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Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism
Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism
by Terryl Givens
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $31.46
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5.0 out of 5 stars A strong and charismatic speaker, writer, poet, and lifelong missionary who helped build the LDS Church and settle the West., April 3, 2014
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Parley P. Pratt was one of the original twelve apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was a charismatic speaker, utterly devoted to preaching the gospel, he travelled the world building the Kingdom of God on Earth, and wrote some of the most influential tracts, books, poems, and hymns of the first century of the Restoration. In fact, the present hymn book (1985) still contains ten of his many hymns. And his autobiography remains a popular and widely read book on the early history of Mormonism. This scholarly biography gives a more complete understanding of Elder Pratt's life and puts the autobiography in the larger context of his entire life and the history of the church and clarifies some of the few instances where the autobiography leans a bit towards telling a good story rather than the less exciting reality.

However, as I consider how to write a brief review and convey to you the nature of this man, I am at a loss. His personality, life, activity, and complexity are far beyond my ability to capture in just a few hundred words. Of course, I must try.

After I finished the book and thought about what I had read, I have to admit that while he was a most charismatic writer and speaker, he was also a rather difficult personality for those who had to live with him. And his devotion to the Church and his mission as an Apostle caused him to ask a tremendous amount of sacrifice from his family. His first wife died young and his second wife eventually divorced him. He was one of the early apostles to practice plural marriage and eventually had a total of twelve wives, thirty children, and two hundreds and sixty-six grandchildren (appendix 2). These women and children were mostly devoted to him and when he was with them he worked hard to provide for them. However, he was much less successful in providing for his family than he was in reaping a harvest of converts for the Church. Being a wife and child of Parley P. Pratt was deemed an honor by most of them and they were devoted to him, and he to them. But the work of the Gospel demanded more sacrifice than many of us of the present day can fathom or consider making.

At one point, he was even going to sign over the royalties from his magnum opus to the Church, but Brigham Young refused the offer and told him that his family needed the money. This is the level of commitment, devotion, and consecration Elder Pratt had to the Gospel. He sometimes had to be protected from himself.

He was also a man of tremendous physical strength and courage. Travel in the mid-19th Century was not easy. And he travelled so much it would be shocking even with today's comparatively easy travel. He served missions for more than half of his adult life with only 18 months in Utah with his wives and children. His missionary journeys were far-flung. His early missions were the Eastern Seaboard and mid-west. But he soon went to Canada, to the United Kingdom (Liverpool and Manchester), San Francisco, and even Valparaiso, Chile! He also ran Winter Quarters after Brigham and the lead band left for the Great Basin. And among his most amazing feats was leading fifty men in a survey of vast area that later became Utah. They were trapped in horrible weather conditions and would likely have perished without his stamina, drive, courage, and leadership.

Pratt did have a fiery nature that led to him breaking with the leaders twice. The first was with Joseph during the 1837 banking crisis and land speculation collapse in Kirtland and the other with Brigham over the reorganization of the First Presidency (Parley wanted all the Apostles to be equal in authority an independent agents, but he eventually fell in line). But these were brief and otherwise he was utterly devoted to the Gospel, the Restoration, and the Keys of the Priesthood.

The authors make the case that Pratt's writing contributed to the development of Joseph's Smith's thinking and writing. Not that Smith got his revelations using Pratt's words, but that Smith's concept of Eternal Progression was furthered by Pratt's writings. I do not know one way or the other. My fundamental belief and testimony is in the mission Jesus Christ and that Joseph was the chose Prophet of the Restoration. I do not think there is anything Joseph preached that wasn't in his revelations before Pratt wrote about the topic. But if Pratt's writing helped Smith see things in a clearer way, more power to him, I guess. There seems little doubt that Smith's writing of the Articles of Faith were based, in part, upon the earlier writings of Pratt.

While Pratt's two principle works are seldom used today ("A Voice of Warning" and "Key to the Science of Theology"), both are available online, as are most of his other writings. You can also find some of them on Amazon in various editions including Kindle.

The recounting of Pratt's murder is important because the story is so often garbled. I cannot recount all of its ins and outs and twists and turns here, so I encourage you to read the story of how Pratt became acquainted with Eleanor McLean and how they later decided to marry and the disaster that followed. Essentially, she was in a terrible marriage to a violent drunk named Hector McLean. They had come to California during the Gold Rush to try and salvage their marriage, but he went back on the drink. She found the Mormon Church and wanted to be baptized, he would not allow it and exposed her to even greater cruelties. Finally, the reached an agreement where she could join the Church, but the cruelties increased and culminated in him sending their three children, unchaperoned, by ship (via the overland track through Nicaragua!) back to New Orleans. After she had been baptized and after the marriage was in deep freefall, Pratt arrived in San Francisco. They became acquainted. She finally left Hector and went to Salt Lake City. She and Pratt were married there by Brigham Young in November 1855.

In 1857, Pratt was going on a mission to the East, but felt uneasy about it. Eleanor accompanied him part of the way and then separated so she could go to attempt to retrieve her children in New Orleans. She was successful and fled with them. But Hector learned of this and followed, swearing vengeance. When he learned where Pratt and Eleanor were going to attempt to join each other, he had her arrested for stealing the children's clothes (valued at $10) and had her during her trial attempted to shoot Pratt. Her charges were dismissed and Pratt was allowed to escape early in the morning. He was offered weapons to defend himself but he refused them. McLean and his associates had been watching and chased Pratt, waylaid him in a thicket of trees and after missing with gunfire, stabbed him three times in the heart. Everyone thought Pratt was dead, but when they went to him an hour later he was still alive and asking for water. He soon died. He asked that his gold and effects be sent to his family and that his body be retrieved by the Saints and taken back to Utah. He died affirming his testimony of the Gospel. Instead, his effects were stolen and when the saints came for his body it was not found were it was supposed to be. A monument was erected, but his body was never found.
News of his death flashed around the world and got to Utah before Eleanor could struggle back home. His descendants are many are prominent members; including Mitt Romney!

He was a great man and a legendary servant of Christ. His life should be remembered and studied by every person interested in the History of Religion in America and especially by every Latter-day Saint.

A very good book. I did find that the authors did not write in a way that made Pratt particularly engaging or inviting. Maybe that was their way of being objective, but it made the book a tad less satisfying a read as it might have been. And the chronology jumps around a bit as it covers various topics and periods. So, do not expect the story told as a straight chronology.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI

Patriot's History® of the Modern World, Vol. II: From the Cold War to the Age of Entitlement, 1945-2012
Patriot's History® of the Modern World, Vol. II: From the Cold War to the Age of Entitlement, 1945-2012
by Larry Schweikart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.53
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history of the decades of my life. I saw most of the events described here and this is a clear and honest telling., April 1, 2014
I was born in 1954, a year that means nothing to almost anyone. Except that it was just one year after the Korean War ended and only nine years after the end of World War II. The hydrogen bomb was proliferating among the nuclear powers at this time and so it was also a year in the thick of the Cold War. I grew up fully expecting to see a mushroom cloud go off somewhere near my home in Detroit. When they had the maps up on the TV showing the range of the Soviet Missiles during the Cuban Missile Crisis I remember feeling some relief that the authorities didn't think they could reach Michigan. I remember all the adults being upset at Eisenhower's heart attack and the election in 1960 that brought JFK to the Whitehouse.

My point in telling you this is to say that the time period covered in this book recounts events during my lifetime. I remember much of what is discussed in this book. What is different, and wonderful, about this book, is that the authors get behind the façade we were peddled on the evening news, in the newspapers, by Time, Life, Newsweek, and Look magazines, and gives us the realities behind the myths. You know, the little used concept nowadays we used to call Truth. In our hyper politicized age, too many treat TRUTH as whatever gets their side more power. They deny that there is an objective reality independent of them. I know. I know. But watch the politicians in action and this idea explains a lot.
Schweikart & Dougherty focus their lens on world history in these recent six or seven decades in light of the actual true definition of American Exceptionalism, which is the idea that a religious, moral, educated people can govern themselves rather than be ruled by Kings, Queens, a religious Ruler, or a remote self-perpetuating bureaucratic elite. The authors focus on Four Pillars that make this so successful in America and help explain why attempts at self-rule either fail or are so much less successful when transplanted without those Pillars. The Four Pillars are: 1) a religious culture based on Christianity (more Protestant than not), 2) a tradition and code of Common Law that is observed and protected by that culture, 3) Access by all to acquiring and owning Private Property with real title and not just leasing from the State, and 4) an economy based on Free Market Capitalism that is lightly regulated by the government to help it function smoothly rather than emphasizing winners and losers or redistribution to pretend to equalize outcomes. Remember, government cronyism is NOT free market capitalism!
While this book has World History as its subject, the dominance of America on the global stage during these decades and the prosecution of the Cold War, kept America front and center in almost all world events. At times the book can read like American History and this is the reason.

