Saturday 10 May 2014


“In my eyes and ears the organ will forever be the king of instruments.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Michel Corrette (1707 – 1795) was a French organist, composer and author of books on musical theory and practice. A prolific composer, Corrette composed ballets and divertissements for the stage, and many concertos, notably 25 Concertos Comiques. Aside from these works and concertos for organ, he also composed sonatas, songs, chamber works, harpsichord pieces, cantatas and other sacred vocal works.

Here are the six Op. 26 Organ Concertos. François-Henri Houbart plays the organ of Notre Dame des Blancs-Manteaux.

Friday 9 May 2014


“Chocolate is the first luxury. It has so many things wrapped up in it: deliciousness in the moment, childhood memories, and that grin-inducing feeling of getting a reward for being good.” - Mariska Hargitay

For Food Friday today, the Viennese Sachertorte. I first tasted this marvellous confection when I was a high school student. I had a friend who was the son of the Italian consul in Melbourne and once, while at their house for afternoon tea, the cook brought in amongst other goodies a magnificent Sachertorte. I was enslaved forever! The cook was European and was rather proud of her training, which included trips to France and Austria for special courses.

The next time I sampled this cake was in Vienna in the Viennese café attached to the famous Hotel of the same name (see:, and it was delightful having it with hot, strong coffee and lashings of whipped cream. The cake is rich, dark, aromatic, its texture firm but yielding and smooth, the chocolate flavour refined and yet overwhelming. I have been given a recipe for it, which is reproduced here:


Ingredients - Cake
130 grams (4.6 oz) butter
130 grams (4.6 ounces) dark chocolate
100 grams (3.5 ounces) powdered sugar
6 eggs
90 grams (3.2 ounces) white sugar
130 grams (4.6 ounces) sifted flour
Apricot jam, diluted with half its volume of water
Ingredients - Icing:
150 grams (5.3 ounces) chocolate
75 grams (2.7 ounces) coconut shortening

Method - Cake

Preheat the oven to 180-200°C.
Melt chocolate and butter in a Bain Marie, (“im Wasserbad” – double boiler). Remove from heat and let the mixture cool.
Add the sugar and the egg yolks little by little while carefully stirring.
Beat the egg whites and add the powdered sugar. Mix into the
batter and gently fold in the sifted flour gradually while constantly stirring.
Pour batter into a greased spring-form pan. Bake at 165°C for 50 to 60 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool completely before removing from pan and before icing.
Once cool remove the cake from pan and slice horizontally.
Mix the jam with the water and heat for 2 minutes in a microwave oven. Pour filling of hot jam between the layers of the cake, spreading it evenly and allowing it soak into the cake.
Method – Icing
Melt the chocolate and coconut shortening in a Bain Marie and cover the top and sides of the cake with the warm icing.

More versions of the Sachertorte abound and the variations are almost infinite. It should be noted that the genuine Sachertorte as served in Vienna is a closely guarded secret and these are all approximations that have been created by the gustatory cognoscenti.

Duramecho’s version

CacaoWeb’sChocolate Torte!
Epicurious site

Sachertorte was the invention of Herr Franz Sacher (1816-1907) in 1832 for Prince Clemens Lothar Wensel Metternich (1773-1859) of Austria, the Austrian State Chancellor. See the history here.

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

Wednesday 7 May 2014


“A gloomy guest fits not a wedding feast.” - Friedrich Schiller

This week, Poetry Jam is celebrating festivities, festivals and feasts. Participants must produce a poem that is 35 lines or less pertaining to some aspect of the theme. Here is my contribution:

The Harvest Feast

Come, let us strew the marble threshing floor
With pungent rue and thyme, sweet marjoram.
Let us abandon us to the wild rhythm of the drum
And the shrill melody of fife.

In golden chariot, Apollo up above
Will make us drunk with his sweet wine,
And we two shall dance on frenziedly
Till from exhaustion we are forced to stop.

Come then, let us lie on the sweet smelling bed
Of verdant, lush, Spring-green herbage
And intertwined, like coupling snakes,
Our mingling limbs will give gifts of caress after caress.

The parched, sun-drinking lips will cool us
With the passionate kiss’s violet fires;
Our reeling eyes shall on the rows of cypresses
Steady themselves and slowly arise.

And then the proud and haughty trees will bend,
The rustle of their branches with Bacchus-sun
Inciting even rocks to the wild madness
Of frenetic dance and of sun-crazed melody.

And we two, as one, shall laugh
And to our love-feast most munificently
Even Death invite, to come and drink with us
Sharing our boundless, inexhaustible and careless joys.

Tuesday 6 May 2014


“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger at the broken places.” Ernest Hemingway

A friend I spoke to recently, mentioned that one of our common acquaintances had committed suicide. She was 42 years old, married, did not have any children and apparently lived an ordinary life, in the seaside suburbs. One night her husband came home and found the light on in the kitchen, the door open and his wife nowhere to be found. It turned out she had gone to the pier and thrown herself into the sea. Her body was washed up on the beach the same day. My friend was absolutely perplexed as to why this woman should have committed suicide, especially as her personality was so bubbly and her home life was apparently “happy”…

All is not as it seems: Who knows what deep wounds she had in her soul of souls that she could not heal? One of the reasons may have been her childlessness – she couldn’t have children apparently. Was the life in the suburbs simply too much of a mindless rut that she could not get out of? Living surrounded by “happy families” may have been too much of a daily reminder of her own family’s incompleteness. One may ask, why didn’t they adopt? Who knows, they may have tried. Our adoption laws in this country are so Byzantine and convoluted and the number of children available is so small, that I am not surprised if they didn’t even try.

On the other hand, her “happy” home life may not have been so. Who knows the sort of problems that she and her husband may have had. Was an affair the problem? Was there another woman? Was there a divorce looming ahead? Could there have been health problems? Depression? There was no suicide note, just the open kitchen door and the light left on, shining out into the night, its glow a false promise of warmth, security and normality.

Suicide has been regarded differently by different societies. It is condemned by Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, with suicide attempts being punishable by law in many countries. The Brahmans of India, however, tolerate suicide; and suttee, the theoretically voluntary suicide of an Indian widow, now outlawed, was highly praised at one time. In ancient Greece, convicted criminals were permitted to take their own lives (eg. Socrates), but the Roman attitude toward suicide hardened toward the end of the empire as a result of the high incidence among slaves, who thus deprived their owners of valuable property. Buddhist monks and nuns have committed sacrificial suicide by self-immolation as a form of social protest. The Japanese have long-honoured the custom of seppuku (= hara-kiri), or self-disembowelment, as a ceremonial rite among samurai, who preferred this fate rather than life led dishonourably.

A fatal suicide causes grief and guilt for those who may feel that they could have prevented it by caring and loving more than they did. If the act is non-fatal, it can serve as an appeal for help and may give rise to efforts at remediation. Conscious or unconscious expectation of these responses is one of the factors underlying many suicidal acts. Personality and social factors, the stress on the individual rather than the whole of society, mental illness, physical illness, high standard of living, peace and boredom all have been implicated as contributing to a high incidence of suicide in Western countries. It is interesting to note that suicide rates decrease dramatically in wartime and in cultures where extended families still are the norm.

In Australia, the facts about suicide are:

  • About 2,500 people take their own lives in Australia annually.
  • Which means an average of seven suicides per day.
  • For every completed suicide there are over 30 attempts.
  • Therefore there are over 210 people a day attempting suicide.
  • There are 8.5 times more deaths by suicide in Australia than by homicide.
  • There are 1.5 times more deaths by suicide in Australia than by road accidents.

As Hemingway says, the world breaks us and if we mend we are stronger at the broken place, but we have to survive to mend…

The painting above is “Ophelia” (1852) by John Everett Millais, part of the Tate Gallery collection. The painting influenced the image in Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet”.

Monday 5 May 2014


“Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theatre.” - Roman Polanski

I received a message a couple of days ago asking me why I referred to the art of cinema as the “seventh art”.  The art of the cinema is the “Johnny-come-lately”, the newest of the generally recognised “fine arts.” Many of its early critics initially dismissed film because of its supposed slavishness to commercial interests; its appeal to the “uninitiated and uneducated”; its seemingly mechanical technique, and for its apparent lack of an identifiable single artist as its primary creator.

The fine arts (as distinct form the applied arts) have been traditionally categorised thus:
1) Literature (including poetry, drama, fiction, etc),
2) Visual arts (painting, drawing, design, sculpture, modelling etc),
3) Decorative arts (enamelwork, furniture design, mosaic, etc.),
4) Performing arts (theatre, dance, music as performance),
5) Music (as composition),
6) Architecture (often including interior design).

Cinema was added as the “seventh art” when towards the middle of the middle of the 20th century, the motion picture was recognised as legitimate an art form as painting, music or literature. Critics and connoisseurs of the cinema feel that the greatest films are the artistic and personal expression of directors, who are considered to be the primary creative force behind a motion picture. The spectrum of cinema, however, is greater than the creation of movies as “art for art’s sake” (this is the famous “Ars Gratia Artis” motto around the growling lion of Metro Goldwyn Mayer). The art of the cinema has been exploited to create documentaries, experimental films and finally (the most popular), the fictional, story-telling mode.

The documentary mode incorporates those films relying primarily on cinema's power to relay events in the world. Included in this mode are the ethnographic or geographic type of documentary, the newsreel, and also the propaganda film.

The experimental film is an interesting one as it often uses the medium of film unconventionally, sometimes being influenced by new movements in other arts (eg surrealism in painting was followed by surrealist films). It may use film at its technological limits and capabilities. It encompasses animated (non-photographic) and computer-generated images.

The fictional mode is most often thought of as “the movies” and is the most popular one as far as film-makers and public are concerned. There are many genres in this mode and Hollywood has refined and popularised these so that the public is aware of them, for example: The western, gangster film, police thriller, melodrama, musical, comedy, science-fiction, or social problem film, epic or historical, disaster, fantasy, play adaptation, etc.

An interesting film that I think highlights the complexity of the art of the medium of cinema is Ed Wood”, (1994) directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, Martin Landau; Sarah Jessica Parker and Patricia Arquette. It is a biopic (but not only!) of the life and work of the legendary “worst director of all time”, Edward D.Wood, Jr. It concentrates on the best-known period of his life in the 1950s, when he made “Glen or Glenda”, “Bride of the Monster” and “Plan 9 From Outer Space”. The film touches on both his transvestism, his personal relationships and his moving friendship with the once great, but then ageing and unemployed horror film star Bela Lugosi.

“Ed Wood” is a multifaceted film about a man who believed in himself and did what he loved to do – make films (that they were considered to be the worse films of all time is immaterial). It is a poignant film, one to make you laugh and cry, one to make you ponder and one guaranteed to entertain also. It also made me want to look at some of this man’s movies and try to understand what motivated him.

Looking at these “worse films of all time” and knowing something about Ed Wood’s life made me look at them less harshly and made me try and judge them less dismissively. The question remained with me – was this man an artist and a genius or a deluded mountebank who could have spent his life more productively doing something better? If you have seen this movie and/or any of Ed Wood’s films, what do you think?