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Graham S. Applin "grahamapplin129" (Hampshire)
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The 6 Haydn Quartets (3CD)
The 6 Haydn Quartets (3CD)

5.0 out of 5 stars Mozart for the head and for the heart..., 26 Oct. 2015
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I can only agree with the previous reviewer. These are peerless works played with an artistry of the highest order. The recording is in the demonstration class and wonderfully natural. In fact, with musicianship of this magnitude the star rating is virtually redundant. It is that good.


Pour passer la Melancolie - Andreas Staier (Gramophone Award Winner 2013 - Baroque Instrumental Catagory)
Pour passer la Melancolie - Andreas Staier (Gramophone Award Winner 2013 - Baroque Instrumental Catagory)
Price: £13.25

5.0 out of 5 stars A harpsichord Re-born. There is poetry in melancholy., 31 Mar. 2015
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I love this, and I speak as someone who is normally averse to the Harpsichord and prefers his Bach on a modern piano. The conceit of the recital is a meditation on "melancholy" which was thought at the time to arise from an excess of black bile, one of the "four humours" ( the others being blood, phlegm and yellow bile). It was believed that an abundance of either one or more of these "humours" was the cause of sickness both physical and mental. However you don't have to know your "Physicke" in order to enjoy this marvellous recital in which Staier makes the instrument he plays sing again. The instrument itself (dating from 1749) was literally saved from the fire in 1993 and brought back to life, a labour of love which took some 2500 hours of painstaking work. The result is miraculous, a voice from the past long thought dead, which is wonderfully apt for this disc. Some of pieces played here are sombre, some are pensive or reflective and some are lively or dance-like. But the whole recording is a sophisticated blend of music which muses on the concept of 'vanitas', that all things in this world are temporary, that even a single note on a harpsichord fades into silence. We seem to be in too much of a hurry these days in our culture of instant gratification and rapid change to consider such concepts. This music gives us as good a reason as any to press our collective pause button. The sound is first class although the uneven temperament may cause some to prick up their ears. Early instruments if the acoustic is unsuitable can sound very dry and rasping. That is not the case here and in my opinion this is one of the finest recordings of a harpsichord that I have heard. The top notes are clear and uncluttered while the bass ones have a very pleasing depth and bloom. One to make converts even of the most cynical. This is not, despite the title, a record where misery loves its own company. Rather it confirms that, yes, life is fragile but even with its attendant trials and tribulations living should be enjoyed with gusto.


Dragon Age Inquisition (Xbox One)
Dragon Age Inquisition (Xbox One)
Price: £12.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Game good, glitches bad, 3 Mar. 2015
It pains me to have to say this but rarely (if ever) has a game engendered in me both huge admiration and frothing, spitting fury.

Make no mistake: this is a BIG game. Its ambition is huge and your canvas is epic. From the first moments that you press "play" you are plunged into an incredible visual experience. There were moments when I just had to stop and look in awe at the attention to detail: crashing waves, sunlight playing on the surface of a lake or dragons flying majestically overhead. Your brain is in serious danger of overload as you decide what to do and where to go. Customisation is excellent and involving. Bioware have clearly taken on board criticisms of DA2 and how! Even the multiplayer is enjoyable and I'm not normally one for online gaming.
So why only three stars?
In a word: glitches. Serious Glitches. I can forgive characters juddering occasionally around like Zebedee on speed. I can overlook the annoying habit of sloppy controls and handling. God knows I can even put up with pieces of kit being unavailable because for some reason they have loaded in a wall or on the ceiling. But what really gets my goat is that a crucial event in one of the narrative arcs won't load. Every time one goes to


Schubert: Complete Piano Sonatas
Schubert: Complete Piano Sonatas
Price: £24.92

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A box of delights, 24 Feb. 2015
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This is an absolutely delectable set of Schubert's complete sonatas for keyboard played on a range of period fortepianos from his own collection by Paul Badura-Skoda. For so long these masterpieces for solo piano have been overshadowed by the 32 written by Beethoven. Schubert's sonatas are profound, novel and original. Their comparative neglect is explained partly by the fact that they are generally more introverted than Beethoven's and partly from their complex publishing history. Of his twenty sonatas only three were published in Schubert's lifetime. The others were left in manuscript form for many years often jumbled up, out of sequence and inserted along with other keyboard works. And when they were published in an age which worshipped the technique of a Liszt or the outré of a Richard Strauss these pieces were largely ignored or torn apart for not being Beethoven. Happily over the last 50 years or so people have woken up to the fact that Schubert's sonats are supreme examples of his art and worthy to sit side by side with Beethoven's. As Kempff so memorably put it these sonatas are "confessions of an extremely vulnerable spirit..." and if you are looking for virtuositic pyrotechnics then possibly these works are not for you. If, however, you are willing to linger in the stream of Schubert's genius then I can think of no better place than to start with this set. Badura-Skoda plays these sonatas with the respect they deserve and all the skill, strength and flexible lyricism they require. Make no mistake these are not airy-fairy flights of fancy. Schubert takes us to some very dark places but also to the tops of mountains where the air is fresh and Life is bright and precious. Of course the fortepiano sounds different to our ears after hearing a concert grand. But I would urge you to have an open mind. Badura-Skoda plays these works employing five different instruments but this is no mere exercise in pedantry. Rather it gives Schubert's music room to breathe and allows his inspiration to work its magic. It is a rare privilege to hear Schubert's music performed on such a variety beautiful pianos and each instrument has an individual voice. I also possess the set by Kempff on DG and would not be without it. Kempff's performances are marvellous and in his note he is very honest in his acceptance that for a long time he knew Schubert's piano sonatas only by way of an academic excerise. It was only when he actually began to play them that he realised what immeasurable riches they contain. This set is a treasure trove. The recording is very well balanced and the sound entirely natural. Needless to say the pianism is excellent. The documentation is available on the label's website and is extremely illuminating. A small booklet is included in the set containing track listings and illustrations of the pianos used in the recordings. Of course if you are dead set against listening to the pianoforte then you won't partake but for me the performance is the thing. These performances bring us close to Schubert's world and these sonatas (or monologues as Kempff called them) peer over his shoulder. A fine collection.


