Saturday, April 28, 2012



Oslo. It's impossible to imagine how they feel. In case you haven't seen it ....

One blue sky above us
One ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round
Who could ask for more
And because I love you
I'll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race
It's too soon to die.

My source and more details here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012



Easter rushed up and flew past with that huge creamy moon watching it all. I thought there would be time for stillness and thought, and gardening and musing, and reading and listening. There was a little of each but the days got lost somewhere. We did have a big lunch on Easter Sunday. I cooked and I think it went well. The house was dressed and I lit candles. Just had to.

Growing up at this time of year I remember quite fondly, with blind belief in the Christian spin that was put on what is really an ancient reawakening celebration. Our family was serious about the Christ and the resurrection, and the Easter services in the (fabulous now I look back on it) Spanish revival Catholic Church on the hill were exciting. There was the bleak sombre guilt trip of Good Friday, all the statues draped in black, and then the thrill of staying up late on Saturday for the 11pm service, where outside the doors to the church a big 44 gallon drum was filled with burning wood, and we would light candles and walk solemnly into the darkened church, in readiness for midnight when the celebrants would walk in, more candles, lights turned on, flowers revealed, statues uncovered again in all their gaudy plaster glory, incense, bells, and a choir and organ and singing. I didn't think too much to about it all really, except that it was now Sunday, and Lent was over and feasting was on. Mum cooked and Dad hid eggs in the garden.

That was a long time ago. In just about every respect you can possibly think of.

It wasn't till a bitterly ear-achingly cold Easter in New York that I came to appreciate what this time was all about. After all, it was Autumn where I'd grown up. Awakening wasn't on the agenda. The bulbs and the blossons were bursting in Central Park, where we rode with a blanket over our knees, pulled by a fine horse called Speedo. The Dogwoods were blooming down in the village (we stay at Washington Square), and a new beginning was starting to make sense.

All of which leads, if obliquely, to something that has long fascinated me and what this time of year (and the overcoming of the forces of darkness) is all about - the (wait for it) - placebo effect. Bet you didn't expect that!

From an informal interview with psychologist and Emeritus Professor Nicholas Humphrey, with Richard Dawkins asking the questions, here's something to ponder. (I don't necessarily endorse, especially some of the specifics, of this, the first of a series of four)

More reading here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


ASM ... Anne-Sophie Mutter ... Anne-Sophie Mutter

See that photo (from the Sydney Morning Herald)? See that dress (gasps as she walked on)? Well that's what we heard. A perfectly fitting golden performance of glittering perfection and decorative brilliance all supported by the strength, and sensuality, of this most wonderful German violinist.

Rather than persist with my incoherent gushing about her and the Beethoven Violin Concerto (Kreisler cadenzas), better that you read Peter McCallum's SMH review - 'Prodigious talent meets profound musical maturity' . And now the Australian (I thought skewing towards the strings in the Shostakovich was what helped make it so brilliant). And again from McCallum. It was a concert for which all the clich├ęs were written - like hearing a new work, time stood still, you know the ones. For example, there were sections (Larghetto becomes Largo-ish) of such slow controlled elegant playing, of hushed reverence, by she of the infinite bow and endless delicacy, that the notes seemed to linger around her, each one added to by the next, till she was the centre of an aura of musical beauty and stillness the like of which I know I'll never experience again. It was something to do with hearing this exquisite playing for the first time. Nothing prepared me.

The relationship with Mr Ashkenazy (with whom she seemed especially close on the night) was significant not only in getting her here, at last, but also in the absolutely stunningly good performance by the orchestra. Talk about cranking it up a notch. It was European playing of the very best kind. It makes one wonder if all the kvetching about the acoustics might better be directed at the ensemble. It seems they can do it. I could go on and on just about the pizzicato, the horns, the winds ... what a great concert, and all the more special for no recording. Contractual issues no doubt.

And thanks to her son whose thoughts on Australia for his gap year may have been the clincher in her Oz debut. May he come, may he stay, may she visit often.

(That's Osawa, not Masur, obviously.)

More? Start here. This is not a pretense; you don't need any German.

The Shostakovich 5 followed. I love it, for its accessibility, its complexity, its profoundity, and its 'best ever' ending! They continued to play brilliantly. My only reservation was it was a pity Richard Miller on tympani didn't get a solo bow. Mr Ashkenazy is good with Russian. He knows. From the programme notes, his thoughts (as a student he met Shostakovich) are:

If you could describe Shostakovich's attitude and what he tried to express in his music, it's simply the tragedy of an individual in impossible circumstances. But we know what he wanted to say because we felt the same as he did, and we somehow deciphered it emotionally and spiritually. We were looking into a mirror of our existence. That's what it was like. It's reality. But reality can be exposed only by genius, in musical terms.

Addit - this interview around which I've now made a separate post needs to slot in here as well: