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Arthur Sullivan: Macbeth, The Tempest & Marmion Overture

Arthur Sullivan: Macbeth, The Tempest & Marmion Overture


Sullivan, A:

Macbeth

The Tempest - incidental music (excerpts)

Marmion


Mary Bevan (soprano), Fflur Wyn (soprano), Simon Callow (speaker)

BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Singers, John Andrews

This 2-CD set brings together for the first time Arthur Sullivan’s complete incidental music to Shakespeare’s Macbeth and The Tempest with his concert overture, Marmion. The Tempest was Sullivan’s graduation work from the Leipzig Conservatoire, and its rapturous reception in London in 1862 launched his career. The Macbeth music comes from the other end of Sullivan’s creative life. Commissioned by Henry Irving for his famous production at the Lyceum Theatre, it includes sublime melodic writing, ravishing orchestration (including the atmospheric use of two harps) and a dark dramatic energy. For both plays, Sullivan interwove music and text seamlessly – most impressively in the scenes between Macbeth and the Witches. Simon Callow’s wonderful performance of Shakespeare’s text makes it possible to appreciate how truly theatrical this music is. Marmion was composed after the epic poem by Walter Scott, which culminates in the Battle of Flodden Field. Until now, it has been heard only in a heavily abbreviated version. This recording restores the composer’s original narrative structure, with sparkling playing from the BBC Concert Orchestra.

This SACD is compatible with all CD players

2CDLX7331

“The BBC Concert Orchestra play with warmth and style, the BBC Singers go at it with spirit and Mary Bevan makes an enchanting Ariel. John Andrews does an excellent job of integrating the orchestra with Simon Callow’s spoken chunks of Shakespeare” Gramophone Magazine, October 2016

“the music is pure delight. Mary Bevan’s Ariel beguiles the ear.” Sunday Times, 24th July 2016

Super Audio CD

Format:

Hybrid Multi-channel

Dutton - 2CDLX7331

(SACD - 2 discs)

$18.50

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Smetana: Dalibor

Smetana: Dalibor


Ivan Kusnjer (King Vladislav), Richard Samek (Dalibor, a Knight), Aleš Vorácek (Vitek, Dalibor’s messenger), Dana Burašová (Milada, sister of the Burgrave of Ploskovice), Alžbeta Polácková (Jitka, a country girl), Jan Stava (Benes, a jailor), Svatopluk Sem (Budivoj, commander of the king’s castle guard)

BBC Symphony Orchestra & BBC Singers, Jiri Belohlávek

Smetana’s tragic opera 'Dalibor' from 1868 is now acknowledged as a masterpiece, containing some of his greatest music. It tells a tale of knightly ideals, chivalry, love and loyalty, with striking echoes of Fidelio, the story transports us to 15th-century Prague, where Dalibor is imprisoned having avenged the death of his musician friend Zdenk. The sister of his victim, Milada, is touched by his plight and disguises herself as a boy violinist in order to enter the gaol … Smetana, saddened by 'Dalibor’s cool reception ('too Wagnerian' was one of the charges against it) always had faith that one day it would be appreciated and stand alongside 'The Bartered Bride', the work that overshadowed all his other operas to his great frustration.

This superb performance of this rarely heard opera was recorded live in the Barbican Hall, London. Conducted by Jiri Belohlávek, the all Czech cast and the BBC SO and BBC singers gave a performance that impressed all present, and the critics praised the performance: "Smetana’s melodic invention is given full rein, with a rapturous second-act love duet as its high-point. Belohlávek’s conducting was warm and wonderfully spacious in those purple passages…the cast, all Czech, was a very fine one" The Guardian.

"A brilliant all-Czech performance...The pivotal duets were gloriously sung, while chorus and orchestra honoured the full beauty of the score."

