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Cambridge Poetry Workshop: 16+
Cambridge Poetry Workshop: 16+
by Jeffrey Wood
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Opening up the territory, 29 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the latest in the Cambridge Poetry Workshop series which encourages students to explore poetry by responding to the imaginative territory the poems occupy. In many ways, it is the most courageous and exciting book in the series, enticing kids to engage with major works rarely attempted by teachers in GCSE classes: alongside poetry by Browning, Ted Hughes and Hopkins, there are extracts from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (in a modernised version), Chaucer's The Merchant's Tale and Eliot's the Wasteland as well as a group of poems by Carol Ann Duffy. The authors obviously have complete confidence in great literature's ability to speak, given the chance: there is nothing patronising about their approach. Nor are the exercises mechanical or didactic: students are encouraged to respond to these exciting works by producing their own original writing, not simply regurgitating second-hand critical ideas or ticking boxes. If only all schools taught poetry in this way!


Cecilia Bartoli: Gluck Italian Arias
Cecilia Bartoli: Gluck Italian Arias
Price: 19.57

5.0 out of 5 stars Brave Bartoli at her thrilling best., 29 Jun 2013
Not much I can add to the excellent review above. Bartoli is an operatic heroine: she explores repertoire others never bother about and forces us to enjoy music which has become merely the territory of scholars. It's all very exciting and convincing: her passion wins one over to the latest cause: I hope she continues to trail blaze in this way. The present disc is of very unfamiliar stuff but once one acclimatises to Gluck's non-Mozartian idiom, it is captivating and musically Gluck has far more worth saying than Vivaldi. The singing is ravishing.


The Vivaldi Album
The Vivaldi Album
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 7.82

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Minor stuff, 16 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Vivaldi Album (Audio CD)
The incomparable Bartoli and her excellent team of instrumentalists dispatch these extracts with customary dazzle and taste but nothing can disguise the thinness of so much of this music.


The Rape of Lucrece: 1
The Rape of Lucrece: 1
by William Shakespeare
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 5.52

3.0 out of 5 stars No match for Burton, 15 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Rape of Lucrece: 1 (Audio CD)
The advantage of this set is that the whole text is presented whereas the Burton recording is slightly abridged. That said, it's interesting that whereas Burton's performance takes 58 minutes, this recording lasts for two tedious hours. Perhaps having two discs at their disposal, the production team decided that everything should be leisurely. Certainly what this reading lacks is pace, a clear sense of dramatic direction and excitement. There is no sense of events rushing to their terrible climx, or of a man caught up in a mad whirlwind of lust. It's all rather low voltage stuff, like a leisurely stroll through a quaint old theatre, admiring the architecture rather than getting caught up in the drama. Gerard Logan enunciates beautifully but he seems to have little grasp of any of the characters. Lucrece is especially weak. Logan seems to have decided she is simply a hapless victim in distress whereas Burton presents her as the powerful Roman role model she is, articulate, furious with Time and Opportunity and determined that she should be revenged. More a Cleopatra than a Hero.

Once I put on Burton's recording, I was riveted to my seat. Listening to this one, I took several breaks and considered joining the Foreign Legion. I wonder if other listeners will have a similar experience.


The Rape of Lucrece (Unabridged)
The Rape of Lucrece (Unabridged)
Offered by Audible Ltd
Price: 8.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Electrifying., 15 Jun 2013
This electrifying reading of Shakespeare's greatest narrative poem deserves the widest circulation. It will probably help convince those who have struggled to read this poem on their own that Lucrece is one of Shakespeare's finest dramatic achievements despite its rhetorical excesses. Burton takes the whole thing as seriously as it deserves: Tarquin, Lucrece, Collatine and even Brutus speak with passion and conviction: there is no sense that this is all melodramatic self-indulgence or merely decorative word-painting. Presumably the text had to be abridged to accommodate the reading onto an LP record. but unless you know the text very well indeed, you are unlikely to spot or lament the cuts: the text is rhetorically patterned and intelligent abridgement does no great harm, though I suspect, given the chance, Burton would have made a strong case for every line of the poem, such is his commitment and intelligence.

Just occasionally there is some pre-echo and minor distortion but the recording is outstanding. No one reads Shakespeare, or English poetry generally, better than Burton. This riveting performance makes one weep that he wasted so much time filming trash when he could have been recording Paradise Lost, Lear or Macbeth.


Cecilia Bartoli - Live in Italy
Cecilia Bartoli - Live in Italy
Price: 13.18

5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly delightful, 15 Jun 2013
This is one of Bartoli's most delightful discs. She sings a rich variety of songs, from early Italian opera to Rossini, Donizetti and Bizet. Much of the writing demands extraordinary virtuosity but Bartoli makes it all sound effortless gaiety. Highly recommended.


