Saturday, 8 October 2016


“A boat at midnight sent alone to drift upon the moonless sea, a lute, whose leading chord is gone, a wounded bird, that hath but one imperfect wing to soar upon, are like what I am, without thee.” - Thomas Moore

Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger (also: Johann(es) Hieronymus Kapsberger or Giovanni Geronimo Kapsperger; c. 1580 – 17 January 1651) was a German-Italian virtuoso performer and composer of the early Baroque period. A prolific and highly original composer, Kapsberger is chiefly remembered today for his lute and theorbo (chitarrone) music, which was seminal in the development of these as solo instruments.

Nothing is known about Kapsberger’s date and place of birth. His father Colonel Wilhelm (Guglielmo) von Kapsperger was a military official of the Imperial House of Austria, and may have settled in Venice, the city that may have been Kapsberger’s birthplace. After 1605 Kapsberger moved to Rome, where he quickly attained a reputation as a brilliant virtuoso. He cultivated connections with various powerful individuals and organisations; and himself organized “academies” in his house, which were counted among the “wonders of Rome”.

Around 1609 Kapsberger married Gerolima di Rossi, with whom he had at least three children. He started publishing his music at around the same time, with more than a dozen collections of music appearing during the next ten years. These included the celebrated “Libro I d’Intavolatura di Lauto” (1611), Kapsberger’s only surviving collection of music for lute. This is the music played in the video below.

In 1624 Kapsperger entered the service of Cardinal Francesco Barberini, where he worked with numerous important composers (such as Girolamo Frescobaldi and Stefano Landi) and poets (which included Giulio Rospigliosi, the future Pope Clement IX). Kapsberger worked in Francesco’s household until 1646. He died in 1651.

Kapsberger is best remembered as a composer for lute and theorbo. At least six collections were published during his lifetime, two of which are currently lost. Kapsberger’s writing is characterised (especially in toccatas), by spontaneous changes, sharp contrasts, unusual rhythmic groupings and, sometimes, passages that do not conform to the rules of counterpoint that were in use at the time. The vast majority of contemporary critics praised Kapsberger’s compositional skill and innovations. Among them was Athanasius Kircher, who described Kapsberger as a “superb genius” and attested that he has “successfully penetrated the secrets of music.”

One notable exception was the critic Giovanni Battista Doni, who was initially supportive of the composer, but then turned against him for unclear reasons and criticised his music in print. Also, Kapsberger's toccatas may have influenced those of Girolamo Frescobaldi. Some contemporaries, such as Stefano Landi, mentioned that Kapsberger was not as meticulous a composer as he was as a performer. The features listed above led some modern scholars to share this view and they tend to believe that Kapsberger was a composer of inferior ability. Prominent among these critics is lutenist Rolf Lislevand: In his words, “Kapsberger was as bad a composer as he was a fine instrumentalist [...] The ideas are often badly developed, and are freely associated with one another; no real musical discourse is built up [...] the rhythm—even after serious efforts at fathoming it—wavers between inspired cleverness and total confusion.”

However, despite how one regards his compositional prowess, Kapsberger was one of the principal composers of lute and theorbo music during the early Baroque era (together with Alessandro Piccinini) and greatly contributed towards advancing European plucked string instruments of the time. Kapsberger’s other music includes two collections of instrumental ensemble dances, rare for the period, and a wealth of vocal music, which was widely performed during his lifetime, but which is now critically less acclaimed. Kapsberger also wrote stage music, almost all currently lost. The only surviving work of this kind is “Apotheosis sive Consecratio SS Ignatii et Francisci Xaverii” (1622).

Here is Hopkinson Smith playing Kapsberger’s “Libro Primo d’Intavolatura di Lauto”.

Friday, 7 October 2016


“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” - Epicurus

Sometimes we need to make the ordinary special and the commonplace extraordinary. It does not take much, just a little thought and some time well-spent, knowing that our efforts will be appreciated by the people we love. The following recipe is an example of that. I had half an hour to myself and knowing that lunch was approaching and the ingredients required by the recipe were on hand, it took little time to rustle up these muffins for a special little lunch treat, sipped with a little ice-cold champagne, shared with someone special.

Smoked Salmon Savoury Muffins
2 eggs, separated
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups self-raising flour
2 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tsp dried dill tips, chopped
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
125 g smoked salmon, sliced and cubed
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Sprigs of fresh dill, cream cheese and salmon slices to serve.

Preheat the oven to 170ºC and grease well a six cup-capacity muffin tray.
Separate the eggs and reserve whites for later. Place the egg yolks and butter in an electric mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes or until mixture is pale and thick.
Mix the baking powder with the flour and add the flour and milk alternately into the egg yolk-butter mixture. Add the chives and dill tips, mixing on low until they are distributed through the mixture.
In a separate bowl, whisk reserved egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold egg whites into muffin mixture, along with the salmon.
Divide mixture among the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden.
Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly. While the muffins are cooling, prepare lightly sear the asparagus on a grill pan. Serve muffins topped with softened cream cheese, smoked salmon slivers and fresh dill.

Thursday, 6 October 2016


“It is impossible to see the angel unless you first have a notion of it.” - James Hillman

Angelica archangelica, commonly known as garden angelica, wild celery, and Norwegian angelica, is a biennial plant from the Apiaceae family, a subspecies of which is cultivated for its sweetly scented edible stems and roots. Like several other species in Apiaceae, its appearance is similar to several poisonous species (Conium, Heracleum, and others), and should not be consumed unless it has been identified with absolute certainty. Synonyms include Archangelica officinalis Hoffm., and Archangelica officinalis var. himalaica. The name Angelica means “of angels in Greek and archangelica comes from the Greek word “arkhangelos” (=arch-angel), due to the myth that it was the archangel Michael who told of its use as medicine.

During its first year the herb grows only leaves, but during its second year, its fluted stem can reach a height of 2.5 meters, and taken from that stem the root is known as ‘ginger’. Its leaves comprise numerous small leaflets divided into three principal groups, each of which is again subdivided into three lesser groups. The edges of the leaflets are finely toothed or serrated. The flowers, which blossom in July, are small and numerous, yellowish or greenish, are grouped into large, globular umbels which bear pale yellow, oblong fruits.

Angelica grows only in damp soil, preferably near rivers or deposits of water. Angelica archangelica grows wild in Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland, mostly in the northern parts of the countries. It is cultivated in France, mainly in the Marais Poitevin, a marsh region close to Niort in the department Deux-Sèvres. It also grows in certain regions in Germany like the Harz mountains, in certain regions of Romania, like the Rodna Mountains, in hilly and coastal regions of Poland and some South East Asian countries like Thailand.

From the 10th century on, angelica was cultivated as a vegetable and medicinal plant, and achieved popularity in Scandinavia in the 12th century and is still used today, especially in Sami culture. A flute-like instrument with a clarinet-like sound can be made of its hollow stem. Linnaeus reported that Sami peoples used it in reindeer milk, as it is often used as a flavouring agent. In 1602, angelica was introduced in Niort, which had just been ravaged by the plague.

The herb is used to flavour liqueurs or aquavits, (e.g., Chartreuse, Bénédictine, Vermouth, and Dubonnet), omelettes and trout, and as jam. The long bright-green stems are also candied and used as decoration. Angelica is unique amongst the Umbelliferae for its pervading aromatic odour, a pleasant perfume entirely different from fennel, parsley, anise, caraway, or chervil. It has been compared to musk and to juniper. Even the roots are fragrant, and form one of the principal aromatics of European origin - the other parts of the plant have the same flavour, but their active principles are considered more perishable.

The fruits are tiny mericarps and are used in the production of absinthe and other alcoholic drinks. Seeds of a Persian spice plant known as Golpar (Heracleum persicum) are often labelled as “angelica seeds”. Angelica archangelica roots have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea or tincture for treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, nervous system, and also against fever, infections, and flu. John Gerard’s Herball praises the plant and states that “…it cureth the bitings of mad dogs and all other venomous beasts.”

