Profile for Stephen Barber > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Stephen Barber
Top Reviewer Ranking: 12,537
Helpful Votes: 107

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Stephen Barber "falconer" (Oxfordshire, United Kingdom)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
pixel
Alexander Borodin: Symphonies Nos. 1 - 3
Alexander Borodin: Symphonies Nos. 1 - 3
Offered by MUSIC DIRECT
Price: £18.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A classic set, 3 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This set was unavailable for a time and it's good to see it back again and in its original livery. There is little to say: this set contains all Borodin's orchestral works in good performances, not quite first rank but very acceptable. The works themselves are delightful.


Romantic Russia
Romantic Russia
Offered by RAREWAVES
Price: £12.79

5.0 out of 5 stars A classic recording which deserves its fame, 3 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Romantic Russia (Audio CD)
This is a famous recording of Russian showpieces and all one need say is that it deserves its fame. This is a good reissue, without the inferior performance of Tchaikovsky's Little Russian symphony which was there on its last reissue and which you don't want. I don't like the Rosette livery but I downloaded the original cover art and put that on top.


Liszt;a Faust Symphony
Liszt;a Faust Symphony
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £17.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Muti's is possibly the best version, 10 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Liszt;a Faust Symphony (Audio CD)
I am a great fan of the Faust symphony, and also, to a lesser extent, of the Dante, and I have several recordings. This is possibly the best of them, for its verve and vigour. If you like this work, do give this version a go.


The Faerie Queene (Penguin Classics) Reissue Edition by Spenser, Edmund published by Penguin Classics (1979)
The Faerie Queene (Penguin Classics) Reissue Edition by Spenser, Edmund published by Penguin Classics (1979)
by Edmund Spenser
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A convenient edition of this wonderful poem, 8 Nov 2014
Spenser's wonderful poem needs no praise from me. I simply want to commend this convenient edition. It is clearly printed and not, as so often in the past, in double column. So it runs to over 1200 pages. The text is reliable and there are textual notes if you want to check a reading. It is in original spelling but this presents no problems and any occasional doubts about the meaning are usually cleared up by the metre or by checking the notes. These are not ample but they are sufficient. There is also a glossary of common words. This is not complete but it is useful.

This is a chunky volume to take on holiday but is portable, unlike the Longman Annotated Poets edition which has fuller notes. My copy was a bit battered by the time I reached the end. For a more durable copy you can get a hardback of this version; it was published by Yale University Press some time ago. It is now out of print but can be got secondhand.


The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (English Library)
The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (English Library)
by Sir Philip Sidney
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Penguin is the version of Arcadia to get, 6 Nov 2014
If you want to read Arcadia in its traditional version, this Penguin edition is the only choice. This is a work which was regarded as both a classic and a popular favourite for two hundred years and then fell out of sight when taste changed. It is in some ways quite antipathetic to much modern taste: most of the characters are aristocrats; the language is courtly and rhetorical even when the behaviour is extreme; the plot is complex and interwoven; and those who like works to be raw and visceral will be disappointed.

But it is well worth acquiring the taste to enjoy it. It is no harder to read than Henry James or Proust. The story is good and characters really fascinating: the feeble king Basilius, who semi-abdicates because of an oracle; his devious wife Gynecia and their lovely daughters, the strong-minded Pamela and the gentler but still steadfast Philoclea, who must have suggested to Shakespeare some aspects of his comic heroines. Their lovers are good too: the bold Musidorus, who disguises himself as a shepherd and the amazing Pyrocles, who disguises himself as an Amazon named Zelmane. This is sustained for hundreds of pages and Sidney even uses female pronouns and consistently refers to Zelmane not Pyrocles. Philoclea develops a crush on the supposed Zelmane, most sensitively handled, and this turns gradually into a more mature love. Meanwhile both Basilius and Gynecia also fall in love with this ambiguous figure. This reminds me of Viola in Twelfth Night, and I dare Shakespeare picked up the idea partly from here. Then there is Amphialus, the very model of a controlling domestic tyrant, who captures Pamela and Philoclea, is minded to marry one of them but keeps them prisoners and even tortures them.

Sidney originally wrote a shorter and simpler tale, with a more pastoral emphasis. This is conventionally known as the Old Arcadia, and it was not published in his lifetime. The modern scholarly edition is by Jean Robertson and the Worlds Classic is a popular text of this version. Sidney began a revision, known as the New Arcadia, but was killed before completing the third of the five books. The composite version adds the original conclusion to the revised beginning. Actually this is what happened with Proust's A la recherche and it works well enough. The Oxford edition of the New Arcadia only contains the revised portion so if you want the traditional composite text you need this Penguin. Fortunately, it has been very well edited by Maurice Evans. He includes the transition between Sidney's two portions written by William Alexander and first published in 1621 but not the sixth book by Richard Beling which was added in 1627. Alexander's passage is a skilful piece of work, but both in it and in the Elizabethan editing of the original conclusion there are some slips in continuity, and my only criticism of Evans' editing is that he could have been more interventionist and corrected these too. There are also some typos and passages of bitched type in my copy. I hope these have been corrected in reprints.

Evans also provides brief but useful notes and an excellent introduction, which so impressed me that I went out and obtained his book on Spenser's Faerie Queene, which is really the verse counterpart to Arcadia, being first published in the same year, 1590.

It's a shame that this excellent edition is not available in a decent hardback on good paper. As it is not in verse it was not included in Yale's hardback series of Penguin English poets. I am hoping that the Folio Society will choose it for one of their luxurious editions. It deserves no less.


Mendelssohn: 5 Symphonies / Overtures
Mendelssohn: 5 Symphonies / Overtures
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: £155.82

5.0 out of 5 stars Still the set to get, 1 Oct 2014
This has been the reigning set of Mendelssohn's symphonies for nearly thirty years and listening to it it is easy to hear why. Abbado has a thorough grasp of the idiom, the LSO play immaculately, the soloists in the Lobgesang (Symphony 2) are fine and the recording is lovely. This was the original CD reissue of this set and it comes in a handsome box, more handsome in my view than the reissue, which has more overtures in it.


L'Etranger (2CD)
L'Etranger (2CD)
Price: £22.06

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile rarity, 17 Sep 2014
This review is from: L'Etranger (2CD) (Audio CD)
D'Indy is one of those composers - Cherubini is another - whose work appeals to music-lovers because of their integrity and craftsmanship but who will never have a wide audience because they lack a strong lyric gift. I have long wanted to hear this work, which seemed from Martin Cooper's account in his book on French music to be the most concise and the best of d'Indy's four serious operas. The plot has echoes of the Flying Dutchman, particularly, also Lohengrin and Parsifal but d'Indy does not have Wagner's understanding of myth and legend and it comes over as rather contrived. Still, the music is intensely atmospheric and the work well worth hearing. Lawrence Foster, that indefatigable champion of worthwhile rarities leads a good performance. If we had a more adventurous operatic culture it would get an occasional airing. As it is, if you care for music of the Franck school and Wagnerian opera, snap it up.


Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex
Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex

5.0 out of 5 stars A superb performance, 24 May 2014
This review is from: Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex (Audio CD)
I am happy to endorse those who have given this five stars. It deserves them. One reason is that it was based on an actual run of performances by this team in the old Sadler's Wells theatre in London in the early 1960s. I saw this production as a child - it made a great impression - and I was very glad when this was reissued on CD. It certainly lived up to my (rather hazy) memories. It's a shame Colin Davis recorded so comparatively little Stravinsky.


Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts Stravinsky
Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts Stravinsky

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely disc, 24 May 2014
There are many recordings of the Pulcinella suite but this is of the complete ballet with the songs, in a fine performance by that excellent Stravinskian Salonen. Again there are many recordings of the Octet but Renard and Ragtime are hard to find. Here they are, in excellent performances. No Stravinskian should hesitate.


Concerto For Piano & Wind Instruments;Capriccio For Piano & Orchestra...
Concerto For Piano & Wind Instruments;Capriccio For Piano & Orchestra...
Offered by KAOZI168 Classical_ ''Dispatch in time for Christmas''
Price: £17.80

5.0 out of 5 stars A much cherished disc, 24 May 2014
Salonen is a fine conductor of Stravinsky. This is a fine coupling of all three piano concertante works, including the rare Movements, with the Symphonies of wind instruments thrown in as a substantial extra.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6