MURRAY McLACHLAN/Russian Piano Music Series V1-Shostakovich and Comrades: Obviously a little tunnel vision on my part, but I didn’t think McLachlan had interests that went outside the British Isles. Here we find him turning his gaze and ear to Russia and letting his fingers fly on some works by composers you know too well and some you probably never heard of as he continues his musical excavations in fine style. In fact it turns out that McLachlan has Russian music as a prime love and it shows in his playing. He even sneaks in some sly humor by including a non Russian whose a passionate socialist. And none of it hits you over the head like “Volga Boat Men”. A real find for those that want to expand horizons with a tour guide that loves his work.
JUDITH LAMBDEN/Bach-The Six Partitas: On 2 cds loaded to the gills, this Austrian pianist explores what is generally referred to as Bach Opus 1 and covers the ground with a fine toothed comb. The works and the piano are purely front and center and anyone that wants to get deeper into these relatively underplayed Bach pieces is going to have a fine time rounding out their knowledge of his canon. Tasty, energetic and engaging, this prize winning interpreter is on the money with a performance that is much more than a bunch of notes played pretty and in the right order. Simple but certainly hard to replicate, this is one for your collection.
SETA TANYEL/Stenhammar Piano Concertos #1 & #2: Fess up classical tourists, how many of you ever heard of pianist Tanyel or composer Stenhammar? Ever wonder how they can apply the pop star maker machinery to the classical world? This set will leave you wondering how these things happen. Tanyel, backed by the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, turns in a wondrous performance of some contemporary sounding classical works (Stemhammer died in 1927) that just rank right in there with the best Bernstein records your parents played when you were a kid. Certainly an ear opener that will whet your appetite for more, you’ll find yourself marveling at how good this is and how well it will sound at your next yuppie brunch. A great punctuation for when the conversation lacks because the music speaks for itself, this set is a winner even if you aren’t a classical fan. If you are, don’t wait for an engraved invitation. Simply tremendous.
STEPHEN LAYTON/Handel Messiah: There’s no faking it with this work. Either you put up or you shut up and Layton shows himself to be one that will never have to resort to financing a vanity record. Putting “Messiah” squarely in today’s focus with a throughout command of the material and the Britten Sinfonia, this is one you’ll want to add to your collection even if you already have a version or two that you think is the best there is. With never a wasted note across the course of two discs, this is deep, traditional classical work that may be well travailed but shows the road can be taken again when done right by a first class crew. Well done.
WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION
GILDA LIVE: Tell me how this is 30 years old? Even though this was a scripted show that Radner took on the road before this pic was filmed, how is it that even today it seems to have an anything can happen spontaneity? Looks like the real reason why we loved Gilda was that she was one of the guys, but not just one of the guys---she was one of the guys in the back row of the classroom. She could hold her own with them without resorting to self deprecating chick humor. She became Lisa Loopner. She became Emily Latella. She became Roseanne Roseannadanna. She became Judy Miller. This is the person Ian Hunter was singing about when he said you’re never alone with a schizophrenic. Even so, we’re laughing with her, not at her. Looking back, she made it so seamless that she was probably underappreciated by everyone except Gene Wilder. Humor fans have to do themselves a favor and check this out.
WARNER HOME VIDEO
If you like family comedies that show just how much hell the holidays can be but think “Christmas Vacation” was too over the top (even if some us think it was a documentary), this holiday fluff with a happily living together couple stuck with their divorced parents and their extended families for the holidays will give you all the laughs you need. Looking like an average middle American couple, with Reese Witherspoon being a mall babe and Vince Vaughn bringing along his incipient middle aged bloat, they battle an all star cast of relatives for a never again experience. The DVD and BluRay both come with digital copies and the BluRay has a nice load of extras for the fan that wants to dig deeper. A proper bit of movie making cotton candy that won’t rot your teeth.
MY SISTER’S KEEPERS: Nothing says holiday movie like cancer and this pic has it in spades. From Jodi Picoult’s best seller about strong willed women, this tale tells about a child that was conceived to be a donor to save her leukemia ridden older sister. But the kid says no. Mom’s a former attorney who jumped off the treadmill to hit the mommy track but still has her yuppie, killer instincts in tact. Will the family survive? Oy, such light entertainment to be enjoyed by all. Cameron Diaz is about as believable as a killer attorney as Reese Witherspoon is, but just keep telling yourself, it’s only a movie. Both the dvd and BluRay come with digital copies. The BluRay has all the requisite sharper, clearer, faster moves, but this is Nick Cassavetes at his heart tugging, character storytelling best. He’s the guy that gave you “The Notebook” and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
SHORTS: Please tell me that it was more than money that motivated Robert Rodriguez to become one of the top kiddie pic directors. Here we have an inside out version of basically the Willie Wonka story where everything in the background is one-dimensional to facilitate the story. The magic wishing rock falls from the sky and everything gets topsy turvy in a tale less taxing than “Jumanji” and quite pleasing for kids of all ages. The grown ups in here are all familiar faces that wear their parts well. Both the dvd and BluRay come with a digital copy and the BluRay has a load of special features reminiscent of the early days of dvd when they wanted to pack those things to the gills to encourage purchase. Kids will find more repeatability to the special features than big people. A dandy way to wind down from Black Friday with the kids around.
Volume 33/Number 14
November 14, 2009
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
©2009 Midwest Record
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