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S. J. Batten "balisonmb" (Brighton, UK.)

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Complete Book of the Essence and Application of Taijiquan
Complete Book of the Essence and Application of Taijiquan
by Chengfu Yang
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.74

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable classic., 7 Jun 2006
This was the first ever book to try to introduce Tai Chi to readers and is by the founder of the Yang style, Yang Cheng Fu. It contains about 100 photos of him in Long Form postures, with his accompanying explanations of the movements and their applications. As such, the book is a classic that no serious practitioner of Yang Style Tai Chi should be without on their shelves. In particular, it is invaluable for the photos of the founder's postures which are still a model of perfect style and deserve to emulated by everyone who practises the long form. The only reason why I have witheld one star from this book is that it is not appropriate for beginners. There are not enough photos to be able to learn the form from this, and the explanations of the movements are not always comprehensible and there are many gaps in the transitional movements. Nevertheless, the book remains an invaluable resource for style for the more advanced practioner already familiar with the Form from elsewhere.

Taiji Sword, Classical Yang Style: The Complete Form, Qigong and Applications (Martial Arts-Internal)
Taiji Sword, Classical Yang Style: The Complete Form, Qigong and Applications (Martial Arts-Internal)
by Yang Jwing-Ming
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, in depth coverage., 10 May 2006
I have studied the long Yang barehand form with a Chinese grandmaster, and some Chen style sword with the same Gramdmaster. I had to leave the classes because I moved away and wanted to continue with Tai Chi sword, so looked long and hard for a suitable book, before finding this one. As the synopsis says, it contains well over 400 photos, with text that gives full coverage of the moves. Directional arrows show how the moves are executed. There are also, for every move, photos showing the applications. These are invaluable for helping to understand the purpose and meaning behind each movement. There is also in-depth information on Chi development specially for the sword, a history of the sword in China, a chapter on fundamental techniques, and a section on two-person practice which is the equivalent for sword of push-hands. I have looked around for a long time and this is certainly the best Tai chi sword book on the market. Many of the techniques in this Yang style Tai Chi sword are familiar to me from the Chen style. I have also done European fencing, and find that some of the moves are reminiscent of that, too. I think it probably helps to have done some Tai Chi sword or some form of fencing before reading this book, as otherwise, even with the photos showing the applications, it might be difficult to appreciate what is going on, for example, the movements right and left Whirlwind are similar to the western fencing concept of Envelopment. Nevertheless, I am sure that with persistence, even someone with no previous experience of swordplay will derive an immense amount of useful instruction from this book, but be prepared to work hard. For those with no previous experience of swordplay, it might be as well to invest in the accompanying video as well, though I am not sure that this will play on European machines. As mentioned, it helps to have done some Tai Chi sword before with a Master, to have an idea of the rhythm and pace of the Form. Still, even for someone without any previous experience, this book is invaluable and comprehensive.

Wagner: Parsifal
Wagner: Parsifal
Offered by Music-Shop
Price: 25.23

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An ASTOUNDING bargain., 14 Nov 2005
This review is from: Wagner: Parsifal (Audio CD)
This is the famous Knappertsbusch (COMPLETE!)Recording from 1951,selling on this Quadromania label for about £1 per disc. It is of course in mono and 1951 sound, but the transfer seems excellent, with plently of both treble and bass. I paid about £5.99 for my copy and I am astonished to find it retailing for even less! The one drawback is that it has no sleeve notes or libretto - just a track listing, but if you already own another performance of Parsifal with a libretto and are keen to explore this legendary recording of the work, look no further.
This recording had the best Parsifal cast in the discography: Windgassen as Parsifal, Marthe Moedl as Kundry, George London as Amfortas and Ludwig Weber as Gurnemanz. I own six recordings of Parsifal including this one and apart from the Goodall, this is the one I go back to the most. The tempi are very broad, but the performance never flags. Rather, in the hands of Knappertsbusch - who made Parsifal his own over the decade or so during which he conducted it at Bayreuth - the slow tempi bring a kind of religious transcendalism to the work and a unique organic unity all his own. Yes, this recording (and at this remarkable price!) is an absolute 'must have' for any lover of Parsifal.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2008 10:24 PM GMT

Wagner: Parsifal
Wagner: Parsifal
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: 47.03

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very Arthurian Parsifal, 14 Nov 2005
This review is from: Wagner: Parsifal (Audio CD)
Not so long ago, I reviewed Kubelik's Parsifal and gave it five stars. I still think Kubelik's is one of the best Parsifals in the discography but personally, I prefer the Goodall by a whisker.
What drew me to the Goodall originally were reports of its slow tempi. Rather than putting me off, this actually encouraged me to buy it, as I have been finding myself increasingly drawn back of late to the 1951 Knappertsbusch recording, with its very slow
tempi. Goodall's tempi are even slower - a minute slower in the first Act, some fifteen minutes slower in the second and six minutes slower in the third, which makes it the slowest Parsifal in the discography and indeed in history. But it never drags.
Goodall is able to achieve a kind of horizontal clarity from the orchestra which I have never heard in any other performance and every nuance and detail of the orchestration is revealed and dwelt upon lovingly without in any way compromising ghe conductor's overarching grasp of the structure of the work.
But this is not just a 1951 Knappertsbusch in superior sound.
Knappertsbusch was renowned for bringing his own pious, 'Christian' feel to the work. Goodall brings what I can only describe as an Arthurian feel, emphasing the mystical qualities of the drama so that, for instance the religious music of Act one sounds like a solemn rite actually enacted in the Arthurian era of legend, rather than (as in Knappertsbusch)a beautiful religious ceremony pertaining to a more modern era. It is this Arthurian feel - I can't put it any other way - which sets this Parsifal apart from all the rest and which in my opinion elevates it above them.
The cast is superb - not a weak member (unlike the Kubelik, which unfortunately has a rather weak Amfortas and an uncharacteristic Kundry). In this recording, the greatest Kundry since Moedl, Waltraud Meier, gives a performance that is suitably unhinged in Act1 and astonishingly seductive in Act 2. As Gurnemanz, Donald Mcintyre is in my view marginally better than Kurt Moll and only Ludwig Weber in the 1951 Knappertsbusch is slightly superior. In other words, McIntyre's is one of the best Gurnemanzes in the discography. He gives astute attention to every nuance of the text and his tone is very even, lacking the throatiness of Hans Hotter in the 1962 Kna. Warren Ellsworth as Parsifal is a real surpise. I'd never heard of him before, but I am astonished at the beauty of his voice, which has a dark, baritonal quality in the lower register and very piercing (but not shrill) in the upper. He brings a greater degree of characterisation to the role than any other singer since Windgassen in 1951. In Act 3, he is able to sound suitably matured, but still at heart innocent - an extraordinary feat, which eludes all other singers in this role. Phillip Joll is an excellent Amfortas, perhaps with a slightly too obtrusive vibrato, but well inside his part and as suitably anguished as was George London in 1951. As Klingsor, David Gwynne lacks the real evil brought to the role by Hermann Uhde in 1951, but Uhde in this part remains unsurpassed and Gwynne is an exceptionally fine Klingsor nevertheless, very malevolent, though his voice sounds perhaps too like Donald Mcintyre's at times, lending the result a slightly undifferentiated quality, but this is only a quibble.
This is the most characterful Parsifal I have ever heard for its atmnosphere of mystery and the enchantment of legend. Again, I can only use the word 'Arthurian' to describe it. It has rapidly become my favourite Parsifal - and I already own five others (Solti, Karajan, Kna 51, Kna62 and Kubelik). Finally, a word about the recorded sound. This is of the highest quality. Every instrument can be heard but without the coldness which is sometimes the price for such clarity. Indeed, the recorded sound is almost as warm as that of the Bayreuth of Kna's 1962 recording. It is a tribute to both Goodall and the sound engineers that such clarity of texture can be achieved without compromising the 'blended' feel of the orchestration which Wagner intended.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 5, 2009 11:30 PM BST

Tristan Und Isolde (Furtwangler, Philharmonia Orchestra)
Tristan Und Isolde (Furtwangler, Philharmonia Orchestra)
Offered by Naxos Direct UK
Price: 15.99

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent transfer of a legendary recording., 29 Mar 2005
This is regarded as one of the greatest ever opera recordings and it is impossible to disagree. The greatness lies primarily in Furtwangler's conducting which takes slow tempi yet the whole seems to pass extremely quickly. Then again, Furtwangler dwells lovingly on details but has a supreme mastery of line and structure.
Flagstad, of course, was one of the greatest ever Wagner sopranos and even though she was 57 at the time of this recording her voice was still immensely powerful but soft and creamy in tone and like Furtwangler himself she was able to focus on details while always maintaining the line. Ludwig Suthaus as Tristan is superb and his baritonal type of heldentenor voice perfectly complements Flagstad. As for the role of Kurwenal, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in this is a relevation. He makes every word count and is lighter of voice - a tenorial baritone - than in his later years. Blanche Thebom is a more than adequate Brangaene who very well complements Isolde because her voice is clearly differentiated from Flagstad's. The Philharmonia orchestra play as if their lives depended on the success of this recording; 'incandescent' hardly does them justice.
The Naxos transfer was made according to the sleeve notes from records rather than the original tapes and to judge by the results the discs have been chosen with great discernment. The 1952 mono sound is exceptionally clear and with plenty of both treble and bass. The recording is so vivid that it almost gives the illusion of stereo at times.
The only drawback is that the accompanying booklet only has a synopsis and no libretto.

Wagner: Parsifal
Wagner: Parsifal
Price: 42.40

67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rivals Knappertsbusch, 19 Mar 2005
This review is from: Wagner: Parsifal (Audio CD)
Five stars are not enough for this sublime studio version which lay buried for many years since it was recorded in 1980 and was only released recently, since when, not surprisingly, it has been gaining increasing plaudits among Wagnerians.
It was recorded at roughly the same time as Karajan's version, but it is far superior and sells at almost about half the price. Karajan's recording was let down by his tendency to take the drama out of the work by presenting it as a series of beautiful tableaux and his cast was compromised by the Parsifal of Peter Hoffmann. In this Kubelik version, on the other hand, James King's Parsifal is superb: his tone is mellifluous but he brings intense drama to the role, particularly in his exchanges with Kundry in Act II, and he is able to differentiate his voice so that he sounds very youthful in Act I but suitably more mature by Act III. He is certainly the equal of Windgassen in the 1951 Knappertsbusch or of Jess Thomas in the 1962 Kna. Gurnemanz is sung by Kurt Moll (as in the Karajan). His voice has almost the fulness of tone of Ludwig Weber in the 1951 Kna, but there is more drama. For instance, in his aside to the knights on the subject of Kundry in Act I scene 1 ('Ja, wann oft lange' etc), he drops down to almost sotto voce before rising to an almost frightenening exhortation to Kundry herself ('He! Du! Hor mich und sag..'). Truly, a marvel. The Kundry of Yvonne Minton is more than adequate to the task, though perhaps no-one will ever match Martha Modl in the Kna '51. However, Yvonne Minton certainly knows how to vary the character of her voice so that she sounds almost like an alto and suitably unhinged in Act I, but more like a kind of super Flowermaiden in her exchanges with Parsifal in Act III. Perhaps Amfortas is the only weakness in this cast. Bernd Weikl never seems to bring off the full agony of the character; his suffering never truly alarms, but this is at least made up for by the superb orchestral accompaniments. One does miss George London in this role. But Matti Salminen as Titurel is superb. All of the relationships between the singers are incredibly dramatic and only the complete lack of stage or audience noise gives this away as a studio performance. As for the choruses, these are all of the highest standard and the Tolzer Knabenchor are particularly ethereal in Act I, where also the recording engineers have beautifully represented the different
heights of the voices of youths and boys issuing from within the Grail dome.
The orchestral playing is faultless throughout in terms of ensemble and tonal beauty and the players respond to every nuance in the text. The engineers have caught the sound of the orchestra most vividly and much can be heard of the score that is not apparent in many other recordings. The balance between singers and orchestra and choruses and orchestra is always just right. The bells, too, are thoroughly convincing.
Finally, to the conducting of Rafel Kubelik. He avoids making the music too pretty at the expense of the drama, like Karajan and he avoids making the religious music of Act I (and particulary the Transformation Music) sound too histrionically ecstatic, as in the Solti version. However, his approach differs from that of Knappertsbusch, who adopts throughout a slow, reverent pulse, particularly in 1951 that gives the work a kind of transcendental organic unity. In this Kublelik version, there is just as much unity but it is more dramatic than transcendental, although it would be hard to find a more 'transcendental' sounding Act I scene 3 than this. Somehow, Kubelik gives the impression of knowing exactly where he is going with this music from the first bar. Yet unlike a Bohm, who achieves unity with consistently very fast tempi, or a Knappertsbusch, who achieves it with consistently very slow ones, Kubelik performs the truly miraculous feat of being able to maintain an overarching sense of structure and line while varying the tempi considerably and paying due attention to every detail throughout. In this connection, Kubelik gives an idea of how a Parsifal might have sounded under Furtwangler.
In short, this must rank surely as the best available studio version of Parsifal and is a rival even to the famous Knappertsbusch Bayreuth performances.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 17, 2013 10:16 PM GMT

Der Ring Des Nibelungen [14cd Box]
Der Ring Des Nibelungen [14cd Box]
Offered by Music-Shop
Price: 29.88

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful bargain., 16 Feb 2005
This budget priced recording represents absolutely first class value. The singers give thoughtful and, moreover, musically accurate performances throughout. John Wegner's Wotan is particularly fine - very authoritative, never gruff. There are two Siegfrieds - Edward Cook (who is also an excellent Siegmund) and Wolfgang Neumann and between them they capture very well the hero's transition from youthful innocence in Siegfried to compromised maturity in Gotterdammerung. Brunnhilde is sung by Carla Pohl and her voice is very attractive - neither too maidenly nor too Amazonian - although perhaps a little lacking in power. The advantages of a live recording are felt in all the relationships on stage, which are always dramatic and never merely declamatory.
Neuhold's conducting is superb - the tempi never drag, nor do they ever seem too fast as in Bohm's legendary 1967 recording. Overall, this Ring is presented with an energy and dynamism which never overshadow the work's lyrical qualities. The orchestral playing is distinguished by its accuracy and perfect intonation, and the players respond with relish to their conductor. The only quibble is that the strings - particularly the upper strings - sound a little thin (but presumably at the Badische Staatsoper's pit there is not room for the full Wagnerian string complement). On the other hand, the orchestral colours are very vivid, and many inner parts nor usually audible can be discerned here, particularly in the woodwinds. The brass have a golden tone and deliver powerful climaxes without roughness.
Despite this being a live recording, the audience is all but inaudible and stage noise is minimal. The recorded sound, DDD, is excellent, though the level is a little low, so it pays to turn up the volume more than usual. I have relished this recording and you can pick it up for a song!

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