Saturday, 12 January 2013

Dark clouds over Øresund

This afternoon, dark clouds were following the Scandlines ferry departing from Helsingør to Helsinborg.

When the ferry arrived in Helsinborg, about 20 minutes later, the dark clouds were there too ...

The temperature was -2°C.

Anchor Handling Tug Supply vessel SIEM GARNET in the Sound

The Norwegian Anchor Handling Tug Supply vessel SIEM GARNET this morning passed Helsingborg/Helsingør on its way from Aberdeen to Gdansk.

This type of ships are used for handling anchors for oil rigs, tow them to location and anchor them up.

The 91 x 22m  SIEM GARNET was delivered to its Norwegian owners in November 2010.

An innovative French submarine transport ship (a hundred years ago)

"Le Kanguroo"

"Le Kanguroo" was the rather well chosen name for this ship, which the French Creuzot Works proudly introduced in 1912. The ship was built to transport the small submarines built by the same company for international customers (presumably foreign navies).

The stern of the "Kanguroo" could be removed, whereafter the submarine was brought into the ship through a "tunnel" filled with water. When the submarine had been secured, the "tunnel" was emptied, and the steamer could begin its journey to the chosen destination.

Friday, 11 January 2013

The first visit of a Zeppelin to Denmark and Sweden in 1912

The "Hanse" flying over Malmö on September 19, 1912.
The first visit of a Zeppelin to Denmark and Sweden - and also the first commercial Zeppelin flight outside of Germany - took place in September 19, 1912. The Swedish weekly Hvar 8 Dag published the following report of the event, together with three photographs:

"The Zeppelin airship 'Hansa', piloted by count Zeppelin, departed on 19 September at 4 A.M. from Hamburg to Copenhagen and Malmö. On board were about ten passengers, two of whom were German and two Danish officers, with a responsibility to supervise that no photographs were taken when flying over military fortifications. The other participants were German and Danish journalists.

At 10 A.M. 'Hansa' arrived in Copenhagen after a most enjoyable flight in calm and sunny weather. Having circled over the city for an hour the airship landed at the Amager airport, where 
20 000 people welcomed the travelers with roaring ovations.

At 11.35 A.M. the 'Hansa' took off and steered towards Malmö, where it arrived at 11.55. The airship did not land, but confined itself to circle over the city, where people had gathered to cheer and celebrate the visit."

"Hanse" landing at the Amager airport in Copenhagen.

Count Zeppelin and the other people on board welcomed after the landing.

 Wikipedia has published a detailed schedule of the flight, with somewhat different time indications:

The " LZ 13 Hanse" was brand new at the time of the visit - it had been delivered on July 30 the same year. 
During two years of commercial service it carried 6,217 passengers on 399 flights, covering 44,437 kilometres. At the outbreak of World War I, the German military requisitioned it for use in attack flights, reconnaissance, and finally as a training airship.

Three photographs of August Strindberg

Last year's August Strindberg anniversary - marking that a hundred years have passed since he died - has been celebrated widely both in Sweden and abroad. My own somewhat belated homage to the great  writer comes in the form of these portraits, which the Swedish weekly Hvar 8 Dag published in its May 19, 1912 issue, five days after the writer's death:

(Photographer: Herman Hamnqvist, Stockholm)

(Photo by unnamed photographer of the Hvar 8 Dag magazine)

(Photographer: Sandels J:or, Stockholm)

Thursday, 10 January 2013

J.L. Runeberg - the poet who gave Finland a moral identity

Albert Edelfelt, one of the first Finnish artists to reach international fame, illustrated The Tales of Ensign Stål. His illustrations have been admired by generations of Finns and Swedes. This drawing shows a part of the Lake Saimaa district, one of the "national landscapes" of Finland.

Finland's national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804 - 1877) is nowadays not very well known outside his own country, and perhaps Sweden (Runeberg wrote in Swedish, his mother tongue), but there was a time he was a "celebrity" in wider international circles. 

In an article, published in the National  Biography of Finland, historian Matti Klinge describes Runeberg's crucial role in the shaping of the Finnish identity: 

The poet J. L. Runeberg created an ideal of Finland's people and Nature, and he gave the country a moral identity, a justification for its existence, with his lyrics, epics and Fänrik Ståls sägner ('Tales of Ensign Stål'). Even during his lifetime, but especially after his death, he became a very important cult figure as a creator of a feeling of nationhood and the writer of the poem Vårt land (Finnish: Maamme; Our Country), which became the national anthem of Finland.

Runeberg was a notable lyric and epic poet; his creative work acquired an especial importance from the era and environment in which he was active. Along with Lönnrot, Runeberg helped to raise the newly created Grand Duchy of Finland to the status of a cultured nation in the eyes of both Finns and foreigners. In the 1830s and 1840s he created an ideal of Finland's people and Nature, and he gave the country a moral identity with his Fänrik Ståls sägner ('Tales of Ensign Stål'). Runeberg's ideological stance was influenced by the neo-humanists' admiration for Greece; politically, it adhered to the conservative line of the era of Emperor Nicholas I. Even during his lifetime, but especially after his death, he became a very important cult figure, particularly as a creator of a feeling of nationhood and the writer of the poem Vårt land (Finnish: Maamme; Our Country), which became the national anthem of Finland.
All of Runeberg's works were translated into Finnish, starting as far back as the 1840s. Runeberg began to become known in Russia as early as the 1830s. Many of his works were translated into German, Danish, French and English; HannaNadeschdaKung Fjalar and Fänrik Ståls sägner at the least were translated into these languages; Hanna and Nadeschda were translated into Italian; and so forth. The celebrations marking the centenary of Runeberg's birth also attracted widespread interest abroad. In Sweden, Runeberg has always been numbered amongst the most prominent writers of Swedish.          

The Tales of Ensign Stål consists of tales of the War of Finland of 1808-09 between Sweden/Finland and Russia. In the war, Sweden lost Finland, which then became a Grand Duchy in the Russian empire. 

Sven Duva on the bridge. Illustration by Albert Edelfelt.
One of my own  favorites in The Tales of Ensign Stål is Sven Duva, below in a translation by Charles Warton Stork, published in an Anthology of Swedish Lyrics in 1917:

Sven Duva

His father, once a sergeant, was poor and old and gray,
For he had fought in 'eighty-eighty, was old then, you
   might say.
And now he farmed a bit of ground his daily bread to gain
And had around him children nine, the youngest was 

That old man Duva had himself enough of brains to share
Among a brood as large as his, one hardly could declare.
He surely gave the elder ones too much of his small wit, 
For the son that last was born was left the tiniest bit.

Sven Duva grew up just the same, was strong and broad 
   of chest,
Toiled like a slave in field or wood with unremitting zest,
Was willing, gay, and kind of heart, far more than clever
Would turn his hand to anything, but was in all joke.

"In gracious heaven's name, poor son,what can you ever
The old man often said to him in sad perplexity.
But when such talk would never end, Sven Duva's pa-
   tience failed,
At last he set his head to work for all that it availed.

So one fine day it chanced when sergeant Duva cooed 
The old unanswered song: "What will become of you,
    my Sven?"
The old man started backward in astonishment, because
"I'll be a soldier," said the son, and spread his uncouth

The aged sergeant smiled a smile full of contemptuous
"You rascal, take a gun and be a soldier? Oh, get out!"
"Well,"said the lad, "I make a botch of all I take in hand;
Perhaps I'll find it easier to die for king and land."

Old Duva was surprised and touched, a tear rolled down
   his face;
And Sven - he shouldered knapsack for the first recruit-
Full size they found him; brisk and strong; 't was all they
   asked, and he
Became forthwith a raw recruit in Duncker's company.

And now came Duva's time to drill and go through ex-
To watch was a wondrous sight; he drilled in curi-
   ous wise.
The corporal might shout and laugh, might laugh and
   shout his best,
The new recruit went on alike for earnest or for jest.

When all the rest were tired out, he never seemed to fret.
He tramped until the ground would quake, and marched
   till all a-sweat;
But when the order came to turn, 't was his unhappy
To face to right or face to left, whichever he should not.

Then he was tought to "shoulder arms," and tought to
    "ground arms," too.
"Present arms,""lend bayonets," - all these they thought
    he knew;
When "Should arms!" was called, he'd "lend bayonets" maybe,
At "Ground arms!" up his gun went to his shoulder in-

So finally Duva's drill grew famous far and wide,
The officers and soldiers came and laughed until they 
But still he kept on patiently, untroubled by a doubt,
And waited for a better time - 't was then the war broke

When orders were to break up camp, the questions had
   to come,
Had Duva wit enough to fight or should he stay at home.
He listened calmly to their plans, but soon proposed his
"If I can't go with all the rest, I'll have to go alone."

They left him gun and knapsack to do his own behest,
A soldier he when battle raged, a servant for the rest;
And fighting-man or serving-man, alike sedate and cool,
He never played the coward, though he sometimes played
   the fool.

One day with Sandels in retreat, the Russians on each 
Our troops were drawing slowly back along a river bank.
Right in the army's line of march a little foot-bridge 
The stream, and there an outpost stood, scarce twenty
   in the band.

Merely to mend the broken road this band was sent ahead,
Which done, far off from shot or blow, they rested free
   from dread.
They happened on a farmer's home and stripped the larder bare.
And Duva passed the victuals round, for he was with 
   them there.

But on a sudden all was changed, for from the near-by
With foamy horse an adjutant came spurring leap on leap.
"Go to the bridge," he shouted, "lads, for God's sake,
   no delay!
We've word a troop of enemy would cross and 
   bar our way."

He bade the leader, "Get the bridge demolished if you can,
And if you can't, well, hold it it then, and fight to the last
The army's lost if now the foe should tak us in the rear.
Sandels will come to your support, he'll soon himself be

He galloped off. But scarce the band had gotten to the 
Before platoons of Russians rose above the farther bridge.
They opened ranks, closed up, took aim and fired. At the
Of their first volley eight bold Finns went reeling to the

The rest shrunk back; why tarry there when nothing 
   could be gained?
Another crash of musketry, and but five Finns remained.
The all obeyed the sergeant's call "Trail arms!" and 
   then "Retreat!"
 Only Sven Duva got it wrong and leveled bayonet.

Still worse, the order to retreat got twisted in his head,
And, far from facing right about, down to the bridge he
He stood there firm with shoulders squared, quite calm
   and easy still,
Ready to show to all that came how well he know his

They didn't give him long to wait, for ere he took his 
Behold, upon the little bridge there thronged a hostile
Man after man they rushed across, but each as he came on
Got face-to-right or face-to-left, fell over, and was gone.

No human arm was strong enough to make that giant
   to yield,
And when the rear ranks tried to shoot, the front ranks
    were his shield.
The fiercer was the foe, the more his hope would come 
    to naught,
When up came Sandels, with his men and saw how 
   Duva fought.

"Bravo!" he shouted, "fine; keep on you splendid fel-
   low, you!
Throw every devil off the bridge, hold on, for God's 
    sake, do!
That's how a Finn should fight, ay, that's a soldier you
   may say.
Come on boys, hurry to his help! for he has saved the

The enemy soon found themselves checkmated in the
The Russians, turning right about, retreated whence
   they came.
When all was quiet, Sandels left his horse and went to
The soldier who stood on the bridge and fought so gal-

They pointed out Sven Duva then. His battle-lust was 
For he had fought there like a man, and now the strife 
   was done.
It seemed as though in weariness he rested after play,
No longer bold and confident, but very pale he lay.

Then Sandels bent him down above that face so white
   of hue;
No unfamiliar man was that, but one whom all men 
But Sandels saw that underneath his heart the grass was
His breast was pierced, and through the wound his life
   now had sped.

These were the words the general spake: "We'll all of 
   us admit
That bullet knew far more than we, it knew the place to
It left unhurt the poor lad's head, which was not of the
And found itself a worthier mark, his noble, valiant

And afterwards whenever men would tell about the fight,
They each and every one agreed that Sandel's words 
   were right.
"It's true," they used to say, "his mind did did less than
   most men's could,
A sorry head Sven Duva had, his heart, though, that was good."

(The text is published in the same way as it appeared in the anthology).

Here are a few more illustrations to the Tales of Ensign Stål by Albert Edelfelt:

Monday, 7 January 2013

Two wonderful pianists and two pairs of high heels on ARTE

Yuja Wang in Verbier last summer.

Yesterday the French-German television channel ARTE broadcast two concerts with two extraordinarily talented young pianists, Yuja Wang and Ingold Wunder.

Yuja Wang has, in spite of her young age, already acquired mega star status. The broadcast with Wang playing Rachmaninoff's third piano concerto together with the excellent Staatskapelle Dresden was recorded at the Verbier festival last summer. It was another stellar performance by Wang, with a relaxed audience enjoying every minute in the beautiful open air setting.

Wang's high heels.
Wang's two pair of shoes in Verbier.

What the television director could have spared viewers, was the attention given to Miss Wang's dresses and high heeled shoes, which were featured several times. She is of course a joy also to look at, but highlighting that side easily distracts from the music.

The other pianist appearing on ARTE last night was the young Austrian Ingold Wunder, who won the second prize and several special prizes at the 2010 Warsaw International Chopin Competition. It was the first time I had a chance to see and hear Wunder in action - and he did not disappoint. One does not often hear a young musician display the style and refinement that characterized Wunder's recital, recorded at the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden last summer.

Chopin's Ballade Nr.1 and Mozart's "Linz" sonata were my own favorites among the varied works Wunder had chosen to play. One of the encores, Arcadi Volodos' concert paraphrase on Mozart's "Rondo alla turca", gave Wunder a chance to display his technical brilliance.

Televising concerts is not an easy task. Very often the directors choose a much too restless approach, with cameras continuously zooming and panning. This time the director Harald Lettfuss had stricken the right balance, which focused on the music and the way Wunder reacted to his own playing.

What a joy it was to follow how the change of mood was reflected in the pianist's facial expressions!

Wunder in Baden-Baden in the summer of 2012.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Copenhagen - wonderful also in the autumn

The Royal Danish Opera's waterside Opera House was inaugurated in 2005.

Copenhagen, where I had the privilege to live for almost five years not too long ago, is one of may favorite cities. When I revisited Copenhagen in October last year, there were not as many tourists as in the summer months, but still the city was full of life: