist (Why) in Paris and falls in love. They go live in a villa in St. Tropez where a third person, a male architect is encountered, first falling in love with Why, and then soon after with Frederique. When the architect and Frederique decide to return to Paris without Why, Why murders Frederique. Chabrol artfully develops this dark drama, bringing in other characters, such as a gay male couple living at Frederique’s estate in St. Tropez. I rated this movie a 3-star, since Chabrol attempts profundity through what are essentially shallow characters. This is not one of his better films.

Les noces rouges ???

This film is a very strange story, though in many ways similar to the other Chabrol movies. Here, the wife of the mayor of a town is having an affair with the mayor’s chief assistant Pierre, who is having a terrible marriage of his own. Pierre eventually murders his wife, and then the mayor in order to allow their relationship to go unhindered. Yet, the mayor’s daughter detects what is happening, and turns mom into the police, causing both to be arrested. The movie is most interesting simply for the way Chabrol weaves the flow of the story line in a most unpredictable fashion.

Madame Bovary ???

Chabrol’s version of Madame Bovary, well acted, though Madame Bovary not exactly the seductive vixen that she is supposed to be. Otherwise, this is well acted and holds reasonably well to the story line of the novel.

Nada ????

Nada is the name of a revolutionary organization in France, which has just kidnapped the ambassador to the USA. Eventually the police discover the whereabouts of the group in a distant farmhouse, though use heavy handed means to corner the group, leading to the death of the principals of both the police and the terrorist group. As typical of Chabrol, the outcomes are not predictable, except that one can be assured that his films will never end with a happy end, this film included. Nada does hold ones attention for the unveiling of the plot as a police detective film.

Que la bête meure ?????

Known in English as “This Man Must Die”, this is probably my favorite film of the collection. It is a suspenseful thriller that starts with a young boy being killed in a hit-and-run accident. The boy’s father Charles slowly weaves out clues that lead to the killer, who is an influential businessman in Northern France. The killer has a most repugnant character, and all who know him wish for him to be dead. Thus, the complexity of sorting out the murderer in the end, when the killer is found dead by poisoning. Chabrol does excellent character development and flow of action in this film, with the usual French characteristic of most films of leaving the films’ conclusion not entirely certain and thus to the imagination, but definitely not a happy end.

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Sep 24

A Secret Labyrinth, with the Huelgas Ensemble conducted by Paul Van Nevel ????

This compendium of early music (medieval and renaissance) was a pleasant surprise. Carrying a quite inexpensive price tag, the performances are flawlessly executed, yet with enough spirit to make them quite enjoyable. This is a mixture of sacred and secular pieces, and a broad spectrum of composers.  It is distinctly early music, being polyphonic yet without the compositional characteristics of music for the modern ear. This album is a delight, and medieval music at its best.

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