Vivaldi: Four Seasons
Vivaldi: Four Seasons
Price: £6.64

5.0 out of 5 stars A classic in every sense, 15 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Vivaldi: Four Seasons (Audio CD)
This was the very first classical record I purchased (on cassette tape) back in 1983 when it was first released. In those days one could find specialist classical music shops in most towns. In Winchester it was Whitwams (sadly long gone) and it was like going into a cross between a library and a church during High Mass. I had heard 'Spring' on the radio and wanted to have the complete work. So off I went to town and chose this one. I listened to very little else that summer, even walking around Oxford with it playing on my Walkman. The problem with tapes was that they would eventually wear out. I played it so often that after a few years the poor thing gave up the ghost and I was unable to find a copy. Imagine my joy when I was browsing Amazon's shelves and saw it on CD. I would not ordinarily buy a product with only 40-odd minutes of music on it. But this was an exception. Naturally I have heard other versions since (the one by Tafelmusik on Sony is excellent, the one by Nigel Kennedy is awful) but none of them have matched this one by Piña Carmirelli and I Musici. Listen to 'Summer'; it blazes with a powerful, incandescent radiance I simply have not encountered elsewhere. The hunting horns in 'Autumn' blare out wonderfully. 'Winter' chills the blood and 'Spring' just glows with new life. Without a doubt this is the finest and most definitive (for me) account of Vivaldi's "Four Seaons" that I have heard in over thirty years whether on period instruments or not. This is not a HIP performance but it doesn't matter. The music is the thing and Vivaldi's music is performed here with the utmost skill and love. I Musici produce a beautiful, shimmering sound assisted by a fine Philips digital recording. The only caveat is that there is no coupling which, in this day and age, is ungenerous. Nevertheless this still gets five stars from me and the best thing is that a CD and /or a download won't wear out.


The Complete Sonnets and Poems: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics)
The Complete Sonnets and Poems: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics)
by William Shakespeare
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new conception of Shakespeare, 4 Feb. 2015
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This book is a model of how to compose an anthology in a way which is approachable both to the student and to the general reader. Shakespeare is primarily thought of as a dramatist; his poetry (if considered at all) has tended to be viewed wholly through the plays. He has been more often than not regarded as a playwright who happened to write some poems "on the side". The Sonnets in particular (given that we know so little about the details of his life) have been ransacked for biographical confessions, possible indicators of both Shakespeare's inner thought world and his sexuality. This book seeks to redress that and asks the question: "what kind of poet was Shakespeare"? This volume also crucially places the whole of Shakespeare's poetical output in context. This means considering not only other contemporary cultural, literary and philosophical ideas but also of the wider late sixteenth century early seventeenth century world in which they were written. This means that when you actually come to read the poems you can appreciate the kind of audience for which they were written; what conventions were being addressed (or not) the many conceits employed by the poet to give form and meaning to his verse. This book also contains numerous works which later generations assigned to Shakespeare as the author but which we now know were not by him. This helps to understand what was seen as "Shakespearean" in the years following his death in 1616. All of which assists the reader to understand the context of these poems. So often the literature of this period can seem a closed world because it was written in a particular way for people who were familiar with classical and Renaissance conventions and motifs in a way that we are not. The general introduction is extremely helpful in mapping the essentials of each work while there are on page and facing commentaries. This is particularly useful when navigating individual poems such as Venus & Adonis or The Rape of Lucrece as well as The Sonnets themselves. It is also a well bound, well printed book which is actually very tactile. It feels good to pick it up and open its pages to read the treasures within. I studied Shakespeare a great deal while I was at school and as an undergraduate. But I cannot recall ever being tasked to study his poetry let alone have to dissect a sonnet in the same way as a scene from a play. I am working my way slowly through The Sonnets; their power is extraordinary. Little by little and with the help of this excellent book I am discovering the jewels of poetry which Shakespeare left us and can only encourage you to do the same. You really won't regret a second.


Complete DG Solo Recordings'
Complete DG Solo Recordings'
Price: £51.63

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
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.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2016 1:55 PM GMT


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
Price: £38.73

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
Offered by nagiry
Price: £13.64

4 of 5 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: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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".


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