Saturday, 10 December 2011

Haydn and Schiff - an ideal combination

Haydn himself said that "the entire world understands my music". Even if it is an incredibly complex music ... there is something for everybody in it ...

András Schiff

In February the French-German Arte channel broadcast one my own personal favourites among the musical offerings on television this year:

The Genius of Haydn - With András -Schiff - A Film by János Darvas

The Hungarian-born British pianist András Schiff is the ideal choice both to introduce and play the music of the great Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809).

Regrettably the programme does not seem to be available on DVD or blu-ray, but in case you are interested, you could perhaps try to get in touch with the maker of the film, János Darvas Steinberger here.

Here Schiff performs Haydn´s Sonata No.33 Hob.XVI:20:

Film by János Darvas - Broadcast Premiere in HDTV on ARTE - February 21, 2010ff - A Film by János Darvroadcast Premiere in HDTV on ARTbruary 21, 2010

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The unique Stockholm, Åland and Turku archipelagos

When friends who are planning to visit Sweden and Finland ask for advise about what to see and do, I always recommend one of the cheapest "luxury" cruises on offer - the day passenger/car ferry from Stockholm to Turku (Åbo in Swedish) in Finland.

The ship departs in the morning and arrives in Turku in good time for dinner - or vice versa. You can enjoy the journey any time of the year - in the winter months the sometimes rather extreme ice conditions may be interesting to observe - but during the summer you can fully enjoy the unique Stockholm, Åland and Turku archipelagos with their thousands of islands and skerries.

The Scottish M.P. A MacCallum Scott, who travelled by ship from Stockholm to Åbo in 1908 gives a wonderful account of his journey through the Åbo archipelago in his book "Through Finland to St. Petersburg":

"About twenty or thirty miles before the Finnish mainland comes in sight the navigator begins to encounter numbers of small rocky islands. Rounded shoulders of black granite, all wet and glittering from the waves which wash over them, rise a few feet above the surface of the water like the back of some sea monster."
"The further the vessel proceeds the larger and more rugged these islands become. This rocky wilderness has a very wild and desolate appearance. Here and there a single fir-tree stands erect like a sentinel, and occasionally a few dwarf pines and stunted bushes afford a patch of green on which to rest the eyes. Landwards, along the northern horizon, stretches a dark green zone of forest which, at first, is taken for mainland; but as the vessel approaches it is found to consist of a labyrinth of islands thickly covered with pine and fir.  This wonderful archipelago stretches along the whole of the southern coast of Finland. The islands are so numerous that, as the vessel threads its way between them, it seems to be completely land-locked. At every turning it seems to enter a cul-de-sac, but, as it pushes forward, a passage, hidden by some wooded cape, opens up. The sheltered waters have a surface like a mirror, reflecting the wooded shore and the blue sky, and the only waves are those caused by the wash from the vessel rushing along the shore on either side."

This 1910 map of southwestern Finland shows the myriad of islands in the Åbo archipelago
In the late 19th century the life of a fisherman was not always easy in the archipelago, as this famous painting by the Finnish artist Alberg Edelfelt shows.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Vermeer´s "The Kitchen Maid" in Amsterdam´s Rijksmuseum

If you pland to visit Amsterdam in the near future, be sure to visit the famous Rijksmuseum. There is a large-scalee rebuilding going on (the entire musem will reopen in 2013), but a collection of the finest 17th century works is one view under the title "The Masterpieces".

Altoghether about 400 masterpieces are shown, but even if you would see only this painting by Johannes Vermeer, your visit would be more than worthwile:

This is part of the Rijksmuseum´s description of Vermeer´s "The Kitchen Maid":
"Intent on her task, the kitchen maid pours milk from a jug. The composition radiates a quiet calm, the only movement the flow of the milk inte the bowl. Taking an everyday subject and a simple composition, Vermeer createss a powerful painting. His work is most distinctive in the portrayal of light."

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

On confession and psychoanalysis

The late Lord Kenneth Clark understood the usefulness of the confession in the Catholic church. Lord Kenneth spoke about confession in his magisterial television series "Civilisation":

"A historian can´t help observing how the need for confession has returned, even - or especially - in the land of the pilgrim fathers. The difference is that instead of confession being followed by a simple comforting rubric which has behind it the weight of divine authority, the modern confessor must grope his way into the labyrinth of the psyche, with all its false turnings and dissolving perspectives - a noble aim, but a terrifying responsibility. No wonder that the psychoanalysts have the highest suicide rate of any vocation. And perhaps after all the old procedure had someting to recommend to it; because as a rule it is the act of confession that matters, not the attempted cure."

Very true, as so much else that Lord Kenneth says in this, the greatest of all television series.

Christmas wreaths

This is the time when the Swedes - like people in many other countries - like to decorate their houses with all kinds of Christmas lights and other decorative features. The Christmas wreath is a decoration I have always been particularly fond of.

Here are a few door wreaths from my neighbourhood:

Monday, 5 December 2011

Baltic Betina on its way to Kristiansand

This morning the Malta registered dry cargo ship Baltic Betina (89x14m) passed Helsingør-Helsingborg in the Sound on its way to Kristiansand.

A great number of crews will soon again celebrate Christmas on board their ship. The guys on Baltic Betina seem to have had a great time last Christmas, with a lot of good food:

Sunday, 4 December 2011

S.S. Oihonna - a classic Finnish passenger ship

S.S. Oihonna in the Helsinki harbour in the 1920´s. (Picture from the book "Finland i bilder", 1928)

In the late 19th and early 20th century ships - like many other manufactured products - were usually built to last. One such well built ship was the Finland Steamship Company´s S.S. Oihonna. The passenger ship, built in 1898 by Gourlay Bros. & Co. in Dundee, Scotland, was in active service for over 60 years until it finally was sold for demolition in 1960.

On April 21, 1906 the Oihonna run aground close to Helsinki on its way to Stockholm. All 100 passengers could be saved, and the sturdy ship could soon return to her regular route St. Petersburg-Helsinki-Stockholm.