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enthusiast "enthusiast" (sussex, uk)
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The Savage Detectives (Picador 40th Anniversary Edition) (Picador 40th Anniversary Editn)
The Savage Detectives (Picador 40th Anniversary Edition) (Picador 40th Anniversary Editn)
by Roberto Bolano
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I have read in a very long time, 26 Jan. 2014
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I understand that hype can mislead some people to read something that is not for them so let's be clear this is an avant garde novel with an unusual structure and a meandering (to say the least) sense of narrative. A large part of it is made up of anecdotes by a range of people about encounters they had over several decades with the main characters, two avant garde and thoroughly disreputable poets (the savage detectives), one of whom is perhaps less of a poet and barely sane. These anecdotes, some extended, are thoroughly readable and each of the voices is distinctive and alive. Bolano's range here is impressive and he is adept at invoking a very wide variety of characters and situations, cultural and social, in masterful detail. He is a miniaturist of considerable skill. Most of these pieces are set in Mexico and Spain but we also have Israel and a number of African situations.

This long section of voices, anecdotes, is sandwiched between a straight narrative telling the story of a group of wild young radical poets in Mexico City and of the escape of the two main characters with two characters from the first part to search for a lost poet (who may not have written any poetry) from an earlier generation.

It seems only in a very sketchy way that all this - the narrative sections at the start and the end, and the long section of anecdotes in between - come together to tell a wider story but you do get a strong sense of time. And between the apparently disjointed parts you can slowly piece together the lives of the lead characters - as they age and as they go about their sometimes chaotic lives. By the end a wonderful portrait of them has been revealed.

The action includes vivid sex (the first part of the book is a coming of age story), playful discussion and not a little violence. The book is incredibly alive. It's characters are incredibly alive. I can't even begin to describe why it had such a powerful affect on me. Perhaps I feel a little sentimental about my own roughly contemporaneous wild youth? The period is caught marvellously. But it cannot be that alone. I find Bolano's writing enormously satisfying. It is complex and extremely rigorous. Yet it delivers and is extremely readable. I will read this book again soon and have no doubt I will find more in it.


Schumann: Scenes from Goethe's Faust
Schumann: Scenes from Goethe's Faust
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £29.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, beautiful, exceptional, 28 July 2013
I've known this recording for a long time. It is quite exceptional. The soloists all sing beautifully. They cherish the music and make it glow. What a "cast" - Elizabeth Harwood, John Shirley-Quirk, Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau!

I have seen other reviewers express disdain about Fischer-Dieskau's contribution and I know what they mean - he can seem a little mannered at times - but really that is only 5% of the story of his contribution. He was a great artist, possessed a lovely voice and had an expressive range second to none. Others have complained about Pears. His voice was distinctive so I can accept that his art could be an acquired taste. But, again, he was a great artist and that distinctive voice was also a very beautiful and expressive instrument. He was, surely, a great tenor who made a string of great recordings in collaboration with Britten, including the St John Passion, Elgar's Gerontius, Wintereisse and this one, perhaps the finest of all.

Britten direction paces things very effectively so that once started you feel compelled to listen to the end (in a work that in other hands can sometimes seem to drag). And, most particularly of all, there is his evident affection for this wonderful music: he projects that affection is an unforgettable way. The sound is very good for its age.

This is a rare event, something special. Other recordings seem ordinary next to it - although I do have a lot of time for the Harnoncourt recording. When I read negative reviews of it like the other one here I wonder at how we can sometimes get stuck behind some small prejudices and so deny ourselves something lovely ... or in this case, something really very special.


Haydn: The Creation
Haydn: The Creation
Price: £13.81

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling: a true classic, 15 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Haydn: The Creation (Audio CD)
This is a wonderful Creation. The sound is just a little rough and a little boxy but is more than acceptable and in no way stops the beauty and charisma of Irmgard Seefried's signing leaping out of the speakers, or indeed the dark power of Kim Borg's bass. Of course this is not authentic Haydn and I don't think being stylish was particularly high on Markevitch's agenda but nothing sounds dated, either: this is powerful and sensitive music making of a very high order. I sometimes sample records I know well and then try something else but every time I put this record on I feel compelled to listen through to the end. I know quite a few Creations and would be hard pressed to choose a best but the Markevich Creation will always be one of the few recordings of this work that really matters.


