Wednesday, 18 January 2017

POETS UNITED - UNITY


“Unity can only be manifested by the Binary. Unity itself and the idea of Unity are already two.” - Buddha 

This week, the theme at Poets United is “Unity”. Unity can mean the number one, or it can mean the many joined into one harmonious whole. Unity can be composed of many or it can be singular. A paradoxical entity, as paradoxical as love can be…
Here is my poem: 

Unity 

“We are one”, you had said right after we kissed,
And we held hands, our earthly fleshes melting into each other.
Our unity axiomatic, mathematically proven,
As it were – “1+1 = 2 = 1”.

“We are one”, I said right after we embraced,
Our breaths mingling, our limbs melding into spiralling helices.
Our unity a postulate, an incontrovertible truth,
As it were – “In necessariis unitas”.

“We are one”, we each said, echoing each other’s voice,
Our songs in glorious harmony merging as the octaves converged.
Our unity a doubling of parts, a blending of tones,
As it were – “Canon ad unum

“We are one”, we said in unison right before we broke up –
And then each one of us cried: “I am one, single, alone…” –

Each to his unity condemned, a unit each,
As it were – “Our dual unity demolished into unity, singular”

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

TRAVEL TUESDAY #62 - KAKADU, AUSTRALIA

“There’s an expression in Australia that's called ‘Go Bush’, which means to get out of the city and relax. I try and ‘go bush’ to places where there’s no cell reception. But, I don’t get to do that often, so for the most part, it’s just a state of mind.” - Cate Blanchett

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us!

Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only. Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Kakadu National Park is in the Northern Territory of Australia, 171 km southeast of Darwin. Kakadu National Park is located within the Alligator Rivers Region and covers an area of 19,804 square km (7,646 square miles), extending nearly 200 kilometres from north to south and over 100 kilometres from east to west. It is the size of Slovenia, about one-third the size of Tasmania, or nearly half the size of Switzerland.

The Ranger Uranium Mine, one of the most productive Uranium mines in the world, is contained within the park. The name Kakadu comes from the mispronunciation of Gaagudju, which is the name of an Aboriginal language formerly spoken in the northern part of the Park. Kakadu is ecologically and biologically diverse. The main natural features protected within the National Park include: Four major rivers, six diverse geographical landforms and a huge variety of native flora and fauna.

Aboriginal people have occupied the Kakadu area continuously for at least 40,000 years. Kakadu National Park is renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites. There are more than 5000 recorded art sites illustrating Aboriginal culture over thousands of years. The archaeological sites demonstrate Aboriginal occupation for at least 20 000 and possibly up to 40 000 years. The cultural and natural values of Kakadu National Park were recognised internationally when the Park was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is an international register of properties that are recognised as having outstanding cultural or natural values of international significance.

Approximately half of the land in Kakadu is aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and most of the remaining land is currently under claim by Aboriginal people. The areas of the Park that are owned by Aboriginal people are leased by the traditional owners to the Director of National Parks to be managed as a national park. The remaining area is Commonwealth land vested under the Director of National Parks. All of Kakadu is declared a national park under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post:

Monday, 16 January 2017

MOVIE MONDAY - STILL ALICE

“Those with dementia are still people and they still have stories and they still have character and they're all individuals and they're all unique. And they just need to be interacted with on a human level.” - Carey Mulligan 

At the weekend we watched the excellent  Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland 2014 movie “Still Alice” starring  Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Hunter Parrish and Kate Bosworth. This was a touching and emotionally charged movie that despite its melancholy topic somehow made its point without excesses of emotion and without cheap and maudlin appeals to shallow empathy.

