Music : Classical & Opera Classical music & opera on Lunch! <![CDATA[ Learning Guitar]]>
I've officially gone from being obsessed with playing video games to being obsessed with playing music. When I started to sit down and really learn to play guitar, I did it in part to improve my concentration and ability to linearize more analytical subject matter. You would think video games would be great for that, and to a point, they are. Playing video games isn't like reading music, though. A video game level usually offers a number of subtle options which allow the gamer to adjust and strategize, tackling the level in a handful of different ways which all serve different purposes. There's a way to run through a level which will be easiest for the gamer, and a way to do it which might be a lot tougher, but looks really cool to onlookers. Music notes, in contrast, are pretty linear. Certain aspects of a song can differ, but there's generally one way to play it.

At a cursory glance, you would think 30 years of experience playing one would be a halfway decent start to trying to learn the other, but most video games require the use of maybe four or five different fingers at once, tops. If I decide to apply my experience as a writer to learning an instrument, well, the problem with that is that I use even less fingers on my computer keyboard than I do on my video game controllers. I know how to type properly, but I find it easier and far less painful – especially on my right hand – to just peck out everything on my two acting forefingers. A musical instrument will pretty much require nothing short of two extra fingers, and that's just on my good hand. Herein lies the problem: My little stubs of fingers don't like this weird new dance I'm busily forcing them to perform.

I can't decide whether learning music is about analysis or good old-fashioned instinct, or even whether I'm ramping up the difficulty even further by wondering a question like that. It would seem like the kind of thing you have to be able to turn your brain on and off for. You know the drill – pick up the instrument, flick the off switch, and let your fingers ride like the wind into the sunset while everyone in the immediate vicinity starts comparing you to Jimi Hendrix. Of course, the problem with that is that you're not actually learning very much by doing that, and you'd probably be booed out of some two-bit nightclub without 10000 practice hours and a very exacting idea of what to do. When I try to be analytical about reading music, I only end up playing like an honorary member of the Keystone Cops Accidental Musical Comedy Tribute Band: See note, dig through my mental archives in a desperate attempt to remember just which note on which string between which two frets I'm supposed to be plucking, pluck note, repeat process until I've been trying to play a minute-and-a-half-long song for about eleven minutes. And that's provided it's one of the easier songs I practice on. On a particularly difficult measure, I alternate glances between the page, my fingers, and the fretboard, trying to figure out exactly how to decode the weird alien language written down there until I inevitably sink into a default how-to-do-it mode of playing every note I know until I guess the one which sounds right.

Then, of course, instead of practicing until I know exactly what the hell I'm supposed to be doing, I go sit down at my computer and punch out a thousand words about just how much I suck at playing guitar. It's my natural instinct, being a writer and all, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Like learning how to do anything else well, starting out as an amateur guitar player gave me a real respect for what the people who are already good at playing guitar can do. One of the first images that comes to mind is the music video for the classic AC/DC song "Thunderstruck," which opens with a nice close-up of Angus Young's fretboard as he plays the lightning-fast riffs. It gives me a sense of envy, watching Young as his fret hand glides all over, fingers moving nimbly with the grace and knowing order and purpose of spider legs. How the hell does he do that? One day, I hope to be that good. I also like to imagine there are great guitar players out there, somewhere, who once saw a smooth video gamer playing his best game and thought the same thing to themselves. The difference is that I'm not yet able to name any video gamer who managed to parlay his video game talents into worldwide fame and well-known status as a millionaire boozehound and sex god.]]> Sun, 22 Jun 2014 12:40:29 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Newly crowned SUPERSTAR!]]> To say that of Jackie Evancho seems to be a little too early in the game. She's but only 11 year old! And this is her third CD (technically, the 2nd by a record label). Yet, after selling platinum for the first and now 1/4 of the way towards that for the 2nd (after a mere month), it's not too early to say that Jackie has matured in her singing.

A child grows so fast that if you are not looking closely, you lose that precious moment. And this child is so gifted and precious that we tend to forget she's still a child when she sings! Her voice is definitely not that of an 11 year old girl! Within a year of her first record selling CD, she has outdone not only the most matured singer in this field but also herself!

And, it's not all. She still has a long road (albeit a bright one) ahead of her. Would it be a little worrisome for us her ardent fan to think what the world has in store for her? She's entering the adult world of singing and recording at such a young age! Will she keep that purity in her voice? That innocence? That passion for learning and singing? Will she???

Dream with me is a dream comes true, not just for Jackie Evancho. It is a dream that comes true for all of us, the child in all of us. I've heard a great many singers and this one is unrivaled. Now, not some date in the future. This is the answer to The Lord's Prayer.

A star, an angel, 2 prayers, 2 guests and a total of 14 songs make up this wonderful collection of Jackie's singing. It's a keepsake and it's one that's going to guarantee unsurpassed pleasure. Yep, tune up your speakers and simply enjoy Jackie this weekend!

Last but not least, one of my favorite songs in this album is Imaginer, a song written by another fantastic singer, Lara Fabian! Enjoy....

]]> Sun, 10 Jul 2011 08:23:33 +0000
<![CDATA[Dream With Me by Jackie Evancho Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>

This CD was released in mid June and in less than a month, more than 1/4 million CDs have been sold!
Yes! It's that powerful!]]> Thu, 7 Jul 2011 05:04:25 +0000
<![CDATA[Jackie Evancho Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> the video), one wonders what the world holds for her at 21! Oh boy, this little girl not only is the youngest singer to have a platinum album under her name, she's God's gift to the world!

Yes, we certainly got a new superstar. Not only so, this is a voice that's unrivaled. Not even Susan Boyle can beat this pureness! What a miracle she is!]]> Wed, 6 Jul 2011 16:25:36 +0000
<![CDATA[ Beautiful music and an engaging biography]]>
But, of course, it is the music - the symphonies, ballets ("Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker" are arguably the best known ballets in the entire classical repertoire), chamber music and operas such as the lyrical "Eugene Onegin" - that is the reason we are so interested in the story of the man as well. Jeremy Siepmann and Naxos Records have created a truly winning recipe with their "Life and Works" series. The combination of an audio book with music is an extraordinarily powerful and compelling way of bringing the biography of a classical musician to life and, at the same time, making the music accessible to a wide audience who may never have had the privilege of listening to some of the greatest music ever written. Siepmann's narrative voice is truly enchanting. Not only does he do a masterful job narrating Tchaikovsky's story in a most compelling manner but he does a magnificent job of relating Tchaikovsky's mercurial moods and the events in his life to the very nature of the music that he was producing at different periods in his life.

Highly recommended for lovers of music and music history alike.

Paul Weiss]]> Thu, 3 Mar 2011 19:44:19 +0000
<![CDATA[My Christmas Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Sun, 26 Dec 2010 15:40:57 +0000 <![CDATA[Lanza's Italian + Love Flavors]]>
NB: The list is a random list. Not in order of preference or anything else. They are all equally good so I find it extremely hard to prioritize. In any case, they are all very Mario Lanza and have since been sung by many other great talents. Mario Lanza was in fact one of the greatest tenors ever lived!]]> Tue, 7 Dec 2010 15:02:18 +0000
<![CDATA[Jackie Evancho Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Sun, 5 Dec 2010 16:59:28 +0000 <![CDATA[ The Best Thing Comes in Small Packages]]>
Her last album (O Holy Night) released on Nov. 16, 2010 has reached a record #1 sale on best selling music even before it was out making her the best selling 2010 debut artist & the youngest solo artist to debut in top 10! Spectacular!

Well, the sale figures speak for themselves! First week sale of 239,000 copies & 2nd week sale of 142,000 making that short of 1/2 million in 2 weeks!!! Awesome!

Now, let's hear for ourselves what the fuss is all about ;-)

Oh, if you are looking for an album for the Christmas season, this might just be it!

Now, isn't that phenomenal or what?!]]> Sun, 5 Dec 2010 12:58:39 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Classical, Easy Listening & Folk Repetoires]]> Mantovani Orchestra. It was a delightful way of having access to waltz, namely those from Johann Strauss. Because of that early conditioning, I've loved Strauss' Waltz more than any other classical music (the only one that comes close to this love was Puccini's operas).

