Saturday, 16 January 2016


“If music be the food of love, play on.” – William Shakespeare

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739 - 1799) was an Austrian composer, violinist and forest ecologist. He was born in the Laimgrube (now Mariahilf) district of Vienna, Austria, as August Carl Ditters. His father was a military tailor in the Austrian Imperial Army of Charles VI, for a number of German-speaking regiments. After retiring honourably from his military obligation, he was provided with royal letters of reference and a sinecure with the Imperial Theatre. In 1745, the six-year-old August Carl was introduced to the violin and his father’s moderate financial position allowed him not only a good general education at a Jesuit school, but private tutelage in music, violin, French and religion. After leaving his first teacher, Carl studied violin with J. Ziegler, who by 1750, through his influence, secured his pupil’s appointment as a violinist in the orchestra of the Benedictine church on the Freyung.

Dittersdorf had composition lessons from Giuseppe Bonno in his native Vienna and served as a violinist in the orchestra of the Prince of Sachsen-Hildburghausen, before joining the imperial theatre. He then served as Kapellmeister to the Bishop of Grosswardein, where, in 1762, he succeeded Michael Haydn. In 1769 he became Kapellmeister to the Prince-Bishop of Breslau, at this period acquiring the patent of nobility that added to the name of Ditters the honorific ‘von Dittersdorf’.

Conditions in Johannisberg, the seat of the Prince-Bishop, deteriorated in the political circumstances of the time, and on the death of his employer in 1795 he moved with his family to join the household of a nobleman in Bohemia. Before his death he dictated his fascinating autobiography to his son, a vivid account of musical life in his time.

Dittersdorf wrote a large number of stage works. The earlier Italian works written for Johannisberg were followed by a series of Singspiel primarily for Vienna, and 11 further such works in 1793 and 1794 for Duke Friedrich-August of Brunswick-Oels. These, all in all, mark an important stage in the development of the form. Dittersdorf made his due contribution to oratorio in four such works. He wrote settings of the Mass and other liturgical works, as well as cantatas and arias for church use. His secular vocal works are few.

In orchestral music Dittersdorf may be compared in some respects to his near contemporary Joseph Haydn. His 120 listed symphonies include a set of six giving musical expression to the Metamorphoses of Ovid and another ‘nel gusto di 5 nazioni’ (‘in the taste of five nations’). His concertos, rather fewer in number, include 18 for violin, five for viola, one for cello and one for double bass, as well as a Double Concerto for viola and double bass. The chamber music of Dittersdorf, with all the clarity of Classical style, includes string quartets and quintets, divertimenti, and compositions for groups of wind instruments.

Here is his Viola Sonata in E-flat major:
00:00 I. Allegro moderato
04:47 II. Menuetto, Allegretto
07:54 III. Adagio
10:24 IV. Menuetto, Allegretto
12:52 V. Tema con variazioni, Allegretto
Viola: Anna Barbara Dütschler; Fortepiano: Ursula Dütschler

Friday, 15 January 2016


“‘Go on, have a pasty,’ said Harry, who had never had anything to share before or, indeed, anyone to share it with. It was a nice feeling, sitting there with Ron, eating their way through all Harry’s pasties, cakes, and candies (the sandwiches lay forgotten).” -  J.K. Rowling

This recipe is a favourite of ours and although there are both meat and meatless versions, these days we prefer the vegetarian option. It tends to be flavoursome enough without meat and is quite filling too.

Cornish Pasties
Ingredients - Shortcrust pastry
 2½ cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
120 g butter, chopped
1–3 tablespoons water
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 medium, old potatoes, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium brown onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 turnip, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup green peas, shelled
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup vegetable stock
white pepper
salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon English mustard
1 teaspoon grated horseradish
beaten egg to glaze

Preheat oven to moderately hot 200°C. Brush a baking tray with melted butter or oil. Place flour and mustard in food processor bowl, add butter. Using pulse action, process until mixture is fine and crumbly. Add almost all the water. Process 20 seconds or until mixture comes together, adding more water if necessary. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Combine vegetables and toss in a pan with some olive oil to soften. Add parsley, stock and season with pepper, salt, mustard and horseradish. Mix well.
Roll pastry out to 3 mm thickness. Cut out six circles, 16 cm in diameter, using a saucer as a guide. Divide the combined filling between the six circles, placing it into the centre of each circle.
Glaze the edge of the circle with egg and bring two sides together to form a half circle. With fingers, pinch to form a frill. Brush with egg and place on a baking tray in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate 180°C and cook for further 20 minutes. Serve hot with a green salad and tomato sauce on the side.

