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Mr. A. D. R. Hoyle (West Yorkshire, United Kingdom)
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When I Was Old (Inspector Maigret)
When I Was Old (Inspector Maigret)
Price: £4.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a book for all Maigret fans, perhaps, but..., 9 May 2016
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It's not a Maigret, nor is it a dark 'romain dur', which many of Georges Simenon's admirers (myself included) rate even more highly than the long sequence of detective stories which were, and remain, the main reason for Simenon's enduring popularity. No, this book is very different, and should be taken on its own terms: a series of notebook entries, written over a few years in the early 1960s, and begun when the writer was going through a sort of belated 'mid-life crisis' (I suspect he would resent that phrase - a lazy cliche - and he'd be right to, but I do not know how better to express it in just a few words). It is not really a 'diary', though some details of his domestic life are described; the central interest lies in what Simenon says about himself as a social observer, a thinker, a writer. What emerges is a picture of a troubled, insecure man: a man capable of deep compassion and deeply empathetic understanding, but also a man who seems blind to how damaging to the relationship which matters most to him is his morbid obsession with fleeting sexual relationships.
For me, the most satisfying and interesting passages are those where Simenon reflects on 'justice' and expresses his strong reservations about the nature of 'punishment' - these should not surprise anyone who has read a number of his Maigret books (and Simenon has some interesting comments about those too.)
So, this book is not a book for all fans of Simenon's fiction - witness the one-star review already posted. However, for those love the world of Simenon's short novels - the Maigrets and the 'Romains Durs' - and want an insight into the mind of their creator, this is a fascinating book. Since reading it, my experience of reading his novels is quite different - and richer.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 9, 2016 10:39 PM BST


Overtones
Overtones
by Paul Abrahams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique experience., 1 July 2015
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This review is from: Overtones (Paperback)
I was urged to read this book by a friend. 'What's it about?' I asked. 'Darts,' came the monosyllabic reply. I was not hopeful, but the friend was a good one and so...
I am so glad that I did read it. From the very beginning of the book I was captivated. Mr Abrahams has a very distinctive voice, and a most engagingly individual way with narrative. Other reviewers have pointed out the eclectic variety of characters,references and exotic locations (South London, Huddersfield, Hong Kong), so I shall not - except to say that the novel is, thank goodness, not really about darts.
I have never read a novel like it, and I very much doubt that I ever shall. I'll give it a year and read it again. I am confident that I shall enjoy at least as much then as I have very recently.


Roundabout Way
Roundabout Way
Price: £4.32

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, but..., 25 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Roundabout Way (Kindle Edition)
While I was not as disappointed as the previous critic - the novel is written with real style - I agree that it falls well short of the quality of MacNeice's poetry (and his non-fiction prose writing).
I would be tempted to give it only two stars because of the lamentable lack of attention by the publishers to proof-reading - the product is a pretty ghastly mess. However, it may just be loyalty to a writer who had given me so much pleasure and food for thought over the years, but, even when he's mediocre, MacNeice is a quality act.


The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on historical principles (2 Volume Set)
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on historical principles (2 Volume Set)
by William Little
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life's little ironies..., 3 July 2013
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To fit in with the spirit of the above review, I now have 2 copies of Volume 2 - you don't live in West Yorkshire by any chance, do you? This dictionary, in its complete form, is so good - I'd really love to own a set!


Division-Musick
Division-Musick

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boundary-breaking music, 8 May 2013
This review is from: Division-Musick (MP3 Download)
This is simply brilliant! As 'Early Music' it is likely to find itself categorized as 'classical', and, while it merits the attention of such devotees, it is also the sort of music to appeal to a much wider audience. One of the world's finest lutenists (Jacob Heringman) in a series of (often barnstorming) duets with one of the world's finest viol-players (Susanna Pell) combine their musicianship with a tremendous sense of rapport and enthusiasm to take the listener back to the 17th century - offering a taste of the domestic music that would have brightened the lives of people back then. The mood varies from gently melancholic to really quite raucous - 'John Come Kiss Me Now', for example, builds to such a pitch that it could stand alongside 'The Orange Blossom Special' as a stomping performance in the world's finest Folk Club. This man and wife duo have come up with a programme of music here that defies classification.

The only musical experience better than listening to the CD would be to have them performing it in front of you - and I have had the good fortune to experience that on a number of occasions. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.


Vivaldi : Gloria (Nulla in mundo pax sincera)
Vivaldi : Gloria (Nulla in mundo pax sincera)
Price: £4.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still wonderful after all these years, 20 Dec. 2010
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My main purpose in writing this review is to prevent too much dust settling on a set of recordings which have seldom, if ever, been out of the catalogue for something in the region of 30 years. Some treasured recordings sound disappointingly dated when one returns to them after many years. Not so this set! If Vivaldi has gone stale on you, these performances will refresh your ears.

