Thursday, 3 March 2011

The splendid Belton House - "Rosings" in Pride and Prejudice

Mr. Collins: "Mark the windows. There are 64 in all. 64! And I have it on good authority that the glazings alone originally cost in excess of 600 pounds".

The best ever dramatisation of a Jane Austen novel, the BBC 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice was filmed in many beautiful locations, but the most splendid of them all is Belton House - Rosings Park in the BBC series - in Lincolnshire. The 17th century country house is now a National Trust Property, and open to the public. A must for all friends of Austen and the BBC mini-series.

The National Trust´s concise description of Belton House:

"The perfect English country house, set in its own extensive deer park, Belton was designed to impress.
Built in the late 17th century for 'Young' Sir John Brownlow, with family fortunes founded in law, it is one of the finest examples of Restoration architecture. It was, for centuries, the scene of lavish hospitality.
Opulent décor, stunning silverware, imposing paintings and personal mementos convey wealth while retaining a family atmosphere. Delightful gardens, a luxuriantly planted orangery and lakeside walks ensure Belton is a pleasure to explore all year round".

There is no absolute certainty about the architect of Belton House, but John F. Pile makes this interesting point in his " A History of Interior Design":

"There is no house that can be proved to be by (Sir Christopher) Wren, although tradition suggests that he may have been the architect of Belton house, a handsome mansion near Lincoln".

More information about Belton House:
National Trust
Wikipedia (excellent page!)
Pictures of Belton house


The series is now available on superb blu-ray discs. Highly recommended!

Monday, 28 February 2011

Havana before Castro

In the 30´s and before the Castro era Havana was the wealthiest and most international city in the Caribbean. It was also a very elegant city with beautiful architecture, both modern and historic. No wonder Havana used to be called the Paris of Latin America.

This idyllic photo shows Havana in the late 1890s
For a glimpse of Havana in the 30s, watch this short documentary by the the legendary travel film director André de la Varre.

Musically Havana was a city with a tradition of classical music offering both opera and concerts. The Orguesta Sinfonica de la Habana was founded in 1922. One of the two founders was the legendary Cuban composer and pianist Ernesto Lecuona, who is, of course, more wellknown for his more popular Cuban songs, some of which are still very popular, like e.g. Malaguena, Siboney and Siempre en mi corazon (Always in my heart).

Ernesto Lecuona gave his name and support to the touring orchestra Lecuona Cuban Boys,  although he was not a member of this band. The recordings of  the Lecuona Cuban Boys, still available on CD, are at least in my opinion some of the best Latin American rhytms ever recorded. They also in a wonderful way remind us of Havana in the 30s and 40s. .

Here is a small selection of the music of Lecuona Cuban Boys: