Saturday 3 May 2014


“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” - Mark Twain

For Music Saturday, Benedetto Marcello’s “Requiem in the Venetian Manner” (SF. B660). With Barbara Zanichelli – soprano; Marisa Pugina – soprano; Elena Biscuola – alto; Paolo Costa – alto; Mauro Collina – tenor; Vincenzo di Donato – tenor; Marco Scavazza – bass; Walter Testolin – bass; Athestis Chorus; Academia de li Musici; Francesco Moi – organ; Сonductor - Filippo Maria Bressan.

Benedetto Marcello (31 July or 1 August 1686 – 24 July 1739) was what eighteenth century chroniclers called a “dilettante”; not a dabbler as in the current vernacular, but an aristocrat who also pursued musical composition as a sideline. Born in Venice, Marcello served the Venetian Republic as a magistrate from about 1708 until 1728, when he was exiled to the resort city of Pula, now in Croatia. In 1738 Marcello was appointed to his final position as chief financial officer of the city of Brescia, but died after less than a year in this job on or around his 53rd birthday.

Marcello was best known in his day through his massively influential eight-volume publication Estro poetico-armonico (1724-1726), popularly known as the “Psalmi”. It is a collection of 50 psalm settings for male voices. Marcello’s sacred vocal music was revered by most of his contemporaries as representing the supreme example of contrapuntal technique, and he was in use in teaching through the end of the nineteenth century. Scarcely less popular was his treatise, “Il teatro alla moda” (1720), a satire that skewered the opera world of his time.

Marcello wrote nearly 400 cantatas, some so well known that they exist in up to 25 contemporary manuscript copies, in addition to oratorios, operas, and nearly 100 small chamber works for singers. His surviving instrumental catalogue is less generous, mostly consisting of keyboard sonatas, but also containing a few sinfonias and concertos. All of Marcello’s instrumental music was composed by 1710 or thereabouts; the set of 12 concerti published as Marcello’s Op. 1 in 1708, including the work transcribed by Johann Sebastian Bach as BWV 981, is lacking its first violin part. Composer Alessandro Marcello was Benedetto’s older brother, and some of Alessandro’s music has been misattributed to Benedetto. Various instrumental pieces attributed to Marcello are merely instrumental arrangements of his Psalmi, in some cases made decades after his death.

Requiem in the Venetian Manner
1 Campane da morto ('Death Bell') - 0:26 
2 Sonata for organ, SF C737 b. 1 5:04
in G minor - g-Moll - sol mineur: Francesco Moi organ 
Introitus 17:16
3 Requiem aeternam - 4:29
4 Kyrie I and II 4:18
5 Christe - 2:50
6 Kyrie III - 5:38 
Sequentia 21:14
7 Dies irae - 1:25
8 Quantus tremor - 0:39
9 Tuba mirum - 1:12
10 Mors stupebit - 1:52
11 Liber scriptus - 2:46
12 Rex tremendae - 1:00
13 Recordare - 3:16
14 Qui Mariam - 0:45
15 Preces meae - 1:16
16 Inter oves - 0:51
17 Confutatis - 0:55
18 Ora supplex - 1:38
19 Lacrymosa - 3:40 
20 Offertorium 5:42 
21 Sonata for organ, SF C736 b. 3 [in loco Sanctus] 3:05 
in G minor - g-Moll - sol mineur 
Motet: 'Dulcis Jesu Mater cara', SF B637 [in loco Agnus Dei] 8:09
22 Dulcis Jesu, Mater cara - 3:00
23 In stellarum Regina - 1:08
24 In isto mundo labili - 4:00 
[Communio] 2:16
25 Lux aeterna 0:35
26 Requiem aeternam 1:40

Friday 2 May 2014


“I went to Floridita on Wardour Street when I was 18. All I could afford was pumpkin soup and a glass of champagne, but it was worth it.” - KarenGillan

The weather in Melbourne is getting to be seriously autumnal with cool and wet days and rather nippy nights that arrive ever earlier. Just perfect for warm, nourishing comfort food dishes that warm one up after being out braving the elements all day long.

Roast Pumpkin Soup
2kg butternut pumpkin, peeled, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
100 mL extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large brown onions, halved, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 L chicken stock (or vegetable stock if cooking vegetarian)
250 mL cream
Spring onion for garnishing

Preheat oven to 220°C. Combine the pumpkin, rosemary and half the oil in a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and coriander, and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until onion softens. Add the pumpkin mixture and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until it reduces slightly. Add 250 mL of cream and stir thoroughly. Remove from heat.
Place half the pumpkin mixture in the jug of a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a clean saucepan. Repeat with the remaining pumpkin mixture. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve, garnishing with drizzles of cream.

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

Thursday 1 May 2014

MAY DAY 2014

“May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live.” - Robert A. Heinlein

On this day, young people used to rise well before sunrise and go out in the countryside to gather May.  May is any kind of blossom and greenery, but especially hawthorn blossom (May-blossom), birch or rowan. Sloe or blackthorn are avoided as they are ill-omened.  To leave a branch of May-blossom on a friend’s door is compliment and will bring them luck.  

