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Graham S. Applin "grahamapplin129" (Hampshire)
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Complete DG Solo Recordings'
Complete DG Solo Recordings'
Price: £41.61

5.0 out of 5 stars "A Journey into the Centre of Music's Soul", 23 Jan. 2015
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I must confess that Pires was not an artist I was that familiar with so I took the chance to purchase this box set of her DG recordings and for the most part I am more than satisfied that I did. Her playing is both insightful and brilliant. She has a wonderful sense of the dance rhythms in Bach and of the ethereal, dreaming beauty of Chopin. The disc of Beethoven sonatas is a particular favourite of mine and bears repeated listening as she has a wonderful way of shading the music. A piece like the Moonlight sonata, because it is so familiar, can seem passé. But Pires imbues it with such a sensitive touch that it is like hearing it for the first time. On the downside some of the tempos she adopts can, on occasion, seem wilful. This is true mostly in her set of Mozart's piano sonatas where, in comparison to Uchida, she can at times be slightly "mannered. The finale to the Alla Turca is so slow to my ears it's like the notes are wearing hob-nail boots. Yet some of the Mozart sonatas (the early ones and the later ones) are played with unbelievable beauty and pianism. A few of the Chopin Waltzes are played like Nocturnes and a few of the Nocturnes are played like waltzes. Yet even so she always sounds spontaneous. I don't think she could be forced even if she tried. Her Schubert recordings, however, are peerless and I defy anyone not to melt at her version of D960. I deeply admire her recording of the Imprompus which have made me realise how much I love them. Her Schumann and Brahms are also wonderful and played with an intuitive ear for its poetry and romantic sensibilities. The booklet is inadequate however which is a shame.

So all I all I am very glad to have made my acquaintance with this box set. Highly recommended.


La Musique des Lumières / Music of the Enlightenment - Limited Edition 30 CD set
La Musique des Lumières / Music of the Enlightenment - Limited Edition 30 CD set
Offered by KAOZI168 Classical_ ''Dispatch in time''
Price: £36.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars By and large the performances are extremely good and the presentation is excellent although those who have ..., 2 Jan. 2015
This is a really generous box set. By and large the performances are extremely good and the presentation is excellent although those who have an aversion to HIP and period instruments may want to stay clear (the version of Mozart's piano concerto K467 has some peculiar tempos as does the Jupiter Symphony) But for those who simply care about good performances this is a no-brainer. The only caveat I would highlight is with the accompanying booklet. Yes it is informative with English, French and German translations (plus there is a CD rom for the librettos etc). But the English version is missing 13 or so pages of text (pp134-147) which is a serious omission in my view hence I've docked a star even though I can read the French version. However this gripe aside this is a collection of music which will grace any music lovers' collection and will provide hours of listening pleasure. Highly recommended.


Strauss: Lieder
Strauss: Lieder
Price: £7.96

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterly Strauss, 4 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Strauss: Lieder (Audio CD)
I'm not familiar with Strauss' Lieder except The Four Last Songs. This is a jewel of a recital and Kaufmann's Tenor voice has to be heard to be believed. He can be big and imposing but also delicate and hushed. This is an artist in total control of his material and utterly in tune with Strauss' tonal palette. His technique is superlative but is never for it's own sake. I can only image Strauss himself would be thrilled to hear his songs delivered with such passion, feeling and artistry. The accompanist is marvellous and compliments the vocalist perfectly; voice and piano in total harmony giving these Lieder room to breathe. The only caveat is that the booklet just gives the German text with no translation into either French or English which is a pity as I like to follow the songs as they are performed. Nevertheless this is highly recommended.


