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Sid Nuncius (London)

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Richafort: Requiem - Tributes to Josquin Desprez
Richafort: Requiem - Tributes to Josquin Desprez
Price: £11.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not the best, 27 Mar. 2015
I agree with much of what E.L. Wisty says in his very good review here: this is a good disc.

I must say that I don't share E.L.'s view of the King's Singers overall. I know they have gone in for some rather flippant stuff over the years, but they have always been a very fine ensemble and when they perform serious music, they usually do it very well. I shall always be grateful to them for introducing me to Josquin's stunning 5- and 6-voice chansons, for example, and their recording of Nymphes nappées remains one of my favourite 3 minutes of music anywhere Renaissance: The Music of Josquin Desprez.

And having declared my position, I think this is good but not great. They music is wonderful, and Richafort's Requiem - his tribute to Josquin - is a truly great work, in my view. It is based on Nymphes nappeés, so this ought to be the ideal version for me, but somehow it doesn't quite capture the depth or the sheer beauty of the polyphony. Intonation is impeccable and there is good balance, blend and fluency of line but somewhere it just lacks the real profundity of tone and of spirituality which shines so wonderfully through the recording of this work by Cinquecento Richafort: Requiem (Hyperion: CDA67959).

There is much here to enjoy and some rare and lovely motets which I am glad to have. It is a good, interesting and well recorded disc, but if you are looking for just one recording of Richafort's Requiem, I would recommend Cinquecento before this. That is a real stunner and is one of my most treasured recordings, and for sheer depth and quality leaves this some way behind.

Sirens Of Song
Sirens Of Song
Price: £5.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 26 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Sirens Of Song (Audio CD)
I agree with the rave reviews here: this is an excellent, hugely enjoyable album.

Jools Holland and the Orchestra are on excellent form throughout, with really classy, often virtuosic playing which drives these songs superbly and makes them glow and shine. The orchestrations are excellent and the sound is a real joy.

The singers on this album are all very good. For me, it's Ruby Turner, Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone and KT Tunstall who really shine, but there's nothing weak here and if you like this material you'll like this album. It's performed with respect and joy by classy musicians and it's a pleasure from start to finish.

Handel: Trio Sonatas Op.2 & Op.5 by Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr (2009) Audio CD
Handel: Trio Sonatas Op.2 & Op.5 by Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr (2009) Audio CD
Offered by Sam Books
Price: £31.37

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous set, 25 Mar. 2015
This is a fabulous set. Handel's chamber music is far less well known than his vocal and choral works or than his wonderful concerti grossi but it is delightful and of the highest quality. Packed with Handel's genius for melody and harmonic invention, it is among of the best of Baroque chamber music in my view, and these trio sonatas contain some of the best of it.

The performances here are terrific. I have had sets of Op.2 by Sonnerie and Op.5 by L'École d'Orphée for years. Both are excellent and I have loved them dearly, but this set is at least their equal and I may even prefer it. The individual musicians are all outstanding: Richard Egarr and Pavlo Beznosiuk both now have high and well-deserved international reputations, and Rodolfo Richter, Rachel Brown and Joseph Crouch are just as good here. There is an effortless virtuosity about the ensemble and they play with a wonderful poise and understanding both of the music and of each other, bringing out all the subtleties and moods of this varied music and it is simply a joy to listen to. The recorded sound is rich, intimate and beautifully balanced and the presentation and notes are very good.

I am sorry to sound gushing, but I really think this set is something very special. It has given me a huge amount of pleasure and I recommend it very warmly.

Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You: A Guide to the Universe by Marcus Chown Published by Faber & Faber (2008)
Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You: A Guide to the Universe by Marcus Chown Published by Faber & Faber (2008)

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent non-specialist account, 24 Mar. 2015
This is a first-rate book. If you're looking for an account of the current state of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity which is accessible to a non-scientist and takes you from the basics through to most recent developments, this is for you. It is easy to read, but doesn't fudge issues or patronise and has real intellectual weight beneath a thoroughly good-humoured surface. Marcus Chown has been one of our best scientific writers in journals like New Scientist for many years and has already written several really good books. This is well up to standard and I recommend it without reservation. A cracker.

Short Movie
Short Movie
Price: £9.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding album, 23 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Short Movie (Audio CD)
I think this is absolutely outstanding. I confess that until now I have viewed Laura Marling's work with rather more respect than enjoyment; I know this is a failing in me and no reflection on Laura Marling, but although I could see that Once I Was An Eagle was musically very good, it never really reached inside and touched me. Short Movie does.

This is a collection of musically varied but intimate songs. Lyrically she is on great form from the start with couplets like:
"I can't be your horse any more
You're not the warrior I've been looking for"
and the whole album is imbued with similarly atmospheric and intelligent lyrics, from the driving, spiky, semi-spoken Strange to the beautiful love song Divine. There's a freshness and intelligence about the whole thing which I love.

