ARRAY(0xadaceeac)
 
Profile for Hywel James > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Hywel James
Top Reviewer Ranking: 712
Helpful Votes: 1074

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Hywel James "Hywel James" (Devon, United Kingdom)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Paris Metro Tales
Paris Metro Tales
by Helen Constantine
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining stories loosely attached to or prompted by the Paris Metro, 10 Feb 2014
This review is from: Paris Metro Tales (Paperback)
This collection of short stories translated from the French is extremely worthwhile, for not only do the individual pieces inform and entertain, the book as a whole offers readers who cannot easily read French or are unable to read it at all, the chance to get to know a good many contemporary, or near contemporary French writers, whose work is little known in the United Kingdom. The stories themselves are often quirky and highly idiosyncratic, and none the worse for that. The short story form is admirably adapted to experiment and innovation.

The production of the book itself is of high quality:good paper, a clear typeface, a variety of apt photographs illustrating aspects of each story, mini-biographies of the writers and, finally, a good bibliography to guide further reading.


English Music for Oboe and Strings
English Music for Oboe and Strings
Offered by rwl-123
Price: 14.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully performed and recorded chamber music, 23 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This disc offers three wonderful pieces by British composers of the first half of the Twentieth century; Bliss and Britten of course continued working until the early 1970's. Pamela Pecha is a remarkable musician and her playing is exquisite throughout. The recording, which was made in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1990, is rich, full and highly realistic. Of the three works, I find the Bax to be an absolute masterpiece. Looking back to the time in the early 1960's when I started to listen to classical music and buying records, it is hard to understand how neglected his music had become within ten years of his death in 1953. The situation now is thankfully restored and a wide range of Bax's compositions are available on disc and through download. This particular IMP Classics release is one of the best. Highly recommended.


The Lost Domain: Le Grand Meaulnes (Centenary Edition)
The Lost Domain: Le Grand Meaulnes (Centenary Edition)
by Alain-Fournier
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Centenary edition of a French classic, 6 Jan 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It struck me at first that the publisher, Oxford University Press, was being somewhat tight in reissuing as a celebratory "Centenary Edition" an English translation over fifty years old of this classic French novel, albeit one with a new and highly informative Introduction by Hermione Lee. Frank Davison's English version of Alain-Fournier's original French was the one I read some forty years ago when it was published by Penguin Books. Penguin issued a new translation by Robin Buss in 2007.

In fact the 1959 English version remains very good indeed and suffers from no infelicities as a result of inevitable changes in our language which take place over time and which can mar even classic, older, translations into English of works in other European languages. Davison's translation retains the delicate poetic essence of the original as far as I can judge from reading (with the aid of a dictionary) the French novel which I downloaded as a Kindle, published by '12-21'. The Kindle version offers a fascinating Introduction by Jacques Perrin which begins with an account of the discovery of the author's body in a mass grave in 1991, some eighty years after he was killed at the start of the First World War.

As for the novel itself, if you haven't read it yet, you have a treat in store. If you have read it, but not for a while, this Centenary Edition will delight you. It's a nice piece of book production and, as I've said, the Davison translation is excellent even after all this time.


Dvorak - Symphonies 6 & 7
Dvorak - Symphonies 6 & 7
Price: 10.09

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Distinguished performances by great musicians, 6 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This Supraphon reissue of recordings made originally in London by HMV in 1938 offers distinguished performances by Vaclav Talich, a great musician, directing a wonderful orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, in two fine symphonies by Antonin Dvorak. The irony, and poignancy, of course is that while this music was being recorded the fate of Czechoslovakia was in the balance and on the point of catastrophe.

Now, more than sixty years on, we can admire the beauty of the music and its performance and only occasionally does the historical significance supervene. When it does one can only admire the courage, commitment and stoicism of the musicians as they recorded these symphonies at the Abbey Road studios in London less than two months after their country had been betrayed by Britain and France at the Munich Conference in September 1938.

The recording of the Seventh symphony suffers from somewhat crumbly sound, presumably there has been some deterioration of the original material since 1938, hence the fours stars at the head of my review. The Sixth symphony, less well known than the Seventh but absolutely beautiful, suffers from no such defects as far as I can tell. These recordings are also offered by Naxos but I have not compared the two issues side by side.

Highly recommended.


An Age of Kings [DVD]
An Age of Kings [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sean Connery
Price: 32.24

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A landmark production by the BBC, 21 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: An Age of Kings [DVD] (DVD)
I endorse everything Dr Wyatt says in his review here on Amazon. There are technical limitations to this set of discs in terms of visual quality, compared to today's television drama, and there is some disjunction in the synchronisation between sound and vision from time to time, but set against the power and imagination of the acting and direction, these flaws are slight indeed.

Tony Garnett's reminiscences about taking part in the series are warmly sympathetic and occasionally very funny. His appearance as a postscript to "An Age of Kings" is highly worthwhile.

Highly recommended.


The White People and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics)
The White People and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics)
by Arthur Machen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fine edition of some really cranky stories, 3 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I had been meaning to read some of Arthur Machen's work for a long time, since discovering some years ago that he and John Ireland, the composer, had corresponded over some of Ireland's mystical and rhapsodic pieces of music. This excellent new edition in the Penguin Classics series offered the ideal opportunity and I have just completed reading the selection of Machen's stories in it.

Machen, born in 1863, was a near contemporary of writers such as Arnold Bennett, H G Wells, Conan Doyle, and J M Barrie, and made a name for himself during the Edwardian era through journalism and by writing tales which conjured strange otherworlds of fantasy and mysticism. Since that time he has had a band of devoted followers who have kept his reputation reasonably bright. One such follower is the filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro, who has written a Foreword to this book.

I must confess however that I struggled with these stories because while they do indeed evoke strange worlds of the imagination, the prose style in which they are written is cranky, awkward and dated to a degree that would make one of those discussions on the old BBC Third Programme sound free, spontaneous and almost risque. Nearly every tale begins with a dialogue between two gentlemen who laboriously quiz one another over some peculiar event or antique object - a convention acceptable enough in the hands of Wells or Joseph Conrad, but Machen never manages to lift the subsequent story to a level where the prose takes flight. His language remains earthbound and prosaic, and in each tale he manages to defeat the object of his ambition, which is to carry the reader away into the landscape of his imagination.

After finishing the book which is, as I have said, an excellent edition in itself, I looked up Christina Rossetti's very strange poem, "Goblin Market", published in 1862, the year before Machen's own birth. I marvelled at how she had achieved all the weirdness, danger, eroticism and mystery which Machen strived so hard to create but, on the evidence of this selection of his work, signally failed to deliver.


Vaughan Williams: Sea Songs, Concerto for Bass Tuba, Symphony No. 5
Vaughan Williams: Sea Songs, Concerto for Bass Tuba, Symphony No. 5
Price: 12.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vaughan Williams in Frankfurt, 1 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This recording from the Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt is very welcome indeed because it is always fascinating to hear how Vaughan Williams' music is performed by ensembles from outside the United Kingdom. The three pieces on the disc are the "Sea Songs" (1923), the Tuba Concerto (1954) and the Fifth Symphony (1943). The tuba player is the distinguished German musician, Walter Hilgers, and he conducts the first and third items on the disc. In the concerto the conductor is Michael Luig. The "Sea Songs" and the Concerto are first rate, both as performances and recordings. Hilgers is quite wonderful as soloist in the Concerto, particularly in the first movement cadenza, and throughout the magical second movement, where he eschews any sense of 'Tubby the Tuba' sentimentality, offering instead a heartfelt song, almost a lament, but which at no point seems out of proportion emotionally to the movements on either side of this small masterpiece.

I felt there was a problem with the performance and recording of the symphony however. It was difficult to be quite sure what wasn't right with it, but it may be the Frankfurt orchestra had insufficient strings in this piece. For a symphony that requires a rich and finely blended sound, and contains a number of ecstatic climaxes at strategic points in its progress, the sound on the disc seemed thin. While the playing of the brass and the woodwind was terrific, the strings seemed somewhat undernourished.

But taken as a whole this recording is highly worthwhile and is worth hearing for the "Sea Songs" and especially the Tuba Concerto. The best recent, non-British, recording of the Fifth symphony is that by the Oregon Symphony and Carlos Kalmar on Pentatone Classics.

Incidentally Amazon lists the Frankfurt issue as 2001 but the music was not recorded until 2005! The sleeve note by Steve Schwartz is exemplary.


Plays Debussy Chausson & Ravel
Plays Debussy Chausson & Ravel
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 25.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Fine recordings from the BBC, 28 Oct 2013
If you can find this disc at a competitive price on Amazon, go for it. While it does not offer the latest in recorded sound - the performances took place in 1963, 1965 and 1975 - the sound quality is good and the artists represented were in many ways at the top of their considerable games. Janet Baker and Margaret Price need no recommendations from me, and their voices were in wonderful shape at the time they sang for these recordings, Baker under Evgeny Svetlanov with the LSO, and Price under Sargent and the BBC Symphony.

Likewise the conductors, Sargent and Svetlanov, interesting (and in recorded terms unique, I believe) in this repertoire: Debussy, Chausson and Ravel. Sargent treats "La Mer" less as an Impressionist evocation, which Debussy from the outset had denied that it was intended to be, and more as a highly dramatic example of Symbolist art in sound - more Odilon Redon than Claude-Achille Debussy. And Svetlanov gives the "Poeme de l'amour et de la mer" a wonderfully expressive Romantic sweep - less Monet, more Courbet or even Delacroix.

Keep your eyes peeled for a bargain price and if you see one, snap up this disc.


Contemporary Fiction: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Contemporary Fiction: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Robert Eaglestone
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and concise introduction, 13 Oct 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Robert Eaglestone's "Very Short Introduction to Contemporary Fiction" is a clear, concise and highly enjoyable guide, and offers a wide-ranging and balanced account of its subject. In his Conclusion, the author states, "This book has tried to find patterns in some fiction: innovations in form, new ways of engaging with the past, a 'new humility' in fiction, a concern with technological thinking". He has succeeded in those aims and, significantly, introduced me to novels of which I was unaware, written in languages other than English, as well as those in English, and to which I look forward to reading. In a few years the book will need updating or, more probably, replacing. Inevitably, given its subject, this account is provisional, but for the time being it is to be given a very warm welcome.


Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony
Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony
Price: 12.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent performance and recording, 28 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am very positive about the merits of this disc. It is a brisk but well-paced performance under Robert Spano which gives proper attention to the symphony's quiet, lyrical moments, while allowing climaxes to make the maximum impact. This is a big piece which in some hands can ramble but here the overall shape is kept fully in sight throughout. The Atlanta orchestra and choir are excellent, as are the two soloists.

Both solo singers sound young. The soprano has power and accuracy, and the baritone has a strong, light voice: more young mariner than old seafaring man. The musical relationship between them, especially in the final movement, is wonderfully intimate. Their enunciation is crystal clear, with just a hint (was it deliberate?) of Edwardian vowel sounds which gives a nice period feel to their singing.

In view of some critical comments which have been made about the recording, I listened to the cd several times, using different settings, with headphones, and with speakers in a large room. The recording is very good indeed.

The performance has the spontaneity of a live occasion. The final moments of the piece are magical and you are left listening as it were to a starry immensity and feeling the sea wind on your face. This is an excellent disc of a great piece of music.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 23, 2013 8:42 PM BST


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20