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Sid Nuncius (London)
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Beethoven: Cello Sonatas Volume 2
Beethoven: Cello Sonatas Volume 2
Price: 13.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Beethoven, 25 May 2014
The two volumes of Beethoven Cello Sonatas by Angela Hewitt and Daniel Müller-Schott are simply excellent. There are many very fine recordings of these works and, in their rather distinctive way, these stand with the best of them, I think. I have recently tried these discs after hearing the excellent Isserlis/Levin set Beethoven: Cello Sonatas / Horn Sonata / Variations (period instruments). As I have said in my review there, although I love the cello (it is, or at least was, my instrument) and love much of Beethoven's music, I have struggled a bit with these sonatas in the past. The brilliant but to me slightly forbidding Rostropovich/Richter recordings and even the youthful zing of du Pré and Barenboim left me feeling more respect than affection for the Sonatas. They aren't straightforward pieces and the two late Op.102 Sonatas especially can, like the Late Quartets, be quite a challenging listen. Well, you know what it's like: you wait a lifetime for a set of Beethoven Cello Sonatas that you really like and then two come along at once.

Here we have two deeply thoughtful musicians really getting inside this music and finding real meaning in it. I have the sense that every bar has been fully considered so that the phrasing, rubato, dynamic shifts and so on always has a significance which serves the music. Once or twice in the early sonatas I thought this slightly overdone so that it became slightly mannered in places, but it's a small, personal feeling. Mostly - and certainly in the late sonatas - it is wonderful and, combined with a quiet but deep virtuosity, beautiful instrumental tone and control and a fine empathy between the two of them, makes something rather special, I think.

Whether you agree will be a matter of personal taste, I think. If you can listen to a few samples first you should get an idea of whether this recording is for you. Personally, I think it's fantastic with Hyperion's usual excellent recorded sound and very good notes by Hewitt and Müller-Schott themselves. Very warmly recommended.

(I also strongly recommend the Isserlis/Levin set of these sonatas, and also Hewitt and Müller-Schott's Bach Gamba Sonatas Bach - Gamba Sonatas.)


Beethoven - Cello Sonatas Vol. 1
Beethoven - Cello Sonatas Vol. 1
Price: 14.33

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Beethoven, 25 May 2014
The two volumes of Beethoven Cello Sonatas by Angela Hewitt and Daniel Müller-Schott are simply excellent. There are many very fine recordings of these works and, in their rather distinctive way, these stand with the best of them, I think. I have recently tried these discs after hearing the excellent Isserlis/Levin set Beethoven: Cello Sonatas / Horn Sonata / Variations (period instruments). As I have said in my review there, although I love the cello (it is, or at least was, my instrument) and love much of Beethoven's music, I have struggled a bit with these sonatas in the past. The brilliant but to me slightly forbidding Rostropovich/Richter recordings and even the youthful zing of du Pré and Barenboim left me feeling more respect than affection for the Sonatas. They aren't straightforward pieces and the two late Op.102 Sonatas especially can, like the Late Quartets, be quite a challenging listen. Well, you know what it's like: you wait a lifetime for a set of Beethoven Cello Sonatas that you really like and then two come along at once.

Here we have two deeply thoughtful musicians really getting inside this music and finding real meaning in it. I have the sense that every bar has been fully considered so that the phrasing, rubato, dynamic shifts and so on always has a significance which serves the music. Once or twice in the early sonatas I thought this slightly overdone so that it became slightly mannered in places, but it's a small, personal feeling. Mostly - and certainly in the late sonatas - it is wonderful and, combined with a quiet but deep virtuosity, beautiful instrumental tone and control and a fine empathy between the two of them, makes something rather special, I think.

Whether you agree will be a matter of personal taste, I think. If you can listen to a few samples first you should get an idea of whether this recording is for you. Personally, I think it's fantastic with Hyperion's usual excellent recorded sound and very good notes by Hewitt and Müller-Schott themselves. Very warmly recommended.

(I also strongly recommend the Isserlis/Levin set of these sonatas, and also Hewitt and Müller-Schott's Bach Gamba Sonatas Bach - Gamba Sonatas.)


Graupner: Orchestral Suites [Finnish Baroque Orchestra,] [Ondine: ODE 1220-2]
Graupner: Orchestral Suites [Finnish Baroque Orchestra,] [Ondine: ODE 1220-2]
Price: 14.61

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable disc, 24 May 2014
I am rather surprised by how much I like this disc. Often, neglected baroque composers are neglected for a very good reason but while Graupner is certainly no Bach or Handel, he turns out to have written some very enjoyable music.

In his own time, Graupner was generally more highly regarded than Bach, of whom he was a slightly older contemporary. That's a judgement which most certainly wouldn't be shared today, but his music does deserve to be more widely known on this evidence. The music is perhaps more solid and workmanlike than inspired but it is nonetheless very enjoyable. He is slightly reminiscent of Handel in his use of orchestral colour and this gives the music real character, I think, and prevents it from just becoming baroque wallpaper. It's an interesting and rewarding listen – and a good deal of what makes it so is the playing of the musicians here.

The Finnish Baroque Orchestra are excellent, as are the soloists. They really understand what makes this music tick and bring out both the colours of the instruments and the dance rhythms of the different movements. The combination is a delight, and the variety of solo instruments – flute, viola d’amore, chalumeau, baroque horn, and bassoon in various combinations – lends real character to the whole thing.

Beautifully recorded and with full, interesting notes, this is a very good disc all round. If, like me, you were only dimly aware of Graupner, this will bring him much more to the fore, and deservedly so. Very warmly recommended.


Acts of Omission
Acts of Omission
by Terry Stiastny
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and engrossing, 22 May 2014
This review is from: Acts of Omission (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought it was very well written with well-drawn and believable characters and a thorough and fascinating insight into the world of politics and the media when a "scandal" arises.

The first thing to say is that this isn't really a thriller, so don't expect a fast-paced espionage nail-biter. It is a study of the effects of a security leak (the now familiar "lost disc") and subsequent scandal on those involved. This includes the civil servant who was responsible for the loss, the newly appointed junior minister whose "responsibility" it is, how the press and Government (and some individuals within them) work in such times, and so on. There are a couple of unexpected developments but no Shocking Twists, Conspiracies Which Go Right To The Top or the like. It is just a very believable and - to me, anyway - gripping close-up account of the unfolding of the sort of thing we might read and hear about on the news from time to time.

Terry Stiastny is very well placed to know about all this, having been a distinguished political reporter for the BBC for many years. Ex-journalists don't always make good novelists by any means, but I think Stiasny has produced a very good novel here. She writes readable, unsensational prose and creates very plausible characters whom she views realistically but generally with a refreshingly unjaundiced eye. As a result, I found this as involving as a good many thrillers I have read.

A number of other reviewers here have lamented the lack of plot, but for me that's not the point, and I recommend this warmly as an intelligent and engrossing read.


Blood Test
Blood Test
Price: 7.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another very good album from an under-rated artist, 22 May 2014
This review is from: Blood Test (MP3 Download)
I think this is a very good album indeed. I wasn't bowled over by it on first hearing but after several listens I like it very much indeed.

This is Kris Delmhorst's first album of original songs since Shotgun Singer six years ago, and for me it is of the same quality as that fine album and its predecessors, Songs For A Hurricane and Strange Conversation. It has a newish feel because she has recorded with a band of very fine musicians whom she hasn't worked with before and I like the freshness this gives to the album. It's slightly more rocky in feel than some of her previous work, but still has Delmhorst's distinctive stamp on it and is still well in the Americana genre, I'd say. The songs themselves are an eclectic bunch, not really linked by a theme but full of lyrical intelligence and thoughtfulness and her fine, direct melodies and harmonic inventiveness.

The performances are just great. The band is tight and sympathetic to both the material and Delmhorst's performance style and she herself plays and sings wonderfully. She still has that lovely, slightly breathy vocal delivery and that way of sometimes hitting a note slightly off-centre and sliding onto it which gives her singing such a distinctive and powerful feel. It's just great, and the more I hear it, the more I like it.

I think Kris Delmhorst deserves to be much better known. She is a very fine songwriter and performer but, like a lot of people in the UK, if it hadn't been for a song featured in the Case Histories TV series and then a lot of diligent research tracking it down, I'd probably never have heard of her. I hope this album gets the attention it deserves - it's a fine, intelligent and very enjoyable piece of work and I recommend it very warmly indeed.


Two Man Band
Two Man Band
Price: 13.06

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and nostalgic, 21 May 2014
This review is from: Two Man Band (Audio CD)
This is still a very decent album. Medicine Head were always a sort of background band for me – forever playing in someone's room when I visited, but never really in the forefront of my musical choices. And yet that catchy, tuneful, thoroughly amiable sound has lasted very well. No song stands out as especially brilliant, but the album still makes me smile and is a very enjoyable listen. The lyrics, in particular, sound pretty mediocre at a distance of almost 40 years, but I can still play this with great pleasure.

1976 was my last year of university and if you're of a similar vintage or just like the folkier, harmonic sounds of the era this album will still appeal, I think – and it may just transport you back to that blistering summer and all that it brought you…


1600, Masterpieces of 17th-Century Italian Instrumental Music
1600, Masterpieces of 17th-Century Italian Instrumental Music
Price: 14.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine disc, 21 May 2014
This is a thoroughly enjoyable disc of 17th Century Italian instrumental music - or at least, music written by Italians in the various European cities in which they worked at different times. It isn't entirely clear why the disc is called 1600 because the music was composed pretty well throughout the 17th Century, but the notes argue, reasonably plausibly, that there was a shift in the character of instrumental music around the year 1600 and its developments from there are reflected in this programme.

The pieces are by a variety of composers, most of whose names are familiar in a minor sort of way, like Marini, Frascobaldi and Torelli, for example, and the programme gives a very interesting and enjoyable insight into how instrumental music developed through their work. It is played by an ensemble of two violins, viola, cello and continuo which gives it all a chamber feel - even the sinfonia and concertos - and it sounds lovely. Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano have been making excellent recordings for decades now, and this one is well up to their usual standard. They have an easy virtuosity which allows the music to flow and breathe, and they give it real meaning and variety in their interpretations. They are lovely performances which make the work of these relatively minor composers really shine.

Nave make their usual fine job of recording and presentation and the notes are full and interesting, if a little on the florid side for my taste. It's a very fine disc all round, and I recommend this very warmly.


Busnois - Missa O Crux lignum
Busnois - Missa O Crux lignum

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very fine disc, 20 May 2014
This is an excellent disc of lovely early Renaissance music, performed by a very fine ensemble.

Busnois was one of the very greatest composers of the 15th century and this disc features one of his finest mass settings and a good selection of other pieces. The music is spare and often very lovely, but also dramatic and even rather subversively rumbustious in places. It marks the transition from the late Mediaeval to Renaissance styles, with some of Busnois's innovations paving the way for composers like Josquin. I think it's great stuff.

The Orlando Consort sing it wonderfully. They are a quartet of virtuoso singers who are stalwarts of ensembles like The Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen, and their impeccable technique and fine balance allow them to give this music the inner glow it deserves. It's a wonderful performance, and one of my favourites of theirs, which is really saying something.

This is a review of the original release, which has full texts, very good notes and attractive presentation. Even if the re-release lacks some of this, the music still makes it very well worth buying, and I recommend this very warmly.


Busnois: Mass 'O Crux lignum'
Busnois: Mass 'O Crux lignum'
Price: 6.82

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very fine disc, 20 May 2014
This is an excellent disc of lovely early Renaissance music, performed by a very fine ensemble.

Busnois was one of the very greatest composers of the 15th century and this disc features one of his finest mass settings and a good selection of other pieces. The music is spare and often very lovely, but also dramatic and even rather subversively rumbustious in places. It marks the transition from the late Mediaeval to Renaissance styles, with some of Busnois's innovations paving the way for composers like Josquin. I think it's great stuff.

The Orlando Consort sing it wonderfully. They are a quartet of virtuoso singers who are stalwarts of ensembles like The Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen, and their impeccable technique and fine balance allow them to give this music the inner glow it deserves. It's a wonderful performance, and one of my favourites of theirs, which is really saying something.

This is a review of the original release, which has full texts, very good notes and attractive presentation. Even if the re-release lacks some of this, the music still makes it very well worth buying, and I recommend this very warmly.


Creative MUVO 10 Portable Bluetooth Wireless NFC Speaker with Aux-in and Microphone - Black
Creative MUVO 10 Portable Bluetooth Wireless NFC Speaker with Aux-in and Microphone - Black
Price: 49.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good speaker, 18 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I think this is a very good portable speaker. It has good sound, seems robustly made and works very well.

The speaker has an attractive tessellated design on the front (where the controls are nicely integrated), and I find the design pleasing overall. The carrying handle is a handy practical feature if you're going to be moving it around a lot because it's a fairly sizeable unit: I made it about 33cm x 10cm x 12cm (13" x 4" x 5") so it's certainly not a mini-speaker. It's not too heavy, though (about 1kg) so it's very portable.

The speaker has both Bluetooth and jack connectivity but there is no jack-to-jack lead included so if you want this function (I do) you have to supply your own lead. In use it works well: Bluetooth pairing is very simple, the connection is fairly stable up to about 6 or 7 metres but I found it was easily disrupted by people moving in between the source and speaker so realistically you need to have them fairly close together. It has NFC connectivity so if you have that function (I don't) it's a handy feature. The controls are for calls and volume only - you can't skip forward or back using the speaker. These work fine, as does the built-in microphone for calls, but it's slightly odd that the unit will play music from a micro-SD card but you can't navigate it in any way so this is a very limited feature. The power button is concealed at the back, but is a simple toggle-press so it's easy to turn the unit on and off by feel.

The sound is very decent. I have listened to a lot of music through it, from Tudor choral music to London Grammar and it all sounds good. The bass is a little weak, so a viola da gamba or that rolling sub-bass in London Grammar's Hey Now don't really ring out, for example, but the top and the middles are excellent and the overall sound is very pleasing. The volume isn't deafening but it goes plenty loud enough for my comfort with no distortion or audible hiss - adequate for a small party, I'd say.

Overall, at this price I think this is a very good speaker. The sound isn't real hi-fi (of course it isn't in a fifty-quid compact unit) but it's really pretty good and the speaker is practical and seems well made and durable. Creative are a good manufacturer so you know you're getting a good quality product and I can warmly recommend this.


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