Alexander Malofeev

I must confess that until a few weeks ago, I had never heard about this young Russian pianist. I am interested in classical (piano) music, see for example my post about the 17th Chopin Piano Competition . This year, from 4 until 21 May, an international music competition was held in Beijing. This China International Music Competition (CIMC) was devoted to the piano.

The CIMC concert with the three finalists, and the presentation of the prizes can be viewed here. Malofeev got the second prize and not everybody was happy with the verdict of the jury. Have a look at the comments given. Here are a few:

Malofeev should have won. end of story. ” , “Malofeev is FAR ABOVE the rest. Politics again; what a shame! “, “Unforgivable result – a travesty of justice.“, ”
Alexander was obviously the best, is it Russophobia again? “

I got intrigued by Malofeev and searched for information and YouTube recordings.

He was born in Moscow on 21 October 2001 amd began studying the piano at the age of five.

The earliest recording I have found, is from May 2013, when he was eleven years old. He is playing Grieg’s piano concerto in A minor, the audio quality is not that good, but you should watch at least the beginning, how he is greeting the orchestra twice and struggling to adjust the piano stool!

The next recording is from about one year later, when Alexander took part in the 8th Tchaikovsky competition for young musicians, where he won the
First Prize and a Gold Medal. In this recording he is playing Saint-Saëns’ 2nd Piano Concerto in G minor. A spectacular performance by a 12 year old boy.

Again an endearing start 🙂 He comes on stage and wants to sit down, but then realises that he still has to greet the conductor and the concertmaster.

The quality of this YouTube is very good. If you don’t want to listen to the complete concerto, you should at least watch him playing the third movement. At the end of the recording he comes on stage with his piano teacher, another charming moment.

On 29-3-2015, Alexander Malofeev, 13 year old, plays Prokofiev’s 3rd Piano Concerto in C major. The (audio) quality of the video is not perfect, but it is fascinating to see him in action. And as if playing this demanding concerto is not enough, he gives an encore, Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps in a transcription for piano by Kurbatov.

I found two recordings of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no 1. This one was recorded in Saint Petersburg, also in 2015, on 25 December.

And this one is from the Scala in Milan, 6 February 2017, Malofeev is now 15 year old, a teenager, losing his puppy fat :-). He is playing two encores, a piano transcription of a “pas de deux” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Ondine, the first movement of Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit.

Last year, 27 July, Alexander, now 16 year old, played again Prokofiev’s
3rd Piano Concerto, this time at a festival in the south of France. It is interesting to compare this recording with the one recorded three years earlier (see above).

On 30 December 2018, 17 year old Malofeev played Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto in D minor in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow. A spectacular performance. It is interesting to read the comments. One of them says:

Its pretty obvious who the next winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition will be in June of 2019.

At the CIMC competition, May 2019, where Malofeev got the second prize, he played Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor, KV 466, in the final round. It is my favourite Mozart concerto and Alexander plays it beautifully.

For comparison here is the same concert, played by Tony Siqi Yun, the winner of the first prize. Also born in 2001, a few months older than Alexander. He is a Canadian and currently a student at the Juilliard School.

The chairperson of the CIMC jury is Yoheved Kaplinsky , who is also the
chair of the Piano Department of The Juilliard School. A coincidence? Not everybody will agree.

Until now the year 2019 has not been very lucky for Alexander Malofeev. The commenter, mentioned above, may have found it obvious that Alexander would be the next winner of the 2019 Tchaikovsky Competition, but actually he did not even survive the first round! Here is the list of contestants. Malofeev was the youngest of all. Maybe he should not have participated and wait a few more years.

Here is an interesting analysis of Alexander’s first round. He played Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Liszt in a 50 minute recital. A quote from the analysis:

By the end of fifty minutes this pale, black-shirted young man of stooping posture had given his all and beyond. Totally drained, totally exhausted. Visually, seemingly even a little unwell, drenched in sweat. Just maybe this could explain the tailing off in parts of the Chopin and Liszt, the gradual lessening of right-hand ‘ring’ and strength. But his determination and imagination, the vision he wanted to deliver, never failed. In the grand scheme of things, the few (inconsequential) slips and blips counted for nothing. The personality and possibilities, the honed facility, the ability to cope under pressure, are what exhilarated.

The jury eliminated him.

I am sure that we will hear more about him.

Journal Dutch trip 2019

On the 15th of April I arrived in Amsterdam and seven weeks later, on the 4th of June, I flew back to Malaysia.

I have written already quite a few blogs about this visit and I will give links in this final post. But there is still a bit more to report 🙂

The first two weeks Aric”s sister joined us, it was her first visit to the Netherlands, we visited many tourist attractions, here are some highlights.

Detailed report here : Aei Ling’s visit. We also spent a few days with her in Paris, resulting in a separate report: Paris.

After Aei Ling had gone back to Malaysia, Aric stayed two more weeks. We visited a photo exhibition in Den Haag: Erwin Olaf in the Gemeentemuseum

And we spent five days in Italy, here is the report: Cinque Terre.

After Aric went back. I stayed for another three weeks. During that period I visited my family and friends. I wrote a report about three of these visits: Family Visits. Here a few pictures, one of each visit.

I also visited a friend in Utrecht and walked around a few hours in this beautiful town. It resulted in another post: Utrecht 2019 .

And finally I wrote a post about an open-air art exhibition in Amsterdam, which I visited just a few days before I flew back to Malaysia : ArtZuid

Altogether seven (!) blog posts 😉 . About some of my other activities I will report in this final post.

Aric and visited the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, Aric had never been there yet. In 2016 I have written a detailed report about the Royal Palace, Amsterdam. Here a few pictures taken during our visit.

During an earlier visit, Aric had found on the Internet information about an interesting sculpture near the Leidseplein, the Little Saw Man. The artist is unknown, and has created more artworks in the past decades. We found two more.

Each time I come back to Amsterdam, I fall in love again with the town 🙂 .

There is a lot of beautiful architecture, old and new. From left to right, the Westerkerk, the hardware store of Gunters & Meuser and the hotel Nhow, still under construction.