I agree with the praise expressed by my antecedents here & would simply add that, while Emma Kirkby is in wonderfully mellifluous voice (especially in 'Nulla in Mundo Pax Sincera'), we should not overlook Judith Nelson, whose glorious singing, in duet with a gorgeously lyrical oboe, makes 'Domine Deus, Rex... (Track 6, disc 1) the absolute highlight of a double CD that is never less than brilliant.


Marco Dall'Aquila: Pieces for Lute (Paul O'Dette)
Marco Dall'Aquila: Pieces for Lute (Paul O'Dette)
Price: £14.44

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing recording, 4 April 2010
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Paul O'Dette is a master of the lute and has numerous magnificent recordings to his name. Marco dall'Aquila was a composer of some of loveliest music for lute in the early sixteenth century - and he is shamefully under-recorded. Harmonia Mundi is a record label with a truly impressive back-catalogue of early music recordings. So, when I heard of the project to bring these three giants together, I was quick to put in my advance purchase on Amazon, and awaited the release date with the excited anticipation of child counting down the days to Christmas.

Four months ago, I received the CD - and what a terrible disappointment the recording was! Paul O'Dette's playing was as majestic as ever; the selection of dall'Aquila's music is admirable. The notes in the excellent booklet refer to dall'Aquila's sweetness of sound, reminding us that his name was used to "represent the epitome of lute-playing."

Indeed, Marco dall'Aquila's music for lute is as exquisite as it is unaccountably neglected. The pieces selected for this disc give a wonderful introduction to man's importance to the development of lute music in the first half of the 16 century. AND, after many attempts to listen, I have finally managed to move beyond the appalling sound quality to the beauty of the music. Such was my initial disappointment in the sound of the recording that I was moved after only a week or two to submit a fairly hostile review, giving the disc only 2 stars. It received one comment from someone who argued, not unreasonably, that the high quality of the music and its playing merited 4 stars.

I am revising this review because I accept that my original one did a grave injustice to the playing of Paul O'Dette - I haven't heard him play better (though I have often heard him sound better!)
While I still cannot say that I like this CD, I do love the music on it and am in awe of the sensitivity of the playing of the pieces.

I realise that the recording was undertaken in extremely trying circumstances - physical and emotional - in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake in the composer's home town of Aquila. This recording, as issued, however, does justice to nobody: Marco dall'Aquila, Paul O'Dette, Harmonia Mundi, and the paying customer all deserve better. I accept that, under all the jangling confusion of noise, there is a wonderful performance of beautiful music. I urge Harmonia Mundi to put their finest technical minds to its rescue. I would still strongly advise anyone who does not already have Christopher Wilson's Naxos CD (Naxos 8.550778 - and not the finest Naxos recording either, by the way) of a selection of lute music by dall'Aquila and da Crema to buy that - and if you already have it, dust it off, listen and try to imagine how much better Messrs Aquila & O'Dette would have been allowed to sound with only mediocre engineering.

How many stars? I do accept that my original 2 stars were too severe. 4 or 5 stars both imply a strong recommendation. Aquila and O'Dette both clearly deserve at least 5 stars, but it is the product - a product to be listened to - that I am reviewing here: hence 3 stars.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 24, 2010 7:51 PM BST


What I Know
What I Know
Price: £13.29

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome back, Tom!, 2 Mar. 2009
This review is from: What I Know (Audio CD)
Nine years ago, I reviewed Tom's double album, 'Tom Rush/Wrong End of the Rainbow', on this site, and ended by commenting that, now nearly 60, Tom was overdue for a return to the public eye and ear. You can work out for yourself what sort of age Tom must be approaching now, but you wouldn't guess it from the quality of his voice & guitar work!

This is his first studio album in over 35 years - and it will not disappoint his fans. It should also impress many who are not familiar with his music. As was the norm for Tom all those years ago, this album contains songs from an impressive range of unknown and little known writers as well as some from Tom himself - and he's supported throughout by a team of excellent musicians who are totally attuned to Tom's style.

Always a fine guitarist, Tom's performances are restrained - the song's the thing. Many of his contemporaries back in the 60s & early 70s seemed to accompany their flashy guitar playing with rather weak singing; Tom's vocal phrasing is superb, and his accompaniments are there to support the songs, not overwhelm them. (His DVD 'How I Play (some of) my Favourite Songs' will give anyone interested a good insight into his guitar style).

After two runs through of the CD's 15 songs, I have been especially impressed by 'River Song' and 'Drift Away'. I know there are plenty more which will grow ('East of Eden', 'Too many Memories', 'Fall into the Night' for starters.) There is a pleasing mix, with some light-weight numbers to offer variety. Many of the songs of about and for people whose hair is much greyer and joints are a little stiffer, but whose hearts still live to beat faster - a celebration of what the passing years can bring, perhaps.
So... not one to buy for the grandchildren, maybe. No: treat yourself - or your partner - to this, and open a bottle of wine.

Final thought: what would be really something would be for Jerry Douglas and co, from the 'Transatlantic Sessions' team, to sign Tom up and invite him along to work with all those wonderful musicians. If you doubt me, just listen Tom's his arrangement of 'Drift Away' with its acoustic guitar and bowed cello accompaniment.


Dowland - Complete Lute Works, Vol 2
Dowland - Complete Lute Works, Vol 2
Price: £7.09

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyricism and Poetry, 17 Sept. 2007
In my review of Volume One of this cycle of recordings, I mentioned how I was looking forward to hearing Nigel North's interpretation of 'Sir John Langton's Pavan'. Well, I didn't have to wait long for it: it's here on Volume Two. The disc opens with Dowland's most famous piece: the Lachrymae Pavan. I have perhaps a dozen versions of this piece on recordings of various sorts. This one is, in my opinion, without doubt the finest of them all. The elaborate repeats of each section ('divisions') are so often treated merely as a showcase for the lutenist's dexterity. Nigel North, while every bit as 'dextrous', concentrates on serving the music's integrity so that the spell of the music is not upstaged.

The rest of the record maintains this wonderful level of lyricism and poetry. And no: I was not disappointed in the least by 'Sir John Langton's Pavan'. Be prepared, however, for music which, though quiet and contemplative, is demanding and rewarding of close attention. Be prepared also for some glorious melodic themes, noy only in Dowland's celebrated galliards, but also in his more sombre pavans.

In my review of Volume One, I omitted to make mention of another, very fine, Complete Lute Works of John Dowland: by Jacob Lindberg on Bis. This has what for many might be the advantage of some pieces being played on the wire-strung orpharion (Paul O'Dette's set also offers this added variety). While many might find Lindberg's set to their liking - as do I - the Nigel North series seems destined to set the standard for a long time to come.

Of course, with music as intensely personal as this, there is much reward to be had from different interpretations. I play some Dowland lute music every week - but I find that it is for Nigel North's recordings that I am reaching far more often than not.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 9, 2009 9:54 PM BST


Dowland - Lute Music, Vol 1
Dowland - Lute Music, Vol 1
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £7.51

88 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious!, 15 Jun. 2006
I approached this release with uncertainty: there are already a number of 'Complete Lute Music' sets of Dowland. I, personally, have the old Consort of Musicke's set, both on LP and CD; more recently, I added the Paul O'Dette set - which is magnificent - and that appeared to have settled Dowland's lute music for a long time.

Now here comes Nigel North - one of the Consorte of Musicke team from over 25 years ago. He was impressive then, and he's even better now. This Naxos issue is a completely new production, recorded in 2004 in Ontario overseen by Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver: the location and team responsible for producing many highly impressive guitar and lute recordings, including the dazzling Weiss Lute Sonatas played by Robert Barto. They understand how to record this subtlest of plucked instruments.

The question is: is it worth buying this set if you already have Paul O'Dette's? The answer is quite simply - yes.

Paul O'Dette plays with a fiery attack that dazzles and impresses - it is magnificently virtuosic playing; but it is not the only way to play Dowland. Nigel North also avoids sentimentalising the music, but he plays with more emotional expressiveness - I keenly await the release of the Dowland pavans!

The mix of pieces on this CD might seem odd at first glance: there are the Fantasias, complex and magnificent creations, interspersed with Dowland's Jigs, Jumps and other comparatively light pieces. The mixture works brilliantly. North plays with delicate strength, embellishing the repeats of the simpler pieces in a way that elevates them musically - listen, for example, to 'Mrs Nichols' Almain', which follows the spectacular 'Tremolo' Fancy (P73); it's like a light dessert after a large main course. However, Nigel North doesn't throw it away lightly - he plays the theme with delicacy and warmth before going on in the repeat to embellish it with many beautifully judged graces and ornaments, as well as interlacing runs above and below the simple melodic line - glorious!

Ther are many more subtle delights awaiting the listener; I could try and describe some, but I won't spoil it - buy the CD (for under £5.00!) and delight in the glories of this music for yourself!


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