In the language of flowers, non-flowering angelica shoots mean: ‘Take heart, you have my support”. A flowering stem stands for: “I shall encourage your endeavours”. A seed head included in a bouquet means: “Your efforts will be rewarded by successful outcomes.”

A recipe for candying angelica stems can be found here.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016


“I am indebted to my parents for living, but to my teachers for living well.” - Alexander the Great

“World Teachers’ Day held annually on 5 October, is a UNESCO initiative, a day devoted to appreciating, assessing, and improving the educators of the world. The real point is to provide a time to look at and address issues pertaining to teachers.” – Quite aptly therefore, Poets United has as its Midweek Motif “Teaching”. Here is my contribution:

For My Teachers

The words I write are full of gratitude,
Each rounded letter a thank you,
Each line a heartfelt appreciation
Of my teachers’ tireless persistence.

The pages I read are full of knowledge,
Each word a bird in flight,
Each phrase a new friend, a new acquaintance,
Met in distant places, wandering through fabled cities.

The books I read are full of pleasure,
Each page full of new-felt emotion and senses;
Each sentence a laugh, some tears,
Some gentleness, some fiery argument.

The verse I write is full of thought and heart,
Of pain and joy, of brain and soul, love, friendship.
I write and read, and with unconscious ease effortlessly
Take for granted this precious gift of literacy.

I thank my luck for this privilege, this gift of providence,
That I was amongst the chosen to experience
This mystery of written word, of imprisoned sound,
Of captured language and word-pictures.
The present of literature, the happiness of calligraphy
The indulgence of a memoir, the work of words,
The magic of communication,
This richness of script.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016


“The young people of India will build a strong and powerful nation, a nation that is politically mature and economically strong, a nation whose people enjoy both a high quality of life as well as justice.” - Pranab Mukherjee

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.
Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly River, it is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India, while the Port of Kolkata is India’s oldest operating port and its sole major riverine port. In 2011, the city had population of 4.5 million, while the population of the city and its suburbs was 14.1 million, making it the third-most populous metropolitan area in India. In 2008 its gross domestic product (adjusted for purchasing power parity) was estimated to be US$104 billion, which was the third highest among Indian cities, behind Mumbai and Delhi. As a growing city in a developing country, Kolkata has pollution, traffic congestion, poverty, overcrowding, and other problems.

In the late 17th century, the three villages that predated Calcutta were ruled by the Nawab of Bengal under Mughal suzerainty. After the Nawab granted the East India Company a trading licence in 1690, the area was developed by the Company into an increasingly fortified trading post. Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah occupied Calcutta in 1756, and the East India Company retook it the following year. In 1793 the East India company was strong enough to abolish Nizamat (local rule), and assumed full sovereignty of the region. Under the company rule, and later under the British Raj, Calcutta served as the capital of British-held territories in India until 1911, when its perceived geographical disadvantages, combined with growing nationalism in Bengal, led to a shift of the capital to New Delhi.

Calcutta was the centre for the Indian independence movement; it remains a hotbed of contemporary state politics. Following Indian independence in 1947, Kolkata, which was once the centre of modern Indian education, science, culture, and politics, suffered several decades of economic stagnation. As a nucleus of the 19th- and early 20th-century Bengal Renaissance and a religiously and ethnically diverse centre of culture in Bengal and India, Kolkata has local traditions in drama, art, film, theatre, and literature. Many people from Kolkata—among them several Nobel laureates—have contributed to the arts, the sciences, and other areas. Kolkata culture features idiosyncrasies that include distinctively close-knit neighbourhoods (paras) and freestyle intellectual exchanges (adda). West Bengal’s share of the Bengali film industry is based in the city, which also hosts venerable cultural institutions of national importance.

The Victoria Memorial is a large marble building in Kolkata, which was built between 1906 and 1921 after a proposal by Lord Curzon. It is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and is now a museum and tourist destination under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture. The Memorial lies on the Maidan (grounds) by the bank of the Hooghly River, near Jawaharlal Nehru road. The memorial was funded by many Indian states, individuals of the British Raj and the British government in London. The princes and people of India responded generously to Curzon’s appeal for funds and the total cost of construction of this monument was entirely derived from their voluntary subscriptions.