And there are so many beautiful museums! The Stedelijk Museum is one of my favourites. They have a large collection of Malevich paintings

Like many museums do nowadays, often different art forms are combined in the exhibitions, which adds to the pleasure of walking around.

I like the German Expressionists, the museum has quite a large collection.

A few more of my favourites.

My followers will expect that I also write something about food and the meals I enjoyed :-). I had many lunches and dinners with friends, at home or in a restaurant, but I don’t always take pictures nowadays.

Let me start with a YouTube where I show how to eat a raw herring. It was on Kings Day, normally I am not dressed like this 🙂

My usual dinner with Yolanda took place this time in restaurant Entrepot . Casual, relaxed atmosphere. We ordered the chef’s menu, 5 courses, and everything was delicious. Each dish looked as an artwork 😉

I had also a lunch with ex-colleagues from my school. In restaurant Merkelbach. a 3-course lunch menu. Beautiful weather, and here too each dish was a work of art (and delicious as well).

Two more “social” pictures. Left a lunch with friends from my school, right a dinner with friends from my university past.

I will finish this post with a few pictures of my apartment and its direct environment. Here is the livingroom and my study annex guest room.

This is the view north from my apartment.

And here the view west during sunset.

From my apartment it is a 5 minutes walk to a big shopping center, where I almost daily go for my grocery items. On my way I have to cross a small park, with a pond where I noticed a Common Coot who had built a nest. In the right picture the bird was standing up for a short while, so I could see that there were six eggs.

The nest was only a few meter away from a footpath and often people were standing there watching the bird.

On the first of June, three days before my departure, the eggs had hatched! In the video you can see three chicks and the father bringing food. Very interesting. Unfortunately on the last day, the nest was empty and only one chick was swimming beside the parents. Probably the other had been eaten by the seagulls who are frequenting the pond. That’s life

Seven wonderful weeks, though sometimes a bit hectic. After I came back to Malaysia from my “holidays”, I needed time to recover 🙂

Utrecht, 2019

During my last stay in the Netherlands, I visited Leiden and I was very enthusiastic about this historic town. This time I had arranged to have lunch with a friend in Utrecht and I decided to make it a daytrip, so I could explore another historic town.

Let me start with three images. First a map of Utrecht , drawn in 1652. The town is surrounded by defensive moats (singels in Dutch).

This map is from 1856. Still not much development outside the singels

And here is a Google Earth screenshot from 2017. To guide the eye, I have marked the “singels” in blue and also indicated the locations where I have taken pictures. Click to enlarge. (I have rotated the GE image in such a way that North points in the same direction as in the old maps)

I arrived at Utrecht CS, the largest and busiest railway station in the Netherlands. To reach the historical town, I had to cross a shopping center to the Vredenburg square, from where I had a look at the TivoliVredenburg (2014), the modern music complex of Utrecht.

From the square I entered the Zakkendragerssteeg, mentioned for the first time in 1425 and reached the Oudegracht, dating back to the 12th century. In a few hundred meters from the 21th century to the Middle Ages 😉

The canals of Utrecht (Oudegracht, Nieuwegracht and a few minor ones) are rather unique in the world, very different from the Amsterdam ones. They have functioned in the past as an inner-city harbour. The canals were connected to the rivers Rhine and Vecht, and alongside the canals there were wharves, giving access to basement cellars, underneath the houses of the merchants.

I crossed the Oudegracht (more pictures later) and walked to the Janskerk, founded shortly after 1040, built in roman style, but of course modified many times later.

I had no time to visit the interior, and continued to the hallmark of Utrecht, the Domtoren (Dom tower) built between 1321 and 1382. With a height of 112 m it is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. Work was being done on it during my visit.

On the Dom square I took a picture of the statue of Jan van Nassau, the younger brother of William of Orange, who has been instrumental in the signing of the Unie van Utrecht (1579), regarded as the foundation of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, during the war of independence with Spain.

The Academiegebouw on the Dom square looks old, but isn’t ! It was built between 1891-94 in Dutch Neo-Renaissance style.

Then it was time for lunch. I met my friend at the Rechtbank, in earlier days a courthouse, now a popular cafe. He was one of my first students when I was a physics teacher, and is now a physicist himself…:-)

AFter our lunch I continued my walk, crossing the Nieuwegracht to the Maliesingel. The Nieuwegracht (New Canal) is actually very old, built around 1390, but still newer than the Oudegracht (Old Canal), which was built in the 12th century. The Maliesingel is one of the moats, still surrounding the old town.

In the past, rich people sometimes built simple houses for the poor around a courtyard. The Dutch name for such a compound is “hofje”, in Utrecht you still find an alternative name : Kameren. The houses consisted basically of one room (kamer). Here is the Bruntenhof (Bruntscameren), built in 1621.

I wanted to visit the Centraal Museum, so I walked back to the Nieuwegracht and the Lange Nieuwstraat. This “New Street” dates back to ca 1300, same as the Dorstige Hartsteeg. The church tower you see in the background, belongs to St Catherine’s Cathedral, no time to visit.

Walking to the Centraal Museum I noticed a sign for The University Museum and the Hortus , the former botanical gardens of the University.

I spent some time in the University Museum. Interesting mixture of sometimes weird objects. As a physicist I was of course interested in the particle accelerator, in this case even more, because my friend told me that he had actually been working with this machine, during his research!

Walking to the Central Museum I passed the Beyerskameren (1597), another charity project to give (free) housing to the poor.

The end of the Lange Nieuwsstraat is dominated by the Fundatie van Renswoude. Built in Rococo style in 1757, it was meant to provide education for “intelligent” orphan boys. The interior must be magnificent, but is only open to the public at specific times, like the Open Monument Day.

The Centraal Museum is the main museum of Utrecht, founded in 1838. It has an interesting collection of “old” art, modern art, applied art, the history of Utrecht etc. For me it was the first time that I visited the museum. Therefore quite a lot of pictures.

Many museums nowadays show their collection, combining the various art forms, like here: paintings, furniture, fashion. I really like this approach..

Of course the museum has lots of Rietveld furniture. The dollhouse is from the end of the 17th century and obviously not meant for children 🙂

Two examples of art mixing. Left 17th century portraits combined with a self-portrait by Carel Willink (1922). Right various forms of fashion.

Roelant Saverij (1576 –1639) was a Golden Age painter who lived a large part of his life in Utrecht.

Pyke Koch 1901 – 1991 ) can also be considered an Utrecht painter. He and Carel Willink were the main representatives of Dutch Magic Realism. He was a perfectionist, his oeuvre is quite small, and I am always happy to find one of his paintings in a museum. The Centraal Museum has quite a few!

J.H. Moesman (1909-1988) was born in Utrecht and lived there almost all of his life. A Surrealist painter, the “Dutch Dali”. The museum houses a large collection of his works.

I spent only about one hour in this museum, a next time I will stay longer, there is a lot to see, but I had to make my way back to the station.

The Nicolai church is located next to the museum. Its origins go back to the 12th century, the front with the two towers is still in the original Roman style. In 1586 one tower was raised to make room for a carillon.

A few more pictures of de Oudegracht.

On my way back, I visited a few more “hofjes”. Lot of heritage buildings, a very pleasant part of Utrecht.

But Utrecht is not only interesting because of its heritage. It is a lively town, with many cafes, restaurants and entertainment outlets. And there is a lot of Jugendstil in Utrecht, one of my architecturale favourites. But that will be for a future visit.

When friends of mine are visiting the Netherlands, I sometimes advised them to skip overcrowded Amsterdam and visit Utrecht instead. Now that I have walked around myself, I will keep telling them: Visit Utrecht!

Erwin Olaf in the Gemeentemuseum

To celebrate the 60th birthday of Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf a double retrospective exhibition of his work has been held in the Gemeentemuseum and the Photography Museum, both in Den Haag.

I have always been a fan of him, so during my recent trip to the Netherlands, Aric and I made a day trip to Den Haag. The Gemeentemuseum is one of my favourite museums. The building, designed by Berlage and constructed between 1931-1935, is an artwork itself, and the museum houses the world largest collection of Mondrian paintings. My last visit was in 2017, More museums in Den Haag

I was very impressed by the Erwin Olaf exhibition. I was familiar with his older work, but not really aware of his development during the last decades. As the Gemeentemuseum describes him, he is not only a photographer but has become a digital image-maker and storyteller.

Here are two of his recent works, that especially fascinated, and also intrigued me.

What struck me is the lack on interaction between the two persons. They seem to be living in their own world. Here are a few more examples.

More persons, or one only, I get the same feeling of loneliness and isolation. With all of these (large-scale) photographs, you are wondering about the story behind it. And of course admiring the sheer technical perfection!

A selection of portrait photos

Erwin Olaf is also an installation artist.

Last year he has made a widely acclaimed series of portraits of the Dutch Royal Family.

I enjoyed this exhibition of his recent works very much! Maybe also because some of his photographs reminded me of works by other favourite artists of mine 😉

Here is David Hockney‘s painting Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972).

And here is Edward Hopper‘s painting Automat (1927)

Before moving to the Photography Museum for the second part of the exhibition, we first had some food in the restaurant. The right picture shows my failed attempt to evoke loneliness and isolation 😉

The exhibition in the Photography Museum is about Erwin Olaf’s development as a photographer. Most of the photos I had seen before, so we spent less time here. There was also work of photographers who have influenced him.

Two fascinating self-portraits, created 33 years apart!

More portraits

In his early years he was influenced by Robert Mapplethorpe 😉

It was a perfect outing. On our way back, by tram to the Den Haag train station, we passed the parliament buildings and decided to have a short walk around, because Aric had never been there.

ArtZuid 2019

ArtZuid is an international sculpture exhibition which takes place every two years in Amsterdam. The first time was in 2009 and the artworks are exhibited mainly in Plan-Zuid, an urban development plan designed by Berlage in 1917. The 2019 exhibition takes place from May 17 to September 15. More information can be found on the ArtZuid website.

The exhibition is becoming bigger every time it is held, with extensions until the Rijksmuseum and Amstelveen. I limited myself to the proper ArtZuid exhibition, which has 91 items this year. Of course not all the works of art appealed to me, here is my selection. In a rather arbitrary order, but I start with those that have been created after 2000. For each artist I have added a link either to their own website, or to Wikipedia.

Atelier Van Lieshout. created in 1995 by Joep van Lieshout (1963), the Netherlands

Henk Visch (1950), the Netherlands

Johan Tahon (1965) , Belgium

Yoshitomo Nara (1959), Japan

Gloria Friedmann (1950), Germany

Erwin Wurm (1954), Austria

Yubi Kirindongo (1946), Curaçao. Also represented with some older works.

Roberto Barni (1939), Italy

Armando (1929-2018), the Netherlands

Theo Jansen (1948), the Netherlands

Nick Ervinck (1981), Belgium

Hans Van de Bovenkamp (1938), the Netherlands/USA

Eja Siepman van den Berg (1943), the Netherlands.

Jan Fabre (1958), Belgium

Tony Matelli (1971), USA

Left Nancy Rubins (1952) and right Matthew Monahan (1972), both USA

Ivan Cremer (1984), the Netherlands

Left Barry Flanagan (1941-2009), UK and right Jaume Plensa (1955), Spain

George Struikelblok (1973), Surinam

Left Marc Quinn (1964), UK and right Tom Claassen (1964), the Netherlands

Sachi Miyachi (1978). Japan

Left Joel Shapiro (1941), USA and right Jems Robert Koko Bi (1966), Ivory Coast

There are also artworks, created before 2000, mostly by artists who have already passed away.

Left Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) and right Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985), both France. Of course both sculptures are not the originals, many (authorised) copies have been made (and sold!). For Rodin see this Wikipedia List of The Thinker sculptures 🙂

Aristide Maillol (1861-1944), France. One of the many copies

Left Jan Havermans (1892-1964), the Netherlands and right the (in)famous thumb of César (1921-1993), France

Charlotte van Pallandt (1898-1997), the Netherlands

Left Nic Jonk (1928-1994) and right Karel Appel (1921-2006), both the Netherlands

Left Arman (1928-2005) and right Antoine Poncet (1928), both France. Poincet is still alive, in 2009 he opened the first ArtZuid exhibition!

An ArtZuid App is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Very useful, it gives you a map with locations and information about the artworks.

Cinque Terre, May 2019

When Aric and I are visiting the Netherlands, we always try to include in our program a trip to another country. This time we wanted to visit Italy again. But which part? Aric suggested the Cinque Terre, the five coastal villages in northwest Italy. I had visited that region long ago, in 1991, and did not mind going again! Here is a map of the region.

We booked a flight to Pisa and from there took a train to La Spezia, where Aric had booked an Airbnb, near the station. A frequent train connects La Spezia with the five villages.

Our Airbnb was really something special and deserves a few pictures. It is the former home of Pietro Ravecca, an Italian Sculptor. After his death, his daughter decided to transform it into an Airbnb apartment. It is located in a traditional building with an old-fashioned elevator and massive doors. It feels like entering the past (but the bathroom and kitchen facilities are up-to-date 🙂 )

Many of Ravecca’s works of art are still kept in the apartment. A wonderful experience.

The next day, after breakfast, we walked to the station, passing a modern fountain in the Garibaldi square and, surprisingly, a marihuana shop (in Italy!). At the station we bought a 2-day Cinque Terre pass and discovered that several hiking paths between the villages were closed (because of landslides). Only the path between Monterosso and Vernazza was open.

We decided to walk that path and took the train to Monterosso. Mostly through tunnels. The Monterosso station is in the modern part of town, nothing special, but with a popular beach.

Monterosso al Mare

To reach the old town you have to cross a short tunnel. The village is at the
center of a small natural gulf, protected by a small artificial reef. It is the only Cinque Terre village with a substantial beach.

Here is a collection of pictures. Romantic, narrow streets, a church, many cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops.

We had a simple lunch in one of the cafes. A popular aperitif is the Spritz , Aperol with prosecco. Aric tried it, it was stronger than expected, I had to help him finish it 🙂 .

It was almost 3 pm when we started our hike to Vernazza. A well-maintained path, with some steep stretches.

AFter about 1.5 hour we got our first views of Vernazza. It was not always easy to take pictures.

Vernazza

Vernazza is very old, first mentioned as a fortified town in 1080! The only Cinque Terre town with a natural harbour. Basically still a fishing village, although of course nowadays crowded with tourists.

Narrow streets and an elegant church, the Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, c. 1318. We had ice cream, and tried cone calamari, fried squid. Delicious!

Vernazza is famous for its elegant, colorful houses. We stayed quite long there, to take pictures in the evening light, before we took the train back to La Spezia. A long, but very rewarding day.

The next day we took the train to Corniglia. It is the only Cinque Terre town that is not adjacent to the sea, but built on a promontory, 100 m high. From the station a shuttle bus brings you to the town, if you don’t like to walk 🙂 .

Corniglia

Corniglia is the smallest of the Cinque Terre towns.

After visiting the town, we took the shuttle bus down to the station. It is only a few minutes to the next stop, Manarola, the second-smallest Cinque Terre town.

Manarola

Francesca, our hostess in La Spezia, had suggested us to have lunch in restaurant Nessun Dorma, because of the superb view of Manarola. There was a queue, but it was worth waiting. The food was good too.

It is only 1 km from Manarola to the last village, Rio Maggiore, but the trail has been closed for many years already after landslides. So we took the train.

Rio Maggiore

From Rio Maggiore you can reach a small pebble beach, but it was too cold to sit down and relax.

We were back in our Airbnb around 8:30 pm. Having finished all five Cinque Terre villages, we decided to visit Portofino the next day, another picturesque town, southeast of Genua, 50 km northwest of the Cinque Terre.

Portofino

The weather was a bit dull and grey. When we arrived, we first walked up to the Castello Brown, dating back to the 16th century, later transformed into a villa. From there you have a beautiful view of Portofino with its harbour.

Castle Brown

We walked down to the old town, took more pictures and found a nice restaurant for our lunch. For the first time during this trip we had pasta 🙂

Here are a few more pictures, before we took bus and train back to La Spezia.

As it had started raining , we skipped the plan to visit Portovenere in the afternoon. We took some rest and in the evening we walked to a restaurant where we had the regional speciality farinata, a pancake of chickpea flour. Later we walked to the harbour, but it was too cold to protect the mermaid against the rain 🙂

The next morning we checked out, had our breakfast and took the train back to Pisa. The rain had stopped, we had time enough to visit the Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral, the Baptistery and of course the Leaning Tower.

There were crowds of tourists. Many tried to support the leaning tower and of course I helped them 🙂 .

We flew back to Amsterdam with Transavia.

Nice views, of the Swiss Alps and, just before landing, of my beautiful country. In the centre of the right picture you can see fort Krommeniedijk, part of the (historical) Defense Line of Amsterdam .

It was a wonderful trip.

Paris, April 2019

During Aei Ling’s stay in the Netherlands, we decided to visit Paris a few days. By train! The fast Thalys train takes only a bit more than three hours to reach the Gare du Nord. From there to our Airbnb we took the Metro. It has been many years ago that I visited Paris, they still use the old ticket system 😉

Aric had discovered and booked an Airbnb with a view! Located on the tenth floor with a balcony. Metro and supermarket around the corner.

From the balcony we had a view of the Eiffel tower, the Sacré-Cœur and several other Parisian landmarks, like the Pantheon and the Notre Dame.

After some rest and a visit to the supermarket, we decided to have a picnic dinner at the foot of the Eiffel tower! Here is a view of the tower from the Palais de Chaillot, at the other side of the Seine river.

After taking “tourist” pictures from its terrace, we descended to the river, crossed the bridge and walked past the tower to the Champ de Mars.

Many hundreds of tourists were having their food there and we joined them, with wine, cheese, saucisson and baguette. Really fun.

While the sun was setting, slowly the lights on the tower came on, some blinking, like a gigantic christmas tree.

The next day we started with the Sacré-Cœur, we went there by Metro. I love the Art-Nouveau entrances of the Metro stations, dating back to the early 20th century. The basilica of the Sacred Heart is not an old church, construction on the top of the Montmartre Hill was completed in 1914.


It is the second most visited monument of Paris, so we were not the only visitors 🙂

The Butte Montmartre is the highest of the seven hills of Paris, if the sky is clear, the views are extensive. It was quite grey and a bit hazy during our visit, in sunny weather the church is bright white and sometimes nicknamed the “Sugar Cake”. We had a look inside the church, but did not climb up the tower.

Next we walked to the nearby Place du Tertre, where dozen if not hundreds of artists try to earn some money by painting tourists. Aei Ling could not resist the temptation to have herself painted ..:-)

We walked down the steep streets from Montmartre and had a cup of coffee. The electric scooters are very popular, you can hire them everywhere, but we took the Metro again.

Our next destination was the Notre Dame, but on our way we first had a look at some other monuments. Left the Sorbonne, the famous university of Paris, and right the equally famous Pantheon, burial place of many French celebrities.

Left a close-up of the Pantheon, in the center the Facade of the Faculty of Law (with a young doctor in front of it), and right the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, next to the Pantheon. It is a very nice neighbourhood of Paris.

One week before our arrival, a devastating fire had destroyed the spire and the roof of the Notre Dame. Here are two photos. One (taken from the Internet) with the church in its full glory, the other one how it looked during our visit. Spire and roof have disappeared.

Of course many tourist wanted to see the destruction. The region around the church was cordoned of, but from across the Seine you had a good view. Protection work was going on.

It had been a long day, we were tired and decided to have a microwave dinner at home. The last day we would go out for a real French dinner 🙂

The next day we started with la Défense, the modern business district of Paris, dominated by the Grande Arche.

From the Grande Arche you can see, about 4 km away, the
Arc de Triomphe , our next destination. Click on the right picture to enlarge

We didn’t walk, but took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe.

This is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, beneath the Arc.

A few more pictures. Construction of the Arc was started in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Napoleon, but only completed in 1836.

From the Arc de Triomphe we followed the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Place de La Concorde.

On our way we passed the impressive buildings of the Petit and Grand Palais, built in 1900 for the World Exhibition. The Petit Palais is now a fine arts museum. As access is F.O.C, we decided to have a look inside…:-)

The Place de La Concorde is the largest square of Paris. During the French Revolution a guillotine was placed here, where King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette and many others were executed. In 1829 one of the Luxor obelisks was given by the Egyptian government to France and placed in the center of the square.

We continued to the Tuileries gardens and the Louvre. When you enlarge the top left picture, you will see the obelisk and the Arc de Triomphe in the background. Pity that it was rather cold and grey weather.

The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum. We didn’t visit , just had a look at the Pyramid, designed by famous architect I.M Pei (who passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 102!)

It was a long, but rewarding walk. After a short rest, we went out again to a restaurant, Au P’tit Curieux, where we had a nice dinner.

The next day we still had some time left, because our train back to Amsterdam was leaving Paris in the afternoon. After checking out we first visited the Places des Vosges. Built in 1612, it is one of the first examples of city planning.

Our last destination was the Musée d’Orsay, a former railway station, my favourite Paris museum. When we arrived at the museum, we noticed the very long queue of visitors, we should have bought tickets online! So that is what we did on the spot, with the help of Aric!

The station was built around 1900 and houses French art from 1848 until 1914.

I could have spent the whole day, but we had not much time. Here are a few pictures.

There was an interesting exhibition: Black models:from Gericault to Matisse. Famous paintings, like Manet’s Olympia and Rousseau’s Snake Charmer, but also interesting works, unknown to me.

Then it was time to go back to the Gare du Nord and catch our train back to Amsterdam. Amazing how much you can do in only a few days.

The Seven Last Words of Christ

In a few weeks time it will be Easter, always a time of the year that I get in the mood to listen to Passion music. See for example my posts St Matthew Passion and Stabat Mater . In this post I will write about another masterpiece of religious music, the Seven Last Words of Christ, written in 1786 by Joseph Haydn.

For those readers who are not familiar with the Christian religion, some information. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that he came to Earth to save mankind by carrying the burden of their sins. His sufferings culminated in his crucifixion and his death. On the third day he resurrected from his grave and fourty days later he ascended to heaven.

The resurrection is celebrated on Easter Sunday (this year on 21 April). On the Friday before in some churches a devotion is held from noon till 3 o’clock , the Three Hours’ Agony, commemorating the three hours of Christ’s hanging at the cross. This devotion was devised in the 17th century in Peru by Jesuit missionaries and soon became popular in Europe. It consisted of sermons and meditation about the seven “words” uttered by Jesus when he was hanging at the cross.

In 1786 Joseph Haydn was requested by the clergy of the Cádiz Cathedral to compose seven instrumental adagios, to be played after each of the “words” and meditations. Not an easy job, as Haydn wrote himself: ” …. it was no easy task to compose seven adagios lasting ten minutes each, and to succeed one another without fatiguing the listeners ..“. Haydn added an Introduction and a Finale.

The work became a success immediately and the next year Haydn wrote a version for string quartet. It is this version which is usually performed nowadays. In 1801 he published a choral version.

For this blog I have used the orchestral version, recorded in 1965 in Barcelona.

I decided that it would be interesting to split the work into its separate pieces and combine them with the corresponding utterances by Jesus.
The seven last words come from different gospels. Here is the introduction.

Introduzione in D minor


Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do

While Jesus is hanging at the cross, he is being mocked by the Jewish rulers, the soldiers and many of the spectators.

Sonata I in B-flat major


Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.

Two criminals are crucified at the same time, one at Jesus’ left side, one at his right side. One of them also mocks Jesus, but the other one rebukes him, saying: we are punished for our crimes, but this man didn’t do anything wrong. And he says to Jesus: Lord, remember me when you arrive in your kingdom.

Sonata II in C minor, ending in C major


John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother

Of course Jesus’ followers are also there, among them John, the writer of this gospel. Jesus says this when he sees his mother Mary, and the “disciple whom he loved” (i.e John) standing nearby.

Sonata III in E major


Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Jesus says this in the Aramaic language: Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani and the crowd thinks that he is calling the prophet Elijah.When somebody wants to give Jesus something to drink, they say, don’t, let’s see if Elijah will come

Sonata IV in F minor


John 19:28: I thirst

As John explains in his gospel, Jesus says this because he knows that everything has now been fulfilled.

Sonata V in A major


John 19:30: It is finished

In Bach’s St John Passion, this is one of the emotional peak moments, listen to Es ist vollbracht

Sonata VI in G minor, ending in G major


Luke 23:46: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.

After Jesus calls this with loud voice, he breathes his last.

Sonata VII in in E-flat major


Matthew 27:51: And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent

This is the description given by the gospel of St Matthew. Haydn uses it for the finale, no adagio for this part, but “Presto e con tutta la forza”!

Il terremoto (Earthquake) in C minor


When you listen to this masterwork, put the volume on loud! And when you are interested, search YouTube for The Seven Last Words of Christ. You will find many recordings.

Taiping again

My third visit in 2018!  This time a bit longer than usual, first three nights in hotel Furama, then two nights in the Nest bungalow up Bukit Larut.

I took the 10:55 ETS train from Sentral and arrived 14:18 in Taiping, where my friends Lay Chun and Bok Kin were waiting for me. We had a late lunch together and chatted a lot about Taiping heritage. As the weather was rainy, they dropped me at my hotel,  and arranged to meet again the next morning.

After some rest, I walked in the evening to the Lake Gardens, to have a look at the second raintree, recently fallen down. Both trees fell down in that part of Jalan Pekeliling (Circular Road) that recently has been closed to traffic and is now called the Raintree Walk. A coincidence?

The trees have become a tourist attraction! Armed with my umbrella I walked to the Larut Matang food court for my dinner. I had popiah’s at the famous Omar Popiah stall (now renamed Jaffan Popiah). Delicious and value for money (RM 0.70 each).

Walking back to my hotel, I passed the floodlit clocktower, now tourism office, which I was planning to visit the next day. 

The next morning I met Dr Indra of the Ceylon Association. We had breakfast together and a look at the renovated Association building, one of the few successful restoration  projects in Taiping. Left the building as it looked in December last year, right the present situation

Since my last visit, a new fence has been erected. The interior still has to be refurnished. 

Nearby (corner of Jalan Taming Sari and Jalan Idris) an example of what unfortunately is more common in Taiping, the skeleton of a ruined building, waiting for its final destruction.

One of the plans I had for this Taiping trip, was to visit the history galleries of two famous Taiping schools, St George’s Institution and the King Edwards VII school.  Here is the beautiful facade of SGI. It is a Lasallian school.

At the school I met Lay Chun and Bok Kin. And Yeap Thean Hock, who had the key of the gallery, because it is not open to the general public.

The gallery was opened in 2015, when SGI  celebrated its centennial. Yeap, who was involved in the creation of the gallery, guided us around. An interesting collection of photographs and memorabilia.

After a char kway teow lunch with my friends in the Peace Hotel, we went to the recently opened Telegraph Museum, another example of a successful restoration.  

Both outside and inside it looks magnificent. The first telegraph lines in Malaya connected Taiping to Port Weld and to Kuala Kangsar, so it is apt that a museum about the history of telegraphy and telecommunications has been established here, in the old Post & Telegraph Office (1885).

I hope the museum will become a success, the collection is well presented but quite technical. And the ticket price is too high, RM 8 (15) for Malaysians (non-Malaysians). Compare that with the National Museum in KL, RM 2 (5) or the Perak Museum in Taiping, RM 2 for everybody.

Around the corner the former Topo and Survey Office (1891), also a few years ago beautifully renovated. It housed the First Galleria until a few years, now a signboard says that it is the Galeri Perbandaran (Town Gallery), it looks empty and closed.

My next stop was the Tourism Office in the Old Clock Tower (1890). During my last visit it was closed “for renovation”, now it was open, a friendly young lady was mopping the floor because it had been raining and the roof was leaking (!).

I asked her if there was a Taiping heritage trail leaflet, she told me that it was out of stock, but she had a tourist map of Taiping. It showed all the traffic lights (!) and had a list of tourist attractions, some of them (13, 14, 17) not existing anymore.

I appreciated her attitude, she can not help it that this “Tourism Office” is pretty useless at the moment and looks more like an antique shop.

I realise that this blog is a bit pessimistic and sombre, I can’t help it. Taiping is still my favourite “second hometown” in Malaysia, but a Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town) , as it proudly promotes itself? I don’t think so. A Town of Past Glory would be a better epithet.

Take for example the Central Market, Malaysia’s best preserved example of a 19th century market building (1884/1885). What will be its future? Hopefully not changed into a Central Market, KL-style!

Of course there is some good news too, like the renovation of the well-known Ipoh Bakery. Here two photos, one earlier this year during the restoration and the final result.

One reason for this Taiping visit was that I wanted to meet my friend ST Lee, living in Singapore but with a keen interest in Taiping Heritage, where he owns a beautifully renovated house in Barrack Road.

I met him, his sister and her friends for a nice dinner at the Chinese Recreation Club (excellent food!) and the next morning for breakfast at my favourite Chee Cheong Fun stall of Mr Tong, together with Yeap Thean Eng.

After our breakfast we went to the King Edwards VII school. Yeap, the president of the Taiping Heritage Society, had warned us already that the history gallery might be closed, because the building where it was housed, was infested by termites.

But I still was shocked by what I saw. Yes, the century old raintrees are still impressive, but the iconic building is locked and cordoned off.

How can this have happened? And what will be done about it? No history gallery, but I was told that there exists one in a different building of King Edwards. Will check during my next visit.

Opposite the school there are a few buildings which are in a much worse condition. Five years ago I have published a blog post, Shame on Taiping, about these buildings, the Town Rest House (1894) and the former Perak Railway Building (1885/1893). Both buildings abandoned and slowly going down the drain.

Here is the Perak Railway Building, later housing various government offices. You can just enter, if you don’t mind meeting an occasional squatter. I explored the buildings this time with my friend Amril and took many pictures. I am planning to write a separate post about these buildings and the Resthouse. I have visited them almost every time I was in Taiping.

And this is the Rest House, in slightly better condition, at least the floor boards are still there.

Incomprehensible that in front of the Resthouse there is still a signboard about the Rest House , one of the “Firsts” of Taiping and part of the Taiping Heritage Trail. What will a tourist think when he follows this trail and sees this building?

Early afternoon Aric arrived from KL, we went to Kamunting for Assam Laksa, one of his favourite dishes, he is always looking for new stalls and collecting the info on his Assam Laksa website. This stall was not very special (pretty awful according to Aric).

We had much better food that evening, with ST Lee and his sister, in vegetarian restaurant Teik Ee, Jalan Tupai.

After the busy days in Taiping, it was time to relax. The next morning we picked up our friends Paul and Fahmi from the station and drove to the jeep station of Bukit Larut. From there with the 4WD to the Nest, where we were warmly welcomed by Suet Fun and Peter. They have really done a wonderful job, I love the colonial atmosphere.

And the food, Suet Fun is a creative cook. It was quite chilly, with occasional rain, we were the only guests that night, and spent the rest of the day doing nothing 😉

Evening view. Left Gunung Bubu, about 20 km away

The next morning I took pictures of some beautiful “creatures of the night”

After breakfast and some droning by Aric, we walked up the hill until the Cottage bungalow, the oldest bungalow of Maxwell Hill, now out of bounds because it is part of the telecom installation.

We were back in time for lunch, where a group of nice ladies had arrived, former school mates of Suet Fun.

In the afternoon we walked down to the “Sixth Mile”, looking forward to a cup of tea in the Cafeteria, but it was closed already. Misty weather, very scenic.

The evening dinner was exquisite and the company pleasant.

The next morning the weather had changed, blue sky, nice views of the plains and the Straits. Compare with the evening picture above.

Aric did some more droning. In this short video you can see how the Nest is surrounded by jungle, with Taiping deep down and far away the coastline.

Reluctantly we had to leave, our jeep was taking us down at 11am. Still enough time to take more pictures. Looking forward already to a next visit.

On our way back to KL, we had lunch in another Assam Laksa stall, near Bukit Gantang. Much better quality!

It was again a very rewarding visit, although it must be clear to the reader that I am rather pessimistic about what is (not) happening in Taiping. The authorities may claim that Taiping is a Bandar Warisan, but I miss a sense of real commitment.

In my April blog I quoted from the Rough Guide (digital version):

Nowadays, bypassed by the North–South Expressway and replaced in administrative importance by Ipoh, Taiping is declining gracefully, its streets lined with tattered architectural mementoes of its glory days.

Maybe I just will accept that, of course it has its own charm.

Versatile Perak

In my opinion Perak is the most interesting state of Malaysia, regarding nature, culture and history. A rich history, many historical towns , numerous waterfalls. Nice food too..:-)

Recently I visited Perak with my friends Paul and Fahmi. We stayed two nights in the Cititel hotel in Ipoh.

On our way to Ipoh we first visited a waterfall near Sungkai, the Enggang waterfall. At the end of the road leading to the well-known Sungkai Hot springs, a clear trail starts, leading in about one hour to the waterfall.

The waterfall is not visible from the trail, but of course you can hear it.  We first arrived halfway the fall  (left picture). After some scrambling down the slope we managed to reach the bottom. (right picture)

We had visited this waterfall a couple of years ago. Not many people come here, the fall is still pristine! And the flow of water was very impressive this time.

After lunch in Sungkai, we continued to Ipoh, checked in into our hotel, took some rest and went out for dinner. Many times I have eaten in one of the famous chicken taugeh kwai teow places, but this time we were looking for halal food and an Ipoh friend had suggested a few suitable restaurants. The Ipoh Hainan Chicken Rice turned out to be a good choice.

On our way back to our hotel, we passed a few interesting buildings. Left the Chua Cheng Bok building (1930s) in Art Deco style, recently painted in bright blue colors. Would you guess that the beautiful building in the right picture originally has been a Fire Station? It was built here in 1913 and upgraded in 1936. Served as Fire and Rescue Department until 1992.

For our breakfast next morning we went to the Halal Dimsum Cafe in Greentown another suggestion from my Ipoh friend. Very good dimsum!

On our program for the morning was another waterfall, the Lata Ulu Chepor, on the outskirts of Ipoh. It was a bit of  failure, I had forgotten to mark the locations of the two (minor) falls in my GPS, and we passed them without noticing them. The trail continued, might lead to a taller waterfall upstream, but we returned, found a nice place to have a bath. Crystal clear water.

I

I had in mind to visit another waterfall in the same region, but this hike had taken quite a lot of time, so we decided to skip it and go for lunch. Nasi Ganja! Using Google we had found the address. When we arrived there, we noticed a big crowd queuing, but no sign of Nasi Ganja. It turned out that this was the shop, all Ipoh people know it as nasi ganja, but the shop can not advertise with the name as ganja is an illegal drug. . Nice nasi kandar, apparently addictive…:-)

In the afternoon Paul and I explored Ipoh Old Town. Paul had published an album about Ipoh Heritage, so he could show me around. We started from our strategically located hotel.

Around the corner St Michael’s Institution, one of the famous  Ipoh schools, founded by the La Salle Brothers in 1912. The impressive building is from 1922.

Next to it the India Muslim Mosque. Construction started in 1909

Below left the entrance of the Royal Ipoh Club, records go back to 1895, but it may be even older. Right the High Court buildings, designed by Arthur Benison Hubback and built 1926-28.

Two other impressive buildings in Ipoh have also been designed by Hubback. Construction of the Town Hall started in 1914 and was completed two years later. Is is really a monumental building.

Opposite the Town Hall, the Railway Station, nicknamed the Taj Mahal of Ipoh by locals. Officially opened in 1917. The first floor used to be a hotel, the Majestic Station Hotel, and many years ago I have been staying there several times. It was already rundown at that time, dirty sheets, cockroaches. Now it is closed, although there still exists a website , promoting its  “superbly-comfortable accommodation”  !

Coming from the Railway Station, the Birch memorial is located behind the Town Hall. J.W.W. Birch was the first British resident of Perak, assassinated in 1875 at Pasir Salak by Malay noblemen, Dato Maharaja Lela and Dato Sagor.

The monument, also a clock tower, was erected in 1909 by his son, E.W. Birch, at that time the (much more popular) resident of Perak. Nice detail: the roads left and right of the monument were originally named Station Road and Post Office Road. After independence they have been renamed. The new names? Jalan Dato Maharajalela and Jalan Dato Sagor !

Another interesting detail. On  four civilisation panels around the tower, 44 famous figures in the world history are portrayed, for example Buddha, Newton, Confucius, Galilei etc. One of the figures  has been painted over. Guess who…:-)

Two bank buildings. Left the impressive building of the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank (1931), right the Chartered Bank (1924)

There are more historical bank buildings in the same district, for example the Mercantile Bank (1931) , designed in Art Deco style by Iversen.Now it is housing the Elken company, note the ugly banner on the facade. The OCBC bank is now occupying the building of the Straits Trading Company (1907).

The Perak Hydro building (1930s) belonged to the Perak River Hydro-Electric Company who built the Chenderoh dam in the Perak river, the oldest reservoir in Malaysia

Chung Thye Phin was born in Taiping and became a wealthy tin miner and (the last) Kapitan Cina. The building below carried his name and was built in 1907. In its early days it used to be a medical hall. Beautiful facade.

Walking around in Ipoh Old Town, I was surprised about the numerous interesting heritage buildings. Generally well preserved.

At first I thought that this could be the exception: overgrown decaying shoplots. But I was mistaken…:-)

Actually it is part of Kong Heng square. Not overgrown, but modern vertical gardens..:-), The first floor houses  Sekeping Kong Heng , will try to stay there during my next visit

Three more buildings. Left the Han Chin Pet Soo building, now housing the Hakka tin mining museum. Originally the home of the Hakka Tin Miners Club, founded in 1893 and rebuilt in 1929. In the middle a nameless house, under renovation. And right the building of the FMS Bar and Restaurant, an icon from Ipoh’s glorious past. A couple of years ago it was hoped that the glory would come back after a ambitious restoration. But during my visit it was closed without a sign of life. A failed project?

And here are two more buildings from a different era. Left the Labrooy House, modernist design, completed between 1960 and 1961. Right from the same period, the first parking garage of Malaysia!

Finally here are two street views of Leech Street (now Jalan Bandar Timah). Beautiful. Followers of my blog know that I love Taiping as my 2nd hometown. Pity you can not find similar street views in Taiping 🙁

To be honest, I was very impressed by the heritage of Ipoh Old Town. Taiping’s history starts earlier, it boasts on its many “Firsts” and is promoted as Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town), but when you compare the two towns, Ipoh deserves this title more.

Of course I had to walk through Concubine Lane. After reading negative reports about how tourism had destroyed the character of this street,  I was prepared for the worst. Actually it was not too bad, not worse than Petaling Street in KL…:-)

Two year ago I visited Ipoh to see the Zacharevic murals, see my blog Ipoh Murals. Mural Art has been mushrooming all over Malaysia the last few years and also in Ipoh there has been copycatting. Not  really a positive development.

We had dinner our last night in another Chinese Muslim restaurant, this time Fahmi’s discovery. Roast duck, Mongolian chicken, bitter gourd with salted egg. A nice, filling meal!

The next morning, before checking out,  a view from my room in Cititel.

We had breakfast in the Medan Selera near the BIrch memorial with soft-boiled eggs on toast, an Ipoh specialty. Yummie!

Our plan was to visit the Hakka Tin mining museum in the Han Chin Pet Soo building, but they have only guided tours and the timing was not suitable for us. So we started our trip back to KL.

Our first stop was at the Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge. I have visited this gargantuan relic from the tin mining era several times in the past, was able to explore the dredge freely, climbing up to the upper level, sometimes  bit scary, but fascinating. Since a few years the situation has changed, there were plans to make it a No 1 tourist attraction and it was closed, you could only see it from the outside.

Friends had told me that it was now open to the public, and I wanted to have a look. I was a bit shocked by the ticket price, RM 10 for Mykad holders, RM 20 (!) for foreigners. Senior citizens get a 50 % discount, but still too expensive, as at the moment only the (less interesting) lower level is accessible. Although the guided tour was informative, better wait until the whole dredge can be visited.

Left the ambitious development plan for the Tanjung Tualang dredge. Rather unrealistic and completely over the top, in my opinion. Right a simpler version. I got the impression from our guide that the project has been put on hold after the recent change in government. Good, the dredge itself can become a tourist attraction, like Kellie’s castle, no need  to surround it with all kind of nonsense.

During my earlier visits the dredge pontoon was tilting because of leakage, that has been stabilised now. Right a small canteen, closed when we visited the dredge, but probably more busy during weekends. There is also  small museum.

Our next target was the Salu waterfall, 6 km north of Kampar. Easy access, two waterfalls. Suitable for senior citizens..:-)

From the carpark a cemented path leads in a few minutes to the lower Salu fall. 

The upper fall can be reached in about 15 minutes via a clear trail. There are more waterfalls upstream, but these require jungle  trekking.

Our last destination was the Tin Mining museum in Kampar. Until a few weeks ago I had never heard about this museum, but apparently it exists already for seven years! It was a pleasant surprise.

As the signboard says, it is mainly dedicated to open tin mining, using gravel pumps.Here is an interesting pdf file about Gravel Pump Tin Mining. Impressive machinery, I understand there are guided tours, which would really have been useful here.

Besides the machinery, there is a big hall with lots of information. A few scale models of tin mines give  a good impression of the process.

Both inside and outside the halls dioramas have been created of the various activities related to tin mining. Also here a guide would be useful, or leaflets with information.

After our museum visit we had lunch in the mamak next to it, and then it was time to go home.

Versatile Perak!