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Donald James (London)

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Blanket & Bear, a Remarkable Pair
Blanket & Bear, a Remarkable Pair
by Luke E. Kelly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful and Touching, 8 Mar. 2014
This is a truly lovely debut book. It's a simple story, elegantly told and with utterly charming illustrations. It's filled with fun and humorous observation but is not without a tear or two either. More please from LJR Kelly!

Brahms & Schubert: Late Piano Works
Brahms & Schubert: Late Piano Works
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Titanic Performances, 31 Mar. 2013
Nathan Williamson is a significant composer as well as a young pianist of great lyric gifts and he brings a composer's sense of structure to both works on this remarkable CD. The contrasting moods of each of the six Brahms Op. 118 piano pieces are perfectly evoked - from the turbulent opening intermezzo, through the delicate tenderness of the second, the contrasting energy of the ballade, the nervousness of the third intermezzo and the lyrical warmth of the romanza, culminating in the passionate introspection of the last intermezzo. Williamson's pianism is powerful yet subtle. His vision is imaginative and fiery, yet the animation he generates derives from a contemplative poetic intensity that is truly rare among pianists of today.

The Brahms is magnificent but these lovely piano pieces are but a prelude to a performance of Schubert's penultimate sonata that is simply sensational. Written in the last months of his short life, this extraordinary - and until recently often neglected - sonata is frequently played in a detached, almost abstract manner. This is not Williamson's way. He clearly views the piece not as an exercise in cool classicism, but as a titanic masterpiece: a roller-coaster journey through the torments and consolations of Schubert's own personal emotional drama.

Williamson's approach is visionary and romantic. But in this he is never crude, mannered or artificial. Rather one senses he has looked deep inside the sonata and explored its complex interior with thoughtful contemplation as well as love and empathy. As a result, his dramatic fervour is sincere and always utterly compelling. Moreover, Williamson's piano-playing rises to the challenge of his powerful vision. His dark almost animal sound is sometimes reminiscent of Gilels and Richter, yet he can also evoke an aching sense of exquisite melancholy reminiscent of Murray Perahia or Radu Lupu. I doubt this sonata has ever had a more powerful advocate and listening to it can make one believe no finer piano sonata was ever written.

This is a truly electrifying debut recording from a musician with a rare marriage of thoughtfulness and passion.

Symphony 9 " New World " / Hary Janos
Symphony 9 " New World " / Hary Janos
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tennstedt triumphs again, 28 Dec. 2009
A sparkling account of Hary Janos and a performance of Dvorak's New World that is as good as it gets. Grand, lyrical, romantic and impulsive with formidable structural grasp. I think it knocks its rivals into a cocked hat. Why it is not widely available defeats me.

Shockwave: The Countdown to Hiroshima
Shockwave: The Countdown to Hiroshima
by Stephen Walker
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside the Minds of Airmen and Bombmakers, 26 Sept. 2005
Shockwave is not a comprehensive history, nor a traditional 'ideas' book, but it does exactly what it sets out to do - namely to give you a detailed account of the weeks running up to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Opening with the Trinity test, it takes you into the minds of General Groves and the team that built the bomb, it takes you close to Henry Stimson and Harry Truman, the men who took the decision to drop it, and it brings to startling life the characters of the airmen who set off from Tinian Island and actually dropped that bomb.
The dramatic structure of the book is very clever and works magnificently. Walker plays with our expectations using a novelistic technique that resembles Thornton Wilder's 'Bridge of San Luis Rey'. We all know the bomb went off. We all know what happened when it did. But focusing close-up on about fifteen characters, allows him to play out the drama with intricate detail, slowing the pace down as the actual explosion approaches. He spins out the tension superbly. And his description of the catastrophe itself is as horrifying as one could imagine.
The book is also subversive. It reminds you viscerally of something historians and analysts are inclined to forget. That the making of the bomb and its successful use over Hiroshima was an exciting process. The men who did it were not evil. At the top, they may have been misguided, but further down the chain, men were often motivated by the sheer excitement of seeing whether they could make the bomb 'Little Boy' work. Walker's compelling narrative style means that you cannot help identifying with these scientists and airmen. You too become caught up in making history. This is a brilliant, enthralling and very unusual book.

Verdi: Falstaff
Verdi: Falstaff
Price: £16.39

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute cracker, 26 Nov. 2004
This review is from: Verdi: Falstaff (Audio CD)
This must be the most exciting recording of Falstaff currently on the market. It certainly knock the versions by Karajan, Muti and Abbado into a cocked hat. It's fantastically sung with a cast who deliver their roles with enormous verve and brio. It's intoxicating. The playing of the LSO under Colin Davis is magnificent. From the outset the performance explodes like a firecracker and it continues for two hours in that vein, sparkling with wit, brilliance, and charm. In energy and fire, Davis and his cast recall Toscanini, but these new discs have warmth and humanity as well. It is clear that Davis adores this piece and he delivers a performance that is both wise and entirely life-enhancing. It's a winner. I've listened to it twice already and am just about to go back for another helping.

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