The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village
The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village
by Eamon Duffy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.20

5.0 out of 5 stars The Voices of Morebath., 16 July 2014
This micro-history of an English West Country parish from the 1520s through to the 1570s is an extraordinary achievement. The lives of ordinary men and women normally never seen let alone heard are vividly brought to life before our eyes and ears thanks to their parish account books. Normally such documents where they survive are dry, bare-bones lists of profit and loss. But the accounts for Morebath on the borders of North Devon and Exmoor are different thanks to the parish priest Christopher Trychay (pronounced Tricky). He did more than just keep the books. Among the figures for Ale receipts and alms lights, Trychay wrote down his opinions as well of those of his parishioners in the most pungent of terms. It is thus that we can glimpse life and death within an unimportant village during a critical period: The Reformation. Duffey weaves his story beautifully. What we see is not only the end of a whole way of life as the religious reforms brought about by Henry VIII's break with Rome reached into every part of the realm, but also a rural world in crisis. This was essentially England's Cultural Revolution and everyone, even in a tiny rural backwater like Morebath, were profoundly affected. These accounts were meant to read aloud to the parishioners and while Duffey provides modern English translations it is very satisfying to attempt to read the originals. It is not as difficult as you may suppose. It is intensely rewarding to read words often taken down verbatim as they are written phonetically so you can not only see what was said but how it was said (in a deep West Country burr). It is genuinely moving to see how a community so deeply rooted in traditions reaching back centuries are forced to give up everything they know. Revolt broke out in 1549. Some relief is provided with the reign of Mary Tudor but with her death and the accession of her half-sister Elizabeth the inexorable journey to a reformed state begins anew. At the end of the story, life in Morebath seems less rich, less colourful and less certain than before. Their world with Elizabeth as Queen is whitewashed and spare. The old ways have gone, this time for ever. Christopher Trychay was parish priest to Morebath for 54 years and and died in 1574. He was buried in his church where the old altar had been at a cost of 6/8d which he had left for his funeral.

This book is a privilege to read. It stands with Montaillou, The Merchant of Prado and The Cheese and the Worms as a masterpiece of "history from below".


The Lives Of The Great Composers: Third Edition
The Lives Of The Great Composers: Third Edition
by Harold C. Schonberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.59

4.0 out of 5 stars A sparkling introduction to genius., 7 July 2014
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Make no mistake this is a lively, witty, elegant and very well written book. This third edition was published in the mid-1990s and includes updated material on composers such as Handel (particularly the Operas). There are also new chapters on the serialist movement composers such as Cage, Boulez and Stockhausen as well as minimalists such as Adams and Glass. This third edition also looks at significant female composers such as Fanny Mendelssohn and Ethyl Smythe. The narrative is chronological, moving from Baroque through to the present day. Most chapters focus on individual composers but some take time out to look at the changing face of music. The chapter on Romanticism is particularly fine. There are wonderful anecdotes liberally sprinkled throughout so we see these composers as human beings blessed with extraordinary gifts. Beethoven's dark and dingy apartment, Berlioz at the theatre falling madly in love with Harriet Smithson, Schubert's odd little laugh,Chopin's hell on Majorca, Brahms quite happily playing the piano in a notorious brothel, Schumann's terrible descent into madness, Scriabin's megalomania, Handel's on stage fight with two rival Divas and Prokofiev looking down his nose at Rachmaninov. One realises that true genius is never an easy burden to bear and can often come with a terrible price.

If I have one caveat then it is that in places the book does show its age. Mahler and Bruckner, for instance, should have their own chapters instead of being lumped together along with Max Reger. It is the same with Scriabin and Rachmaninov although one could possibly argue that this is justified bearing in mind that both were students together for some years. While this edition has a splendid new chapter on Monteverdi, composers such as Schutz, Biber or Buxthehude are ignored as is the great corpus of Renaissance music. Sibelius, whose stock has risen significantly since the first edition of 1970, is considered only a dated, minor Nationalist. Nevertheless, this is a scintillating book perfect for dipping into and is still the best general introduction to the lives and foibles of these extraordinary men and women.


The Lieutenant of San Porfirio
The Lieutenant of San Porfirio
Price: £9.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A timely reminder of how democracy can be hijacked, 26 Nov. 2012
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Novels with an overt political agenda can be heavy going particularly if the writer makes the message more important than character, plot, interest or story. Joel Hirst, an expert in the socio-political-economic arena of South America largely avoids these pitfalls to present a gripping story of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. The writer weaves their individual stories against the backdrop of political upheavals in Venezuela, a country the writer knows very well having lived and worked there for many years. So the novel is not only well written with a good sense of when to accelerate as well as to take the foot off the gas pedal, but had tremendous verisimilitude. The well known adage of power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely is never better expressed in the character of the eponymous Lieutenant. He could have been a crude cliche but in his various little schemes and intrigues it is clear that this man is a nasty piece of work for whom corruption works. The revolution enables him to weave his webs and gives him power at the expense of his soul. In a Jacobean tragedy he'd be De Flores or Volpone. The author leaves his most withering criticism for the student Freddy a naive American who cannot see the wood for the trees and is simply a cipher for the Venezuelan authorities. But overall is the brooding presence of Il Commandante, charismatic and charming, the top of the pyramid, the soul and driving force of the revolution but the heart of darkness. The present political situation in South America let alone in Venezuela is a closed book to most people. The US interests in the region are controversial and excite vigorous debate. This novel is not written by a disinterested observer. The author cares passionately about Venezuela and the welfare of the ordinary people. And this is a powerful novel about people coming to terms with what is important to them in a world which has been turned upside down by social, political and economic upheavals. Each protagonist is faced with choices and while politics inevitably is never far away it is this human response to change which drives this novel. The ending is a convincing one....endings have a nasty habit of disappointing expectations but this is not the case here. This is not a novel for everyone but if you care about the future course of democracy and freedom as well as care about how individual people cope with extreme forms of government then I would recommend it wholeheartedly. Democracy and freedom from oppression are precious things which we take for granted at our peril.


Forbidden Planet: 50th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition [DVD] [1956] [1957]
Forbidden Planet: 50th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition [DVD] [1956] [1957]
Dvd ~ Walter Pidgeon
Offered by babsbargains *** WORLDWIDE SHIPPING ***
Price: £38.99

42 of 70 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Special edition"? Don't believe it!, 8 July 2007
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Don't get me wrong! I love this film and have wanted for so long to get it on DVD but the previous releases just didn't have any appeal. So imagine my joy when a 50th anniversary "special edition" 2 disc set was released. Ker-ching! I'll have one of those please.

Now, call me picky but when a film as magnificent and as important as this is released in a "special edition" format, one should expect something...well..."special". The film, I am happy to say, is as superb as I remember it. The transter on this disc is beautiful;the sound is gorgeous. In short it has "Golden Age of Hollywood" stamped all over it, going beyond any notion of 50s kitsch. The story of a man (Morbius superbly played as a kind of gruff,dark-side Victor Meldrew by Walter Pidgeon) brought low by his own arrogance is a timeless one. This film still gives many a modern blockbuster a run for its money.

The beef I have with this release are the extras. What a disappointment! Taken as a whole the documentaries are ok, the Robbie the Robot stuff interesting (even the B-featurre "The Invisible Boy" is worth a look). But no animated menus (ok I can live with that), no booklet and, most outrageous of all, no commentary. For the 50th Anniversary and for such an important film, you would think that the Powers That Be would pull out all the stops...but no. This is like a vanilla disc, with the words "Special Edition" tagged on and a few scraps thrown to Joe Public. A commentary, say, from Rudy Behlmer or Leslie Nilesen would have been the perfect tribute to this exceptional movie. A booklet with scene cues and further information on the film, putting it into context, would have added to the viewing pleasure. What a wasted opportunity, particularly when you compare the special treatment given to the releases of "Casablanca", "Robin Hood" and "Spactacus". The lack of imagination shown here is breathtaking.

So, I give the film the highest praise. But the shabby treatment it receives on this disc is unforgiveable. This could have been a great DVD set; instead it is only run-of-the-mill.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 7, 2011 10:53 PM GMT


Charlie Chaplin - The Great Dictator [1940] [DVD]
Charlie Chaplin - The Great Dictator [1940] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Charlie Chaplin

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As relevant as ever, 27 Jan. 2007
I've just sat through this film for the first time in many years. It is supposed to be Chaplin after his glory days when he was past his peak. RUBBISH!!! It is a tour de force of satire which is as relevant today as when it was first shown in 1940. Only Chaplin had the audacity to mix slapstick with chilling scenes of human cruelty. One minute we're shown storm troopers being hit on the head with a comedy frying pan faces covered in paint. The next, the Jewish barber is being lynched by a mob of storm troopers with a noose around his neck being strung up on a lamp post. Chaplin's portrayal of the banality (and vanity)of evil is masterful; the dance with the globe is sheer Chaplin. The cackle he gives when he takes the world in his hands chills the blood. Let no-one tell you that this is Chaplin on the cheap. It is glorious cinema from a master film maker from start to finish. The closing speech, which has always come in for criticism as preachy, arched, contrived etc, is to my mind very moving and reminds us that dictatorship is closer than we nowadays like to think. Chaplin has been seen as generally out of fashion for some time. I hope that this view is coming to an end. I think in many ways he was ahead of his time and a film like The Great Dictator is a good example of this. This film is nearly 70 years old but has not lost its power to make us laugh. Neither has it lost its power to either shock or warn.

The DVD is excellent as well.


Star Trek: Voyager - Season 4 [DVD] [1996]
Star Trek: Voyager - Season 4 [DVD] [1996]
Dvd ~ Kate Mulgrew
Offered by Wally's-Penny-Books UK
Price: £49.99

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Voyager just get better, 26 Feb. 2005
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Having been collecting Voyager on DVD since its release, series four is the season when the programme came into its own. In retrospect the ditching of Kes for Seven of Nine was a masterstroke and simply gave fresh impetus, direction and interest not just to its look but also to the writing. There is not a single weak episode in season four but stand out episodes such as The Gift, Revuslion, Year of Hell, Mortal Coil, The Omega Directive and One contain intelligent writing, brilliant performances and iconic images which are worthy to stand alongside the best of Trek. It makes one realise now why Enterprise has been such a let down. Voyager is my favorite Trek franchise because it combines the best of what had gone before and breaks new ground. It did not always reach the consistent heights of this season and the finale was a let down but season four is one of the best. The special features are also well thought out and attractively presented. Respect to all concerned.


Brideshead Revisited: The Complete Series [DVD] [1981]
Brideshead Revisited: The Complete Series [DVD] [1981]
Dvd ~ Jeremy Irons
Offered by EU ELECTRIC
Price: £39.94

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brideshead Revisited, 25 May 2003
In the early 1980's the adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel, Brideshead Revisited was a landmark in television drama.Watching this series again after more than twenty years reminds me that Brideshead is simply one of the most glorious and opulent pieces of television drama ever made. Every scene drips with the kind of production values which used to make British television the best on the planet; the script, the camera work and the wonderful ensemble acting (where is any one going to get a cast list to rival this one?)make this an absolute must for every one who wants to wallow in television bliss;it just has not dated at all.
However, the three DVD set, while handsomely packaged and beatufully presented has no extras or special features; not even a scene menu. You have the option of playing a DVD all the way through or selecting an individual episode. That is it!
Of course, the reason for buying this DVD is to be able to watch at one's leisure an extraordinary and unrivalled production. But it is a shame that the producers have not taken advantage of the medium of DVD to enhance the whole experience.
Nevertheless, this is an essential purchase; buy it, get some strawberrys, line up the Brandy Alexanders and watch.


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