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Hywel James "Hywel James" (Devon, United Kingdom)
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Vaughan Williams: Stars of the Night, Songs and Violin Works
Vaughan Williams: Stars of the Night, Songs and Violin Works
Price: £11.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great programme of fine music., 26 Aug 2014
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This disc is the latest in a highly worthwhile series of music by Ralph Vaughan Williams produced by Albion Records, under the auspices of The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society. Each disc offers one or more world premieres of pieces by the composer, sometimes little-known, previously unperformed or unpublished pieces, or arrangements of his works by Vaughan Williams himself or other hands, usually highly distinguished (and occasionally very surprising) hands. I say surprising because this recording offers an arrangement for violin and piano - and a very beautiful one at that - of VW's Violin Concerto (Concerto Accademico) by Constant Lambert, a musician who had been particularly critical of the "folksong school" of British composers in the 1920s and 1930s.

The programme is both varied and very well recorded and performed. The performers are highly distinguished and it is a pleasure to hear artists of the calibre of Matthew Trusler, Roland Wood and Iain Burnside devoting such love to comparatively little-known but very fine material, such as the "Three Songs from 'The Pilgrim's Progress'", as well as the more familiar work. There is an exquisite arrangement by the composer of his own "The Lark Ascending" played with consummate artistryby Matthew Trusler. This is a version which thoroughly deserves to become as well known as its more familiar version for small orchestra.

The disc is called "Stars of the Night", a line by Robert Louis Stevenson taken from one of his verses from "Songs of Travel". The song cycle is also included in the programme. Altogether then a great programme of fine music. Highly recommended.


Normandy
Normandy
by Olivier Wieviorka
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.16

4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile and comprehensive survey of the Debarquements, 25 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Normandy (Paperback)
The review by Charles Vasey is a fair assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of this book and while there are more lengthy reviews on Amazon.com - indeed essay length reviews which I suspect have been undertaken to be handed in for marking at the end of the long vacation - I shall be brief here. It is always worthwhile to have a fresh perspective on a largely familiar subject and especially so in this case where a French historian has addressed D-Day 1944 - or Les Debarquements as the French understandably name the campaign - when there is a vast library of work by American and British writers. Wieviorka's book covers a great deal of ground, in a fair degree of detail, and in a largely balanced manner. It is not the first text to be recommended on the subject - no one text could fulfil that role adequately, but I believe it can be treated as a reliable and highly readable book certainly among the first ten on this fascinating piece of history.


The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010
The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010
by Selina Todd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate and committed history, 23 Aug 2014
Selina Todd's passionate and committed history of the Working Class over the century between 1910 and 2010 has elicited some essay length reviews - a few very highly critical - here on Amazon. I think the response has been a vindication of Todd's book. People have reacted either very positively or extremely negatively to it, largely depending, I guess, upon their own particular political positions. However some reviewers appear to attribute to the book views and opinions which it does not in fact express and in doing so seem to get quite hot under the collar. For example, Todd is not guilty of the charge that she believes "Labour is always good, while Conservatives are always bad". On the contrary, most politicians of whatever hue are given a good drubbing throughout, with the possible exception of the great Ernest Bevin - born in a tiny cob-built cottage less than a mile from where I tap these lines out on my keyboard.

I have no intention of writing an essay here. Selina Todd's book is a highly worthwhile work which is both passionate and committed, and whose political stance is entirely unambiguous. One reviewer on Amazon stated that historical writing should always be objective and quoted Ranke in that connection (that's Theodor von, not J Arthur, in case there's any confusion). Objective history can be very, very dull. Many of the experiences related in "The Rise and Fall of the Working Class 1910 to 2010" are now beyond living memory and for that reason alone we need this book. If any of us forget what our parents' and our grandparents' lives were like (assuming we are not the Duke of Westminster), the Old Etonians will be running the entire show and we'll only have ourselves to blame!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 19, 2014 8:29 AM BST


Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton
Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton
by Julie Kavanagh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and highly entertaining biography, 16 Aug 2014
Julie Kavanagh's comprehensive and highly entertaining biography of Frederick Ashton is wonderful in many ways, not least in offering a highly detailed - sometimes, indeed, day-to-day - account of the choreographer's life. She worked in close association with Ashton towards the end of his life and was thus able to take down reminiscences of his distinguished and colourful career. She also interviewed and corresponded with a great number of Ashton's contemporaries as preparation for her work.

I read the book chiefly to gain some insight into the music of the period and while there was a good deal of information about Ashton's professional and personal relationships with composers such as Walton, Berners, Lambert and others, the biography concentrates chiefly upon the choreographer and his work for the stage and with dancers, and offers fewer insights into the music. However that is not a significant criticism of what is by any standard an extraordinary achievement on the part of the author.

As to Ashton the man, he was clearly much loved by friends and contemporaries but Kavanagh spares the reader nothing in relating his chaotic love life, his feuds with other artists, his somewhat fawning attitude to royalty and women whom the author describes as "well born", his ignominious wartime service with the RAF, and his generally hopeless capacity to deal with the mundane practicalities of everyday life.

However, taken all in all this is a biography that is unlikely to be bettered as a fully-rounded portrait of its remarkable subject.


Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony
Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony
Price: £31.09

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating early recording of a great symphony, 17 July 2014
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Four stars for the restricted sound of this fascinating 1925 recording of Vaughan Williams' "A London Symphony" in its 1920 revised version, but as a document this issue, whether as a download or in compact disc form, deserves a full five stars. Dan Godfrey is a heroic figure in many ways, in enabling a seaside band to become a fine orchestra and through his championship of the work of a great many British composers during the first thirty years or so of the last century.

In actual fact, as with most reissues of early recordings, the ear quickly adjusts to the restricted sound of the time and, after that, the symphony under Godfrey's direction becomes a wholly satisfying listening experience. The pace, sense of forward movement and above all the emotional heart of the piece, are conveyed in an entirely convincing manner. It's probably a disc for the Vaughan Williams enthusiast alone but it is without doubt an important and thoroughly worthwhile issue.


Rawsthorne: Violin Concertos 1 & 2: Improvisations on a Theme of Constant Lambert/ Divertimento
Rawsthorne: Violin Concertos 1 & 2: Improvisations on a Theme of Constant Lambert/ Divertimento
Offered by KAOZI168-CLASSICAL---*SHIPPED IN TIME *
Price: £4.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent survey of Rawsthorne's music, 10 July 2014
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This disc offers an excellent survey of Alan Rawsthorne's music in distinguished and highly idiomatic performances by musicians who were his contemporaries, knew him well and, in the case of Theo Olof and Manoug Parikian, were intimately associated with his violin concertos presented here. The two concertos indeed are closely-argued and powerfully emotional pieces which deserve to be much better known. That goes for the entire programme on the disc and it is a pity that while Rawsthorne's music occupies a quietly distinguished position in this country, it receives very few actual concert performances.

The recorded sound throughout is excellent and I urge anyone interested in thoughtful, inventive and powerfully emotional music to get hold of this disc before it becomes unavailable.


The Fire The Bombing of Germany, 1940 1945: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945
The Fire The Bombing of Germany, 1940 1945: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945
by Jörg Friedrich
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Salutary account of the bombing of Germany in WWII, 2 July 2014
Jorg Friedrich's account of the Allied bombing campaign against Germany during the war of 1939 to 1945 is a salutary account of the effect of bombing on, especially, the civilian population in German cities, but also the economic and military performance of the Third Reich. The writer is a journalist, born in 1944. His style is vivid, dramatic and makes a deep impression on the reader while avoiding sensationalism. Moreover it is as even-handed as anything could be, as between the horrors of the bombing campaign on both sides - that of the Allies on Germany and the Luftwaffe against Britain and, to a lesser extent (in terms of the attention given in the book), to Poland, Holland and France, when written by a German of the immediate postwar generation.

I too was born in 1944, and learned from my parents about the bombing of Coventry and other Midland cities (they lived in Birmingham for the first three years of the war), about the London Blitz and the Baedeker Raids. Only much later did I become aware that Germany paid as heavily if not more so for its air raids on the United Kingdom, in the Ruhr, in Hamburg, Lubeck, Berlin and, especially, in Dresden.

This book does not seek to make a special case for Germany but instead offers a valuable and sobering counterbalance to the history of our own country during WWII.


The Art of Sir Hamilton Harty
The Art of Sir Hamilton Harty
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £38.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine memorial to an outstanding musician, 27 Jun 2014
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Anyone interested in orchestral music in general and in the development of musical performance in the United Kingdom would both enjoy this compact disc and gain a great deal from hearing the quality of musicianship of the players under this remarkable conductor. Hamilton Harty (1879-1941) was born in County Down and was a virtuoso pianist at the age of twenty-one. He was a noted accompanist and a gifted and prolific composer and arranger. In short, he was an all-round outstanding musician. He became associated with the Halle Orchestra as a conductor and later with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This disc offers a number of fine performances with this latter band and it is a fitting memorial to Harty's gifts as a conductor. The sound quality is very good for its time, 1933 to 1935. The recordings were made at Abbey Road's Studio No 1 under the remarkable Joe Batten. The performance of Smetana's "Bartered Bride" Overture alone, with its fizzing strings, makes the purchase of the disc worthwhile, but there is much more to enjoy on it. Highly recommended.


Elly Ney Plays Beethoven
Elly Ney Plays Beethoven
Offered by avsuk1
Price: £24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good recordings from the 1930s, 22 Jun 2014
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Elly Ney was described in some notes on her I read a while back as "an enthusiastic Nazi". Be that as it may, and it is a serious disincentive to acquiring recordings of her performances, this disc demonstrates nonetheless that she was a remarkably gifted musician and a fine interpreter of Beethoven. The notes written by the excellent Tully Potter accompanying this set of recordings, made in Germany between 1936 and 1938, state among other highly worthwhile observations that Ney was a performer in the almost mystical German tradition exemplified best by Furtwangler.

The sound on this disc is very good indeed and I give it four stars only because of its limited sound compared with modern recordings.


By Antony Beevor - D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (4th Impression)
By Antony Beevor - D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (4th Impression)
by Antony Beevor
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehesive and humane, 22 Jun 2014
In other editions, including Kindle, Antony Beevor's book comes in for a great deal of criticism on Amazon and it is surprising to find that, seventy years on from D-Day, there appear to be more "experts" on the subject now among readers than there were actual participants in that epic event in the summer of 1944. That is, people who, having read virtually everything published since the war, are still fighting about aspects of it - which commanders were the most or least competent, what were the decisive moments, and so on. Forget all that. Beevor's book is a comprehensive and above all humane account of D-Day, its planning, execution and follow-up. There is no definitive account of D-Day that will stand for all time. The writing of history isn't like that. Perspectives change, new material comes to light, old material is tested and sometimes set aside. Writers and readers change and so do their viewpoints, attitudes, prejudices. The chief value of this book is the attention it gives to the victims of war:the men, women and children; the soldiers, sailors and airmen - on all sides; and the country - in this case, France, which was terribly devastated in the pursuit of liberation from Nazi occupation. It is a very good book indeed. There is no best book on the subject but this one is among the best. I recommend it highly.


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