The NAB Blog
2013 – Hello and Goodbye!!!
By Nicolas Soames
6 December 2013
WHAT a year this has been!
I live a bit of a distorted life, of course, because I look fondly and excitedly at the new releases that come out each month while at the same time I am in and out of the studio keeping an eye on the new recordings being prepared for 2014 and beyond.
Nevertheless, even just from the perspective of 2013, it has been a varied and enriching time. There have been so many highlights. The centenary of the first publication of Swann’s Way meant that Neville Jason’s recording of unabridged Proust attracted interest – and his performance at the Chipping Campden Festival and, with Dr Cynthia Gamble, the three days at the Cheltenham Festival, were especially memorable.
After all, being a record company, we don’t often experience the fun of live performance! This was equally true of the huge enjoyment listening to Ronald Pickup reading John Masefield at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July – promoting his CD of John Masefield in our Great Poets series. Now here is a simple but oh so delectable Christmas present!
It will come as no surprise that the actor/reader Benjamin Soames is a relative. Actually, he is my son, and it was partly because of his thespian journey – LAMDA, TV, stage etc though he now does other things mainly – that Naxos AudioBooks began. He remains a popular reader on audiobook, especially for younger listeners, and I can, impartially (in the main!) recommend his two recordings this year: The Kings and Queens of England and Great Men and Women in the History of Medicine, both written by Jen Green. Both 2 CD sets are informative but entertaining also – ideal to play in the car during those Christmas journeys. And I am sure introduction to medical history from the Ancient Greeks to the present day will be just as fascinating to parents as to offspring.
We have produced unabridged recordings of two major Russian classics this year, Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment, both read superbly by Constantine Gregory, whose Russian family background enables him to imbue the characters and the place-names with correct Russian pronunciations. Furthermore, his familiarity with the whole setting lends a special authenticity to the recordings – even if they are in English.
And then there is David Shaw-Parker. David has a particularly intimate, genial quality to his voice and presentation, absolutely ideal for our first Trollope series, The Barsetshire Chronicles. The days I spent with him in the studio as he recorded The Warden were a delight from start to finish. He has recorded Barchester Towers (coming out in January), and Dr Thorne (also for next year); and the rest will follow soon. I also urge you to check out his recording of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. David takes it far away from the worthy non-conformist tract which it is so often regarded, imbuing it instead with kindness, wit and humour. It is an allegory which may surprise the 21st century person in you!
Probably the greatest single challenge of the year is Bertrand Russell’s The History of Western Philosophy – the first time this famous work has been released unabridged on audiobook. Despite a few limitations, it remains a fine introduction to its subject, and gives you an opportunity to whet your intelligence on the changing views down the ages. Phew! Yes!. I know. I listened day after day to Jonathan Keeble doing a truly admirable job in making the issues clear. Fortunately, Russell took considerable trouble to set the philosophies against the changing backgrounds of the civilisations from which they emerged, making the work as much a lesson in Western history as philosophy. Go on. Take on the challenge!
And when you want a rest, there is always unabridged Georgette Heyer, or Thackeray’s Vanity Fair to bring you back into the everyday world.
All courtesy of our unmatchable medium – the audiobook!
BUT it would not be fair of me to hide one of the greatest pleasure given to me by audiobooks this year, just because it is not on Naxos AudioBooks! If you know and like India, or want a change in your mystery novel listening, check out Tarquin Hall’s hugely enjoyable Vish Puri, ‘India’s Most Private Detective Investigator.’ Vish Puri is fat, loves his puris, curries and the hottest chillies, and has to contend with all manner of conmen, murderers, swamis and whatnot, as well as his ‘mummy-ji’ who despite being in her eighties, has aspirations to being a detective in her own right. The series is read by the outstanding Sam Dastor, who, like Hall himself, knows India well and produces brilliant audio characters.
Best to start at the beginning with The Case of the Missing Servant before going on to The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken and so on. You are in for a lot of fun as well as learning a lot about serious issues in contemporary India such as the continuing plight of the Dalits, the ex-Untouchable caste. More please, Mr Hall. They are published by audiogo, which has just gone into administration, but CDs are available and they are downloadable from audible.co.uk.
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