Alice Howland (Moore) is a renowned linguistics professor happily married to John (Baldwin) with three grown children, Anna (Bosworth), Lydia (Stewart) and Tom (Parrish). All that begins to change when Alice starts to forget words (the bane of a linguistics professor!) and then much more… When her doctor diagnoses her with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease, Alice and her family’s lives face a harrowing challenge as this terminal degenerative neurological ailment slowly progresses to an inevitable conclusion they all dread. Along the way, Alice struggles to not only to fight the inner decay, but to make the most of her remaining time to find the love and peace to make simply living worthwhile.

The cast is excellent, especially Julieanne Moore who gives a stellar performance. I also enjoyed the supporting role of Lydia, played by Kristen Stewart. I don’t like Baldwin much as an actor, but in this film he plays the role of Alice’s rather “neutral” husband quite well.

Richard Glatzer, one of the directors and co-screenplay writer suffers from ASL himself (ASL = Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles). It is no surprise then, that the film gives such sympathetic and amazingly accurate portrayal of a person suffering from a progressive nervous system illness.

This is a wonderful film to watch, somehow uplifting (Alices speech at the conference about her personal experience with dementia is brilliant!), even though it deals with one of the most dreaded diseases of our society. A must-watch movie!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

ART SUNDAY - LÉON FRÉDÉRIC

“Symbols are the imaginative signposts of life.” - Margot Asquith 

Léon Frédéric (August 26, 1856 – January 27, 1940) was a Belgian Symbolist painter. His earlier paintings embraced Christian mysticism, pantheistic, and natural themes, while his later works increasingly reflected social themes. Frédéric’s work reflects influences of fifteenth and sixteenth century Flemish, as well as Renaissance painting styles.

Frédéric attended the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels from 1871 to 1878, and was a pupil of the Neo-Classicist Jean-François Portaels. While attending the academy Frédéric made long trips to Italy from 1876 to 1878 to study with the Belgian sculptor Julien Dillens. While in Italy (Venice, Florence Naples and Rome) he studied the works of Botticelli and Ghirlandaio, reinforcing his linear technique.

In 1879, on his return from Italy, he made his debut at the Brussels Salon and became a member of the artist group L’Essor (The Soaring). In 1883, he moved to Nafraiture, in the Belgian Ardennes, and traveled extensively to England, Germany and the Netherlands. He moved to his final home in Schaerbeek in 1899, and continue to travel and show his work in international exhibitions.

Despite achieving recognition and honours in Germany and the United States, as well as winning several gold and bronze medals for his work, Frédéric did not receive official approval in his native country until later in his life. He was awarded gold medals for painting at the Exposition Universelle of 1889 and 1900. Between 1889 and 1900, Frédéric was awarded gold and bronze medals in the United States. In 1904, he was appointed member of the Royal Academy of Belgium. In 1891, he was awarded a gold medal in Berlin. In 1929 Frédéric was created a Baron and Knight of the order of King Leopold.

Leon Frédéric drew on contemporary and centuries-old influences as well as on his very personal spiritual views of life and nature to evolve his unique artistic style. Working during a period when Impressionism and its offspring Divisionism and Post-Impressionism were the mainstay of avant-garde art, Frédéric’s supra-realism came as a considerable and impressive surprise.

Nature is omnipresent in the work of this artist, both in his landscapes and in his social works, where he paints realistically the life of the peasants of Flanders or the Ardennes workers, as well as in his allegorical paintings. A humanitarian ideal, almost anarchic, characterises his compositions with a social message, for example “Les ages de l’ouvrier” (1895-1897, Paris, Mus. D'Orsay). From 1890, he produced a number of large-scale works, still naturalistic, but well grounded in the symbolist ideals, such as the triptych "Le ruisseau" (1890-1899, Brussels, M.R.B.A.B.).

The painting above is one of a triptych he painted of chalk workers, showing them going to work (Morning), having a meal (Midday) and returning home (Evening). This is a detail from the middle panel “The Chalk Sellers - Midday” (1882) and depicts them at their humble meal while they are on a break from their back-breaking labour. Child labour was something that was common in Frédéric’s time and his painting shows the pitiful lot of small children that have been forced by poverty to work long hours in a hard and harsh job.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

MUSIC SATURDAY - ARNOLD BAX

“And tears are heard within the harp I touch.” - Petrarch 

Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax KCVO (8 November 1883 – 3 October 1953) was an English composer, poet, and author. His prolific output includes songs, choral music, chamber pieces, and solo piano works, but he is best known for his orchestral music. In addition to a series of symphonic poems he wrote seven symphonies and was for a time widely regarded as the leading British symphonist.

Bax was born in the London suburb of Streatham to a prosperous family. He was encouraged by his parents to pursue a career in music, and his private income enabled him to follow his own path as a composer without regard for fashion or orthodoxy. Consequently, he came to be regarded in musical circles as an important but isolated figure. While still a student at the Royal Academy of Music Bax became fascinated with Ireland and Celtic culture, which became a strong influence on his early development. In the years before the First World War he lived in Ireland and became a member of Dublin literary circles, writing fiction and verse under the pseudonym Dermot O’Byrne.

Later, he developed an affinity with Nordic culture, which for a time superseded his Celtic influences in the years after the First World War. Between 1910 and 1920 Bax wrote a large amount of music, including the symphonic poem ‘Tintagel’, his best-known work. During this period he formed a lifelong association with the pianist Harriet Cohen – at first an affair, then a friendship, and always a close professional relationship. In the 1920s he began the series of seven symphonies, which form the heart of his orchestral output.

In 1942 Bax was appointed Master of the King’s Music, but composed little in that capacity. In his last years he found his music regarded as old-fashioned, and after his death it was generally neglected. From the 1960s onwards, mainly through a growing number of commercial recordings, his music was gradually rediscovered, although little of it is regularly heard in the concert hall.

Here is his ‘Quintet for harp and strings’ (1919). This is a single-movement work for harp and string quartet written at the time of his first visit to Ireland following the First World War. This visit led to Bax’s lifelong fascination with Ireland and Irish mythology. It is played by the Mobius Ensemble (Philippe Honoré, Maya Iwabuchi [violins], Vicci Wardman [viola], Sally Pendlebury [cello], Alison Nicholls harp]).

Thursday, 12 January 2017

ALL ABOUT CHAMOMILE


“How the Doctor’s brow should smile, crown’d with wreaths of camomile.” - Thomas Moore

Chamomile (or chamomile) is the common name for several daisy-like plants of the family Asteraceae that are commonly used to make herbal infusions to serve various medicinal purposes. Popular uses of chamomile preparations include treating hay fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, gastrointestinal disorders, and haemorrhoids. Chamomile tea is also used to treat skin conditions such as eczema, chickenpox and psoriasis.

The word ‘chamomile’ derives, via French and Latin, from Greek χαμαίμηλον (khamaimēlon), i.e. ‘earth apple’, from χαμαί (khamai) ‘on the ground’ and μῆλον (mēlon) ‘apple’. The more common British spelling ‘camomile’, is the older one in English, while the spelling ‘chamomile’ corresponds to the Latin and Greek source.

Matricaria chamomilla (synonym: Matricaria recutita), is the so-called German chamomile, which is most commonly used in herbal tisanes and is an annual plant with the familiar daisy-like flowers and feathery leaves. Chamaemelum nobile commonly known as Roman chamomile, is a low perennial plant found in dry fields and around gardens and cultivated grounds in Europe, North America, and in Argentina. C. nobile is, along with Matricaria chamomilla, an important source of the herbal product known as ‘chamomile’.

Chamomile tisane is a herbal infusion made from dried chamomile flowers and hot water, though does not contain black, green, yellow or white tea (Camellia sinensis). Either German chamomile or Roman chamomile dried flowers may be used to make the tisane, or sometimes a mixture of both.

