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Reviews Written by
Sid Nuncius (London)

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Beethoven: Complete String Quartets
Beethoven: Complete String Quartets
Price: £29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful music, beautifully performed, 29 July 2016
Beethoven's string quartets contain some of his finest music, in my view. The early Opus 18 quartets retain elements of the classicism of Haydn and Mozart while moving the form into new territory, the wonderful Rasoumovsky Quartets in his middle period have some sublime slow movements and show the real development in Beethoven's music, and the amazing late quartets contain a mixture of the strange, the inspiring and the beautiful as Beethoven's genius reached its final flowering. To have all this in one box is truly wonderful.

The performances by the Alban Berg Quartet are excellent. They date from the early 1980s, were very highly regarded at the time and have aged very well, I think. They are technically excellent, their intonation is flawless and show great insight in interpretation. Very fine cycles have been recorded since by other quartets, but I still listen to these discs with great pleasure and for a great complete cycle at budget price I'd say you couldn't do better than this. The slow movement of the A minor quartet Op.132 is one of music's true miracles, and the Alban Bergs' playing of it is still my favourite of any quartet - indeed, it's possibly my favourite 15 minutes of music anywhere. The recording of the Quartet in E flat major, Op.74 ("The Harp") included in this set was selected by Radio 3 CD Review's Building a Library in 2011 as the best available. Given the phenomenal standard of the competition, it's a fine endorsement of the quality of this box.

If you're looking for a recording of the Beethoven Quartets to get to know, this is ideal, and if you're already familiar with them there is plenty to enjoy in these interpretations. At this price for seven CDs of superlative music it's an exceptional bargain, too, and I recommend this set very warmly indeed.

AMP® USB to Micro USB/Lightning cable, MFI certified high speed braided cable, OFC shielded cable up to 25% faster speeds, compatible with all Apple devices with Lightning port and Android devices with Micro USB. Compatible with all USB chargers. (1 metre)
AMP® USB to Micro USB/Lightning cable, MFI certified high speed braided cable, OFC shielded cable up to 25% faster speeds, compatible with all Apple devices with Lightning port and Android devices with Micro USB. Compatible with all USB chargers. (1 metre)
Offered by AMP Acoustics
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A versatile, good quality cable, 29 July 2016
AMP sent me this cable for review and I think it is excellent. It's extremely well made and does the job very well.

The cable is simply but decently packed. It has standard micro-USB plugs, with a neat extra Lightning adaptor which fits neatly over the micro-USB plug to make this suitable for Apple devices, too. It is plainly very good quality, with very solid, stylish plugs with a lacquered metal finish and an oval cross-section. They are very solidly anchored on the cable, which has a good-looking black-and-white woven outer cover. The construction prevents tangling and the whole thing has a robust feel. The cable has good shielding and data transfer is quick, so it does the job well.

There's not a lot more to say about a USB cable. This is a good one and comes from a very good company - AMP were known as Audio Dynamix and are very well respected for quality. If you need a good, durable USB and Lightning cable, I can recommend this one warmly.

Songs Of Separation by Songs Of Separation
Songs Of Separation by Songs Of Separation
Offered by FHL Store
Price: £31.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 29 July 2016
I think this is fantastic. You'd expect it from this line-up, of course – and they really have created something special, I think. Ten of the finest folk musicians in Scotland and England today have collaborated on this album of traditional and co-written modern folk songs. They are all women, but they don't need the qualification "ten of the finest female folk musicians" – they are among the best we have and that's that.

The result is a fabulous album of superbly performed music. There's great instrumental work and magnificent singing throughout, incorporating elements of many of the wonderfully diverse traditions of these islands. All these musicians have their feet firmly rooted in tradition, they love and respect it and also look forward to produce fine new songs in a traditional style, sometimes with a very modern seasoning. It's just great, so we get, for example, the modern, politically angry Poor Man's Lamentation immediately followed by the traditional, hauntingly beautiful S Trom an Direadh. If you're familiar with the work of Lady Maisery or the great Laylam album you'll know what I mean – and this is the equal of them.

Forty-five years ago I began to sit in smoke-filled folk clubs and dance the Morris. I can't do any of that any more, but it really does an old folkie's heart good to know that our traditions are in such brilliantly capable hands, both treasuring them and developing them. This fabulous album shows some of the very best of current British folk music, and I can recommend it very warmly indeed.

Match Men's Plaid Lounge Wear Pyjama Trouser
Match Men's Plaid Lounge Wear Pyjama Trouser
Offered by Match_Garment
Price: £36.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very good pyjama/lounge trousers, 29 July 2016
Match sent me these lounge/pyjama trousers for review and I like then very much. They are comfy, they look good and they are well made.

The material is soft and quite thick, giving it a cosy, comfy feel. The stitching is solid but doesn't scratch and they seem very well made. There are two front pockets and the elasticated waist is broad so it doesn't cut in at all. Sizing seems pretty reliable. I'm normally waist 34 but I wanted these good and loose, so to be on the safe side I ordered a 36. They're large on me but by no means ridiculous and for lounging about or sleeping they're about what I want. I'm 6 feet tall and they do need to be turned up a couple of inches. I'd say that your normal size will probably fit well, but a size up will give extra room if you want it.

There's not a lot more to say. These are good quality and represent good value, I think. I'm very happy with mine and I can recommend them warmly.
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Dvo?įk: Stabat Mater
Dvo?įk: Stabat Mater
Price: £6.19

5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful discovery, 28 July 2016
I confess that I didn't know Dvorak's Stabat Mater before trying this, which I took a punt on because I have enjoyed Philippe Herreweghe's recordings for many years and wanted to find out what he was doing on his new Phi label. I am extremely glad I did because both the music and the performance here are top-notch.

This is Dvorak's setting of the powerful mediaeval poem of Mary at the foot of the cross, lamenting her son's terrible death. It is therefore quite dark and intense in places, but there's also plenty of Dvorak's warmth and light, too. His wonderful, distinctive harmonic structures and his gift for melody shine here and give real depth and meaning to the text.

Herreweghe and his ensemble do the music proud, engaging intensely with both text and music and shaping the piece with real skill. The soloists are all very good, the chorus and orchestra are excellent and the whole thing is very well balanced in a lovely, rich recording.

I was delighted to discover this piece and this performance. I think it is rather special and recommend it very warmly.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 29, 2016 9:55 AM BST

Match Men's Regular Fit Chino Shorts
Match Men's Regular Fit Chino Shorts
Offered by Match_Garment
Price: £32.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good value shorts, 28 July 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Match sent me these chino shorts for review, and I like them. They are a little basic, but they're well made and look good.

The material is a very nice, soft cotton. Stitching is very solid; although there are a few loose ends in places, none show and I don't think they will give any problems. Pockets are nicely lined and have a good, simple profile (although there's some slightly unusual styling by the front pockets). The zip is good quality, there's an elastic drawstring and solid belt loops, and the whole effect is of a casual but smart pair of shorts.

They have reliable sizing. My normal size is 34 waist and a 34 in these seems just right. They're designed to be a reasonably snug fit, but there's room to move. The legs are fairly short (they're certainly not Bermuda length) and look very good when worn, I think.

These are very decent shorts at this price, and I can recommend them.
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The Last One
The Last One
Price: £9.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Good with some flaws, 28 July 2016
This review is from: The Last One (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed much of this book, but I thought it had its weaknesses.

The narrative is (almost inevitably these days) in a fractured timescale, with the first person narrative of protagonist known as "Zoo," who is alone in wooded land, believing she is still a contestant in an endurance reality TV show. The other is in the third person and recounts the earlier development of the reality show, in which we learn very early that a mysterious illness kills huge numbers of people, including many of the TV team, that Zoo is in fact on her own and what she believes to be artifice is in fact real.

It's an intriguing set-up and works well in some ways. Zoo is an engaging, believable character and I found her story and narrative gripping and interesting. Post-apocalyptic survival is a well-worn theme and there are familiar echoes here, but Oliva writes well and the story seems fresh and genuinely human.

I was less keen on the rather long, slow set-up story of the reality show. Oliva makes a lot of important, telling points about the manipulative dishonesty and cynicism of TV's treatment of people and about the public response to it, but the unendingly cynical tone got a little wearing, and the large cast of rather thinly-drawn characters didn't really engage me much. I think it would have been better to concentrate on Zoo herself, because during these passages Oliva shows that she is a very capable writer and she offers some good psychological and sociological insights.

