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William Burn "gingerburn" (Nottingham, UK)
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[(The English Poems of George Herbert)] [ By (author) George Herbert, Edited by Helen Wilcox ] [October, 2013]
[(The English Poems of George Herbert)] [ By (author) George Herbert, Edited by Helen Wilcox ] [October, 2013]
by George Herbert
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A superb critical edition, 26 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an outstanding critical edition of Herbert's poetry. Each poem is accompanied by a summary of critical debate surrounding the poem, along with detailed explanatory and textual notes. Sources are clearly identified, and there is a very useful glossary of a dozen or so of the most frequently used and multivalent words in 'The Temple'. Poems are presented in their original spellings, clearly laid out on the page. It sets a new standard in the quality of critical editions of poetry, and I hope its format is emulated by future editors of other poets' work.


Scarlatti & Cage Sonatas
Scarlatti & Cage Sonatas
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and very satisfying pairing, 21 Mar. 2014
This is not the first pairing of Scarlatti and Cage on disc, and at the first listen you can see why. The two composers share an economy of means, a directness of musical expression and an interest in expanding their musical language that makes them ideal bedfellows. In this CD, David Greilsammer puts together a wonderful musical recital where the genius of individual works becomes part of an even more satisfying whole.

Scarlatti was a direct contemporary of Bach, his keyboard sonatas bear the hallmarks of the high baroque. K87, for example, could have been taken from in Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. Yet others look forward as Bach never did, such K175, parts of which could be by Beethoven.

Cage's Sonatas for prepared piano were composed in the 1940s, and at first glance must appear radically different to Scarlatti: at times, the piano doesn't even sound like a piano, yet there are deep affinities here. Scarlatti's interest in musical structures is echoed in Cage's fascination with mathematical proportions and fractions. What seems to unite these works, though, is the approach of two composers to the instrument itself: both seek to find new ways of making expressive, new sonorities and musical ideas.

The CD is beautifully balanced. The works are almost all somewhere between 3 and 4 minutes long, and the progression from one to another makes it almost impossible to break off. There is no sense of one work ending and another beginning, but of a musical dialogue taking place.

This is an enormously satisfying disc, the Scarlatti sonatas performed with great artistry and skill, and the Cage realised in utterly compelling fashion. It will be one to which I return many times, I am sure.


Schubert: Winterreise [Gerald Finley, Julius Drake] [Hyperion: CDA68034]
Schubert: Winterreise [Gerald Finley, Julius Drake] [Hyperion: CDA68034]
Price: £14.99

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine Winterreise for 2014, 18 Mar. 2014
Having listened closely to the recent Jonas Kaufmann recording of Winterreise and found myself transported in places, unconvinced in others, I was fascinated to compare it with this. For all Kaufmann's blistering intensity and extraordinary vocal power, Finley offers us a reading of the work to which I feel I will return more readily. There are, quite simply, fewer rough edges here, fewer moments where I find myself noticing the voice intruding through the song, as occasionally happens with Kaufmann (such as his unfortunate scoop up to 'mit manchem Blumenstrauss' in the first song.

Here is a fabulous reading of the work where the work is, I think, allowed to stand more for itself. I will come back to Kaufmann to hear how he sings Winterreise, than to hear Winterreise. I will keep coming back to this disc to hear Winterreise. Add to that the beauty and intensity of Finley's singing, Julius Drake's wonderful playing, and the sheer quality of the recording, which is first rate, and you've a winner.


Weihnachtliche Renaissancemusik - Aus Nürnberger Handschriften
Weihnachtliche Renaissancemusik - Aus Nürnberger Handschriften
Price: £14.60

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine recording from a compelling new conductor of early music, 30 Dec. 2013
The modern city of Nuremberg is something of a backwater. It sits, a protestant island in the sea of Bavarian catholicism with neither cathedral nor university, not even a grand duke of any sort to give it clout, but 500 years ago it was a powerhouse, standing at the crossroads of European culture. It gloried in many fine churches whose wealth and ambition were shown off in their music-making. We don't think nowadays of Nuremberg as a great musical centre, but Pia Praetorius, the Cantor of the Egidienkirche, has delved into the choirbooks which were assembled by her predecessor, Friedrich Lindner, and this CD reveals the richness of the city's musical life in the late sixteenth century.

