Friday, 27 February 2015


“The violinist is that peculiarly human phenomenon distilled to a rare potency - half tiger, half poet.” - Yehudi Menuhin

Pietro Antonio Locatelli (born 3 September 1695 in Bergamo; died 30 March 1764 in Amsterdam) was an Italian Baroque composer and violinist. When Locatelli went to Amsterdam in 1729, he discovered the centre of European music publishing. He published his Opp. 2–6, 8 and 9 and a new edition of Op. 1 in Amsterdam, and Op. 7 in the neighbouring city of Leiden. He took great care to achieve flawless editions. Locatelli gave the well-arranged works to different publishers, and he edited and sold the less-arranged works.

Not only Op. 1 was composed in his early years, but also Op. 3 and parts of Op. 2 and 4 to 8. Locatelli obtained a privilege, which protected Opp. 1–8 (which were also issued in Leiden, in Holland and in West Friesland) from unauthorised reprints and prevented the import of reprints. In his application for the privilege he referred to himself as an “Italian music master living in Amsterdam”. As a consequence of the privilege, Locatelli had to give free copies to the Leiden university library; thus, first prints have been preserved up to the present. An exception was Op. 9, which was published after the expiry of the legal protection.

Locatelli's works can be divided into three categories: Works for his own performances as a virtuoso; representative works for larger ensembles; chamber music and small works arranged for small ensembles. Examples of virtuoso works are the Violin Concertos Op. 3 with their associated Capricci, and the Violin Sonata Op. 6 with one Capriccio. Both works, and especially Op. 3, were standards for virtuosos and made him famous throughout Europe. The Capricci were important study and exercise pieces but were not intended for public performance.

It was probably through French violin schools that musicians such as Niccolò Paganini discovered Locatelli’s music. Paganini’s Capriccio Op. 1, Nr. 1 is similar to Locatelli’s Capriccio Nr. 7. Locatelli’s virtuosity is reflected in the Capricci through the use of high registers, double stopping, chords and arpeggios with wide fingering and overextension of the left hand, harmonics, trills in two-part passages (Trillo del Diavolo), double trills, varied bow types and variable bowings.

Locatelli’s Concerti Op. 1, Op. 7 and those from Op. 4 are modelled on Corelli’s Twelve concerti grossi, Op. 6. The Introduttioni teatrali Op. 4 follow the format of the Neapolitan opera sinfonia. The Flute Sonatas, Op. 2, the Trio Sonatas, Op. 5, the Violin Sonatas and the Trio Sonatas, Op. 8 were popular in Amsterdam, favouring the city’s overall galant image matched with contemporary popular music.

Here are the Op. 1 (1721) XII Concerti grossi à Quatro e à Cinque (12 concerti grossi in F, C minor, B flat, E minor, D, C minor, F, F minor, D, C, C minor, G minor). They are played by the Freiburger Barockorchester and Dr Gottfried von der Goltz. They are amazing works full of contrasting emotions, gorgeous harmonies and amazing melodies.


“I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees.” - Pablo Neruda

We had an old family friend from Croatia. When we used to visit her home for afternoon tea she made an old fashioned cherry cake that was from the region of Zadar in Croatia. This is the famous place in Dalmatia where the liqueur maraschino is made from marasca cherries. The small, slightly sour fruit of the marasca cherry tree (Cerasus acidior), which grows wild along parts of the Dalmatian coast, lends the liqueur its unique aroma. No wonder the cake had glacé cherries in it!

We asked for the recipe and she gladly gave it to us. We have since then called this cake, “Cake Stenga” from the first name of our friend – however, you can call it “old fashioned cherry cake”!

225 g of unsalted butter
225 g of caster sugar
225 g of self-raising flour
125 g of glacé cherries
1 tbsp maraschino liqueur
4 eggs
zest of half an orange

Beat the butter in an electric mixer bowl until it well creamed. Add the sugar and zest, continuing to beat until dissolved. Add the egg yolks one by one. Fold in the egg whites well beaten into a stiff meringue. Stir in the liqueur, little by little while folding the mixture. Add the sifted flour, folding in well and last, the cherries, which you have halved and tossed in flour.
Place the mixture in a buttered cake pan, and bake in a moderate oven for about one hour, until golden and a skewer stuck in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream flavoured with maraschino liqueur.

Please add your favourite recipe using the Linky tool below:

Thursday, 26 February 2015


“In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.” – Charles Lindbergh

“Bush tucker” is a term given to food native to Australia, which was present before European colonisation. Australian aborigines had a healthy and varied diet based on the hunter-gatherer existence suitable to the nomadic life they led. They used whatever food was geographically and seasonally available and ate it for primarily nutritional purposes rather than epicurean ones. There was no refrigeration and only limited ways of preserving food, with no long-term storage containers known. Generally, whatever food was available had to be consumed quickly before it spoilt.

