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  3. The huge pale sun behind the Braid Hills rising glints on the city in wands of slanting light The threadbare half-moon hangs above Corstorphine where winter branches stretch and silhouette With sunrise in her hair the girl Queen Mary rode to dying Darnley out at Kirk o' Field On such a frosty forenoon Cockburn left the lawcourts experienced the New Town, memorised the Old Singing a cold cadence Fergusson the poet shivered down the Canongate with rhythm in his feet And citizens of Edinburgh on this very morning set to partners, join hands and skip down the street Anonymous - Winter sunrise in Edinburgh Note: Cockburn is pronounced to rhyme with go-burn
  4. Gathering Blue, Lois Lowry, part two of The Giver Quartet
  5. Audible is addictive! You should try Timothy West reading Trollope. Wonderful.
  6. This is the most recent of biographies about one of the foremost conductors of the 20th century. There are many conductors who became very closely associated with one particular orchestra - Mravinsky in Leningrad, Karajan in Berlin, Barbirolli in Manchester - but there are few who are credited with turning a good orchestra into one of the world's greatest. That s what George Szell did in Cleveland, a city more traditionally associated with heavy industry and engineering. But like the Victorians in northern England who invested in spectacular architecture, the citizens of Cleveland liked to show off their wealth by demonstrating their patronage of the arts. The Cleveland Orchestra had a great number of wealthy sponsors, donors and patrons and would not have survived without them. Until Szell's arrival in 1946, the orchestra wasn't really on the map; by the time of his death in 1970 it most certainly was. Like a good many of his contemporaries, Szell didn't suffer fools gladly. There are innumerable stories of how conductors like Toscanini with the NBC Symphony in New York, Reiner in Chicago and Mravinsky in Leningrad terrorised their musicians and willed them into submission. Today, in a world which has largely gone mad in its obeisance to political correctness, such men would have been hounded out of town. Yet the artistic results speak for themselves. As Karajan once famously said, you don't create artistic policy through committees, a notion with which Walter Legge, creator of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, would surely have agreed. There are advantages to dictatorship, in the political sphere as well as in the world of music. Charlatans and dilettantes stand no chance as dictators, whereas these days having the right agent and PR machine as well as optical charms work wonders for mere average conducting talents. Nothing demonstrates the iron rule that Szell exercised more than the story about the vacant concertmaster's position in the late 1960s. Szell wanted one of the assistant concertmasters, Daniel Majeske, a born-again Christian, to take over. Majeske was extremely reluctant to assume such enormous responsibility. "Oh well," he eventually sighed, "if God wills it." To which Szell replied: "God, doesn't come into the matter, I will it." The author is the widow of the Cleveland Orchestra's No 2 oboe and draws on a fund of stories about Szell's long reign, his exacting standards and refusal to compromise for the sake of harmony, and the astonishing excellence he achieved. He directed scores from memory, his sharp eyes were everywhere, he hired and fired as he pleased ,and he interfered relentlessly in many administrative and non-musical aspects, so much so that when the Orchestra was touring one winter and the coach got stuck in a snow drift, he ordered individual musicians to stand in a particular formation in order to maximise their body weight and get things moving again. There was a wry sense of humour which informed his interaction with individual musicians and he cultivated a pastoral relationship with many of them. He had recently appointed a new principal viola and, knowing that Szell determined the salary of each individual musician, this man approached Szell one day to tell him that he had recently got married and the couple were now expecting their first child. The player referred to the many new purchases that had become necessary and asked his boss for a pay rise. Eventually, Szell agreed. Two years later, the player returned with a similar request. This time Szell raised an eyebrow but, because he liked this particular musician, he conceded a further increase in salary. Two years further down the line Szell was astonished to hear the content of previous conversations being repeated: the couple were now looking forward to the patter of tiny feet for the third time, and the player wanted an even bigger salary. "But Abe,' Szell cried out in exasperation, "have you never heard of f****** for pleasure?!" Kraus is good at dealing with many of the intricacies of musical life in Cleveland, and there are some fine photographs of Szell and others closely associated with the Cleveland Orchestra. However, she is clearly not a born writer: there are a number of unnecessary repetitions, and though the book will give many moments of amusement the writing is at times rather pedestrian and would have benefited from rigorous sub-editing
  7. Last week
  8. I just signed up for a free trial of audible. My free book is Stephen Fry reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes. This is making me deliriously happy.
  9. In 1785, Jonah Hancock, a Deptford merchant, finds one of his captains has sold his ship for a mermaid. It's hideous but Jonah still manages to make a lot of money charging people to see it and so meets Angelica Neal, the most glamorous woman he has ever met and an acomplished if not very money wise courtesan. This is a wonderfully fresh and original story with excellent writing and a superb sense of place and what the seamier side of Georgian sociatey (very seedy indeed) was like. It sagged just slightly in the middle, not that much though, and there were a couple of unexpected plot twists that I didn't see coming and an ending that was both satisfying and left you wanting to know more. Not for those who can't cope with bawdy but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  10. Silver is the follow up to Chris Hammer's Scrublands - one of the best books I read last year. Silver takes place not long after the events in Riversend in Scrublands. Martin Scarsden has been holed up in Sydney writing a book about what happened while Mandy has moved to Silver Bay, a town on the NSW coast, where she is about to inherit a house. Martin, book finished, comes to join her, walks into her rental, fnds a freshly stabbed body on the floor and Mandy sitting in shock, hands covered in blood. Naturally she's the obvious supect, Martin is determined to prove her innosence but it's tricky especially as Martin has history which he hasn't told Mandy about yet.There are parts of the plot which stretch belief, especially why Martin hasn't told Mandy about his past, and this book doesn't have the power and raw energy of Scrublands. That said it's still an excellent read, very fast paced, I read it until 1.30 in the morning and then woke up early so I could finish it, haven't done that with a book for ages, so I have no hesitation in recommending it. I was sure Mr HG had already done a post on Silver but I've searched and searched and couldn't find it.
  11. Telling Tales (Vera Stanhope 2) Ann Cleeves
  12. How about books by solo travellers, yes they will meet up with people on their journeys but they will also have a lot of time on their own. Time for restrospection, for reallignment of their priorities. Dervla Murphy - Full Tilt - but lots of others by her - off on her bike cycling round remote parts of the world. Even books where more than one in the travel party, Polar expeditions. Plenty of solitude and isolation there. Robinson Crusoe of course. Life of Pi
  13. (See brightphoebus) Wise Child - Monica Furlong
  14. Ooops! I have : To Kill a Mockingbird (to re-read), Great Expectations, The Tombs of Atuan, Quiet and I want : Silas Marner, On Solitude
  15. Thanks Luna! I’ve just spent £30 that I couldn’t afford in books about/by Derek Jarman.
  16. I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. The waves beside them danced; but they Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company: I gazed – and gazed – but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought: For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils. I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, William Wordsworth
  17. I thought that this might prove interesting : Books about solitude and isolation anybody reading something similar?
  18. Earlier
  19. I'm a tour guide (not that there's going to be much of that this year!) mainly for one of the big river boat companies though I'm strictly very part time, usually with one or two shifts a week during the summer. When I take tours round the local town we finish with a visit to one of the Sauternes chateaux and a tasting. Our house was a winemaker's house at one time and still has the old winery, minus tanks etc, at the back. It's no mansion though, basically a cottage, its vineyard which has long since been sold was ony ever just a few acres.
  20. Do you work in a winery Viccie? It’s good that you have an exclusive wood next door, so handy to escape into an area where you can enjoy the forest without it being busy with others. Sounds as though the district is well organized where you have to have your particulars noted on paper. Hope all goes well where you are and that we can all at some point defeat this horrible virus.
  21. Blood and Beauty - Sarah Dunant
  22. I'm very lucky in that I live in the middle of the vines in rural France so there's plenty of scope for going out though we are supposed to only leave the premises for exercise for one hour a day and not more than 1 km from home and carry a signed piece of paper with our names and address, darte and time on it. Fortunately there is a wood next door where no one ever goes so I can nip in there for an extra walk if I'm restless! Behaviour in the supermarkets here is pretty impeccable but that could be because we're out of town. I belong to several expat groups on Facebook and all I can say about quite a large proportion of some of the partiicpants is that it's time Facebook added a "sanctimonious" emojo to Like, Live, Wow etc.
  23. American Beauty.- Edna Ferber
  24. It's a weakness, it really is : The Crow Trap, Telling Tales, Hidden Depths, Silent Voices, The Glass Room, Harbour Street, The Moth Catcher, The Seagull, (all Vera Stanhope) by Ann Cleeves And The Rules of Thinking: A personal code to think yourself smarter, wiser and happier by Richard Templar
  25. Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre by Walter Kaufmann and because I have the time, The Rules of Thinking, Richard Templar.
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