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Shostakovich: Concertos, Orchestral Suites, Chamber Symphonies
Shostakovich: Concertos, Orchestral Suites, Chamber Symphonies
Price: £38.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the symphonies, 4 April 2015
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An excellent survey mainily dating from recordings from the 1980s/90s of Shostakovich's orchestral output excluding the symphonies. Pride of place are the 6 concertos - wonderful and imaginative works, the best of which surely rank with the greatest of 20th century concertos. The recordings are highly regarded individually - in the piano concertos Ronald Brautigam in No:1, Cristina Ortiz in No:2; Viktoria Mullova in the First Violin Concerto and Gidon Kremer in the Second; Heinrich Schiff in both cello concertos.
There is a selection of works representing the 'official public' face of Shostakovich - the Overture on Russian and Kirghiz Folk Themes Op. 115, the Festival Overture Op. 96, the symphonic poem October Op. 131 and the Funeral and Triumphal Prelude Op. 130. The Song of The Forests Op. 81 is the work most often mentioned as the craven kow-towing response by Shostakovich to the devastating critical attack in the Zdanov Decree in 1948. It's pretty inoffensive (and probably a life-, or at least career-saver for Shostakovich) but still has moments of power in the third movement 'Memories of the past'. Far more significant is the magnificent Execution of Stepan Razin Op. 119, a setting of Yevtushenko a few years after the Thirteenth Symphony.
There is a good selection of film scores including the two scores he wrote for Hamlet - one from 1932 and the latter from 1964 - plus the charming Romance from The Gadfly.
Aside from the ever-popular Jazz Suites the box set includes ballet suites - The Age of Gold and The Bolt (two versions - 1931 and 1934), both relatively early scores and Shostakovich at his most parodistic - plus a suite from his stage musical Moscow-Cheryomushki.
As a final incentive to buy we also get Rudolf Barshai's orchestral arrangements of the 3rd, 4th, 8th and 10th String Quartets as 'Chamber Symphonies'.
A highly self-recommending collection.


The Pox
The Pox
by Kevin Brown
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars De-bunking the myths of syphilis, 3 April 2015
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This review is from: The Pox (Hardcover)
A good account of the history of syphilis from the first emergence of the disease in western Europe in 1494 to late 20th century when its fearsome and dreaded reputation had been somewhat tamed by antibiotics. It's also an illuminating tale of medical treatments and the views, enlightened or otherwise, of the doctors involved. It's still shocking to read of the Tuskagee Study that ran from 1932 to 1972 in the USA where doctors deliberately withheld treatment from a group of African-American men to see the long-term effects of untreated syphilis. Utterly immoral and reprehensible.

On a lighter note I was fascinated to think of the connection between the rise in fashion of powdered wigs in the 17th and 18th centuries and syphilis - a side effect of infection (and the mercury-based treatments) was hair-loss. I think I'd pass at attending the No-Nosed Club in 18th century London though.


The Establishment: And how they get away with it
The Establishment: And how they get away with it
by Owen Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "the love of money is the root of all evil", 26 Mar. 2015
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Maybe in this era of 'isms' we should coin the term 'financialism' - the ideological view of the supremacy of finance over-riding all other considerations. 'Greed is good' deified. This is unbalanced, anti-holistic and deeply damaging. 'Radix malorum est cupiditas' remember. Owen Jones has done us a great service in clearly showing the rot at the heart of the Establishment.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 15, 2015 4:48 PM BST


Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness (Pelican)
Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness (Pelican)
by Mary Barnes
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful and moving book., 16 Mar. 2015
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This is an important book for a number of reasons. Firstly this is the story of Mary Barnes, a woman who 'went down' into her psychosis to re-emerge as an artist of talent. The book is cleverly constructed so that Mary's parts are then commented on by the therapist Joseph Berke who supported Mary through her deep regression and transformation.

Secondly this is a valuable historical document about the workings of Kingsley Hall, R D Laing's community in the East End from 1965-1970, that radically challenged the established notions of treating mental illness and the psychoses in particular. Rather than suppressing the symptoms of the 'illness' Laing encouraged people like Mary (I'm certainly not going to use the word 'patient' as that would be antithetical to Laing's ideals) to work through their experiences and slowly make sense of their lives. Mary's story is contrasted with that of her brother Peter who spent much of his life institutionalised with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Mary writes beautifully and vividly of her regression to emotionally very young parts of her psyche. The community's tolerance of her acting out (including hitting out at her therapists and covering herself with her own faeces) would, I imagine, not be tolerated or possible now in our cash-strapped NHS. It's certainly challenging yet I wonder if we have also lost something with the demise of places like Kingsley Hall, a radical bright light of the 60s. True healing requires time and a commitment of resources to dealing with the terrible suffering that goes with poor mental health.

I hope someone sees fit to reprint the book
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Haydn: String Quartets Op.33
Haydn: String Quartets Op.33
Price: £13.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Grace and charm, 21 Feb. 2015
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What engaging performances these are! I'm an absolute novice of Haydn's string quartets, slowly working my way through them set by set. The Op. 33 were conceived by Haydn in a 'new and special way' and had a huge impact on Mozart. My understanding of this is Haydn's ability to create genuinely popular music that is also intellectually challenging and original. As the sleeve notes say - the art that conceals art. The six quartets are by turn serious (the First), outright comedy (the delightful 'drunken fiddler' music in the Second quartet), operatic (the Largo cantabile of the Fifth quartet). Haydn's obvious pleasure and delight in this set is infectious.

The Cuarteto Casals play the works with real spirit. I have no comparisons to make with other performers but I truly enjoyed listening to these two cds. Quality music making :)


Faure: Requiem [Re-Issue]
Faure: Requiem [Re-Issue]
Price: £28.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Ravishingly beautiful French choral music, 21 Feb. 2015
This is an exceptionally beautiful recording of the Requiem. Part of Gardiner's success lies in avoiding the (over-)familiar full orchestral score that Fauré wrote later and returning to the original scoring of the earliest performances - a string orchestra consisting of violas, cellos and double basses, pairs of horns and trumpets, tympani, harp and organ. This dark-hued sound world is expressive, warm and suitably restrained and mournful. A solo violin appears like a beam of sunlight from heaven in the Sanctus and In paradisum. Three trombones sound powerfully in the Libera me. Catherine Bott is probably the best soprano I've heard in the Pie Jesu - utterly natural, sweet and tender without any trace of sentimentality - and aided well by the baritone Gilles Cachemaille. The Monteverdi Choir, Salisbury Cathedral Boy Choristers and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique are uniformly superb with a warm and detailed Philips recording from 1992.

The extra works are very well selected - 'Les Djinns', an earlier piece for mixed choir and piano (a very nice Erard 1874 on this recording) by Fauré, three pieces by Camille Saint-Saens (especially the very beautiful 'Calme des nuits' Op. 68 No. 1) and the very fine, and rarely recorded, 'Trois Chansons de Charles d'Orleans' by Debussy and the 'Trois Chansons' by Ravel - masterly succinct with a restrained and quite haunting beauty. All the works merit repeated playing.

This disc goes straight to the top for my choice of the Requiem and with the extras is unbeatable.


Fauré: Requiem / French Choral Works
Fauré: Requiem / French Choral Works
Offered by InfinityBuys
Price: £14.07

5.0 out of 5 stars Ravishingly beautiful French choral music, 21 Feb. 2015
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This is an exceptionally beautiful recording of the Requiem. Part of Gardiner's success lies in avoiding the (over-)familiar full orchestral score that Fauré wrote later and returning to the original scoring of the earliest performances - a string orchestra consisting of violas, cellos and double basses, pairs of horns and trumpets, tympani, harp and organ. This dark-hued sound world is expressive, warm and suitably restrained and mournful. A solo violin appears like a beam of sunlight from heaven in the Sanctus and In paradisum. Three trombones sound powerfully in the Libera me. Catherine Bott is probably the best soprano I've heard in the Pie Jesu - utterly natural, sweet and tender without any trace of sentimentality - and aided well by the baritone Gilles Cachemaille. The Monteverdi Choir, Salisbury Cathedral Boy Choristers and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique are uniformly superb with a warm and detailed Philips recording from 1992.

The extra works are very well selected - 'Les Djinns', an earlier piece for mixed choir and piano (a very nice Erard 1874 on this recording) by Fauré, three pieces by Camille Saint-Saens (especially the very beautiful 'Calme des nuits' Op. 68 No. 1) and the very fine, and rarely recorded, 'Trois Chansons de Charles d'Orleans' by Debussy and the 'Trois Chansons' by Ravel - masterly succinct with a restrained and quite haunting beauty. All the works merit repeated playing.

This disc goes straight to the top for my choice of the Requiem and with the extras is unbeatable.


Haydn: Die Schopfung / The Creation (Freiburger Barockorchester/Jacobs)
Haydn: Die Schopfung / The Creation (Freiburger Barockorchester/Jacobs)
Price: £14.49

5.0 out of 5 stars The best available? I think so., 13 Feb. 2015
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Crikey! This blows away memories of the rather staid version I had to listen to while studying Pt. 1 for O level music back in '82. Absolutely rivetting performance and a really rather excellent sound - all the words are clearly enunciated and the soloists and choir a joy. The Freiburger Barockorchester under Jacobs makes a wonderful noise. Deserves all the plaudits it has gathered and must now rank as top choice for the work.

My only gripe is that Pts 1 and 2 fit neatly onto the 1st cd (72 minutes of music) and that leaves Pt. 3 on a 2nd disc - a rather measly 28 minutes! It's a shame that they couldn't have used the space for some of Haydn's smaller choral pieces or a concert aria or two (or three). But don't let that put you off. Pleasure from start to finish.


If It Wasn't True
If It Wasn't True
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars ... Peterson on Radio 6 for introducing me to this great track a couple of weeks ago, 5 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: If It Wasn't True (MP3 Download)
Thanks to Gilles Peterson on Radio 6 for introducing me to this great track a couple of weeks ago. Totally infectious house tune.


Brahms: Complete Trios [Stephen Stirling, Richard Hosford] [Hyperion: CDD22082]
Brahms: Complete Trios [Stephen Stirling, Richard Hosford] [Hyperion: CDD22082]
Price: £13.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brahms invigorated, 15 Dec. 2014
Strong performances of the three Brahms piano trios by the Florestans and admirable assistance from Stephen Stirling in the Horn Trio Op. 40 and Richard Hosford in the sublime Clarinet Trio Op. 114. Vigorous playing, quite intense with a slightly abrasive acoustic. Personally I enjoy that rather than too mellow and soft an approach. Maybe not to all tastes. Polite playing certainly not. Engaging? Most certainly!


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