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Hywel James "Hywel James" (Devon, United Kingdom)
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One Morning Like a Bird
One Morning Like a Bird
by Andrew Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and lyrical writing with a steely core, 19 Jun. 2016
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Andrew Miller's novel, 'One Morning Like A Bird', set in Japan in the months running up to the fateful Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor, is wonderfully atmospheric and lyrical, yet it has a deceptive steeliness which gives it a fiercely dramatic character. And while these moments of heightened tension and emotion occur relatively infrequently, their impact upon the reader is all the greater for being sparingly employed and accordingly unexpected. The period detail is lightly touched in but feels entirely authentic, and the relationships between the main character, Yuji, and his family, their friends and neighbours, and the Frenchman, Feneon, and his daughter, Alissa, in their different ways are at the core of this great novel. Highly recommended.


The Fifties Mystique
The Fifties Mystique
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Shrewd, entertaining and full of first-hand observations on the 1950s, 28 April 2016
Within its relatively small compass Jessica Mann's account of what everyday life was like during the 1950s in Britain is shrewd, entertaining and full of first-hand observations. This was a decade that was, paradoxically, both full of hope and packed with inhibitions of all kinds. The author was 13 years old in 1950 and thus grew up experiencing the shortages and austerity of the first part of the period and the years of "Never had it so good.." when, in 1957, Harold Macmillan stated that life in the United Kingdom was affluent and comfortable as never before. Jessica Mann examines the social attitudes of the time critically and with great insight, contrasting life now with what people experienced then sensitively and sympathetically. The period of the 1950s has attracted a great deal of attention from historians in recent years and this book is a a very good introduction to understanding the decade.


Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas (Oxford World's Classics)
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas (Oxford World's Classics)
by William Butcher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Great story in a new and excellent translation, 21 April 2016
William Butcher's translation of Jules Verne's classic is excellent, as are his thorough explanatory notes at the end of the text. The story is, more or less, well known, but as others here have said, the original book itself is both more elaborate and involving than earlier versions, including simplified texts for young people, earlier and now frankly rather old-fashioned translations, various other adaptations and the Walt Disney movie from way back when. Thoroughly recommended in this edition from Oxford World Classics.


Art for the Ear: Forty Years of Illustration for BBC Radio Publications
Art for the Ear: Forty Years of Illustration for BBC Radio Publications
by Ruth Artmonsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and delightful illustrations from long ago, 9 April 2016
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Ruth Artmonsky's books are indispensable. She has produced a range of texts on illustrators and designers whose names may be known to historians of graphic design, and some examples of whose work might perhaps be recognised more generally by people, but it is unlikely that the careers of these individuals will be known to any but a few specialists. The books themselves are invariably beautifully produced and offer a wide range of illustrations, many in colour. This particular issue, "Art for the Ear: Forty Years of Illustration for BBC Radio Publications", carries all the hallmarks of Artmonsky's approach - a great many pertinent illustrations; thorough research; a willingness to chase up facts on forgotten or overlooked artists and designers; and plenty of engaging anecdote to avoid any risk of scholarship undertaken for its own sake.

Older readers will be delighted to see again here work which intrigued and delighted them from long ago in "Radio Times" or "The Listener", while younger readers will, likewise, delight in the inventiveness and sheer skill of illustrators such as Susan Einzig, Faith Jaques, Cecil Keeling, C W Bacon, Edward Ardizzone, and many others Grateful thanks, then, to Ruth Artmonsky herself, and to Webb and Webb Design for a great piece of book design.


Lucky to be an Artist
Lucky to be an Artist
by Unity Spencer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tough but inspiring story., 8 April 2016
This review is from: Lucky to be an Artist (Hardcover)
Unity Spencer's memoir is a handsomely-produced book and beautifully illustrated with many reproductions of her work and facsimiles of her letters and pages from her diaries - much of which she seems to have retained even from her earliest years. It is, however, a tough read. Her father was a painter of genius but, like some other great artists, almost totally self-absorbed. Her mother was subject to mental illness which worsened as she grew older. Unity herself was placed with, in effect, foster parents, when her own parents separated and her early education was disrupted, as so many of her contemporaries' was, by the impact of the Second World War. To say that she was unlucky in her subsequent relationships with people would be an understatement and it seems that only in recent years has she found a blessed serenity and peace. The book is based on a series of interviews and while it offers a chronological narrative, it is not easy for the reader to keep in touch with the names of the many people who crop up in the course of the story. There is a family tree for the Spencers and the Carlines at the start of the book but a "dramatis personae" would have been a useful addition.

I would like to have been told more about her life as a student at, first, Wimbledon School of Art and, later, at the Slade: who were her fellow students, her teachers, what it was like being an art student at that time, and so on. For example, Raymond Briggs was a near contemporary, at both colleges but there is no mention of anyone like that who might have been with her at this time. Nor does she have anything to say about her teachers at the Slade, all of whom were significant artists.

However, Unity Spencer is clearly a strong personality who has survived many emotional crises during her life, and her story is one which will inspire many readers by its stoicism and endurance.


The Art of Leibowitz
The Art of Leibowitz
Price: £46.35

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly worthwhile box set, 10 Mar. 2016
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This review is from: The Art of Leibowitz (Audio CD)
While I was aware to an extent of Rene Leibowitz as a Modernist composer and a conductor of a wide range of music, I had heard very little of his recorded repertory. He was born in Poland in 1913 but later moved to France and became a French citizen. He was a composition pupil of Ravel and Webern, and of Pierre Monteux for conducting. Pierre Boulez was among Leibowitz's pupils. He was clearly an all-round musician and did much to introduce new music into France in the Postwar period. He died in 1972 at the age of 59.

This box set issued by Scribendum contains 13 compact discs but no notes. I have enjoyed discovering the performances on every single single disc enormously. The range of music included is very wide indeed (the individual items are listed in other reviews here on Amazon). Most of the recordings were made around 1960, a little before and a little later, and the recording quality is excellent throughout. The complete set of Beethoven symphonies were recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra less than a year after the death of Sir Thomas Beecham and the orchestra sounds in terrific form despite what must have seemed an uncertain time for its players. I recommend this box very strongly because the performances are full of vitality, rhythmic precision and forward momentum. The Beethoven symphonies, in particular, are taken swiftly without ever sounding hurried. There are no intrusive mannerisms in any of the pieces played, which means that the set as a whole can stand repeated playings - at the same time Leibowitz's readings are characterful and certainly not lacking in individual personality. I've already said the recording quality is excellent - rich and full without any apparent 'tinkering' at the remastering stage.


Constantin Silvestri - ICON: The Complete EMI Recordings
Constantin Silvestri - ICON: The Complete EMI Recordings
Price: £26.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great recordings under an outstanding conductor, 17 Oct. 2015
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I echo Paul B's review in saying that this box set of recordings by Constantin Silvestri is very good indeed. His review itemises the individual performances and accordingly I need not repeat the information other than to agree again that, as he says, the quality of the recordings are generally good, with those of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra being among the best. I too heard Silvestri live with the Bournemouth Orchestra, at the Dome, Brighton, in about 1966 or 1967. I am sorry to say I was too young to appreciate his Bruckner Fifth at the time. but I like to think in retrospect that the experience at least obliged me to sit still and address myself to a piece of music which seemed to be the size of the Alps. A great set of recordings. Buy now!


Symphony No 1
Symphony No 1
Price: £25.25

4.0 out of 5 stars The rumpled brown tweed suit, 19 Sept. 2015
This review is from: Symphony No 1 (Audio CD)
I won't comment on the recording because the main issues have been more than adequately covered in the reviews here on Amazon but I will add that, at the age of 22, I attended this concert at the Royal Albert Hall with several friends. As far as we were concerned it was an event not to be missed. Chiefly, of course, because here was an enormous piece of music by a then largely forgotten and very aged composer being given its first professional performance, but also because Havergal Brian was our man - he lived in Portslade and we lived in nearby Brighton. Brighton's "Evening Argus" had given the concert its imprimatur, so what were we waiting for?!

What I remember most about the event was the wall of sound and, at the end of the concert, the sight of the old man, possibly Portslade's oldest inhabitant, in a rumpled brown tweed suit, dwarfed by the very tall Sir Adrian Boult who held the score aloft. A great and very touching occasion.


Debussy: La Mer, Nocturnes, Jeux, Clair de Lune, Prelude
Debussy: La Mer, Nocturnes, Jeux, Clair de Lune, Prelude
Price: £21.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Great performances beautifully recorded., 25 Aug. 2015
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These recordings, made between 1950 and 1965 by Decca, of Debussy orchestral music performed by the Suisse Romande Orchestra under their founder-conductor, Ernest Ansermet, are refined and dramatic, and they have been wonderfully remastered for the Australian 'Eloquence' label. The package comes with good essays on the music and on Ansermet's relationship to it, and to his relationship with the orchestra and the record company for which he recorded exclusively for all of the later part of his career. The earliest recordings in the set are in mono but all the later ones are in good stereo. Throughout the generous total time of 146 minutes the sound is either good or excellent. Taken as a whole the discs offer that most valuable feature - an insight into the sound of a particular orchestra, at a particular time, under the direction of a remarkable conductor who was wholly in touch with this composer's musical idiom. Indeed my only criticism of this issue, and it is a very minor one, is the choice of the sugary Disneyesque illustration on the cover - this wonderful two-disc set deserved better. Other than that, I recommend it unreservedly.


Ma Vlast (1956 Recording)
Ma Vlast (1956 Recording)
Offered by marvelio-uk
Price: £6.97

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting recording but somewhat thin sound, 17 Jun. 2015
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Dorati's 1956 recording of 'Ma Vlast' has some claims to being of historical significance and, to an extent, it is an interesting issue, largely because the orchestra, the Concertgebouw, was a very fine ensemble at this time, having been the beneficiary of Van Beinum's artistry for some years, and Dorati himself was a great musician in the middle of a long and distinguished career as a conductor in the 1950s.

However, the sound on these discs is somewhat thin and wiry - I tried them on two different systems - and the performance as a whole comes over as pretty bombastic. Sargent's recording with the RPO, made only a few years subsequently, offers far better sound, and Dorati's own later recording, again with the Concertegbouw, is preferable to this 1956 version. Presumably the conductor felt impelled to record the piece again, with better recording technology.


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