Good morning, Mistress and Master,
I wish you a happy day;
Please to smell my garland
‘Cause it is the First of May.
A branch of may I have brought you,
And at your door I stand;
It is but a sprout, but it’s well sprouted out,
The work of our Lord’s hand.

However, other gifts can be insulting!

Nut for a slut; plum for the glum;
Bramble if she ramble; gorse for the whore.

In Greece, May is symbolised by a bunch of wild Spring flowers gathered in the morning and brought home. A May wreath is then made and it adorns the front door of the house.  The wreath is left to dry on the door, not to be taken down until Midsummer’s Day when it is ritually burnt in St John’s Fires.

The Roman festival, the Floralia held in the honour of the Spring goddess Flora was held between the 28th of April and the 3rd of May every year.  Flora was the goddess of all flowering plants and a fertility figure. Her festival in ancient Rome was one of government-sanctioned licentiousness and promiscuity. It began on with a play figuring naked actresses who acted out fertility rites with obscene dances and gestures. Games followed with the capturing of fertile animals such as goats and hares with ribald songs and dances in the streets. As the festival developed, young men erected poles and trees outside the house of their favoured women. These were the precursor of the Maypoles, evident phallic symbols. May Day festivities that are still celebrated today are a vestige of the Roman Floralia.

The Maypole is a tradition in many countries and is a relic of a fertility ritual where the Maypole has phallic associations.  It is a tall pole adorned with greenery and all kinds of flowers. Ribbons are fixed to the top and hang down to the ground.  Men and women each take hold of a ribbon and proceed to dance around the pole to the strains of joyful music.

Here is Thomas Morley’s “Now is the Month of Maying” with the Cambridge Singers conducted by John Rutter.  Thomas Morley (1557 or 1558 -- October 1602) was an English composer, theorist, editor and organist of the Renaissance, and the foremost member of the English Madrigal School. He was also involved in music publishing, holding a printing patent in the period up to his death. Based in London, where he was organist at St Paul’s Cathedral, he was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England. He and Robert Johnson are the composers of the only surviving contemporary settings of verse by Shakespeare.

Wednesday 30 April 2014


“It is such a secret place, the land of tears…” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Poetry Jam this week has chosen the prompt of “sunsets”. Contributors who take up the challenge come up with a poem around this topic. Here is my contribution:

Antique Engraving

The sun paints the west with saffron
The sky around it mauve.
The naked trees are shuddering,
Night comes fast, dark and cold.
In front of me the city stretches
Dressed in grey and black,
While in the horizon’s depths
Bell towers echo a melancholy sadness –
A baroque sadness, violet, heavy, lonesome.

A chimney spews out smoke
Spreading shadows like endless veils
That asphyxiate me,
Aided by the bony claws
Of dead branches.
My pain, a dying bird
Has nested in my throat,
And sorrow throttles me
With hands like pincers.

In the west, the golden glow is no more
Black clouds cover the sky.
Hope flies away, chased by the ill wind,
That gallops past,
Piercing my empty soul as it leaves.

Tuesday 29 April 2014


“Even God cannot change the past.” - Agathon

Having grown up in the Northern hemisphere and living for most of my life in the Southern hemisphere, my mind and body are still confused and have never really adjusted to the contrariness of the seasons. I still find it easy to slip into the Northern summer when I visit there, while Christmas in Summer, Downunder, still somehow doesn’t feel right.

The first explorers and colonists to cross the equator and experience these topsy-turvy seasons must have been even more flummoxed. I suppose the longer I live under Australian skies, the more I shall adapt, but I have found that even true-blue Aussies born and bred here still find it easy to slip into a Northern hemisphere mentality when they visit the UK, say. I suspect that tradition, culture and race memory may well have something to do with it…

May is nigh, May is coming
The sweetest month of Spring.
May is coming full of roses
April fragrant, full of posies.
May my darling, cooling May
April flowery, months so gay.
                        Greek Season Rhyme

Monday 28 April 2014


“Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.” Albert Camus

For Movie Monday I am reviewing David O’ Russel’s 2004 film, “I Heart Huckabees”. I had heard nothing about this film when it first came out and looking at the cover, seeing who was in it (Dustin Hoffmann and Lily Tomlin, especially, whose work I like) and reading the hype on the sleeve convinced me to rent it and watch it. The film is described by its tagline as an “Existential Comedy”. It concerns Albert (Jason Schwartzman), a poet and environmental activist who suddenly finds himself wondering about coincidences, existence, the meaning of life, etc, etc. He hires a husband and wife team of “existential detectives” (Hoffmann and Tomlin), who begin to spy on him and analyse his psyche in order to shed life into his existential quandary. A subplot is the power struggle between a corporate wunderkind, Brad (Jude Law) and Albert and also the insecurity that Brad hides behind his highly successful veneer. Another power struggle is between the detectives and Catherine (a rival psychologist played by Isabelle Haupert).

