Saturday, 17 September 2016


“The violin sings.” - Joshua Bell

Ignazio Albertini was born, probably in Milan, around 1644. The first preserved document that mentions him is a letter from composer Johann Schmelzer to the Prince-Bishop Olmuca where it is mentioned that Albertini was prized as a violinist, although prone to “bad behaviour”. Albertini was supposedly murdered in Vienna in 1685, at the time he was a musician in the court of the Empress-mother Eleonore Gonzaga, who was a great patron of musicians. In the Austrian capital Albertini belonged to a circle of selected soloists who have been linked to the Habsburg court, and we can we conclude this from his close relationship with Schmelzer, the leading composer in Vienna at that time.

To date, the only known works by Albertini are violin sonatas, which have come down to us in  the collection printed in 1686 in Frankfurt, seven years after the composer’s death. The only remaining copy is now kept in the National Library of France in Paris. Belonging to a long line of violin sonatas published in the second half of the seventeenth century, Albertini’s compositions have some original characteristics, but in terms of musical language, the composer shows a clear blend of Italian style and violin virtuosity characteristic of the German cultural space.

Albertini’s sonatas are multi-sectional pieces, quite varied in content and structure, and all of the highest quality. Some idea of the rich variety of forms found in the “Sonatinae” may be gleaned from the following examples: Sonata IX is a passacaglia in which the main theme is presented as a canon at the fifth in the first and the last sections; and statements of the ostinato sometimes overlap with formal sections of the sonata. Sonata XII, the last in the cycle, consists entirely of imitative movements, unlike other sonatas, in which imitative movements are either absent or are surrounded by free sections, such as slow lyrical arias, toccata-like movements with rapid passagework over sustained bass notes, etc. Albertini’s sonatas are very demanding technically, with frequent instances of difficult fast passages, leaps, sudden changes of register and, particularly in the last sonata, double stopping.

The sonatas are also somewhat reminiscent of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (12 August 1644 (baptised) – 3 May 1704) who was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and violinist. No doubt, these two composers knew of each other’s work (if not personally acquainted with one another).

Little else is known of Albertini’s life (and quite tantalisingly little of his murder by stabbing). One can still enjoy listening to his violin sonatas, here performed by Hélène Schmitt with Jörg-Andreas Bötticher, Karl-Ernst Schröder and David Sinclair on various continuo instruments. There’s poise and grace in Schmitt’s performances, as well elevated lyricism. But most of all there’s passion: A passionate intensity of line, a passionate concentration of tone, a passionate brilliance of color, a passionate love of this fiercely expressive and violently beautiful music. Schmitt’s trio of continuo players are sympathetic players and each gets his/her own sweet solo Prelude or Toccatina interspersed with Schmitt’s Sonatas.

1 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 1 in D minor (8:06)
2 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 2 in F major (5:50)
3 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 3 in B minor (5:56)
4 Prelude (3:56)
5 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 4 in C minor (6:35)
6 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 5 in A major (6:51)
7 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 7 in A minor (6:52)
8 Toccata (4:28)
9 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 8 in D minor (7:04)
10 Prelude (0:54)
11 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 10 in E minor (8:16)
12 Toccata No 5 for keyboard (2:49)
13 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 11 in G minor (5:20)
14 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 12 in A minor (4:46)

Friday, 16 September 2016


“You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook's year. I get more excited by that than anything else.” - Mario Batali

The fresh, new season asparagus has started to appear at the greengrocer’s and it’s time to use it in all sorts of Spring dishes. As it’s early in the season and the cold weather is lingering on, asparagus soup is one of the first dishes we have at home using this delectable vegetable.

Asparagus Soup
400g fresh asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
650mL vegetable stock
1 tsp dried chopped tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Sour cream, to serve
Chopped fresh chives, to serve

Chop the asparagus into 3cm pieces. Heat the oil in a soup saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add the asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until sautéed well.
Add the stock or water. Bring to the boil and add the tarragon. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
Blend the mixture in a food processor until smooth. Return to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of cream, and scattered with the chopped chives and freshly ground pepper.

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Wednesday, 14 September 2016


“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” - Dalai Lama

For this week’s mid-week motif, Poets United has as its theme the word “appreciation”. The word comes form the Latin and the meaning inherent in it is “to set a price for something, to appraise”. We understand it nowadays to mean “recognition and enjoyment of the qualities of someone or something”. It can also stand for “gratitude”, or “a formal written appraisal of someone’s work” or the “full understanding of a situation”.  My poem below:

The Finer Things in Life

Ruby red, clear liquid,
Fine wine fills the crystal goblet:
Full-bodied, with rich aromas,
Sunshine captured in glass
To be appreciated on this winter’s day.

Heavenly strains
Of a string quartet:
Mozart’s music divine,
The players inspired and talented,
Appreciated by sensitive ears.

Fine bone china, gold-trimmed
A most suitable receptacle for:
Duck confit, tender asparagus,
Exquisite sauce and fine spices
To be appreciated by even jaded palates.

