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Philoctetes (England)
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Borgen Trilogy [DVD]
Borgen Trilogy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sidse Babett Knudsen
Price: £37.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scandi-drama at its very best., 12 Dec. 2015
This review is from: Borgen Trilogy [DVD] (DVD)
It's been great to revisit this superb Danish production. Politics become fascinating when understood as part of a deeper story, one touching the personal lives, stupid impulses and private fears of the characters. I deduct a star because of the clunky subtitles, which can't wholly be trusted; besides wrong or missing words, would Philip really say to Birgitte that he had never slept with anyone but her in Series 3?

I'm not really sure about the decision to number the episodes 1-30, rather than start from No.1 at the beginning of each series. But no gripes are enough to warrant missing this compelling story centring on one woman's noble determination to change Danish politics for the better. The inclusion of multiple episodes with English language dialogue is a lovely compliment, as is the British love interest in the final series.

A must-see trilogy. Surely everyone knows that.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 4, 2016 4:05 PM GMT

I Ast Solar - Icelandic Songs
I Ast Solar - Icelandic Songs
Price: £15.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gentle and serious, just like the nordic sun, 28 Nov. 2015
A generous selection of songs from 6-7 contemporary and near contemporary Icelandic composers, given with piano accompaniment. A warm and resonant recording. Hallveig's has that contained intensity so much admired of Icelandic choral groups and like the best sopranos she pushes her voice to achieve stratospheric notes when the drama calls for them. Perhaps a suitable comparison would be Elin Manahan Thomas?

You can expect an Icelandic take on the Song of Songs and Ibsen's Peer Gynt, poems by Laxness; love songs, church songs, cradle songs. The latter come from Icelandic music's most famous father, Jón Leifs, the gentle rather than the heroic side of his nature. The disc ends with delightful compositions of Hildigunnar Runarsdottir (the soprano's sister).

Ten Love Songs
Ten Love Songs
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating pop music from Norway's answer to everybody else., 16 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Ten Love Songs (Audio CD)
I've got a bit of a crush, actually.

Look at the list of instruments played by Susanne Sundfør on this album; it's almost as bewildering as Mike Oldfield's multi-instrumental brilliance on Tubular Bells. Bells was the '70s and Ten Love Songs is more redolent of the 1980s, all synths and electronic beats and suchlike, but what is most striking, most arresting is her voice, sounding like a summation of all those distinctive, mercurial, slightly kooky female singers that have been with us since the 1980s to the present. Took me ages to accept it, I still find it coarse, but you've just got to listen. It sounds wild and free-spirited and confidential.

I'm sorry for the people who perceive Ten Love Songs to be a vapid throwback, a failure to build on previous albums. I think to sing like this, to choose this kind of retro electro-pop, is a creative decision that takes guts and Sundfør certainly makes something fresh and invigorating, even if the path is well worn.

Ten Love Songs is compelling, danceable, brooding, emotional and, for better or worse, I can't get it out of my head.

Jordskott [DVD]
Jordskott [DVD]
Dvd ~ Moa Gammel
Price: £12.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's more to worry about than Lyme's disease in this pretty backwater., 26 Oct. 2015
This review is from: Jordskott [DVD] (DVD)
This is an entertaining cocktail that blends Twin Peaks, nordic noir, biohazard X-Files episodes and suchlike. Yes, it's a bit corporate TV tick-box material, and contrary to what the box says, there's no sex in it, no slap and tickle to offset the body horror and ghoulishness. Instead, there are loving shots of endless green forest which will make some viewers nostalgic for those early years of Mulder & Scully when they used to film in Canada.

A hostage negotiator comes home again, back to the forest town where her father's estate needs to be sorted out. Her daughter vanished several years before and now another kid has gone. Connection? Hell to the yeah. Then the bodys start piling up. What has her father's corporation got to do with it? Who's the guy with the moustache. Why does the NBI guy's eyes keep bulging. Is that Agent Cooper's clumsy doppelganger?

Perfect DVD box-set binge material. Nature mysticism, folklore, saga-like feuding, possession, vanishing children, Boo Radley, big Lennie, a witch, a cool's all thrown in. Does it add up, pan out? By the end you won't care too much. Just be careful to lock your doors, cover your bare skin and beware the hogweed.

(They even milk the damn fine coffee and pie routine from Twin Peaks! )

Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story [DVD] (2010)
Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story [DVD] (2010)
Dvd ~ Eddie Izzard
Price: £4.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Animated collages, old family films, celeb endorsements, rockstar comedian status...the bulldog spirit of Eddie TV Izzard, 22 Oct. 2015
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Great to see this again. Eddie Izzard was (is! is? can be!) a GENIUS of comedy, but boy did he have to work hard to find his voice. This film probes the background and tells pretty much the whole story, which is fascinating as a portrait of stubborn determination on the part of a guy whose unique whimsy stole the hearts and entered the lexicon of comedy back in the mid-1990s. If his mother's death pushed him towards performance it was the insights of others who produced and directed in Edinburgh and London, his former girlfriends and manager, that shaped his image just as he shaped his material.

I hope he finds the right kind of peace that leads (back) to comedy heaven.

The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela
The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela
by William Melczer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Liber Sancti Jacobi, or Which Way to Compostela?, translated into English, 18 Oct. 2015
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I've tried three volumes in this series devoted to the Codex Calixtinus and this is the most winning; indeed, I would say that those given over to the Miracles of St James (samey) and the Chronicle of Ps.Turpin (disparaged at every stage by the translator) are best forgotten when the texts are presented in this way. I suspect it would have been possible to present a single volume containing the entire Codex with a separate commentary, more economical for us poor interested suckers, but there you go.

The Introduction is very interesting and informative, perhaps more so than the primary text. There is, in addition to the hundreds of endnotes, a gazeteer and hagiograhical register, so the actual Guide is a mere 50+ pages out of nearly 350! That might look a little odd and I sympathize a little with my fellow reviewer who complained of the need for multiple bookmarks (continualy moving them all along does become a small chore), but as this volume accommodates so much, the fruits of the other volumes on Charlemagne and the miracles included, you should read this one in preference unless you're set on all of the publications.

Bruckner: Complete Symphonies
Bruckner: Complete Symphonies
Price: £70.31

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Karajan's Cycle Can Stand On The Shelf Next To Any Of Them, 8 Oct. 2015
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An extra star for being the prettiest box-set of Bruckner symphonies out there. DG's later slim line reissue is an ugly duckling. I used to have two double-albums of HvK's Tchaikovsky cycle. At a later date I bought a cheap used copy of the same symphonies in the pink and gold COLLECTION livery and, call me crazy, I detected a change in the sound quality; there was more impact and immediacy. Was this all a placebo, like that trick they do with food colouring, or do reprints sometimes differ in quality? The same is true of this, the handsome box, versus other copies I've previously owned in the errtaci history of my CD collecting.

I'm hearing it, in places, with a friendlier ear, more appreciative of the fullness of tone and prepared to overlook the drums in a vaccuum cleaner effect during climaxes, but nothing can alter the fact that, however many grandstanding, giant box reissues of Karajan's legacy, Deutsche Grammophon still need to do right by him and give recordings like this a tune-up, a full-scale remastering, to reveal their finest qualities. Not that much needs to be added to the masterful readings of Nos.7-9, HvK's most favourite and best practiced symphonies out of the nine.

The danger is that the sheer heft of the BPO makes Bruckner's early symphonies laborious and burdensome. Try listening to the adagio of the Third: they kind of grind it out, everyone pushing hard, shoulders digging in, but the vehicle won't start. Magnificent in parts, but too much like work. I'd rather that than Bruckner-lite, but the metropolitan mega orchestras need to cut loose occasionally.

Karajan was a very consistent interpreter in the studio, so it is noteworthy that his reading for DG of the ‘Romantic’ is some five minutes quicker only five years after the EMI sessions. More streamlined yes, but still an aggressive reading and one that certainly shouts for remastering because the sound is wonky, boomy basses, industrial timpani and peculiar balances elsewhere across the soundstage. Many beautiful things, good momentum, but why that saccharine heave of the strings in the lead up to the first tutto of the introduction? A hang-over from the old Lowe edition, ole Kna’ gets away with it (just) but Herb should have known better.

Is the Sixth underrated? I’ve heard it called so, but then isn’t it rather that conductors don’t have the measure of it. So they come a cropper? HvK’s go at No.6 is usually reviewed as under prepared, a view from which I’ve not chosen to dissociate myself, but this time I found myself listening with interest to the lower strings in the maestoso, that excellent firmness of bottom (secret of a good lay, as the farmers say) and no-one could accuse this conductor of hurrying the adagio. Whilst not the fullest statement for this symphony, we should be wary of giving in to received wisdom too readily. Even on a read-through, the Berliners make a handsome fist of it.

I must admit that on occasion the fault may lie with me, that I cannot match Karajan's patience, his long-term vision, as a humble listener. I think, despite searching interpretations with many lovely episodes, his studio readings of Nos 2 & 5 are too slow, especially their slow movements. The Berlin Philharmonic of, say, 1965 might have done these a little more athletically. Taken one movement at a time yes, but all in one go, hard-going. Having said that, I can't seem to live without this set, so maybe it's my hearing that's still coming to maturation. Bruckner's for life.

Strength and determination. These are the words that characterise the Berliners in Bruckner. These days I prefer Karajan's 1957 sessions for No.8, very grave and beautiful and more carefully prepared, but the 1976 version is - despite some rough turns - an improving performance, supple and powerful, superbly shaped, especially in the finale (way better than the autopilot 1988 Telemondial project so revered by critics). I prefer the life-enhancing rollicking loftiness of the later Viennese 7th but sitting through this Phiharmonie version is a hugepleasure every time. Strength and determination. The Ninth is superb, beautiful, mysterious, powerful without being bullish. Purposeful and noble, the great studio version.

