Profile for R. J. Knight > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by R. J. Knight
Top Reviewer Ranking: 40,882
Helpful Votes: 265

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
R. J. Knight (England)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
pixel
Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra No. 2 in E major, BWV 1053, II. Siciliano
Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra No. 2 in E major, BWV 1053, II. Siciliano
Price: £0.69

5.0 out of 5 stars A Heavenly Harpsichord Humdinger From Zuzana Ruzickova And The Prague Chamber Soloists, 24 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Finally, a scratch, crackle and pop free version of arguably the best Bach Harpsichord concerto-BWV 1053- to replace my dog-eared and well worn vinyl copy.

Champions of classical music-and I use the term to encompass baroque, classical, romantic and so on-often go on about how deep, meaningful, emotional and profound it is without mentioning the obvious: that it has all the great tunes; an endless supplyof great tunes, and; great tunes that not only get developed, linked and built upon, but also come free of all the teenage angst, rebellion and narcissistic marketing hype that surrounds so much of the popular music that dominates society today.

I say the above because, more than many composers, J S Bach has fallen foul of a tendency to over intellectualize his music when its defining grace and beauty is fantastically catchy
melodies. Nowhere is this more so than with this harpsichord concerto-BWV 1053 in E Major. True, it is typically baroque and typically Bach with its chugging rhythm overlain by a stepped melodic progression, but the overall melody points towards the more flowing rhythms and tunes of the classical music, soon to follow, of Haydn, Mozart et. al.

Having said that, the great tunes of harpsichord music can, if not performed and recorded well, easily get lost in what can come across to the listener as an amorphous lump of vaguely musical sounds. It is not an easy instrument to play or record well and, as in this case, when accompanied by a small orchestra, very easily subsumed under the dominant sound of that orchestra.

However, this is possibly the best example of how to get the balance between harpsichord and orchestra right. Zuzana Ruzickova plays every note with a clarity and sense of timing that is perfectly balanced by the sharp and sympathetic orchestral accompaniment of the Prague Chamber Soloists-all under the direction of conductor Vaclav Neumann. The orchestra's clear string sound means that Ruzickova's playing is in no danger of getting muddied, so to speak. Indeed, the entire effect is of her sprinkling golden and silver notes over a shimmering, modulating string landscape.

This may well be some heavenly harpsichord music given a humdinger of a performance but it is the musical mind of Bach to which we should give thanks because, like all the great composers, he may have been deep, emotional, profound and so on but, ultimately, whatever his music said it did so
with great, memorable melodies.


Magnum Pi: The Complete Third Season [DVD]
Magnum Pi: The Complete Third Season [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Selleck
Price: £10.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They Don't Make'Em Like They Used To, 28 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It would be easy, and correct, to say that 'Magnum PI' is a merger of 'The Rockford Files' and 'Hawaii Five-0'. The dramatic set up and flavour is the same as 'The Rockford Files' and the extensive use of Hawaii as the 'set'-as opposed to the use of sound stages and nondescript locations that could be anywhere-is the same as the production values one associates with 'Hawaii Five-0'.

As Thomas Magnum, Tom Selleck plays it very much in the manner of James Garner's Jim Rockford. He's a little world weary, often on the receiving end and-here through voice over pearls of wisdom-quite philosophical about the follies and predicaments human nature is all too often prone to getting itself in to. To his credit, though, Tom Selleck gives the character of Magnum sufficient individuality and credibility to eclipse any thoughts of Jim Rockford.

As alluded to above, one of the joys of going back and watching shows like this is that you get your monies worth in terms of the production values embodied in the show. So many shows like this from the 1970s and 1980s were filmed-with each episode produced like a short movie- and the makers took great pride in setting the drama in real locations.They made every effort to let the audience know that the unfolding drama, fictional though it may have been, was taking place in the tangible world known to them-real streets, landscapes, buildings and highways enveloped in the sun, wind and rain of the ever changing weather. Possibly the best example of this is another somewhat earlier show from the 1970s, 'The Streets Of San Francisco', but 'Magnum PI', like its obvious antecedents, 'Hawaii Five-O' and 'The Rockford Files', is up there alongside it in terms of high quality, filmed on location, production values.