However, as the music format changes from tapes to CD, I had not been able to find those songs which I had loved so much from Mantovani Blue Danube compilation. Instead, I was so happy to find them on Andre Rieu's Johann Strauss Orchestra's performances. Below are some of my favorites.

I hope you like some of my selections. Enjoy....

]]> Sun, 5 Dec 2010 11:24:09 +0000
<![CDATA[Fantasia Quick Tip by Kort_Kramer]]> Tue, 2 Nov 2010 15:57:54 +0000 <![CDATA[ Uplifting! A classic not to be missed!]]>  
As I began to play the film, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I know it had to be good, otherwise, who’d call it Fantasia?!  I didn’t know it’s that good though. In fact, it’s awesome! Great music by the Philadelphia Orchestra coupled with brilliant animation. For parents, especially those with toddlers, I urge you to see it with your child (or children). The characters are so cute that I find it amazing that it’s from the 40s! It’s a Disney production and yet it has a touch of newness and innocence. The movement, the flow and the look is so enjoyable to watch! The music and the animation are so perfectly intertwined. Not a word uttered and yet every expression tells the story and emotion of the characters. There’s a lot of flying in the air in this film, very carefree and so much freedom in expression which probably signaled a time of hope back then in the U.S. This is certainly the type of film we should all be looking for, especially for the children.

It is refreshing to watch it at this time of my life. I do get tired of seeing the kind of movie that’s been produced lately, especially in the last 2 decades. It’s like movies have to be warped just to sell. Disaster movies, horror movies and abnormal movies are what caught movie-goers’ attention. It’s no wonder I don’t frequent the theater anymore! If only more of movies like those of Fantasia & Up are produced, the world will probably be a much better place than it is today!

In any case, this is one great film with excellent animation and the most profound music. A movie where talents can be detected, where hope lives and where creativity reigns. Highly recommended for those who have not watched it! Excellent music, animation & artistic impression!

(A Lunch Featured Review)]]> Tue, 2 Nov 2010 15:34:40 +0000
<![CDATA[Saxophone Quick Tip by TheJohn]]> Wed, 20 Oct 2010 16:26:18 +0000 <![CDATA[ An exceptional arrangement by the great Moses Hogan!]]>
This is a challenging a cappella piece for the rhythmic vitality and percussive diction it requires among other things, but it is a wonderful piece to perform because of how fun it is too. Nothing is fun unless it is challenging! And one always loves it when a soprano hits a high D with energy and excitement!

If you sing in a choir and want to learn/are learning this piece, it requires three soprano soloists in addition to a chamber choir. It takes a lot of discipline to really perform with great diction and energy for a piece such as this and calls for a high caliber of singing by all. ]]> Sat, 11 Sep 2010 21:25:36 +0000
<![CDATA[Moonlight Sonata Quick Tip by zephyr2050]]>]]> Sat, 28 Aug 2010 03:10:47 +0000 <![CDATA[Opera Quick Tip by zephyr2050]]> Sat, 28 Aug 2010 02:09:24 +0000 <![CDATA[ Superb!]]> Sat, 28 Aug 2010 01:39:09 +0000 <![CDATA[ The Violin, The Soul]]> Secret Garden). At times it touches our heart with a sadness which is difficult to overcome and yet at times it also comes alive. How lucky it is for those who listen and listen with their hearts. At other times, it comes with an sexy energy which is hard to ignore, a life force, like those times when it’s played by Vanessa Mae. Strangely enough, it is these women who brought a specialness to this instrument while in the case of the piano, the most accomplished are often the men. Ever wonder why that is so? I do wonder….

 In the grand scheme of things though, in an orchestra ensemble, these two instruments and many others play their parts. They have their own unique energy and place in music. I love both of them, under different conditions and moods. Music is such a joy, when you find something you love, it stays with you all throughout… It is the spring, the summer, the autumn and the winter of life.
Without it… life is not complete. It enriches, it inspires, it transcends and it is eternal. 

Secret Garden is scheduled to make an appearance at the Expo Cultural Center in Shanghai on Sep. 25, 2010. For those who are heading that way, do make sure you make a date with Secret Garden. Performances at the Expo is free to all Expo visitors! Don't miss it!

Listen to Songs From A Secret Garden: Soundclips]]> Thu, 26 Aug 2010 08:56:20 +0000
<![CDATA[ Few classical works can match the climax of the 1812 Overture]]> The 1812Overture written by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense of Moscow against Napoleon's advancing Grande Armée at the Battle of Borodino in 1812. The overture is best known for its climactic volley of cannon fire and ringing chimes.
Though most Americans recognize the work for its associations with the Independence Day celebrations of the United States, few realize the work's inspiration as being not about the US and the British in the War of 1812, but the triumph of Russia on the far end of the Napoleonic Wars.  I know that as a teenager I was under this misconception until adulthood when I studied classical music in school.
The music can be interpreted as a fairly literal depiction of the campaign: in June 1812.  Tchaikovsky musically depicts the back and forth tug-of-war between the French and Russian forces to great effect.  Its crescendo ends in the peel of church bells and canon fire.  I find the climax of the piece is very exhilarating!!!
I love this piece.  I have had the pleasure of sitting on the steps of the Lincoln memorial on the 4th of July when the 1812 was played and have seen the fireworks.  If you haven't had the pleasure, put it on your "Bucket List"!!!  I love the work of most Russian composers, both in music and in literature.  It seems that they have the ability to touch my soul!!!  They really express the pathos of the human condition like no other nationality. ]]> Sun, 15 Aug 2010 04:33:16 +0000
<![CDATA[1812 Overture Quick Tip by MNeulander]]> Sun, 15 Aug 2010 04:07:24 +0000 <![CDATA[Opera Quick Tip by MNeulander]]> Thu, 12 Aug 2010 02:12:35 +0000 <![CDATA[Peter and the Wolf Quick Tip by MNeulander]]> Sun, 8 Aug 2010 22:19:11 +0000 <![CDATA[A Night on Bald Mountain Quick Tip by MNeulander]]> Sun, 8 Aug 2010 22:16:05 +0000 <![CDATA[ Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau 'is' Saul]]> Handel: Saul, and the 1985 Das Alte Werk (Teldec) edition conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (the NH edition). I thought the best way to review the NH edition would be to compare it to the better-known RJ edition.

The Old Testament story of King Saul is one of numerous Handel oratorios that I would love to see staged. In fact, "Saul...contains extremely precise stage directions which were printed in the wordbooks distributed at [the original] performances." (quoted from the RJ insert). Handel wanted his audience to be able to visualize the action that was not taking place on stage, but was vividly reconstructed in his music.

There are several cuts in the NH version, a live recording (Vienna Musikvereinssaal, 04/28/1985), which runs for 2 hours 15 minutes 54 seconds. The RJ studio version runs for 2 hours 30 minutes. Most of the cuts are taken from the symphonies which tend to run half as long in the NH version. For instance the timing for the opening symphony in the NH version is 4 minutes. In the RJ version, it is 8 minutes long. The High Priest's arias and many of his recitatives are also cut from the NH version.

Even though René Jacobs is a respected interpreter of Baroque music, I thought his "Saul" was rather scholarly and flat compared to Nikolaus Harnoncourt's more colorful, operatic rendition. From the arrogant blat of the trombones introducing the first chorus ("How excellent thy name, oh Lord"), through the impudent bell-tones of the Israelite women's chorus ("Welcome, welcome, mighty king!") that triggers Saul's jealous rage against David, to the solemn "Dead March" and David's anguished "O Jonathan! How nobly didst thou die..." I found the NH version more vivid and emotionally in tune with the tragedy of Saul and his son Jonathan.

Of course, it helps that the NH recording includes some outstanding operatic voices, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Saul, and Julia Varady (F-D's wife) as his haughty daughter, Merab. The RJ voices are lovely and more evenly balanced, but NH's Fischer-Dieskau 'is' Saul. Do not expect the lyric baritone of his early and middle career. His voice sounds cavernous and barely under control in this recording, but his musicianship and technique are flawless.

The two problems with the NH recording are (1) the cuts; and (2) the distinctive, brazen tenor of Helmut Wildhaber is overused in five different roles, from the Witch of Endor to the High Priest. When I first started listening to this recording of "Saul" it was difficult to understand why the Witch of Endor shows up a few minutes later to announce that he is the Amalekite, who killed Saul.

I wouldn't give up either of these recordings of Handel's "Saul" but I do prefer Nikolaus Harnoncourt's interpretation.]]> Sun, 25 Jul 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[Fantasia Quick Tip by AustinArtaud]]> Wed, 21 Jul 2010 23:55:56 +0000 <![CDATA[Fantasia Quick Tip by amberlani2334]]> Wed, 21 Jul 2010 02:02:14 +0000 <![CDATA[Fantasia Quick Tip by JaseSea]]> Tue, 20 Jul 2010 22:39:53 +0000 <![CDATA[ Amazing Piece of work]]> I really enjoy this animation. 
The plot was interesting and magical and had very good animation.
I was highly entertain throwout the movie. It meet the hype, and the place i seen the movie was even more exciting. Trailer didn't show the full glory of this movie. Is This Movie Mainstream Or Pretty Obscure? The movie is mainstream and obscure,  I am not a musical fan, but this movie is a 10, i never been more excited to watch a film in recent history. The movie is fun for the kids, but as an adult you will also enjoy this film. It sad they don't make good pictures like this anymore t


]]> Thu, 15 Jul 2010 00:14:13 +0000
<![CDATA[Fantasia Quick Tip by CDubs7717]]> Tue, 13 Jul 2010 23:05:31 +0000 <![CDATA[Fantasia Quick Tip by theKENnection]]> Wed, 30 Jun 2010 12:12:57 +0000 <![CDATA['Classical' In The Broadest Sense]]> Wed, 16 Jun 2010 05:48:40 +0000 <![CDATA[ A taste of everything]]>
Reading this made me understand the cultures behind the composers and helped me appreciate why they wrote certain operas the way they did.

Plotkin writes very simply and straightforward, and he never goes over the head of the novice ... which he could have done very easily in my case.

For someone new to opera, this is the way to go; a pleasant, easy read that makes you feel you can competently watch more opera.]]> Mon, 14 Jun 2010 23:15:40 +0000
<![CDATA[Opera Quick Tip by JuneAnn]]> Wed, 9 Jun 2010 01:13:47 +0000 <![CDATA[Rock Music that will see the 22nd Century!]]> "Disco Duck" or "Billy, Don't be a Hero".

Well, the point of this list is to be a futurist and to have a stab at predicting those rock composers of the 20th and 21st century whose music will make it into the 22nd and 23rd century and beyond. I think it's a mighty short list! At that time, of course, they'll be accorded the somewhat more lofty and, oftimes pretentious title, of being classic composers. See if you don't agree with me!]]> Tue, 8 Jun 2010 17:42:22 +0000
<![CDATA[ Opera meant to tickle]]>
My favorite was the 1981 production with Luciano Pavarotti and Judith Blegen playing the leads. It's a great opera for those just dipping their toes into opera because it's so light-hearted, and it's fun to watch the poor country boy (Pavarotti) believing with all his heart that very soon the beautiful Adina will fall in love with him because of the magical love potion he has bought from Dr. Dulcamara. 

Of course, in the end, after the lovesick Nemorino is tortured by his unrequited love, Adina declares her love. Yes, it sounds sappy, but it's so fun that my seven-year-old son loved it and watched it again and again throughout his life (he's 21 now) and still looks for the aria Una Furtiva Lagrima (everyone's favorite in that opera).

I think that had I not discovered this beautiful production, my children (all grown now) would never have come to appreciate how much fun a night at the opera can be.]]> Tue, 8 Jun 2010 02:30:29 +0000
<![CDATA[Erik Satie Quick Tip by KitEck]]> Fri, 4 Jun 2010 07:05:59 +0000 <![CDATA[Fantasia Quick Tip by Esmeraude]]> Fri, 21 May 2010 16:46:32 +0000 <![CDATA[ An excellent starting point for Christmas choral concert music]]> Carols for Choirs 1 comprises 50 carols, mostly for mixed SATB voices, well blended from both traditional and modern sources as well as secular versus sacred. Several familiar texts such as "Away in a Manger", "Coventry Carol" and "I Saw Three Ships" appear in two different musical settings which will give choirs the ability to present a wider variety of music to informed audiences that might well be jaded with the more typical Christmas fare.

Some pieces such as Mendelssohn's "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" or "O Come All Ye Faithful" are presented with the well known upper voice descant and oft heard harmonies that are so familiar it's probable even "con belto" fortissimo audience participants might be heard singing in four parts.

In marked contrast, other pieces such as "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" or JS Bach's harmonization of "O Little One Sweet", while not requiring virtuosity, will require careful practice, study and complete attention to choral detail such as dynamics, endings and articulation in order to pull off a polished, crowd-pleasing a cappella performance.

Highly recommended for regular choral singers and conductors.

Paul Weiss]]> Thu, 13 May 2010 10:59:19 +0000
<![CDATA[Giacomo Puccini Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Sat, 24 Apr 2010 08:34:45 +0000 <![CDATA[My Favorite Musical Instruments]]> (A Lunch Featured List)]]> Sat, 3 Apr 2010 06:52:14 +0000 <![CDATA[Hooked on Classics Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Tue, 30 Mar 2010 13:04:21 +0000 <![CDATA[ The Best Thing about This Recital ...]]>
However, the worst thing about this recital is that Damrau's singing isn't very pleasant to hear. She's often quite shrill where she ought to be cerulean clear. Her tuning is shockingly undependable throughout her range. Her highest notes have a strained timbre that doesn't emerge convincingly from her normal range. Her vibrato is out-of-control, a trick of emotional projection rather than an ornament of phrasing. There's a hoary sentiment among aspiring sopranos, confronting the two arias of Mozart's Queen of the Night, the epitome of the coloratura repertoire, that "just to be able to sing them at all" should be regarded as miraculous, but that to sing them well is the divine right of only the greatest divas. Diana Damrau's performance on this CD might qualify as miraculous, but it's far short of divine.]]> Mon, 25 Jan 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Andre Rieu Does It His Way in The Big Apple]]>
If New York City is America's best representation of the melting pot, then the Maestro certainly mixes his ethnic ingredients well. Italians are represented in the theme song "My Way" with a pictorial tribute fittingly enough for Frank Sinatra. "Godfather Waltz" and "Torna a Surriento" delve through these roots more thoroughly with video drawing from scenes in Tuscany.

Then, some of the happiest surprises come from guest stars, including young violinist, Akeem Camera and The Harlem Gospel Choir. Spiritual songs from "Amen," "Amazing Grace," and "I Will Follow Him" are given an exhilarating presentation. Instead of being accentuated, the choir takes front and center while the Johann Strauss Orchestra is heard in the background.

This grandeur is nearly matched by their rendition of show tunes. And what a refreshing lot we're given this time around! "The Music of the Night," easily 'Phantom of the Opera''s best song; "I'm Singing in the Rain," and "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" are all done to perfection. Wisely, he leaves the theme song to `The Titanic' behind for a whole new sound, which is honed with intricate skill.

Other highlights include the enchanting "Dance of the Fairies," "The Life of Artists," and "The Washington Post". Always partial to Sousa, even when not touring America, Rieu does "Stars and Stripes Forever," but adds a wonderful rendition of "America the Beautiful," and starts with the rousing "Seventy-six Trombones" (from `The Music Man').

Besides making it big, downplaying the hijinx, and freshening up the play list, Rieu changes the personnel this time around. In place of siren Carmen Monarcha, his own three Italian tenors join the troupe with some other fine singers. Otherwise, all the familiar orchestra faces are faithfully intact.

Andre Rieu is as much a perfectionist as he is a festive entertainer. On `Radio City Music Hall: Live in New York,' he's able to cater his music skills to thrill a highly receptive New York audience with a big night out on the town.]]> Sun, 9 Nov 2008 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ One Big Happy...]]>
To Andre' Rieu's credit, he's always said his orchestra is made up of his friends. Other similar special features DVD's have interviews with the maestro where he explains in a relaxed interview that he becomes nervous before performing, his influences, and rationale for taking or not taking ideas. This time all of this is seen rather than heard. Seeing his orchestra members out on the town, we're reminded of anecdotes of conductors who take a lion's share of the revenues, while admirable talent is left with the crumbs. The good will spills over into their company. There's plenty of joshing and good humor, just like in their act. One of the best scenes has the maestro elaborating about how love relationships have budded in the orchestra and gone all the way to the altar. When they're shopping ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" blares. When talking about relationships "All You Need Is Love" plays. And for many spots, we hear Rieu's own violin strains of "My Way," which is perfect for the destination as well for the maestro's talents.

While I love the unpretentious comaraderie and getting to know everyone, and it is interesting to hear all the logistics of setting up performances, both by booking and stage, I thought there was a bit too much repetition in places and less to see. However, two focuses are particularly laudable: One are those street interviews by Rieu's fans; the other is when Rieu tries to go into a supermarket or Starbucks and the management chases them out of the store with their cameras. "It is illegal!" quips Rieu in a close up shot. '...On His Way to New York' is heartwarming, but not always a substantial trailblazing tour of the celebrated Flying Dutchman and his friendly company.]]> Sun, 16 Dec 2007 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Putting the Fun in Sym-fun-ey]]>
Unsurprisingly, greatest on the bill of fare are the waltzes. Starting with "Gold and Silver," they manage one of the most uplifting numbers to be found from their collection. Similarly, "Without a Care" is uniquely frenetic. The songs melt into one another with nearly flawless transition. Alternate songs, "Come, Zigany" and "The Juliska of Budapest" have a gypsy-like livliness; while another alternated pair, "Emperor Waltz" and "Vienna Blood Waltz" are simply exquisite. Then, playfulness comes not only with the theatrics, but from the music as well, including on "Adieu, Mein Kleiner Gardeffizier" and "Circus Renz," with the latter featuring a nimble xylophone performance by a featured percussion player. In addition, there is a quietly beautiful jazz piece called "The Second Waltz". For additional variety, "Strauss and Co. Medley" and "Rigoletto Potpourri" stimulate the audience even further. And, finally, "The Gypsey Princess Medley" and "Carnival of Venice" are upbeat and festive additions for this happy occasion.

The downside is that there are some song repeats. However, since an Andre Rieu experience stays on the shelf less often than most DVD's, it is worth it. Nevertheless, "The Blue Danube Waltz," "Finiculi, Finicula," "Chianti Song," "Stars and Stripes," and "Brazil Symphony" can be found elsewhere*, but since this should be one of the first purchases, you will be hooked and want to experience these songs again and again.

'New Year's in Vienna' displays all their musical and entertainment prowess with an enthusiastic, fun-loving crowd during a festive occasion. This DVD is his most energetic. While 'Tuscany' excels with romance, and 'Royal Albert Hall' exemplifies variety, 'New Year's in Vienna' is his most magnificent. Obviously, you have to love waltzes. If you merely like them, you will love them here.

*'Royal Albert Hall,' 'Tuscany,' 'Live in Dublin,' respectively.]]> Wed, 7 Jun 2006 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Top O' the Evening!]]>
The selections repeat themselves from other DVD's. (Actually, the copywrite is 2003, so it is really the reverse.) However, each DVD manages to do something new and worthy that makes the repetition almost inconsequential. Andre Rieu and his orchestra are masters with their predilection for waltzes. "Thunder and Lightning," "The Marino Waltz," and the perennial favorite, "The Blue Danube Waltz" are mixed throughout the evening well. However, the distinctive feature of the evening is ethnicity, for which the maestro is so accomodating. "Hor Ich Zimbalklange" has a gypsy feel; in contrast to "The Song of the Volga Boatman," which is sombre, yet sweet. The ethnic flavor is broadened with "Espana Cani," "The Song of Olympia," and "The Chianti Song," each playfully performed. However, he is the most accomodating when he taps into the Irish tradition. One of the emotional highlights is when famous local violinist, John Sheahan, joins Andre' Rieu for a violin duo on "The Marino Waltz" and "Irish Washerwoman". Then, the Irish festiveness is prolonged with "The Red Rose Cafe". In addition, "Opera Potpourri" and the 'Titanic' theme song round out a splendid evening with a particularly enthusiastic audience.

