Saturday 9 January 2016


“Good God, behold completed this poor little Mass; is it indeed sacred music [la musique sacrée] that I have just written, or merely some damned music [la sacrée musique]? You know well, I was born for comic opera. Little science, a little heart, that is all. So may you be blessed, and grant me Paradise!” – Gioachino Rossini

Gioachino Rossini’s (29 February 1792 – 13 November 1868) “Petite Messe Solennelle” was written in 1863 and described by the composer as “the last of my péchés de vieillesse” (sins of old age). The witty composer, who produced little for public hearing during his long retirement at Passy, regarded his mass fondly although it was characterised, apocryphally by Napoleon III, as “not little nor solemn, nor particularly liturgical”.

Its first performance was at the dedication (14 March 1864) of the private chapel in the Hôtel of Louise, Comtesse de Pillet-Will, to whom Rossini dedicated this refined and elegant piece, which avoids the sentimental opulence of most contemporary liturgical works, such as those by Charles Gounod. Rossini specified twelve singers in all, with the soloists doubling the SATB chorus, and scored it for two pianos and harmonium. (The second piano plays only occasionally, and then merely doubles the first.

Among the first hearers were Giacomo Meyerbeer, Daniel Auber and Ambroise Thomas, who would succeed Auber as director of the Paris Conservatoire. Albert Lavignac, aged eighteen, conducted from the harmonium. The soloists were Carlotta and Barbara Marchisio, Italo Gardoni and Luigi Agnesi. It has been said that all this piece requires is a small hall, a piano, a harmonium, eight choristers and the four greatest singers on Earth.

Partly for fear that it would be done anyway after his death, Rossini discreetly orchestrated the Petite Messe Solennelle during 1866-67, without losing its candour and subtlety, and the resulting version had its first public performance on 28 February 1869, three months after the composer’s death, and as close as could be to what would have been Rossini’s seventy-seventh birthday at the Théâtre-Italien, Paris. That year both versions were published.

Here it is, performed by the Orquesta Sinfónica & Coro de Galicia under the direction of Alberto Zedda, with María José Moreno, soprano; Veronica Simeoni, mezzosoprano; Yijie Shi, tenor and Mirco Palazzi, bass.
Kyrie (0:39)
Gloria (8:07)
Gratias (10:13)
Domine Deus (14:25)
Qui Tollis (19.55)
Quoniam (26:26)
Cum Sanctu Spiritu (33:47)
Credo (39:13)
Crucifixus (43.33)
Et Resurrexit (46:46)
Preludio religioso (55:31)
Sanctus (1:03:00)
O Salutaris (1:07:15)
Agnus Dei (1:12:39)

Friday 8 January 2016


“I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married.” - Elizabeth I

I can’t believe how busy we have been. Supposedly, this is the quietest time of the year with lots of leisure time, the holidays, not so much work… However, we have been busy with a couple of gardening projects, chores around the house, a couple of repairs, looking for a new fridge as the old one is threatening to die, and the days just vanish! Nevertheless, there is always time for some cooking and as we hadn’t had a proper dessert for some time, we decided to revisit an old favourite, especially as peaches are in season. One can always use canned fruit – especially if in a hurry or if the fruit is out of season.

415g can peach slices in syrup, drained
425g can raspberries in syrup, drained
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 and 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 and 3/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup raspberry jam, warmed

Preheat oven to 170˚C. Grease a 6 cup-capacity ovenproof dish or 6 individual ramekins. Drain peaches and raspberries  well and then pat dry with paper towel.
Combine breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup sugar in a heatproof bowl. Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat until just starting to simmer (do not boil). Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Add milk mixture to breadcrumb mixture. Stir well to combine. Cool for 10 minutes.
Add egg yolks to breadcrumb mixture. Stir well to combine. Pour mixture into prepared dish or equally into the ramekins. Bake for 12-20 minutes or until just set (depending on size of dish/dishes).
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating well after each addition, until mixture is thick and glossy and sugar has dissolved.
Increase oven temperature to 180˚C. Spoon warm jam over warm pudding base. Top with peaches and raspberries. Dollop meringue over fruit. Bake for 10 minutes or until meringue is golden and fruit is heated through. Serve immediately.