Musically it is just as good. There's a real variety of style: jazzy in Gurdjieff's Daughter, mellow and folky in Walk Alone, rocky in False Hope and so on. Laura Marling is very much her own woman, but I hear echoes of Suzanne Vega in the modality of quite a few of these songs, the spirit of Joni Mitchell is strong in How Can I, and False Hope wouldn't be out of place on a Chrissie Hynde or a Pretenders album - and I mean all this as the highest praise.

The production is excellent, giving just the right feel to each song, the band is sensitive and tight, Laura Marling's voice is in great shape, she delivers her songs beautifully and there's some terrific guitar work, too. My one reservation is that she seems to have adopted an American accent in places (very noticeably on Strange) which I find a little disconcerting from a native Englishwoman. That's a tiny thing, though, and overall I think this is a first-rate album, full of musical and lyrical class. Very warmly recommended.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 25, 2015 7:27 AM GMT

Chasing Yesterday
Chasing Yesterday
Price: £13.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking album, 22 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Chasing Yesterday (Audio CD)
I wasn't at all sure that I'd like this album, but I agree with the favourable reviews here. I think it is very good indeed, with tuneful and musically interesting songs with decent lyrics and excellent, full-on production which works extremely well.

There's been so much said about this album that my comments aren't going to add much new insight, but for what it's worth this rather jaundiced old git found a lot of quality to enjoy here, and I recommend it warmly. A cracking album.

A Year of Marvellous Ways
A Year of Marvellous Ways
by Sarah Winman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me, 21 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm afraid I found this book pretty hard going. I wanted to like it, but in the end I didn't find it nearly as profound or beautiful as it thinks it is.

The story is really about the healing of broken lives and spirits. It concerns Francis Drake, a war-damaged ex-soldier in 1947, who returns to England and, by various means, ends up living in an isolated Cornish river inlet with 89-year-old Marvellous Ways, a wise old woman with considerable Second Sight and a Story Of Her Own needing resolution. Their two life histories emerge slowly in the narrative, as do those of two other characters who appear later, as they all strive for healing and hope in the semi-magical landscape and in the wisdom and insight of Marvellous Ways.

This is a perfectly decent basis for a story and character study. I am in sympathy with its message of finding the depth in things, finding the depth in yourself and putting that depth into what you say and do. I have spent a lot of time in Cornwall and in its more secret places, and I think it truly is a healing, almost magical place. All of this should have made me like this book a lot, but I'm sorry to say that I don't think it is well enough done to make it really work.

The book is written in heightened language almost throughout, which may be an appropriate idea but doesn't quite succeed. I began to feel as though I was wading through treacle after a while, with lots of bits like this, for example: "The hamlet was eerily deserted. It was so quiet he could hear the mercury drop in that still air of yesteryear." This sounds very atmospheric and profound, but "he could hear the mercury drop"? I know it's not intended to be taken literally, but it's pushing descriptive flourish a bit far for me. Or this, later on: "...then a shyness took hold, a shyness so acute that at the height of summer even her shadow refused to go out and play." It's intended to be profound and evocative, but I'm afraid I just found it strained and a bit silly.

I found this a lot, with a great deal of rather mannered Fine Writing but a content which shifts, disperses and often vanishes as you look at it. It isn't helped by Marvellous telling her stories at length in a voice isn't that of a woman born in 1858 and speaking in 1947, but the author's own, modern, Fine Writing, narrative voice, which threw me further out of the story.

I'm sorry to be grumpy about this book. There's more I could say about anachronisms and use of language, but I'll stop. I really thought there was lots of Style here but a good deal less insight than meets the eye, and that the style itself was mannered and, in the end, rather irritating. I know that we are supposed to find books like this Beautiful, Profound And Uplifting, but I didn't, and had to slog my way to the (rather predictable) end. Others may enjoy this more than I did, but personally I can't recommend it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2015 11:06 AM GMT

Brumel: Motets [Stephen Rice, The Brabant Ensemble ] [Hyperion: CDA68065]
Brumel: Motets [Stephen Rice, The Brabant Ensemble ] [Hyperion: CDA68065]
Price: £13.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine disc from the Brabant Ensemble, 20 Mar. 2015
There are two typically thorough and insightful reviews here from my fellow polyphony-lovers Stephen Midgley and E.L. Wisty. I won't repeat what they say, but I agree largely with both: this is a very fine disc of lovely music, beautifully sung.

I will just add that it is good to see Brumel getting more exposure because these works are very rewarding, with an especially fine mass setting and I think E.L. Wisty is right - this is one of the Brabant Ensemble's best recordings for some time. I loved their early discs, especially of Phinot Missa Si bona suscepimus and Crecquillon Crecquillon: Missa Mort m'a privé, but more recent discs seemed to have lost some of the depth both of sound and interpretation that made those earlier recordings so special. It is in more in evidence again here, I am delighted to say. The sound is resonant but crystal clear, and their engagement with the text is excellent, giving each phrase real meaning. It is good to see such a fine ensemble back to something like its best.

The recorded sound is excellent, as always from Hyperion, as is the presentation, with good, detailed notes. It's an excellent disc all round and warmly recommended.

TaoTronics® Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Wireless & Mobile, 10 Hour Battery Life, 33 ft Range, Built-in Microphone, USB & Aux Input, NFC Compatible)
TaoTronics® Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Wireless & Mobile, 10 Hour Battery Life, 33 ft Range, Built-in Microphone, USB & Aux Input, NFC Compatible)
Offered by Sunvalleytek-UK
Price: £100.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A good compact Bluetooth speaker, 18 Mar. 2015
The manufacturers sent me this compact speaker for review and I think it is good. It is a very elegant-looking unit with decent sound for its size and price.

The speaker is nicely packaged and comes with a micro-USB charging cable, a jack-to-jack lead for AUX connection and a very good, clear user manual. The battery is separate from the unit when it arrives, but is extremely simple to install. Like other Taotronics products I have tried, this speaker has a quality feel to it and is very well made. It is robust, well designed and looks very nice, with clean lines and nice proportions. It measure 17cm long x 5cm high x 4cm deep, and weighs under 240g (less than 8.5 oz) so it's very easily transportable.

The jack input, charging socket and on/off switch are on the back so they are accessible but unobtrusive. The control buttons are on the top and they are stylish and simple to use. They control volume up and down, skip forward and back and pause/play for music, and the usual receive/terminate call, refuse call and redial functions using the multifunction button and built-in microphone, all of which work very well. Bluetooth pairing was straightforward both conventionally and using NFC, and the connection is solid with a good range. The jack input allows connection to non-Bluetooth devices.

The sound is good for such a compact speaker. I have listened to a lot of music through it, from Tudor choral music to London Grammar and it all sounds pretty good. It's not hi-fi, obviously, but the top is very sharp and the middles distinct and full. I think the bass is rather weak, but overall the sound is perfectly adequate. It goes too loud for my comfort with no distortion or audible hiss. Battery life is good; I haven't tested it to exhaustion, but the 10 hours claimed by the manufacturer doesn't seem unreasonable.

Overall, then, this is a good compact Bluetooth speaker. The market is very competitive, and it may also be worth checking out the August SE30 August SE30 - Portable Smartphone and Laptop Speaker - Bluetooth Rechargeable Speakers with Wired 3.5mm AUX Audio-in and the Audio Dynamix MESH3 Audio Dynamix® MESH3 Stereo Bluetooth V4.0 Speaker - Black - Rechargeable with 14hrs playtime and 20mtr Bluetooth range. Featuring touch sensitive controls and high definition long throw speakers and Harmonic Bass Matrix. (Black), both of which are also very good, to see which you might prefer. This is nice, though: I really like the look of it and the sound is good, so I can recommend it.

By Marcus Sedgwick She Is Not Invisible
By Marcus Sedgwick She Is Not Invisible
by Marcus Sedgwick
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking read, 18 Mar. 2015
I thought this was a really good book. I found it exciting, gripping and thought-provoking, and it has some real intellectual content, too.

The story concerns sixteen-year-old Laureth who, perhaps slightly implausibly, runs off to New York to look for her father with her seven-year-old brother Benjamin (and his toy raven) in tow. I say "in tow," but that's not really accurate; I hadn't read the blurb on this page before reading the book, so the reason why Laureth needs to take Benjamin with her emerged, brilliantly I thought, from the story. You may already know, but for me it would have been a spoiler and, just in case, I won't say more. Their adventures and discoveries over the couple of days that follow are very well told by Laureth herself who makes a thoroughly believable and engaging narrator and they held me gripped throughout.

As well as being a cracking story, this book has important things to say about disability and people's attitudes to it, how families interact and their importance and - subtly, just once but very tellingly - about race. There is also some very good, thoughtful and intelligent stuff about the nature of coincidences and what they mean or don't. It is genuinely funny in places, too. One passage about how Laureth and Stan the toy raven got their names, for example, made me smile throughout and laugh out loud at its end.

This book is for "young adults" and I am sure any intelligent young adult would love it, but this not-young-at-all adult thought it was terrific, too. I read it in a couple of sittings, I really didn't want to put it down and it has left me with things to think about, too. It's a really enjoyable, intelligent read and I recommend it very warmly.

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