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Kevin Sutton
MusicWeb International

"With the introduction of the series "Classics Explained," Naxos have given yet more evidence as to why they are not only the finest and most successful classical record label in the world, but that they are also an international cultural asset. Narrator and musicologist Jeremy Siepmann has written and compiled a set of discs that walk us through a number of major works practically bar by bar.

This is some of the finest educational material that I have seen on the market in years. Not since Mr. Bernstein and his Young Person's Concerts have we had such detail, care and quality in a series of recordings intended to broaden our appreciation of music.

Let's start with the package itself. Lavish is the only word strong enough. With everything from a lengthy biography of the composer, a multi-page synopsis of his total compositional output, a word-by-word script of the narration, and a structural analysis of the symphony, the booklet could be used as a college textbook. Add to that Siepmann's charming and down-to-earth speaking manner, and a couple of hundred musical examples, you have a truly winning product here.

Maestro Drahos and his fine orchestra have already been critically acclaimed for their fine set of Beethoven's symphonies. It is elegant and refined playing, beautifully balanced, lush where it needs to be and thrilling where appropriate. If I were to quibble with anything at all, it is that we get the full piece only one movement at a time, with a fairly long set of annotated examples in between. I would almost rather have the entire lecture on one disc, and the entire piece to listen to from beginning to end on the other.

At over two and a half hours, I also wonder if the analysis might be just a smidge too long. I was enlightened and entertained, and for that matter amazed that one man could find so very much in a single piece of music to accentuate and discuss. I am not too sure, however, if I would be prone to repeated listenings of this disc, as it just goes a bit too long.

These CDs are worthy of seasoned listeners and neophytes alike. They will be of especial use to schools and libraries. Once again the "little label that could" have done it. A fine product at a great price, for what more could one ask?

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