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Wakefield, 2011 "Wakefield, 2011"

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Theatre Plays One
Theatre Plays One
by Trevor Griffiths
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Trevor Griffiths: Unfairly Neglected Dramatist, 8 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Theatre Plays One (Paperback)
I don't have a lot to add to Rosemary Clark's excellent review above but I will say that Griffiths urgently needs to be rediscovered by theatre practitioners and audiences. He is a casualty of the 'death of the Left' in British (and world) politics but even a casual read of this volume will be enough to convince you of his continued relevance The absence of propagandising, the joyous, intelligent dialogue and the recognition that the 'enemy' is hard to confound all make Griffiths a unique voice among left-wing dramatists of this period (the only comparable figure I can think of is the similarly neglected David Mercer). 'Occupations' is a major play. At a time when even front-line politicians aren't aware who Gramsci was, it needs a revival.

Wagner: Lohengrin
Wagner: Lohengrin
Price: £35.16

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Puts the Drama Into 'Music Drama', 5 April 2013
This review is from: Wagner: Lohengrin (Audio CD)
Autonome's review is well-written and argued but, I have to say, I disagree with every word of it. This is the best Lohengrin on record: the only one where you get a real sense of visceral excitement just before Lohengrin's arrival in Act 1. All of the principals are excellent, particularly Domingo and Norman - and Domingo's Italianate styling in this role really does make him seem like an outsider (it was one of his earliest tenor roles, not something he learned just for this recording). Only Nimsgern and Randova are outshone by Fischer-Dieskau and Ludwig on the (also recommendable) Kempe set. And the whole thing sounds stunning!

Wagner Complete Operas
Wagner Complete Operas
Price: £46.59

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Survery At An Incredible Price, 31 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Wagner Complete Operas (Audio CD)
Some reviewers have commented that none of these recordings would be 'first choices' for the works concerned. Peronally, I would disagree: both the Solti Parsifal and the Lohengrin are, to my mind, the finest recordings of these operas to be had, certainly in stereo; I also highly esteem Carlos Kleiber's unique but hardly controversial recording of Tristan Und Isolde (even if CK himself was, apparently, not that keen on it). The Sinopoli Tannhauser may not be the best there is (that palm goes to the Solti) but I'd say it IS certainly the best of the digital era.

Domingo is all over this box: he appears in no less than four operas and, while I take the point that his singing isn't always idiomatic, it is a refreshing change to hear this kind of voice in this kind of repertoire. I particularly like what his Italianate style adds to Lohengrin, making the titular character really sound like a being from another world.

Elsewhere, we have Levine's underestimated Ring cylce from the late 80s/early 90s. This may not be a total success, but the recording quality is still superb and anything that features performances by the likes of James Morris and Jessye Norman in their prime cannot be discounted. Sinopoli's Hollander is also an interesting interpretation, which illuminates the affinity Wagner had with bel canto opera, something that is rarely acknowledged.

Which leaves the recordings of Die Feen and Das Liebesverbot....DG has been extremely enterprising in obtaining the rights to these BBC recordings, as they make it a clincher over EMI's rival set, which does not include the first two. Both performances are excellent and the recordings hold up well next to the glossier ones from Decca/DG sources. I only wish that they could have licensed Downes's recording of Rienzi as well, rather than duplicating it with the Hollreiser recording featured in the EMI box; the Downes version was, apparently, fuller.

So, all in all, this is an excellent bargain: a pretty good bet for someone new to Wagner, too, though no one recording can ever be definitive.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 7, 2014 1:20 PM BST

Icon: Melos Ensemble - The Complete Emi Recordings
Icon: Melos Ensemble - The Complete Emi Recordings
Price: £22.90

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Centuries Of Chamber Music, 13 May 2012
I principally knew the Melos Ensemble from their oustanding 1962 Decca recording of Ravel's Introduction and Allegro - and from their participation in Britten's recording of his own War Requiem. Many of the names of the participants (Manoug Parikian, William Pleeth, Ossian Ellis, etc) are familiar to me, as are many of the pieces included here. All the performances are outstanding and beautifully recorded; the Icons series has come in for some criticism for the standard of remastering, but all here sounds good to my ears. The great bonus is the inclusion of some early works by still-living composers (Richard Rodney Bennett and Peter Maxwell-Davies to name but two), so the listener gets some great performances of Beethoven/Mozart/Schumann, etc, as well as some exciting 'new' repertoire. Only pity is, they seem not to have recorded the Siegfried Idyll! Recommnded without reservation.

William Steinberg - ICON
William Steinberg - ICON
Price: £32.90

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Collection From An Underrated Maestro, 4 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
William Steinberg is little-known in Europe, as the majority of his career was in the USA, afer fleeing Nazi persecution in the 1930s. The recordings in this set feature mainly with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, whose Principal Conductor he was for many years. The recordings date from the early to the late 1950s, so are a combination of excellent mono and (just as good) early stereo. Of course, with such a wide survey of music, there are always going to be peaks and troughs but it seems that Steinberg was one of those conductors incapable of turning in a bad or uncommittted performance: you might not find his Elgar or Vaughan Williams terribly idiomatic, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have new things to say about these works (Enigma Variations and Tallis Fantasia). This set will satisfy those looking for an insight into Steinberg or those looking for good-to-great performances of the central orchestral repertoire. Excellent digital transfers, too.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 30, 2013 8:01 AM BST

Donizetti: La Fille du Régiment (DECCA The Originals)
Donizetti: La Fille du Régiment (DECCA The Originals)
Price: £12.81

5.0 out of 5 stars THE recording of Fille...., 20 Sept. 2011
Only writing this to correct the effect the one-star review is having on the general rating here. Fille du Regiment celebrates opera as pure fun and features the princpals at the absolute peak of their powers. And you cannot go wrong with Decca recordings of this period.

JVC iPhone and iPod Compatible Lightweight Headphones - Red
JVC iPhone and iPod Compatible Lightweight Headphones - Red
Offered by Modern-Tech
Price: £7.99

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Headphones For The Price, 8 May 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I wanted some lightweight, 'cupped' headphones and these seemed to match what I was after. Excellent reproduction, excellent bass response: can deal with all the genres of music I listen to. Comfortable to wear, easy to adjust, keeps the outside world out but ensures that you don't share your music with that outside world! Excellent delivery from supplier, too. Recommended!

Puccini: La Bohème
Puccini: La Bohème
Price: £18.51

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dismayed by some other reviewers...., 25 April 2011
This review is from: Puccini: La Bohème (Audio CD)
La Boheme is not one of my favourite operas, but I'm adding my review because I'm dismayed and baffled by some of the mean-spirited reviews on this page.

Just to reiterate: this is one recording that certainly does justify the hype attached to it. Pavarotti and Freni - a pair of singers whose deep communicative bond was forged in childhood - were at the height of their powers when this was made; Karajan - the supreme Italian opera conductor of his time - for once was satisfied just to conduct and not to bother the engineers. The result is one of the finest (if not THE finest) recordings of the analogue era. I even know people who don't like Puccni, yet who own this set because it sounds so gorgeous....

Of course, it's probably not the only Boheme you need to own: the Beecham recording with Bjorling and de los Angeles is arguably at least as good as this musically, though the sound is mono. But if you want a great interpretation in stunning sound, this is the one you should go for. And ignore anyone who tells you otherwise....:)

Rock Bottom
Rock Bottom
Price: £7.86

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars File Under 'Individual'....., 28 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Rock Bottom (Audio CD)
In troubled times like these, we could all do worse than follow the example set by Robert Wyatt in 1973/4. Consider the story: after being edged out of the Soft Machine, of which he was a founder member, in 1971, Wyatt sets up a new band, Matching Mole, to explore his own free jazz leanings. When M.M. came to an end, he decamped to Venice with his set designer fiancee Aoife, to consider his next move. In idyllic settings, he composes the songs that will make up Rock Bottom. Returning to the UK, he feels energised and ready to embark on the next chapter of his musical life; then disaster strikes - during a party that June, Wyatt falls out of the window of an upstairs room, breaks his spine and is told that he will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

For a percussionist, this would normally have spelled the end of the road: but Wyatt has always been so much more than that. After a period of therapy, he decides to return to the music he composed, a seeming lifetime ago; he calls in some of his 'heavy friends' - Mike Oldfield, Ivor Cutler, Mongezi Fezi, Carvan's Richad Sinclair - and goes about the taping of Rock Bottom: an album that laughs in the face of tragedy by celebrating the good things around him, principally his (by now) wife Aoife.

Rock Bottom is a stunning incorporation of Wyatt's influences up to this point and shows his unique songwriting technique (he always felt song lyrics should be written closer to natural speech) at its most characteristic. The opener, Sea Song, is still probably his most famous composition - a disturbing reflection on unlikley emotional compatability fitted to an appropriately unsettling backing, all weird time signatures and spooky mellotron (this number has more recently been covered - brilliantly! - by the Unthank Sisters). And the old side/album closers, Little Red Riding Hood../Little Red Robin Hood represent the same story told from subtly different angles. Elsewhere, Aoife is a touching, but hardly saccharine, tribute to the woman who did so much to make this stage of Robert's life possible....

To call the music 'jazzy' would not be totally inaccurate, but wouldn't really do justice to the subversive mix of styles that we encounter here. Yes, you'll notice traces of the early Soft Machine sound (the first two albums, in particular) but this really is music without category - file under 'individual' would be the best description!

That said, this is probably not the best introductory album for those seeking a 'way in' to Wyatt/the 'Canterbury Sound': for that, go for Soft Machine 1-3, or any of the early albums by Caravan. But make sure you eventually get to Rock Bottom: it really is one of the essential albums of the 1970s.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 25, 2013 9:41 PM BST

Because We're Queers: the Life and Crimes of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton
Because We're Queers: the Life and Crimes of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton
by Simon Shepherd
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Polemical Study, 12 Mar. 2011
Simon Shepherd's book is a useful corrective to John Lahr's 'official'version of the Orton legend. As well as being a much stronger writer than Lahr, Shepherd has the additional advantages of being both English and homosexual (the first is definitely an advantage when it comes to studying Orton, the second somewhat less so, I'd say). He takes an axe to Lahr's portrayal of the Halliwell-Orton relationship, exposing its underlying homophobia and giving us a new interpretation of Halliwell's role, which I find far more convincing than anything offered by Lahr.

I've docked one star because the book is defintely a product of its times (1988) and is full of furious venting against clause 28, Thatcher, et al - all very germane back then, but nowadays sounding very old hat.

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