A wide variety of chemical compounds derived from both types of chamomile have been isolated and studied. They possess significant pharmacological actions, including antispasmodic, antidiarrhoeal, anti-inflammatory, antineoplastic, anticoagulant and anxiolytic effects. This may explain the traditional uses of chamomile in herbal medicine for treatment of inflammation associated with haemorrhoids when topically applied. There is level B evidence that German chamomile possesses anti-anxiety properties and could be used to treat stress and insomnia.

Chamomile is frequently added to skin cosmetics to serve as an emollient, and for its anti-inflammatory effects. Chamomile is also often used to enhance the colour of blonde hair and is used as a rinser after shampooing to this effect. German chamomile oil is used as a diffuser for aromatherapy benefits; and is also used to treat wounds and be blended with other essential oils such as lavender and rose.

People who are allergic to ragweed (also in the daisy family) may also be allergic to chamomile, due to cross-reactivity. However, there is still some debate as to whether people with reported allergies to chamomile were actually exposed to chamomile and not a plant of similar appearance. It is also important to realise that use of chamomile and its products medicinally may interact adversely with several pharmacological drugs that the patient may be also using. Also, because chamomile has been known to cause uterine contractions that can invoke miscarriage, the U.S. National Institutes of Health recommends that pregnant and nursing mothers not consume Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). A doctor can provide suitable advice.

In the language of flowers, German chamomile means: “Have patience and find sources of energy in your adversity”. A sprig of Roman chamomile implies: “Take heart and find resources to support your enterprise”.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

POETS UNITED - THE DOOR

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“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.” - Helen Keller

We live in a harsh age where people have become hardened and twisted, apathetic and callous. We live in times where values have been degraded so that the thing most valued is what can be sold for most money to the highest bidder. People close up like clams and their hearts shrivel up like mummified corpses. And we wonder why things keep going from bad to worse…

For those of us who still manage to feel, and empathise and remain open-hearted (at great personal risk), this world can seem to be nightmarish at the best of times, hellish at the worst. And yet we hope and we try to keep our openness at any cost. Poets United this week has the theme of “The Door”. My contribution below: 

Closed Doors 

Our doors are closed –
Just like our hearts –
For these are hard times,
Harder than corundum
Ready to grind down
Any trace of mercy.

Our doors are closed –
Just like our minds –
Free thought causes dissent,
Dissent is disunity
And disunity is weakness:
Far easier for prejudice and fear to rule.

Our doors are closed –
Just like our fists –
Clenched tight, ready to strike:
The best defence is swift attack,
Hit now, question later,
Collateral damage easy enough to justify.

Our doors are closed –
Just like our borders –
For we are pure and superior,
And we do not want to be tainted
By foreign blood,
Content in our incestuous decadence.

Our doors are closed –
But some of us leave the keys under the mat:
We of the generous open heart;
We of the free, open mind;
We of the outstretched open hand;
We of the open borders.

We wait for our door to open
And lay another plate on our table
For our food’s enough for one more.
We welcome change and progress
And we embrace the stranger
For our gods have taught us hospitality’s sacredness.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

TRAVEL TUESDAY #61 - SNOWY ATHENS

“And finally Winter, with its bitin’, whinin’ wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow.” - Roy Bean 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us!

Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only. Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
The climate in Greece is predominantly Mediterranean. However, due to the country’s unique geography, Greece has a remarkable range of micro-climates and local variations. To the west of the Pindus mountain range, the climate is generally wetter and has some maritime features. The east of the Pindus mountain range is generally drier and windier in summer. The highest peak is Mount Olympus, 2,918 metres. The north areas of Greece have a transitional climate between the continental and the Mediterranean climate. There are mountainous areas that have an alpine climate. Overall, people have in mind Greece as a country with mild climate, lovely hot summers with little rain and generally warm winters free from extremes of temperature and certainly no snow. This is usually the case, especially in the islands…

This Winter, however, has been different. Meteorologists last Wednesday warned that a high-pressure system from Siberia is to sweep into Greece on Thursday, bringing freezing temperatures and snow to many parts of the country, including the capital. And so it was, with the extreme weather system named “Ariadne” sweeping into Greece and blanketing the whole country in snow, in some areas as deep as two metres and sending the temperatures plummeting to minus 20˚C in some areas. In Athens, the temperature failed to rise above 0˚C and several of the islands were covered in snow, right up to the beach. Some of the Greek islands are home to thousands of migrants and many are being moved to temporary housing and heated tents.

