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Barbara Miller (Bellevue, WA United States)

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Your Home Library: The Complete System for Organizing,  Locating, Referencing, and Maintaining Your Book Collection
Your Home Library: The Complete System for Organizing, Locating, Referencing, and Maintaining Your Book Collection
by Kathie Coblentz
Edition: Paperback
13 used & new from CDN$ 5.18

3.0 out of 5 stars The book is more helpful than the software, Dec 7 2003
My main problem with this set is that the software, while simple and attractive to use for recording one's personal relationship with one's books (in addition to some standard cataloguing data, there are categories like how you acquired it, its physical condition, your rating of it, whether or not you've read it) and some practical details like which shelf number it's on and to whom you may have loaned it, just isn't powerful enough to solve the problem I bought it for, which is to make it possible for me to really search my collection effectively. To do this, I would like to record not only titles, but what Kathie Coblentz calls "other access points", which could be the names of authors whose essays appear in a collection, for example. It's also the case that, while you may record several authors for a book, the search function will only find an author in the position in which you entered it, (so you may have to do several separate searches to find all the books on which a particular person's name is listed as author). So this won't save me the trouble of setting up my own database, as I had rather hoped it would.
The book is more helpful, with sections on figuring out ways to group books together into categories, how much shelf space you need for each category, a system for numbering shelves so that you can use the software to know where in your collection to find them (more useful if you have the luxury of making these shelves be partially full, so that you just add books to existing space, rather than moving categories around when you add new bookshelves), preservation techniques, and tips for culling the collection.
The largest piece in the set is the ring-binder with a number of landscape-oriented brown sheets of paper, for you to print out your booklist. Again, this is probably more useful for the person who wants to lovingly look over the data about their books than for someone who is adding new books all the time and will put such a list out of date regularly.
So if you're seriously looking to bring a large set of books under searchable control and are comfortable using software, this is probably underpowered for you. But for the book-lover whose books are treasured objects (someone who collects first editions when they find the ones they want, for instance) and who is comfortable enough with a computer to enter some data and print it out in order to then be able to handle a physical list of their books, this is a nice gift set.

Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 32.40
2 used & new from CDN$ 32.40

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful performances of interesting repertoire, Jan. 25 2001
This review is from: Goethe-Lieder (Audio CD)
Lieder programs consisting entirely of songs to texts by Goethe are not uncommon. An Amazon search reveals at least half a dozen currently available CD's. This CD specializes by limiting itself to a single composer, Schubert, and within that composer's work it focuses mainly on songs that would be sung by women. Thus, we hear a large selection of Mignon songs from Wilhelm Meister (some texts in more than one setting), several of Gretchen's songs from Faust, and the two Suleika songs, which, strictly speaking, are to texts by a female friend of Goethe's, but which were published with his work. So, while we miss out on some really famous songs like "Erlkonig", "Der Musensohn", and "Wandrers Nachtlied", we do get "Gretchen am Spinnrade". We also get the opportunity to hear two different settings of some of the Mignon texts by the same composer at different stages of his life. So even if you feel that your collection of Goethe Lieder is already well-stocked, this CD is likely to contain new material.
As if this weren't enough, these 1976 performances by Arleen Auger are very beautiful. The control and tone quality are excellent through all the registers, and each word is expressed beautifully. According to the CD liner notes (supplied in English, German, and French), Ms. Auger made over 200 recordings during her lifetime, so her voice is likely to be familiar to many. But for those who have not heard her, the light lyric is reminiscent of Elly Ameling in its clarity, particularly in the higher register, but has its own distinctive sound.
As on most Berlin Classics recordings, texts for the Lieder are supplied in German only.

Philosophers Stone (Ltd.Ed)
Philosophers Stone (Ltd.Ed)
Price: CDN$ 22.01
18 used & new from CDN$ 15.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable insight into Mozart's The Magic Flute, Dec 21 2000
While I generally agree with the other reviewers of this disc, I would like to add that, for anyone who is fascinated and intrigued by Mozart's Magic Flute, this disc is essential listening. The parallel characters and similar plot motifs (and similar musical motifs, even between the Magic Flute and the non-Mozart music in Der Stein der Weisen) shed light on the fairy-tale elements of Mozart's opera so as to balance out the notion that The Magic Flute sprang up entirely from Mozart's and Schikaneder's Masonic ideas.
I also suspect that there is somewhat more of Mozart's music in this piece than the press reviewer counts. I interpret the attribution column of the liner notes to say that Mozart wrote much of the second-act finale, and, while I am no musicologist, the segments of that finale seem to build in the way that a Mozart finale does. Still, if you listen to The Magic Flute only because of the grandeur of the music and are really put off by the plot, this singspiel will only annoy you further, since Mozart was using his considerable talents here simply in support of yet another bizarre fairy tale.
I would be a bit more generous to the singers than some of the other reviewers. I enjoyed listening to all the performances and felt that the characters, such as they were (there is a good deal of fairy and folk tale formula here), were brought to life successfully. The orchestra of authentic instruments under Martin Pearlman always sounds good to me. There were never any moments when I felt I was putting up with an inferior performance simply because it was the only performance available.

