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Reviews Written by
DB "davidbirkett" (Co. Kildare, Ireland (but born & raised Liverpool, UK))

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Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle (3 volume) Book 1)
Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle (3 volume) Book 1)
Price: £4.31

4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun, and gets you checking up what is history and what is fiction, 16 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I knew a fair bit about the period, so I spotted early in the first section that this wasn't really a historical novel - Stephenson's CABAL is quite different from Charles II's. There were some interesting historical characters that I had never even heard of: Liselotte, Rossignol and Fatio particularly come to mind. And I hadn't realised that D'Artagnan actually existed. As some other reviewers have pointed out, the adventures of the main fictional figures are significantly less interesting than their observations, but you can't have everything - I'm certainly looking forward to the later volumes.


Symphony 1/2
Symphony 1/2
Offered by books_from_californiauk
Price: £13.81

4.0 out of 5 stars Homage to Ludwig van, 25 Nov 2014
This review is from: Symphony 1/2 (Audio CD)
I always thought that Wagner should have written symphonies, but I wasn’t aware that he actually did write one and a bit in his youth. These are strongly Beethoven influenced, with even a hint of Schubert, and actually rather pleasant listening. It just makes you wonder even more, given how good his operatic orchestration was, and how influential he was on Mahler for instance, just how good he could have been in this form. I've given the music 4 stars, which is a bit generous, but 3 would have been harsh. The recording is fine.


Respighi: Sinfonia Drammatica
Respighi: Sinfonia Drammatica
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.77

3.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant curiosity, 24 Nov 2014
I had heard of Respighi through college friends, but had only heard “Pines of Rome” (and that through “Fantasia 2000”). This is his only Symphony and was first played in 1915. There’s no Wikipedia entry for the piece, which is apparently rarely played, and even the sleeve notes are a tad dismissive. Personally I found it quite enjoyable and will listen to it again. The recording is fine btw - the 3 stars are because I've given 4 stars to pieces I've enjoyed a lot more.


Mahler: Symphony No.6
Mahler: Symphony No.6
Price: £8.06

3.0 out of 5 stars Wuchtig, 21 Nov 2014
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.6 (Audio CD)
I'm reviewing for people who are new to this symphony as I was. Having heard and enjoyed most of his symphonies, and in particular No. 5 I had high hopes for this one, but the first time I heard it I was rather disappointed. It grew on me later, but it's still not one of my favourites. Checking out the Wikipedia entry I find I'm not alone. It's one of his least frequently performed symphonies, and the critics at the time of its first performance didn't like it. Mahler said they didn't understand it, which is fair enough - i don't understand it either, particularly the finale - I picked up echoes of Schubert's Unfinished - was this deliberate? And if so, what was he trying to say?. The first movement is a march, a form Mahler was very fond of, but this is not one of his most memorable, although the movement itself has a great finale. As you would expect there is a beautiful, soulful andante - Mahler could do them for fun. So if you are exploring Mahler you definitely need to listen to this - just make sure you listen at least twice.

I won't say much about the Lieder as it is not a form I particularly like. Reading the sleeve notes I can see why they are included with the symphony, so I guess I will have to print out the words, and maybe an English translation, and listen to them again with the words in front of me. But it won't be for a while, as I listen to hthe vast majority of my classical music in the car.


Scriabin: Symphony No.3
Scriabin: Symphony No.3
Offered by Disco100
Price: £21.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Struggles, Sensual Pleasures and Divine Play: Scriabin all over really., 20 Nov 2014
This review is from: Scriabin: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
I wasn't sure about this on first hearing, but it grew on me after the second. Rather like the second symphony - heavily influenced by Wagner (but with a dash of Debussy thrown in). The Kondrashin recording is mentioned favourably in some of the reviews of more recent discs, and seems to be a bit of a collector's item.


1492: The Year Our World Began
1492: The Year Our World Began
Price: £4.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Tipping point, 19 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It’s good to see a professional historian tackling something I had been thinking about for a while (in 2007 I reviewed the final volume of the Cambridge Medieval History under the title “1492: the End of the World”). And I came to the same conclusion as Fernandez-Armesto (who contributed a chapter to the Cambridge volume): yes, the events in Europe towards the end of the fifteenth century genuinely do represent a switching point in world history. In Europe the changes were swift and dramatic: politically, culturally, economically and technologically Europe in 1600 was a different world from Europe in 1400. Catastrophic repercussions for the Aztecs, the Inca, North American Indians and West Africans followed in short order. However it is reasonable to argue that the world didn’t change for the Muslim world, India and China until the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution. And yet even here it is clear to me that the Industrial Revolution was a natural consequence of changes set in motion three centuries earlier.

A lot of the material was reasonably familiar to me, but there were a few areas that I knew nothing about and which I found particularly interesting. Firstly that the earliest European trading with West Africa was exchanging salt for gold. Secondly was the fact that the Spanish had met with considerable resistance from the natives in conquering the Canaries, but that the lessons learned helped them against the Aztecs and Inca, plus the islands were a particularly good setting off point for the Caribbean thanks to the prevailing winds at that latitude. And finally that the Indian Ocean is much more convenient for long ocean journeys than the Atlantic thanks to the prevailing winds changing direction between the monsoon season and the rest of the year. There was therefore a thriving marine trade going on already when the Europeans arrived. And because before the Industrial Revolution the Europeans didn’t have much they could sell in the Indian Ocean they provided a source of cheap shipping in the region and significantly boosted the regional economy.


Madetoja: Symphony No. 3 / Suites op.52 & 58
Madetoja: Symphony No. 3 / Suites op.52 & 58
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £17.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant, 14 Nov 2014
I have to admit I had never heard of Madetoja, but the cd was gifted to me so I thought I would give it a try. It's perfectly pleasant music but it won't be joining my most regularly played discs. It is "nationalist" music owing a lot to Sibelius particularly (Madetlja was Finnish) but also Grieg and Dvorak but not for me quite as good as those bigger names. Interesting the price the seller is asking!


The Moon and Sixpence
The Moon and Sixpence
by W. Somerset Maugham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom and Obligations, 12 Nov 2014
This review is from: The Moon and Sixpence (Paperback)
This is my first WSM novel, although I have read some of his short stories. He’s a good writer, isn’t he? A bit like Henry James (without the convoluted sentences) and Joseph Conrad (without the extreme pessimism). I wonder if early in his career he met those two at “Mrs Strickland’s”? An interesting discussion about whether the “great artist” is subject to the same obligations as the rest of us. Did this in turn influence Sartre and his “Chemins de la Liberte”?


Krieg um den Mond (German Edition)
Krieg um den Mond (German Edition)
Price: £2.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun, 10 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Good to read some very decent "science fiction" written by a German author. I put in the inverted commas as while it should clearly accompany SF on the bookstore shelves, there is actually no speculative science or technology at all. The plot is a neat idea - what happens when a screw of strange design is accidentally found by a rover on the moon in an area where there had never been any moon missions before. And the book is very well-paced - I've never read a German book so quickly before in terms of pages per day. Looking forward to the sequel.

The book seriously deserves to be filmed or serialised. Unfortunately it would be best done in both German and English, with subtitles. Good luck with getting that done.


Bax - Symphony 3 / Orchestral Works
Bax - Symphony 3 / Orchestral Works
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £12.95

5.0 out of 5 stars What have I been missing?, 10 Nov 2014
I didn’t think I had ever heard anything by Bax (but after reading the sleeve notes I realise I must have heard “Tintagel” but didn’t notice who the composer was) although I was aware of the name, seeing it in Radio 3 listings many years ago. Unfortunately it tended to appear alongside Britten and Tippett, so I tended to think “Oh dear” and read a book instead. But I was gifted this disc, thought I would give it a go and was delighted. It’s nothing like Britten or Tippett – it reminds me far more of “The Rite of Spring” and “The Planets” which are two of my favourite 20th century pieces. I’m going to have to revisit “Tintagel” now, and also listen to more of his stuff. “Paean” is also excellent btw, and “Wild Irravel” is pretty good too.


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