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M. C. Wherly (New Brighton, Merseyside United Kingdom)

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The Politics of Dissent
The Politics of Dissent
by Donald Mitchell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing Morel Back From The Cold Heart of Amnesia, 8 Feb. 2015
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Who is a spiritual father of Amnesty International? Who, along with Sir Roger Casement, did more to expose and halt the horrors of King Leopold's devilish treatment of millions of Africans in The Congo? Who warned us against stumbling into the First World War; spent that war writing, speaking out, and, for his pains, was imprisoned in Pentonville prison? Who appealed for a fair and long-term-peace-enhancing Treaty of Versailles? Who defeated Churchill in a post-war Dundee election to parliament? Who died in his early fifties as a result of the 'hard labour' of his tireless work on behalf of the downtrodden? And who is largely forgotten - written out - of our history?

Edmund Dene Morel - the subject of Donald Mitchell's well-written, carefully-researched and way-overdue biography - that's who. There are two other books I know of that seek to tell this great man's story (F.S.Cocks 'E.D. Morel' London 1920 and Catherine Cline: E.D. Morel The Strategies of Protest' Blackstaff Press) the first a hagiography, but well worth reading; the second, a somewhat dry and 'academic' tome. Morel also receives a lot of fascinating coverage in most biographies of Sir Roger Casement - especially that of Brian Inglis (Roger Casement: the biography of a patriot who lived for England, died for Ireland'). Any book one reads ends up posing the question: WHY HAVE I NOT HEARD OF THIS AMAZING MAN?

This amnesia was pinpointed when Adam Hochschild (author of 'King Leopold's Ghost') came to Liverpool some years ago to deliver a public lecture. He opened his excellent speech by asserting that he felt privileged to be in Liverpool, which had been the home of the great Congo reformer E.D. Morel. A silence followed. Had I been made of sterner stuff I would have cheered, but it was clear that 'E.D. Morel' was reaching the full-house as news from nowhere. WHO?
Adam Hochschild's 'King Leopold's Ghost' memorably presents the pivotal 'mission' of E.D. Morel's life: the removal of King Leopold of the Belgians from his slow-burn holocaust labours in The Congo, and this author is to be thanked for starting the work of opening the establishment-locked doors to this heroic man.

And now we have Donald Mitchell's excellent book. For this Morel admirer it filled in many blanks in his knowledge. It trod with elegance the fine line between cold fact and hot enthusiasm, but both are there in abundance. It is thoroughly researched and well-written. Above all, it provides a telling reminder of the dangers of historical amnesia. It is wise - and consoling - to learn about great dissenters that the powers-that-be would probably like us to forget.

A Wedding [DVD]
A Wedding [DVD]
Dvd ~ Carol Burnett

5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece, 29 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: A Wedding [DVD] (DVD)
A great film for any couple thinking of having a hugely expensive and complex wedding...the message of this very funny comedy is DON'T! Made by Altman in the early eighties, it was way ahead of its time in its not-so-gentle satire on the wretched rituals that have become the 'dogma' of some people's idea of their dream wedding day.
Added delights are the cast: Nina of Nina and Frederick at the start of her brief career as Hollywood star; Lucy and Ricky's first born: Desi Arnez Jr., and a marvellous performance from Carol Burnett. And, as the wicked witch of the proceedings: Geraldine Chaplin as the 'style priestess' of the Great Day.

J.S. Bach: Partitas No. 1 And 2
J.S. Bach: Partitas No. 1 And 2
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.91

5.0 out of 5 stars This is a recommendation for all six Bach partitas - and anything else you can find by Wolfgang Rubsam on piano or organ, 4 Oct. 2014
I don't have a marvellous stereo system, but the three C.D.s that make up Wolfgang Rubsam's recordings of Bach's Partitas give an immediate and concentrated sound experience that never fails to move me, to make me forget everything else that might be going on in my distracted brain, and completely 'enter' the music. They seem to mirror this genius pianist's determination to communicate everything Bach intended in the writing. And that is how it should be. This first CD, bought in 2001 in the U.S., is still playing as thrillingly as when I first bought it. No one else I have heard playing Bach on the piano (or organ) comes close to this man. Try any of them - there's one going for less than a pound - and I think you'll agree.
All the recordings have really decent booklet notes. They are DDD CDs, which simply mean that the music was recorder in a 'lossless' digital format. But it is the magicians at Naxos that did the placing of microphones in just the right place to release the magic of the Rubsam sound.

(Also the J.S. Bach Clavierrubung III, Volume 1 Prelude, BMV 552 / BMV 669 - 681 gives Rubsam's organ work a formidable airing.)

Scandal at Congo House
Scandal at Congo House
by Christopher Draper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please Do Not Forget To Remember Me, 13 July 2014
This review is from: Scandal at Congo House (Paperback)
I came to this book as someone who had researched the life of William Hughes with a certain (for me) diligence. I stumbled across his African Institute in a local history book many years after becoming interested in the whole story of Liverpool, North Wales and The Congo. Stanley was born down the way from Colwyn Bay in Denbigh. ED Morel and Sir Roger Casement worked together to dethrone King Leopold in Hawarden. And Sir Alfred Jones, a man as interesting and complex as William Hughes, combined great benificence with a slavish devotion to 'Success To Trade'.

But having just completed a careful reading of Christopher Draper and John Lawson-Reay's book about William Hughes I am astonished at the range of their research, the clarity of their presentation of facts, and their even-handed conclusions about the life of William Hughes...and its meaning. Hardly a page passed without some revelation, something I'd tried to find the answer to in my shallow scratches through archives, being revealed. Two hundred or so 'Eureka!' moments for me, though, of course, these authors did the spade-work, brought the story back from the dark of historical amnesia.

And what a story it is! Young Welsh-speaker teaching himself English in order to follow the call of his God to give his life to Africa. He reaches his goal and becomes sick. Fellow missionaries die. He returns home, bringing two young Congolese with him, and decides that the missions should come home to Wales. He manages well for decades, brings lots of Africans - and African-Americans - to temperate Colwyn Bay where they learn skills, play a mean game of cricket and turn Colwyn Bay somewhat multicultural...

Hughes was remarkably ahead of his time. He asserted the humanity of the African at a time when the 'civilized' British seemed to have to demean them in order to steal their land and possessions. Racial and cultural snobbery sometimes seems to have been the worst aspect of British colonialism, Other colonialist used physical violence, the British specialised in snobbery.

But Hughes was complex and flawed. A human being, in other words. He had the luxury of decades of walking around Colwyn Bay and, whether he willed it or not, parading his mission to his peers. Everyone saw the missionary work in practice, and it seems clear that William Hughes was somewhat susceptible to walking with 'the great and the good'. Neither, as the authors point out, did he seem particularly bothered that millions of Congolese were being enslaved, tortured and killed by the henchmen of King Leopold. He took no interest in the Congo Reform Association (a precursor of Amnesty International) working doggedly away at a rented house in Hawarden. He needed Leopold, Stanley and Jones to help keep his Institute afloat. He turned a blind eye many a time.

'Scandal at Congo House' is well-named.The book builds up to the sordid events that brought about William Hughes's undoing in scandal, but it also hints at the larger scandal that such an enterprise as Hughes's should fail because of the influence of a gutter press, and the devilish ability half-truths and damned lies have for turning people against good causes. And, though all this happened a century ago, it is as current as today.

Of all the revelations of this remarkable book, I was most delighted to learn that in 1980 Ivor Wynne Jones was able to show Stanley Dale a photograph of his African father, and that Stanley Dale said, speaking of what his 'scandalous mother'had told him: 'She never married, telling me she had never found anyone to match my father.' I won't give away any more, but, just as the Reverend William Hughes was a man that Colwyn Bay and the Welsh nation should be celebrating, so the 'Brown Baby' and his longevity buries is odure the wretched legacy of the bent scandal-monger Horatio Bottomley.

Mr Draper and Mr Lawson-Reay, thank you for your careful research and clear heads. A wonderful book.

Lakeshore Loops: Exploring Ireland's Lakes
Lakeshore Loops: Exploring Ireland's Lakes
by John Dunne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Big and Generous Book for Anyone Who Loves the Lakes of Ireland, 28 May 2014
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Though this book is written for cyclists and walkers, it's also wonderful if you love to kayak or mess about in boats. There is no other book - to my knowledge - that comprehensively covers lakes both north and south and in between. Cycling in Ireland (particularly in The West) can be a difficult business, hard on the muscles. But lakes tend to be on fairly flat terrain, and make ideal and picturesque places around which to travel. John Dunne has laboured lovingly to explain the geography clearly, but has also taken time and effort to explore the history. For me, just the section on Lough Carra in Mayo made the book worth the buying. But I'd put it next to my old AA Road Book of Ireland as an essential book for anyone who loves Ireland.

Heavenly Lilies
Heavenly Lilies
by Alison Leonard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mind-Expanding Novel That Deserves To Be Read Slowly And With Care, 28 May 2014
This review is from: Heavenly Lilies (Paperback)
The concluding paragraph of a review in a recent 'Guardian' for Michael Cunningham's 'The Snow Queen' seemed strongly to apply to 'Heavenly Lilies': 'But what really strikes is Cunningham's remarkable control of tone, his ability to maintain a kind of muted ardency. This is a complicated, messy, peopled novel, and yet it has the slippery feel of a fable, an otherworldly quality...'

I couldn't have summed up 'Heavenly Lilies' better.

The protagonist, Sheila Miller, has been performing extended jury duty on a particularly horrific child-abuse case. She's sat - squirming - through the weeks of obscene evidence and has reached the stage of 'retiring' to the jury-room to figure out a verdict. But after a day of deliberation she goes home, packs a bag and runs away to Ireland. The trial she has been forced to sit through has gone on for months, and each day it has brought up memories of her own experiences at the hands of abusers. She just can't take any more of the agonies of the victims, the perversities of the perpetrators, and what it all sets off in her own memory bank.

Sheila travels to the very end of Ireland, to Achill in County Mayo. It's an islandl only in name, though. A bridge links Achill to the outside world. If the novel is anything to go by, many of the characters there might have been happier if the easy link to the mundane had been more challenging. But, on fabled Achill Sheila is for most of the novel, albeit with a change of name. Can the Atlantic bays, the wee cottages, the hills and cliffs of heather (all of which are conjured up with great care and a poet's eye) bring her some peace?

Hardly. I was reminded of 'The Quiet Man' - a film made at the other end of County Mayo, in Cong. John Wayne gets off the train and is drawn into the place by a gnomish carriage-driver, but is also drawn in to the jealousies, intrigues and eccentricities of that neck of the woods. He has to prove himself, to learn some difficult lessons, before he can integrate and find contentment with Maureen O' Hara.

We can change geography and think it's going to change us. But we carry ourselves with us wherever we go. The Land of Last Chances only works if a great re-formation takes place

So Sheila, despite name-change, a gorgeous place, heavenly lilies growing wild all over the place, meets up with people who are living with, and recovering (or not) from problems of their own. As time passes, characters on the island who might to the passing tourist have seemed to be picturesque morph into grotesques, into wounded and wounding human merely beings.

This is where the novel becomes 'messy', but not in a bad way. Reader needs to keep his/her mental lamp trimmed to keep the names together, but it's a worthwhile task because - if you do - you will appreciate how carefully constructed this novel is, and how you're acquiring insights into areas of human behaviour and circumstance that you have - perhaps - not known about.

This reader had been tut-tutting over the celebrity trials of old men accused of long-gone acts of sexual abuse with minors. A side of me has doubted the accusers, citing payouts, passage of time, false memory syndrome, etc. But this novel made me realise things: mainly through the reactions of Sheila, but also the other characters she meets along her steep, onerous, stone-and-lily-strewn path towards peace. Reading this book, one just cannot dismiss the depth of the damage (and perhaps recollect damage all your own) that childhood abuse causes.

Can so many bruised and wicked people end up on the island at one time? I don't see why not. Ms Leonard seeks to go deeper into the human psyche than your average popular novel goes. The judge at the trial that Sheila flees from presumably did not realise the pain of one of his jurors. We go through life not realising what's going on beneath the skin of others. One of the purposes of any novel worthy of being read and re-read is that it attempts to reach the core of character. This novel is a fable very much for our own times.

And fabulous.

Pierre Audi Monteverdi Box Set [DVD] [2010]
Pierre Audi Monteverdi Box Set [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Pierre Audi
Price: £69.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Dark Monteverdi That Still Enlightens, 15 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My experience of Monteverdi on DVD is the Harnoncourt/Ponnelle classic set of the 1980s. That set is still my preference, because I love the theatricality of it, the wonderful little miracles that are wrought by Ponnelle's sure touch. There's not a dull moment in it, and it's always bright, lit by a dazzling Italian light.

But the Audi/Amsterdam version is worth its five stars, too. It's a darker, more 'mysterious' reading of the three operas (though you also get a mesmerising rendition of the short piece, 'Il Combatimento di Tancredi e Clorinda' not included in the Harnoncourt set). I have some problems with the darkness of the pieces - the lighting illuminates the singers well enough, but on DVD and my television the effect is almost Rembrandt - ish, which can depress after a bit. The accompanying booklet assures one that the works have been produced with the help of the latest research by musicologists. Instrumentation here is just what Monteverdi ordered, and all 'kitsch' has been avoided. I hope the writer wasn't referring to my Harnoncourt. Pistols at dawn. But, as I should know by now, Monteverdi is 'big' enough to take lots of different readings. Listening to John Pritchard and Harnoncourt are very different from this one, and bring their own nuances. The only part that really irked me in the operas was the 'dumb' naked child (female, though for some reason she had been supplied with gold male genitals) who was Amour. She did nothing except hang about while an adult sang her role. Contrast this with a witty Amour in the Harnoncourt.
But that is the only thing that really irked me. The singing throughout was wonderful, the playing of the small orchestra glorious and the design of the Amsterdam stage just right. Both DVD versions are worth having. Both deserve 5 stars.

Voice of the.. -CD+DVD-
Voice of the.. -CD+DVD-
Price: £93.52

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Copy of review from (includes content of collection) Many thanks., 21 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Voice of the.. -CD+DVD- (Audio CD)
Wonder of wonders! Fischer-Dieskau's sole Schütz studio LP, a DG Archiv recording of the Saint Matthew Passion (composed a century before Bach's) that has been out of print for 45 years, has now appeared on CD for the first time ever. Unfortunately for me and many other lovers of his art, it is available only as a single disc within this new 23 CD + 2 DVD set called Voice of the Century. DG's website lists the complete contents; courtesy of a well-known German retailer, I have given an outline of the contents below. In the comments following this review, I have included all details, less only the names of individual songs within the well-known cycles.

I call this state of affairs unfortunate because all but the last two of the CDs and the pair of DVDs constituted DG's earlier commemorative (Fischer-Dieskau Edition) for the late singer's 75th birthday. How many owners of that now out-of-print set will want to duplicate its contents just for the Schütz CD, especially since the other materials consist of a CD of Italian arias and scenes sung in German and two DVDs of theatrical videos, some or even most of which many admirers and devotees will already own in earlier releases? I am fortunate to be one of the few who own the original Schütz LP, but if the CD ever becomes separately available for less than twenty bucks, I'll snap it up. Anyone who missed getting the birthday edition when it came out, however, is in luck (that set is now going for truly shameless sums from sellers who would be jailed by the feds if they tried selling petroleum at their markups). In short, this Voice of the Century set is an artistic steal at $100 or so. Get it before it disappears!

Those who are longtime admirers of this truly great singing artist will already know what a magnificent compilation the 75th birthday edition was. There was not in it (nor, hence, here) a single poor performance to be found, and the vast bulk of the recordings were made and originally released between 1955 and 1977, the years of DFD's 30th and 52nd birthdays. In addition, in the many repertory areas where he made more than three recordings of the works included, the choices for inclusion were, with a single exception, one of his three best efforts. The exception, the Winterreise with Barenboim, though a remarkable and, of course, a distinctly original performance, cannot truly be acclaimed the equal of the 2nd and 3rd recordings with Moore nor the single but outstanding one with Demus. Still, it was a superb choice for inclusion, since unlike the other prime Winterreise recordings, this one had become a distinct rarity and had not, I believe, ever before been issued in CD form in the USA.

Many other performances received their first-ever CD releases. I call attention especially to the CD that re-creates the aria recital conducted by Fricsay, a conductor he frequently described as a great artist and influence. No aria is given a routine, generic treatment. Each performance finds the specificity, the individuality in the music, the words, and the character. While, for example, Escamillo in its entirety is not a role for which nature suited DFD's vocal configuration, he sings the toreador's entrance song in such a strikingly characterized way--the chasmic vanity, the indefeasible self-assurance--that it's hard to resist wondering what an evening of troubles a guy like this will bring for those unfortunate enough to cross his blundering path. All the arias on that CD have, mutatis mutandis, similar distinguishing traits.

Perhaps best of all is the return to the marketplace of the never-before-released Schöne Müllerin with Demus, a 1967 recording undoubtedly shelved by DGG once it decided to make an integral Schubert edition with Moore. Demus plays characteristically, with light but articulate tone, but also like a man possessed. Fischer-Dieskau attacks the text and music with all the grace and insight he brought to the cycle again three years later with Moore, but this time he added a musical and vocal daring unlike anything before or after (a vocal pedagogue could conduct an hourlong master class for even veteran singers on the execution of musical ornaments using examples drawn solely from this recording). One has the sense of the miller's hopes, joys, fears, and despair happening and being reflected upon at one and the same time. It is the performance of a lifetime, and it should never be allowed to go out of print.

