Saturday 16 November 2013


“I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.” - Johann Sebastian Bach

The Italian Concerto, BWV 971 – original title: Concerto nach Italienischem Gusto (Concerto after the Italian taste), published in 1735 as the first half of Clavier-Übung II (the second half being the French Overture) is a three-movement concerto for two-manual harpsichord solo composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Italian Concerto has become popular among Bach's keyboard works, and has been widely recorded both on the harpsichord and the piano.

The concerto is in three movements:
I) Without tempo indication
II) Andante
III) Presto

The Italian Concerto’s two lively F major outer movements, in ritornello style, frame a florid arioso-style movement in D minor, the relative minor. An Italian concerto relies upon the contrasting roles of different groups of instruments in an ensemble; Bach imitates this effect by creating contrasts using the forte and piano manuals of a two-manual harpsichord throughout the piece. In fact, along with the French Overture and some of the Goldberg Variations, this is one of the few works by Bach, which specifically require a 2-manual harpsichord.

Here is the Italian Concerto, arranged for oboe solo and strings with harpsichord continuo. Albrecht Mayer plays the oboe and makes of this keyboard work a magnificent full-blown baroque concerto. Bach himself would have loved this version, I am sure!

Friday 15 November 2013


“Lentils are friendly—the Miss Congeniality of the bean world.” - Laurie Colwin

With the unseasonably cool weather we have been experiencing in Melbourne this Spring, we have been having some hearty cold weather dishes. Here is a vegetarian lentil and bean stew that is tasty and packed with goodness!

Bean and Lentil Stew

1 cup dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and cooked
1 cup brown lentils

6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Soak the dried beans overnight in cold water, then drain, add fresh water, and cook over low heat until beans are softened but still have a slight bite to them. This will take 40 minutes to an hour, or possibly more, depending on how old the beans are. When beans are cooked but firm, they’re ready to be used in the recipe.

Chop carrots, celery, and onions into fairly small pieces. In medium sized soup pot, add lentils, stock, carrots, celery, onions, parsley, bay leaves, dried thyme, dried oregano. Let simmer at low heat about 30 minutes, until lentils and vegetables are starting to soften.

Remove bay leaves and add the cooked cannellini beans and about 1 cup water (depending on how much liquid has cooked out.) Continue to simmer at low heat, 45 minutes or more, until most of lentils have at least partly broken apart and dissolved into the broth. Taste for seasoning and add more black pepper and salt if desired. Serve hot.

Garnish with pesto and crushed toasted pita bread, if desired.

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

Thursday 14 November 2013


“Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” - William Shakespeare
Today, the Eastern Orthodox day celebrates the Feast Day of St Phillip the Apostle, who was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. Later Christian traditions describe Philip as the apostle who preached in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia.
Today is also the anniversary of the birth of:
William Pitt the Elder, British Prime Minister (1708);
Robert Fulton, built first steamboat (1765);
Henri Dutrochet, described process of osmosis (1776);
Johann Nepomuk Hummel, composer (1778);
Charles Lyell, geologist (1797);
Claude Monet, French artist (1840);
Jawaharlal Nehru, first Indian Prime Minister (1889);
Aaron Copland, US composer (1900);
Marya Mannes, writer (1904);
Brian Keith, actor (1921);
Leonie Rysanek, soprano (1928);
Hussein I, of Jordan (1935);
Charles, Prince of Wales (1948).

The teasel, Dipsacus fullorum, is the birthday plant for this day.  The generic name is derived from the Greek dipsa = thirst, alluding to the leaves of the plant that are joined at their base forming a hollow in which water collects.  The plant is used as a weather oracle, the prickles closing up meaning it will rain.  The common name and the specific name are in reference to the plant’s prickly flower and seed heads which in the past were used by fullers to raise or “tease” the nap on woollen cloth.  The plant symbolises misanthropy and importunity.  Astrologically, this plant is ruled by Venus.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) was a Hungarian pianist and composer. In 1785 Hummel went to Vienna where he impressed Mozart and was his student for two years. Hummel was thought to rival Beethoven in piano technique and skills of improvisation. His many compositions for piano include sonatas, chamber works and concertos. His work represents a link between the Classical and the Romantic in music. One of my favourite works of his is the Piano Concerto in A minor opus 85.

Wednesday 13 November 2013


“We have one life; it soon will be past; what we do for God is all that will last.” - Muhammad Ali
Poetry Jam this week has set a challenge concentrating on “the last”. All things have an end, and for each thing there must be a last one. How more so for the one last day we live, surely that is ultimate finality… Here is my offering:
“I've lived a good life,” said he to me,
“I've loved and hated, worked and played.
I've lived a full life,” he confessed,
“I've left only few things untried.
Experiences varied, broad I have collected,
All those I've met I've not regretted.”
“I look at death before me, now,” he told me,
“I like the purposefulness in his stony gaze.
I lean towards him with my hands outstretched,” he said,
“I long to live through this, my ultimate encounter;
My mind replete with images and sound
Will welcome this last meeting, sure to astound.”
“I tell you, don't be sad,” he said to me,
“I think this is a journey that will thrill me.
I tremble with excitement, not with dread,
I taste sweet wine, not bitter gall nor poison.
My heart is restful,” softly, he sighed,
“My soul is free…” he said to me - and died.

Tuesday 12 November 2013


“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” - Carl Sandburg

An Edgar Degas photograph, “Danseuse ajustant sa bretelle” has been provided by Magpie Tales to function as the creative spark for all who will take up her challenge. Here is my offering, with a slightly modified image (with apologies to Monsieur Degas!).

To Dance

To dance, her limber body
And her supple limbs, prepare;
The rhythm now part of her,
The melody like blood running in her veins.

Her feet, accustomed as they are
To practiced movement,
Step through their paces
With the ease familiarity brings.

And as the final preparation
Before the closed curtain is made,
Adrenalin rushes forth,
Like a fountain, firing up her every cell.

The music starts, the curtain parts,
And her body begins its own song:
A counterpoint of motion, adding
A new line of melody to the orchestral strains.

Each fibre, finely tuned, each muscle taut,
Each sinew stretching tight;
Herculean efforts made to seem effortless
As she pirouettes, and jumps, and nimbly dances.

The dancer manufactures her new world,
Her body a magic wand transforming sound
Into movement, and music into graceful gesture;
To dance, and make of flesh and bone, gossamer.

Monday 11 November 2013


“You know, those of us who leave our homes in the morning and expect to find them there when we go back – it’s hard for us to understand what the experience of a refugee might be like.” - Naomi Shihab Nye

We watched an excellent Turkish film at the weekend, a good production from the Ay Yapim company, which also produces many of the very good contemporary Turkish TV series. It was the 2011 Çagan Irmak film “Dedemin Insanlari”  (My Grandfather’s People), starring Çetin Tekindor, Yigit Özsener, Gökçe Bahadir, Sacide Tasaner, Hümeyra, Durukan Çelikkaya and Eirini Inglesi. The director also wrote the screenplay of this partly autobiographical film, which looks back at the history of his own family and the way they settled in Western Turkey after leaving Crete, Greece, in the 1920s.

A little bit of the historical context that is relevant to the movie will help the viewer, although it is not essential to be aware of it in order to appreciate the great story or the wonderful acting. After the first World War, Greece and Turkey were involved in a bitter conflict, which ended with the massacre of many people on both sides and decision to exchange populations. Greeks who had been living for generations on the Western coast of Turkey were sent to Greece and Turks living in Greece were sent to Turkey. Millions of people were involved and their stories are dramatic and tragic in many cases. The survivors who were forced to settle in new countries were seen as immigrants by the locals: The Turks who migrated to Turkey were always thought of as “Greeks”, and the Greeks who migrated to Greece were thought of as “Turks” – even though they immigrated into countries where the locals spoke the same language as them and had the same religion…

The plot of the movie is about a family whose grandfather came to the Western coast of Turkey from Crete. The family managed to settle in Turkey successfully and the majority of the film is set in the 1970s, where the grandfather is a shop owner, his son-in-law is assistant mayor and his young grandson is a cheeky, spoilt child who nevertheless does well at school.