Art Of Theodor Uppman
Art Of Theodor Uppman
Price: CDN$ 19.69
18 used & new from CDN$ 12.81

5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent performances of appealing repertoire, Aug. 30 2000
This review is from: Art Of Theodor Uppman (Audio CD)
I was drawn to this CD because of the interesting and varied repertoire. Theodore Uppman was not familiar to me, so I had no idea it would be such a beautiful voice with such evenness through the registers, such clear diction, and such sincere and wholehearted involvement with the music. What a find!
The disc is a collection of digitally remastered radio broadcast performances from the Bell Telephone Hour between 1954 and 1957. Hence, the repertoire is intended to appeal to a wide audience, ranging from folk song arrangements ("Danny Boy", which one expects to be beautiful, and "Home on the Range", which surprised me by how good it can sound when sung by a real artist) through Stephen Foster and Alec Wilder to melodic French and Italian opera arias. I don't think there's a single bad performance on the CD, given that the artistic norms are those of the 50's, so "Tu lo sai", for instance, which is the only pre-19th-century piece in the collection, is sung in a romantic style that brings out the lovely melody rather than in the lighter style that we have come to expect since the early-music revival.
If you have any desire to hear rarities like Katherine Davis's setting of Rosemary Benet's "Nancy Hanks", Kurt Weill's setting of Whitman's "Beat! Beat! Drums!", or Celius Dougherty's setting of Carl Sandburg's "Colorado Trail" you absolutely cannot go wrong buying this CD. You will probably never hear them sung better. Among the more mainstream repertoire, I was particularly impressed by Strauss's "Zueignung", which is performed beautifully with attention to the text and phrasing, rather than as a chance to blow away an audience with a big sound (which is how I often hear it sung). Ironically, Jaroslav Kricka's "The Albatross", which was one of the unusual pieces I particularly wanted to hear on this CD, was good, but I didn't like it as well as the performance in French by Povla Frisch, which is the the first one I heard. It is worth noting that Tchaikovsky's "Pilgrim's Song" and Robert Franz's "Widmung" are also sung in English. This may have had as much to do with considerations of audience as of Uppman's linguistic capabilities, because the pieces he does sing in French, German and Italian show that he is comfortable singing in these languages.
I don't know what sort of recording technology was used for these live radio broadcasts originally, but digital remastering can only make up for so much. The sound quality is never annoying (i.e. there are no scratches, pops, or fuzzy spots), but the orchestra does have the sort of flattened, homogeneous sound that, for example, a 50's-era movie soundtrack may have. I didn't find this a hindrance to my enjoyment (in fact it gave it an appealing "period" flavor), but I suppose it might bother some people.
By coincidence, in the same shipment, I ordered the premiere performance of Britten's "Billy Budd" as a study aid. Uppman created the title role in this opera, and, having heard him sing the repertoire on this CD, I am now looking forward to hearing the Britten opera.

Opera Arias
Opera Arias
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 46.87
7 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Devoted Von Stade fans will rate it higher..., Aug. 17 2000
This review is from: Opera Arias (Audio CD)
Whether or not you like this CD will likely depend upon whether or not you like the sound of Frederica von Stade's voice from the mid-1970's, which is when these arias were recorded. She has always had a wonderful rapport with audiences; I treasure the memories of a live recital and a master class I attended a few years ago. But earlier in her career, it was the opinion of many (including my voice teachers) that she lacked the technique to produce a full, satisfying sound. Others have always loved her voice (perhaps because her style of production does give her singing an endearingly vulnerable quality), and they will almost certainly love this CD. It does seem to me, though, that her sound could be better. I find it frustrating that, after a ringing recitative on "Ecco il punto", the fluidity of her phrasing in the beginning of the aria "Non piu di fiore" is almost lost in the orchestra. This could be a problem of recording balance, but in listening to her more exposed singing in arias from the Haydn operas and Le Nozze di Figaro, I think it really is the fact that the core of the sound is missing in her production.
The repertoire itself has a lot of interest. The segments from Haydn's "La fedelta premiata" are taken from the first recording of this opera, following a revival in 1970. Haydn's operas in general provide a surprisingly satisfying followup when you have heard and heard all the wonderful Mozart operas and want more in the same style. "Dell'amor mio fedele" is very beautiful music indeed. I was also impressed with the beauty of the aria from Rossini's "Otello", an opera which is not often heard (evidently the libretto is disappointing).
Those who are not enamored of Von Stade's voice will probably feel that the more famous repertoire, such as Rossini's "Una voce poco fa" and "Non piu mesta" and the Mozart arias, is in better hands on other recordings, but I haven't heard enough of the more recently available recordings of these to be able to make recommendations. An obvious alternative would be Bartoli, another specialist in this repertoire who is adored by many and decried by others, and I'm sure it would be worth checking out other artists too.

White Moon
White Moon
Price: CDN$ 24.44
23 used & new from CDN$ 9.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Carefully crafted, challenging, ultimately beautiful, Aug. 12 2000
This review is from: White Moon (Audio CD)
This CD is the product of great artistic care, expressing a moonlit night as a world both of healing rest and of vague anxiety and unrealized possibility. Dawn Upshaw's selection of early (Renaissance and Baroque) and twentieth-century pieces is arranged sequentially (and, in some cases, musically) to draw the listener through both aspects of this world. Peter Warlock's song "Sleep" is an excellent beginning to this project, setting John Fletcher's text to an accompaniment that recalls the sixteenth century while making use of tensions and dissonances that developed in the nineteenth century. The Monteverdi, Purcell, and Dowland songs are accompanied by one or two guitars, creating a sense of restful intimacy that is reinforced by Upshaw's smooth, clear lyric soprano. Her vocal technique, which emphasizes an ease of production and careful breath control rather than a more ringing operatic sound, brings a sensual richness to Handel's aria "Gentle Morpheus". This sensuousness also propels the famous and popular Villa-Lobos "Bachianas Brasileiras" aria, where a cello octet accompanies a dreamy vocalise with a more declamatory chant. Upshaw loves and performs a wide range of music, and one can expect her recitals to include modern pieces that can be described as challenging, both for the artist and for the audience, and this is no exception. The Schwantner "Black Anemones" and the Crawfor Seeger "White Moon" include odd intervals and dissonances which would normally not attract me. But Margo Garrett's accompaniment in "White Moon" is positively ethereal, and Upshaw's breath control and sense of phrasing can make even the oddest vocal lines sound inevitable and even beautiful. The George Crumb "Night of the Four Moons" is something else altogether. It is more a modern chamber piece than a song setting. There is a huge dynamic range between whispers and the loudest sounds that the unorthodox chamber ensemble (alto flute, piccolo, banjo, electric cello, and percussion, in addition to the voice) can produce. This is not music that you will want to listen to casually in the background. Even with the evocative Asian-influenced musical phrases, I'm not sure how soon I will seek it out to hear again. But, as with everything else on this CD, it is performed with great artistry and Crumb's desired mood of enchantment is certainly achieved. The preceding songs on the CD have led up to these 15 minutes of almost alien settings of Lorca poems about the moon, but we are brought back to earth again by the placement of the Purcell song "See even night" at the very end.

Walking The Labyrinth
Walking The Labyrinth
by LISA Goldstein
Edition: Paperback
13 used & new from CDN$ 2.79

4.0 out of 5 stars A magical mystery, Aug. 4 2000
This review is from: Walking The Labyrinth (Paperback)
This book is what one of my writing instructors would label a plot-driven novel. It tells a story in which the protagonist, Molly Travers, orphaned at the age of three and raised by her great-aunt, gradually discovers the history of her extended family and meets relatives that she never knew that she had. In the process she learns about herself and about ways in which people in family and romantic relationships can use and misuse power over each other. She finds that her family traces its roots to an illicit union in Victorian England between a lower-class girl with a magical Gift and a gentleman with an interest in the occult, and she eventually learns how and why the family emigrated to the United States, of the life they led as vaudeville performers (illusionists who could perform tricks that baffled other magicians), of family conflicts that isolated her branch of the family from the rest, and of the family's connection with the secret Order of the Labyrinth. Information is revealed at a pace that adds steadily to the reader's knowledge while sustaining enough of the mystery to make each chapter a pleasure to read. The metaphor of the Labyrinth ties a genuine physical labyrinth in the story to the process of learning that goes on through life. I suppose this is not earth-shakingly original. Still, since I experienced a few frustrating setbacks in my own life while reading this book, it was actually very helpful to hear in my mind the echo of the question that characters in the book are asked when they experience such a turning of the labyrinth: "What have you learned?"

Best Easy Day Hikes Olympics
Best Easy Day Hikes Olympics
by Erik Molvar
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Great help for spur-of-the-moment walkers, July 7 2000
We had little or no time to plan our short trip to the Olympic Peninsula, but we knew that the area is best enjoyed by walking into the forests, the mountains, or the beaches. This book includes descriptions of 29 hikes that do not require overnight stays, organized geographically. While there is no single map pointing out the locations of all the hikes, each geographical section has one, so it is not too difficult to find something nearby. There is also an ordered list of the hikes, from easiest (the .2 mile Madison Creek Falls hike, with minimal elevation gain) to most difficult (the Mount Zion hike, 3.5 miles with a 1340 foot gain).
We took six of the hikes listed and found the descriptions to be accurate. It was well worth the (relatively low) price.

Best Places Olympic Peninsula: 2nd Edition
Best Places Olympic Peninsula: 2nd Edition
by Sasquatch Books
Edition: Paperback
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.71

5.0 out of 5 stars Selective guide to good places on Olympic Peninsula, July 7 2000
The "Best Places" guides are not the most exhaustive guides to the destinations they describe, but they are very efficient because they focus on the attractions, restaurants, lodgings, and other useful information that the locally-based editors consider to be the best. I got this guide for a quickly-organized getaway to the Peninsula and was very happy with the restaurants and lodgings that we found through the book. There are also descriptions of a variety of activities, including museums, fishing, scenic drives, beaches, some shopping, and some hikes, although serious hikers will probably want a more complete guide to the trails. (We used Erik Molvar's Best Easy Day Hikes Olympics.)

Wonder Tales: Six French Stories of Enchantment
Wonder Tales: Six French Stories of Enchantment
by Marina Warner
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 2.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Pricey but aesthetically pleasing fairy tale collection, June 24 2000
As one of the editorial reviewers comments, this book is intended for gift-giving. It is a charming, diminutive hardcover containing six French fairy tales from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, translated by some prestigious modern writers and translators, with an introduction, biographical notes, and bibliography by Marina Warner. These tales (and those in future volumes which Warner says she hopes to bring out) are especially interesting to read after Warner's From the Beast to the Blonde, which examines the French salon society and its members (mostly women) who used the writing of these tales as a form of social protest as well as entertainment and even escape. But three of these six tales, as well as a number of others from the same milieu, appear in translations by Jack Zipes in his inexpensive paperback "Beauty and the Beast and Other Classic French Fairy Tales." If you are interested in a broad selection of these tales, including some famous ones like "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Sleeping Beauty" (complete with Perrault's violent episodes that are often left out in children's versions), Zipes is a good choice. The texts are there, along with some scholarly introductions and biographies of the authors of the tales in a mass-market format.
Warner's book is more aesthetically pleasing. Its elegant, whimsical design and first-class literary translations invite the reader to escape into stories that are part magical fantasy and part social commentary. These tales are longer than the usual children's fairy stories, and they tend to have more elaborate adventures and quite worldly descriptions of clothing, decoration, and other amenities of aristocratic life. Most of the plots resolve themselves through the intervention of fairies, whose actions may seem unmotivated (deciding not to help a heroine on one page and then suddenly turning up to save her from being eaten by an ogre a couple pages later). I personally find this easier to take in this charming little hardcover than in the no-nonsense mass-market format of the Zipes collection.
Warner's book is also significant in that, in addition to the three tales that overlap with Zipes, it contains some genuine rarities in the genre. According to Warner's introduction, two of the six Wonder Tales, "Bearskin" and "Starlite", have never been translated into English before, and Charles Perrault's tale, "The Counterfeit Marquise," has never been included in previous Perrault collections (perhaps because, having no supernatural characters, and taking cross-dressing as its theme, it would not be considered appropriate for the juvenile audience that these collections have historically targeted).
Regarding the translations themselves, I compared at random some paragraphs in the stories that appear in both books. The quality of the prose is not miles apart, since both books strive for accuracy in translation. Nevertheless, if you admire the writing of John Ashbery, Gilbert Adair, Terence Cave, Ranjit Bolt, and/or A. S. Byatt, that could be another reason to choose this book.

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