Schumann: Scenes from Goethe's Faust (2 CDs)
Schumann: Scenes from Goethe's Faust (2 CDs)
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, beautiful, exceptional, 29 Jun. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've known this recording for a long time. It is quite exceptional. The soloists all sing beautifully. They cherish the music and make it glow. What a "cast" - Elizabeth Harwood, John Shirley-Quirk, Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau!

I have seen other reviewers express disdain about Fischer-Dieskau's contribution and I know what they mean - he can seem a little mannered at times - but really that is only 5% of the story of his contribution. He was a great artist, possessed a lovely voice and had an expressive range second to none. Others have complained about Pears. His voice was distinctive so I can accept that his art could be an acquired taste. But, again, he was a great artist and that distinctive voice was also a very beautiful and expressive instrument. He was, surely, a great tenor who made a string of great recordings in collaboration with Britten, including the St John Passion, Elgar's Gerontius, Wintereisse and this one, perhaps the finest of all.

Britten direction paces things very effectively so that once started you feel compelled to listen to the end (in a work that in other hands can sometimes seem to drag). And, most particularly of all, there is his evident affection for this wonderful music: he projects that affection is an unforgettable way. The sound is very good for its age.

This is a rare event, something special. Other recordings seem ordinary next to it - although I do have a lot of time for the Harnoncourt recording. When I read negative reviews of it like the other one here I wonder at how we can sometimes get stuck behind some small prejudices and so deny ourselves something lovely ... or in this case, something really very special.


Bach: The Musical Offering BWV 1079 /Ensemble Sonnerie
Bach: The Musical Offering BWV 1079 /Ensemble Sonnerie

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sober offering, 14 Jun. 2013
This is a very attractive Musical Offering, wonderfully and imaginatively played in a variety of ensembles. I've had it for years and have always found it a stimulating and compellingly varied account of a familiar and favourite masterpiece. These qualities come through despite what seems to be a rather sober, intellectual approach to a work that can stand a more overtly emotional performance. Perhaps because of this there is also a feeling of the work being treated more like a recital of pieces than as a whole work: there is less sense that the piece has a direction (or a "place to go") than many recordings. I am sure this is deliberate and perhaps stems from a desire not to impose a modern structural and emotional integrity onto the work.


Schubert: Trout Quintet
Schubert: Trout Quintet
Price: £5.61

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh trout ... and a fine Death and the Maiden, 9 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Schubert: Trout Quintet (Audio CD)
This CD is something of a bargain. In very good sound you get a delightfully fresh and imaginatively played Trout Quintet from James Levine and collaborators along with a really first class Death and the Maiden from the Hagen Quartet. The Trout is a pleasure from start to finish. You feel it was for the musicians and it certainly is for us! The account has an irresistible flow to it and plenty of lovely touches. But what makes it a little special is the feeling of fine musicians making music as friends. The Hagen's Quartet 14 is a different matter. This is both a rather serious and a very beautiful account. Both performances are well worth having even if it duplicates one or other piece in your collection. A slightly cheaper (a lot cheaper if you are downloading) version of the same record is available at the moment as Schubert: Trout Quintet; Death and the Maiden.


Schubert: Piano & String Trios / Piano & String Quintets / Octet / Etc.
Schubert: Piano & String Trios / Piano & String Quintets / Octet / Etc.

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good HIP Schubert, 6 Jun. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have been enjoying this very cheap set much more than I had expected that I would. Of course, both van Immerseel (pianist) and Bylsma (cellist) are well known and frequently well worth hearing. But reviews of these discs when they came out separately generally found them good but a little wanting in character in repertoire that is blessed with many wonderful recordings. I was soon finding, though, that much of the music making here doesn't lack character at all.

Indeed, for a start, we have lovely accounts of the two piano trios and the Notturno. The balance changes with a forte piano and HIP practice so that the sound is much more led by Beths' lively and imaginative violin than it is by the piano. This brings its own rewards and in any case the performances are filled with character and traverse the various moods that characterise these pieces very effectively. Certainly, I prefer these to the Beaux Arts' versions.

There are parts of the Trout Quintet that are as good but the whole is perhaps less distinguished. Still, the HIP balance brings freshness and the performance has maintained my interest (and joy) over several hearings even though this is a work I know almost too well. There are many lovely and imaginative moments.

The Arpeggione gets and attractive but not really very special account - Bylsma's lovely tone is the main attraction, I suppose. The quartet and the string trios get lovely performances - very musical, full of life and with many lovely touches. Similarly, the Octet here is fine but a little dull to my ears.

And, saving perhaps the best until last, the great Quintet gets a wonderful account. Lively but romantic and "big" as well and with HIP-clarified textures, this is one of my favourites at the moment. It is perhaps the biggest surprise of the set.

This set is a bargain - you can afford a number of performances that you will enjoy as alternatives to your favourites or simply a cheap way of getting some really lovely chamber music into your library.


Schumann: Piano Works, Symphonic Studies, Coloured Leaves
Schumann: Piano Works, Symphonic Studies, Coloured Leaves
Price: £8.61

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding. Unmissable., 26 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
What extraordinary piano playing. Richter's Symphonic Studies is thrilling. You just can't help from listening: I challenge you to try to use this as background music - you won't be able to. He takes us through so many changing moods - catching fire here, singing there; now gentle, now broad - but never once do you feel that it is anything other than a single narrative. Bunte Blatter is just as great. The sound is quite rich and very natural. This is an unmissable Richter issue and, to me anyway, some of the most compelling piano playing I have ever heard.


Schubert: Trout Quintet & Wanderer Fantasy
Schubert: Trout Quintet & Wanderer Fantasy
Price: £12.17

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Trout; Magnificent Wanderer, 11 May 2013
I confess I do not have this record but I have long had both of these two wonderful Schubert performances. Richter was a truly great Schubert pianist, capable of showing us sides to his music that we recognise as soon as we hear them and yet have somehow never expected to hear. In Schubert's slow movements he can be much slower than other pianists, playing with such rapt concentration that time seems to stand still (while also passing in a moment): the performances here are not extreme examples of this art.

This Wanderer was for some time coupled by EMI with Richter's good account with Kleiber of Dvorak's neglected Piano Concerto (but to really hear that work in all its greatness you need to go to Aimard and Harnoncourt). Unless you already have Richter's Trout, the coupling here is much more desirable. This Wanderer is a magnificent account of that big, compact, uncompromising and towering work - the greatest product of Schubert's somewhat Gothic utterances of 1822. Richter blends its many voices masterfully and delivers a work of great integrity and power. He leaves us, his listeners, somewhat exhausted! The sound is just a little harsh but more than acceptable.

Richter's and the Borodin's Trout is a big fish but in no way bloated. It is not quite Viennese in flavour but is, still, very idiomatic youthful Schubert. This is an account with plenty of magic that seems to show us depths that, although we know the work well, we might not have expected to find. This evergreen work has not lacked wonderful and magical recordings but even amongst the best of these this is something special. There are many telling moments from Richter but these are not about shallow effect or merely given as interpretive points. Richter rarely says merely "it sounds good this way" and every bar, it seems, is in the service of the whole. There is an inevitability to his playing and a clear sense of the whole. His genius is such that he does not overshadow his wonderfully imaginative partners - this is fine chamber music playing - but, still, it is his contributions that live in the memory after the music has finished. Do buy this wonderful record.


Beethoven: Piano Trios
Beethoven: Piano Trios
Price: £50.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthusiastic and delightful, 28 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Beethoven: Piano Trios (Audio CD)
This is an excellent set - and currently a bargain as a download at £7.49 - with the young Barenboim, du Pre and Zukerman (at the time the young new guard princes - and princess - of the music scene) playing the wonderful Beethoven Trios with plenty of enthusiasm and a real sense of delight. Nothing here is "business as usual". Rather, there is a sense of friends discovering what they can do together with great music. Although the tendency of this grouping to be a little larger than life is already there, there is also a real sense of chamber music rather than three stars battling it out. The accounts of the famous Trios - the Archduke, the Ghost and, perhaps, the Third - are highly competitive in a field filled with great accounts and the less well known works also go well. The sound is attractive too. Altogether, some very fine music making from a special time in these performers' histories.


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