It adds so much to the authenticity of the emerging drama when extensive use is made of real locations, the real world, and, apart from a few exceptions-'Homicide Life On The Street', 'The Shield', 'The Wire', 'Southland', 'Burn Notice','The Closer' and the recent reincarnation of 'Hawaii Five-0', for example-the makers of shows such as this, nowadays, just don't seem to invest the time and effort that they used to; in terms of the extensive use of real locations, that is. In this country-the UK-you've probably got to go back to 'The Professionals' and 'The Sweeney' to find TV police dramas with similar, high quality, filmed on location production values. Just as those two shows give a wonderful glimpse of London and the Home Counties in the 1970s so 'Magnum PI' gives one a feeling of being there, of experiencing the streets, beaches, buildings, landscapes, sun, wind and rain of Hawaii in the 1980s.

Obviously, with hand held cameras and the like, filming on location ought to be easier and more widely used today. That it isn't suggests that other considerations-health and safety, budgetry constraints and local government requirements, for example-may have become larger factors. One can't help but feel, though, that today many producers and directors are a little averse to the real world intruding on their drama and don't particularly care about the authenticity of the environment in which their drama is taking place. It is, after all, so much easier to do it all on sound stages and nearby nondescript back alleys that can be done-up to look like just about anywhere. Mind you, I for one know when I am being short-changed like this and it's why, though superficially it may appear a bit dated, I can recognize that shows like 'Magnum PI' are still, today, enjoyable, insightful and superior, in many respects, to much contemporary TV drama. Quite simply, watch 'Magnum PI' and you'll have to concur that they just don't make 'em like they used to.


NYPD Blue Complete Season 11 [DVD]
NYPD Blue Complete Season 11 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dennis Franz
Price: £20.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even Better Than As Good As It Can Get, 27 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Let me explain the somewhat cryptic title. At this stage, after ten seasons, one would normally expect a show to be running out of steam-unless, of course, that show has the solid values combined with an ability to renew and update itself found in, say, one the likes of 'Law And Order'.

As with 'Law And Order', 'NYPD Blue' consistently delivers superbly written, acted and directed detective drama that, unlike the glamorized criminal world too often depicted on the big screen-where charismatic star actors invariably make crime, violence and criminal activiy seem exciting and cool while the police are either absent or bumbling dullards always playing catch up-depicts the real nature of crime, its impact on victims and the generally inadequate, supremely selfish, weak and evil nature of the 'perps' and 'skels' responsible for criminal activity.

If you've got this far (season 11) then you have probably already worked your way through seasons 1 to 10 and know what to expect from season 11. Your expectations will not be disappointed. This is drama that tackles some truly difficult subjects head on and, with the uncompromisingly honest, gritty, determined and thoroughly decent to the core Det, Andy Sipowicz - played, as always, with unbridled relish by Dennis Franz-chewing up every scene he appears in, it's riveting drama. Some of the highlights of this season see his character having to deal with a number of, shall we say, 'curve balls' that, amusing and dramatic by turns, also allow the script writers to reveal even more sides to his complicated nature.

This is not to say that the show is all about Det. Andy Sipowicz.. The rest of the cast are not just extras but finely wrought characters in their own right. Gordon Clapp again excels as the superficially somewhat hapless and comical Det. Medavoy who, in reality, when it comes to he crunch, is a first rate detective to be relied upon. Mark-Paul Gosselaar also copes well with the task of being Det. Clark-the partner of Det. Sipowicz -and highlights how many of the characters are not only defined by their relationship with Det. Sipowicz but also help to shape and develop his character. This is particularly the case with Det. Connie McDowell-played by in a well thought out and understated way by Charlotte Ross - and this season sees her role in the development of Andy Sipowicz's character reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Finally, maybe it's just me but I did feel as if the show moved up a gear this season. Everything seemed a bit snappier-the writing sharper, the editing leaner and the overall direction pacier with more, how can I put it? Action? I can't remember the last time, if there was one, I saw an extended car chase through the streets of New York in NYPD Blue and, come to think of it, there seemed to be far more use of real New York locations-as opposed to nondescript bits of Los Angeles masquerading as New York- in this season than in previous ones.

In sum, if you thought NYPD Blue couldn't get any better, watch this season and I'd say, with confidence, you'll find yourself proved wrong.


NYPD Blue Season 6 [DVD]
NYPD Blue Season 6 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dennis Franz
Price: £20.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real Drama That Stands The Test Of Time, 13 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: NYPD Blue Season 6 [DVD] (DVD)
The fabric of NYPD Blue-the technology, the street scenery, the clothing,the motor vehicles for example-may be a little dated but the drama is timeless dealing, as it does, with the joys, the despair, the agony, the intrigue, the good, bad, ugly and downright evil of our human condition...Something we are reminded of with bitter poignancy, all too often, as shots of the Twin Towers pop up constantly between scenes.

As with the first five seasons, the writing acting and direction are top notch. Normally I would quibble at the fact that much of the show is obviously shot in Los Angeles-oh for 'The Streets Of San Francisco','Hawaii Five-0' and,say,'The Rockford Files' where directors didn't have to worry about making the background look like somewhere it isn't or just about anywhere-but that would be unfair because this show is all about the unfolding human dramas.

Towering above all is the remarkable character of Det. Andy Sipowicz-played with unadulterated relish by Dennis Franz. However, Jimmy Smits' Bobby Simone is a character he infuses with depth and feeling to the extent that, as with all the cast, one never feels as though one is watching a bunch of actors reading lines and playing parts. They all take on the lives, the souls of their characters like a second skin.

The highlight of this season, at least one-I'm sure some would pick out other story lines-is possibly the slow decline and passing of Det. Bobby Simone. Anyone who has been through the ordeal of watching a loved one pass away will empathise with the Squad Detectives as they share long waits at the hospital, the feeling of all hope gone...but not quite, surely? Then the slow final walk away from the hospital bed, half glances back at a soul, a loved one, they know they will never see again. This was writing, acting and direction of the finest quality.

Indeed, the writers, actors, producers and directors of NYPD Blue were artistic alchemists as they turned NYPD Blue in to pure, solid gold.


Dick's Maggot (from Suite of English Folk Dances)
Dick's Maggot (from Suite of English Folk Dances)
Price: £0.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Tune, Unusual Title, 28 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Well, despite their best efforts, Classic FM have failed to sell me widdly guitar music as the latest big thing in classical music. However, sparkling like a gem in their playlist was this British classic from Ernest Tomlinson-'Dick's Maggot', from his Suite of English Folk Dances.

There has been renewed interest recently in the wealth of miniature classics produced by some exceptionally talented British composers of the 20th Century and, as a result, we are now getting meaty, contemporary full orchestra recordings of such works that do justice to compositions that often haven't been heard since the days of tinny recordings from the 1930s-50s period...Or, indeed, haven't ever been recorded at all.

Iain Sutherland and the Concert Orchestra jaunt through this peice with panache. It's a lively and warm performance that is guaranteed to lift one's spirits. Also, like most of the works on the album from which it is drawn, it's very evocative of the English coutryside. With Albert W Ketelby's 'Bells Across The Meadow' one can almost hear, too, the whack of willow on leather coming from some distant village green, for example, whilst Armstrong Gibbs' 'Dusk' brings to the mind's eye fireflies shimmering in the gathering gloom of a meadow one midsummer's eve...and Ralph Vaughan William's 'Seventeen Come Sunday' is the sound of sunken country lanes and fertile ploughed fields.

There is a veritable goldmine of great British miniature classics from the 20th Century to be discovered and brought to a wider audience and this track, indeed the whole album, does just that with spirited, heartfelt and sympathetic performances throughout.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Main Title Theme (arr. T. Ricketts)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Main Title Theme (arr. T. Ricketts)
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Tour De Force Of Thumping Catchy Tunes And Lyrical Interludes: Modern Classical Music-Surely Not?, 2 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Whither modern music, one might ask? Maybe with pop music repeating its self-absorbed, 'woe is me' teenage angst and rebellion ad infinitum and today's classical music consisting, all too often, either of spartan technical exercises devoid of any melody, rhythm and passion to engage listeners or some 'off the shelf ' orchestral noises banging and crashing away nonsensically in the background of the latest cinematic blockbuster it will come as a surprise to know that this piece, by Klaus Badelt that is given a rumbustious workout by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under the consummate direction of Carl Davis, bucks the trend in every department.

It's incredibly popular. It's an extremely well crafted mini-compostion displaying a composer's technical ability to develop, embroider and infuse with passion a naggingly catchy melodic theme with all the might of a full blooded orchestra at his disposal and, what the heck, forget the film-not bad if you like that sort of thing-this is a piece of music that is a spectacular entity in its own right and a welcome sign that the musical spirits of Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, to name but three, are still alive and flickering, occasionally, today.


The Forgotten Garden
The Forgotten Garden
by Kate Morton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

4.0 out of 5 stars The Forgotten Garden Serves Up a Mystery, A Secret Revealed And A Memory Test, 14 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Forgotten Garden (Paperback)
I confess. Were it not for a Book Club I joined I would not have purchased or read this. As it is, I found it a rewarding, if somewhat troublesome at times, book to read.

In essence it is the story of an Australian woman, a fairly young widow owing to a tragic accident, named Cassandra, following up, in England, the mystery, a family secret, surrounding her recently deceased grandmother.

Somewhat reminiscent of Virginia Woolf and Henry James, the first thing to get used to is the way the author, Kate Morton, writes from the inner, psychological perspective of the assorted characters she uses to tell the story. Having said that, it struck me, particularly when the story moves to Cornwall, that the style of writing and imagery is more reminiscent of children's literature. What with sandy coves, rocky cliffs, secret caves and tunnels, strange houses on headlands and mysterious goings on, I felt at times as though I was in Famous Five and Secret Seven territory. Similarly, the parts set in London have a very Dickensian tone. Only after having read the book did I discover that the author herself meant it to be, in part, a homage to the books she enjoyed reading as a child!

As an Australian, it is clear that, while the parts of the tale set in Australia have a ring of authenticity to them-you feel as though this is someone who has lived and breathed Australia-the parts set in England have the feel partly of a visitor and partly of impressions gained through reading the writings of others.

The second thing to get used to, and I must admit it is a little irritating at first, is the way the writer jumps, somewhat frenetically, backwards and forwards in time. One can't help but feel she may have had one eye on a film or mini-TV series because it gives one the impression of jumping and cutting from one scene to the next in the rapid way that they tend to. Given that the story unfolds rather in the haphazard and confusing way that many people these days experience when going back in time in order to trace their family tree, this constant leaping around in time, while a little irritating, actually adds to the authenticity of the piecemeal way in which a truth, a secret, from the distant past is often revealed.

Now it has to be said that if it were possible to assign a gender to a book then this one is definitely female. The main perspective is from the female characters' minds whilst the male characters are rather one-dimensional caricatures. That said, there are some wonderful moments, little gems of insight, that anyone can relate to. Her description of the suspension of time in the hospital where Cassandra's grandmother is dying will hit home with a bitter-sweet poingnancy for anyone who has been to that place and I particularly liked this thought voiced at one point in the tale: " better to make changes for oneself than try to mend holes torn by the decisions of others."

In summary, then, apart from the fact that the big 'secret' is rather obvious long before it is revealed -no thanks to a somewhat unrealistic 'red herring'- this is a good read that, once read, will be not forgotten.


Tchaikovsky : Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 3 - Apex
Tchaikovsky : Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 3 - Apex
Price: £3.49

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tchaikovsky Treasures Sparkling In The Shadow Of Piano Concerto No. 1, 29 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
With perhaps one of the best known openings to a piano concerto-a typically plangent Tchaikovsky theme that reappears but once before the movement ranges widely, with passsion and pathos, over a multiude of musical moods-followed by a beautifully serene second movement, rippling just slightly with that nervous energy that infuses Tchaikovsky's music, and finishing off with, yes, a typically rousing and triumphant Tchaikovsky finale, the first piano concerto was always going to be hard to follow.

With the second piano concerto, performed here with the swirling gusto it deserves by Elisabeth Leonskaja in unison with a warm and robust sounding New York Philharminic orchestra under the direction of Kurt Masur, Tchaikovsky has polished off another musical gem that glistens at every turn with his unique musical inspiration...even if, compared to the first, one would describe it as a little more conventional - if only because it sounds more 'Russian'.

Perhaps of more interest here is the third concerto. I have seen this concerto given the warning label 'unfinished' so was not expecting a great deal. As it turns out the concerto is not so much 'unfinished' as the 'finished' result of some compositional inspirational wrestling by Tchaikovsky not long before his death. It started out as the first movement of his seventh symphony in E flat. On the manuscript to it Tchaikovsky wrote a note: "The end. God be thanked." A sure sign that things were not going well. He later wrote of it: "As music it hasn't come out badly-but it's pretty ungrateful."

He subsequently abandoned the symphony but decided to rework the first movement as a piece for piano and orchestra saying, in a letter to Polish composer and pianist Zygmunt Stojowski: "...this concerto is of depressing and threatening length. Consequently I decided to have only part one which in itself will constitute an entire concerto." Thus, discarding the sketched-out second and third movements as not worthy, was born his third piano concerto. Considering its somewhat tortured birth it holds up surprisingly well here-doubtless in part due to the generous and sympathetic treatment given to it in this recording. Listening to it, though, one can't help but feel that it has the seeds of a far greater, majestic work that might have come to fruition if only Tchaikovsky had been given more time, more life. As it is, it stands as testimony that Tchaikovsky, along with so many of the great composers whose lives were either cut short or descended in to assorted states of personal difficulty and tragedy, could still turn out musical gems in the midst of personal struggles.


Burn Notice - Season 5 [DVD] [NTSC]
Burn Notice - Season 5 [DVD] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Jeffrey Donovan
Price: £9.41

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classy, Vibrant, Witty, Action Packed: A Show Demanding Notice, 26 Nov. 2012
The fifth season already? It seems like only yesterday that the first season of this show grabbed my attention. Quite how, I don't rightly recall as, here in England, it's usually hidden away, at a ridiculous time, on one of those obscure Freeview channels.

Whatever, in the depths of winter, this series, as well as serving up some fine acting, writing, directing and production of stories surrounding the exploits of 'burnt' spy Michael Westen-played with naturalistic aplomb by Jeffrey Donovan alongside equally fine supporting acts by Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless and Paul Tei-delivers some welcome Miami warmth and sunshine to one's living room.

That is one thing that stands out about this show-the excellent use of real Miami locations in which the drama is set. It adds to the authenticity.

As for the drama, well, the main characters are warm,likeable, well intentioned people-which helps draw you in and feel real concern for the various predicaments they encounter...Predicaments that, it has to be said, bear more than a passing resemblance to those encountered by Jim Rockford.

Indeed, think 'The Rockford Files', crossed with 'Mission Impossible', shaken and stirred with a dash of 'James Bond', all set in modern day Miami, and you will be some way to getting what this show is about. Above all, though it delves in to a variety of, shall we say, less pleasant aspects of human behaviour, it is ultimately a positive, uplifting show where one is left in no doubt that, ultimately, right and good will prevail.


Summer
Summer
Price: £0.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Music Shimmering Like An Endless Summer's Day, 8 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Summer (MP3 Download)
Of all the mini classics composed by Joe Hisaishi this is perhaps his best. It has one of those Motzartian, naggingly catchy tunes that lodges pleasingly in the mind for days on end and, more to the point, perfectly captures both the warmth and joy of long summer days and the barely perceived knowledge, tinged with the poignancy of a chilly September dawn,
that,though seemingly endless, they will, like all things, pass.

Not to worry, though, because, on those long dark, cold and damp winter days, one only has to lie back, close one's eye's and listen to this evocation of summer to be reminded that, though temporarily absent, those days will return to gladden the heart and lift the soul.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5