Saturday, 29 January 2011

Lippen Schweigen

Lippen Schweigen from Lehar´s operetta The Merry Widow is one of the most popular duets for many of the world´s great opera stars. It is a question of taste, of course, but my own favourite version is the one by Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Renee Fleming. Two extraordinary singers, who clearly enjoy performing together. And the rest is wonderful music!

Listen here, and see if you you agree with my choice:

In the New Year´s Eve concert from Dresden Fleming sung Lippen Schweigen together with Christopher Maltman in another memorable performance. The entire concert, which took place in the beautiful Semper Oper was one on the best of its kind, also because of the superb orchestra, led by the great Christian ThielemannBuy the DVD if you enjoy this kind of music!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Two poems

Even when in retirement, there seem to be so many things to do, that one seldom gets down to read poetry. However, today was my day for poems. Here are two favourites that I wanted to share with you:

                                                        (click for larger image)

The year´s at the spring
And day´s at the morn;
Mornings´s at seven;
The hill-side´s dew-pearled;
The lark´s on the wing;
The snail´s on the thorn:
God´s in his heaven-
All´s right with the world!

                                        Robert Browning


Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
          In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
          In winter, fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind;
         Quiet by day.

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixed, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
        With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
        Tell where I lie.

                                     Alexander Pope

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Timo Korhonen - a master of the classical guitar

Finnish guitarist Timo Korhonen is by no means an old man (b. 1964), but it would not be wrong to call him a "grand old man of classical guitarists". This is due to the fact that Korhonen started performing on high international level already as a teenager. He was only 17 when he became the youngest ever winner of the guitar category in the ARD competition in Munich. The win was the beginning of a great career, with concerts in over 30 countries and a many critically acclaimed recordings. He has premiered over 40 works, many of which have been especially written for him. Timo Korhonen has also been - and still is - a great teacher of young guitar players. His students have won more than 40 prizes in international competitions.

I met Timo for the first time in London in the 80´s when he was there to buy a new concert guitar. It was fascinating to hear him try out the new instrument. Later on there have fortunately been several other possibilities to hear him play.

If you like the sound of the classical guitar, I can honestly recommend Timo´s recordings to you. One of my own personal favourites is the beautiful "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" by FranciscoTarrega:

 On this page you will find a wider selection of recordings.

Timo Korhonen´s CDs  are available e.g. from

Here is one recent review of Timo´s new Bach CD:
Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International, September 2010

Finnish guitarist Timo Korhonen has already released his own arrangements of Bach’s solo violin sonatas. Now he turns his attention to the partitas and gives fascinating interpretations of these bottomless works. Any guitarist transcribing Bach has to contend with the spirit of Segovia but Korhonen manages convincingly to carve his own path in this music, even if he doesn’t quite shake off the shade of the Spanish master.
Naturally he exploits the full range of the guitar’s powers and so can do things that a violinist cannot, such as arpeggiating many of the broken chords, lending the music a very different feel: the opening Allemanda of the first partita sounds positively Spanish, for example...The extra harmonies lent by a guitar are exploited in the quicker elements and take us pretty far from the world of the unaccompanied violin. There is a lovely carefree element to the famous opening of the third partita, for example, the “held” notes spinning a lovely web around the music and creating an effect that is impossible with the violin. The same trick works beautifully in the Menuets. The great Chaconne from the second partita comes across very well, the interplay of the various lines being more easily delineated with the guitar; consequently the listener has a fuller sense of the astonishing counterpoint.
So this is certainly worth exploring if you’re willing to try the partitas on a guitar...

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

In Praise of André Rieu

There was a time when I scoffed at operetta and other forms of popular classical music; only the "serious" composers, artists and orchestras mattered. But, fortunately, that was long ago. Now I feel free to enjoy both operetta, good musicals (e.g. My Fair Lady) and such great musicians as André Rieu, without forgetting the pleasure of listening to more serious forms of classical music. It is quite possible to enjoy both.

The other day I watched (on the German ZDF Theaterkanal) a wonderful concert recording with André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra performing at the "flower island" Mainau in the Bodensee (Lake Constance). It is diffucult to imagine a more scenic setting than Mainau, with its elegantly maintained flower park and the beautiful castle. Rieu, the soloists and the orchestra again did what they always seem to do so well - play light classical (and a little bit of other) music very professionally and in good spirits creating a good mood among the audience and the viewers. You can see from people´s faces that they have a really good time. There is never too much of that!

André Rieu and his orchestra have an excellent website with all necessary information about coming concerts etc. Many of the concerts are also available on dvd.

La Vie En Rose - a film not to be missed

Edith Piaf is probably not a very wellknown name to young people. But for many of us, who have been around a little longer, her songs are unforgettable. Piaf - like so many other stars - had a difficult life, with more than enough of trouble and hardships. The story of Piaf´s tragic life is the subject of the talented French director Olivier Dahan´s film "La Vien En Rose". If you have not seen the film yet, I urge you to see it. Below are a couple of links with a great number of wonderful reviews, so I will only say that Marion Cotillard in the title role is truly amazing. No wonder she won an Oscar for the role. One of the best new films that I have seen in many years!

La Vie on Rose on IMDb and Amazon.

Here you can watch the film trailer. (The film fortunately uses the voice of the real Piaf in the songs).

Monday, 24 January 2011

Delicious "literary" pastry

Soon it is February 5th, the day when Finland´s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg was born (in 1804). In Finland, at least among the Swedish speaking Finns, various festive programmes are organised on that day, but there is one informal way of celebrating Runeberg, which has become increasingly popular around the time of his birthday; enjoying the poet´s favourite pastry - the Runeberg cake. I can assure you that the cake is very tasty!

If you would like to try making a Runberg cupcake youself, the Nordic Recipe Archive has an excellent recipe page. And this Finnish blogger has another version of with lots of rum instead of Amaretto.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Two winter pictures

(Click picture for a larger image)

Where I live the snow disappeared a couple of days ago, but it is still quite chilly during the night and the early morning hours. As you might see from this picture, shot through my living room window this morning, the ground is somewhat frosty and the Danish coast looks nicely "soft".

Landscapes - particularly seascapes - look different every day and even every hour of the day - that´s why one does never get tired of watching them. Below is a shot taken from a somewhat different angle only about 20 minutes ago. The sun already had set, but the light on the Danish side was quite fascinating.