The introduction lays out the importance and success of America and the utter failure and murderous governance of Communism and Totalitarianism around the globe. Chapter One provides a great tutorial on the origins of the Cold War and the stakes involved for every part of the globe. You need to understand this material to really understand what follows until the present. Chapter Two demonstrates how the nightfall of Europe withdrawing from Asia and Africa and the rise of Communism brought about a dark misery for hundreds of millions of people on those continents.

At this point I want to insert how valuable the maps are of the way the world was divided politically and nationally during those years are quite valuable. Too many young people see the present borders as eternal, and they have fluctuated like unwinding rubber bands during my life.
Chapter Three covers the period after World War II up through the speech in 1962 at Rice Stadium that Kennedy made committing America to go to the Moon in "this decade". But the book is not strictly chronological. The Bay of Pigs fiasco of 1961 is left to the following chapter. The material in this chapter discusses America's rise to dominate the world stage because of its industrial might and boundless optimism while the rest of the world struggled to recover from the war or fell into the bonds of totalitarian Communism. The book also includes social changes like the beginnings of "Rock and Roll", which will have a profound influence on global culture during the following decades.

Chapter Four shows us the reality behind the Kennedy Administration rather than Camelot Myth. We read about the Bay of Pigs, the truth of the dealings during the Cuban Missile Crisis (we traded away missiles in Turkey rather than Khrushchev folding) and how Kennedy got us into Vietnam with the assassination of Diem. The Kennedy assassination and the social disturbances in the Civil Rights movement, the socialization of industry in the UK, the Tet Offensive (also misrepresented by the American Media), the rise and collapse of the Hippie Culture, and the election of Nixon and the draft lottery. We learn the truth about JFK and that his "life was a tissue of fabrications and public relations".

Chapter Five takes us through the Nixon years, the Roe v. Wade fiasco, the press pushing Nixon out of office over Watergate, the rise of the personal computer (Commodore, Apple, Microsoft), the Ford period, and the election of Carter. These were also the years of the violence of the Weather Underground, the financial default of Cleveland (Dennis Kucinich was mayor), the bailout of Chrysler Corp., and the radical Muslims gaining control of Iran and the failed mission to rescue the hostages. This led to Carter's defeat in the next election and Ronald Reagan took office. China also began its dangerous cultural experiment with limiting families to one child. And the UN is fully converted into an anti-American club that denounced Israel as Zionist and that Zionism is racism. The UK woke up briefly from its socialist folly and elected Margaret Thatcher as its Prime Minister. The Nixon administration also saw the glory of the Apollo Moon landings and then he and Congress abandoned the program. A decision I am still angry about.

In Chapter Six we get to enjoy the Reagan - Thatcher years and the fall of the Soviet Union. A miracle I never expected to see growing up. We had great hope for a new kind of Russia in those years, but then the Russian Mafia and the rise of Putin put an end to that fantasy and turned it into a new nightmare. The authors show us the release of the hostages by Iran, how Argentina's miscalculation in the Falklands saved Thatcher, and how Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (dubbed Star Wars by his critics) and the support Reagan, the Pope, and Thatcher gave Poland and the rise of Solidarity there helped end the Soviet Union. We also get to read about the great economic resurrection Reagan began (with Volker's help) despite the dire predictions of permanent decline espoused by the Carterites. We are so grateful and fortunate that the assassination attempts on Reagan, Pope John-Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher each failed!

Chapter seven covers the Bush I years and the end of the generation that lived through the Great Depression and fought World War II and Korea and gave rise to the Vietnam Era Baby Boom Generation. The first Boomer President was Bill Clinton. Where Bush led us through a successful prosecution of the First Gulf War, he ended it prematurely and the treaty was utterly inadequate. Bill Clinton tried to give us HillaryCare and that led to the first GOP led House in generations. With Newt Gingrich leading the House and Bob Dole was the Majority Leader in the Senate. Clinton resisted, but finally moderated and this led to economic prosperity and a more responsible Federal Budget. The most famous of which was Welfare Reform, which was later undone by the Obama Administration. One of the interesting aspects of these years was the ways in which the socialist nations of Europe learned from the Reagan and Thatcher approach to the economy and miracle after miracle occurred where regulations were let go and taxes lowered.

Of course, Clinton's second term was mired in the Lewisnky Scandal as his first administration was mired in several scandals he somehow escaped such as the Travel Office firings, the FBI records, and the deaths in the Waco compound siege of the Branch Davidians. Similarly, while the House impeached Clinton in 1998, but the Senate did not remove him from office. The public continued to support both Bill and Hillary and she appears to be a viable candidate for the 2016 election. During his two terms, Clinton also saw the beginnings of Jihad with the bombing of the World Trade Centers and the USS Cole. He did nothing about them beyond giving speeches.

China adopted market reforms, but still kept a Communist Party in charge of the government and their cronies (many with family connections to the leaders) became fabulously rich. American companies had to surrender patent and technological secrets to Chinese companies to get access to the vast Chinese market. China used corporate espionage to go after information and technologies they could not get companies to surrender to them. Other Progressives programs, such as bilingual education, were displayed as failures and withdrawn.

The Chapter on the George W. Bush Administration is entitled "Jihad" and, of course, covers the horrors of 9/11 and the impact that had on the American economy including the prosecution of the War on Terror and the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it also includes the attacks in Europe and the struggle they have with high number of Muslim immigrants who have no intention of becoming part of European culture. Instead, the authors point out, the assimilating is the changing of European culture and law to accommodate the rapidly rising populations of Sharia following Muslims. The Bush Administration made mistakes in letting the government expand in size, scope, and spending. The Housing crisis late in Bush's second term was a popped bubble started by both parties much earlier when they decided to use the Federal Government to turn personal home ownership into a right and make it easy for anyone to get a home. The idea was to push ownership above the "natural rate" with fictions that by bundling high risk mortgages into collateralized bonds they would be risk free. They weren't and everyone but the bankers, bureaucrats, and politicians are paying the price for that hubris.

The final chapter is on the Obama administration through 2012 and his re-election. As the economy went into a free fall in the last days of the second W. Bush administration, the Obama administration opened seizing this as an opportunity for their huge government, big spending, big regulating, higher tax agenda. Their stimulus was not used for "shovel ready projects", which their regulations would never allow anyway, but were used as a political slush fund for the benefit of the unions, both government and private, that were major Obama supporters. Obama also had a Democrat majority in the House and a filibuster proof 60 vote majority in the Senate and they used that power to push through what is commonly known as ObamaCare without any Republican support or votes. They tried other major initiatives such as a Cap and Trade tax scheme, immigration reform, and others. These failed to get sufficient Democrat support and the Democrats lost the House in 2010 and some seats in the Senate. Obama then decided he had enough power as President to effectively enact his environmental agenda, immigration program, and other goals administratively without any input from Congress. He also decided he could change the written law implementing ObamaCare as he chose rather than as the law was written. The authors end the book describing the way the Children of Israel traded their birthright of Freedom with a government of judges and relying on God as their King and comparing that to the Founding state of America under its Constitution. And just as Israel traded its freedom for the false security of a King, the authors express a hope that America will not continue down the path of an ever more powerful executive and abandon its Constitution, traditional faith, and the rule of law that has kept us free for centuries.

An excellent book that I hope you will read and get your children and grandchildren to read.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
Offered by SimplyBeautiful
Price: $19.89
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Vanilla Extract, January 23, 2014
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Frankly, I started using this brand of Vanilla because I saw Ina Garten use it on her show and I like her cooking. And having used other brands of vanilla before, I can share with you that this is a very good brand of vanilla extract. It is my go to brand for all my baking. Yes, for many things, I could certainly get away with something lesser, but frankly, I want my baking to have every advantage I can give it. People rave over what I make, and I don't want to risk losing any of the magic. So, I use this. For some reason, it has become hard to get at my local Whole Foods, so I ordered it online rather than take a substitute.

And, of course, whole vanilla beans are even nicer. But, this stuff is magic in a bottle! I love it and so do all those who eat my baked goods. Not that they always know why. But from the comments I get, I think we can give some credit to quality ingredients such as this vanilla extract!

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI

La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) (Sheet) (Alfred Masterwork)
La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) (Sheet) (Alfred Masterwork)
by Claude Debussy
Edition: Paperback
Price: $2.95
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good student edition that is very affordable and understandable., January 23, 2014
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The Alfred editions do a good job in keeping what the composer wrote clearly separated from their helpful editorial annotations. this popular work offers translations of the French instructions on how to play the piece, and offers good fingering and pedaling. Of course, the teacher (and student) should feel free to change these emendations as they see fit. But this basic two page work sounds beautiful, is not particularly hard to play (except that young students are unnecessarily concerned when they first see the key signature of six flats (G-flat Major). Again, they can be helped through this by any competent teacher.

If found the printing to be a little less crisp and clear than I like. But the price is most attractive.