The whole family has had to deal with prejudice from the locals who view them as interlopers and the young grandson is reacting violently in the same prejudiced way to a new wave of new immigrants into their neighbourhood, having become more local than the locals himself. The conflict that develops between grandfather and grandson, despite their great love for each other is explored beautifully by the movie. Ultimately, it is a coming of age movie where the grandson’s relationship with his grandfather forms the centrepiece of the movie, which nevertheless explores complex issues around the topics of nationality, ideology, the sense of belonging, community, prejudice, intolerance and the futility of war.

The acting is exemplary with amazing performances by all of the cast. Both Grandfater (Çetin Tekindor) and grandson (Durukan Çelikkaya) are outstanding and are the foundation of the film. Nevertheless they are supported admirably by every single other member of the cast. The director has done a marvellous job with both the sensitive screenplay and restrained direction, which highlights the plight of displaced people, but also acknowledges his own personal family history. The flash-backs and flash-forwards are done extremely well and with great effect, being central to the story.

There is a wonderful sense of humanity in this film. As a Greek myself, and as one whose father’s family was one of those that had to come to Greece from the Western coast of Turkey in the 1920s, this film touched a sensitive nerve with me. I saw this film with the same eyes that the Turks involved in the story did, but viewed from the “other side” of the Aegean Sea. The sea that separates and joins Greeks and Turks, the sea that serves as the means of division and union. The sea that carries a common history, a shared culture and dissolves in it the same dreams and aspirations.

We enjoyed very much this wonderful, touching and poignant film, which is sensitive to the point of view of both sides of Aegean Sea. Although it was a two-hour long movie, we lost track of the time and became thoroughly engaged in it. The film has a good dose of drama in it, but it is relieved by touches of humour. The dialogues are lively, the acting and direction is great, the music well chosen and apt. Great film, available on DVD, see it!

Sunday 10 November 2013


“Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.” - Henry David Thoreau

William Hogarth  (10 November 1697 – 26 October 1764) was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called “modern moral subjects”. Knowledge of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as “Hogarthian”.

Hogarth was born in 1697 near the East End cattle market of Smithfield. His father, Richard Hogarth, made an unsuccessful attempt to open a Latin-speaking coffeehouse, which left the family bankrupt, Richard confined to Fleet Prison, and the young William fending for himself.

After apprenticing at a silver workshop, where he mastered the art of engraving, Hogarth opened his own print shop. The artist’s first widespread notice came with the publication of “The South Sea Scheme” (1721), ridiculing the greed and corruption of stock market speculators. “A Harlot’s Progress” (1732) brought Hogarth tremendous success and celebrity, leading to a second morality series, “A Rake’s Progress” (1734).

Throughout the 1730s and 1740s, the artist’s reputation grew and so did his interest in social and moral reform. Hogarth’s work took on a distinctly propagandist tone, directed at the urbanisation of London and the city’s problems with crime, prostitution, gambling, and alcoholism.

“Industry and Idleness” (1747) was designed to encourage young boys to develop a strong Protestant work ethic and thus achieve success. “Beer Street and Gin Lane” (1751), directed at the widespread sale and consumption of alcohol, were followed by “The Four Stages of Cruelty” (1751), which condemned rampant acts of cruelty to animals.

Hogarth died in 1764 in his home in Leicester Fields, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy. Working almost entirely outside the academic art establishment, he revolutionised the popular art market and the role of the artist. Hogarth strived to create works of great aesthetic beauty but also ones that would help to make London a better city for future generations.

The painting above is “The Lady’s Last Stake”, ca 1759, which may be a reference to Colley Cibber’s comedy “The Lady’s Last Stake” (1707). It is exhibited in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, U.S.A. The success of this little picture, painted for Lord Charlemont, procured Hogarth a commission from Sir Richard Grosvenor to paint another picture “upon the same terms”. The painting has a theatrical treatment and commands admiration for its colour, drawing and expression.