Voice of the Century
Legendary Deutsche Grammophon Performances

Including a one-hour exclusive interview with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
23 CDs + 2 DVDs
Limited Edition: 0289 479 0780 0 23

Schubert: Winterreise D. 911; Die schöne Müllerin D. 795; Schwanengesang D. 957; Assorted Lieder
Schumann: Dichterliebe op. 48; 12 Gedichte op. 35; Liederkreis op. 24; Myrten op. 25; Assorted Lieder
Beethoven: An die ferne Geliebte op. 98; 3 Gesänge op. 83; 18 Assorted Lieder
Liszt: 3 Petrarca-Sonette; 15 Assorted Lieder
Brahms: 4 Ernste Gesänge; Assorted Lieder
Wolf: Mörike-Lieder
Lieder of Strauss, Reger, Pfitzner, Schoeck, Debussy, Ravel, Mahler, Busoni, Kempff
Kantaten of Bach & Buxtehude
Sacred arias of Bach, Händel, Stölzel, Haydn, Brahms,
Opera arias of Händel, Gluck, Cimarosa, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Bizet, Leoncavallo, Giordano, Puccini, Rossini
Volkslieder in Arrangements by Haydn, Beethoven, Weber
Schütz: Matthäus-Passion
DVDs "The Art of Fischer-Dieskau":The Opera Singer & The Master of the Lied

Artist Portrait
Artist Portrait
Price: £11.33

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best - better than all the rest., 30 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Artist Portrait (Audio CD)
If you're a lover of opera - and have collected some DVDs - you will have come across Matti Salminen. He's been the bass-of-preference at Bayreuth for decades. He was the best Hagen I've ever seen or heard in the Met 'Ring' (the cheaper one on DVD, with the late Hildegard Behrens as Brunnhilde); with Behrens, he starred in a production of 'The Flying Dutchman' filmed at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland. He's also in another 'Dutchman', the excellent version from Bayreuth with Simon Estes. Only last night, I watched Matti in the best version of 'Parsifal' I've ever seen: conducted by Kent Nagano.
But he's equally as good in the earlier Parsifal (from Bayreuth, with Siegfried Jerusalem in the title role).
I first heard him in the Harnoncourt/Ponnelle version of 'The Coronation of Poppeia' wonderfully done in Zurch in the late seventies, but a joy to behold today(a boxed set with 'Orpheo' and 'Il Ritorno di Ulysses' for £20!) in which he plays Seneca. He's a young man playing an old man. The voice is ice, fire and buttered honey, or honeyed butter.
If you've never had the pleasure of hearing Matti, or if you've only heard him in his great Wagnerian roles, widen your own breadth with the breadth of his accomplishments. A great taster of the bass of basses.
There are three other CDs available that further display Salminen's genius to the full: 'Finnish Tangos' and two where he singgs with fellow Finns and keeps to Finnish repertoire.
But the present,shamefully unreviewed, CD I recommend highly to anyone who loves the human voice.
I know I've gone somewhat purple on this review: see it as a simple attempt to garner enthusiasm for a wonderful piece of work you'll want to play again and again.

Schubert - Schwanengesang
Schubert - Schwanengesang
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £19.95

5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Voice, 28 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I don't know why Siegfried Lorenz gets so little attention. To reach his 'Schwanengesang' here on Amazon takes a bit of a search. Is it perhaps that Lorenz is from the old East Germany, and therefore missed out to Fischer-Dieskau (though Lorenz is younger, and readily admits his debt to the late great baritone)?
Still, you're here now. And as I write used copies of this lovely version of the song cycle are almost obscenely inexpensive. Give Siegfried Lorenz a go and, if you're anything like me, you'll head straight for the Berlin Classics boxed set of Lorenz (and his American accompanist Norman Shetler) performing on 8 CDs. You'll be duplicating 'Schwanengesang' - but also getting superlative renditions of Die Schone Mullerin, Wintereisse, Lieder with Goethe lyrics, Lieder with Schiller lyrics, Lieder with Mayrhofer lyrics, Lieder by various other poets, Lieder settings of poems by friends of Schubert. Eight CDs in all. Then you'll start looking for Lorenz;s wonderful work in the Bach passions... then on to the Berlin Classics 10 CD set of Heinrich Schutz with the glorious Dresdner Kreuzchor, which also has Lorenz as soloist.
In the booklet to the 8 CD set, Lorenz is quoted: 'At some time the artist must recognize where he belongs: not to the strong camp, but to the weaklings.' And, of Schubert: 'He wasn't exactly popular in his own day. Living in decidedly modest circumstances, he capitulated and fled from reality into a dream world His songs speak of the desires of the poor and weak.' And listen to Lorenz sing the last song of 'Wintereisse.' Bring a great artist in from the cold.

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