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J. Lamede "jlamede" (London, UK)
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Body, Breath and Being: A New Guide to the Alexander Technique
Body, Breath and Being: A New Guide to the Alexander Technique
by Carolyn Nicholls
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.80

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A grave disappointment, 2 July 2012
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I can't imagine why this book got such enthusiastic reviews. Reviewers of one other book, The Alexander Technique Manual by Richard Brennan, complained that it's like an Alexander Technique sales brochure. Actually, that book has vastly more practical advice and guidelines than this one, which is utterly dependent on the reader taking one-to-one lessons from an Alexander Technique practitioner. The text is good for spiritual and theoretical guidance, but woefully thin on actual, helpful exercises. And the attached CD is a disaster. Delivered in an affectless, off-putting voice by the author's daughter, who has not been given any training in proper mike technique and is very poorly recorded, much too close up, so that the poor voice quality and the multiple plosives make the thing almost unlistenable. Worse, the so-called recorded 'workshops' are badly written and emphatically do not expand on the written text. Thumbs down on this one! Teach Yourself Alexander Technique by Richard Craze is the most helpful book I've come across to date.


Mahler: Des Knaben Wunderhorn & Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Mahler: Des Knaben Wunderhorn & Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £5.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings, 6 Jun 2012
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I have several other discs of Mahler lieder with Fischer-Dieskau, but thought I'd round out my collection with this CD, which also turned out, having been recorded in 1989, to be chronologically the latest recording. The Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is as good as anything the singer did in his long career: both sensitive and dramatic, a thrilling interpretation. But the Wunderhorn songs (recorded three months later) are a sad disappointment, being bland and sung with surprisingly constricted feeling. I'm inclined to lay the blame at Barenboim's feet. Although his piano-version EMI set with Fischer-Dieskau is superb, I've never found him a persuasive Mahler conductor. This is an example of his weaknesses; the Wunderhorn lieder are ponderously conducted, heavy handed, swamping the singer and showing little subtlety. So if you want Fischer-Dieskau in the Wunderhorn, this is not a good option.


Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra No. 6 1990-2000
Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra No. 6 1990-2000
Price: £92.22

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Treasure trove!, 9 Nov 2011
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I bought this shortly after my first visit to the Concertgebouw itself, when I was bowled over by the hall's superb acoustics and atmosphere. So these live broadcast recordings were pungent evocations of the experience. But even without that, this is a box worth having, if you can afford it. The first two discs alone are dynamite: a marvellously dramatic, idiomatic account of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle with Ivan Fischer and Hungarian soloists, followed by one of the best Mahler Fifths I've heard, from Tennstedt in 1990. Depending on your preferences, you may or may not find other things here to match these two performances. But there's something for everyone, actually. Sanderling provides an excellent Bruckner Third and an even better Shostakovich Fifth. Dutoit and soloists excel in Dutilleux's 'L'arbre des songes' and Messiaen's 'Trois petites Liturgies'. There's lots more, including Schoenberg from Boulez, Mozart from Harnoncourt, Schubert from Gardiner, and Berio conducting his own Sinfonia in 1997. And all performed by one of the world's greatest orchestras.


Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler
by Jens Malte Fischer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £26.72

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Competition for La Grange?, 25 July 2011
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This review is from: Gustav Mahler (Hardcover)
Fischer's book has already been hailed by some as the best single-volume biography of Mahler. That should really be qualified by the adjective `exhaustive', since it's otherwise rather unfair to Jonathan Carr's The Real Mahler (Constable, London 1997), which is no mean achievement and is even quoted by Fischer.

The new biography's immediate value is in providing a reasonable, considerably shorter alternative to Henry-Louis de La Grange's mammoth four-volume Gustav Mahler (some 4,700 pages, with its first volume's revised edition still to come). All the same, you can't beat La Grange's meticulous attention to detail, even though in the later stages of the revised, English-language revision it's peppered with repetitions and copy-editing errors. But Fischer's book is less gushing than La Grange, who occasionally shows traces of hagiography.