Soft silks and sparkling gems,
Superb cut, fine sewing:
Dressed to the nines,
With rich accessories
Appreciated by connoisseurs.

Outside the restaurant,
Beneath the Michelin stars:
A homeless woman.
The people inside fail to appreciate
The magnitude of her plight,
And see her abjection
As self-inflicted…

Tuesday, 13 September 2016


El que lee mucho y anda mucho, ve mucho y sabe mucho. (He who walks a lot and reads a lot, sees a lot and knows a lot.)” - Miguel de Cervantes

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us! Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Las Palmas (officially Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) is a city and capital of Spanish Gran Canaria island, in the Canary Islands, off the north-western coast of Africa. It is the co-capital (jointly with Santa Cruz de Tenerife), the most populous city in the autonomous community of the Canary Islands, and the ninth largest city in Spain with a population of 383,308 in 2010. It is also the fifth most populous urban area in Spain and (depending on sources) ninth or tenth most populous metropolitan area in Spain.

Las Palmas is the largest city of the European Union lying outside the European continent. Las Palmas is located in the northeastern part of the island of Grand Canary, about 150 kilometres off the Moroccan coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. It enjoys a very mild and pleasant semi-arid climate highly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, with mild to warm temperatures throughout the year. Locals know it as the “Eternal Spring”, with an average annual temperature of 21.3 °C. According to a study carried out by Thomas Whitmore, director of research on climatology at Syracuse University in the U.S., Las Palmas enjoys “the best climate in the world”.

The city was founded in 1478, and considered the de facto capital of the Canary Islands until the seventeenth century. Today, the city is co-capital of the Canary Islands with Santa Cruz. It is home of the Canarian Ministry of Presidency (shared in a 4-year term with Santa Cruz de Tenerife), as well as half of the Ministries and Boards of the Canarian Government, and the High Court of Justice of the Canary Islands. Thus it is the judicial and commercial capital of the Canary Islands, and is also home to a large part of the executive power.

The city is located in the north-eastern part of the island set in magnificent scenery composed of two bays and their beautiful beaches – Playa de las Canteras and Playa de las Alcaravaneras. It has an impressive infrastructure of hotels and apartments and its harbour Puerto de La Luz is one of the most important in all Europe, giving the city a very cosmopolitan feel. Only under the impulse of tourism and economic activities of the 1960s was the city finally consolidated with a population that has doubled in the last 30 years.

Las Palmas offers a variety of theatre, cinema, opera, concerts, visual arts and dance performances. The city hosts the Canary Islands Music Festival, the Theatre and Dance and the International Film Festival. The main City Festival, celebrating the foundation of the “City Fiestas de San Juan” is held in June. The Carnival of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is known not only in Spain but also worldwide, and is one of the main attractions for tourists. The city centre of Las Palmas, specifically the Vegueta and Triana neighbourhoods, are included in the tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A host of museums, exhibition halls, auditoriums and libraries contribute to the cultural life of the city.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

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Monday, 12 September 2016


“All of us have our individual curses, something that we are uncomfortable with and something that we have to deal with, like me making horror films, perhaps.” - Wes Craven

Remember going to camp and after dinner, when night had fallen and everyone was sitting around the campfire someone would start telling a story? And more often than not that story was a horror story, full of ghosts and vampires, monsters and creepy crawlies, zombies and giant malevolent creatures set on doom death and destruction. Everyone loves a good horror story!

A horror story is one that deliberately scares or frightens the audience, through suspense, violence or shock. H. P. Lovecraft distinguishes two primary varieties in the “Supernatural Horror in Literature”: 1) Physical Fear or the “mundanely gruesome” and 2) the true Supernatural Horror story or the “Weird Tale”. The latter is sometimes called a “dark fantasy”, since the laws of nature must be violated in some way, to make the story “fantastic” or “imaginary”. The following sub-genres are contained within the Horror genre:

Ghost story: A story about spirits of the dead into the realm of the living. There are subgenres: The Traditional Haunting, Poltergeists, The Haunted Place or Object (i.e. the hotel in Stephen King’s “The Shining”), or the etching in M. R. James’ “The Mezzotint”, etc. Some would include stories of Revenants such as W. W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw.” A typical film in this sub-genre is Tobe Hooper’s 1982 film “Poltergeist” or  Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie “TheShining”.

Monster: A story about a monster, creature or mutant that terrorises people. Usually, it fits into the horror genre, for instance, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. Although Shelley’s Frankenstein is often also considered the first science fiction story (biological science reanimating the dead), it does present a monstrous “creature”. Other clear monster stories are of the creatures of folklore and fable: The Vampire, the Ghoul, the Werewolf, the Zombie, etc. Beings such as that depicted in Karl Freund’s 1932 film “The Mummy” with Boris Karloff would also qualify. A very large number of films have been made in this sub-genre, exemplifying people’s delight with being made to feel scared by mythical, monstrous creatures.

