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vic spicer

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Selected Songs
Selected Songs
Price: CDN$ 10.40
24 used & new from CDN$ 6.32

4.0 out of 5 stars delightful art songs, Jan. 1 2002
This review is from: Selected Songs (Audio CD)
rorem's songs are amazing, and naxos has done well
to group them by poet. the complete settings of roethke
are particularly compelling and edgey.
carole farley's voice is lovely, but her phrasing
and willingness to push her voice seems
a big departure from the styling of art songs i've
heard by poulenc and somers.
this takes some getting used to- at least 3 or 4 complete
listen-throughs in my case. her voice is almost jazzy,
kind of like early recordings by holly cole.
anyway, rorem accompanies her on piano so obviously
this reading fits with his intent; his playing is also delightful.
one small quibble- although there are 32 songs, the CD is
57 minutes- brief by naxos standards.

Arcana/Intregales/Deserts
Arcana/Intregales/Deserts
Price: CDN$ 10.37
19 used & new from CDN$ 3.27

5.0 out of 5 stars "new music" from 75 years ago, Sept. 30 2001
this is my first introduction to varese, so i can't compare it against the many other recordings available. but i like
what i hear- it's amazing that most of these pieces were composed over 75 years ago.
from the loopy but compelling "offrandes" (settings of surrealest poetry) to the orchestral-industrial riot of
"deserts", this stuff isn't easy listening but has an odd internal logic of horns, precussion and angry strings.
someone commented parts of deserts sounds like a videogame of some sort. i think the inclusion of the tape sounds was a wonderfully brave move and makes the whole piece work; i can't even imagine it without the tapes sounds now.
bravo again to naxos for making such interesting music more popular, and please issue a volume 2 with the rest of this amazing composer's small output.

Sputnik Sweetheart
Sputnik Sweetheart
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Hardcover
9 used & new from CDN$ 15.66

5.0 out of 5 stars familiar murakami, still brilliant, April 25 2001
This review is from: Sputnik Sweetheart (Hardcover)
murakami's everyman K takes us into his lands of loss, longing and unrequited love. there's something very special about this compact novel- murakami's narrative voice is somewhat more vunerable than in his previous works, and his tightly repressed dialogue offsets a few scenes of fierce eroticism.
once again our narrator is passive; his inaction serves as a ground and sounding board for his best friend sumire, a would-be writer who he is not-so-secretly in love with. when she disappears on a business trip to an unnamed greek island things become strange, in a way wholly familiar to murakami's readers.
this feels a lot like some of the short stories, particularly "sleep" and "tv people" where you wonder what is "real". the narrator spends a lot of time asking questions, mulling over events, but nothing is ever resolved. the enjoyment is in the blurring.
don't let the simplicity of the story put you off; there's a poetic beauty to the chilly isolation these characters find themselves in. a few days after finishing this, something in it snuck up on me and i was overwhelmed by the most profound feeling of sadness.

Song for Athene & Other Choral
Song for Athene & Other Choral
Price: CDN$ 8.84
27 used & new from CDN$ 5.12

4.0 out of 5 stars a great exposure to tavener's work, April 14 2001
i've read that some of tavener's recent compositions have ranged from pretentious to excruciating, but the selections on this naxos issue are very approachable and performed with a great deal of reverence.
the longest piece, "svyati", is also the most haunting. a combination of mournful solo cello and simple choral underlay is wonderful.
my main complaint is that in places it sounds... mushy. it possibly has to do with the acoustics of the venue, but on passages like "the tiger" the vocal layers end up smearing each other.
comparing it to the clean sound of "psalms for the soul" (naxos 8.554823) only adds to the frustration. still, a good cheap way to get some excellent late 20th century choral music and a must for tavener fans.

Norwegian String Quartets
Norwegian String Quartets
Price: CDN$ 10.64
11 used & new from CDN$ 6.36

5.0 out of 5 stars thoughful music you've probably never heard before, March 12 2001
i am usually adverse to buying compilation CD's; now this one has made me hungry for more naxos issues of work by these composers.
while i enjoyed all the compositions, the string quartet by alfred janson was most striking- the shimmering simplicity and vast silences worked beautifully.

24 Preludes and Fugues Op. 87
24 Preludes and Fugues Op. 87
Price: CDN$ 17.23
22 used & new from CDN$ 10.77

5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful homage to bach, wonderfully played, March 10 2001
i'm still digesting the amazing content of these CD's; this is my introduction shostakovich's preludes and fugues, and what an excellent introduction naxos has made!
the sound is clean and intimate; the playing, in my mind, full of tenderness, affection and in places... fun. and some of these- like fugue #7- just break your heart.
at the price getting this is almost essential.

Piano Quintet
Piano Quintet
Price: CDN$ 10.14
24 used & new from CDN$ 6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars 70 minutes of really sad, angry, beautiful music, March 5 2001
This review is from: Piano Quintet (Audio CD)
if you've never heard schnittke, start here. if you've heard schnittke but didn't much enjoy his work (as i did) also start here.
solo pieces for violin and cello are edgy and quite daring.
the core of the CD is the 1976 piano quintet. this is possibly the most terrifying, sad and deeply disturbing chamber piece i've heard in ages. it's literally haunted- there's a little waltz that drifts around tracks 4 and 7 like a ghost-- truly chilling.
this is also the 2nd recording of "stille music" on naxos; amazing, desolate emptiness.
my only tiny complaint is that it's been very closely miked; you can hear the performers breathing in some places.
why does so much great music come out of the townsville city chamber music festival? big praise for naxos for making this wonderful playing available at a bargain price.

The Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials: His Dark Materials - Book II
The Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials: His Dark Materials - Book II
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.68
66 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars just bloody amazing, Jan. 28 2001
this is one of those books where the dustjacket artwork says it all- will and lyra both look outwardly confident, but their eyes are weary and lips tightly drawn. and so it goes through this gripping and heartbreaking core of pullman's astounding epic allegory. although acting with considerable courage and resourcefulness, ultimately fate is driving them towards something both wonderful and terrible.
what i really appreciate is that everything comes with a price- will gets the most powerful tool in this (or any) universe, but loses a few fingers in the process and is left with wounds that won't heal and constant agony. we start off thinking will's mom is emotionally unstable, but later it's revealed perhaps the danger she sees exists just outside our normal perceptions.
lyra has grown- she interacts less with pan and the inklings of love between her will are nicely placed during quiet moments. also the contrasts between her world and will's are brought nicely into focus... details which were there but not explicit suddenly leap out at us.
and again pullman builds fantastic worlds- the abandoned city of children, the ultimate "global warming" as lord asriel's experiment totally mucks up the workings of multiple universes, and the boggling stone fortress (with armies that literally defy description) that he has assembled to wage war on the Authority.
as a final note of realism, i smiled at the spunky ex-nun dr. mallone. the descriptions of equipment, processes and the never-ending quest for continued funding were all quite well done.
these are such truly splendind books i hope they remain as literature only for quite some time.

The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials: His Dark Materials - Book I
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials: His Dark Materials - Book I
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.68
107 used & new from CDN$ 0.10

5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read for both children and parents, Jan. 27 2001
put on symphony #7 by vaughn williams (ok wrong pole, but the effect is appropriate) and get ready for a wonderful ride.
lyra, a determined and somewhat wild "orphan" of nobility lives in a universe which feels like the writings of h.g. wells extrapolated into the late 20th century. the effect is both warmly reassuring and slightly menacing.
told as a fairly linear adventure story, there's lots going on underneath- what really makes it work is the strength of characterizations and pervading sense of wonder. many passages describing the arctic are worthy of fabulists like calvino or borges.
many adults are shown having a warmth and strength of simple courage, trying to protect lyra while taking care not to deflect her from the important fate that awaits her.
the brilliant, insane lord asriel, and the alluringly sinister mrs. coulter are also wonderfully flawed: they have their limits of madness and cruelty, intervening several times to protect lyra because she is still their daughter.
best of all is the armored polar bear iorek byrnison, who through few words, and a commanding physical presense expresses the love we feel towards children.
the core evil in this book is truly sickening and heartbreaking; pullman has come up with a misguided Church that commits monsterous acts in the name of salvation but is still uncomfortably close to "reality". lyra's impassioned actions against this will move you to tears.
this isn't just a good children's book- it's a good book period; the main character just happens to be a child. pullman raises big questions, offers no simple answers, and confonts loss, hardship, betrayal and love in a complex and wholly satisfying fashion.

The Amber Spyglass: His Dark Materials: His Dark Materials - Book III
The Amber Spyglass: His Dark Materials: His Dark Materials - Book III
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.68
99 used & new from CDN$ 0.40

5.0 out of 5 stars excellent dark fantasy with an uplifting philosophy, Jan. 1 2001
i've not read the previous two books, but i'm very impressed with how well this stands by itself. i've little patience with modern "fantasy" writings, but this book is so well paced, filled with flawed characters making difficult moral decisions (with often terrifying consequences), and so beautifully poetic that i tore through it in a day, but will be re-reading it to enjoy pullman's mastery.
this is a wonderfully dark and complex work: death is messy and prolonged, sadness pervades the beauty, and his land of the dead passages may have made dante shudder. also he has the audacity to write a little over a page about the death of god, a pathetic, frail whisp in a crystal box.
through all of it there's a warmth of familiarity. these worlds are not ours, but they feel... right. discordant battle scenes, pastoral beauty, even the sweetly ambigious scences between will and lyra all work because they feel real.
pullman's integrity and respect for the emotional and intellectual depth of his readers is at the core of this ultimately life affirming work about responsibility to ourselves and those around us.
my only complaint, a small one, is the tendancy to have characters explain things to each other. granted there were many threads needing to be tied up, but it was a little TOO neatly done, and possibly could have been done without all the exposition. but that's a minor personal complaint- i like loose ends.

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