Saturday, 27 November 2010

Simple pleasures nr 5:The Sound of Church Bells

 "A bell is a hollow vessel usually of metal,
but sometimes of horn, wood, glass, or clay, struck near the rim by an
interior clapper or exterior hammer or mallet to produce a ringing

Encyclopedia Britannica

The sound of a bell has the power to charm, to amaze, to warn, to
frighten, and to lift the spirit. Bells are ubiquitous even in our
electronic age.

Bill Hibberts

I have always been fascinated by bells, particularly church bells.
Wherever I am, I feel safe and happy when I hear the sound of church

The history of bells goes back almost to the dawn of civilisation. It
began with crude metallic objects were sounded to ward of all kinds of
evil spirits, to mark festival occasions or to alter the weather.

In Europe church bells became common in the early Middle ages. Since
those times church bells have been ringing in the big cathedrals as
well as in the tiniest parish churches. The St Lawrence Church in
Ipswich has the oldest surviving circle of bells in the world. The
oldest of those bells were cast in the 1440s.

Watch and listen to some of the most famous Big Bells:

Bells have inspired many poets. Edward Allan Poe´s "The Bells" is probably the most wellknown bell
poem. Here you can listen to a reading of the poem.

Thank you to all people from the Philippines visiting this page!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Simple pleasures nr 15: Herring and new potatoes

Dried and salted herring used to be staple food already during
medieval times in Northern Europe. Since those times herring has
continued to be a favourite on the Nordic table. The best time to
enjoy herring is during the new potato season in the early summer.
There is nothing better than fresh new potatoes and pickled herring
with a pat of butter and some fresh dill!

This time of the year the next fresh potato season may seem far away.
But waiting for something delicious is always worthwile. The first
potatoes in Sweden often come from this farm in Scania.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Another change of mood

If you ever wondered what a real basso profundo sounds like, listen to this, or here, or this

A change of mood

There seems to be a danger that my blog is getting a little bit too sombre. So, a change of mood might be appropriate. Watch this:

Bach´s Sarabande from the Cello Suite nr 5

Music has a wonderful capacity to comfort and console. It is not
difficult to agree with the great Swedish film director Ingmar
, who once said:

"We are all living in our prisons, in our dreadful
loneliness, surrounded by cruelty. The gift that music bequeaths us is
to understand that there is a reality of infinite harmony beyond our
earthly exile."

J.S. Bach

The music of J.S. Bach seems to have played a particarly important
role for Bergman, both in his films and in his personal life. Ten of
Bergman´s films feature music of Bach, and in five of these films
Bergman uses a Bach Sarabande. In his last masterpiece, which he also
named Saraband, you can hear the sarabande from the Cello Suite nr 5
in C minor
. Bergman also wanted this piece to be played at his

Listen to Mischa Maisky play Bergman´s favorite sarabande:

I chose to illustrate this post with a photo of the first snow in my neighbourhood this autumn

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Die Buddenbrooks

Today, by chance, I read a review of one of my favourite books, Thomas Mann´s Die Buddenbrooks, the story of  the downfall of a wealthy mercantile family in Lübeck. It is not often that one totally agrees with a reviewer, but in this case it happened:

Remember the time when as a child you could turn round a book after finishing the last page, re-start it right away and enjoy it immensely again and again and again? I thought that was an ability only kids have until I read (and re-read and re-read and re-read and...) Thomas Mann’s Die Buddenbrooks
Thomas Mann wrote Die Buddenbrooks at the age of 24, describing the story of his own family in Lübeck. It is his masterpiece and sets the tone and many of the themes for his following works, one of them being the refined and sophisticated artistic attitude opposed to the simple, healthy and pragmatic life facing stand.
Needless to say that I love this book and could go on and on and on about it. I read it about 7 times in the last 15 years, and I’ll definitely read it again. The characters are vividly drawn, their relationships, motivations, thoughts and feelings are viewed lovingly and ironically at the same time, their lives give a deep insight in a changing time and society, and all this is done in an effortless and delicious language (in the German original). If you read just one German classic, this should be it.

Read he whole review here:

Mann was only 26 when this, his first novel was published in 1901.
First books often turn out to be the best books of a great number of
authors. So it is - at least in my opinion - also in Mann´s case. Deservedly, Buddenbrooks also was the novel that won Mann his Nobel prize in Literature in 1929.

If you plan a trip to Lübeck, Mann´s northern German home city, a visit to the beautiful Buddenbrookhaus museum is highly recommended!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Simple pleasures nr 4: Shipping forecasts

Every now and then, I find myself listening to Scandinavian, German or
British shipping forecasts. The other day, I asked myself the question,
what is it in these mostly rather monotonously read sea weather
reports that is so fascinating.

