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R. A. Williams "Rosemary the rock nut" (Cambridge, UK)

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Sullivan: Rose of Persia / Emerald Isle
Sullivan: Rose of Persia / Emerald Isle
Price: £17.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely to have it, but hoping for a professional recording some day, 21 July 2008
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As a lifelong raving G&S fan I was delighted to find I could get a CD of these two late Sullivan rarities. The 'Prince Consort' deserves every credit for making the recordings originally. However, both of them now show their age (early 1970s)and they are both, to my mind, amateurish. The orchestra is, putting it politely, mediocre, and does not allow full enjoyment of Sullivan's exquisite scoring; there are, for example, some excruciating errors in the brass and the violins frequently sound tinny. The tenor lead is of the I'm-being-slowly-strangled variety, so that you start clenching your teeth every time he approaches a top note. The other soloists are much better, particularly the ladies, and the chorus is tuneful and enthusiastic throughout.

As for the pieces themselves, I'm enchanted with both scores, but as regards the libretti, all I can say is 'Come back WSG, all is forgiven!' To put Hood on the same level as Gilbert is absurd; there isn't a trace of Gilbert's wit in either piece (unless you get it in the dialogue, which, knowing Hood from 'Merrie England', I very much doubt); nor does Hood ever emulate Gilbert's crisp and varied metres or his rich, ingenious and amusing rhymes. 'I am the sultan, the sultan am I' is about as good as it gets. What's more, neither piece seems to contain any of the frequently cruel but always amusing satire which so stimulated Sullivan in the Savoy operas, even if he complained about it from time to time. As a result, the lyrical Sullivan is beautifully represented here, but not the humorous Sullivan who so ingeniously chuckles and jests his way through scores like 'Pinafore' and 'The Mikado'.

Nevertheless these are both highly entertaining pieces that must look very pretty on stage. It's high time both were re-recorded by professional companies - which might also have the salutary effect of encouraging amateur groups to try one of these late gems as a change from the fifty millionth 'Pirates' or whatever.
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Volcanoes and the Making of Scotland
Volcanoes and the Making of Scotland
by B. G. J. Upton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.10

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exciting story, pity about the fuzzy volcanoes, 15 Aug 2006
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This is an account of the contribution of volcanic action to Scotland's landscapes, written by a specialist for non-specialists. Accordingly there is an introduction to vulcanology which anyone who knows a bit about the subject can skip. There are also explanations of geological terms, but as these are scattered through the text rather than listed at the end (though there is an index for them), they can be irritatingly slow to find if you want to refresh your memory - as you probably will, since the author can't help getting at least mildly technical in many places.

Unlike most geology books, which start in deep time and work their way towards the present, this book does the reverse, starting with the most recent (Tertiary) volcanoes of the West, which are naturally the best preserved, and working back to the really ancient stuff. In one way this is a good idea, since it's much easier to identify the more recent features. In another it isn't, owing to the unavoidable fact that the landscape developed in reverse order, and to understand the causes of a phenomenon you really have to know what happened before. This leads to some clumsy cross-referencing.

Having grouched a bit, I have to say that for an amateur geologist like me the book is pitched just right. I read it practically at a sitting and it makes me yearn to go and see some more of the relevant landscapes. The only big disappointment is the extremely poor quality of the colour photos. Some are so fuzzy that the feature they are supposed to illustrate is scarcely visible. In these days of fast and easy colour reproduction this is really inexcusable, especially in view of the substantial price tag.


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