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M. Joyce (Cairo, Egypt)

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Peter Cook - The Rise And Rise Of Michael Rimmer [2006] [DVD]
Peter Cook - The Rise And Rise Of Michael Rimmer [2006] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter Cook
Offered by Not2day Media
Price: £3.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth searching out, 18 July 2014
(I have already posted a review of the boxed set which included this film)

I remember seeing a trailer for this film on the Granada TV show “Cinema”, hosted at the time by Michael Parkinson at the start of his television career. I liked the look of it, but never got round to seeing it and the film rather disappeared from the radar until I finally viewed more than 40 years later.

While it’s not quite an undiscovered masterpiece, it’s nevertheless very good, boasting some sharp political satire and some choice performances by a cast of British TV and film favourites.

It is in many ways an extremely prescient film, predicting a government run almost entirely on spin well before this became the norm. The satire is, as I say, on the sharp side, but there are some rather “obvious” moments too (Denholm Elliot’s character is called Peter Niss, for heaven’s sake) and several that will make you laugh at loud.
The script was penned by the film’s star, Peter Cook, its director, Kevin Billington, and by John Cleese and Graham Chapman, who both contribute comic cameos.

Cook’s performance is, depending on your point of view, either cleverly detached or wooden, but it is undoubtedly appropriate for a central character who (as was famously said of David Frost…the film’s producer, incidentally) “rises without trace”. He is surrounded by a choice collection of British character actors and comedians. Pride of place must go to the great Arthur Lowe and to Ronald Fraser as the buffoonish Prime Minister, but nods must also go to Cleese, Richard Pearson, Roland Culver, Ronnie Corbett, James Cossins, Michael Bates, Denis Price and George A. Cooper (as a Labour leader clearly based on Harold Wilson). There is also a welcome appearance by the spectacular Valerie Leon, while Harold Pinter, no less, pops up as a TV interviewer.

Although certain aspects of this film may seem a little dated, it is, as I say, remarkably prescient and, I would suggest, well worth searching out. Kevin Billington’s commentary is worth catching too.

Nespresso by Krups XN300540 Pixie Coffee Machine - Titanium
Nespresso by Krups XN300540 Pixie Coffee Machine - Titanium
Price: £113.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A very satisfied customer, 15 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It was a holiday in a posh hotel which sold us on the idea of buying one of these machines and to be honest, we’ve never for a moment regretted our purchase.

It’s not the cheapest way to drink coffee, of course, but it’s absolutely delicious and certainly better value than buying an inferior coffee in the High Street.

The machine came with a taster set of coffee flavours and, as members of the Nespresso Club, we’ve taken advantage of the £40 voucher and have stocked up on a host of yummy flavours, every single one of which has proven to be an absolute winner.

Delivery and packing could not be faulted and we are so far delighted with our new purchase.

Futtock's End [1969] [DVD]
Futtock's End [1969] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ronnie Barker
Offered by The Happy Zombie
Price: £5.90

3.0 out of 5 stars Not really my cup of tea, 2 July 2014
This review is from: Futtock's End [1969] [DVD] (DVD)
(I have already posted a review of the boxed set which included this film)

I like Ronnie Barker. I admire Michael Hordern and Roger Livesey; they were two of our most cherishable actors. I should like this film. I should find it funny. Unfortunately, I don't really.

First of all, I'm no great lover of slapstick and there's plenty of that on offer here. Secondly...and I'm hardly a model of political correctness...women in the film are treated as little more than sex objects; I actually love Carry On films and enjoy "Are You Being Served?", but it somehow doesn't feel quite right here.

To continue in this curmudgeonly vein, I have to report that the print is very grainy and that the accompanying commentary by the director adds nothing of great interest.

There are people out there, I am sure, who will lap up this (short) film (and it passes the time pleasantly enough, I suppose), but to be honest, it's not really my "tasse de thé".

Keiser: Croesus
Keiser: Croesus
Price: £34.76

5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating rarity, 2 July 2014
This review is from: Keiser: Croesus (Audio CD)
This is hardly a well-known opera; indeed, I suspect that most people will have heard neither of the work nor its composer, Reinhard Keiser. Nevertheless, a few years ago, Opera North mounted a production of this rarely performed opera and very fine it was too, featuring some of the best English-speaking singing actors around, including the tenor Paul Nilon in the title role, Gillian Keith as Elmira, William Dazeley as Orsanes, John Graham-Hall in the comic tenor role of Elcius and the American male soprano, Michael Maniaci as Atis.

The recording was made in 2000 and René Jacobs' allocation of the vocal parts is sometimes different from the performance I saw. Croesus is here sung by a baritone (the excellent Roman Trekel), Atis by a tenor and Solon by a Wagnerian bass, whereas in Manchester it was a lighter-voiced character baritone, Eric Roberts. In the conductor's defence, the composer himself employed a variety of voice types in these roles in his own lifetime.

When Keiser died in 1739, he was described as "the greatest opera composer in the world" and he wrote as many as 60 operas before he and his works rapidly fell into oblivion.

"Croesus" highlights the inconstancy of earthly glory and riches and is a highly theatrical procession of both serious and comic scenes, the comic figure of the servant Elcius who calls everything into question featuring particularly prominently. In the theatre, he was brilliantly portrayed by John Graham-Hall and the part receives an equally persuasive performance on disc by Kurt Azesberger.

The music is very varied, by turns bawdy and beautiful. There are some fine duets, but the loveliest music undoubtedly goes to the soprano role of Elmira, here beautifully sung by Dorothea Röschmann. Indeed, all of the cast do well, not least Roman Trekel in the title role.

René Jacobs can be a willfully eccentric conductor, but as we have nothing to measure this performance against, I can only say that it sounds very effective to me and is beautifully played by the Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin.

Not a masterpiece, perhaps, but a work that is unfailingly tuneful and a rarity certainly worth discovering.

Bruckner: Motets
Bruckner: Motets
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £14.32

5.0 out of 5 stars Great works, beautifully performed, 1 July 2014
This review is from: Bruckner: Motets (Audio CD)
“Vexilla regis”, one of the eleven Bruckner motets featured on this disc, is another piece that I have recently performed with the Cairo Choral Society. It is a gorgeous unaccompanied with some subterranean bass notes which on this occasion were sub-subterranean as the whole piece slipped increasingly flat!

This is thankfully not the case here, as the motets are performed by the always excellent Corydon Singers under their conductor, the distinguished operatic bass-baritone Matthew Best. He is hardly a grizzled veteran even now, yet this disc was, astonishingly, recorded over thirty years ago in St Alban’s Church, Holborn. As ever with Hyperion, the recorded sound is excellent.

The most familiar work here is probably the much-performed Introit, “Locus iste”, but every piece is unfailingly beautiful, spanning the whole of Bruckner’s compositional career. His music for the Roman Catholic liturgy was inspired by his profound faith and somehow it shows.

I love every single piece here and feel frustrated that I didn’t get to sing two of the loveliest works here, “Christus factus est” and the astonishing “Ecce sacerdos”, both of which we looked at, but didn’t make it into the concert…something to look forward to, perhaps?

Michael Volle  [BRKlassik: 900312]
Michael Volle [BRKlassik: 900312]
Price: £14.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Something missing, 26 Jun 2014
This is in some ways an unusual recital disc, as it features everything from Handel oratorio to Viennese operetta, stopping off at Mozart, Schubert, Wagner and Verdi along the way; it almost sounds like an audition piece, as if the singer is determined to showcase his versatility.

And very versatile Herr Volle is too, although it would be foolish to deny that some pieces work better than others. His Wagner is, I would suggest, very fine, while as far as the Verdi is concerned, he is certainly more a Ford than a Falstaff and the Confutatis from the Requiem does not seem quite right. The same is true of the Handel, but the Mozart and the Schubert songs (here in their orchestral realisations) go rather better.

Volle is, I am led to believe, one of the great singing actors of his generation (his Kaspar in Jens Neubert’s film version of “Der Freischütz”, “The Hunter’s Bride”, bears testimony to this), but his singing here somehow is a little lacking in “face”; this is even true in the two operetta numbers.