Icy temperatures right across Europe have left more than 20 people dead causing much havoc with disruption to electricity supplies, freezing water mains and closing roads. Italy saw ferries and flights cancelled and schools in the south closed on Monday. Turkey has also been badly affected. The Bosphorus was closed to shipping as a heavy snowstorm hit Istanbul. At least 10 people died of cold in Poland. Night temperatures in Russia plunged to minus 30˚C. Normally milder Greece has witnessed temperatures of minus 15C in the north where an Afghan migrant died of cold last week and roads were closed.

Here is a photo of the unusual situation where the Acropolis of Athens is covered with snow… Unusual, but not rare. I remember when we used to live in Athens, it did snow in Winter for a day or two, usually mid- to late January. The snow never lasted long and the cold was not as bitter as presently. But snow we did see! If you like the cold and snow, now is the time to go see Greece dressed in white!

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme. 

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post: 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

ART SUNDAY - PAUL GAUGUIN

“Painting is the most beautiful of all arts. In it, all sensations are condensed; contemplating it, everyone can create a story at the will of his imagination and-with a single glance-have his soul invaded by the most profound recollections; no effort of memory, everything is summed up in one instant. -A complete art which sums up all the others and completes them. -Like music, it acts on the soul through the intermediary of the senses: harmonious colors correspond to the harmonies of sounds. But in painting a unity is obtained which is not possible in music, where the accords follow one another, so that the judgment experiences a continuous fatigue if it wants to reunite the end with the beginning. The ear is actually a sense inferior to the eye. The hearing can only grasp a single sound at a time, whereas the sight takes in everything and simultaneously simplifies it at will.” - Paul Gauguin 

For Art Sunday today, one my favourites: Paul (Eugène, Henri) Gauguin, born June 7th, 1848, Paris, and died May 8th, 1903, Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. He was one of the leading French painters of the Postimpressionist period, whose development of an original and conceptual method of representation was a ground-breaking step for 20th-century art. After spending a short period with Vincent van Gogh in Arles (1888), Gauguin increasingly abandoned imitative art for expressiveness through colour. From 1891 he lived and worked in Tahiti and elsewhere in the South Pacific. His masterpieces include the early “Vision After the Sermon” (1888) and “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” (1897-98).

Although his art was to lie elsewhere, Gauguin began his painting surrounded by Impressionists. His artistic sensibility was deeply influenced by his experience of the first Impressionist exhibition, and he himself participated in those of 1880, 1881 and 1882. The son of a French journalist and a Peruvian Creole, whose mother had been a writer and a follower of Saint-Simon, he was brought up in Lima, joined the merchant navy in 1865, and in 1872 began a successful career as a stockbroker in Paris.

In 1874 he saw the first Impressionist exhibition, which completely entranced him and confirmed his desire to become a painter. He spent some 17,000 francs on works by Manet, Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, Renoir and Guillaumin. Pissarro took a special interest in his attempts at painting, emphasizing that he should `look for the nature that suits your temperament', and in 1876 Gauguin had a landscape in the style of Pissarro accepted at the Salon. In the meantime Pissarro had introduced him to Cézanne, for whose works he conceived a great respect -so much so that the older man began to fear that he would steal his ‘sensations’. All three worked together for some time at Pontoise, where Pissarro and Gauguin drew pencil sketches of each other (Cabinet des Dessins, Louvre).

In 1883-84 the bank that employed him got into difficulties and Gauguin was able to paint every day. He settled for a while in Rouen, partly because Paris was too expensive for a man with five children, partly because he thought it would be full of wealthy patrons who might buy his works. Rouen proved a disappointment, and he joined his wife Mette and children, who had gone back to Denmark, where she had been born. His experience of Denmark was not a happy one and, having returned to Paris, he went to paint in Pont-Aven, a well-known resort for artists.

Here, he stopped working exclusively out-of-doors, as Pissarro had taught him, and generally began to adopt a more independent line. His meeting with van Gogh, the influence of Seurat, the doctrines of Signac, and a rediscovery of the merits of Degas--especially in his pastels--all combined with his own streak of megalomania to produce a style that had little in common with the thoughtful lyricism of the work of his erstwhile mentor Pissarro. Monet confessed to a liking of his Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1888; National Gallery of Scotland), which he saw at the exhibition Gauguin organised in 1891 to finance his projected excursion to places where he could live on “ecstasy, calmness and art”; the proceeds amounted to 10,0000 francs, some of it coming from Degas, who bought several paintings. There were still evident in these new works traces of pure Impressionism, and of the very clear influence of Cézanne (as in the Portrait of Marie Lagadu, 1890; Art Institute of Chicago) - a fact pointed up by a Cézanne still life owned by Gauguin which is shown behind her - but basically this period marked the parting of the ways between Gauguin and Impressionism.

Gauguin’s art has all the appearance of an abandonment of civilisation, of a search for new ways of life, more primitive, more real and more sincere. His break away from a solid middle-class world, leaving family, children and job, his refusal to accept easy glory and easy gain are the best-known aspects of Gauguin’s fascinating life and personality. One of his early “primitive” paintings, known as “Two Women on the Beach”, was painted in 1891, shortly after Gauguin’s arrival in Tahiti and was seminal for his stylistic shift. During his first stay there (he was to leave in 1893, only to return in 1895 and remain until his death), Gauguin discovered primitive art, with its flat forms and the violent colours belonging to an untamed nature. And then, with absolute sincerity, he transferred them onto canvas.

Gauguin’s Tahitian women, the bright violent colours of the clear Pacific sun, the tropical landscape and the unashamed sensuality of his compositions appealed to the French public, who were always on the lookout for the exotic, the sensual and the novel. It is these Tahitian canvases that established him as one of the most famous of the post-impressionists in the art scene and as one of the great artists of the world.

The painting above is “Pastorales Tahitiennes” (1892 87x113cm oil/canvas Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia). This work was painted during Gauguin’s first stay in Tahiti and it captures the idyll of the natural primitive life which Gauguin sought when he set off for Polynesia. He combined this romantic dream with his vivid impressions of the exotic landscape and wildlife, the unusual appearance of the islanders and their natural grace, their mysterious beliefs and rituals. One of the Tahitian girls is playing a flute: The Tahitians devoted flute music to the goddess of the Moon. It is evening, when the sun sets and the times of ritual dances and music in honour of the goddess begin. Beside the dog is what is probably a vessel for sacrifices of small birds and such like, carved out of a pumpkin. The painting is made up of a combination of pure colours, a rhythmic arrangement of lines and broad areas of colour, which is in harmony with the musical theme.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

MUSIC SATURDAY - JOHANN BAPTIST WANHAL

“Vienna is the gate to Eastern Europe.” - Niki Lauda

Johann Baptist Wanhal (May 12, 1739 – August 20, 1813), also spelled Waṅhal (the spelling the composer himself and at least one of his publishers used), Wanhall, Vanhal and Van Hall (the modern Czech form Jan Křtitel Vaňhal was introduced in the 20th century), was an important Czech classical music composer. He was born in Nechanice, Bohemia, and died in Vienna.

Wanhal was born in Nechanice, Bohemia, into serfdom in a Czech peasant family. He received his first musical training from his family and local musicians, excelling at the violin and organ from an early age. From these humble beginnings he was able to earn a living as a village organist and choirmaster. He was also taught German from an early age, as this was required for someone wishing to make a career in music within the Habsburg empire.

In 1760, at the age of 21 Wanhal must have been well under way to become a skilled performer and composer, as his patron, the Countess Schaffgotsch, took him to Vienna as part of her personal train. There he quickly established himself as a teacher of singing, violin and piano to the high nobility, and he was invited to conduct his symphonies for illustrious patrons such as the Erdődy families and Baron Isaac von Riesch of Dresden. During the years 1762-63, he is supposed to have been the student of Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, even though they were born the same year. Baron Riesch sponsored a trip to Italy in 1769, so that Wanhal could learn the Italian style of composition, which was very much in fashion. To return the favour, Wanhal was supposed to become Riesch’s Kapellmeister.

The details of Wanhal’s journey to Italy (1769–1771) are scant, but it is known that he met his fellow Bohemians Gluck and Florian Gassmann in Venice and Rome respectively. The Italian journeys present the only knowledge we have of Wanhal writing operas: He is supposed either to have written operas over the Metastasian operas Il Trionfo di Clelia and Demofonte, either by himself, or as a cooperation with Gassmann, where Wanhal supplied some or all of the arias; these works have been lost. In additions to his documented travels in northern and central Italy, Wanhal was supposed to travel to Naples – arguably the most important centre of music in Italy at the time – but never seems to have gotten there.

After his journey to Italy, Wanhal returned to Vienna in 1771 rather than to go to Riesch in Dresden. Claims have been made that Wanhal became heavily depressed or even insane, but these claims are likely to have been overstated. During this period he is supposed to occasionally have worked as a de facto Kapellmeister for Count Erdődy in Varaždin, although the small number of compositions by him remaining there suggests that this was not the full-time employment that would have been expected from Riesch, which may have been why he preferred it. There is no evidence of visits after 1779.

Around 1780, Wanhal stopped writing symphonies and string quartets, focusing instead on music for piano and small-scale chamber ensembles, and Masses and other church music. The former, written for a growing middle class, supplied him with the means to live a modest, economically independent life; for the last 30 years of his life he did not work under any patron, probably being the first Viennese composer to do so. During these years, more than 270 of his works were published. In the beginning of the period he was still an active participant in Viennese musical life, as is witnessed in Michael Kelly’s legendary account of the string quartet Wanhal played in together with Haydn, Mozart and Dittersdorf in 1784. After 1787 or so, however, he seems to have ceased performing in public, but he nevertheless was economically secure, living in good quarters near St. Stephen’s Cathedral. He died in 1813, an elderly composer whose music was still recognized by the Viennese public.

Wanhal had to be a prolific writer to meet the demands made upon him, and attributed to him are 100 quartets, at least 73 symphonies, 95 sacred works, and a large number of instrumental and vocal works. The symphonies, in particular, have been committed increasingly often to compact disc in recent times, and the best of them are comparable with many of Haydn’s. Many of Wanhals symphonies are in minor keys and are considered highly influential to the “Sturm und Drang” movement of his time.

Around 1780 Wanhal seems to have stopped writing large-scale instrumental music, and rather contented himself with writing piano music for the growing middle class, and church music. In the former category his programmatic pieces, often related to recent events such as “The Battle of Würzburg”, “The Battle of Abukir”, and “The Return of Francis II in 1809”. Judging from the number of extant manuscripts available, these works must have been highly popular. Wanhal was also the most prolific writer of Masses and other Catholic church music of his generation in Vienna. Despite this, it appears that he was never in the employ of any religious institution. This means that his late Masses are both testaments to a genuine personal faith, and evidence of how lucrative his focus on incidental piano music must have been.

Here is his Sinfonia in G minor, played by Camerata Bern with Thomas Füri, conductor and violin solo. Recorded in September of 1982 in Radio Studio DRS, Bern
I. Allegro moderato 00:00
II. Andante Cantabile 04:42
III. Menuetto 10:12
IV. Finale. Allegro 14:09

Friday, 6 January 2017

FOOD FRIDAY - SUMMER SALAD

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” - Lewis Grizzard

Our weather here in Melbourne has suddenly turned very hot with temperatures in the mid- to high 30s. Meals tend to be quickly prepared and salads are very much de rigueur! A friend of ours gave us some home-grown tomatoes and cucumbers so we took advantage of this delicious produce that were sun-ripened on the vine and made a Summer Salad.

Summer Salad
Ingredients

3 ripe tomatoes
2 Lebanese cucumbers (small and seed free)
2 Spring onions, chopped
As much blue-vein cheese as you like, in chunks
A few sprigs of tender purslane (Portulaca oleracea, a common garden “weed”)
Oregano (dried is best)
Salt, pepper
Olive oil and vinegar

Method
Wash the vegetables and chop them up. Add the washed purslane by picking off tops and tender leaves and discarding the lower stems.
Make the dressing by mixing 2 tbsp olive with 1 tbsp vinegar and adding salt and pepper to taste.
Add the cheese and toss the salad at the table, just before serving.


This post is part of Marie's Food Friday meme.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

ALL ABOUT ANGOSTURA


“In Old Havana, the names of the streets before the revolution provided a glimpse into the city's state of mind. You might have known someone who lived on the corner of Soul and Bitterness, Solitude and Hope, or Light and Avocado.” - Brin-JonathanButler

Angostura trifoliata or Galipea cusparia, known as angostura, cuspa, galipea or chuspa, is a species of medicinal plant, a tree of the Rutaceae family originating in South America, originally from Venezuela. Its bark is used for its bitter principles.

This plant was known in Spain and Europe by various botanists in the post-colonial period, the greatest spread being from the Catalan Capuchins of Angostura (Orinoco-Caroní), who were exporting the bark to their sister convents in Spain. When Humboldt and Bonpland visited these missions in the early 1800s, the Capuchins identified the tree from which angostura bark was obtained. Humboldt recommended naming the plant to honour his friend Bonpland (hence the synonym Bonplandia trifoliata). 

Angostura trifoliata is a tree about 15 to 25 m high with tripartite leaves up to 60 cm long, on long petioles, possessing an unpleasant, pungent odour. The leaves are ovo-lanceolate, sessile, pointed and have white spots on the stem. The flowers appear in long axillary clusters, white and with plumes hairy on the outside. The bark is brownish-gray. The angostura plant has been studied for its antibiotic potential and cytotoxic activity. The bark is the main source of these medicinal properties. Natives make use of the bark by grinding it and spraying the powder in the water, which is used to stun the fish, which are then collected.

The bark is used in various preparations as a bitter tonic, an aromatic flavouring, a respiratory stimulant, a febrifuge and a carminative. In higher doses it is emetic and laxative. In natural medicine it is used in the treatment of chronic gastritis, dyspepsia, lack of appetite, gastric hypoacidity.

Although it shares its name with Angostura Bitters, which was named in honour of the city of Angostura, Venezuela and does not contain angostura bark. The exact formula of Angostura bitters is a closely guarded secret, with only five people knowing the whole recipe. It is a concentrated bitters, or botanically infused alcoholic mixture, made of water, 44.7% ethanol, gentian, herbs and spices.

Abbot’s Bitters is a brand of aromatic/medicinal bitters popular in the 1920s and produced up until the mid-1950s. It has been resurrected along with a reproduction of the label and what is thought to be a close recreation by the team at Tempus Fugit Spirits Company.

In cocktails the use of very small quantities of bitters is much appreciated, and they introduce a complexity of flavour that enhances the taste of characteristic drinks, such as the Manhattan or pink gin.

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