All the music presented here is found in the Egidien choirbooks (and represent only a tiny fraction of the 450 works included therein), and what is immediately striking is how diverse the works are, ranging from Lassus' long 'In principio erat verbum' to the polychoral splendour of 'Hodie Christus natus est' by Hassler, as well as intimate, small-scale works such as Merulo's 'Tribus miraculis.' This reflects the range of sources on which Lindner drew in compiling his choirbooks, and the collection represents a broad cross-section of choral writing in Europe at the time. Particularly exciting is the inclusion of two works by Raphaela Aleotti, prioress of the Augustinian cloister in Ferrara, which have not been recorded before.

Pia Praetorius, in her excellent liner notes, gives a vivid account of performance practices in Nuremberg during Lindner's lifetime, and she draws on over 50 musicians in this recording, not in an attempt to reconstruct any particular event, but to represent the range of ways this music was performed. The mass and larger-scale motets are performed by her excellent choir, a mixed ensemble of approximately 24 voices whose rich, expressive sound is perfect for these works. They are usually accompanied by the period-instrument ensemble Oltermontano, who perform a fascinating range of instruments (including, much to my delight, a rackett!), who add thrilling ornamentation to the top lines in addition to the warmth and power of the sackbutts. The smaller-scale works are performed by the Schola Cantorum Nürnberg, an ensemble of professional solo voices, at times a capella, at times with a mixture of voices and instruments.

What makes this CD so satisfying lies in the success of the project on so many levels: Pia Praetorius has compiled an excellent programme; she draws passionate, skilful performances from her several ensembles; and the disc is varied in sound, texture and mood in a way that so many discs of early music fail to achieve. The recording itself is first-rate, capturing the bell-like acoustic of St Egidien but never allowing the resonance to blur the fine details.

I cannot recommend this CD too highly. Frau Praetorius has established the music-making at the Egidienkirche as a real centre of excellence, and it is greatly to be hoped that this is not the only chance we have to hear music from her church's choirbooks.


Stile Antico - The Phoenix Rising
Stile Antico - The Phoenix Rising
Price: £13.25

19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Glossy, but lifeless, 18 Sept. 2013
Stile Antico are very much flavour of the month at the moment, releasing plenty of discs that are generally very well received. Their approach of singing without a conductor, their blended sound, and their choice of repertoire, most of which is from pretty well-ploughed furrows, lend them a broad appeal.

This, their most recent CD (in 2013), returns not to a well-ploughed furrow, but to a broad highway in English choral music: Byrd's Mass for 5 voices, Tallis' 'Salvator Mundi' and 'In ieiunio et fletu', along with some Gibbons, Morley, White and Taverner. Only two tracks struck me as being outside of the standard repertoire of cathedral and college choirs - White's 'Portio Mea' and Taverner's 'O splendor gloriae.' I think it's also true to say that, with the exception of the Taverner, the Tallis Scholars have recorded everything on this disc before. (This isn't to say that they have done a better or worse job, but there seems to be, with the exception of their interesting 'Tune thy musicke to thy hart' disc, a close convergence between Stile's repertoire, and that of their early music forbears.')

In the end, I was disappointed by this disc. The sound is very perfect, immaculate, even, and I found myself struggling to differentiate between the pieces I was listening to, despite the range of styles and sentiments on offer. For background listening, this CD is ideal, but Stile seem to have sacrificed communicating emotion and meaning to the imperative of a perfectly blended ensemble sound. Even the recording itself seems strangely glossy, the voices oddly rounded-off in the space. In the end, I'd look for individual recordings of the works elsewhere.