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Thursday 7 January 2016


“Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit.” ― William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

January 6 is the Twelfth Day of Christmas. It is also the Epiphany (also called Theophany), which the Eastern Church, the Orthodox Christians, celebrate with particular brilliance as the day Christ was baptised by John the Baptist. On the other hand, the Western Christian Churches celebrate on this day the Arrival of the Magi at Bethlehem, where they presented the Christ Child with their gifts: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

As Epiphany Eve (that is, the Twelfth Night), especially, was associated with the arrival of the Magi, in many countries children expected to be left gifts in their shoes or stockings. In Italy, an ugly but kind witch, called La Befana, came and distributed sweets and presents to the good children. In Syria, children were brought presents by the smallest of the Magi’s camels. This is because according to tradition, the other two camels lost their determination and strength on the way to Bethlehem and they were about to give up. The smallest camel, however, refused to give up and was rewarded by Jesus with immortality for its belief in Him.

Tradition has it that Christmas celebrations are to end on the Twelfth Night of Christmas and decorations should be taken down on this day. However, a sprig of holly should be retained in the house to protect the occupants against lightning. Twelfth Night celebrations were once very popular and traditionally, this night was one of the merriest in the Christmas season. Twelfth Night parties were held everywhere, ostensibly to celebrate the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, however, many of the traditions surrounding the Night’s celebrations were pagan in origin.

A Twelfth Night cake was baked and a single bean was hidden in it. The person who found it in his piece became the Bean King for the Night. This tradition hails back to the Roman Saturnalia where a King was chosen by lot. The bean was a sacred seed in ancient times. A pea was sometimes baked in a cake in order to choose a Twelfth Night Queen, also. Midnight signalled the end of their rule and the world would return to normal. These cakes have now merged with the tradition of the Christmas Cake and the Christmas Pudding (the latter which may contain the silver sixpence to determine the lucky one amongst its consumers.

In medieval and Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve (Halloween). The Lord of Misrule reigned on this day and symbolises the world turning upside down. This Lord of Misrule tradition dates back to pre-Christian European festivals such as the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia.

Food and drink are the centre of the celebrations in modern times, and all of the most traditional ones go back many centuries. The punch called wassail is consumed especially on Twelfth Night, but throughout Christmas time, especially in the UK. Around the world, special pastries, such as the tortell and king cake are baked on Twelfth Night, and eaten the following day for the Feast of the Epiphany celebrations. To herald the celebration (especially in the countryside), the extraordinary Holly Man (the Winter guise of the Green Man from pagan myths and folklore) decked in fantastic green garb and evergreen foliage may appear in order to ensure that Spring arrives on time and the crops do not fail.

At the Twelfth Night party, it was customary to draw cards, on which were represented certain stock pantomime-like characters, exemplifying humorous national traits, for example, Farmer Mangelwurzel, François Parlez-Vous and Patrick O’Tater. People had to act out the part of their chosen character and also submit to the humorous “commands” of the Bean King. Much laughter, good humour, fine food and drink were expended on these occasions.

Tuesday 5 January 2016


“The glamour of it all! New York! America!” - Charlie Chaplin

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 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.
Please link your entry using the Linky tool below:

The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City, in the United States. The copper statue, designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, was built by Gustave Eiffel and dedicated on October 28, 1886. It was a gift to the United States from the people of France.

The statue is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue is an icon of freedom and of the United States, and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad.

Bartholdi was inspired by French law professor and politician Édouard René de Laboulaye, who is said to have commented in 1865 that any monument raised to American independence would properly be a joint project of the French and American peoples. He may have been minded to honor the Union victory in the American Civil War and the end of slavery. Due to the troubled political situation in France, work on the statue did not commence until the early 1870s.

In 1875, Laboulaye proposed that the French finance the statue and the Americans provide the site and build the pedestal. Bartholdi completed the head and the torch-bearing arm before the statue was fully designed, and these pieces were exhibited for publicity at international expositions. The torch-bearing arm was displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, and in Madison Square Park in Manhattan from 1876 to 1882.

Fundraising proved difficult, especially for the Americans, and by 1885 work on the pedestal was threatened due to lack of funds. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World started a drive for donations to complete the project that attracted more than 120,000 contributors, most of whom gave less than a dollar. The statue was constructed in France, shipped overseas in crates, and assembled on the completed pedestal on what was then called Bedloe’s Island. The statue’s completion was marked by New York’s first ticker-tape parade and a dedication ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Monday 4 January 2016


“It is impossible to imagine a more complete fusion with nature than that of the Gypsy.” - Franz Liszt

We watched an excellent film at the weekend. It was Tony Gatlif’s 1993 documentary “LatchoDrom”. This is the second in a trilogy that examines the life and culture of the Roma people. The Romani (also spelled Romany) are a traditionally itinerant ethnic group living mostly in Europe and the Americas, who originate from the northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent, specifically from Northern India, presumably from the northwestern Indian states Rajasthan and Punjab.

The Romani are widely known among English-speaking people by the exonym “Gypsies”. However, according to many Romani people and academics who study them, the word has been tainted by its use as a racial slur and a pejorative connoting illegality and irregularity. Other exonyms are Ashkali and Sinti.

Romani are dispersed, with their concentrated populations in Europe (especially Central, Eastern and Southern Europe) including Turkey, Spain and Southern France. They originated in Northern India and arrived in Mid-West Asia, then Europe, around 1,000 years ago, either separating from the Dom people or, at least, having a similar history; the ancestors of both the Romani and the Dom left North India sometime between the sixth and eleventh century.

Since the nineteenth century, some Romani have also migrated to the Americas. There are an estimated one million Roma in the United States; and 800,000 in Brazil, most of whose ancestors emigrated in the nineteenth century from eastern Europe. Brazil also includes some Romani descended from people deported by the government of Portugal during the Inquisition in the colonial era. In migrations since the late nineteenth century, Romani have also moved to other countries in South America and to Canada.

The Romani language is divided into several dialects, which add up to an estimated number of speakers larger than two million. The total number of Romani people is at least twice as large (several times as large according to high estimates). Many Romani are native speakers of the language current in their country of residence, or of mixed languages combining the two; those varieties are sometimes called Para-Romani.

This film is an amazing celebration of Roma music, explored through travel along the migration route from India to Spain. The music and dance of the Roma is the common thread that binds them all, but it is interesting to also note the differences in the various countries they have settled in and the various local influences they have absorbed.

It is a touching film, very sad in parts while full of joie de vivre and unbridled passion in others. The music is quite amazing and varied, ranging from the flamenco music of the Spanish Gypsies, to the sweetly melancholy music of the Central European Gypsies – and everything in between! If you like music, this film is a treat. If you are interested in world culture and folklore this is the film for you. And I am sure that some people who watch this and have no special interest in either gypsy music or culture will enjoy it because of its sheer humanity.

Sunday 3 January 2016


“A person himself believes that all the other portraits are good likenesses except the one of himself.” - Edvard Munch

Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) was born in a Protestant family of the upper middle class of Montpellier in the south of France. His father was a rich landowner and wine grower as well as a notable of the city of Montpellier. In 1862, he went to Paris to continue with his studies of medicine, while spending most of his time at the School of Fine Arts to paint in the Workshop of Charles Gleyre, where he befriended Monet, Renoir, and Sisley. His artistic vocation went back to his meeting with a friend of his parents, the art collector and patron from Montpellier Alfred Bruyas , who influenced Courbet as well as the Impressionists. Initially, Bazille’s painting was strongly influenced by the works of Courbet and Manet.

During Easter of 1863, he stayed with Monet at Chailly in the forest of Fontainebleau in order to experiment with open air painting. In 1864 he rented an artist studio in Rue Vaugirard and in June stayed with Monet in Honfleur, where he met Boudin and Jongkind. On his return to Paris, he learned that he had failed his examinations in Medicine and obtained his parents’ permission to totally devote himself to painting. In 1865 he shared an atelier in Rue Furstenberg with Monet, whom he helped financially. He submitted two works to the Official Salon of 1866, “Girl at the piano” and “Still life with fish”, the latter being accepted. Thereafter he will be regularly admitted to exhibit to the Salon.

In 1866 he shared with Renoir a new studio in Rue Visconti. He then moved to the district of Batignolles, in the Rue de la Condamine, near the Café Guerbois of which he had become a regular patron. It is in this new workshop that he executed in 1870 his painting “Bazille’s Studio, Rue de la Condamine”, where one can see him presenting a new work at Manet and Monet, whereas his friend Maître plays at the piano and Zola is in conversation with Renoir. This painting with an open composition (where Manet himself painted the high silhouette of Bazille) underlines the friendly and good working relationships of the protagonists with no hierarchical order between them.

Pissarro, Cézanne, and sometimes Courbet, visited him in his successive studios. He was also one of the rare persons able to face verbal arguments with erudite and ironic painter Degas, showing of a clear thinking and a realism which one can find in his paintings. The work of Bazille, stopped by his untimely death during the war of 1870, shows new compositions developed with audacity and diversity: open-air portraits with lower panoramic view as in " “The Pink Dress” (1864) or View of the Village of Castelnau-le-Lez” (1868), family scenes as in his large painting “Family Gathering” (1867 – see above), plein-air paintings such as “Summer Scene” (1869) . He particularly applied himself to combine figure painting in the open-air with an intense attention to natural light.

Bazille joined voluntarily and enthusiastically the regiment of the Zouaves just before the war of 1870. He was killed while fighting at Beaune-la-Rolande (close to Orleans) on November 28, 1870, at the age of 29. A number of works of Frédéric Bazille are kept at the Fabre Museum of Montpellier.