Even if it becomes nothing more than an objet d'art, the Karajan Collection "Bruckner" box is a handsome addition to your library and dipping into it (the 2nd's adagio, like a spell in the sanatorium with nothing but a ticking clock and a taper for company; the 3rd's mighty misterioso; the 8th's all-encompassing scherzo) wil always be rewarding.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 11, 2015 4:39 PM BST

Price: £1.89

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And the award for best fake hair and facial bearding goes to.... (possible SPOILERS!), 6 Oct. 2015
There comes a point in these long-running shows where the cast/characters kind of settle in to what they're doing, as well might the audience. That can be a good thing, but it invites complacency. I'm not saying that's the case here; Series 1 was for me, at times, a little far-fetched, but now the writers seem to have focused on what is most fascinating about the show: the matter of personal identity and how that impacts on family life. Series 3 is woven, full of interiority, it broods, over the Jennings and what's to be done about their daughter; Stan, what's he supposed to do now?; Nina in her cell; Oleg and Arkady in the Soviet Embassy. After a few tense and dramatic episodes, some violence and pursuit, the drama settles down and waits, bides its time.

Stan and Phillip attend Est in an effort for Stan to try and reconnect with Sandra. Elizabeth trains a new recruit from South Africa. Phillip plays sugar daddy (much to his disgust) to a 15-year old daughter of a CIA operative. Paige's wish for spirituality and mission goes deeper. Stan becomes a frequent house fact there are so many strands, so many areas of enquiry, possibilities for focus and development that the show almost can't contain them. One or two grisly episodes aside, there's not much combat or Systema, not much sex, but a great deal of disquiet. The emphasis on apartheid and Reagan's attitude to it is especially discouraging, as is a commerical Phillip watches for some kind of cream or perfume that almost endorses a Lolita-complex. Tricky times, the 1980s.

It's good that they focus more on the personal, the family centre, so that the agents don't seem to be being pressured to perform crazy heroics all the time. Instead look forward to a lot of shadowing, parallel plot lines and dramatic ironies. The cast are as good as ever, all credit to the boy playing Henry (he doesn't get much) and I just wish the show had remained available on terrestrial TV in the UK. Bt, c'est la vie.

Bruckner: Symphony No.8
Bruckner: Symphony No.8

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dem Liebe Gott, lift us up where we belong!, 3 Oct. 2015
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This review is from: Bruckner: Symphony No.8 (Audio CD)
It was cross-country skiing which brought HvK's Bruckner 8 interpretation to fruition. As a wise old English art critic once remarked, "Can you think of anything more elevating to the spirit than mountains", and the spirit certainly quickens to the sound of newly appointed Karajan with the Berliners in 1957. But before the epic, we can indulge ourselves with their electrifying Hindemith and spacious Brahms. Tragic Overture, rather a prosaic title for a German composer, born of ideas from his younger more romanticizing days, kept under control in maturity as a companion piece to the playful Academic Festival Overture. Brahms' Fifth Ballade? It's writ large and opulent in this performance. The Mathis Der Maler is a true classic of the gramophone, essential to any Karajan-friendly collection and the one piece of orchestral Hindemith you need to hear.

The famous intensity of the BPO is on display for the Bruckner, as is that of the conductor, something contrasted with the easy-going manner offered to the more easily assured Austrians of the VPO when he conducted them at Salzburg in 1957, Karajan's annus mirabilis. For all it's great age, the first of HvK's Bruckner 8's to survive intact is, rather like the contemporaneous Ein Heldenleben, a marvel. The weight of sound, depth of expression, patience, simple beauty...arguably these qualities were unsurpassed by later, plusher remakes for DG. So easy for conductors to misjudge this symphony, either dragging the hull along the reef or they fast track just to prove they can, and what was the point of trying?

If you're on this page you probably have a yen for nostalgia, not trying to impress your neigbours with SACD quality sound and never mind the music, so you can rest assured that one more buyer is recommending a masterful Bruckner recording, a classic, probably the conductor's best and one of the top five available whoever's at the helm.

Call Of The Camino : Myths, Legends and Pilgrim Stories on the Way to Santiago de Compostela
Call Of The Camino : Myths, Legends and Pilgrim Stories on the Way to Santiago de Compostela
by Robert Mullen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Camino diary which lacks a real story to make it stand out., 28 Sept. 2015
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An agreeable read for pilgrims experiencing camino nostalgia, though potentially inducing camino fatigue. The author travels the French route from SJPP and has a small number of familiar faces to look forward to at this and that stop along the way. He weaves in to his blog-like entries some of the miracle stories of the saint, but later on he loses his way and starts to bore on about myths and what they mean, never convincingly linking myth to the continuing pilgrimage and devotion to the Apostle which is the subject of the book.

A very readable camino diary which will have ex-walkers saying, "Oh yeah, I remember that stop-off." That said, with maybe a third of the book given over to waffle and no pictures except the front cover, you're better off with the interactivity of a genuine blog or online forum. The loose group of peregrinos aren't sufficently developed as characters, nor are their reflections upon arrival followed through.

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