You should also be more careful when opening the envelope it comes in than I was. I accidentally tore off a corner of the work as I tore the envelope open. Fortunately, the damage is only cosmetic and did nothing to the music. There was no protective cardboard for the music itself.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI

Game Plan: How to Protect Yourself from the Coming Cyber-Economic Attack
Game Plan: How to Protect Yourself from the Coming Cyber-Economic Attack
by Kevin D. Freeman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.17
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The author says we are in an economic war and offers his views on what you can do about it to protect yourself., January 23, 2014
If you are truly financially sophisticated (that is, you are a professional or have a business degree in finance), this book is not for you. However, if you are a regular person trying to get your mind around what is going on in the economy today and what you need to be considering as you plan your financial life, I can strongly recommend this book as one to read to get yourself STARTED on the right pattern of financial thinking as you get yourself into a better state and what to watch for.

Kevin Freeman is alerting us to the fact that we are in an economic war with Russia, China, Iran, and other countries that do not wish America well and cannot compete with us militarily. And as they attack our economy, your own financial well-being is at risk as surely as if they launched missiles at us. Just as the Cold War did damage to the combatants without ever dropping “The Big One” on anyone, this economic war is harming us (and you) in a similar way.

The first two chapters present the author’s case for the economic war facing America and wants you to see the risk you face because of it. He drives home what happens to you and yours if this war succeeds in chapters three and four. He spends chapters five through ten going through the case for putting your money in various assets and how they might behave under different scenarios. I think he does a good job in telling you not only what the benefits are to each, but the very real risks facing each of them. For example, precious metals, which he strongly supports as a part of your portfolio, run risks of being physically lost or stolen. And if you have physical possession of the metal, there are costs to storing it and protecting it. Then you have the tax implications involved with buying and selling it that distorts your return on the metal. Never mind the price volatility risk. And then we have the ever present threat of government confiscation of bullion as FDR did back in the Depression. So, beware. There is no easy answer and none is safe under all scenarios. In addition to precious metals the author covers stocks, bonds, cash, guaranteed investments such as annuities, hedge funds, and things like diamonds, art, wine, land, and so forth.

I particularly liked the chapter where he goes through the principles of a variety of investor approaches from people such as Dean Junkans, John Templeton, Manisha Thankor, and Bob Duggans. Think about what their thinking means to you and what they have in common and where they differ. You will begin to see what makes sense to you. He concludes on a positive note that you can steer your own ship even in a storm.

The basic message of the book is that these are serious times and you cannot just coast along assuming things will be safe and good for the rest of your life. You need to get your financial house in order, get yourself informed, and develop strategies and tactics so you protect yourself and can quickly act as conditions change. And they will.

Depending on your financial sophistication, this book might be a valuable education for you or a useful reminder of things you already know.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI.

Haydn: Six Late Piano Sonatas
Haydn: Six Late Piano Sonatas
Offered by SONY Music Entertainment Downloads LLC.
Price: $16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A unqiuely Gould approach to this music. Brilliantly played and intelligently conceived. Well worth having and studying., January 20, 2014
My love of Haydn began in my teens as a young piano student and continues to this very minute. These late sonatas demonstrate his genius beyond all dispute. Those who dismiss him have simply not listened to his music in a serious way. He was so original he reshaped an era of music and was admired and studied by both Mozart and Beethoven and the great composers since. Whether or not you know these sonatas well, you should get this collection because Glenn Could’s approach will give you a fresh hearing of them. You may love his take on this music or you could find it so radical that you hate it. In either case, I encourage you to listen to the music as well as the performance.

Gould has a brilliant technique and does exactly what he wants to do with the music. Whether or not you agree with what he wanted to do or his very personal take on how a piano should sound is quite beside the point. We ask artists to create and recreate the music for us according to their own minds and hearts. If we all we want is a repeat of what someone else did, we are dead, dead, dead.

Gould came before the dominance of the “Early Music – Original Performance Practice” debates that continue to this day. In some ways, Gould help spark one line of that debate with his famous and fabulously popularization of Bach in the 1950s with the “Goldberg Variations”, which almost no one but specialists knew before he brought them before the public. Gould played much more brilliantly and faster when he was younger and tended to slow the music and find more music on the interior of the pieces as he matured. This is not an uncommon phenomenon among the great musicians. It is not just a matter of slowing, it is more about having more time to do more things with the sound and make more clear connections in the work.

If you compare these to, say, the Schiff recordings, they sound faster or slower depending on the basic character of the movement (so more extreme), the sound of the recorded piano is somewhat harsher, the ornamentation almost non-existent, and Gould does NOT take the repeats (in general) where Schiff does. Is this bad or good? Neither. It just is. Personally, I do not think there is only one way to hear or play this music. I think that the composers themselves would adapt the music to the needs of the moment. If he needed to stretch out the music to fill time he could take the repeats, or improvise more on the music, or interpose another piece as an additional movement. But if time were short, he could leave out the repeats, take cuts, or leave out a movement.

The pieces as they were printed are an idealized form of the works, but almost certainly were not the only form of the work as it was played by the composer. We analysts like them as they are printed and can find all kinds of wonderful things in them that you lose without the repeats and so forth, but working musicians have to make the music work in the situation in which they are performing.

As in all things artistic, this is all a matter of taste. I admire Gould a great deal. But sometimes find his performances a bit mannered for my own approach to the music. But I freely admit his performances are rarely boring and none are here. His fast playing is exciting and crystal clear. Brilliant in the best sense of the word.

I am glad I have these recording to listen to and encourage you to get them and study them as well.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI

Haydn : Piano Sonatas Nos 59 - 62 & Fantasia In C Major
Haydn : Piano Sonatas Nos 59 - 62 & Fantasia In C Major
Price: $7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Really fine performances of indisputably great piano sonatas by the ever Great Franz Joseph Haydn, January 20, 2014
Andras Schiff is a pianist of great musicality and fine technique. I bought this album because I love the Haydn piano sonatas and have played them all my life. I trust Schiff to provide a solid and responsible interpretation of the music. I heard a youtube video of the Fantasia and realized that I had never played it, so I got the music and learned it. This recording helped me get the sound image in my mind, but I think Schiff puts in some triplets in the arpeggios that really are not there. That would divide the measures into two beats instead of the three that are really there. But it seems inconsistent throughout the piece. Sometimes it seems in the proper three beats and others it seems to be two. The measures take the correct amount of time; it is just where Schiff puts the accents. And I am sure these arpeggios can be justified as a kind of free cadenza. Still …

The late sonatas are marvelous and have been one of the joys of the Classic Period for performing pianists for centuries. As I hear Schiff play them I do not ever get the sense that he is just going through them as a toss off of something overly familiar. He is in completely and fully in command of the music and makes me hear his playing as if the music is fresh to his mind, as well.

These performances are tasteful in their ornamentation and stick to the score as the best scholarship has presented these works to us. Some early music specialists feel free to improvise on this music, some more than others. And that is OK. But for my tastes, I want to hear what Haydn said in the score with the artists revealing his or her own mind and heart through what Haydn actually wrote rather than a riff on it.

One of the great misconceptions that modern listeners have of Haydn is that because they think of his music as “predictable” by them he is somehow unoriginal and, heaven forfend, boring. This is akin to the gentleman brought reluctantly to hear “Hamlet” for the first time by his family and afterwards was asked what he thought of the play. He said he didn’t know what all the fuss was about that the play was just a bunch of quotes strung together.

Haydn sounds familiar because he was so powerfully original that he redefined the Classical Era and everyone else copied HIM and built on forms that he defined and perfected. Only people who have not actually listened to much Haydn could be anything less than dazzled by his music and endless invention. He was revered by Mozart, Beethoven and became the beloved Papa Haydn to the 19th Century for great reasons. Do yourself a favor and get to know these works. Mr. Schiff is a great artist to learn them through.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI

Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics
Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics
by Charles Krauthammer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.92
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I recommend this to everyone. You will get a fresh perspective on America from the 1980s to the present on a range of issues., January 20, 2014
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I have been a fan of Krauthammer since his days at "The New Republic". I did not know who he was, but the magazine in those years (when Michael Kinsley was the editor of TNR and was appearing on Firing Line with WFB) was moderate enough that I actually subscribed to it. I dropped it during the Clinton years as it rocketed far Leftward and now pay it no attention whatsoever. But I have kept up with Mr. Krauthammer. I see him most on Special Report with Bret Baier on The Fox News Channel and often catch him on other shows, too. I also read a good fraction of his columns because they generally score around terrific on the pundit meter. And because I hear and read him regularly I did not see the need to purchase his collected columns in this book when it came out. Generally, books of collected columns sink like a stone. Some people are worth re-reading - WFB comes to mind - but while I am a fan of Mr. Krauthammer, I am not one of his rabid devotees.