Human Stain [DVD]
Human Stain [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anthony Hopkins
Price: 6.08

3.0 out of 5 stars An Honest Attempt..., 11 Jun 2013
This review is from: Human Stain [DVD] (DVD)
This film is very faithful to Roth's powerful novel and will be very useful to students as they revise their reading. Inevitably, it is much less compelling than the book itself: there are powerful chunks missing although the relationship between the Professor and the college charlady is presented faithfully, if at a rather low temperature: Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman are superb actors but perhaps here lack sufficient earthiness to do justice to Roth's creations. It is not a cinematic treat: it's interesting to see what happens when a novel is respected in this way. It will probably convince you that reading can touch whole areas of experience which cinema cannot reach.


Moonlight - Piano Sonatas Nos. 13, 14, 30 (Pires)
Moonlight - Piano Sonatas Nos. 13, 14, 30 (Pires)
Offered by dischiniccoli
Price: 19.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Timid, tentative, inhibited., 9 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As a great admirer of Pires, I looked forward to this disc of Beethoven sonatas but came away hugely disappointed. She sounds like someone doing something wholly uncongenial through a sense of duty: I kept imagining her scooping up some ghastly old relative's unspeakable dirty washing with a huge pair of wooden tongs. Whatever Beethoven is, he's never timid, tentative or inhibited yet those are the adjectives that spring to mind throughout this recital. It's like listening to a performance at a piano competition where the competitor is remarkably assured technically but has absolutely no feeling for or comprehension of the music she's playing. The storming finale of the Moonlight sounds like a little girl having a tantrum: it ends with her stamping her little feet. The effect is not tragic but comic.

The disappointment extends to the packaging: a nasty little cardboard sleeve which is complicated to negotiate. It seems nobody was very committed to the task.


Sweet Tooth
Sweet Tooth
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Playing Games, 1 Jun 2013
This review is from: Sweet Tooth (Paperback)
If, like me, you regard "Atonement" as the high-water mark of McEwan's achievements and were comprehensively unimpressed by "Solar", you will probably spend most of your time reading "Sweet Tooth" concluding McEwan's lost it. With a central character who's a a woman working for M15, you might be expecting something quite new from McEwan, a spell-binding story of espionage, just to show he can be a master of the genre. But although there is plenty of rather clunkily researched historical and political detail, you will realise by page fifty, it is not going to be that kind of work. By page one hundred, you may well be wondering what kind of work it is, the writing being so mediocre, the narrative voice so unconvincing. A Mills and Boon, rather light on romance? Another novel about writing itself? Certainly nothing would persuade one to read on except respect for McEwan's pervious achievements and the hope that surely at some point things will be turned round in a witty and satisfying manner. Then we will see why the writing is so feeble, the characterisation so banal, the plot so predictable... Or has McEwan exhausted a modest talent which was always more about literary tricks than substance? Is this anything but hackwork, relying upon a loyal following to pay the bills? It is with some desperation that one reaches the very edge of the cliff which must surely overlook a fall from grace, a smashing of the idol... Everything depends upon the final chapter.

If at the end, one feels a modicum of relief, a qualified respect for the craftsman, a shiver of admiration for the gamble, the trick, does it amount to much more? Repeating the "Atonement" procedure feels not so much risky as disappointing, the tediously long ride to the conjuror's surprise having been so much less engaging than in that enthralling and stylish novel. There are passages of pastiche, or self-mockery here, which only a master of the craft could have produced. But... but... shouldn't McEwan be exercising his considerable talents on a worthier project than a bit of silly showmanship? And aren't some of his reactionary social and political views becoming rather obtrusive?


Gerard Manley Hopkins
Gerard Manley Hopkins
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 8.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity., 26 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Gerard Manley Hopkins (Audio CD)
It's impossible to recommend this disc. Only 62 minutes long, incomprehensibly, it offers only an abridged version of The Deutschland: leaving out the entire, magnificent account of the shipwreck! Since this represents the greatest of Hopkins's poetry, there's not much point in buying this ill-conceived anthology. Unfortunately, the wonderful readings made by Argo for the British Council, with a superlative account of The Deutschland by Michael Redgrave, is now unavailable. Jeremy Northam reads well enough, albeit sometimes misunderstanding Hopkins's sense, but there is no magic here: it's all a bit tepid and monotonous. Hopkins deserves a reader with a much stronger sense of the rich variety of the drama and music of the verse. If not a latter-day Redgrave, then a latter-day Burton....


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