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Hywel James "Hywel James" (Devon, United Kingdom)
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Debussy: La Mer, Nocturnes, Jeux, Clair de Lune, Prelude
Debussy: La Mer, Nocturnes, Jeux, Clair de Lune, Prelude
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £13.07

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, but 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)
Price: £10.60

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.


The Philips Legacy
The Philips Legacy
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £13.53

5.0 out of 5 stars A great musical bargain, 18 May 2015
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This review is from: The Philips Legacy (Audio CD)
This box set of music directed by Jean Martinon is not only a bargain, it also offers wonderful musicmaking by a great conductor and composer - always a worthwhile combination - with the Lamoureux Orchestra sounding distinctively French (the French horn solos sounding as though they had been played by the great Jack Teagarden!) in recordings made in the early 1950s. The range of works included is wide, from Mozart to Honegger, the latter being a living composer at the time the recordings were made. The recording quality throughout, despite being limited to mono, is first class. Finally, there is an excellent essay on Martinon by Pierre-Yves Lascar included in the box. Strongly recommended.


Art for Everyone: Contemporary Lithographs Ltd
Art for Everyone: Contemporary Lithographs Ltd
by Ruth Artmonsky
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully illustrated account of underrated artists, 5 May 2015
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Ruth Artmonsky's book is beautifully produced and offers a wealth of high quality illustrations of a range of largely neglected art from the 1930s, art by individuals whose work is only now beginning to receive serious attention. The text is informative and represents some thorough research on the part of the author regarding artist-printmakers whose names and reputations have in a number of cases been overlooked and much underrated for decades.

Highly recommended.


The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses (Penguin Classics) [ THE BLACK ARROW: A TALE OF THE TWO ROSES (PENGUIN CLASSICS) BY Stevenson, Robert Louis ( Author ) Jan-01-2008[ THE BLACK ARROW: A TALE OF THE TWO ROSES (PENGUIN CLASSICS) [ THE BLACK ARROW: A TALE OF THE TWO ROSES (PENGUIN CLASSICS) BY STEVENSON, ROBERT LOUIS ( AUTHOR ) JAN-01-2008 ] By Stevenson, Robert Louis ( Author )Jan-01-2008 Paperback
The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses (Penguin Classics) [ THE BLACK ARROW: A TALE OF THE TWO ROSES (PENGUIN CLASSICS) BY Stevenson, Robert Louis ( Author ) Jan-01-2008[ THE BLACK ARROW: A TALE OF THE TWO ROSES (PENGUIN CLASSICS) [ THE BLACK ARROW: A TALE OF THE TWO ROSES (PENGUIN CLASSICS) BY STEVENSON, ROBERT LOUIS ( AUTHOR ) JAN-01-2008 ] By Stevenson, Robert Louis ( Author )Jan-01-2008 Paperback
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars "Ye Tayle of Olden Dayes", 21 April 2015
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R L Stevenson's tale of Richard Shelton and the girl he fell in love with, whom at first he thought was a soft boy, set against the background of the Wars of the Roses, in Suffolk of all places (where no really important battles were fought), with dastardly knights, a guy who might really be Robin Hood, sailors, peasants, spear carriers, castles, moated granges, and so on, is straight out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's not half as good as "Treasure Island", which is a masterpiece, and maybe Stevenson couldn't pull off another masterpiece so soon after the story of plucky Jim Hawkins and the Hispaniola. But it's an entertaining book, even if there is an awful lot of "By my Halidom, you'll pay for this Sir Jasper!" and so on. Recommended but not strongly...


I Wish (Kiseki) [DVD]
I Wish (Kiseki) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Koki Maeda
Price: £6.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, tender and profound family story, 21 April 2015
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This review is from: I Wish (Kiseki) [DVD] (DVD)
Koreeda's movie is a thoughtful, gently touching, funny and unexpectedly profound study of two small boys whose mum and dad have split up, each taking one of the boys with them. The mother lives in a tiny flat with her parents; the dad, likewise in a tiny flat, but whose companions are his fellow rock band members. The cast of actors is great: the grown-ups are professionals, the children are simply children whom the director chose to play the parts, and very good they all are. Indeed, the kids weren't shown the complete script for the film but were simply briefed on the plot on a day-by-day basis, and then rehearsed using improvised dialogue.

The camerawork is exceptionally imaginative, varied and entirely at the service of the dramatic and emotional needs of the film. All the while the volcano, Sakurajima, across the bay from the city of Kagoshima, rumbles away like some wordless Greek chorus commenting on the action of the drama and underlining the unease felt by the older of the two boys who worries that his mum and dad will never get back together. Highly recommended.


Flowers of the Field [Jeremy Irons/ Roderick Williams/ Hilary Davan Wetton] [Naxos: 8.573426]
Flowers of the Field [Jeremy Irons/ Roderick Williams/ Hilary Davan Wetton] [Naxos: 8.573426]
Price: £5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile anthology with a few balance problems in the recording, 10 April 2015
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This disc offers a highly worthwhile anthology of fine music, some of which has not previously been recorded or, indeed, performed in complete versions. The Butterworth Rhapsody is a lovely work and is given a strongly emotional performance, more in the tradition of Barbirolli than in the more restrained manner of Boult. The pieces by Finzi and Gurney are far less well known and it is good that they have now been made available. Vaughan Williams' 'Oxford Elegy' for speaker, chorus and orchestra has been recorded twice previously. There are few finer speakers of English verse today than Jeremy Irons and he reads Matthew Arnold's words beautifully. As another reviewer here on Amazon has noted, Irons' approach is more restrained than that of John Westbrook, who recorded the piece with Sir David Willcocks back in the 1960s. It is doubtful whether Westbrook's declamatory style would be found appropriate now, and Jeremy Irons' musical voice suits the Elegy well.

In the Finzi Requiem, Roderick Williams sings the brief verses by Thomas Hardy with his customary nobility and subtle attention to dynamics, but on the occasion of the recording his voice seemed to have developed a rapid beat, perhaps due to tiredness. He is nonetheless a fine singer.

I have serious reservations about the balance in the recording, most especially in the Vaughan Williams, between the speaker, the choir and the orchestra. The two last have been allowed to occasionally overwhelm the speaker. More generally, in the moments of emotional intensity the volume of the choir and orchestra surges alarmingly and seems at odds with the reflective melancholy of the work as a whole. The conductor, Hilary Davan Wetton, and the engineer, Mike Clements, both highly experienced professionals, should have ensured that the recording of this wonderful yet comparatively delicate piece was given more space and subtlety.

However, as I have said, this is a highly worthwhile anthology of music and I recommend it strongly with a few reservations, hence the four stars out of five.


Seascapes - Debussy/Bridge/Glazunov/Zhou Long
Seascapes - Debussy/Bridge/Glazunov/Zhou Long
Price: £10.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Great sound, great performances., 31 Mar. 2015
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I simply echo what J S Bower has written here on Amazon. I am likewise as enthusiastic. These pieces make for a fine anthology of "sea pictures", and while some listeners will quarrel with Lan Shui's somewhat lingering tempi from time to time in the first and last movements of "La Mer", I wasn't unduly disturbed by them. Indeed, they offered a contrast to the faster, wilder parts of the score, and contributed to the sense of the recording being a "live" performance. The Frank Bridge piece, which cannot have been known previously to the players of the Singapore orchestra, is beautifully played and in this particular recording, which is an SACD (compatible) disc, I would recommend it above others currently available. Altogether this is a highly attractive programme and I recommend it without hesitation.


The Art Schools of Kent
The Art Schools of Kent
by David Haste
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and thorough account of a vanished world of art schools, 23 Nov. 2014
David Haste's "The Art Schools of Kent: a complete history" is just that, a complete history. It is written in a forthright and trenchant manner and offers a thorough and comprehensive account of what by any measure was an extraordinary era in education in this country. While the county of Kent may have been unusual in possessing at one time such a large number of art schools, it was by no means unique in this respect, and Haste's book pays due attention to the development during the Nineteenth century of art schools generally. When the account concentrates mainly upon Kent, it is clear the county was a microcosm of what was happening elsewhere nationally, to a greater or lesser extent.

If you wish to understand why today's arts universities are so very different from the art school of the past, David Haste's book is an essential read. The old art schools were usually small places which catered for a socially diverse group of students, generally drawn from the school's own locality, and offered a range of craft-based, practical courses at a variety of levels, towards a variety of outcomes, in a variety of modes: part-time, day release, and so on. During the Twentieth century this provision gradually changed, and it is the nature of that change, for better and for worse, which Haste chronicles in his book.

It is a well-produced book, comprehensively illustrated and clearly based on thorough research, both in the archives and by means of speaking with veterans who came through these art schools. Highly recommended.


Berlin [DVD] [2009]
Berlin [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Matt Frei
Price: £7.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent guide to the life and times of Berlin, 17 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Berlin [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
This three-part introduction to the city of Berlin is an excellent DVD and I recommend it strongly to anyone who is considering visiting the place for the first time, who may be familiar with the city or who simply wishes to enjoy an intelligent and well-illustrated insight into a European capital which has seen it all, so to speak.

It is true the visual effects in Programme 1 are a bit irritating and, like many television documentaries now, there's too much background music, but Matt Frei's commentary is shrewd, often drily humorous and always perceptive. He is an engaging and likeable presenter, and the fact that he is bi-lingual (English and German), and maybe of dual nationality too, gives this DVD special qualities.


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