There's the rub. Nothing wrong with a considered, critical approach, but Fischer is resolutely dry, at least in English translation, and you often feel he could have fought a little less shy of enthusiasm or even passion for his subject. He's very good, though, at using a whole range of German-language sources not generally available to English readers and actually rarely brought to the fore by La Grange. He also wins out over others in the structure of the book, which is very helpful both to the general reader and the researcher. He interleaves the chapters of chronological biography with essays on particular topics: Mahler and Literature, The Conductor, Jewishness and Identity, Mahler's Illnesses, Faith and Philosophy, and so on. The last three are especially useful and well thought through. Alongside these, Fischer devotes a separate chapter to each of the symphonies, but unfortunately in doing so reveals his Achilles heel.

Perhaps because he's not a musicologist (Fischer is Professor of the History of Theatre at Munich University), the musical analyses fall with a thud between two stools. They're comparatively niggardly, not engaging enough to entice people new to Mahler, and too generalized to be of any use to Mahler lovers familiar with the works - in fact hardly more than the equivalent of recording liner notes. And the author has a terrible weakness for dogmatic judgements that are not only unwarranted but downright wrong-headed. To give a couple of glaring examples, on the long-standing controversy over the order of the middle movements of the Sixth Symphony Fischer is categorical: the `definitive order' is Scherzo-Andante. This at a time when most conductors now adopt the reverse sequence (and some always have done) and many authorities argue that perpetuation of the Scherzo-Andante order derives from a characteristic mistake of Alma Mahler's. Worse, later on Fischer states, in discussing the third hammer-blow, which Mahler excised from the Finale, that `The question of whether or not it should be reinstated continues to divide opinion.' It's difficult to see where he gets that notion from. True, one of the most recent live recordings of the Sixth, by Jukka-Pekka Saraste, does put the third blow back in, but to arguably little musical benefit, and this version is so rare as to be an exception that proves the rule. Certainly, I've lost count of the number of performances I've heard in the concert hall, and can't recollect one that had the final hammer-blow.

Fischer starts on a curious note, too. The idea of beginning with a physical description of his subject (`What Did Mahler Look Like?') is not a bad one and he does a good job of it. But to condemn Alma for never attempting to describe Mahler's physical appearance in her reminiscences is a bit over the top. Poor Alma was indeed a notorious narcissist, and comes in for a lot of deserved criticism later on in the book, but I would have thought this, of all things, was a pardonable offence, if an offence at all. He ends a little oddly, too, in implying that conductors who fight shy of Mahler's music might be closet anti-Semites. That seems to me uncalled-for. Let's face it, there are a fair number of conductors with impeccable philo-Semitic credentials who'd honestly do better to leave Mahler's music alone!

Ultimately, though, if you're interested in the subject this is a book worth having - just take the musical pronouncements with a pinch of salt.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2013 10:31 AM BST


Live In Marciac
Live In Marciac
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £14.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!, 28 April 2011
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This review is from: Live In Marciac (Audio CD)
This is a pretty late release of a live Mehldau solo outing in France in 2006. But what a concert! His brilliance as an improviser is breathtaking, especially when you see him at work, on the DVD covering all but one of the tracks on the CDs. This is mesmerizing playing which repays repeated listening.


Mahler: Symphonies Nos.1 & 2
Mahler: Symphonies Nos.1 & 2

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ruined by Universal's carelessness!, 28 April 2011
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These are two superb performances ruined by careless ripping. This isn't the first time I've downloaded mp3s originating from Universal Classics that have been ripped in an utterly careless way, chopping off the ends of tracks -- track 4 here is brutally cut off before the last bar but the rest is very badly done too -- so that listening becomes positively painful. To give Amazon the credit, they refunded the price of the album, but I'm sure anyone affected like me by this kind of barbarity would rather have complete, listenable tracks. Somebody at Universal deserves a rocket up their fundament!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 16, 2011 10:12 PM BST


Best European Fiction 2011
Best European Fiction 2011
by Aleksandar Hemon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.35

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed reactions, 31 Mar 2011
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I have very mixed reactions to this collection. It's good to have a conspectus of current European writing on such a broad front, but it's precisely because of the need to cover so many languages that ultimately the book's flawed. There are one or two gems, especially 'Fourteen Small Stories' by Peter Adolphsen (full of lovely surprises), 'Trespasses' by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne and 'Doctor Sot' by Kevin Barry. But there's the rub! All of these are either in English in the original, translated or co-translated by the author herself or himself. It's not that so many of the rest are so overwhelmingly glum, it's that they are drearily translated, into affectless, uninflected and dull English. Of course, there aren't that many good translators from, say, Slovenian, Bulgarian, Montenegrin and so on. But the end result is that the writing doesn't read well -- probably no fault of the writers themselves.


The Gramophone Classical Music Guide 2011 (revised edition)
The Gramophone Classical Music Guide 2011 (revised edition)
by James Jolly
Edition: Paperback

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could do better!, 22 Sep 2010
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This is a bit of a disappointment. Though the presentation and reviews are excellent in many ways, this year there's a nasty feeling it's going the same way as its main competitor, The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music. I stopped buying the latter (which I'd been getting since the 1980s) a couple of years ago, since it had been recycling the same reviews for anything up to twenty years. The Gramophone Guide is beginning to do the same, which is a black mark indeed. For example, it's still recommending Gunter Wand's Lubeck Cathedral recording of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony, despite it having been deleted a long time ago and being unavailable for years. Another example: the 'Downloading' intro is still recommending classicsandjazz.co.uk, even though that site was closed months ago, having been replaced by two interlinked Deutsche Grammophon and Decca sites which are still not entirely satisfactory as download sites. In fact, if you've got the 2010 edition, there's little point in investing in this one, since there's only a limited number of new reviews. Though I wouldn't give this book the thumbs down, it doesn't qualify for thumbs up either.


The Early Diaries: including An Unnatural Pursuit and How's That for Telling 'Em, Fat Lady?
The Early Diaries: including An Unnatural Pursuit and How's That for Telling 'Em, Fat Lady?
by Simon Gray
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A last delight...?, 22 Sep 2010
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Like Simon Gray's later diaries and memoirs, this is a delight from start to finish. Admittedly, he was still on the way to the extraordinary facility of, say, The Smoker's Diaries, where the writing is an apparently seamless, effortless flow of comic revery, when in fact it's a brilliant example of art concealing art. These are actually two books, plus a few bits and pieces, centring on productions of Gray's play The Common Pursuit. Admittedly, since they're all about casting, rehearsals and fallings in and out around them, they may be of slightly less interest to non-theatre people. I'm lucky: my background is in professional theatre and I know some of the people concerned personally. But I'd urge anyone to read this. It's often hilarious, even when he's not re-telling some killer jokes (the one about the brigadier in heaven is worth the price of the book on on its own). As with the other memoirs, putting this down is like parting with a very dear friend.


Toshiba RDXV60 3-in-1 DVD, HDD and VHS Recorder (discontinued by manufacturer)
Toshiba RDXV60 3-in-1 DVD, HDD and VHS Recorder (discontinued by manufacturer)
Offered by Limefixings
Price: £414.99

147 of 149 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A machine that does what it promises, 16 Aug 2010
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This was a replacement for an earlier model bought from Amazon which broke down within five months but was replaced with remarkable efficiency, courtesy and speed. (Let's hope the new one doesn't go the same way.) I need it as a temporary recorder for TV progammes, and as a means of dubbing those programmes and an old library of tapes to DVD. To date it has done all these things very well. The massive hard drive should suffice to record as many and as much as I could possibly need. Its only drawbacks are that the dubbing from VCR has to be done in real time (e.g. a two-hour programme will take two hours to dub) and, peculiarly, once you have programmed the recording of a TV show, the drive goes into a rather noisy standby state until the recording is done. All the same, dubbing from HDD to DVD can be done at 'High' speed, taking about one-eighth of full running time, and works very smoothly.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2014 12:59 AM GMT


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