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Corresponding with Carlos: A Biography of Carlos Kleiber
Corresponding with Carlos: A Biography of Carlos Kleiber
Price: £21.80

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...loved it!, 21 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having read the book, I came here expecting to find reviews that disliked its 'hagiographic' feel. What I found was indeed comment about that, but accompanied by "But who cares, I don't", which is exactly how I felt too. I devoured the book and loved it. However a few cautions:

1 - The first half of the book is 'biographical' - but who could unearth a biography of Carlos Kleiber? 100% immersed in music, studying it remorselessly, one actually wonders whether there would be enough of a normal set of external events to make interesting reading. Barber ends up listing lots of performances and the singers at each (for me, dull) interspersed with juicy little anecdotes (great!!).

2 - The second half contains the correspondence. Barber sends Kleiber video cassettes of various conductors, and Kleiber replies with his impressions. Well - sort of. One might expect to learn a ton about conducting from these reactions, but most of the time Kleiber does no more than say whether he likes or dislikes the conductors, in the latter case just adding an adjective like ' s***ty'.

3 - There are only a few likes! But they are very much of interest. For instance, he loves Boult; and he recommends Boulez at one point, while rubbishing him at another. This alone has one pondering on why he likes particular conductors, so from that one can maybe learn.

4 - There are plenty of conductors he's pretty rude about. (He quotes Piglet from Winnie the Pooh shouting "Look at me swimming!" to suggest a quality he really doesn't like - marvellous!) This rudeness suggests a partial parallel with Volkov's Shostakovich 'memoirs': no doubt the man said these things privately, but never remotely intended them for publication. But whereas Volkov's book would seem to be a 'dishonest presentation', such that one wouldn't even know what in it to trust or not, Barber's book is clean and up-front. He's chosen to offer these letters for publication (after removing personal, non-musical stuff), and we are delighted to read it. Thanks, and may it sell! (It surely will.)

There is one particular piece of advice that Barber does eventually manage to wring from Kleiber concerning Barber's own conducting, of which he has sent a videotape: "...you should look carefully [at the tape] and watch how the orch. reacts (how sweet of them!) to each of your movements in this rehearsal. If you're perceptive and observing you will see what not to do. (That's about 90% of what you did.)" So, nothing at all specific, yet at the same time, what better advice could there be? [And fair play to Mr Barber for including Kleiber's last sentence there.]

But if the book is not as full of clear-cut comment as one might have expected - though having read anything about Kleiber, perhaps one shouldn't have expected it - what does come through is the unending, ebullient high spirits and enthusiasm for music that bubbles out of both men. One comes away from the book full of this, making it a real inspiration. Thanks again, Mr Barber.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 22, 2014 1:58 AM GMT


Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition
by Albert J. Bernstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.78

4.0 out of 5 stars deals cheerfully with heavy issues - good, 5 Dec. 2012
Some reviewers are concerned that Bernstein isn't sympathetic enough towards how difficult people may have become that way, and don't like his cheerful, bouncy tone either. I have to say, I'm on Bernstein's side with this. He's quite upfront - this isn't a book about how or why people become difficult, there are plenty such books already. This book is specifically for those who have to live and work with such people, how they can best get their bearings and take care of themselves. And my own experience is that in such situations, a certain spirited tone is important from an advisor. These situations can be heavy enough, and a bit of humour from a helper goes a long way.

It's true that the title of the book is perhaps a little off the mark - unless true 'draining' is actually taking place, in which case the matter is serious and needs dealing with urgently. The book will get one started. And for those who want to 'help' these difficult people, they need to remember that the first fundamental in doing so is to not become complicit, to not become 'co-dependent' or whatever the term is. Free yourself, and you've already done the best thing you can for the other.

And as Bernstein says, we're all liable to have some of these personality traits within ourselves to some degree, so it's good to become aware of them.

If you think you may benefit from a book like this, for whatever reason, it's worth getting active about it - so go ahead and buy.


Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry
Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry
by Albert J. Bernstein
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars deals cheerfully with heavy issues - good, 5 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Some reviewers are concerned that Bernstein isn't sympathetic enough towards how difficult people may have become that way, and don't like his cheerful, bouncy tone either. I have to say, I'm on Bernstein's side with this. He's quite upfront - this isn't a book about how or why people become difficult, there are plenty of such books already. This book is specifically for those who have to live and work with such people, how they can best get their bearings and take care of themselves. And my own experience is that in such situations, a certain spirited tone is important from an advisor. These situations can be heavy enough, and a bit of humour from a helper goes a long way.

It's true that the title of the book is perhaps a little off the mark - unless true 'draining' is actually taking place, in which case the matter is serious and needs dealing with urgently. The book will get one started. And for those who want to 'help' these difficult people, they need to remember that the first fundamental in doing so is to not become complicit, to not become 'co-dependent' or whatever the term is. Free yourself, and you've already done the best thing you can for the other.

And as Bernstein says, we're all liable to have some of these personality traits within ourselves to some degree, so it's good to become aware of them.

If you think you may benefit from a book like this, for whatever reason, it's worth getting active about it - so go ahead and buy.


Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel
Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel
Offered by Direct Entertainment UK
Price: £19.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars can we not have the whole opera, please?, 5 Dec. 2012
Simply marvellous casting here - couldn't be better. So why only highlights? That's mean, Philips... We'll pay to have it all, don't be so cautious.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 31, 2012 8:03 PM GMT


Takemitsu: Spectral Canticle [S
Takemitsu: Spectral Canticle [S

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a late work that haunts me, 23 Nov. 2012
No one has reviewed this CD yet, so perhaps I'll have a go, as it deserves some notice. I say this largely because it contains the only available recording of Takemitsu's last orchestral work, albeit a concertante one - Spectral Canticle. Written in 1995, a year before his death and immediately before going into hospital to be operated on for cancer, I cannot help hearing something of these circumstances in the music. After a brief introduction in which the sunlight of dawn seems to be breaking through the branches, and after the guitar soloist has gently set things on their way, the violin plays and plays and plays. It is as if it matters not what it plays, only that every second should be full of playing, as there may not be many such seconds left. Three times during the piece a dark shadow falls across the music as the orchestra makes a heavy, bell-like tolling on minor-based chords. The second time this comes, the music's principal motive is formed by the violin into a lyrical theme that is set against the 'bell', as if in recognition and acceptance. However, after the third such tolling, there is a single narrow discord on the wind, and with a quick upward glide, the violin, and with it the piece, is gone. I find it a remarkable work.

Two of the other pieces on the disc are from the early 1980s, when Takemitsu was just coming into his most assured style. Star Isle (1982) is not among my favourites, containing repeated moments of extreme force and volume, which I find harsh on my ear. Also, it is as if Takemitsu is still composing from his own creative imagination - not bad!, but not the wonderful, natural emergence of a piece as if from nature that he was to achieve by the mid-80s.

Dreamtime (1981) does have some of that coming quality, and is a voluptuous, visionary piece. It is full of great, thick harmonies that smudge across the orchestral canvas, at times with long-spun melodic lines riding over the top. Towards the end there is a gargantuan use of the tritone in the lower orchestra that has one holding ones breath in amazement. The whole thing reminds me of NASA pictures of exploding galaxies... Extraordinary...

The fourth item, Music of Tree (1961) dates from the younger Takemitsu's experiments with the European avant-garde style of the time. What's remarkable is how successful he was when still a long way from finding his own true style. I've been waiting for this gap in the recorded catalogue to be filled and am grateful to hear this piece again after so many years. (The BBC broadcast it in 1964.) It stands the test of time well, better than some of his other experiments. The piece is, however, fragmentary. No idea lasts long before running itself out, and a new one must begin. But again, thank you to the artists and recording company for including this item.

If you are coming to Takemitsu for the first time, this is not the disc with which to start. Try the 'Quotation of Dream' CD from Deutsche Grammophon - it has those orchestral masterworks Dream/Window and Twill by Twilight. Or if you fancy the lyrical side of his music, try 'A String around Autumn' from BIS, a CD that also contains the remarkable piano concerto, 'Riverrun'. But if you are already a lover of Takemitsu's music, Spectral Canticle is worth getting to know. I prefer it to the two Fantasma/Cantos works he wrote shortly before - it has more purpose in it. Don't overlook it.

P.S. At present, the disc is shown as not currently available. If it remains so, you can obtain it from Amazon.co.jp.


Anne Boleyn: A new life of England's tragic queen
Anne Boleyn: A new life of England's tragic queen
by Joanna Denny
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars heavily tendentious - but even so..., 15 Jun. 2012
Yes, this has to be the most tendentious piece of historical writing I've ever come across. At times I thought I was reading a Protestant religious tract, and a virulently anti-Catholic one at that. For a while I wondered if the publishers should have been firmer with the author, but apart from the fact that she apparently died before publication, it was rapidly clear that lightening off the tenor of the writing would have been impossible; it was a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Still, the writing was fresh enough and the historical detail interesting enough (with quotes I hadn't come across elsewhere) that I read avidly. But after a couple of hundred pages, she was falling into the great sin of repetition and I very nearly tired. So yes, believe everything the other reviewers say on this score.

And yet - amazingly - she has succeeded in her mission with me. I left Alison Weir's account of Anne Boleyn (in her `Six Wives' book) unable finally to see Anne as anything other than a bad girl who just wanted to be queen, and got her come-uppance. But, even through the murk of Denny's bias, I can in fact see the alternative view of Anne. It does mean basically ignoring the accounts of the Spanish ambassador (whom Weir does also warn us about), regarding them as either mere malicious tittle-tattle or heavily slanted, even slanderous, reporting. And in any case, he only appeared on the scene at a fairly late stage when all was long since in motion and he could only be her bitter opponent.

So, was it the case that Anne Boleyn was indeed shocked at the king's first approaches and took herself off to Kent for two years in the hope of his forgetting her? And when he nevertheless pursued her remorselessly, was there then no hope of her ever receiving any other suitors? And had he already told her he felt his marriage to Catherine invalid? If so, the big question comes, did she then hold out for marriage because she was a person of principal, or because she just `wanted to be queen'? If the former, did she enter into the process - not expecting it to be so long - because she felt she could be influential in the reformist cause? When the Act of Supremacy was passed, was she over the moon because now she could be queen, or because she had longed for decades for the breaking of the power of Rome "and all its beggarly baggage"?

Is there a book that will answer these questions for me? Probably there can never be. But maybe I'll try Ives.


The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey
The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey
by Leanda De Lisle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars reads like a novel? well, yes and no..., 2 May 2012
Many reviewers give this book 5 stars and say it reads like a novel, but until the other day, there was a 1-star review saying it was unreadable, because of all the complex family details, etc. I'm sorry in a way that that review has gone, because it should act as a warning - especially to those 'of a certain age' like myself, who aren't as good at remembering names as they used to be...

Firstly, the characters all have family names, which they may share with various others. Then they get given titles by the monarch, by which they then become known. Then they get a different title. The wives have these titles too. Then people remarry and have new names. Family lines involve varying degrees of royal blood, some more than others. You have to remember which line is Catholic and which Protestant, and when they change. Then someone's beheaded, and at a later date, someone else gets their title. More than one important person of royal blood is known as Mary Tudor. There are no fewer than four family trees at the start of the book, but they contain so many names and lines, you don't know which to memorise and which to forget...

Suffice to say, I found the first 50 pages of this book more than a little trying. But then - yes indeed!, it began to read like a novel, and I was captivated! These complicated, changing family relationships would continue to rear their ugly heads from time to time, but eventually I just floated past them, resigning myself to losing some of the threads of the story.

Some of these threads are essential to follow, though. It is the background mix of religious fervour, fraught issues of royal descent, and naked political ambition that creates the tension against which these love stories play out. This is what makes them so involving - and once she gets going, de Lisle certainly does a good job at involving us. Eventually, I couldn't put the book down.


The Key: A True Encounter
The Key: A True Encounter
by Whitley Strieber
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.35

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hard core spirituality - don't overlook this book!, 10 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There have been a number of writers delivering 'channelled' material to the world in recent times - Gabrielle Bossis, Joseph Brenner, Eileen Caddy, Brian Cleeve, Helen Greaves, Ian Lawton, Dorothy Maclean, 'Two Listeners', Neale Donald Walsh, not to mention a large number of Marian visions. All of these writings need approaching with care and thought. Each seems aimed at a particular audience, though always with a central core seeking to persuade mankind (and individuals!) urgently to change its (their) ways. This particular book is aimed at a very particular readership - it contains talk of alien presence, government secrecy, intelligent machines, quantum physics, etc. - and yet I would urge anyone with any interest in hard core spirituality to give it a read.

The heart of the book is a 100-page 'Conversation' with a night-time visitor to Strieber's hotel room. The surrounding chapters could make us think Strieber is merely having us on; yet the moment one reads the Conversation itself, one is gripped, and such questions don't matter. Indeed, the Conversation itself may at times seem to veer into regions that will not interest all readers; but I would urge people to stay with it, as within a couple of pages, something will have been said of the most powerful and urgent interest.

Be warned that there are some pretty harsh messages amidst these pages, both about this life and the next, so if you're not up for this, give the book a miss. But then you will be missing some wonderful sentences:

"God wants true companions, not supplicants."

"Forgiveness is not an act. It is a state of being."

"Unless you bear the kingdom within you, the kingdom will vanish from the face of the earth."

[Of those who succeeded in transforming their deaths in the holocaust:] "They made of their suffering, with great effort, what one who attains the heart of a child may easily make of the drift of a cloud or the peaceful ringing of a bell upon a summer evening. ...It is easier to reach ecstasy through joy than through suffering."

Christ, Mohammed and the Buddha are all embraced, though not necessarily the religions that have been formed around them. A certain respect is paid to Hinduism also. But the great stress is on surrendering to God, despite the need to operate in this world, squaring this seemingly impossible circle and acting without fear. That we are all one is very much to the fore. And it is described how we are imprinting our 'energetic bodies' with our experience at every moment, and how crucial it is that we do this with intensity and without the least trace of sin. The faculty of attention is stated as vital, and there are simple, easy suggestions for attaining this - meditate, becoming aware of physical sensation. "Find God within and the universe without" seems a first class motto.

Another reviewer has rightly stated that what you get from this book will depend on what you bring to the table. Indeed, one of the American reviewers appears to me to have brought their own agenda to the table - I actually don't recognise the book from their review. We are indeed encouraged to have an observer's awareness of our experience, but is this "to have a strong sense of self"? The book actually carries the line, "To join God, you have to leave your self behind."

Though I have only had this book for a couple of weeks, I am now beginning my fifth read of this conversation. Each reading takes me longer than the last, partly because I take time to consider and challenge every statement. (You will have your own opinions about the text.) But mostly I am slowed by having to stop and lay the book aside, so overcome am I by line after line. The text will not 'bite' for everyone; but if you have even the smallest interest in seeing if it may 'bite' for you, don't hesitate - buy! now!


Religion for Atheists: A non-believer's guide to the uses of religion
Religion for Atheists: A non-believer's guide to the uses of religion
by Alain De Botton
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a book that curiously backfires on itself, 10 April 2012
Allain de Botton sets out to show how the 'useful' aspects of religion can be reworked into a purely secular society. This is not rigorous thinking, of course, and no matter for that. But his suggestions can hardly be taken seriously - it's all a load of whimsy. And so one ends up feeling that his failure to carry out his task in any convincing way backfires on him, suggesting that mankind has sought certain things through religion because that is in fact the right and the best way to seek them. He's ended up unwittingly writing an apologia for religion...


20th Century Music for Flute and Orchestra
20th Century Music for Flute and Orchestra
Price: £7.88

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only decent recording of Toward the Sea II, 8 Mar. 2012
Sorry, but this is only going to be a review of the Takemitsu item. If you are looking for a recording of Toward the Sea II - the version with string orchestra, as well as flute and harp - this is the one to get. Gallois plays full of life on his recording, but the strings are recorded too far back. I Fiamminghi are likewise superbly alive string players on their CD, but with them it is the flute that is too far back. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating in either case. And if you can't hear everything, you can't enjoy the music, and there's an end.

Toward The Sea II is a haunting, beautiful piece of music, one of my favourites among Takemitsu's output (and that's saying something). This performance catches the reflective atmosphere of the pieces perfectly, and the balance lets you hear everything as it should be.


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