Giant monsters: A story about a giant monsters, big enough to destroy buildings is a sub-genre of a sub-genre! Jack Arnold’s 1955 film “Tarantula” is a classic. Some such stories are about two giant monsters fighting each other, a genre known as kaiju in Japan, which is famous for such works after the success of such films and franchises such as Godzilla. Ishirô Honda’s “Mothra vs. Godzilla” of 1964 is a famous example.

Werewolves: Stories about werewolves, humans with the ability to shapeshift into wolves. This is based on many folk-legends around the world and the human fascination with the wolf, a formidable wild animal, made all the scarier perhaps by its resemblance to the familiar and friendly pet, the dog. George Waggner’s 1941 movie “The Wolf Man” is one that has been much imitated and in which Lon Chaney Jr gives a great performance as the monster.

Jiangshi: Stories about jiangshi, the hopping corpses under the control of Taoist priests derived from Chinese literature and folklore. Ma Wu’s 1993 film “Qu mo dao zhang” (Exorcist Master) is a good example.

Vampires: A story about vampires, reanimated bodies that feed on the blood of the living, based on European folklore. Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula” (1897) created many of the genre’s conventions. There are huge numbers of films that have translated the Dracula story to the screen, with Christopher Lee being one of the more memorable actors in the title role. Terence Fisher’s 1958 “Horror of Dracula” was one of the first such examples.

Occult stories: Stories that touch upon the adversaries of Good, especially the “Enemies” of the forces of righteousness as expressed in any given religious philosophy. Hence, stories of devils, demons, demonic possession, dark witchcraft, evil sorcerers or warlocks, and figures like the Antichrist would qualify. The nature of such stories presupposes the existence of the side of Good and the existence of a deity to be opposed to the forces of Evil. William Friedkin’s 1973 movie “The Exorcist” was a highly controversial but very popular such film.

Slasher: A horror genre featuring a serial killer or other psychopath as an antagonist, methodically killing a number of protagonists in succession. Dramatic suspense is heightened by the victims' obliviousness of the killer. The victims are typically in isolated settings and often engaged in sexual activity previous to the attacks. The “slasher” kills their victims by stealthily sneaking up on them and then bloodily stabbing and slicing them to death with a sharp object, such as a Chef’s knife. John Carpenter’s 1978 film “Halloween” is a classic in this sub-genre.
Gender roles in slasher films are of particular interest in feminist film theory. which has extensively examined the trope of the “Final Girl”.

Survival Horror: A horror story about a protagonist who is put in a risky and life-threatening situation that he or she must endure, often as a result of things such as zombies or other monsters, and the rest of the plot is how the hero or heroes overcome this. Danny Boyle’s 2002 film “28 DaysLater” is such an example.

Sunday, 11 September 2016


“Women hold up half the sky.” - Mao Zedong

Eva Gonzalès (April 19, 1849 – May 6, 1883) was a French Impressionist painter born in Paris into the family of the writer Emmanuel Gonzalès. In 1865, she began her professional training and took lessons in drawing from the society portraitist Charles Chaplin. Gonzalès became a pupil of the artist Édouard Manet in February 1869. Manet is said to have begun a portrait of her at once which was completed on 12 March 1870 and exhibited at Salon in that year.

Like her teacher, Édouard Manet, Gonzalès never exhibited with the Impressionist painters in their controversial exhibitions in Paris, but she is considered part of the group because of her painting style. She was Manet’s only formal student and modelled frequently for several members of the Impressionist school. Gonzalès posed for Manet in 1869 for the painting “Portrait of Mlle Gonzalès”, a work which has previously been discussed more than Gonzalès' oeuvre at her own 1885 retrospective and at Galerie Daber’s exhibition for her work in 1950.

While studying under Manet, Gonzalès self-portraits suggest she was exploring her individuality and identity as an artist by presenting subtle correctives to Manet’s version of her. Until 1872, she was strongly influenced by Manet but later developed her own, more personal style. During the Franco-Prussian War she sought refuge in Dieppe. She married the graphic artist Henri Guérard in 1879, and used him and her sister Jeanne Gonzalès as the subjects for many of her paintings.

Her work was exhibited at the offices of the art review L'Art in 1882 and at the Galerie Georges Petit in 1883. Her career was cut short when she died in childbirth at the age of thirty-four, exactly six days after the death of her teacher, Manet. In 1885, after her death a retrospective of 88 works was held at the Salons de La Vie Moderne.

The painting above is here “Awakening Girl” exhibited in the Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany. It is 81.5 cm by 100 cm, oil on canvas. This is a deceptively simple work with most of the canvas covered by the whiteness of the bed linens. The reclining figure along a diagonal from left to right divides the canvas and the eye is drawn to the beautiful face of the young woman, which is framed, in stark contrast, by her dark locks. The brown-beige background is balanced by the bed-side table on which the blue flowers seemingly provide the only other tone of colour in the painting until one notices the cool blue-gray shadows on the linen. The expression on the face of the woman is one of mild amusement, perhaps at the sight of her partner dressing…