A fine voice then and a selection of largely familiar musical numbers which will all give pleasure, but somehow it does not quite add up to five stars.

Trevisco Genuine Soft Black Leather Credit Card Holder Wallet - 20 clear plastic pockets - 4 Further Card Slots & Note Section- 2 Popper Fastening
Trevisco Genuine Soft Black Leather Credit Card Holder Wallet - 20 clear plastic pockets - 4 Further Card Slots & Note Section- 2 Popper Fastening
Offered by Supreme Leather
Price: £4.55

4.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what was required, 25 Jun 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I ordered this as a present for a friend and he tells me that it is exactly what he needed. It’s very good quality for the price and packaging and dispatch were exemplary.

Stanford: Anthems & Motets
Stanford: Anthems & Motets
Price: £12.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Very fine, 25 Jun 2014
One of the longer items here, "The Lord is My Shepherd", was part of a concert I recently took part in with Cairo Choral Society. On the strength of singing this anthem and my acquaintance with Stanford's settings of the Anglican church service, I was eager to buy a CD of the composer's anthems, hence my purchase of this disc.

There is some wonderful music here, expertly sung by the Choir of New College Oxford under the direction of Edward Higginbottom.

In his lifetime, Stanford was seen primarily as a composer of symphonies and concertos, but it is for his church music that he is remembered today and very fine it is too; there are no dud tracks here!

Despite his prowess on the instrument, Stanford wrote very little music for the organ, but two of his three Preludes and Fugues are featured here.

The sound (it was recorded in New College Chapel in 1994) is first class.

Classic British Comedy Films [DVD]
Classic British Comedy Films [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter Cook
Offered by specialinterests
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Three very different comedy films, 21 Jun 2014
I picked up this three-disc collection very cheaply and I guess you will be able to do likewise.

It’s an interesting collection and whether the three films involved actually deserve the epithet “classic”, is very much open to debate. For the record I love two of them and while the third is harmless enough, it’s no great shakes, in my opinion. Apart from the fact that two of them have the word “end” in the title, the three films have very little in common and feature three very different types of comedy.

I will post individual reviews of the three films in the collection, but for the moment, here are my ratings for the three:

THE RISE AND RISE OF MICHAEL RIMMER (*****): a very clever satire featuring a host of British comedy stalwarts.

FUTTOCKS END (***): a dialogue-free short comedy with some choice players, but the comedy is a bit broad for my tastes and the print is very grainy.

SIR HENRY AT RAWLINSON END (*****): an eccentric cult comedy with a wonderful cast, which might not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly is to mine!

An odd collection then, but whatever your comedy tastes, you will, I suspect, find at least one of the three to your liking.

The Haydn Mass Edition: Großes Orgelmesse; Missa Cellensis (No. 2)
The Haydn Mass Edition: Großes Orgelmesse; Missa Cellensis (No. 2)
Price: £14.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Hickox...and Haydn!, 21 Jun 2014
Haydn wrote 14 masses and they were all recorded for Chandos by Richard Hickox and the Collegium Musicum 90 at the start of the millennium. These recordings bid fair to be the definitive versions of these wonderful masses and I am happy to say that I have acquired most of them.

The two masses featured here are quite different in approach. The Missa Sancti Josephi, more familiarly known as the “Große Orgelmesse” (Great Organ Mass) was composed around 1768-9. It is quite unlike any other masses by Haydn, both in its choice of key and its use of cors anglais instead of oboes. It gains its name from the fact that the organ is not only used as continuo, but also as an occasional solo instrument.

The Missa Cellensis, also known as the “Mariazeller Messe”, was composed in 1782 and was one of the masses performed in Vienna at ceremonies associated with pilgrimages. Unlike the earlier work, it is firmly in the tradition of Austrian mass composition.
Hickox’s series of Haydn masses benefit from top notch recorded sound and excellent performances from the musical forces involved, including what amounts to a “house team” of vocal soloists, notably the silvery soprano of Susan Gritton and the plangent tenor of Mark Padmore.

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