Saturday, 25 January 2014


“When I started learning the cello, I fell in love with the instrument because it seemed like a voice - my voice.” - Mstislav Rostropovich

For Music Saturday, the complete Cello Concertos by Antonio Vivaldi, performed by Ofra Hanoy and the Toronto Chamber Orchestra.

They are the following concertos:
Concerto for Cello, RV 405 in D minor
Concerto for Cello, RV 401 in C minor 10:23
Concerto for Cello, RV 423 in B-flat 22:34
Concerto for Cello, RV 399 in C 32:45
Concerto for Cello and Bassoon, RV 409 in E minor 41:18
Concerto Movement for Cello, RV 538 in D minor 50:15
Concerto for Cello, RV 403 in D 53:51
Concerto for Cello, RV 424 in B minor 1:02:23
Concerto for Cello, RV 422 in A minor 1:12:32
Concerto for Cello, RV 402 in C minor 1:23:54
Concerto for Cello, RV 412 in F 1:34:20
Concerto for Cello, RV 414 in G 1:43:18
Concerto for Cello, RV406 in D minor 1:56:58
Concerto for Cello, RV 411 in F 2:07:16
Concerto for Cello, RV 404 in D 2:13:47
Concerto for Cello, RV 420 in A Minor 2:21:29
Concerto for Cello, RV 407 in D Minor 2:34:31
Concerto for Cello, RV 417 in G Minor 2:44:38
Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, RV 544 in F 2:55:07
Concerto for Cello, RV 418 in A-Minor 3:06:21
Concerto for Cello, RV 408 in E-Flat 3:17:46
Concerto for Cello, RV 416 in G Minor 3:28:58
Concerto for Cello, RV 419 in A Minor 3:38:44
Concerto for Cello, RV 413 in G 3:48:03
Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, RV 547 in B-Flat 3:59:09

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741), nicknamed il Prete Rosso (“The Red Priest”) because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, Catholic priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Recognised as one of the greatest Baroque composers, his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe. Vivaldi is known mainly for composing instrumental concertos, especially for the violin, as well as sacred choral works and over forty operas. His best known work is a series of violin concertos known as "The Four Seasons".
Many of his compositions were written for the female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi had been employed from 1703 to 1715 and from 1723 to 1740. Vivaldi also had some success with stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua and Vienna. After meeting the Emperor Charles VI, Vivaldi moved to Vienna, hoping for preferment. However, the Emperor died soon after Vivaldi's arrival and Vivaldi himself died less than a year later.
Though Vivaldi’s music was well received during his lifetime, it later declined in popularity until its vigorous revival in the first half of the 20th century. Today, Vivaldi ranks among the most popular and widely recorded of Baroque composers, second only to Johann Sebastian Bach.

Friday, 24 January 2014


“I’d like an omelette named after me.” - Rufus Sewell
When I lived in Europe I often had this omelette for breakfast in the Winter as it was a good start for the cold day ahead and tided me over till the substantial lunch I used to have. Then dinner was very light, some yoghurt or fruit.
3 eggs
60 g (more or less) of butter
3/4 of a cup of condensed milk
2 tablespoonfuls of water
Salt, pepper
Pinch of curry powder (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg
Dill, oregano, mixed herbs to taste
Several slices of camembert cheese at room temperature
A slice or two of brown bread
Beat the eggs with the milk, water, herbs and spices.  Melt the butter in a flat omelette skillet and heat until it is sizzling and turning brown.  Fry both sides of the bread in the butter until golden. Put the bread on a plate and add some more butter to the pan if there is not enough there to cook the omelette.
Cook the egg mixture well in the pan, turning over once.  Put the cheese on the surface of the omelette and heat gently to melt it (can be done as a last step in the microwave oven directly in the serving dish).  Put the omelette on top of the fried bread and garnish with a sprig of parsley.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.


“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” - Norman Vincent Peale

The ancient Greek poets believed the earth to be flat and circular, their own country occupying the middle of it, the central point being either Mount Olympus, the abode of the gods, or Delphi, so famous for its oracle. Delphi, in fact, was the place where the “Omphalos” (= “navel”) stone was housed. Most accounts locate the Omphalos in the holy of holies of the temple near the seer, Pythia. The stone itself is in the Delphi museum and has a carving of a knotted net covering its surface, and a hollow center, which widens towards its base.