Local knowledge of which plants were edible, palatable, or delicious, as well as the best time for harvest and preparation methods, were passed orally to the next generation. Some plants or their fruits are less toxic at certain times and this may have had important consequences unless specialist knowledge was passed down through the generations. Hunting animals like kangaroos, wallabies, crocodiles, emus, etc and fishing was a task for males while women hunted the smaller animals, collected honey ants, dug for witchetty grubs, edible roots and yams, collected seeds and fruits. Children accompanied the adults in these activities and learnt from an early age how to find water and food by imitation.

Concerning these hunting-gathering activities, Paul Gordon, the Language Officer at Brewarrina said in 1996: “A lot of people say Aboriginal people never farmed the land... Never ploughed the land and they never grew wheat and they never planted apple trees and orange trees. We never had to. Our Mother, the earth, she gave herself freely to us. And because we respected her and loved her we never had to go and do all them other things. That would have been harming our mother. So, we just took what she gave us.” 

Aborigines generally did not boil water, nor stew food, so their main cooking methods (and hence their menus) were different from the Europeans’. They did not have pots or pans, although northern tribes were known to have used bailer shells. Roasting over open flames or using dug-out ovens in the ground were the commonest ways of cooking and many foods were eaten raw. They did not make hot beverages of any kind, nor did they make jams, jellies, or chutneys. There was little use of flavourings and apart from Bunya nuts they only used food from their tribal area and did not trade.

Several aboriginal foods are now well incorporated into the modern Australian menu. Kangaroo meat is delicious, low in saturated fats and its production is more efficient in Australian conditions than the production of mutton or beef. Emu meat is widely consumed and there is a thriving export industry. Crocodile meat is also available and Barramundi is well-deserved fish delicacy. We still have to learn to accept certain aboriginal foods onto our tables. Insects in particular seem to hold a particular aversion (for example, I would not want to sample grubs, larvae, grasshoppers, ants and the like). Many people find the idea of eating reptiles repulsive also.

Early European arrivals ate the fruit of the currant bush and the leaves of the native sarsaparilla vine to ward off scurvy. Warrigal greens (Tetragonia tetragonoides) grow quickly and are called “native spinach” by some. We have some growing in the garden and we eat its young shoots in salads or boil the leaves to have with a simple vinaigrette sauce. Some early settlers quickly learned to make made lilly-pilly (Syzygium australe) and quandong (native peach - Santalum acuminatum) jam. More and more native plants are being developed as popular foods and there is even a burgeoning export industry (see:

Tuesday, 24 February 2015


“The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to.” - Carl Sandburg

Poetry Jam’s prompt this week is “Inside Looking Out” (or vice-versa!) and participants can treat this in a poem literally or figuratively. Here is my contribution. The reference to Sappho is from a surviving fragment of her poetry (Diehl 94 / Voigt 168b / Cox 48):

“Well, the moon has set, and the Pleiades.
It is the middle of the night.
And the hours pass by,
But I sleep alone…”
Sappho (≈630/612 BCE to ≈570 BCE)


Moonlight streams into my room
(Ill luck would have me
Forget to draw the curtain tonight).

Outside, the garden
(Cold, frosty,
Silent and forsaken).
Tree branches
(bare, harsh, rapacious)
Clutch at illumined, star-strewn sky.
A sole night bird calls.
The chill, dark air is calm,
The sky so far away,
I know I’ll never reach it.

(Time passes;
The firmament rotates,
Sleep eludes me).

Cold, bright, impassive,
All-knowing moon looks in;
And on my desk Sappho remarks
That by my side
The bed is empty.


“Do not disturb the peace that I’ve managed to attain. Hearing your voice again would be like trying to quench thirst with salt water.” - Miguel Torga

Miguel Torga is the nom de plume of Portuguese author Adolfo Correia da Rocha (1907 – 1995), born in Trás-os-Montes, a remote, desolate, poor region in the North of the country, a place from which many natives were to emigrate in search of a better future. He is considered one of the greatest Portuguese writers of the 20th century. He wrote poetry, short stories, theatre and a 16-volume diary. Miguel Torga became known first through his beautiful poems, but his significant literary work also includes prose.

“Tales from the Mountain”, is a collection of short stories focussed on the way of life and the people of his native land, and more specifically the place of his birth Trás-os-Montes. The author was throughout his life sentimentally rooted to this region, reliving memories of his early childhood, a place he was forced to leave but whose nostalgic prints remained forever in his mind.

However, these are not water-coloured tales of soppy sentimentality. Trás-os-Montes is an isolated area of Portugal, where people have to struggle to make the infertile, sparse land yield frugal crops. The lives of the people there are harsh and bitter, and the author does not hide the truth of their hard labours and brutal exigencies. But, lighting the gloom and softening the tone, Torga imbues his stories with history and culture, which transcend the harsh existence of his characters.

These short stories have a universal appeal, but especially so for anyone familiar with life on the land and its many vicissitudes. Narration is in the third person, and the reader becomes involved in the lament for the life of those who live and face their often bleak destiny. With these twenty-two short tales (about six pages each), the reader discovers the breadth of human nature, the commonality of experiences and the elemental passions that drive all of us.

In one story, a man struggles with the diagnosis of leprosy and the banishment from his village; in another, a thief robs a church but discovers the hard way that someone else has done his dirty work before him; a village prostitute gets such little help from the men that fathered her children, that she comes to believe that her children have no fathers; a voodoo doll causes a mysterious death; a young boy gets his first Christmas present but also learns at the same time that a family member close to him has died; an elderly gravedigger prepares his own grave, thankful at last that his miserable existence is ending; a covert community of Jews take great pains to hide their religion from the majority of Catholics that makes up the village; a lame shepherd receives the accolade of the village by beating a wolf to death; while a priest unexpectedly delivers a baby…

Torga’s brutally frank view of rural life led to the banning of the “Tales from the Mountains” when they were first published. Later editions were published in Brazil, smuggled into Portugal and passed from hand to hand in literary and student circles. Torga was imprisoned for his unremitting opposition to the Salazar regime. He has since risen to an unrivalled position in modern Portuguese literature, with fifty published works to his credit, including poetry, fiction, plays, journals, essays, and a celebrated autobiography. He has received numerous international awards, twice been nominated for the Nobel Prize, and his work has been translated into most languages.

I guess from my description that it is easy to dismiss these Tales as irrelevant to today’s urban dwellers. After all one may remark, the author was born into a family of illiterate country people and he describes harsh village life that is far removed from today’s modern city slickers. But Torga speaks a universal human language, complex in emotion and thought, direct in action, dealing with matters of love and hate, life and death. He speaks with direct and terse language, describing lives without the comfortable illusions and material expectations that protect most people. It is this honesty and stripping back of human nature to its essence that makes his writing accessible and relevant to all who may read it.

Sunday, 22 February 2015


“Courage is grace under pressure.” - Ernest Hemingway

We watched Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck 2006 excellent film “The Lives of Others” starring Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur and Thomas Thieme. The director also wrote the screenplay, which must have made this film one that is very close to his heart. This is definitely one film that is worth the 78 wins and 27 nominations for awards that it achieved, including the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

The plot has as follows: Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is an officer with the Stasi, the East German secret police. It is 1984 when Wiesler attends a play written by Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), who is considered by many to be the ultimate example of the loyal citizen and a man of letters that supports the East German Socialist regime. Wiesler has a gut feeling that Dreyman can’t be as ideal as he seems and believes surveillance is called for. The Minister of Culture (Thomas Thieme) agrees but only later does Wiesler learn that the Minister sees Wiesler as a rival and lusts after his partner and leading actress, Christa (Martina Gedeck).

Dreyman’s apartment is bugged and Wiesler is in charge of surveillance. The more time Wiesler spends listening in on them, the more involved he becomes in their lives and he comes to care about them. The once rigid Stasi officer begins to intervene in their lives, in a positive way, protecting them whenever possible. Eventually, Wiesler’s activities catch up with him and he must prove himself loyal to the regime and his superior, Lieutenant Colonel Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur)…

The film is 137 minutes long, but never did we look at the clock and it kept our interest up throughout. The acting was exceptional, the cinematography, sets, costumes and music splendid and production values wonderful. This was a stellar film in all categories. That everyone involved in its making believed in it is supported by the fact that the entire budget of the film, about 2 million dollars (1.6 million Euro), was possible only because the actors were willing to work for 20% of their customary salary.

The themes running through the movie are art (literature, music, acting, etc), and the positive effect it can have on people’s lives; conscience, and for how long we can choose ignore it; betrayal, and the way we can fall into its trap; redemption, and how we can salvage our self respect and humanity in the face of past wrongdoing. The manner in which a person may realise the error of their way and how they can actively take steps to make right their wrongs in a pivotal element in the film and is it this positive transformation of character that makes the movie a powerful one.

I would recommend this film most highly, but be warned, it is a gritty, “heavy”, confronting film that challenges viewers and exposes many of the atrocities of totalitarian regimes, highlighting the abuses of human rights and personal freedom that is inevitable in such regimes. It is a robust, substantial and absorbing film that one can sink one’s teeth into. We found it poignant, moving and extremely satisfying as both a movie and as a political statement.


“It's particularly hard to take being stabbed in the back close to home. There's always a feeling of betrayal when people of your own group oppose you.” -  Catharine MacKinnon

Leonardo da Vinci, was born in 1452, in the little town of Vinci (his name means Leonard from Vinci!), situated in the heart of Tuscany, only a few kilometres from Florence and Pistoia, a stone’s throw from Pisa, and within an hour’s drive from Lucca and Siena. Leonardo had a keen eye and a quick mind that led him to make important scientific discoveries, yet he never published his ideas. Instead he kept diaries and meticulous notebooks where he soliloquised about his thousands of ideas, recorded hundreds of his inventions and countless sketches.

He was a gentle vegetarian who loved animals and despised war, yet he worked as a military engineer to invent advanced and deadly weapons, some of which were used very successfully in the internecine wars that ravaged the Italy of his time. He was one of the greatest painters of the Italian Renaissance, yet he left only a handful of completed paintings, but each one of them universally admired as a true masterpiece.

Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant girl, Caterina. After a tranquil childhood in Vinci where is talent for drawing became apparent, he was sent to Florence, as an apprentice in the studio of Verrocchio (1469). His talent was acknowledged and he became a member of the corporation of painters in 1472. In 1473, he completed his first known drawing, “La valle dell'Arno” (The Arno Valley). He painted an angel in Verrocchio's "Baptism of Christ" (1475) and then “The Annunciation” in 1477. This is followed by the famous “Portrait of Ginevra de'Benci” in 1478.

He painted “San Gerolamo” and “The Adoration of the Magi” in 1481, but both of these remain unfinished. In 1482-3 leaves Florence for Milan, in the service of Ludovico Sforza. He paints the “Virgin of the Rocks” (1483-6) and begins to explore human flight (1486). His anatomical drawings in the manuscripts are drawn between 1488 and 1489. He designs a flying machine in 1492 and this is followed by work on the giant equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza (1493). He paints the second “Virgin of the Rocks” (1494) and “The Last Supper” (1495).

In 1496, he meets mathematician Luca Pacioli, with whom he studies Euclid and paints "Madonna and Child with St. Anne" in 1499.  In the same year he leaves Milan to return to Florence, stopping in Mantua and Venice (1500). Cesare Borgia assumes Leonardo as military engineer in 1502 and Leonardo designs war machines and draws topographical maps (1502-3). He draws studies for "The Battle of Anghiari" (1503-6), followed by the famous “Mona Lisa” in 1504.

He studies the flight of birds, designs flying machines, and tries to square the circle in 1505.  He studies fluid elements: Water, air and fire in 1506-8, returning to Milan in 1508. He paints "St. Anne" in 1509 and undertakes detailed anatomical research the following year. He goes to Rome seeking the patronage of the new pope, Leo X in 1513. In 1515, Leonardo constructs a mechanical lion for the coronation of Francis I, King of France and also draws the famous “Self-Portrait”.  In 1516, he goes to the court of Francis I, Amboise and designs a palace in Romorantin in 1517. He died in Amboise, May 2, 1519.

“The Last Supper” (above) is in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. It is one of the world's most famous paintings, and one of the most studied, scrutinised, and satirised. The work is presumed to have been commenced around 1495 and was commissioned as part of a scheme of renovations to the church and its convent buildings by Leonardo's patron Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. The painting represents the scene of The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, as it is told in the Gospel of John, 13:21. Leonardo has depicted the consternation that occurred among the Twelve Disciples when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. Due to the methods used, and a variety of environmental factors, very little of the original painting remains today, despite numerous restoration attempts, the last being completed in 1999.

For this work, Leonardo sought a greater detail and luminosity than could be achieved with traditional fresco. He painted “The Last Supper” on a dry wall rather than on wet plaster, so it is not a true fresco. Because a fresco cannot be modified as the artist works, Leonardo instead chose to seal the stone wall with a double layer of dried plaster. Then, borrowing from panel painting, he added an undercoat of white lead to enhance the brightness of the oil and tempera that was applied on top.

This was a method that had been described previously, by Cennino Cennini in the 14th century. However, Cennini had recommended the use of secco for the final touches alone. These techniques were important for Leonardo's desire to work slowly on the painting, giving him sufficient time to develop the gradual shading or chiaroscuro that was essential in his style. Unfortunately, this was to the detriment of the painting and it succumbed to the humidity and the water seepage…