Well, in a fast moving world, full of loud noises and change, maybe it is exactly the monotony  that is so appealing? And those familiar names, like Dogger, Viking, Fisher and German Bight. They all seem so stable, welcoming and reassuring, even when stormy weather is forecasted.


Yves Montand and Les Feuilles Mortes

On a dark and chilly autumn day like today - or just any day - it feels good to listen to the great Yves Montand performing the French classic "Les Feuilles Mortes", here in a live recording from the Paris Olympia:

Yves Montand first introduced Joseph Kosma´s "Les Feuilles Mortes" in the film "Les Portes de la Nuit" in 1946. Later on it was to become one of the most recorded popular French songs. The original lyrics is by the French poet Jacques Prévert, but for the international audience the lyrics written by the American songwriter Johnny Mercer are probably more familiar:

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun burned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I´ll hera old winter´s song
But I miss most of all my darling
When autmun leaves start to fall

Monday, 22 November 2010

In Praise of the Printed Book - and the E-book

New media guru Nicholas Negroponte recently proclaimed the death of the physical book within five years:

The physical book is dead, according to Negroponte. He said he
realizes that’s going to be hard for a lot of people to accept. But
you just have to think about film and music. In the 1980s, the writing
was on the wall that physical film was going to die, even though
companies like Kodak were in denial. He then asked people to think
about their youth with music. It was all physical then. Now everything
has changed.

Negroponte, fortunately, qualified his death sentence:

By “dead,” he of course doesn’t mean completely dead. But he means
that digital books are going to replace physical books as the dominant
form. His argument is related to his One Laptop per Child Foundation.
On those laptops, he can include hundreds or thousands of books. If
you think about trying to ship that many physical books to the
emerging world for each child, it would be impossible, he reasons

I welcome the arrival of new media, and particalarly different kinds of e-books and e-readers. However, Negroponte is probably far too negative about the future of the printed, physical book. Here I share the opinion of the CEO of the publishing giant Random House, Markus Dohle, who thinks that printed books will still dominate "for a long time to come".

The market share for electronic books, even in the United States, will
more likely be between 25 and 50 percent by 2015. But this development
still represents a huge opportunity for us. It creates new growth. I
meet people in America who say: I started reading again because of my
e-reader -- and so did my children.,1518,709760,00.html

And I am convinced that here will always be a demand for beautifully produced printed books - the kind of books printed by e.g. the Folio Society in London.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Wigmore Hall in London

Ask many of the world’s best singers and chamber musicians to list their favourite venues – András Schiff, Ian Bostridge, Karita Mattila – and they’ll put the Wigmore Hall at the top. Iwan Hewitt, The Daily Telegraph

For friends of chamber music and classical song the Wigmore Hall in the heart of London´s West End does not need an introduction. With its fabulous accoustics and knowledgeable audience the Wigmore hall continues to attract the world´s leading singers and instrumentalists, as it has done for decades.

While living in London in the late 80´s and early 90´s I was fortunate to be be part of the audience at many unforgettable recitals by such distinguished musicians as András Schiff, Monica Groop, Karita Mattila, Anne Sofie von Otter and many more. At that time the the Australian born William Lyne, who was instrumental in building the Wigmore Hall´s world reputation as a leading recital hall, was still the director.
Fortunately, under the new leadership the hall has been able to retain its leading role, and also to adjust well to changing musical demands.

If you like chamber music and song recitals, try to include a concert in Wigmore Hall the next time you visit London! It is advisable, though, to buy tickets well ahead, as most recitals are sold out early.

Lots of interesting information is available in Wigmore Hall´s excellent website:

An interesting video interview about the history of Wigmore Hall:

David Suchet as Poirot

Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie´s most famous sleuth, has been one of the most popular literary figures to appear also on film and television screens. Many of these interpretations are good, but one is in a class of its own - quite frankly, there is no better Poirot than the one played by the British actor David Suchet.

Suchet took on the role of Poirot already  in 1989 and soon became a television legend. In addition to Suchet´s performance in the leading role, there were of course many other reasons behind the success of this series - e.g. the meticulous attention to detail in the dramatisation and the outstanding supporting cast , with Hugh Fraser as Hastings, Philip Jackson as Japp and Pauline Moran as Miss Lemon.

When I recently acquired the BBC dramatisation of Anthony Trollope´s "The way we live now", I was expecting to think about Poirot when watching David Suchet in the leading role as the deceitful financier Augustus Melmotte. But it was not to happen. Suchet´s outstanding performance also in that role is a testimony to his greatness as an actor.

Both the complete collection of Poirot (which actually is not quite complete) and "The way we live now") are available e.g. from Amazon: