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Sid Nuncius (London)
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Palestrina: Sacred Vocal Works
Palestrina: Sacred Vocal Works
Offered by thebookcommunity
Price: £32.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now reissued, 22 Dec 2014
You may like to know that this brilliant recording has been reissued by Harmonia Mundi: Palestrina - Missa & Motet Viri Galilaei. Below is my review of the reissued disc.

This is a really wonderful disc of one of Palestrina's great mass settings plus the motet on which he based it, and a Magnificat. I have loved this recording ever since I first heard it on Radio 3 in the early 1990s and I am delighted that it's available as a budget reissue.

La Chapelle Royale under Phillippe Herreweghe sing superbly. They pitch somewhat lower than, say, the Tallis Scholars and record in a very resonant acoustic. Although they therefore aren't quite as pure and precise as the Tallis Scholars, they have a very rich, warm sound which is wholly beguiling, and their blend, fluency and continuity of line do this beautiful music proud.

The mass is performed with plainchant Propers between Palestrina's polyphonic settings. The plainchant is sung by Ensemble Organum, who are simply fantastic. They have a restrained but muscular sound (very striking as they open the disc with the word "Viri") which goes brilliantly with the polyphony and works real magic in the Magnificat primi toni. This is, as was usual, an "alternatim" setting in which alternate verses are sung to plainchant and polyphony, and the constant interchange between the two beautiful and contrasting sounds makes it something really special.

At this price the disc is a colossal bargain for one of the finest Palestrina recordings I know. Recommended in the highest terms.


Vena Portae
Vena Portae
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice album, but not Emily Barker's best work, 21 Dec 2014
This review is from: Vena Portae (Audio CD)
I like this album, but for once I don't quite share The Wolf's unbridled enthusiasm for it.

It is a good album and the overall sound is lovely. Emily Barker is a fine singer who is on good form here, and the arrangements and harmonies are all nicely done, reminding me just a little of The Civil Wars in places. There's much to like and nothing to object to at all, but...

It's hard to put my finger on my exact reservations about this album. I think it's that it sounds a little like an awful lot of other music around at the moment. Emily Barker's previous work has been so classy and distinctive with really interesting music and lyrics, and arrangements with The Red Clay Halo which really give it a sound of its own, whereas this blends slightly into the background for me. There's nothing with the really lasting quality of some of the songs on Almanac or Dear River, I think, so I am just a little disappointed in this.

Don't let me put you off; it's a perfectly decent album of good songs performed with skill and taste so perhaps it's unfair of me to carp so much. It's just that I expect something really special from Emily Barker, and this isn't particularly special. However, no-one who likes this Americana-ish genre could possibly dislike it and I can still recommend it.


Ugreen Premium Ultra Slim 3.5mm Auxiliary Audio Flat Cable 90 Degree Right Angle Compatible for iPhone, iPad or Smartphones, Tablets, Media Players (3ft, Black)
Ugreen Premium Ultra Slim 3.5mm Auxiliary Audio Flat Cable 90 Degree Right Angle Compatible for iPhone, iPad or Smartphones, Tablets, Media Players (3ft, Black)
Offered by UGREEN GROUP LIMITED UK
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A good quality jack-to-jack cable, 20 Dec 2014
I was sent the 3-foot version of this cable in black by the manufacturers for review, and I like it very much. It's well made and seems robust and of good quality.

The cable is of a ribbon design which has two advantages: it is far less prone to tangling and the friction noise if used with headphones is minimal. The materials are good, with oxygen-free copper used in the cable itself, giving very good sound even through longer cables, and the plugs are gold-plated for good contact and easy insertion and removal. Externally, the plugs are an attractive bright chrome; one is in-line the other a right-angle plug and the cable-anchoring in the plugs seems firm and durable.

In use I have found the cable excellent: good sound, simple insertion and removal and tangle-free. It seems very durable, but I will update this review if any problems emerge. There's not much more to ask from a connecting cable, so this seems to deliver excellent quality at a very reasonable price and I can recommend it.


Transeamus (English Carols and Motets)
Transeamus (English Carols and Motets)
Price: £14.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More excellence from The Hilliard Ensemble, 19 Dec 2014
This is a lovely farewell disc from one of the great vocal ensembles of the last 40 years. It is a collection of 15th Century English music with the lovely spare sound of the period, beautifully expressed as ever by the Hilliards. The music is by a variety of composers from the well-known Cornysh to the obscure Plummer, and over half of them are anonymous. All are very fine works and it makes a lovely and fascinating programme.

The Hilliard Ensemble, of course, sing it beautifully. They are in their element (well, one of their elements) in this repertoire and their sound fits it perfectly, with David James's plangent countertenor setting the tone. Intonation, phrasing and engagement with the text are all exemplary and they bring a real inner glow to every piece.

As always, ECM's recorded sound is superb and the presentation excellent. Long-term fans of the Hilliard Ensemble like me will need no encouragement to buy this, but if you are undecided don't hesitate. This is a very fine disc all round, and a fitting finale from a truly great ensemble.


The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Extence, Gavin (2013) Hardcover
The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Extence, Gavin (2013) Hardcover
by Gavin Extence
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific book, 18 Dec 2014
I thought this was a terrific book. It is funny, thoughtful, touching and profound in its way, and I found it utterly engrossing as a story. It is hard to give any account of the plot without giving away more that I would have liked to know before I started, but it is narrated by Alex, a serious, studious seventeen-year-old. He forms an unlikely friendship which leads him in a very unexpected and challenging direction - which sounds thoroughly corny, sentimental and cliché-ed, and isn't any of those things. It is an engaging, funny and touching story with some important things to say.

Alex has a fantastically well-realised narrative voice, with very penetrating observations to make about lots of things, all of which are deadpan and as a result are often funny as well as being very shrewd. For example, of his mother, a clairvoyant, he says: "...my mother revealed that she'd foreseen the entire catastrophe. Of course, she didn't realise that she'd foreseen the entire catastrophe until after it had happened." There are many examples of this sort of thing, and I loved it. I found echoes of Mark Haddon's The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime in Alex's voice, which is high praise indeed. Other characters are very believable and beautifully portrayed, and all have their own very distinctive and recognisable traits and voices. The story is excellently structured and paced, and I found myself utterly bound up in this book and it eventually hijacked my day because I couldn't bear not to finish it.

This is one of the best and most memorable books I have read for some time - very warmly recommended indeed.


Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics
Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics
Offered by MediaMine
Price: £9.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, 17 Dec 2014
I'm afraid I agree with the critical reviews here: this album isn't very good. It's something I say with great sadness because Aretha is one of the true Greats and her work over the decades has almost always been excellent, and has been simply magnificent at times. However, The Great Diva Classics is a rather insipid and uninspired collection of songs which just don't work here.

Aretha's singing here is ordinary and uninspired (I can't believe I am saying that of Aretha Franklin, but it's true), the selection is pretty pedestrian and the arrangements and production are unexciting to say the least. There's a sort of glossy, corporate and soulless feel to the whole thing. (Making Aretha sound soulless is quite some achievement, but they've done it.) I've tried several times to see whether I'm missing something, but it just doesn't do anything for me at all.

I am sorry to have to be so critical of an album by someone whom I admire greatly and whose work has brought me such immense pleasure in the past, but I really can't recommend this. My advice is just to dig out some of Aretha's old classics from your collection and to give this one a miss.


Musique & Sweet Poetrie (Hybr)
Musique & Sweet Poetrie (Hybr)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous disc of lute music and songs, 16 Dec 2014
This is a very beautiful disc of lute songs and solo lute pieces by some of the finest composers around the turn of the 17th Century. English composers like Dowland, Morley and Robert Johnson feature heavily but there are also lovely pieces from continental composers, some of whom are familiar (like Schutz and d'India) and some who were quite new to me. They are all delightful, often with the characteristic melancholy of the time but quite varied and with songs and instrumental pieces interspersed throughout the disc it never begins to feel same-y.

The performances are absolutely wonderful. Personally, I don't think there is a better singer of this repertoire than Emma Kirkby. Her purity of tone, minimal vibrato, impeccable intonation and technique and, most importantly, her genuine engagement with the text make her interpretation of these songs a complete delight. Jakob Lindberg is one of the world's greatest lutenists and he plays here with all the thought, skill and empathy we have come to expect of him.

It's a fabulous disc all round and very warmly recommended to anyone with even the slightest interest in the music of this period.


Laithwaites Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Case of 12)
Laithwaites Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Case of 12)
Offered by Laithwaites Wine

4.0 out of 5 stars A good NZ Sauvignon Blanc, 16 Dec 2014
Split Rock is a good example of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The grape flourishes in the conditions in the north of the South Island and New Zealand winemakers produced some very good wines indeed there.

Split Rock has the characteristic crispness, acidity and cut-grass-and gooseberry flavours of NZ Sauvignon Blanc. For me, it is just a little on the sharp side with the gooseberry tartness a little dominant (hence four rather than five stars from me) but I know that a lot of people like this very much. I find it a bit much on its own, but it goes very well with the sort of fish or seafood dish which benefits from a squeeze of lemon, like smoked salmon or marinated prawns. It is certainly a well made wine which offers real quality at this price, so if you like your Sauvignon Blanc a little on the tart side, this will be for you.


Domino Girls by Patsy Matheson [Music CD]
Domino Girls by Patsy Matheson [Music CD]

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent album, 15 Dec 2014
I am ashamed to say that I've only just come across Patsy Matheson - but better late than never. I am very impressed with this album, the first of hers that I have tried. She writes very tuneful and harmonically interesting songs with intelligent and witty lyrics and sings them with a lovely, slightly breathy voice. Several tell a very good story, too. The production is excellent - full enough to bring each song to life, but never swamping the fine acoustic guitar work and never straying into insincere gloss. It's a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.

Patsy Matheson is very much her own woman, but I found echoes of people like Thea Gilmore, Kris Delmhost and Eliza Carthy in places here. This is high praise indeed, and I'll be looking into her other albums very soon. I'm delighted that I've discovered this album and recommend it very warmly.


The Lady in the Lake
The Lady in the Lake
by Jennifer Bassett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Simply superb, 14 Dec 2014
This review is from: The Lady in the Lake (Paperback)
I have just re-read this for probably the 6th or 7th time, but I hadn't read it for at least a decade. It is still quite brilliant, and the pleasure of reading such a superbly written, engrossing and humane novel is undimmed by either familiarity or time. The plot is gripping and the first person narration is an absolute masterclass in how to do it.

I think Chandler was a truly great writer of English. Marlowe has the tough one-liners and smart comebacks, of course, but he also has wonderful, meditative passages on the human condition which you hardly notice as being meditative because they are so well done. Marlowe is, under the hard-boiled exterior, a moral and humane man with a deep understanding of people which enables him to get to the heart of things and it is this which makes Chandler's books stand out as fine novels as well as first-class detective stories.

The other aspect of Chandler's sheer brilliance is his characterization. Everyone, even the most minor of characters, is drawn convincingly and with immense skill. They generally seem to paint their own portraits through what they say and do rather than a lot of the laborious psychological theorising which can get so tiresome in lesser detective novels. For example, Jim Patton, the Constable (effectively sherrif) of a small mountain county is a creation of genius, I think.

Few people will need an endorsement from me to persuade them to read a Chandler novel, but I would recommend this very warmly indeed. Plot, place and characters are all brilliantly done: it is, quite simply, superb.


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