Firstly, if you are offended by gratuitous coarse and vulgar language used for no reason at all except to shock, don’t watch this movie. I am not offended by it, if it used for a good reason. There is no reason for its use in this film and the shock value is exhausted after the first episode where the expletives fly left, right and centre. Repeat offences are boring and completely pointless.

Secondly, I found the premise on which the film is constructed deeply annoying: That is, “let’s make a comedy where we bandy around with existentialist philosophy and we’ll bring enlightenment to the masses without them even realizing it…” Instead of being a funny “take” on philosophy (what the Monty Python crowd do successfully to say, the church), this is a tired, trite, pointless attempt at satire that loses itself in its own convolutions. What comes out is an almost didactic, heavy-handed message on the “evils of capitalism”…

Thirdly, I found the movie without a clear-cut audience in mind. A serious student of philosophy would find it tiresome and humourless, an intelligent and educated lay person would be puzzled (but surely not amused), an ordinary person in the street would be asleep within the first few minutes of the film and find the whole thing pretentious and beyond approachability.

Fourthly, what a waste of a talented cast… You could see them trying to wring out some humour from the script, but even the sight gags fell flat and some I found quite off-putting. Why for example would anyone find two people hitting each other hard with a rubber ball in the face (repeatedly) funny, I don't know. Similarly, in a romantic interlude Albert and Catherine push each other’s face into mud and then passionately kiss the goo off each other… I was supposed to find that comic, romantic, revelatory, insightful…?

I found this film extremely unsatisfying, unfunny, unchallenging, not worthy of even being “hated”. Simply a waste of my time. Looking at the International Movie Data Base’s archive of comments, it seems to have aggregated a score of around 7/10, which is 4 more points than what I gave it. There are some extremely polarised comments some agreeing with me, others glorifying the “originality” and wonderfully “original” aspect of this “new comedy”. I agree with one commentator who likened the film to “The Emperor’s New Clothes…”

If you have seen this film, I would welcome your comaments. Maybe I’m too stupid to “get it”. Maybe I don’t understand philosophy too well?  Maybe I don't have a sense of humour? Hmmmmm…

Sunday 27 April 2014


“The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.” - Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863) was a French painter and draughtsman. His father was a minister of foreign affairs, and later, ambassador during the French revolution. Rumour has it that Eugène’s real father was the prominent diplomat Talleyrand. In 1815 he became the pupil of the French painter Pierre-Narcisse Guerin and began a career that would make him one of the greatest and most influential of French painters. He is most often classified as an artist of the Romantic school. His remarkable use of color was later to influence impressionist painters and even modern artists such as Pablo Picasso.

In 1822 Delacroix submitted his first picture to the important Paris Salon exhibition: “Dante and Virgil in Hell”. A technique used in this work (many unblended colours forming what at a distance looks like a unified whole) would later be used by the impressionists. His next Salon entry was in 1824: “Massacre at Chios”. With great vividness of color and strong emotion it pictured an incident in which 20,000 Greeks were killed by Turks on the island of Chios. The French government purchased it for 6,000 francs.

He was influenced by the work of Rubens and Veronese and later by that of Velàzquez and Goya. In 1825 he spent a few months in England, where he was inspired by the poet Lord Byron and the landscape painter Constable. An inheritance and good contacts in higher circles enabled him to fully focus on his work as an artist. Most of his work is historic, with subjects such as classical battles. After a journey through Spain, Algeria and Morocco (1832) his work paid much attention to exoticism and orientalism - typical romantic subjects. Besides painting he also illustrated several book publications, such as the works of Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott and Goethe.

Between 1827 and 1832 Delacroix seemed to produce one masterpiece after another. He again used historical themes in “The Battle of Nancy” and “The Battle of Poitiers”. The poetry of Lord Byron inspired a painting for the 1827 Salon, “Death of Sardanapalus”. Delacroix also created a set of 17 lithographs to illustrate a French edition of Goethe’s “Faust”. The French revolution of 1830 inspired the famous “Liberty Guiding the People”, which was the last of Delacroix's paintings that truly embodied the romantic ideal. He found new inspiration on a trip to Morocco in 1832. The ancient, proud, and exotic culture moved him to write “I am quite overwhelmed by what I have seen.”

In the history of art Delacroix is relevant because of the example he set for the impressionists. He used a rough but swinging brushstroke, experimented with colours and light and sometimes neglected proper use of perspective: All typical elements of the impressionist style. Some see him as the link between the classic style of the old masters and the modern movements that arose in the 19th century.

Eugène Delacroix died in 1863 and was buried at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. He created over 850 oil paintings and more than 2000 drawings and watercolours. Among his works were many with a religious subject, tempting some to consider this worldly Parisian the most important religious artist of the 19th century. The subjects of his religious works were mainly well-known themes from the New Testament: “Agony in the Garden”, “Christ on the Cross”, “Lamentation/Pietà”, “The Good Samaritan”, to name a few.

The illustration is from Delacroix’s Morocco Sketchbooks, 1832. Like many artists, Delacroix rapidly sketched striking images during his travels in pocket sketchbooks that he carried with him. Many of these sketches provided a ready source of visual material and ideas that would be developed further and some would lead to large scale finished paintings.