Gesualdo / Victoria - Responsories And Lamentations For Holy Saturday
Gesualdo / Victoria - Responsories And Lamentations For Holy Saturday
Price: £9.03

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plangent polish, 11 Mar. 2013
Gesualdo, as every cliché about the chap goes, was a proper nut-job. I mean, really, really bonkers. Killed people and stuff. Listening to his music, you'd know it, too. Lots of shifting harmonies, pushing the language of the Renaissance to the point that Pound pushed the the English language, and he's the very devil to sing well. Which is partly why this recording is so impressive: it's absolutely immaculate, beautifully polished singing from start to finish. The thing is, I can't help but think it's just a touch too polished.

Gesualdo's tenebrae responsories were written for Holy Saturday, that dark day between the abjection of Good Friday and the utter joy of Easter Sunday, and they evoke the anguished mood in dark, richly sonorous music. Along with these is Gesualdo's setting of Psalm 51 ('Miserere'), which, although it resembles the more famous setting by Allegri in its use of antiphonal plainchant and polyphonic sections, is worlds away in terms of mood and texture, eschewing the high treble for a low, sombre texture. The disc is made up with some of Victoria's settings of the Lamentations and his wonderful 'Jesu dulcis memoria.' All of this music is very fine indeed, and deserves a place in any collection.

However, I'm not sure I can give my wholehearted approval to this performance. Whereas I am normally a huge fan of Tenebrae's work, admiring their full-throated, forthright delivery, this all seems a bit too restrained and polished for me. The dissonances are too perfectly tuned, and the vocal blend comes at the expense of feeling like every syllable is deeply, passionately felt. Hearing this disc made me return to an old cd by the Tallis scholars Gesualdo - Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday, which presents the tenebrae responsories with one singer on each part. The quality of the sound is less rounded, nowhere near as lovely, but this new recording really brought home the merits of that much older disc to me in the directness of the singing. Gesualdo: Tenebrae is similarly intimate, although you will have to decide for yourself whether or not the distinctive sound of the Hilliard Ensemble is something you love or hate. My personal favourite performances of Gesualdo's music are those by La Venexiana (try their discs of his madrigals for size, such as Gesualdo, C.: Madrigals, Book 5 (La Venexiana).)

So, this is definitely worth your money, but not at the expense of hearing how others perform this music.


Klipsch Image S4 "II" In Ear Headphone - Black
Klipsch Image S4 "II" In Ear Headphone - Black
Offered by Sebago Inc.
Price: £44.95

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but bear some caveats in mind, 25 Feb. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought these to replace a pair of Ultimate Ears in-ear monitors whose cable had failed a second time, and my experience thus far has been good, but not wonderful. The strengths of these headphones can be summarised thus: they fit comfortably and isolate you quite effectively from outside noise; and the sound is clear, well-balanced and easy to listen to across a wide variety of styles of music. However, they are not without drawbacks: the sound is not the most exciting you'll find; and the cable is prone to snag on anything it can. If you're going to use these earphones at your desk, then they'll be hard to fault, but for use out and about, you may find (as I have done) that the cable causes more trouble than you're prepared to accept.

Let's start with the positives, though. Firstly, these headphones do sound good. I've had mine for a month or so now and have tried a wide range of music with them, from early renaissance choral music, where delicacy of texture and accurate reproduction of voices was crucial, to some nasty Ed Rush and Optical drum'n'bass. They've acquitted themselves very well, and I've had some good, long listening sessions where the sound has never grated or become hard work. They're comfortable, too, and isolate you well from external noises.

However, the drawbacks are sufficient to make my recommendation a guarded one. The sound is relaxed, not exciting, and these certainly aren't for listeners who love a hefty dollop of bass (they reproduce recordings faithfully, no more), and the cable is a real pain in the arse. It's made of a slightly sticky rubber, so it snags on clothing, bags, anything it can, and the connection to the earphones themselves doesn't look too sturdy. Moreover, my old Ultimate Ears headphones offered replaceable cables, whereas once these are gone, they're gone.

So, if you're looking for good in-ear headphones for the office or library, these would be excellent. For people on the move, I'd say look elsewhere.