I still enjoyed the book and found it pretty involving, so despite my reservations I can recommend it as a good read with some valuable things to say.

(I received an ARC via Netgalley.)

Soon Enough
Soon Enough
Price: £10.20

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, interesting album, 27 July 2016
This review is from: Soon Enough (Audio CD)
This was a wild punt in the dark for me after hearing a couple of samples – and it turns out to be rather a good album. Erin Rae has a good voice, she writes a very decent song and it's a nicely made album.

It's not easy to categorize this music. Americana is such a broad term that it doesn’t help much, but Erin Rae's music is slightly folky, slightly rocky in places, slightly quirky in others and is just a good, interesting and enjoyable listen. Her vocal style reminds me somewhat of Alela Diane (which is a very good thing!) and although her songs aren't of Alela Diane's standard (yet, anyway), they're well crafted and interesting. The band are excellent with restrained arrangements and unobtrusive but well-judged production, and I think this stands out a little from all the good Americana around at the moment.

This isn't an album to stand you on your ear on first hearing, but it's well worth listening to a time or two and allowing it to grow because there is quality here. I'm glad I discovered this and I will be looking out for more from Erin Rae and The Meanwhiles. I think they have a lot to offer and I'd recommend this to anyone who likes a thoughtful, musically and lyrically literate song.

Active Noise Cancelling Earphones - August EP720 - Rechargeable In Ear ANC Headphones with Integrated Microphone
Active Noise Cancelling Earphones - August EP720 - Rechargeable In Ear ANC Headphones with Integrated Microphone
Offered by Daffodil UK
Price: £34.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Very good ANC earphones, 27 July 2016
Length:: 2:34 Mins

August sent me these EP720 earphones for review and I think they are very good. They are well made, they have effective Active Noise-Cancelling and the sound quality is very good.

The earphones are well packaged and come with a good User Manual, extra silicone tips to fit smaller or larger ears and a standard micro-USB charging lead. There's no carry-case, which is a shame but not a big problem.

Functionally they work well. There is a neat in-line panel (with a shirt-clip, a nice little feature) which has a microphone, a simple control button for music and calls and an on/off switch for the Active Noise Cancelling. The ANC is remarkably effective: general background noise is very significantly reduced and almost vanishes much of the time. I can still hear when someone speaks to me and they don't keep out sudden, loud noises, but they perform as well as any noise-cancelling I have ever tried – including my Bose QC2 over-ear headphones which I have relied on for many years and a couple of more recent in-ear sets, too. They also work fine as passive, unpowered earphones with the ANC turned off.

The sound is very good, especially for this price range, with a good, deep bass and clear, bright tops and middles. The articulation crisp and the overall sound is very pleasing. I have a Test Playlist which I use for audio products beginning with 15th Century choral music, ending up with The Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen and London Grammar and going through most things in between; these perform well throughout.

I have tried quite a lot of earphones and as ANC earphones I think these EP720 are very good and represent very good value. They're not quite as stylish as, for example, the Chafon H100 which have been recently released, but the sound is better, the ANC is at least as good and they're around half the price. In short, these are very good quality earphones which give very good sound and have very effective noise-cancelling. I can recommend them warmly.

Match Men's Knitwear Cardigan Series
Match Men's Knitwear Cardigan Series
Offered by Match_Garment
Price: £38.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A very nice cardigan, 27 July 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Match sent me this cardigan for review and I think it is very nice, and significantly better than I expected from the page and at this price.

The cardigan is in a very nice fine cotton weave which is extremely soft and feels almost like wool. Seams and stitching are well done, buttons are secure and it seems very well made. The buttons themselves are simple and neat (you get a spare one, too) and the whole thing looks very good on me, I think.

Sizing is a little small but OK if you go by the UK sizing and not the Asian. I am 6 feet tall and waist 34; I found UK Large (Asian XXL) about right for me. It's a fashionably snug fit but not too tight and both arms and body are about the right length. It's hard to say whether a size up would be better or too big, but I'm happy with this size.

My cardigan is "Ivory" coloured, which turns out to be yellower than I'd expected – nearer to a very pale lemon, I'd say. That's fine by me because I think it's a very nice colour, but you may like to be warned.

Overall, I think this is a very good summer-weight cardigan. It's well made, it looks good and represents good value. Recommended.
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