The circular disk of the earth was crossed from west to east, and divided into two equal parts by the sea, as they called the Mediterranean, and its continuation the Euxine Pontus (Black Sea). Around the disk of the earth flowed the River Oceanus, its course being from south to north on the western side of the earth, and in a contrary direction on the eastern side.  It flowed in a steady, equable current, unvexed by storm or tempest.  The sea, and all the rivers on earth, received their waters from this great and wide “river”.

The northern portion of the earth was supposed to be inhabited by a happy race named the Hyperboreans (this word meaning “those who live beyond the north” from the word “hyper”, =beyond, and “boreas”, =the north wind). These people lived in everlasting bliss and eternal Spring, beyond lofty mountains whose caverns were supposed to send forth the piercing blasts of the north wind, which chilled the people of Hellas (Greece).  The Hyperboreans’ country was inaccessible by land or sea. They lived exempt from disease or old age, from toils and warfare.

On the south side of the earth, close to the stream of Oceanus, dwelt a people as happy and virtuous as the Hyperboreans.  They were named the Aethiopians.  The gods favoured them so highly that they were wont to leave at times their Olympian abodes, and go to share their sacrifices and banquets.

On the western margin of the earth, by the river of Oceanus, lay a happy place named the Elysian Plain, where mortals favoured by the gods were transported without tasting of death, to enjoy an immortality of bliss.  This happy region was also called the “Fortunate Fields”, and the “Isles of the Blessed”.

These very old myths point out that early ancient Greeks knew very little of any real people living far away from them, except those to the immediate east and south of their own country, or near the coast of the Mediterranean.  Their imagination peopled the western portion of this sea with giants, monsters, and enchantresses. They placed around the disk of the earth, which they probably regarded as of no great width, nations enjoying great favour of the gods, and blessed with happiness and longevity.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


“Shining through tears, like April suns in showers, that labour to overcome the cloud that loads 'em.” - Thomas Otway

Poetry Jam this week has given us the theme of clouds as a means of stimulating creative literary endeavours. Here is my poem:

Winter Song

The song of parting Winter is a dirge
Murmured by bitter mouths through pursed lips;
The first Spring days mourn, bedecked in black,
Under grey cloudy skies, murky with free flowing tears.

As days dilate, the night is slowly strangled,
Sunlight lingers on palely, lengthening twilight time.
A hesitant warmth pervades the bony leafless twigs
And I can hear the sap begin to flow anew.

The first few flowers blooming snowy white
Adorn the corpse of Winter, deathly cold,
While clouds dark and brooding are loath to go,
With pale petals scattering in persistent drizzles.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


“Drunkenness is simply voluntary insanity.” - Seneca
January 21st is Altagracia Day in the Dominican Republic. This is a day commemorating “Our Lady of Altagracia”, patronal image and protector of the people of the Dominican Republic. It is a Feast Day and annual public holiday. “Our Lady of Altagracia” is a devotional image of the Virgin Mary painted in the 16th century, to depict the patron saint of the Dominican Republic. The portrait is kept in The Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia in the city of Salvaleón de Higüey. The festival was originally held on August 15, but was moved to January 21 to celebrate victory over the French in 1690.
Today is the anniversary of the birth of:
John Batman, Melbourne City founder (1801);
John Charles Fremont, explorer (1813);
Stonewall Jackson
, Confederate general (1824);
Oscar II, Swedish/Norwegian king (1829);
Henri Duparc, composer/painter/writer (1848);
R. Irwin, talking books pioneer (1892);
Cristóbal Balenciaga, fashion designer (1895);
Christian Dior, fashion designer (1905);
Igor Moiseyev, ballet master (1906);
Paul Scofield, actor (1922);
Benny Hill, comedian (1925);
Telly (Aristotle) Savalas, actor (1925);
Steve Reeves, actor (1926);
Jack (William) Nicklaus, golfer (1940);
Placido Domingo, tenor (1941);
Martin Shaw, actor (1945);
Geena Davis, actress (1957).
The birthday plant for this day is Artemisia abrotanum, southernwood.  It is also known as lad’s love, maiden’s ruin and old man’s tree.  The herb is named after Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon and the hunt.  The plant was credited with aphrodisiac properties, hence the alternative common names.  In order to “provoke men to multiplying of their kind”, the plant was placed under their pillows.  Southernwood was a strewing herb and also was included in posies, both due to the aromatic smell of the plant.  The herb symbolises jest and bantering. Astrologically, it is under the dominion of Mercury.
Today is also the Feast Day of St Agnes, who is the patron saint of young virgins and her name in Greek means “pure”.  The Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, is dedicated to St Agnes. She was martyred at the age of thirteen in third century Rome for refusing to renounce Christianity. Young girls in England made cakes on this day to commemorate her martyrdom. In some villages, once the cakes were made, the young women took one and climbing the stairs backwards, prayed to St Agnes then eating the cake. This ritual was meant to reveal in a dream the man the young woman was to marry.
Died on this day in 1118, Paschal II (Rainerius), Pope of Rome. On this day in 1793, Louis XVI, king of France was guillotined after having been found guilty of treason. His wife, Marie Antoinette would suffer the same fate on the 16th of October 1793. Also dying on this day: Lenin, the famous Russian revolutionary in 1924; George Orwell, the English novelist of Animal Farm fame, in 1950; Cecil B(lount) de Mille, film-maker, in 1959.

Monday, 20 January 2014


“Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.” - Robert Morgan

A few days ago we watched an enjoyable and rather quirky film, Wes Anderson’s 2012 Moonrise Kingdom starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand. Essentially a coming of age film, it is also a nostalgic look backward to more innocent times and in its way is also a statement on the problems faced by children who are or feel neglected.

The film is set on an island off the coast of New England in 1965, in September, as a severe storm approaches. At an island camp, a Khaki Scout has gone missing. It is 12-year-old Sam, 12 (Gilman), a bespectacled misfit and an orphan. Ward (Norton), his enthusiastic scoutmaster, organises a search after calling Captain Sharp (Willis), the local policeman. Sam is running away with Suzy (Hayward), his pen pal. She is the taciturn oldest child in a quirky and unhappy household of two lawyers (Murray and McDormand, the latter having an affair with Sharp).

Sam and Suzy are well-organised and camp in the great outdoors, but need to sort through their own issues. They nevertheless manage to stay a step ahead of the searchers, while the storm gets closer. Social Services is called in and the representative (Swinton) suggests Sam may need electroshock therapy and afterwards to be confined in an orphanage. Various factions of the town mobilise to search for the missing children and the town is turned upside down, which might not be such a bad thing.

The film is a tender and nostalgic love story. As the screenplay is written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, I suspect that it may be a little autobiographical, once again influenced (as is evident in some of his other films) by the sixties of Anderson’s youth. This film has a superficial childlike innocence and simplicity, but it treats the problems of childhood and puberty with candour and seriousness. The result is an accurate and deeply heartfelt memoir.

The two children play their roles wonderfully and Gilman especially, does a sterling job in bringing the wayward Sam to life. Bruce Willis as the policeman and the parents of Suzy (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) play in an understated manner that supports the main story very well, but at the same time allows the subplot of the unlikely torrid love affair to work its humour through. Edward Norton who plays the dorky scout master is fantastic and Tilda Swinton as “Social Services” has a lot of fun with her brief, villainous role.

The film is quietly humorous, whimsical and almost like a modern-day (well, sixties…) fairy tale. There seems to be some affinity with Anderson’s “The Royal Tennenbaums”, but also dwells on a nostalgic view of the past and achieves a certain haunting beauty as the tale develops and concludes. We enjoyed it greatly and would recommend it highly. It is good to keep in mind, however, that the film polarised critics and public, with some viewers detesting it with a vengeance. Wes Anderson does have that effect on the viewing public.

Sunday, 19 January 2014


“When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art.” - Paul Cezanne

The French painter Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), who exhibited little in his lifetime and pursued his interests increasingly in artistic isolation, is regarded today as one of the great forerunners of modern painting, both for the way that he evolved of putting down on canvas exactly what his eye saw in nature and for the qualities of pictorial form that he achieved through a unique treatment of space, mass, and colour. Cézanne was a contemporary of the impressionists, but he went beyond their interests in the individual brushstroke and the fall of light onto objects, to create, in his words, “something more solid and durable, like the art of the museums.”

Cézanne was born at Aix-en-Provence in the south of France on January 19, 1839. He went to school in Aix, forming a close friendship with the novelist Emile Zola. He also studied law there from 1859 to 1861, but at the same time he continued attending drawing classes. Against the implacable resistance of his father, he made up his mind that he wanted to paint and in 1861 joined Zola in Paris. His father’s reluctant consent at that time brought him financial support and, later, a large inheritance on which he could live without difficulty. In Paris he met Camille Pissarro and came to know others of the impressionist group, with whom he would exhibit in 1874 and 1877. Cézanne, however, remained an outsider to their circle; from 1864 to 1869 he submitted his work to the official Salon and saw it consistently rejected.

His paintings of 1865-70 form what is usually called his early “romantic” period. Extremely personal in character, these works deal with bizarre subjects of violence and fantasy in harsh, sombre colors and extremely heavy paintwork. Thereafter, as Cézanne rejected that kind of approach and worked his way out of the obsessions underlying it, his art is conveniently divided into three phases. In the early 1870s, through a mutually helpful association with Pissarro, with whom he painted outside Paris at Auvers, he assimilated the principles of colour and lighting of Impressionism and loosened up his brushwork; yet he retained his own sense of mass and the interaction of planes, as in “House of the Hanged Man” (1873; Musee d’Orsay, Paris).

In the late 1870s Cézanne entered the phase known as “constructive”, characterised by the grouping of parallel, hatched brushstrokes in formations that build up a sense of mass in themselves. He continued in this style until the early 1890s, when, in his series of paintings titled “Card Players” (1890-92), the upward curvature of the players’ backs creates a sense of architectural solidity and thrust, and the intervals between figures and objects have the appearance of live cells of space and atmosphere.

Finally, living as a solitary in Aix rather than alternating between the south and Paris, Cézanne moved into his late phase. Now he concentrated on a few basic subjects: Still lifes of studio objects built around such recurring elements as apples, statuary, and tablecloths; studies of bathers, based upon the male model and drawing upon a combination of memory, earlier studies, and sources in the art of the past; and successive views of the Mont Sainte-Victoire, a nearby landmark, painted from his studio looking across the intervening valley. The landscapes of the final years, much affected by Cézanne’s contemporaneous practice in watercolor, have a more transparent and unfinished look, while the last figure paintings are at once more somber and spiritual in mood.

By the time of his death on Oct. 22, 1906, Cézanne’s art had begun to be shown and seen across Europe, and it became a fundamental influence on the Fauves, the cubists, and virtually all advanced art of the early 20th century. Apparently, Cézanne was not an easy man to love, but professors and painters adore him. Art critics lavish him with superlatives, including “a prophet of the 20th century”, “the most sensitive painter of his time”, “the greatest artist of the 19th century”, and “the father of modern art”. But he’s not quite a household name, and his posters have never been best-sellers at museum shops around the world. In fact, most non-professionals wouldn’t stand a chance of recognising a Cézanne unless it was clearly labelled. Even then, there’s no guarantee of popular appeal…

The painting above is “The Card Players”, 1890–92, exhibited in the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is the largest version and is the most complex, with five figures on a 134.6 x 180.3 cm canvas. It features three card players at the forefront, seated in a semi-circle at a table, with two spectators behind. On the right side of the painting, seated behind the second man and to the right of the third, is a boy, eyes cast downward, also a fixed spectator of the game. Further back, on the left side between the first and second player is a man standing, back to the wall, smoking a pipe and presumably awaiting his turn at the table.

It has been speculated Cézanne added the standing man to provide depth to the painting, as well as to draw the eye to the upper portion of the canvas. As with the other versions, it displays a suppressed storytelling of peasant men in loose-fitting garments with natural poses focused entirely on their game. Writer Nicholas Wadley described a “tension in opposites”, in which elements such as shifts of colour, light and shadow, shape of hat, and crease of cloth create a story of confrontation through opposition. Others have described an “alienation” displayed in the series to be most pronounced in this version.