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William Shardlow (London, UK)

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Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 9, "Jeunehomme" & 12
Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 9, "Jeunehomme" & 12
Price: 7.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb HIP versions, 13 Jun 2013
Brautigam plays a forte-piano, almost identical to the instrument that Mozart played. It took a little getting used to the "smaller" sound; but, once it "clicked", I was more than happy. There was a real sense of the (lively) orchestra and forte-piano working together as equal partners. Sometime a grand piano can seem rather overpowering when playing with a small chamber orchestra. The sweetness of tone was especially appreciated, suiting Mozart very well. But I will not be selling my copy of Perahia's superb, modern performances with the ECO. It's great to have two such different interpretations, both superb in their own ways.

Bach, J.S.: Complete Violin Sonatas
Bach, J.S.: Complete Violin Sonatas
Price: 7.11

5.0 out of 5 stars Line of beauty, 4 Jun 2013
I agree with the other reviewer, Neil Ford, who applauds Grumiaux's "seamless legato" and "beautiful tone", but disagree with his comments about the slow movements' being too fast, and lacking a sense of wonder and repose. I can't imagine anything with more wonder and repose! At least as much as I've found in Glenn Gould (though I'm yet to try Gould and Laredo...) For a different approach, with equal beauty and wonder, try Podger & Pinnock's versions. For more Grumiaux, try Mozart's Violin Concertos.

Bach: The French Suites
Bach: The French Suites
Price: 11.92

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Indeed a stinker, 3 Jun 2013
This review is from: Bach: The French Suites (Audio CD)
The best keyboard music by Bach, played with spirit and vigour on a good instrument, can provide heavenly experiences. For me, I've had such experiences listening to versions on modern piano and period harpsichord. For instance, I was recently taken to cloud 9 by Pinnock's version of Bach's Partitas, on a period harpsichord, and Perahia's version of the concertos on a modern piano. But Hogwood's versions of the French Suites I didn't like at all. It's an extremely monotonous outing for some fairly minor Bach. I've listened to it twice, and I can't bear the thought of listening to it again.

Beethoven:Piano Trios Vol.I
Beethoven:Piano Trios Vol.I
Price: 21.09

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some musical joy, but not enough, 25 May 2013
I found "musical joy" in 3, the slow movement of 2, and the little allegretto. But the rest left me cold. For me, things get much better in the second set by these artists, which contains the works that most critics acknowledge to be "great", like "the ghost" and the "archduke".

Mendelssohn: Symphony No.8  "Unfinished" - Schubert: Symphony No.4 "Italian"
Mendelssohn: Symphony No.8 "Unfinished" - Schubert: Symphony No.4 "Italian"
Price: 8.56

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ravishing beauty, 21 May 2013
The Penguin Guide gave Schubert 8 a rosette and the most glowing of reviews in the 1999 edition, and then just dropped it in the 2010! Gramophone mention it in passing, while making Abbado's "nothing special" production a top recommendation. The damning quote on Abbado's version, with which I heartily agree, comes from Third Ear, which says Sinopoli's version has "ravishing beauty". The highest praise you can give surely? But strangely Third Ear then neglects to give it a diamond!

I think this piece has been incredibly unlucky in catching all the "top" editors & reviewers on bad days, with reviews being deleted or perverted through error or misconception, like losing the Mona Lisa during a reshuffle at the Louvre. Otherwise, I can't understand why it isn't given all the accolades. Maybe it's dark, brooding, romantic intensity speaks to only a few people? If so I'm one of the lucky few. For me, this is one of those rare performances, a fiery beacon of consoling, over-whelming beauty to divert you from this dark, cynical, tragic world. Immerse yourself in the flames!

Symphonies Nos. 3, 5 & 6
Symphonies Nos. 3, 5 & 6

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two turkeys and a golden eagle, 21 May 2013
I'm sorry to agree, partially, with the critics, but Symphonies 3 and 6 sound "minor" to me... tedious apprentice works fit only as wallpaper music. But 5 sounds wonderful, like the best of Mozart, a beacon of spring like lyricism for a dark, cynical world. Even the sleeve-notes tell you that only symphony 5 deserves special attention!

Beecham's 5 is the most romantic, beautiful, version I've heard, with lively wind playing and elegant detail. But I'm only handing out three stars for the CD because I think "the best" should be accompanied by "the best".

Haydn: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 And 2 / Boccherini: Cello Concerto In B Flat Major
Haydn: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 And 2 / Boccherini: Cello Concerto In B Flat Major
Price: 7.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, 18 May 2013
Wonderful playing from the soloist and the orchestra. I've listened to several recordings by the "big name" cellists but none make me feel like I should replace this disk in my collection. A lot of fuss, positive and negative, is made about the jazz influenced cadenzas, but I don't find them a distraction, in fact, they add to the beauty of the piece.

Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 (1873 Original Version, ed. Nowak)
Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 (1873 Original Version, ed. Nowak)
Price: 5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not dynamic, 18 May 2013
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The opening few minutes start well with a calm, beautiful trumpet theme, matched by graceful and organised playing from the orchestra. But, overall, the orchestra lack the granitic string weight, and visceral dynamism, found with the greatest orchestras (VPO, BPO...), under the top conductors (Karajan, Haitink, Bohm...).

Given the early edition of the score, the slow tempo, and the lack of excitement, it adds up to an experience where boredom outweighs beauty. I much preferred Jochum with the Bavarian RSO, the only other version I've heard recently.

Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 2, 3, 7, 8 & 12
Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 2, 3, 7, 8 & 12
Price: 6.04

5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking, 17 May 2013
I have the complete set by the Shostakovich Quartet, which is very good, but having read that the Borodins are generally considered the best interpretors of this work I thought I'd check them out. Glad I did. I compared their "8" to several other "leading contenders" and thought it was by far the best version. I found them stronger in both the faster, louder passages, and more expressive and convincing in the slower, quieter passages. They also, crucially, have an incredibly beautiful, breath-taking tone, which is not to be missed. I'm now hankering after Complete String Quartets (Richter, The Borodin Quartet), "Borodin II", which seems to get the nod over Borodin I and this set ("Borodin III") in Penguin and 3rd Eye.

Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation (Shambhala Classics)
Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation (Shambhala Classics)
by Joseph Goldstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: 16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good on the details, 5 Sep 2012
This guide is based on talks given to people attending more advanced meditation classes, and provides good answers to many questions I have had about several different aspects of meditation. For instance, in beginning classes you might be told to "let go". But how, exactly, do you let go? This books suggest several methods to assist that process, and makes the useful point that it may take lots of practice before the methods start to work!

You might also wonder: what exactly is wisdom? The authors haven't provided a misleading title to the book, and get right to the heart of that question, making it crystal clear what is meant by wisdom in the context of insight meditation.

There is a lot of background and detail given on the important numbered lists that permeate Buddhism, and not just the usual "Four" Noble Truths and "Eightfold" Path. For instance, they discuss "the seven factors of enlightenment", "the five hindrances", "the five spiritual faculties", and "the three basic characteristics".

Full chapters are devoted to each list, so if you have encountered them in a beginners guide, and want to know more, this is a good resource. And if you don't know what they are, get this book and find out! They are important for furthering insight meditation practice. For instance, the seven factor of enlightenment include mindfulness and effort. So if you are having trouble being mindful you can use the list to guide you to questions like: am I being too lazy? And so on with permutations of all seven factors. The authors' detailed analysis of these permutations should give you some ideas on how to improve your practice of insight meditation, they certainly gave me several.

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