“a performance as gloriously idiomatic as this…shows how much we have all been missing and makes a full staging of the work all the more urgent … Jiri Belohlavek it finds its ideal interpreter: the conductor has the lightest but firmest of touches, never allowing the pageantry to degenerate into bombastic pomp and circumstance but giving full rein to all the noble ardour that palpitates through the score. The BBC Symphony Orchestra plays with elegant clarity and a keen sense of drama, while the cast of native Czech singers is a revelation … The BBC Singers make a fervent contribution too … [an] admirable recording” The Telegraph, 21st November 2015 *****

“it is to be welcomed not only for the opera’s rarity, but for its thrilling performance in splendid modern sound. A key feature of this series’s success has been the engagement of singers from Prague, and the outstanding artistry of Dana Buresova figures again: imperious as Milada, yet capable of tenderness and poetry, she is the star. The BBC forces give their all for their former chief conductor; Richard Samek is heroic in the title role; and Alzbeta Polackova and Ales Vorasek charm as the youthful couple Jitka and Vitek” Sunday Times, 22nd November 2015

“As Dalibor himself, Richard Samek has a golden, heroic tenor that does the job beautifully … The orchestra play this unfamiliar music with great skill, and the BBC Singers throw themselves into the work, both in spirit and in pronunciation.” MusicWeb International, 4th December 2015

“Belohlavek’s championing of Dalibor ensures a passionate performance and the BBC Symphony Orchestra plays with style. The singers are classy too.” Opera Now, January 2016

“If there's one conductor you want in this repertoire, it's Jiri Belohlávek... Samek is a pleasing Dalibor, not the most heroic tenor, but sweet-toned...Burašová makes a strong impression as Milada, especially in the Act 2 love duet...Polácková nearly steals the performance as Jitka...The playing of the BBC Symphony Orchestra is excellent; you'd almost have to pinch yourself to believe that you weren't listening to Belohlávek's Czech Philharmonic.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2016

“Belohlávek creates a proper sense of the numinous from the BBC Symphony Orchestra, above all in the solos of leader, harpist and two horns, exquisitely haloed. Belohlávek leaves us in no doubt that Smetana's subtle score, with its fascinating transitions between scenes, is a masterpiece. It's full of unusual harmonies and interesting, proto-Tchaikovskyan wind choruses.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2016 ****

“The cast is thrillingly led by the bright star of a Dalibor...[Samek] looks set to become the most complete lyric-heroic Czech tenor for decades...Above all, this is Belohlavek’s triumph. Nobody knows better how to layer Smetana’s musical building blocks into an idiomatic, coherent edifice, sweeping us along with a concentration that is no less powerful for being so firmly controlled … a mighty reading which gives enormous satisfaction.” Opera, April 2016

Onyx - ONYX4158

(CD - 2 discs)

$21.00

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Tippett: A Child of Our Time

Tippett: A Child of Our Time


Jessye Norman (soprano), Dame Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano), Richard Cassilly (tenor) & John Shirley-Quirk (bass)

BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Choral Society & BBC Singers, Sir Colin Davis

“Davis’s reading as a whole packs an enormous dramatic punch, and this is one oratorio that suffers not at all from being brought close to the opera house” Gramophone Magazine

Decca 20C - 4788351

(CD)

$9.25

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Cyril Rootham: Symphony No. 2 & Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

Cyril Rootham: Symphony No. 2 & Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity


Rootham:

Symphony No. 2

BBC Broadcast 28 January 1984

Scottish Philharmonic Singers & BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

BBC Broadcast 18 December 1975

Teresa Cahill (soprano), Philip Langridge (tenor) & Michael Rippon (bass-baritone)

Trinity Boys Choir, BBC Singers & BBC Concert Orchestra


‘Rootham has done much for other contemporary composers; unfortunately he has been deficient in peddling his own wares’. This verdict on Cyril Rootham may serve to explain the neglect his music suffered during his lifetime. However, the general indifference it has encountered subsequently is unfathomable. It is to be hoped that this Lyrita release, which echoes the enterprise of the same label’s pionee ring 1976 studio recording of the First Symphony will reawaken interest in a key figure in early twentieth century British music.

Composed between 1925 and 1928, Rootham’s setting of Milton’s Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, for soprano, tenor and baritone soloists, chorus, a semi-chorus of boys’ voices and orchestra, is the composer’s most ambitious and accomplished choral work. It won the 1928 Carnegie Competition and was premiered successfully on 13 June 1930 under the composer’s direction. A performance in Gloucester at the 1934 Three Choirs Festival brought further acclaim. The performance presented here is a 1975 recording of a BBC Radio 3 broadcast marking Rootham’s centenary. Vernon Handley’s assured handling of this large score is constantly impressive and he highlights its tiniest ge stures and flecks of colour as well as moulding convincingly its epic, sweeping paragraphs.

Rootham first conceived the idea of a symphonic work with choral finale in 1936 at a time when he beagn to suffer from progressive muscular atrophy. The Symphony No.2 was completed at a stage when Rootham was no longer able to write and could barely speak, ten days before he died in March 1938. The result can be regarded as a deeply personal statement or rather, given the circumstances of its creation, as a testament. The overall effect is all the more poignant because it shuns sentimentality and self-indulgence. It was premiered on 17 March 1939 at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. This performance under Vernon Handley was first broadcast on 28 November 1984. Handley’s grasp of this fragile, elusive symphonic piece is as impressive as his 1976 studio account of Rootham’s First Symphony (also available on Lyrita SRCD269) and constitutes arguably an even greater interpretive achievement.

Lyrita Itter Broadcast Collection - REAM2118

(CD - 2 discs)

$14.25

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Birtwistle: Angel Fighter

Birtwistle: Angel Fighter


Birtwistle:

Angel Fighter

Andrew Watts (Angel) & Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts (Jacob)

In Broken Images

Virelai (Sus une fontayne)


Harrison Birtwistle is internationally regarded as one of the most striking and individual composers today. His unique soundworld runs the full gamut from large-scale operatic and orchestral canvases, rich in mythical and primitivist power, to intimate chamber works, contemplative in their lyricism.

One of Birtwistle's most recent works The Cure – a co-commission between The Royal Opera House, Aldeburgh Music and London Sinfonietta – has its World Premiere 12-15 June at Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh, and London Premiere at Linbury Studio Theatre, London 18–27 June 2015.

Described by The Guardian as 'hauntingly powerful', Birtwistle's cantata Angel Fighter vividly explores the Biblical story of the struggle between man and divine being from the Book of Genesis. Predictably, for a composer with a long-standing fascination in myth, drama and ritual, it's the physical fight between Jacob and the Angel more than religious signifi cance, that interests Birtwistle: the tension, twists of pulse, sharp accents and jeering chants from the chorus make it feel more like a wrestling match than a life-or-death struggle. Quartertones and string harmonics enhance the otherworldly descent of the Angel from Heaven and librettist Stephen Plaice makes clever use of Enochian, an angelic language 'discovered' by the 16th century alchemist and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee.

In Broken Images, inspired by Gabrieli's multi-choir canzonas, splits the ensemble into four groups (woodwind, brass, strings and percussion) and takes its title from the Robert Graves poem. Birtwistle continues to draw influence from the past in Virelai (Sus une fontayne), a rhythmically intricate realisation of a piece by Johannes Ciconia, who flourished in the late Middle Ages, around the time that Chaucer was writing his Canterbury Tales.

“Angel Fighter, composed for the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, is a spare and strikingly original piece of dramatic storytelling. It presents the Old Testament tale of Jacob wrestling an angel as a ritualised game between the tenor Jacob (Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts) and the counter-tenor Angel (Andrew Watts) and climaxes in one of the great dramatic moments in Birtwistle’s concert music.” The Guardian, 14th May 2015 ****

“[Angel Fighter] would evoke Bach cantatas if Birtwistle’s gestic pungency did not sweep all before...In Broken Images (2011) — an intriguing meditation on the eponymous Graves poem — might evoke Gabrieli but for the same proviso. The brief Virelai (Sus une fontayne) brilliantly transforms a late-medieval original.” Sunday Times, 17th May 2015

“anyone in 2015 disposed to expect ageing dinosaurs going through the motions should be struck by the energy and sharpness of response in these recordings...Angel Fighter owes as much to terse commentaries from choir and instruments as to extended dialogues between admirable singers, and Atherton couples scrupulous attention to detail with exemplary alertness to the steadily unfolding shape of the whole.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“Birtwistle unleashes all his powers as a stage composer onto Stephen Plaice's text, using the whole building to create a thrilling dramatisation of the Bible story…pungent pizzicato rhythms, visceral trumpets, groaning lower brass and winds shrilling overhead drive the three-way confrontation…the London Sinfonietta, under David Atherton, lend it both soul and a zinging edge.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2015

GGramophone Awards 2016

Finalist - Contemporary

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2015

NMC - NMCD211

(CD)

$12.75

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Judith Weir: Storm

Judith Weir: Storm


Weir:

All the Ends of the Earth

Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (2011)

Missa del Cid

The Song Sung True

Storm


BBC Singers, Choristers of Temple Church & Endymion, David Hill

The BBC Singers continue their critically lauded and award-nominated series of composer-led recordings with a new disc of works by Master of the Queen's Music Judith Weir.

Recorded in the unique acoustic of the Temple Church, London, the BBC Singers are joined by the church's choristers and the contemporary music ensemble Endymion, in a retrospective of Weir's works drawn from a 25-year period.

“We start in the cathedral, with the densely spiralling alleluias of Weir’s mesmerisingly beautiful millennium anthem, All the Ends of the Earth. The simpler textures of her Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis occasionally find the choir sounding harsh up high, but theirs is a vibrant sound, never bland.” The Guardian, 30th April 2015 ****

“tasteful, spirited and affectionate.” Sunday Telegraph, 14th June 2015

“This invigorating selection of Judith Weir’s choral music is nothing if not varied.” Irish Times, 12th June 2015

“The performances are as expert as you would expect, with the BBC Singers under their very experienced choral director David Hill … A lovely disc.” MusicWeb International, 30th June 2015

“a gorgeous, rounded sound … it works very well indeed.” CD Review, 27th June 2015

“Vocal - particularly choral - music has been a strong and persistent thread through Judith Weir's output from the start and this collection brings together works from a 25-year period…clarity of thought and texture is apparent in the concise setting of the unaccompanied Magnificat and Nunc dimittis…the high quality [of these interpretations] bode well.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2015

“This CD…is to be welcomed not only for the excellence of the execution of the music but also for the opportunity it affords to sample what is, in effect, a major retrospective of Weir’s choral output from a 25-year period … David Hill presides over this important release to the manner born. A significant addition to the too-small Weir discography.” Choir & Organ, September-October 2015

“The bright, jangling soundworld of Judith Weir's All the Ends of the Earth immediately cleanses the aural palate...the BBC Singers bring their customary high standards of versatility and exectuion to the table.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2015 ****

Signum - SIGCD421

(CD)

$14.00

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Webern: Five Pieces for Orchestra & Cantatas

Webern: Five Pieces for Orchestra & Cantatas


Webern:

Five Pieces for Orchestra Op. 10

Drei Lieder, Op. 18, for voice, E flat clarinet and guitar

Christiane Oelze

Symphony, Op. 21

Variations for Orchestra, Op. 30

Cantata No. 2, Op. 31

Gerald Finley, Christiane Oelze

BBC Singers

Cantata No.1 for Soprano Chorus and Orchestra op.29

Gerald Finley, Christiane Oelze

BBC Singers

Das Augenlicht, ‘Through Our Open Eyes Light Flows into the Heart’, Op. 26


DG 20C - 4793431

(CD - 2 discs)

$9.25

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Weir: The Vanishing Bridegroom

Weir: The Vanishing Bridegroom


Ailish Tynan (soprano), Anna Stéphany (mezzo), Andrew Tortise (tenor), Owen Gilhooly (baritone) & Jonathan Lemalu (bass baritone)

BBC Singers & BBC Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins

Judith Weir talks to Presto's Katherine Cooper about The Vanishing Bridegroom here.

Judith Weir's opera, commission by Glasgow District Council for the 1990 City of Culture celebrations, takes three Scottish folktales, all concerned with disappearance: The Inheritance features a runaway bride, a singing forest and a lost sum of gold; The Disappearance tells of a man abducted by supernatural forces; and The Stranger is the story of an independent-minded girl wooed by the devil in disguise.

Weir's writing combines lush descriptive soundscapes with ethereal choruses and Gaelic folk melodies; the romanticism of the three tales is offset by the sardonic humour and down-to-earth attitude of their protagonists, and of the composer herself.

Judith Weir's operas have been staged by the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Bregenz and many others. • She was awarded the Queen's Medal for Music in 2007.

Weir has been commissioned by the CBSO, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra.

She celebrates her 60th birthday this year.

“this excellent recording by BBC forces of her 1990 opera shows why she is so highly rated. Weir ingeniously meshes three Scottish folk tales...conveyed in pithily sardonic music. Excellent performances, especially by Jonathan Lemalu in the title-role.” The Times, 19th July 2014 ****

“a composer of integrity, [Weir] communicates intelligently with different audiences and ages. This timely release of The Vanishing Bridegroom (1990), her most successful opera, underscores her gift for concision, ambiguity and sound-pictures of sophisticated lyricism.” Financial Times, 8th August 2014 ****

“Weir has always excelled at writing music in miniature, and her skill at pinpointing an idea, an atmosphere, a musical realm in a few deft strokes is fully on display in The Vanishing Bridegroom...A bleak atmosphere pervades the opera, yet the score is full of life.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2014

“Weir’s textures never become muddy thanks to the excellent engineering and superb performances. Brabbins leads a well-paced reading that follows every twist and turn of Weir’s colourful score. Soprano Anna Stéphany and bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu give particularly strong performances in the final tale.” Opera Now ****

Presto Discs of 2014

Finalist

BBC Music Magazine

Opera Choice - November 2014

NMC - NMCD196

(CD - 2 discs)

$25.50

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Birtwistle: The Moth Requiem

Birtwistle: The Moth Requiem


Birtwistle:

The Moth Requiem (2003)

Latin Motets (3) from The Last Supper

Carmen Paschale

Lullaby

On the Sheer Threshold of the Night

The Moth Requiem (2012)


Roderick Williams (baritone)

BBC Singers & Nash Ensemble, Nicholas Kok

As 2014 marks the composer’s 80th year, Harrison Birtwistle remains one of the most popular voices in contemporary composition in the UK and beyond. This new collection of premiere recordings draws together recent commissions with older works to mark the occasion, with characteristically flawless performances from the BBC Singers under Nicholas Kok. They are joined on this disc by the Nash Ensemble and baritone Roderick Williams.

This is the fourth in Signum's ongoing series of composer-led releases with the BBC Singers, with past discs featuring the works by Judith Bingham, Richard Rodney Bennett, and most recently Edward Cowie.

“The centrepiece of this outstanding disc of choral works by Harrison Birtwistle, all recorded for the first time, is one of the beautiful and most intensely personal of his recent scores...It's an important, scrupulously presented collection.” The Guardian, 20th February 2014 *****

“This is a wonderful and important release of his powerful and often delicate works. Best, perhaps, to being with On the Sheer Threshold of the Night, which is a kind of spin-off from The Mask of Orpheus...This disc is the most fitting tribute imaginable to Birtwistle on his 80th birthday.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2014 *****

“I doubt whether anything the year brings for Birtwistle's 80th birthday is going to dim the lustre of this excellent recording of his choral music. Nor surpass it in importance, perhaps.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2014

Presto Discs of 2014

Finalist

GGramophone Awards 2014

Finalist - Contemporary

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - May 2014

Signum - SIGCD368

(CD)

$14.00

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Donizetti: Caterina Cornaro

Donizetti: Caterina Cornaro


Carmen Giannattasio (Caterina Cornaro), Colin Lee (Gerardo), Troy Cook (Lusignano), Graeme Broadbent (Andrea Cornaro), Vuyani Mlinde (Mocenigo), Loïc Félix (Strozzi, a Knight of the King) & Sophie Bevan (Matilde)

BBC Symphony Orchestra & BBC Singers, David Parry

Caterina Cornaro was written in the extremely productive last period of Donizetti's life (between Don Pasquale and Linda di Chamounix) and was the last of his operas to be premiered in the composer’s lifetime. Like every other work of this period, it is intensely original, in this case being unusually dark in both subject matter and general musical tone.

This is the only opera of Donizetti’s later period not to have had a quality modern recording. Conductor David Parry says: “The opera requires a prima donna with a wonderful voice, extraordinary technique and exceptional histrionic ability, which we have in Carmen Giannattasio: the role could actually have been written for her.

The story is resonant and believable, a woman forced into a political marriage with a king she does not love, but who turns out to be noble and good, so that she feels that she cannot abandon him, and who is assassinated at the instigation of a bitter enemy, leaving her to rule on her own. This calls up from Donizetti one of his most deeply felt, atmospheric and dramatically truthful scores. It is concise and hard-hitting, and I simply cannot understand why the opera is not in the repertoire; it is badly in need of a proper studio-recording.”

The 2CD set is accompanied by a complete libretto with an English translation alongside an article and synopsis by the eminent 19th-century musical scholar, Jeremy Commons.

“powerhouse performances by Colin Lee (Gerardo) and Troy Cook (Lusignano), whose big duet together is very classy indeed. Carmen Giannattasio's Caterina is too detached for my taste. David Parry is the no-frills, forthright conductor.” The Guardian, 4th July 2013 ****

“The drama moves at a breathless pace in this first studio recording under David Parry’s seasoned baton...Giannattasio is fierce under pressure, but has the requisite “sacro fuoco” for the title role, while Colin Lee and Troy Cook offer Italianate plangency and vigour as her lover and husband.” Sunday Times, 30th June 2013

“[Lee] is up to his usual high standard. His bright, high-placed voice is in fine condition...there are some meaty morsels for the middle of Giannattasio's compass, which she treats to the occasional touch of chest-voice, yet she can take upward flight with flowing ease...She completes a fine cast, in which there is now weakness.” International Record Review, July/August 2013

“Giannattasio brings an easy confidence to the rich lyricism of the writing, though a cleaner attack on the text would stamp more personality on the role...Colin Lee is sweet and graceful...and Vuyani Mlinde impresses...Parry secures a fine overall performance, drawing out the subtle drama of the piece.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2013 ****

“Giannattasio shows once again how admirably suited she is to the bel canto repertoire. Her opening Romanza encapsulates her virtues: a good legato line wih no Sutherland droopiness, followed by an equally expressive cabaletta...I have heard Colin Lee described as 'the poor man's Florez'...he is very much more than that.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2013

“Giannattasio brings dramatic power and infinite varieties of light and shade to the meaty title-role on this 2013 recording under David Parry, with stylish singing from Colin Lee, Troy Cook and Graeme Broadbent too.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, June 2014

“this recording reveals an interestingly coloured voice [from Giannattasio] with some effective phrasing and efficient coloratura...Add idiomatic and spirited conducting and playing from David Parry and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and this release is well worth adding to the collection of anyone interested in nineteenth century Italian opera.” Opera Now ***

Opera Rara - ORC48

(CD - 2 discs)

$29.50

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