Once again, there is plenty of entertaining and playful hijinx with this performance. It is also distinctive for the large number of violin solos the maestro performs on stage, nimbly conducting the orchestra with his bow! The orchestra itself is in fine form. If we don't see them smiling as much this time around, maybe it's because they are so enraptured in their own music. Perhaps they are playing it straight this time (except for two male members who break into singing on "Chianti Song").

When searching Andre' Rieu's DVD's, perhaps it is best to purchase 'Tuscany,' subjectively his best, first; then, 'Royal Albert Hall,' his liveliest; and then 'New Year's in Vienna,' for waltz afficionados. "Live in Dublin" showcases a fine performance and a pleasant evening, but somehow the energy or song selection somehow falls short of other DVD's (Pick! Pick! Pick!) However, this DVD is magnificent, even with the petty rating and some intangible ambiences that may be missing from the preferred three favorites.]]> Sat, 3 Jun 2006 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Cheers!]]>
This set of songs is perhaps the most lively and varied. There are waltzes, beautiful symphonic songs, ethnic pieces, and jazz numbers. The timing is great, cutting back and forth from orchestra and audience close-ups back to the maestro, Andre Rieu. This recording should squash forever the stereotypes that the Brits are stuffy people. They are invited to waltz in the aisles, while the rest just sway their arms and clap their hands. The festive atmosphere is accentuated with falling balloons and confetti, dropped to a cheering crowd. His regard for them is often facetious. He mimics them as stoney-faced before he cajoles them to dance to Strauss, the way it is meant to be. He also tells them they will perform Beethoven's Fifth in its entirety, which garners a laugh. He makes good on his word for a few bars, then segues to "Brazil Symphony". One feels transported by the hyjinx on stage and the occasional aerial and street shots of Big Ben, London Bridge, the double-decker busses, etc.

The content is also the most widely eclectic of his DVD's. They perform intricate ethnic classics like "Hava Nagila," "Salome' Sobridame," and "Sirtaka Sorbasma" (sp?). The mood swings from the lively and playful "Finiculi Finicula," and the British "Tea for Two," to the beautifully mournful "Nun's Tale" from 'Cassanova'. Waltzes are forefront with the unabashed "The Blue Danube," as well as "The Skater's Waltz". There are marches including "Radesky March" and "Stars and Stripes". Jazz seems to finish the bill with some jazz-age sounding numbers, including "Glen Miller Melody," "The 'Andre' Sisters," and "The Second Waltz".

Andre Rieu has reinvented the symphony. This DVD is an entertaining and engaging reinactment of a festive evening, worthy of owning and reliving again and again. This is no mere "Pops" concert, but a great show with a fine orchestra and an entertaining maestro.]]> Thu, 18 May 2006 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Festive Italiano]]>
He manages to taylor make his selections to match the culture where he visits. This isn't new, but his execution is masterful. In Tuscany, the songs are romantic, of course. "O Mio Babbino Caro," "Strangers in Paradise," and "The Godfather" tell much of the evening's story. In the audience we see young lovers embracing, old lovers embracing, children clapping hands, men in comraderie with arms around each other, and an elderly man crying at the sight and sound of a beautiful woman singing a magnificent aria. The concert is interrupted by a few scenes where the beautiful women are frolicking in the Italian countryside flanked by some ancient building on a scenic, sunny day. These highlights broaden the scope of the viewer's experience.

Subjectively, this is his best DVD so far, even though the reviewer has yet to experience all of his recorded concerts. Some wishing for a more upbeat concert would do well to look at "Vienna" or "The Albert Hall Concert". (For the latter, he has people dancing in the aisles!) Whichever recording one chooses, one will end up in some exotic country with a lively concert experience.]]> Fri, 12 May 2006 12:00:00 +0000