Saturday 29 August 2015


“Music hath charms to sooth a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” - William Congreve

Johann Philipp Krieger (also Kriger, Krüger, Krugl, and Giovanni Filippo Kriegher; 25 February 1649 – 7 February 1725) was one of the most outstanding composers of his time, the author of an immense amount of sacred music. It is likely that the sole reason for his lack of fame is the fact that a large proportion of it has been lost. He was the elder brother of Johann Krieger (1651 - 1735), also a composer.

The Krieger family had been present in Nuremberg since the fifteenth century, at a minimum, and the family trade was rug making with a member of the Krieger family still making rugs in Nuremberg as late as 1925. J.P. Krieger began his keyboard studies with Johann Dreschel at the age of eight and received instruction in other instruments with Gabriel Schütz. By the age of nine, he was amazing audiences with many musical skills, including his keyboard playing, his own well-crafted compositions, and his ability to sing or play any melody that was sung to him.

In his mid-teens, he travelled to Copenhagen to become the pupil of Johannes Schröder, the royal Danish court organist, and study composition with Kaspar Förster. He had a job offer to go to Christiania (the future Oslo, Norway), but preferred to return home, arriving back in Nuremberg around 1670. There is some inconsistency in the record about this period. Both of his primary biographers say he worked in the town of Zeitz but disagree on the dates while that town’s records don't show that he was there at all. They then place him as concert master in Bayreuth, while the only record of his presence there lists him merely as court organist in 1673.

In 1673, war broke out between Germany and France. The Margrave of Bayreuth, Christian Ernst, led his troops out of the region. He gave Krieger permission to travel to Italy, at no loss in pay, to study. In Venice, Krieger was taught composition by Johann Rosenmüller and clavier by A.M. Abbatini. In Rome, he studied both subjects with Bernardo Pasquini. On his way back through Austria, he played for Emperor Leopold I, who was so overwhelmed by Krieger’s playing that he granted patents of nobility to the entire Krieger family, male and female.

Krieger stayed in Bayreuth only a short while. Travelling on through Frankfurt and Kasel, he got job offers in both places. But he finally accepted a position with the grand ducal court in Hallé on November 1, 1677, as concert master. The Grand Duke August, died three years later. His successor, Johann Adolph I, retained Krieger in the same job. This required Krieger to make a move with the rest of the court when Johann Adolph moved it to Weissenfels. Krieger remained in that position until he died.

When the ducal court moved to Weissenfels in connection with a sale of some music to the Marienkirch there, he made a catalogue of his own compositions and works of other composers he had acquired and presumably played in Hallé. He continued to keep detailed and meticulous lists of all the vocal music he performed in his 45 years in Weissenfels. It shows that he performed well over 2,000 separate works from his own pen, 225 by his brother Johann, and 475 by other composers. Just the list of his cantatas numbers more than 2,000 works, making up the vast bulk of this listing. However, only 74 of them are extant. He also wrote 13 operas, all lost; some other sacred music; and a small amount of secular music.

Krieger made a great contribution to the history of the German church cantata by adopting madrigal verse forms for his texts. The religious purpose of these cantatas was to comment on or illustrate the day’s Scripture lesson. Older cantatas were written on texts from the Bible, chorales, or odes. Krieger’s more dramatic form was modelled on Italian secular cantatas and consisted of recitatives and arias, which might include specifically written texts, many of which were written by the deacon at Weissenfels, the pastor and poet Erdmann Neumeister. These cantatas sometimes but not always included chorale and Bible texts. This format became known as the “new German cantata”, and is the form that Johann Sebastian Bach elevated to its highest level.

Krieger’s examples are of very high quality, ranking with those of any other of his contemporaries besides Bach himself. The sections of his cantatas are generally in clearly understandable forms with sturdy, uncomplicated rhythmic and harmonic structure. The extent of his composition of instrumental music is less well-known: He published two sets of trio sonatas (12 for two violins and continuo and 12 for viola da gamba, violin, and continuo) and six suites, called Lustige Feld-Musik, for four wind instruments. These works survive, but some “sonatas” that were obviously early specimens of concerto grosso did not. Of his keyboard works, only three works (a passacaglia, a set of 24 variations on an aria, and a toccata and fugue) survive.

Here are his XII Trio Sonatas from 1688, with Parnassi Musici and the Saftleven Violin Duet.

Friday 28 August 2015


“To keep the body in good health is a duty – otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Gautama Buddha

Late Winter and the days are still cold and wet. A good opportunity to do some baking of a few wholesome, good old-fashioned muffins. Perfect for afternoon tea by the fire!


Ingredients (for 20-25 pieces)
1 cup boiling water
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup light vegetable oil
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
500 g plain yogurt
1 cup raisins (or sultanas)
1/2 cup mixed candied peel
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 and 1/2 cups plain flour
2 cups bran
2 teaspoons baking soda


Pour boiling water over the rolled oats, mix well and allow to cool.
Combine oil, sugar, eggs and yoghurt. Stir in the dried fruit. Add to the oat mixture .
Combine the dry ingredients. Thoroughly combine the wet and dry ingredients, mixing gently.
Spoon into muffin tins and sprinkle top with coarse brown sugar if desired.
Bake in a conventional oven for 20-25 minutes at 200°C.

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Thursday 27 August 2015


“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” - Frank Lloyd Wright

Spring has started to make itself felt in the Southern Hemisphere and going for a walk around the neighbourhood makes it very apparent. The wattles are in full bloom at the moment and their yellow flowers are cheering the often-grey skies. Plum trees are also in flower, and the spring bulbs, primulas and polyanthus are in full bloom.

The weather, however, has betrayed us a little and Winter is showing us his teeth as he smiles while leaving. It’s been cold and wet and grey, raining for most of the day, today. The days are getting longer though, and the dangers of frost are past, I think. September is around the corner and whether you consider September 1 or September 21 the first day of Spring, both are not far away.

With Spring come renewed feelings of hope and optimism, one’s mind starts thinking of new ventures, one dreams of trips away, fresh projects and a reawakening of dormant love, perhaps. The creative juices seem to start flowing with renewed vigour too and one can look forward to greater sources of inspiration for writing, art, photography. Later in Spring, the city comes alive for the Melbourne Cup Carnival, Australia’s most prestigious horse racing event. It is also the time of the year to explore the vineyards and spa country of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges.

I think you can guess that I have had enough of Winter this year and look forward to the delights of Spring and Summer…

Wednesday 26 August 2015


“And your very flesh shall be a great poem.” - Walt Whitman

Poets United this week explores the concept of poetry and what it means to be a poet and write poems. Here is my contribution:

Tears of Ink

Be wiped away by paper virgin white
My tears of ink;
Escape from your confining prison
Fly free, my caged swallows, flee.

Music be played, black notes sound and come alive,
My melodies, ring out and stir the silent air!
Take fire, burn bright, darkness break
The brand is ready, lit.

Come follow in the pure and pallid snow
Treading on my footsteps dark;
Those not afraid of frozen wastelands
Will be rewarded.

What cannot be said
Will be written as poetry;
Those who truly feel,
will surely understand and know…

Tuesday 25 August 2015


“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” - Marcus Aurelius

The Yarra River or historically, the Yarra Yarra River (Aboriginal: Berrern, Birr-arrung, Bay-ray-rung, Birarang, Birrarung, and Wongete) is a perennial river in east-central Victoria, Australia. The lower stretches of the river are where the city of Melbourne was established in 1835 and today Greater Melbourne dominates and influences the landscape of its lower reaches.

From its source in the Yarra Ranges, it flows 242 kilometres west through the Yarra Valley, which opens out into plains as it winds its way through Greater Melbourne before emptying into Hobsons Bay in northernmost Port Phillip. The river was a major food source and meeting place for indigenous Australians from prehistoric times. Shortly after the arrival of European settlers land clearing forced the remaining Wurundjeri to neighbouring territories and away from the river. Originally called Birrarung by the Wurundjeri, the current name was mistranslated from another Wurundjeri term in the Boonwurrung language; Yarro-yarro, meaning “ever-flowing”.

The river was utilised primarily for agriculture by early European settlers. The landscape of the river has changed dramatically since 1835. The course has been progressively disrupted and the river widened in places. The first of many Crossings of the Yarra River to facilitate transport was built in Princes Bridge. Beginning with the Victorian gold rush it was extensively mined, creating the Pound Bend Tunnel in Warrandyte, and the Big and Little Peninsula Tunnels above Warburton . Widening and dams, like the Upper Yarra Reservoir have helped protect Melbourne from major flooding. The catchment’s upper reaches are also affected by logging.

Industrialisation ultimately led to the destruction of the marshlands at the confluence of the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers in the area around Coode Island in West Melbourne. Today, the mouth and including Swanson and Appleton Docks are used for container shipping by the Port of Melbourne, which is the busiest on the continent. The city reach, which is inaccessible to larger watercraft, has seen increased use for both transport and recreational boating (including kayaking, canoeing, rowing and swimming). In recent years, however, recreational use of the river is threatened by high levels of pollution in its lower stretches. The upper reaches remain relatively healthy. The annual Moomba festival celebrates the Yarra River’s increasing cultural significance to Melbourne.

Monday 24 August 2015


“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” - Blaise Pascal

Today is St Bartholomew’s Feast Day in the Catholic calendar and St Cosmas the Aetolian’s Feast Day and St Dionysius of Zante’s Feast Day in the Greek Orthodox Calendar. It is also the National Day of Kazakhstan; the Flag Day of Liberia; the National Day (II) of Romania; the Independence Day of Russia and the National Day of Ukraine.

It is the anniversary of the birth of:
 Robert Herrick, English poet (1591);
 William Wilberforce, anti-slavery campaigner (1759);
 Max Beerbohm, writer (1872);
 Albert Claude, Nobel laureate (1974) physician (1898);
 Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinian writer (1899);
 Fernand Braudel, historian (1902);
 Mason Williams, musician (1938);
 Steve Gutenberg, actor (1958).

The dahlia, Dahlia pinnata, is today’s birthday flower.  It is symbolic of pomp and circumstance, elegance and dignity but also of instability. The language of flowers ascribes dahlia with the meaning “forever yours”. The petals of the dahlia, as also those of the chrysanthemum and the marigold can be eaten in salads!

St Bartholomew was an apostle. He was martyred by being flayed alive. He is the patron saint of skinners, tanners, butchers, leatherworkers and bookbinders. St Bartholomew’s Day in 1572 was a black day for French Protestants as they were massacred by fanatical Catholics.  The feast was often called “Black Bartholomew” in England in remembrance of this massacre.  Many fairs were held on this day in Britain, including the great Bartholomew Fair at Smithfield in London.

  And yet anon, the full sunflowre blew
  And became a starre for Bartholomew.
 The sunflower blooming on St Bartholomew’s Day becomes a beacon burning bright for the saint, while another couplet forecasts that autumn’s harvest depending on the weather on that day:
  If Bartlemas Day be bright and clear,
  Then a prosperous autumn comes that year.

If St Swithin’s day was wet, it is said that St Bartholomew’s day will be fine:
  All the tears that St Swithin doth cry
  St Barthlemy’s mantle can wipe dry.

On this day in 79 AD, Vesuvius erupted and buried the twin towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Kazakhstan is a central Asian country of 2.7 million square km and a population of 17 million. The capital city is Alma-Ata and other major cities include Chimkent, Dzhambul, Semipalatinsk, Karaganda, Uralsk and Aktyubinsk. The country gained its independence in 1991 and because of its rich resources the economic development of this country appears favourable. The lowlands, hilly plains and plateaux that the country comprises is ideal for pasture, but rapid industrialisation ensures that chemicals, fertilisers,  iron, steel, cement and consumer goods provide for strong economic growth. However, the environmental problems caused by the Soviet irrigation schemes around the Aral Sea will not prove to easy to resolve. 

Sunday 23 August 2015


“Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.” - Horace Greeley

Archibald MacNeal Willard (August 22, 1836 – October 11, 1918) was an American painter who was born and raised in Bedford, Ohio. Willard joined the 86th Ohio Infantry in 1863 and fought in the American Civil War. During this time, he painted several scenes from the war and forged a friendship with photographer James F. Ryder. Willard painted “The Spirit of ‘76” in Wellington, Ohio after he saw a parade pass through the town square. Willard also painted three murals in the main hall of the Fayette County courthouse in Washington Court House, Ohio: “The Spirit of Electricity”, “The Spirit of Telegraphy”, and “The Spirit of the Mail”.

Willard was commissioned by the firm Cooks Brothers to do painting and fresco work for the interior walls of the Fayette County courthouse (which opened on May 1, 1885). Willard did not sign his work and the artist’s identity remained a mystery for nearly 75 years, until confirmation was made in August 1956. The artist had put his name in the delivery address of the letter in the mural “The Spirit of the Mail”. I’ve tried to find images of these murals with Google, but have been unsuccessful.

Willard’s most famous work is “The Spirit of ‘76” (previously known as Yankee Doodle), which was exhibited at the Centennial Exposition. The original is displayed in Abbot Hall, Marblehead, Massachusetts, with several later variations painted by Willard exhibited around the country (including in the United States Department of State). Of note, he used his father as the model for the middle character of the painting. The painting originated from a sketch done by Willard, which included 3 men dancing and singing. Although art critics were harshly critical of the painting, it was extremely popular with most Americans who saw it. Ryder produced many reproductive images to sell to the public, and Willard painted a number of different versions of the painting during the remainder of his life. The artist died in 1918.

The painting shown above is the “Village of Wellington” (1857) signed and dated by the artist and it is displayed in the Herrick Memorial Library. Nineteen-year-old Archibald Willard moved to Wellington with his family in 1855. In two years when he produced this work, he was capable of painting such works, of considerable sophistication but also imbued with a degree of naïve charm.

There are several other Willard paintings, for example “The Blue Girl”, “Pluck”, “Self Portrait” but these are not as well-known. Another charming work of his that I have come across is a depiction of “Dinosaurs and other Mesozoic Reptiles”, for the lecture “Marvels of the Natural World,” given in Cleveland in 1872.