I Was Glad - Sacred Music of Stanford and Parry
I Was Glad - Sacred Music of Stanford and Parry
Price: £12.51

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's evensong, Jim, but not as we know it, 4 Feb. 2013
This is a marvellous CD, hugely enjoyable to listen to and a very good advertisement for the two giants of British music in the generation before Elgar and Vaughan Williams.

Choral evensong was once - I forget where - compared to county cricket: it's a tradition which gamely continues the length and breadth of England, always maintaining a pretty decent standard, with occasional flashes of excellence, and it's completely ignored by all but a few diehard fans. It's a pity, really, and very little, if any, of the choral evensong repertoire has ever made it out of church and onto the concert platform. I can see why: many of the anthems are just too short to bother with as concert pieces, and often the musical material is just too thin, all ploddy organ accompaniments and heavy homophonic writing. Yet this CD, by the King's Consort, demonstrates how the music of two of the stalwarts of the English cathedral repertoire really does deserve a much wider audience. It's a generous hour and a bit of thrillingly passionate singing, accompanied not by a wheezy old windbox, but a lush orchestra replete with harp, tympani and the rest. It's great.

In terms of time the disc is dominated by Stanford's four big settings of the canticles for evensong, along with three works by Parry (yes, 'I was glad' is there, for you fans of royal weddings). Stanford may have been forgotten by pretty much everyone except church musicians, but these settings all demonstrate his considerable talent as an orchestrator, from the utterly charming Magnificat in G (with the brilliant, soaringly wonderful Carolyn Sampson as soprano soloist) to the Brahmsian splendour of the Nunc Dimittis in A. This isn't to say he was a genius, but he was a hugely talented composer and musician, and his music rewards repeated listening.

The project continues the King's Consort's commitment to historically informed performance, so it is interesting to hear the orchestra perform on older instruments (the liner notes document these in exhaustive detail), but to my mind this shouldn't distract you from what makes this disc tick, which is the sheet enjoyment and exuberance of the music-making. The King's Consort are in fine voice, all clearly enjoying letting rip on some real old chestnuts (most of them could probably perform this repertoire off by heart), and it's a pleasure to hear voices of the quality of Sampson and Wilson-Johnson on this sort of repertoire.

This isn't to say that this is a definitive recording of the music: I will just as happily listen to the Westminster Abbey recording of the B flat service on Durufle; Radcliffe; Ley; Stanford; Byrd: The Feast of Saint Peter The Apostle At Westminster Abbey, and the Stanford: Sacred Choral Music (Winchester Cathedral Choir; David Hill) (Hyperion: CDS44311/3) is a great disc, too. In the end, this throws new light on some well-trodden paths, and it does it just grandly. Well done, the King's Consort.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 7, 2013 2:20 PM GMT


Petite Messe Solennelle
Petite Messe Solennelle
Price: £24.94

2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty dire, 30 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Petite Messe Solennelle (Audio CD)
This is a fine work, and there are plenty of good recordings out there (the King's Consort disc being one I particularly like: Rossini: Petite Messe solennelle). This is not a good recording. The singing by the choir is wooly, lifeless and about a mile behind the (very loud) piano, which itself deserves mention for its charmless, heavy-handed treatment of the score. The soloists are a mixed bunch, rank in places, merely passable in others.

Well worth avoiding, to be honest.


Fauré: Requiem; Cantique de Jean Racine
Fauré: Requiem; Cantique de Jean Racine
Price: £9.58

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great soloists, musically uninspiring, 26 Nov. 2012
By rights, this ought to be great, but in all honesty, it is just a bit lifeless and stodgy for my taste. In the requiem the orchestra is heavy, and the choir sing without any particular charm. This isn't to say that it's a bad performance, and Matthias Goerne makes a very lovely noise, but if I wanted a disc of this music, I'd turn to the recent LSO Live disc with Nigel Short and Tenebrae doing the singing (Faure: Requiem (Tenebrae)).

The rest of the repertoire is all very so-so, really. The Cantique de Jean Racine is pretty, but not worth the price alone. In all, you won't go far wrong with this CD, but you could do a whole lot better.


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