The Victoria Memorial’s architect was William Emerson (1843–1924), president of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The design is in the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style. This style uses a mixture of British and Mughal elements as well as Venetian, Egyptian, Deccani and Islamic architectural influences. The building is 103 m by 69 m and rises to a height of 56 m. It is constructed of white Makrana marble. The gardens of the Victoria Memorial were designed by Lord Redesdale and David Prain. Emerson’s assistant, Vincent J. Esch designed the bridge of the north aspect and the garden gates.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,

and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

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Monday, 3 October 2016


“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” - Virginia Woolf

We watched Simon Stone’s 2015 movie “The Daughter” at the weekend. It starred Sam Neill, Miranda Otto, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Schneider, Odessa Young and Ewen Leslie, with a story based on Ibsen’s “The Wild Duck”, adapted by the director, Simon Stone. The story is updated to modern-day Australia and there are some quite fundamental changes to the plot, including (possibly) the ending.

The film is set in Tasmania although it was filmed around the very atmospheric Snowy Mountain towns of Tumut and Batlow. A timber mill belonging to a wealthy landowner closes the greatly dismayed workers are sacked while the aloof owner Henry (Rush) plans to marry his much younger former housekeeper. His estranged son Christian (Schneider) returns for the wedding looking for someone to blame for his mother’s suicide. When Christian learns of his father’s previous infidelity he feels compelled to reveal all to his childhood friend Oliver (Leslie) that his wife Charlotte (Otto) had an affair with his father. Oliver is devastated his up till then excellent relationship with his daughter Hedvig (Young) is affected. The thoughtless and irresponsible revelation of the truth by Christian (whose own life is immersed in lies) leads to a tragic consequences that will affect everyone’s lives.

The movie is well made, the acting is excellent and the cinematography wonderful. Geoffrey Rush has a relatively small role and I found Sam Neill’s acting much more commanding and masterful. The real honours are deserved by Odessa Young, playing the daughter of the title and also an excellent presence by Ewen Leslie. Paul Schneider’s character was a real stinker and I found that he suited the role as he was quite an unlikeable actor (or maybe it was the role?). The music by Mark Bradshaw was suitably atmospheric and appropriate, while the cinematography by Andrew Commis suited the plot well.

Ibsen can be quite heavy and his ponderous plays are often depressing and hard to digest. Although this movie was hardly a laugh a minute, there was the odd scene where the mood was lightened without detracting from the melancholy and dramatic story. We found ourselves involved in the action and we felt the pain of the characters’ plight. The claustrophobic family situations and the hidden truths that are slowly and recklessly revealed create a great tension and lead well to the film’s dramatic conclusion. As far as the actual ending is concerned, there is ambiguity and the viewer may opt for Ibsen’s tragic conclusion or a more optimistic and happier one…

A wonderful Australian film with a great bunch of actors, good pace and plot and enjoyable (although uncomfortable at times) to watch. Not one for you if you like fast-paced action thrillers and adventure stories. This is quiet and melancholy, exploring people’s feelings and their damaged psyches.

Sunday, 2 October 2016


“Art must take reality by surprise.” - Françoise Sagan

Marc Gabriel Charles Gleyre (2 May 1806 – 5 May 1874), was a Swiss artist, resident in France from an early age. He took over the studio of Paul Delaroche in 1843 and taught a number of younger artists who became prominent, including Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Louis-Frederic Schützenberger.

Gleyre was born in Chevilly, near Lausanne. His parents died when he was eight or nine years old, and he was brought up by an uncle in Lyon, France, who sent him to the city’s industrial school. He began his formal artistic education in Lyon under Bonnefond, before moving to Paris, where he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Art under Hersent. He also attended the Academie Suisse and studied watercolour technique in the studio of Richard Parkes Bonington. He then went to Italy, where he became acquainted with Horace Vernet and Louis Léopold Robert.

It was through Vernet’s recommendation that he was chosen by the American traveller John Lowell Jr. to accompany him on his journeys round the eastern Mediterranean, recording the scenes and ethnographic subjects they met with. They left Italy in spring 1834 and visited Greece, Turkey and Egypt, where they remained together until November 1835, when Lowell left for India. Gleyre continued his travels around Egypt and Syria, not returning to France until 1838. He returned to Lyons in shattered health, having been attacked with ophthalmia, or inflammation of the eye, in Cairo, and struck down by fever in Lebanon.

On his recovery he proceeded to Paris, and, establishing a modest studio in the rue de Université, began carefully to work out the ideas that had been slowly shaping themselves in his mind. Mention is made of two decorative panels “Diana Leaving the Bath”, and a “Young Nubian” as almost the first fruits of his genius; but these did not attract public attention until much later, and the painting by which he practically opened his artistic career was the “Apocalyptic Vision of St John”, sent to the Salon of 1840. This was followed in 1843 by “Evening”, which received a medal of the second class, and afterwards became widely popular under the title “Lost Illusions” (see above). It depicts a poet seated on the bank of a river, with his head drooping and a wearied posture, letting his lyre slip from a careless hand, and gazing sadly at a bright company of maidens whose song is slowly dying from his ear as their boat is borne slowly from his sight.

In spite of the success of these first ventures, Gleyre retired from public competition, and spent the rest of his life in quiet devotion to his artistic ideals, neither seeking the easy applause of the crowd, nor turning his art into a means of aggrandisement and wealth. After 1845, when he exhibited the “Separation of the Apostles”, he contributed nothing to the Salon except the “Dance of the Bacchantes” in 1849. Yet he worked steadily and was productive. Many years often intervened between the first conception of a piece and its embodiment, and years not infrequently between the first and the final stage of the embodiment itself. A landscape was apparently finished; even his fellow artists would consider it done; Gleyre alone was conscious that he had not “found his sky”.

Gleyre became influential as a teacher, taking over the studio of studio of Paul Delaroche – then the leading private teaching atelier in Paris – in 1843. His students included Jean-Léon Gérôme, Jean-Louis Hamon, Auguste Toulmouche, Whistler and several of the Impressionists: Monet, Renoir, Sisley, and Bazille. He did not charge his students a fee, although he expected them to contribute towards the rent and the payment of models. They were also given a say in the running of the school. Though he lived in almost complete retirement from public life, he took a keen interest in politics, and was a voracious reader of political journals. For a time, under Louis Philippe, his studio had been the rendezvous of a sort of liberal club. To the last — amid all the disasters that befell his country — he was hopeful of the future. It was while on a visit to the Retrospective Exhibition, opened on behalf of the exiles from Alsace and Lorraine, that he died suddenly on 5 May 1874. He had never married.

He left unfinished the “Earthly Paradise”, a picture, which Taine described as “a dream of innocence, of happiness and of beauty — Adam and Eve standing in the sublime and joyous landscape of a paradise enclosed in mountains, a worthy counterpart to the Evening”. His other works include “Deluge”, which represents two angels speeding above the desolate earth from which the destroying waters have just begun to retire, leaving visible behind them the ruin they have wrought; the “Battle of the Lemanus”, a piece of elaborate design, crowded but not encumbered with figures, and giving fine expression to the movements of the various bands of combatants and fugitives; the “Prodigal Son”, in which the artist has ventured to add to the parable the new element of mother’s love, greeting the repentant youth with a welcome that shows that the mother's heart thinks less of the repentance than of the return.

Other paintings of his are “Ruth and Boaz”; “Ulysses and Nausicaa”; “Hercules at the Feet of Omphale”; the “Young Athenian”, or, as it is popularly called, “Sappho”; “Minerva and the Nymphs”; “Venus and Adonis”; “Daphnis and Chloë”; and “Love and the Parcae”. He also left a considerable number of drawings and watercolours, and a number of portraits, among which is the sad face of Heinrich Heine, engraved in the Revue des deux mondes for April 1852. In Clement’s catalogue of his works there are 683 entries, including sketches and studies.