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“Whatever one loves most is beautiful.” - Sappho

The common marigold, Calendula officinalis, is today’s birthday flower. The name calendula is from the Latin calendae, the first day of each month, as it was believed that marigolds bloomed somewhere in every month of the year. It symbolises cruelty in love, grief and pain. A bouquet of marigolds and poppies signifies lightened cares and sympathy.  Mixed with other flowers, the marigold imparts the meaning “life is made up of joys and sorrows”. As is the case with many other yellow flowers, the plant is under the dominion of the sun, thus being considered lucky to bring it indoors.


“Sappho, truly I want to die…”
Such was her cry when she said goodbye.

These words she said to me:
“What sad calamity!
Sappho, I leave you most unwillingly.”

To her I made reply:
“Go with good heart but try
Not to forget our love of days gone by.

Else, I shall always bring to mind,
Even if your heart proves to be unkind
The most delightful memories you leave behind.”

Many a chaplet
Of sweet smelling rose and violet,
Crocus and dill upon your head you set;

Many a necklace too
Round your white throat you threw,
Woven with me of blooms of many a hue,

And often balm you spread
Of myrrh upon my head,
And costly ointment on my hair you shed.”
Sappho (Flourished ≈600 BC)

Wednesday, 13 January 2016


“And there never was an apple, in Adam’s opinion, that wasn’t worth the trouble you got into for eating it.” - Neil Gaiman

Happy New Year to all Poets of Poets United! This week the theme is “Food” and perhaps it is apt, considering how the holiday period we have just lived through is associated so much with eating and feasting!. I hope everyone enjoyed the break and got some rest. I seem to have been busier than usual and feel as though I need a holiday to get over the holidays…

Here is my offering, influenced perhaps by the Dalí painting above, “Cannibalism in Autumn” (1936). 

The Food of Love

The food of love
Is cooked in the kitchen of familiarity;
Each dish prepared
With consummate carelessness,
Bred by intimacy
That has been carefully cultivated over years.

Your flesh warm,
Inviting and desirable, more succulent
Than any carnivorous delectation
Placed upon dinner table
By a skilful chef,
And dressed by an expert saucier.

We feast on our carnality,
The kitchen table suitable for our excesses
As kiss upon kiss
Leads to our fusion according to our recipe
Perfected by practice
And by our apposite harmony of spicy mixtures.

Once sated to surfeit,
All spent, we gaze out of the windows of our eyes
Seeing both sides of the coin
An Eden and a Gehenna, both prized and reviled;
Our meeting fleeting, but,
Our love eternal, transcending the everyday.

The apple more than temptation,
The larder fuller than hunger would dictate,
The heart brimming with expectation,
The desire more searing than the hotplate,
Our cooking preparations more to feed the soul
Than jaded palates with sweetmeat to cajole.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016


“Light is the task where many share the toil.” - Homer

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 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.

Mycenae (Greek: Μυκῆναι Mykēnai or Μυκήνη Mykēnē) is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 kilometres southwest of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 kilometres to the south; Corinth, 48 kilometres to the north. From the hill on which the palace was located, one can see across the Argolid to the Saronic Gulf. In the second millennium BC, Mycenae was one of the major centres of Greek civilisation, a military stronghold which dominated much of southern Greece. The period of Greek history from about 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenaean in reference to Mycenae. At its peak in 1350 BC, the citadel and lower town had a population of 30,000 and an area of 32 hectares.

The Lion Gate was the main entrance of the Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae. It was erected during the 13th century BC in the northwest side of the acropolis and is named after the relief sculpture of two lionesses in a heraldic pose that stands above the entrance. The Lion Gate is the sole surviving monumental piece of Mycenaean sculpture, as well as the largest sculpture in the prehistoric Aegean.

The Lion Gate is a massive and imposing construction, standing 3.10 m  wide and 2.95 m  high at the threshold. It narrows as it rises, measuring 2.78 m below the lintel. The opening was closed by a double door mortised to a vertical beam that acted as a pivot around which the door revolved. The gate itself consists of two great monoliths capped with a huge lintel that measures 4.5×2.0×0.8 m. Above the lintel, the masonry courses form a corbelled arch, leaving an opening that lightens the weight carried by the lintel. This relieving triangle is a great limestone slab on which two confronted lionesses carved in high relief stand on either sides of a central pillar. The heads of the animals were fashioned separately and are missing. The pillar, specifically, is a Minoan-type column that is placed on top of an altar-like platform that the lionesses rest their front legs on.

Beyond the gate and inside the citadel was a covered court with a small chamber, which probably functioned as a guard post. On the right, adjacent to the wall, was a building that has been identified as a granary because of the pithoi found there containing carbonised wheat.

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

Please link your entry using the Linky tool below:

Monday, 11 January 2016


“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” - David Bowie

David Robert Jones (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016), known as David Bowie, was an English singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, arranger, painter and actor. He was a figure in popular music for over five decades, and was considered by critics and other musicians as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. His androgynous appearance was an iconic element of his image, principally in the 1970s and 1980s.

Born and raised in Brixton, south London, Bowie developed an early interest in music although his attempts to succeed as a pop star during much of the 1960s were frustrating. “Space Oddity” became his first top five entry on the UK Singles Chart after its release in July 1969. After a three-year period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with his flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. The character was spearheaded by his single “Starman” and album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved to be one facet of a career marked by reinvention, musical innovation and visual presentation.

In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single “Fame” and the album Young Americans, which the singer characterised as “plastic soul”. The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the electronic-inflected album Low, the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno. Low (1977), Heroes (1977), and Lodger (1979) - the so-called “Berlin Trilogy” albums - all reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise.

After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single “Ashes to Ashes”, its parent album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), and “Under Pressure”, a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He then reached a new commercial peak in 1983 with Let’s Dance, which yielded several successful singles. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including blue-eyed soul, industrial, adult contemporary, and jungle.

Bowie also had a successful but sporadic film career. His acting roles include the eponymous character in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Major Celliers in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), Jareth, the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986 – see below), Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006), among other film and television appearances and cameos.

Bowie stopped touring after his 2003–04 Reality Tour, and last performed live at a charity event in 2006. On 8 January 2016, the date of Bowie’s 69th birthday, the album Blackstar was released; he died two days later. Throughout his career, Bowie sold an estimated 140 million records worldwide. In the UK, he was awarded nine Platinum album certifications, eleven Gold and eight Silver, and in the US, five Platinum and seven Gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Jim Henson’s 1986 movie "Labyrinth" starring  David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud, Shelley Thompson and Christopher Malcolm, was one of David Bowie’s most memorable cinematic appearances in a suitably fantastical and visually engaging film.

Labyrinth is based on the premise that it’s only when we lose something that we realise its real worth. A young girl, Sarah, (Connelly) wishes that her annoying baby stepbrother, Toby, (Froud) would disappear, only to discover afterwards that she does indeed love him and misses him. Once Sarah’s grief sinks in, the Goblin King (Bowie) enters and challenges Sarah to navigate a huge maze in less than thirteen hours. If she is successful, Toby will return to her – if not, her brother will become a goblin.

The acting is wonderful and Jim Henson’s puppets are quite amazing. With Bowie’s involvement, one would expect song and dance sequences, and yes there are a few of those, not to disappoint Bowie’s fans. It is a wonderful film for the whole family, pleasing parents (uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc) as well as children. The fantasy is magical, the characters memorable and the cinematography, art direction and special effects great!

Rest in Peace, David Bowie, your legacy will be appreciated by many generations yet to come.

Sunday, 10 January 2016


“The portrait I do best is of the person I know best.” - Nadar

Félix Edouard Vallotton (December 28, 1865 – December 29, 1925) was a Swiss/French painter and printmaker associated with Les Nabis. He was an important figure in the development of the modern woodcut. 

He was born into a conservative middle-class family in Lausanne, and there he attended Collège Cantonal, graduating with a degree in classical studies in 1882. In that year he moved to Paris to study art under Jules Joseph Lefebvre and Gustave Boulanger at the Académie Julian. He spent many hours in the Louvre, where he greatly admired the works of Holbein, Dürer and Ingres; these artists would remain exemplars for Vallotton throughout his life. Vallotton’s earliest paintings, chiefly portraits, are in the academic tradition. In 1885 he painted the Ingresque Portrait of Monsieur Ursenbach as well as his first painted self-portrait, which received an honourable mention at the Salon des artistes français in 1886.

