Saturday, 7 December 2013


“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” ― Arthur O’Shaughnessy

For Music Saturday some music by the patriarch of a musical family, Alessandro Scarlatti. Alessandro Scarlatti (2 May 1660 – 22 October 1725) was an Italian Baroque composer especially famous for his operas and chamber cantatas. He is considered the founder of the Neapolitan school of opera. He was the father of two other composers, Domenico Scarlatti and Pietro Filippo Scarlatti.

Scarlatti was born in Palermo, then part of the Kingdom of Sicily. He is generally said to have been a pupil of Giacomo Carissimi in Rome, and some theorise that he had some connection with northern Italy because his early works seem to show the influence of Stradella and Legrenzi. The production at Rome of his opera “Gli Equivoci nell Sembiante” (1679) gained him the support of Queen Christina of Sweden (who at the time was living in Rome), and he became her Maestro di Cappella.

In February 1684 he became Maestro di Cappella to the viceroy of Naples, perhaps through the influence of his sister, an opera singer, who might have been the mistress of an influential Neapolitan noble. Here he produced a long series of operas, remarkable chiefly for their fluency and expressiveness, as well as other music for state occasions.

In 1702 Scarlatti left Naples and did not return until the Spanish domination had been superseded by that of the Austrians. In the interval he enjoyed the patronage of Ferdinando de' Medici, for whose private theatre near Florence he composed operas, and of Cardinal Ottoboni, who made him his maestro di cappella, and procured him a similar post at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome in 1703.

After visiting Venice and Urbino in 1707, Scarlatti took up his duties in Naples again in 1708, and remained there until 1717. By this time Naples seems to have become tired of his music; the Romans, however, appreciated it better, and it was at the Teatro Capranica in Rome that he produced some of his finest operas (“Telemaco”, 1718; “Marco Attilio Regolò”, 1719; “La Griselda”, 1721), as well as some noble specimens of church music, including a mass for chorus and orchestra, composed in honour of Saint Cecilia for Cardinal Acquaviva in 1721. His last work on a large scale appears to have been the unfinished serenata for the marriage of the prince of Stigliano in 1723. He died in Naples in 1725.

Here are seven concerti for various instruments (Naples, 1725):
Concerto for flute, strings and basso continuo in A major: I. Allegro - 0:05 II. Fuga - 1:00 III. Adagio - 2:54 IV. Allegro - 4:48
Concerto for flute, strings and basso continuo in D major:
I. Allegro, adagio - 6:12 II. Fuga - 8:21 III. Largo - 10:25 IV. Allegro - 12:14
Concerto for recorder, strings and basso continuo in A minor:
I. Allegro - 13:39 II. Largo - 15:39 III. Fuga - 17:17 IV. Piano - 19:23 V. Allegro - 21:11
Concerto for recorder, strings and basso continuo in C minor:
I. Moderato - 23:06 II. Fuga - 24:27 III. Largo - 26:20 IV. Allegro - 27:51 V. Andante - 29:21
Concerto for recorder, strings and basso continuo in A minor:
I. Andante - 30:15 II. Allegro - 34:27 III. Veloce, lento - 36:20 IV. Allegro - 37:33
Concerto for recorder, strings and basso continuo in C major:
I. Adagio - 39:29 II. Fuga - 41:07 III. Largo - 43:26 IV. Allegro - 44:57
Concerto for recorder, strings and basso continuo in G minor:
I. Allegro - 46:33 II. Fuga - 47:27 III. Largo - 49:38 IV. Allegro - 51:39

Alto recorder: Michael Schneider (A. Brown, after Denner)
Transverse flute: Karl Kaiser (G. Kowalewsky, after Palanca)
Violin: Sabine Lier (S. Klotz, 1760, Mittenwald) Ingeborg Scheerer (T. Eberle, 1781, Naples) Violoncello: Rainer Zipperling (V. Panarmo, 1786, Palermo)
Harpsichord and Chamber Organ: Sabine Bauer (Italian model, Griewisch / Fr. Lieb) Chamber Organ: Harald Hoeren (Fr. Lieb)

Friday, 6 December 2013


“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” - Dita Von Teese
For Food Friday this week, a luscious summer dessert that is easy to prepare if you cheat a little… Use some left-over sponge cake and use canned peaches rather than stewing your own peaches if time is short. Of course if you have ripe peaches on hand, you can always use them uncooked.
  • 2 dessertspoons peach schnapps
  • 4 dessertspoons of apricot jam
  • 4 slices left-over sponge cake
  • 1 can peach halves
  • 6-7 tablespoons of peach fruit yoghurt
  • A handful of freshly roasted almonds, shaved
  • Whipped cream flavoured with almond essence and sweetened to taste (optional)

Mix the peach schnapps with the apricot jam and blend until smooth, adding a little syrup from the canned peaches. The consistency should be like that of honey.
Put a slice of the sponge cake in each of the four dessert bowls. Pour an equal amount of the jam mixture over the sponge cake to moisten it.
Drain the peach halves and cut them into quarters. Arrange the peaches over the jam-coated sponge slices. Spoon some peach yoghurt over the dessert, enough to cover the peaches. Sprinkle the chopped almonds over the yoghurt and pipe some stiffly whipped cream (if desired) over the yoghurt. Refrigerate for about 2-3 hours before serving.
This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.


“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” - Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary who was imprisoned and then became a politician and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative election.
His government focussed on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. Politically an African nationalist and democratic socialist, he served as the President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997. Internationally, Mandela was the Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was one of the world’s most revered statesmen after preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years. He had rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004. He made his last public appearance in 2010, at the football World Cup in South Africa. Mandela had been receiving intensive medical care at home for a lung infection after spending three months in hospital.
Mandela was an inspiration not only for the people of South Africa but for everyone around the world who believed in race equality, freedom and fair treatment of all people. His life was a shining example of how a single individual can change the course of history and positively affect the lives of millions. A sad day for the world, but also a day for celebrating his many achievements.
Many South Africans, who love Nelson Mandela like a father, say that their grief was tinged with uncertainty, and some fear over what their future holds without him.

Vale, Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


“A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.” - Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Sinterklaas (or more formally Sint Nicolaas or Sint Nikolaas; Saint-Nicolas in French; Sankt Nikolaus in German) is a traditional winter holiday figure still celebrated in the Low Countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as some parts of Germany, French Flanders, Lorraine and Artois. He is also well known in territories of the former Dutch Empire, including Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Indonesia, and Suriname. He is one of the sources of the holiday figure of Santa Claus in North America.
Although he is usually referred to as Sinterklaas, he is also known as De Goedheiligman (The Good Holy Man), Sint Nicolaas (Saint Nicholas) or simply as De Sint (The Saint).He is celebrated annually on Saint Nicholas' eve (5 December) in the Netherlands and on the morning of 6 December in the other countries. Originally, the feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas – patron saint of children, sailors, philatelists, and the city of Amsterdam, among others. Saint Nicholas being a bishop and this geographical spread make clear that the feast in this form has a Roman Catholic background, although the papacy has never officially recognised his existence.
Having spent some time in the Netherlands, I thoroughly enjoyed the Sinterklaas festivities where people dress up as the saint and his black helpers to give gifts to children, who are delighted with the visit from the kindly old man and the jolly helpers.
Poetry Jam this week is all about gifts and as a mention was made of Saint Nicholas’ Day (December 6) and since it is my Name Day, here is my Sinterklaas poem:
A Sinterklaas Poem
A funny day, a lovely day,
A zany day so full of play!
To friends, with wishes sung
A happy day to old and young.
As Sinterklaas comes by again,
With Zwarte Piet from Spain,
I wish to you his gifts does bring,
A toy, a book, …a golden ring!
We all enjoy the fun, the laughter
And lots of sweets to eat straight after.
There’s cake and chocolate, lots of candy,
But as for me, I’ll drink the brandy!
Seek high and low, go out and in
You’ll find your presents with a grin:
In sawdust smothered, under beds,
In socks, in wardrobes or in bread!
The kindly saint, he smiles and blesses,
The youngsters’ heads bends and caresses.
To all who’ve been good all year,
Old Sinterklass will give good cheer.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.” - Voltaire

A dark angel has been provided by Magpie Tales as the creative spark for all who will take up her challenge. Here is my offering:
Need to Fly
The wild flapping of feathered wings,
Caged and desperate to escape;
Cries in the night, powerless
To make the moon approach closer;
No amount of war paint can make you
Fearsome enough to overcome your foe.
Memories of a distant flight,
Some place in the past;
The freedom of air rushing by you,
Caressing your every fibre;
No amount of struggle can make you
Break your chains and escape.
The faint glimmer of sunlight
And visions of broken chips of blue sky;
Remembrances of green meadows,
Flowers: Do they still exist?
No amount of wishing can make you
Fly, liberated, untethered, free.
A gilded cage is still a cage,
Your every need taken care of
Is no guarantee of happiness;
A captive soul imprisons heart and flesh, too.
No amount of solid earth can make you
Forget the lightness of air…

Monday, 2 December 2013


“Altruism is innate, but it’s not instinctual. Everybody’s wired for it, but a switch has to be flipped.” - David Rakoff

Movies based on true stories capture the public’s imagination and contrary to biographical dramas that exult famous public figures, the scenario based on true stories of ordinary people tend to be rather more engaging and generate more interest in the movie-going public. We watched precisely such a film last weekend and we were kept glued to our seats. The added interest in this movie was the disaster theme, which unfortunately was a true horrific occurrence.

The movie in question was the J. A. Bayona 2012 film “The Impossible” starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland on a story by Sergio G. Sánchez and María Belón. It is based on the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, following an undersea earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, 26 December 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake itself is known by the scientific community as the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake. The resulting tsunami was given various names, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, South Asian tsunami, Indonesian tsunami, the Christmas tsunami and the Boxing Day tsunami.

The earthquake was caused when the Indian Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.

The movie is the story of a typical family, Maria the mother (Watts), Henry the father (McGregor) and their three children, Lucas (Holland), Thomas and Simon. They travel to Phuket, Thailand to spend their Christmas holidays relaxing in a brand new seaside resort. After settling in, they go to the pool, like so many other tourists. It is a perfect vacation in paradise-like surroundings, until a barely heard distant noise becomes a deafening roar. There is no time to escape from the massive tsunami that obliterates all in its path. Maria and her eldest son are swept one way, Henry and the two other children another way. The film follows the fate of all in the post-tsunami disaster zone.

The real family that the main characters of the film are based on is the Belón family and are in fact Spanish but were living in Japan at the time of the Tsunami. The film changes the nationality of the family to British. However, the real family were present on set during the whole shooting process. They were giving tips, especially to Naomi Watts who was portraying Maria Belon. The whole family also attended the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in 2012.

The film has amazing CGI effects and stunts, great cinematography and solid acting. These good points tend to work with the interesting story to balance out some lapses and one is temporarily restrained from asking too many ethical questions – these come out later, on reflection. The devastation and tragedy of such an epic destruction can only be sketched out by a film that concentrates on one family’s experience. The toll on the native population is hardly hinted at and the victims we see are mainly white and privileged. There is even an element of white-washing, in terms of converting the real Hispanic family’s origins to an upper class British family. This is puzzling as the film was produced in Spain, but perhaps it was aiming at the sympathies of the Anglocentric world, where most of the box-office profits would be made.

The film is poignant and heart-warming, because it focusses the immense tragedy on the experiences of one family. While their plight is personal and intense, it raises a more universal sympathy, especially as the family is both the recipient as well as the giver of kindness in the face of adversity. In fact, altruism is one of the main themes of the movie. The young Tom Holland, playing Lucas, the eldest son steals many of the scenes, while Naomi Watts does a great job of the severely injured Maria, the mother. A harrowing film in many respects, but nevertheless well worth seeing.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


“You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.” - Milan Kundera
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (born Rottluff bei Chemnitz 1884 – died Berlin 1976) The painter, print-maker and sculptor Karl Schmidt was born at Rottluff near Chemnitz in 1884. His father was a miller. In 1905 he enrolled to study architecture at Dresden Technical University. The year he met Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel and Fritz Bleyl there, he co-founded with them the group of artists known as “Die Brücke”. Their first joint portfolio of prints appeared in 1906.
He outdid his colleagues in insisting on pure primary colours and his expressionist paintings were dominated by forceful handling of the medium to achieve intensity and brilliance. Until 1912 he often stayed for quite some time in the Dangastermoor near Varel in Oldenburg, where he found a wealth of motifs for his landscape paintings. After moving to Berlin in 1911, he addressed problems of form, developing an increasingly reductive geometric formal language, a development that was interrupted by the outbreak of war.
While serving on the Eastern Front, he did a cycle of religious woodcuts in which he tried to come to terms with the horrors of war. These are regarded as his graphic masterpiece. In 1918 he returned to Berlin. During the 1920s he reverted to the work rhythm of travelling to paint during the summers and working in his studio during the winters. Stays in Pomerania, at Lake Leba in Ticino and in the Taunus Mountains as well as a stint in Rome to study at the German Academy in the Villa Massimo (1930) inspired his mature still lifes and landscapes.
In 1937 his work was declared degenerate at the notorious Munich exhibition of “Degenerate Art”. By 1941 he was forbidden to paint and was expelled from the painters’ guild. After World War II he was appointed to a chair at the (West) Berlin Hochschule für bildende Künste. His late work links up, as far as motifs are concerned, with his Expressionist phase although his palette was by then more subtle and less intense.
In 1956 this renewer of art, who had been an arch revolutionary in his youth, was awarded the highest (West) German distinction, the “Pour le Mérite” order, and was honoured as a classic. The Brücke Museum, which he had endowed with a collection of his works, was inaugurated in 1967. Numerous retrospectives in the Federal Republic paid tribute to this artist, who, as art historians unanimously agree, was one of the most important German Expressionists.
In his painting “Village Square”, circa 1919 (National Gallery – Prague, Czech Republic; Height: 119 cm - Width: 137 cm), we see the strong colours and rich patterns of the strongly geometric style he was developing around the time of World War I. There is an almost primitive feel to the work, reminiscent of Africa.