Saturday, 15 January 2011

Peck in Milano - the finest delicatessen in the world

Milan is one of my favourite cities, for many reasons; the fine art museums, some of the best shopping in the world (especially clothing and design) and the outstanding restaurants. But there is one more food related favourite that makes Milan unique: The Peck Salumerie - a heaven for people who enjoy good food and wine. It is not cheap, but the quality of the food is first class and everything is beautifully displayed. Now it is even possible to order online for export from Peck.

Peck is the most famous delicatessen in Milan, but there are many other outstanding (and often less expensive) salumerias offering delicious food, which you can eat in the store or on the street nearby. If you are in Milan, a visit to a salumeria is often an excellent alternative to a lunch in a restaurant.

Here you can find some fine Milan salumerias.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Broadcasting live opera performances to international audiences

The Metropolitan Opera´s Live in HD broadcasts to audiences all over the world - now in their fifth season - have been a deserved success. The extremely high technical quality of the HD picture and sound makes the experience the closest possible to the "real thing". Hopefully other opera and concert houses will follow the Met´s example and make their performances and concerts available in the same way.

The tradition of using modern technology in bringing live opera performances to international audiences is not new. At least as early as 1925 performances from the Paris opera were "broadcast" to people´s living rooms through telephone lines in several European countries.

               Unknown tenor at live "telephone" performance from the Paris opera 1925

A German family with friends gathered to listen to the performance from the Paris opera in 1925

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Aldeburgh Festival - a world class festival

"The annual Aldeburgh Festival, arguably the best musical event in Britain”
Charlotte Higgins, Guardian, 2009

Charlotte Higgins is certainly right about the Aldeburgh Festival, founded by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Eric Crozier in 1948. It has long been one the truly great international festivals of music and arts. My own visits to the Aldeburgh festival took place as early as the end of the 80´s and the early 90´s. During later years I have followed the festival only through the media, but it seems to have adjusted well to changing times and is still offering some of the finest classical music and artists.

In addition to the high artistic level, the Aldeburgh Festival has something that no other festival has: The fabulous Snape Maltings concert hall - with world class accoustics - surrounded by beautiful Suffolk scenery. The great Austrian pianist Alfred Brendel describes it so well:

‘Snape Maltings is one of those rare artistic places where the buildings, the people who visit and work there, the magical setting, come together and enable you to do something out of the ordinary.’
Alfred Brendel

For those interested in knowing more about the history of the Aldeburgh Festival and the music of Benjamin Britten the Britten-Pears foundation site is a good place to start.

A short history of the Aldeburgh Festival and the Britten-Pears legacy, made by Lippy films in 2004:

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Great Jussi Björling

(Image: cover of an excellent Björling cd box)

Among all the great tenors my personal favourite has been - and still is - Jussi Björling. Nobody can rival him when it comes to the pure beauty of the voice.

Listen to Björling (together with Renata Tebaldi) sing Che gelida manina and O soave fanciulla  from La Bohème, and I think you will agree.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The importance of the Catholic Church in Western civilisation

(image by

“The great achievement of the Catholic Church lay in harmonizing, civilizing the deepest impulses of ordinary, ignorant people.”

Kenneth Clark

The late Lord Clark understood and recognised the importance of the Catholic Church´s unique achievment. However, it is sad to note that in our age, even among educated people, there is an enormous ignorance about the Church´s contribution to Western civilisation.

Fortunately there is now a much needed scholarly book available that corrects the often very biased and superficial picture of the Catholic Church: "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" by professor Thomas E. Woods Jr.

Here is an excerpt from an article in which professor Woods introduces his book:

From the role of the monks (they did much more than just copy manuscripts) to art and architecture, from the university to Western law, from science to charitable work, from international law to economics, the book delves into just how indebted we are as a civilization to the Catholic Church, whether we realize it or not.
By far the book's longest chapter is "The Church and Science." We have all heard a great deal about the Church's alleged hostility toward science. What most people fail to realize is that historians of science have spent the past half-century drastically revising this conventional wisdom, arguing that the Church's role in the development of Western science was far more salutary than previously thought. I am speaking not about Catholic apologists but about serious and important scholars of the history of science such as J.L. Heilbron, A.C. Crombie, David Lindberg, Edward Grant, and Thomas Goldstein.
To say that the Church played a positive role in the development of science has now become absolutely mainstream, even if this new consensus has not yet managed to trickle down to the general public. In fact, Stanley Jaki, over the course of an extraordinary scholarly career, has developed a compelling argument that in fact it was important aspects of the Christian worldview that accounted for why it was in the West that science enjoyed the success it did as a self-sustaining enterprise. Non-Christian cultures did not possess the same philosophical tools, and in fact were burdened by conceptual frameworks that hindered the development of science. Jaki extends this thesis to seven great cultures: Arabic, Babylonian, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Hindu, and Maya. In these cultures, Jaki explains, science suffered a "stillbirth." My book gives ample attention to Jaki's work.

In another more recent article professor Woods focuses on Pope John Paul II´s views on the role of the Church in Europe:

He had known all along that overthrowing Communism was a necessary but not sufficient condition for restoring the kind of decent and dignified life that befits human beings, and the moral state of Poland in the aftermath of Solidarity’s triumph only confirmed him in this view. “Giving in to desire, to sex, to consumption: that is the Europeanism that some supporters of our entry into Europe think we should accept,” John Paul told the faithful. “But we mustn’t become part of that Europe. We were the ones who created Europe….”
We were the ones who created Europe.
That stunning remark doubtless ruffled some feathers. Yet never were truer words said. In recent weeks Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of “the decisive contribution of Christianity” in the creation of European civilization. At a time when the media and other opponents of the Church are gleefully exploiting her present discomfiture, this is a truth all Catholics, and indeed all of Western civilization, would do well to revisit.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Waiting for the Tall Ships Races 2011

For friends of the big (and somewhat smaller) sailings ships the main annual event to look forward to is always the traditional Talls Ships Race. This year the Tall Ships will race between Waterford, Greenock, Lerwick, Stavanger and Halmstad. Halmstad on the Swedish west coast will be my own TSR destination on 5-8 August.

While waiting for the big event, I thought it might be fitting as a teaser to add my photos, taken last summer in the Öresund, of two of the participating ships, Alexander von Humboldt (green sails) and Dar Mlodziezy.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Victor Borge and Anton Kontra perform Monti´s czardas

Victor Borge, the great Danish comedian, conductor and pianist, was a wondeful entertainer. I never saw him perform live, but I have many fond memories of his television performances. Fortunately, many of his best acts are still available on DVD. Here he plays the famous Czardas by Monti together with the superb violonist Anton Kontra.