During the following decade Vallotton painted, wrote art criticism and made a number of prints. In 1891 he executed his first woodcut, a portrait of Paul Verlaine. The many woodcuts he produced during the 1890s were recognised as innovative, and established Vallotton as a leader in the revival of true woodcut as an artistic medium. In the western world, the relief print, in the form of commercial wood engraving, had long been utilised mainly as a means to accurately reproduce drawn or painted images and, latterly, photographs. Vallotton’s woodcut style was novel in its starkly reductive opposition of large masses of undifferentiated black and areas of unmodulated white. Vallotton emphasised outline and flat patterns, and generally eliminated the gradations and modelling traditionally produced by hatching. He was influenced by post-Impressionism, Symbolism, and especially by the Japanese woodcut.

His woodcut subjects included domestic scenes, bathing women, portrait heads, and several images of street crowds and demonstrations (notably, several scenes of police attacking anarchists). He usually depicted types rather than individuals, avoided the expression of strong emotion, and fused  a graphic wit with an acerbic if not ironic humour. Vallotton’s graphic art reached its highest development in Intimités (Intimacies), a series of ten interiors published in 1898 by the Revue Blanche, which deal with tension between men and women. Vallotton's woodcuts were widely disseminated in periodicals and books in Europe as well as in the United States, and have been suggested as a significant influence on the graphic art of Edvard Munch, Aubrey Beardsley, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

By 1892 he was affiliated with Les Nabis, a group of young artists that included Pierre Bonnard, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Maurice Denis, and Édouard Vuillard, with whom Vallotton was to form a lifelong friendship. During the 1890s, when Vallotton was closely allied with the avant-garde, his paintings reflected the style of his woodcuts, with flat areas of colour, hard edges, and simplification of detail. His subjects included genre scenes, portraits and nudes. Examples of his Nabi style are the deliberately awkward “Bathers on a Summer Evening” (1892–93), now in the Kunsthaus Zürich, and the symbolist “Moonlight” (1895), in the Musée d’Orsay.

In 1899 Vallotton married Gabrielle Rodrigues-Henriques, a wealthy young widow with three children, and in 1900 he attained French citizenship. Around 1899, his printmaking activity diminished as he concentrated on painting, developing a sober, often bitter realism independently of the artistic mainstream. His “Portrait of Gertrude Stein” (1907) was painted as an apparent response to Picasso’s portrait of the previous year, and in “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas”, Stein described the very methodical way in which Vallotton painted it, working from top to bottom as if lowering a curtain across the canvas.

Vallotton’s paintings of the post-Nabi period found admirers, and were generally respected for their truthfulness and their technical qualities, but the severity of his style was frequently criticised. Typical is the reaction of the critic who, writing in the March 23, 1910 issue of Neue Zürcher Zeitung, complained that Vallotton “paints like a policeman, like someone whose job it is to catch forms and colors. Everything creaks with an intolerable dryness ... the colours lack all joyfulness.” In its uncompromising character his art prefigured the New Objectivity that flourished in Germany during the 1920s, and has a further parallel in the work of Edward Hopper.

He continued to publish occasional art criticism, in addition to other writings. He wrote eight plays, some of which received performances (in 1904 and 1907), although their reviews appear to have been unfavourable. He also wrote three novels, including the semi-autobiographical La Vie Meurtrière (The Murderous Life), begun in 1907 and published posthumously.

Vallotton responded in 1914 to the coming of the First World War by volunteering for the French army, but he was rejected because of his age. In 1915–16 he returned to the medium of woodcut for the first time since 1901 to express his feelings for his adopted country in the series, “This is War”, his last prints. He subsequently spent three weeks on a tour of the Champagne front in 1917, on a commission from the Ministry of Fine Arts. The sketches he produced became the basis for a group of paintings, “The Church of Souain in Silhouette” among them, in which he recorded with cool detachment the ruined landscape.

In his last years Félix Vallotton concentrated especially on still lifes and on “composite landscapes”, landscapes composed in the studio from memory and imagination. Always a prolific artist, by the end of his life he had completed over 1700 paintings and about 200 prints, in addition to hundreds of drawings and several sculptures. He died on the day after his 60th birthday, following cancer surgery in Paris in 1925. His brother Paul was an art dealer; he founded the Galerie Paul Vallotton in Lausanne in 1922, which continued operation for many years under the control of his descendants.

The painting above is “Felix Jasinski in His Printmaking Studio”, painted in 1887. Feliks Stanisław Jasiński (1862-1901) was a Polish painter and graphic artist. He moved he moved permanently to Paris in 1882 and enrolled at the Académie Julian, where he met Valotton. This is one of my favourite early works of Valotton…