So, I wasn't surprised when the book did well immediately. But when it kept doing well week after week I reconsidered and realized there must be something more going on here than just a collection of old newspaper and periodical columns. So, I bought a copy. I generally do not buy many books because as a highly ranked reviewer on Amazon, I generally get sent books to review and get many more request for reviews than I can possibly read and write. But I wanted to take a look at this one. I did not try to get a review copy because books this popular are generally not sent to Amazon Reviewers like me. And because they get hundreds and thousands of reviews, I generally do not review them because my review will just disappear amongst all the others and is not needed to give some attention to a book I like. But after reading it, I wanted to write a review. Even if only a few people look at it. This book is terrific. The columns in it hold up wonderfully well and remind me of the times in which they were written and, often, of how I thought about the columns when I first read them. This is generally a pleasant experience.

But I think there is much more to this retrospective than just nostalgia. Reading the book reminds of us how we saw the world in those days and then consider how we view the world today and all the intervening events that changed our expectations of reality. Krauthammer shows himself a keen analyst of his times, but also a relatively good seer of what is likely to come. Of course, he got to select that columns in the book and my memory is not good enough to find the things he got ridiculously wrong (maybe there weren't any?). So, this reconsideration of the past when it was the present to reconsider the present as it becomes the past is quite valuable as we consider the future we are heading towards.

I also found myself falling into the very human trap of loving most the columns that most agree with my previously held views (maybe views that were shaped by reading Krauthammer's columns the first time?). The stronger the agreement the greater the author's obvious genius because he confirms my own brilliance! Right? Anybody else share this foible?

The next step is to think about where and why you disagree with the author. The best and most valuable writers are those who help you sharpen your own views and thinking not just confirm what you already think. And I do have some disagreements with Dr. Krauthammer. Because he is so close to the game in Washington D. C., I think he sometimes becomes more enamored with the process than its purpose. He imbues it with great importance and seems much more comfortable with its present mammoth level of intrusion into our lives than I am. Since I live out here in Michigan, Washington is too present and too intrusive for my beliefs and tastes. As I understand our Founding, the Federal Government was never supposed to come to this. Krauthammer seems to be one of those Conservatives who accept the reality that it is this huge and this intrusive and what matters is winning it as it is now rather than working towards turning it back. I agree that my view might well be a fool's errand. But if we never try we can never even begin to raise the notion and the growth won't even slow. Nevertheless, I am grateful to Dr. Krauthammer for being compelling enough to make me consider his views and reconsider my own.

The book is a collection of columns grouped by topic into sixteen chapters which are divided into four parts. The first section is entitled "Personal" and consists of columns he wrote about his life, which are not that many, and things which make up his life. He has written obituaries of friends which are revealing because he discusses how and why these people mattered to him. We learn about his passion for baseball, but not just baseball, but the Washington Nationals. Then there is chess, border collies, art, science, math, and current medical topics; all fascinating stuff.

The second part is "Political" and consists of his columns on the political issues and events over the years. I waxed nostalgic for the Reagan years and saddened as we trudged our way towards the present morass. The columns on the Terrorist Threat and 9/11 being powerful reminders of what we foolishly doing under Obama.

The third part is called "Historical" in which he presents us with fascinating columns on Judaism in the world, the Cold War and the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton years. Isn't it hard to grasp how long ago the Bill Clinton Presidency seems today? We get important columns on the War on Terror and columns on politics and the future.

The final section is a collection of three longer essays grouped under the title "Global". Krauthammer discusses when America was the Unipolar power after the Cold War, American Foreign Policy choices, and the Decline of America under Obama and its being a choice rather than an inevitability.

This is a terrific read that I recommend to you and to everyone.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 20, 2014 8:16 AM PST

Rubinstein Collection, Vol. 20: Schumann: Carnaval, Fantasiestücke, Novelette, Nachtstück, Romance
Rubinstein Collection, Vol. 20: Schumann: Carnaval, Fantasiestücke, Novelette, Nachtstück, Romance
Offered by SONY Music Entertainment Downloads LLC.
Price: $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure from a truly great pianist. Get it. Listen. Learn. Wonderful!, January 15, 2014
I have been a devotee of Arthur Rubinstein since childhood. He had a marvelously huge repertoire and was a wonderful exemplar of the Romantic tradition of playing. He brought a bit of the 19th Century Grand Manner into the 20th Century, although in his time he was quite a modern pianist. He championed new composers and helped many musicians during his lifetime. He always sought nobility and passion in his playing without ever letting things get out of hand. He wanted beauty and emotion without excess or exaggeration. We could do with a bit more of that in today's pianists.

Here we get two of Schumann's major and popular works for piano: Carnival and the Fantasiestücke. If you are a student learning to play these works, this would be a marvelous recording to build into your own thinking about the works as you seek your own interpretation of these treasures.

There are also several individual recordings to round things out: the famous Novelette Op 21 No 1 in F major, the Nachstück Op 23 in F and the Romance in F-sharp opus 28 No. 2.

The recordings have been digitally remastered and are clean and sound pretty good, but they do not have a modern "presence" and some people might be put off by the older sound. I say that the recordings are so valuable that you need to get passed such artifacts. The past has a lot to offer the present if we will open ourselves to receive it. Not everything needs to be about today and tomorrow uninformed by anything that went before yesterday.

I did get to hear Rubinstein live once in 1976. He did a benefit recital for the Detroit Symphony and I was a season ticket holder and was able to get tickets for myself and my girlfriend (who has been my wonderful wife for 37 years and counting!). I asked my father if he wanted to go, but he thought the tickets were too expensive. Later, when I got him to go to hear Horowitz with me, he realized what he had missed and said that it was the worst money he never spent. Yep. Rubinstein was a treasure and you can learn from him on this disk. Enjoy!

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI

Schumann: Davidsbundlertanze, Kinderszenen, Sonata in G minor
Schumann: Davidsbundlertanze, Kinderszenen, Sonata in G minor
Price: $23.42
14 used & new from $12.78

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hewitt is a wonderful artist who has the courage and musical artistry to show us a fresh and personal view of this great music., January 15, 2014
I am a very enthusiastic fan of Angela Hewitt and am predisposed to like whatever she does at the piano. Frankly, I wish I could play as she does. I bought this album because I wanted to hear her take on the Davidsbündlertänze and am very happy that I did. Schumann is a marvelous composer and is not played enough nowadays. He is demanding both musically and technically in order to get it right and Hewitt is obviously up to the demands of the music.

Horowitz was a master Schumann interpreter and had such a powerful musical personality that his view of the music became the way generations heard the music. Too many pianists just tried to copy his interpretations as if they were THE way of playing Schumann. This frustrated him and we should ask more of ourselves and the great artists of the piano. Ms Hewitt has the courage and musical wherewithal to make this music her own. You will not mistake these performances for anyone else; especially not Horowitz. She helped me hear the music with fresh ears and new eyes and fall in love with it again and for different joys than I knew before. So, I deeply thank her for that.

She has her own take on the inner voices and where the melodies are in this music. Her approach to tempi are more free than my taste felt comfortable with at first. Not that any real musician wants a strict metronomic clockwork of a tempo, but she speeds up and slows down based on the story she wants to tell us rather than waiting to be instructed to do so by Schumann. She convinced me that it can be done this way, too.

The Kinderszenen (Scenes From Childhood) are NOT children's pieces even though Schumann called them light piano pieces. They are demanding enough technically if you want to get the music out of them. I hear them as a mature person reflecting back on life and thinking about aspects of life as a mature person sees childhood - vanished happiness, recaptured joys, misplaced innocence, and remembered emotion. Not simple to pull off, but Hewitt does so quite beautifully.

The Dance of the Society of David is a collection of works eighteen works that are really a debate between Schumann's famous dual character - the emotionally outward Florestan and the more inward and meditative Eusebius. This duality has a hundred different interpretations, depending on the currently fashionable psychological trends at the time of any given writer. My advice is to just listen to the music.

Schumann had a group of young devotees who artists in favor of the radical new rather than the existing Goliath of tradition. So, they called themselves the Society of David (Davidsbuendler) and saw themselves as brave young men flinging the stones of new art at the giant of tradition. The Bible talks about David dancing after killing Goliath, hence the title of this work. While it is hard for us to hear this music with the ears of its time, just go get some music from the period and read through it at the piano and then turn to this set and its radical nature will soon become apparent to you.

I think Hewitt handles both the technical demands and the artistic demands (which are severe) of this music beautifully. She marks a good path for other pianists to consider when working out their own approach to this music and if you have become settled in your ways in approaching this great work, she can open your mind for new considerations. I do not think her interpretation is crazy or even radical, but it is fresh and her own.

The Sonata in G minor is too often dismissed as lesser Schumann and compared to a work like the Fantasy, I guess it might be. Maybe it is considered something for students because they tend to tackle the work before the huge works, but I think the work is just wonderful. Hewitt plays it with drama, flourish, power, and real sensitivity.

This is an album worth having and listening to many times. We should never settle on only one approach to music, it is too constraining. Hewitt is a wonderful pianist and a fine artist and is strong enough to take her own path and we are blessed to go on this walk with her.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI

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