The Chaconne

A chaconne is a musical dance form in triple metre, popular during the Baroque and consisting of a theme with variations. Just to name a few composers, Telemann, Pachelbel, Couperin, Vivaldi have written chaconnes (the links refer to YouTube).

But when music lovers talk about  The Chaconne.  they mean the last movement of Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin.

Yehudi Menuhin called it “the greatest structure for solo violin that exists”

And Joshua Bell has said the Chaconne is “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history”

Over the years I have heard Bach’s chaconne numerous times and still it affects me deeply. There has been a time that I thought it would be perfect music for my funeral, but later I decided that it might take too long.. :-).

Of course you can find numerous versions on YouTube.  Here is beautiful one, performed by talented violinist Hilary Hahn.

She plays the chaconne quite slowly (almost 18 minutes), most performers play it faster, in about 14 minutes. For example Yehudi Menuhin in a recording from 1956.

Not surprisingly, there are also plenty recordings where the chaconne is played on other instruments. An obvious choice is the guitar. In the opinion of some the chaconne sounds even better on a guitar. Personally I don’t agree, but I must admit that for example this performance by John Feely is brilliant and moving.

Here are a few other recordings I found on YouTube. First four recordings on single instruments: flute, clarinet, organ, accordioncello and marimba.

In my opinion woodwinds are not suitable for this work. The marimba recording is actually quite nice. Organ and accordion are too massive for me. The cello recording is not bad, but I find the range of the violin more suitable.

There are also recording for several instruments. Here are a few:  4 cellos, 9 saxophones, 4 violas, 4 double basses and 1 octobass. I will not comment on them…:-)

In 1930 the English conductor Leopold Stokowski wrote a transcription of the chaconne for symphony orchestra. More transcriptions exist, but this is probably the most famous one. Very romantic and dramatic, but emotionally it has no effect on me. Listen to this recording, put the volume on maximum and fasten your seat belts :-). The recording is from 1950 and conducted by Stokowski himself.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned the piano until now. That was on purpose. Of course there are many recordings for piano. Most pianists play the transcription of Ferrucio Busoni. He was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, etc, who has transcribed many of Back’s work in a romantic way. More a recreation than a transcription, that’s why it is often called the Bach-Busoni Chaconne.  Here is a brilliant recording by .Evgeny Kissin. You can follow the score.

An impressive performance of Kissin, but still I think something is missing.

There exists another transcription, created by Brahms. He wrote it for the left hand alone! A brilliant idea, listen to Daniil Trifonov.

De gustibus non est disputandum (tastes differ), but for me this is the recording that comes close to the original in transparency and emotional power.

The last week I have been listening to dozens of recordings of the chaconne, never boring. It remains for me one of the pinnacles of human culture.

Tour Guide!

Can you be our tour guide for a day trip to Ipoh and Taiping, my friend Pat asked me recently? My pleasure, I replied, but visiting Ipoh and Taiping on a day trip would be too hectic and no fun. Let me think about an interesting program!

They also would like to visit a waterfall, so I suggested we could start with Lata Kinjang, clearly visible from the North-South Highway. But first we had breakfast in the Pun Chun restaurant in Bidor, famous for its duck noodles. The yam cakes are also delicious.

Outside the restaurant there were several stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables, which of course meant shopping!

Our next destination was Lata Kinjang. Travelers from KL to Ipoh will have seen this waterfall from the highway, but not many will have actually visited the fall, because the access route is a bit complicated. From the car park it is a short walk through nice forest to the tall waterfall.

A (sometimes) steep trail brings you to a hanging bridge from where you have a nice view

From Lata Kinjang we continued on countryside roads to the tin dredge of Tanjung Tualang. A tin dredge is a kid of floating factory in an artificial lake, created by the dredge itself.. They scoop up buckets of tin-bearing soil at the front end (left pic), separate the tin from the soil and deposit this soil at the rear end (right pic). In the heyday of tin mining there were many of these gargantuan monsters in Perak, now only one is left to become a tourist attraction. During my first visit, many years ago, I could explore the tin dredge, at the moment you can only admire the outside

There is also a small museum (under construction) and there are plans to develop the place into a major tourist attraction, including :

a food and beverage section with cafes, alfresco dining and gift shops; a garden area for weddings and other functions; a petting zoo and adventure park; a villa resort; a floating resort; an area for flea market and antique bazaar; and parking area

Keep dreaming, I would say…:-)

Then it was time for lunch. Originally I had planned lunch in Tanjung Tualang, famous for its freshwater prawns, but instead we went to Pusing and had nice food in restaurant Ming Fuong.  With quite affordable freshwater prawns.

During our lunch I mentioned to my guests the nearby village of Papan, where during the Japanese occupation in WWII, Sybil Kathigasu was helping the resistance fighters. The town is ruined, but there is a small museum in the house where she lived.

We decided to have a look. Papan is only a few streets with many of the houses overgrown with trees and bushes. Difficult to imagine that during the tin mining era it was a busy town.

Some of the houses are still inhabited! The museum was closed, we could only have a look from the outside. The future of Papan is uncertain, there are still tin deposits underneath. If the price of tin goes up, it might mean the end of the village

My plan was to visit next one of the many cave temples in Ipoh, and I decided that on our way we could have a quick look at Kellie’s Castle. When I first visited this “folly’ about twenty years ago, it was a romantic ruin, but since then it has been renovated and become a major tourist attraction. William Kellie Smith was a Scottish planter and tin miner who started building this castle in 1915. But he died in 1926 and the castle was never finished.

When we arrived at the Kek Lok Tong cave temple, we found out that we were too late, the temple gates were just closing 🙁 Really a pity, because this is in my opinion one of the most impressive cave temples in Ipoh. Click here for a blog report I found on the Internet.

It was still too early for dinner, was there an alternative for the temple? I suggested we could visit Gopeng, another tin mining town with a glorious past. Recently there have been attempts to revive it as a tourist attraction, there is  a museum , and you can find mural paintings, similar to those in Penang and Ipoh. (The links refer to my earlier blogs). It is becoming a bit of a craze nowadays, Kuala Lumpur has been following and you can find this street art also in Taiping.

Some nice ones in Gopeng are in the three-dimensional style of Zacharevic . Here Pat is acting as a model

We found a few more, various design and quality

Near Gopeng, in Ulu Geroh, you can find many Rajah Brooke’s butterflies and also, if you are lucky, the famous Rafflesia flowers. Here are two murals depicting them

Finally, after a long day, we went for dinner to restaurant Choy Kee in Sungkai. The restaurant is famous for its pork knuckle and the freshwater fish.

My guests wanted also to have again freshwater prawns (udang galah). It was a nice dinner, although we were a bit shocked by the price of the prawns. Below, clockwise from upper left: pork knuckle, kappa (kind of lala), udang galah and fish (forgot which kind).

It was a nice trip, full of variety, although we didn’t even reach Ipoh..:-)

Below is our route. The right screenshot shows the pockmarked landscape, a result of the tin mining

 

Klang Heritage Walk

The first impression a visitor gets of Klang is not very favourable. It’s a busy town, a bit chaotic, where you can easily get lost. But it is also a historic city, one of the oldest in Malaysia and it still is the Royal City of Selangor, although no longer the capital.

Since 2014 Tourism Selangor organises a Klang Heritage Walk every Saturday and Sunday. The walk is conducted by professional Tour Guides and free of charge!

Last September I joined this walk, guided by Alex Raj. I liked the tour so much that I wanted to write a blog about it. But I was busy, went back to Holland, forgot details. So I decided to join another time, again with Alex as a guide and this time accompanied by my friend Joe Yap.

The tour visits nine points of interest and officially takes about 2.5 hours. But with a gifted storyteller like Alex, it can easily take longer…:-)

Starting point of the walk was the Royal Gallery, one of the two officially recognised heritage sites in Klang. Built in 1909 by the famous architect A.B Hubback (Malay college in Kuala Kangsar, Masjid Jamek in KL and many more), for use as the colonial government office. In 2007 the Royal Gallery was opened in this building, housing the memorabilia of the eighth Sultan of Selangor.

A group of almost 20 pax met here our guide Alex for registration and an introduction about what we could expect during the walk. The building, in  neo-classical style, is quite impressive.

We had only time for a quick look at the exhibits. I found the panels with the history of the Selangor Sultanate very interesting, especially the panel about Sultan Sir(!) Abdul Samad, the fourth sultan of Selangor. During his long reign (1857-1898)  the Klang War took place, similar to the Larut war, but with a different background. Both wars resulted in the appointments of British Residents. Klang became the state capital, until 1880 when Kuala Lumpur took over. After Kuala Lumpur became Federal Territory in 1974, a new town , Shah Alam, was created and it became the capital of Selangor in 1978.  But Klang still remains the Royal Capital.

From  the Royal Gallery we crossed the road to the Chennai Silk Palace, occupying the building of the former Chartered Bank (1909) . Compare the two pictures, the right one is from the 1950s, when it was still a bank. The architecture is still the same, but for the rest…..?

Interesting detail: the gaudy images showing what is sold in the shop, originally had a  caption Chennai Silk Palace. Later, to avoid confusion with the Royal Palace , the last word was painted over…:-). We walked through the shop, the interior has been modified beyond recognition.

Next stop was the Royal Klang Club, established in 1901. Entrance for members only, but our guide was a member and could introduce us

The interior of the club is quite impressive and luxurious. Here images of the dining room and the bar

In the last decades of the 19th century, Klang was the main port of Selangor, until in 1901 Port Swettenham (now Port Klang) was developed. So it is not surprising that the interior of the Klang Club has a marine atmosphere. Alex advised the men in his group to visit the toilet…:-)

The Royal Alam Shah Palace is situated next to the Club. It is a relatively new building, erected in 1950 on the site of the previous Istana Mahkota Puri (1903). The Sultan’s “residence” is now in Shah Alam, but the Klang Palace is still used for official ceremonies.

We crossed the hill, where in earlier days the hospital was located and arrived at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, completed in 1928.  Supposedly built in French-Gothic style. Many members of the congregation are of Indian origin and services are held in Tamil and other languages.

Sunday service in Tamil language

 

Next to the church is the Klang Convent school, officially opened in 1928. Both the church and the school are very attractive buildings

We walked back along the foot of the hill to Jalan Tengku Kelana, the Little India of Klang.

Many shops with herbs, spices, jewelry. No time for shopping, Alex warned us, we still had more to do…:-)

Next we reached a beautiful mosque, the Indian Muslim Mosque Tengku Kelana. The mosque serves the Indian Muslim community of Klang. Its history goes back to 1904, but since then it has been several times enlarged and rebuilt, the present building is very recent (2009)

It is only a short walk from the mosque to an old Hindu temple, the Sri Nagara Thandayuthapani temple. The present temple was built in 1925. Dedicated to Parvathi

The Kota Raja Fire Station was our next stop. Built in Victorian style in 1890, it is still in use. There is a small museum where we could act as a fireman!

Finally we had a look at the Gedong Raja Abdullah, the other official heritage site in Klang, built in 1857, making it the oldest Malay building in Selangor. It was originally a warehouse for the storage of tin, but also served as a home for Raja Abdullah, who was the administrator of Klang and participated in the Klang War. It was used by the colonial administration, it became a police station and until recently it housed a tin museum. Now it is closed, because it is infested by termites.  I am pessimistic about its future. 🙁

It was a nice and interesting walk, because Alex not only gave factual information about the various places we visited, but is also a good storyteller.

Here is a Google Earth map with the location of the places we have visited

CNY 2017

On 28 January 2017 the Year of the Rooster started. I had created a New Year card, using a picture of a magnificent rooster belonging to a friend of mine.

The Chinese zodiac has 12 signs and 5 elements (water, fire, earth, wood and metal). This time it is the Year of the Fire Rooster.

Sometimes it is also called Year of the Chicken or even Year of the Cock, because the Chinese character used, 鷄 or 雞  , is gender-neutral

2017 is a leap year, with 13 months, the sixth month will be repeated.

As usual Aric had gone back to his hometown Parit Baru a few days earlier, to organise the festivities for day 3 of the CNY. Each year there is a dress code, this time everybody had to wear a flowery shirt, else you had to pay a fine…:-). There would be a BBQ party, a lottery and a  competition for the most original/beautiful shirt.

When I arrived on day 3 late in the afternoon, the preparations were already in full swing. It is a tradition that I visit a waterfall with my friends on day 3, but this time we failed to reach the planned waterfall after a long hike. Here is my report: An unsuccessful waterfall trip. So I was rather exhausted when I reached the family house. But in this picture I still look quite fresh with my new shirt and surrounded by flower girls..:-).

Aric had bought my flower shirt, told one of his cousins about it, who liked it so much that she bought an identical shirt for her husband…:-).

Of course many, many pictures were taken. Aric, as MC, was very busy, but still found time for some pictures. He is very popular with all the nephews and nieces

In the kampung house in Parit Baru three families have been living together, Aric’s late father and two of his uncles. That explains that there is such a crowd during CNY, when all the children and the (many!) grandchildren are coming back to their hometown.

Before it gets dark, group pictures had to be taken. Here is a picture with everybody in front of the kampung house.

In the next picture, Aric,  who was the photographer,  has split the group in families. He has five uncles, nr 1,3 and 6 are living in Kuala Lumpur. To the right the family of Uncle no 4, then the family of Aric’s father (no 2), followed by the family of Uncle no 5. To the left Uncle no 3 and 6 with a few family members. Uncle no 6 and three Aunties are not present. Nine siblings!  I find it not always easy to remember who belongs to which family, so this is a useful picture for me …:-)

Two more group photos, one with  all the ladies, and one with Uncle no 5 and his family.

Aric had planned a few fun activities. One was a competition for the most original/beautiful floral shirt. In the left picture the seven selected competitors. The guy at the right could not find a suitable shirt and had asked his daughter to paint flowers with watercolors on a white t-shirt. Not surprisingly he won the first prize…:-)

Then it was time for food, lots of food. For example 500 sticks of satay….:-) And there  were oysters! Huge size, most people liked them barbecued, I preferred them raw. Delicious.

The last activity was a lottery. Ang pow envelopes were attached to the wall of the house in two sections, one for the kids and one for the adults. Everybody had to pick an envelope, and three  envelopes contained a piece of paper with a number written on it. I am never lucky with this kind of games, but this time I had a paper with a 2, meaning the second prize!

Although very busy, Aric had still found time to create his own CNY-card

 

I wish all my followers

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Taiping old and new

For quite some time already I have been  playing with the idea of creating a blog post about Taiping heritage, comparing old photographs with recent pictures .

Problem was to find suitable old photographs. Searching the Internet did not give many results. Then I discovered the book Perak Postcards 1890s-1940s  , compiled by Abdur Razzaq Lubis et al. and published by Areca Books . The book starts with a chapter about Taiping and contains numerous postcard pictures, suitable for my project. I have scanned several of these postcards and downloaded them to my iPad.

Recently I visited Taiping. Armed with my iPad,  and in the company of a few friends, we went looking for the locations from where the postcard pictures  were originally taken.

That was fun, but not always easy. We had to judge the camera position, the focal length used, etc. Landscape and townscape had changed, often dramatically

Here are the results. A scan of the book page is followed by an old postcard and a new picture.

Often the exact date of the originals can not be determined. When the postcard has been sent, sometimes the postage stamp can be read.

The Taiping chapter starts with a description of the town and a picture of the Central Market.

 

The Central Market was built in 1884/1885

The market is still in use, but there are plans to relocate it and renovate the old structure.

Hopefully the result will not become like Central Market in KL…:-(

 

This postcard was sent in 1927

The present situation. Note that a few houses to the left are still there.

________________________________________________________________________

The original Taiping Railway Station was built in 1885 on the site of the present King Edward VII School. Relocated to its present location at the end of the 19th century.

The postcard is undated

 

The old railway station.And the “new” one. No longer in use as a station, now a heritage site. The modern station is situated to the right._______________________________________________________________________

 

The prestigious King Edwards School, founded in 1883 and relocated to its present location in 1905

 

 

 

 

An undated postcard. The Angsana trees in front of the school, were planted in 1910 and are already fully grown here.This postcard has a caption on the reverse side with a date: 1929And here is the present situation. Note that two of the original Angsana trees are still standing, now more than 100 years old._______________________________________________________________________

 

St George’s Institution, another famous Taiping school, opened in 1915 by the Lasallian Brothers.

 

 

 

The postcard is undated, but the building was extended with two wings in 1928, so the picture must have been taken before that time.The present building. Now a government school, but still with a cross on top of the roof.

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Opposite the original railway station a Rest House was built in 1894

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated.The sad present situation. Until 2008 it has been a hotel, Lagenda,  I have been staying there a few times. Since 2008 it is closed and slowly going down the drain. I have called it the “Shame of Taiping”. ________________________________________________________________________

 

The government offices, started in 1895 and opened in 1898

 

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated. Present situation. It now houses the Larut-Matang District offcice. During daytime the space in front of the building is used as a parking lot. This picture was taken during the weekend. Note that in the center an extra (fake) gable has been added with the year 1897_______________________________________________________________________

 

The Perak museum, the first museum in the country, was started in 1883 in former government offices. It was expanded with the growing collection and completed in 1902

 

 

The postcard has been artificially colored and was used in 1912Present situation. Basically unchanged after more than a century!_______________________________________________________________________

 

The Standard Chartered Bank, opened in 1888.

 

 

 

 

 

The postcard is undated.Now the building is in use as the Public Library. The “messy” foreground makes a comparison complicated, but it is clear that the the building has been substantially enlarged.________________________________________________________________________

 

One of my favourite buildings in Taiping. Built as the State Engineer’s Residence in the early 1900s. Later used as the British Officer’s Mess

 

 

The postcard was used in 1911. In this picture it is still the residence of the State EngineerPresent situation. Note that center gable has been removed

 

In this postcard the building has already been transformed in the officer’s mess.

 

 

 

 

The central part has now been modified.There is hardly any difference between old and new!________________________________________________________________________

The iconic clock tower of Taiping, built in 1881 in wood, later rebuilt in brick (1900). Longtime in use as a police post

 

 

This is a real photo of the police clock tower on Kota Road. Taken late 1930sNote how the clock tower has “dwindled” in this recent picture, surrounded by large modern structures. There is at least still one original building left, try to find it.________________________________________________________________________

 

It is not easy to compare old and new in the Lake Gardens, landscape and trees have changed often beyond recognition.

Here are two postcards of one of the nice bridges.

 

A wooden footbridge in the Lake Gardens, with the Secretary to the Resident’s bungalow in the background. The card has been used in 1912 The present situation. The bungalow is no longer visible  through the trees. Note the ugly metal railing of the bridgeAnother, later view of the same bridge And the present view________________________________________________________________________

The Perak Postcards book contains many more pictures of Taiping. In this post just a selection I have made to find out if it was possible to take new pictures and compare the two. I am pleased with the result.

One scanned postcard I was unable to identify. Here it is. It is supposed to be Main Road (Jalan Taming Sari) in the direction of the government offices. But where on Main Road? We showed the picture to several locals, but without success.

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With Google I have found two pictures that are not in the Postcard Book. Both show the Clock Tower, which makes it a lot easier to identify the location of the photographer…:-)

Although it took us time to find the location from where the image below was taken. The images comes from the book Malaysia:A Pictorial History 1400 – 2004   and has as caption View of the church (sic!) and street scene, Taiping, c. 1890 
The picture must have been taken from the 5th Cross Street (Jalan Lim Tee Hooi). Left and right you still can see two gabled houses, probably the same as in the old picture!!The last picture is more recent, dating from the 70s of the last century. For sale on Ebay  (US $ 17.99)The present situation. The left side of Kota Road is hardly recognisable, the right side has not changed so much.

A friendly request for the readers of this post. If you have old  pictures/postcards of Taiping and are willing to share, please contact me.

Jean Tinguely

Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) was a Swiss artist, best known as a creator of “machine sculptures” .  Made of scrap metal and junk, with an electric motor which keeps part of them in motion, these useless, playful and sometimes noisy machines have fascinated me from the first time I saw them, in the Municipal Museum of Amsterdam. That was in 1973, more than 40 years ago…:-).

This year, 25 year after Tinguely’s death, the Stedelijk, as it is commonly nicknamed, has an impressive retrospective of his work, named MACHINE SPECTACLE with over a hundred machine sculptures, many of them in working order. The exhibition is open until 5 March 2017 and definitely worth a visit.

Here is one of his works that actually belongs to the museum collection. It is called Meta II, created in 1971, and I have seen it in 1973. It makes an awful lot of noise…:-)

1-2016-10-21-11-51-09

Not during my recent visit. Many of Tinguely’s creations are actually quite fragile, the museum staff has been busy many months to get some of them them working again. Therefore it was decided not to keep them running permanently. Only on specific times, they work for a short period and only when you push a button.

Tinguely

Here you see a few of his machines. Some of them have a timer, so you can see when you have to push the button, many have not, you just have to try. Not really a good design.

The result is that the (many) visitors walk around the many rooms with (inactive) exhibits, until they hear a noise. Then they hurry to where the sound came from, because it lasts only a short time.

Quite funny, in a way.

 

 

Here are a few working ones. Doesn’t it make you feel happy when you see those useless contraptions in action? But, as you will notice, only for a very limited time.

A few more, not in action. Click to enlarge and see details. Notice the paper tape in two of the pictures. Those machines create “art” themselves when they are operating! Tinguely’s Metamatics (Wikipedia) has more info about this

And here is Gismo, created in 1960, also belonging to the collection of the Stedelijk. It is so fragile that even during this retrospective, it will be operated (by one of the museum staff)  on a few specific days only. Check the website if you are interested, scroll down to “When do the machines move?”

Gismo

This one, looking more serious, has been on loan from another collection, the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Created in 1967.

2016-10-21-11-58-08

But how serious is it? The title  is:  Requiem pour une feuille morte. Not a requiem for a dead  girl (fille) but for a dead leaf (feuille)  Here is this requiem in action.

Tinguely belonged to the Parisian avantgarde in the mid-twentieth century and was a member of the Nouveau Réalisme group, founded in 1960 and dissolved in 1970. Many well-known artists in this group, like Yves Klein, Spoerri, Niki de Saint Phalle and Christo.

Actually Tinguely and de Saint Phalle were married and have been working together often. In this exhibition one characteristic work of her is exhibited.Niki de Saint Phalle

And here is a co-production of the two artists, named  Crocrodome (1977)

Crocrodome

A very interesting one is this model for  a huge project in a forest near Paris, Le Cyclop. Started in 1969. Many artists have been contributing to it, it was finished by de Saint Phalle in 1994, after the death of her husband. I had never heard about it, really like to visit it when I am back in Europe.

Model for the cyclope

Very impressive is also the Mengele-Totentanz, a late work (1986) with an interesting background story. A farm, near Tinguely’s studio was struck by lightning and burned down. Several cattle could not escape and died. Tinguely immediately started to collect scrap metal from the remains and created this huge work of art. Part of the installation is a harvester made by a firm named Mengele (the firm still exists). But Mengele is of course also the name of the notorious German concentration camp physician. It gives this monumental work a double meaning.

Mengele Totentanz

The Totentanz belongs to the collection of the Tinguely museum in Basel and has never before been exhibited in the Netherlands. Must have been a big job to disassemble it in Basel, transport it and then assemble it again in the Stedelijk…:-)

Here is a video

Really a very interesting exhibition

Unknown gems

I like listening to (classical) music. When I was still living in Amsterdam, I was a regular visitor of the Concertgebouw . Here in Malaysia I have visited several times the Petronas Filharmonik Hall. Nowadays I am mostly listening to YouTube…:-)

At YouTube you will find not only recordings of compositions by the “great” names  (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc), but also works of lesser well known composers. Recently I have collected many of these recordings, limiting myself to piano concertos composed between 1805 and 1830. Why piano concertos and why these dates?

The piano developed and became accepted in the late 18th century (successor to the harpsichord). Not surprisingly many composers wanted to explore the possibilities of this “new” instrument, in combination with an orchestra. What I like in piano concertos is the contrast between the sound of the  piano and that of  the orchestral instruments, because the piano is not represented in the orchestra already (in contrast with concertos for violin, flute, hobo, cello, etc)

The dates are of course rather arbitrary. In 18051806 Beethoven wrote his Piano Concerto no. 4, here performed by Mautizio Pollini. It is my favourite Beethoven concerto. And in 1830 Chopin composed his Piano Concerto nr 2  (when he was only 20 year old!). Another favourite of mine. The recording is by Rosalía Gómez Lasheras (19 year old!). You might say that the dates mark the transition from Classical to (Early) Romantic

Before I started searching YouTube and Wikipedia, I was not really aware of any other piano concerto composed between those dates.

Here is what I found. I have ordered them according to the birth date of the composer. The first link refers to a Wikipedia article about the composer. All concertos are worth listening to, but of course I have my favourites. They are marked with *****


cramer

Johann Baptist Cramer (1771 – 1858), English musician, from German origin, a renowned pianist, highly appreciated by Beethoven.

Piano Concerto No.7 (1816)

Piano Concerto No 8  (1825)

 

 


ries2

Ferdinand Ries (1778 – 1837), German, friend, pupil and secretary of Beethoven. He wrote eight piano concertos

Piano Concerto No. 3 (1812)

Piano Concerto No. 8 (1826)   *****

 

 


hummel

Johann Nepomuk Hummel  (1778 – 1837) , Austrian, pupil of Haydn and Salieri in Vienna.  After his death, he was quickly forgotten. Only recently interest has revived, and rightly so!

Piano Concerto No 2 (1816)    *****

Piano Concerto No 3 (1821)    *****

 


lessel

Franciszek  Lessel  (1780 – 1838), Polish, pupil of Haydn. He wrote only one piano concerto. Worked as a court musician. Not much info available

Piano Concerto in C-major (1814)  Mozartian style. In this recording it is played on a pianoforte

 

 


Field

John Field  (1782 – 1837), Irish, influential composer of the Early Romantic period, admired by Chopin and Liszt

Piano Concerto No. 2 (1816)    *****

 

 

 


220px-Friedrich_Kalkbrenner_by_Charles_Vogt

Friedrich Kalkbrenner 1785-1849, French of German origin, pianist, composer, piano teacher and piano manufacturer. A vain  man, thinking that after Bach, Mozart Beethoven, he was the only classical composer left.

Piano concerto No. 1 (1823)   *****

 

 


Carl-Maria-Von-Weber

Carl Maria von Weber  (1786 – 1826), German, considered one of the first Romantic composers. Of course I knew his name (opera’s), but not that he had written piano concertos. He wrote two:

Piano Concerto No.1 (1810)

Piano Concerto No 2 (1812)

 


Franz_Xaver_Mozart_(Wolfgang_Jr)_1825small

Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart (1791 – 1844), youngest son of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, pupil of Salieri and Hummel.

Piano Concerto No. 2 (1818)

 

 


Ignaz_Moscheles_1860

Ignaz Moscheles  (1794 – 1870), Bohemian, lived in London and later in Leipzig. Long time neglected, now more interest, but not much of his work has been recorded.

Piano Concerto No. 3 (1820)   *****

 

 


DobrzynskiWikipedia_nn719

Ignacy Feliks Dobrzynski  (1807 – 1867), Polish, a classmate of Chopin at the Warsaw conservatory. He wrote this concerto when he was 17 year old.

Piano Concerto in As-major 1824    *****

 

 


burgmullersmall

Norbert Burgmüller  (1810 – 1836), German. Friend of Mendelssohn and Schumann. Died young by drowning after an epileptic seizure. Wrote the piano concerto when he was 19 year old.

Piano Concerto in F-minor (1829)    *****

 

 

Amsterdam Architecture

When I am back in the Netherlands, my friend Inez and I always try to organise an outing. Last year for example, we visited Rotterdam and Dordrecht.This time we decided to stay in Amsterdam,  and visit some new and/or interesting architecture. It was a beautiful sunny spring day.

Our first destination was the new Westermoskee, the largest mosque of the Netherlands, with a floor surface of 800 m² and a capacity of 1700 people. The plan to build this mosque dates back to 1997, there have been numerous problems, now it is almost complete, the unofficial opening took place on 1-4-2016.

I was impressed by the architecture, based on the Hagia  Sophia in Istanbul, but in a very “Dutch”, brick-based style. It blends very well in the surrounding residential area.

Personally I am really proud of my multicultural hometown, that it has been possible to build this Islamic icon in a “Western/Christian” environment.  The opposite might not be easy these days..:-(. Here is a report by Al Jazeera about the mosque.

From the mosque it was not far to a former tram depot, built in 1902, and recently transformed in a cultural center with a cinema, library etc. Also many food outlets. It has been renamed De Hallen .

After lunch we went to the Western harbours. where we had a look at the REM island . In 1964 commercial radio and TV was not yet allowed in the Netherlands. A group of businessmen found a solution: broadcast from an artificial island, just outside the Dutch territorial waters!

Unfortunately for them, the experiment lasted only a few months, because the Dutch parliament quickly passed a law, extending the territorial waters…:-). The navy raided the place and confiscated the equipment.

The platform remained for many years where it was, off the coast at Noordwijk, but a few years ago it has been moved to the Western harbour where it now has a second life as a restaurant!

The harbour view from the upper deck is of course impressive. Windy too..:-)

Our next stop was the Spaarndammerbuurt. Here one of the jewels of the Amsterdam School of architecture can be found. This expressionist style of architecture peaked in the first quarter of the 20st century.

Het Schip (the Ship) is a creation of architect Michel de Klerk, built between 1914 and 1921.

Google Earth has a 3D option and in the left picture you see the Ship in 3D. In the right picture the iconic (although useless) tower of this housing estate for workers!

het schip

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The rounded forms are characteristic for the Amsterdamse School. The former postoffice now houses a small museum.

Last destination for the day was the new development of the IJdock. At the west side of the Central Station, an artificial island has been constructed, as can be seen in the two images below. Left the situation in 2006 ,  right an image from 2015.

ijdock2ijdock1

Post-modern architecture in optima forma…:-)

That was enough for a day trip. The next day I visited another highlight of the Amsterdam School, the social housing complex De Dageraad, built by Michel de Klerk and Piet Kramer in 1920. Here an aerial view.

dageraad-001

Here are a few pictures of the Berlage Scholengemeenschap, built in 1924 by Arend Jan Westerman.

And here a collection of pictures of the Dageraad complex.

The Amsterdam School style is easy to recognise, many buildings can be found in Amsterdam, maybe something for another blog…:-)

North-Holland, March 2016

This year I was back in the Netherlands about one month earlier than usual. Here is a view from the train on my way to my sister in North-Holland, a few weeks later there will be plenty of flower fields here.

Now only an occasional field with crocuses (left) and daffodils (right). No tulips yet

I spent the Easter weekend in Valkkoog, where my sister and her husband are living. A small village with a vibrant social life. There was a traditional egg hunt for the kids and in the church a brunch was served. A few of their neighbours are rearing sheep as a hobby, and this was the time that the ewes were yeaning  (hm, I had to look up “ewe” and “yean” in a dictionary)

About our visit of the Kranenburgh Museum in Bergen I have already reported in my post Museums, museums, museums. We also visited a very different kind of museum, Tulpenland , about the history of the tulip. A quaint collection of items related to the tulip. A path through a forest brings you to the various exhibits.

Ever heard about the Tulip Mania ?  It was a short period in the Dutch Golden Age (17th century) during which prices for tulip bulbs exploded dramatically and then suddenly collapsed. In the Tulpenland garden some Amsterdam merchant houses have been rebuilt on a miniature scale, with information about this “tulpengekte” (tulip madness) where the price of one bulb could be equal to a house…:-)

The Netherlands is one of the largest exporters of tulips in the world. Look at the numbers in the picture below (year is not given). Two billion tulip bulbs and a slightly smaller number of tulip flowers, with Germany as the largest buyer.

It happened to be the opening day of Tulpenland for the 2016 season, we received a complimentary pot with tulips! Pity I could not take them back to Malaysia..:-(

There is a saying: God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands and that seems particularly true for the province of North-Holland! Compare the two maps below. Left a map from 1740, right a recent Google Earth screenshot.

The polders that already existed in 1740 are colored green, with the dykes in red. They are outlined in green in the GE image. Later land reclamation projects are outlined in brown. The first big reclamation project was the Zijpe (1597), the Wieringermeer was only reclaimed in 1930, at the same time as the Afsluitdijk was built, basically transforming a “dangerous” sea (Zuiderzee) into a “quiet” lake (IJsselmeer)

noord-holland_combi

As you can see in the map to the left, there was a sea both east and west of North-Holland! The east side was protected by the Westtfriese Zeedijk, the west side by sand dunes. Nevertheless numerous floods occurred, and one of them, the St. Elizabeth’s flood (1421) breached the dunes near Petten, destroying the village and killing many people. Attempts to create new dunes there were only partly successful, in the following centuries the sea was slowly advancing and the land receding. In the image to the right this weak spot is indicated in red.

Here is a map published in 1600, showing the Zijpe polder, just drained in 1597. The letters mark the land parcels in the new polder, to be distributed to the various stakeholders. Notice that the map has been oriented almost east-west

Zijpe_map

A detail of this map shows the (rebuilt) village of Petten and part of the weak spot in the coastal defense. There is still a small forest there , the Honsbosch. The lower part shows  the present situation, with the old coastline indicated. The coastline has receded a lot, the old Petten has been swallowed by the sea, a new Petten has been built.

Old and new 1

One more comparison, with a later map, dated ~ 1730. In the meantime more floods had occurred, for example the 1717 Christmas flood. Comparing with the 1600 map, the Lay polder has been drained. The coast line has receded again. The forest is no more.

compariso2

In the  Google Earth image  you see basically the Hondsbosche Sea Dyk, made of basalt and concrete, built around 1880. A final solution? In a way, yes, recent floods,like the disastrous 1953 flood, have not affected this sea dyke near Petten. But of course the Netherlands have to prepare for global warming and a resulting rise of seawater levels!

So, what to do? One solution would be to increase the height of this sea dyke again, as has been done in the past a few rimes already. Here is an (Internet) image of the sea dykes, couple of years ago. At the back is the actual Hondsbosch sea dyke, in front the Pettemer one. Forget about the details, just notice that the Pettemer one (different authorities!)  has been raised a bit higher than the Hondsbosch one..:-) And notice how much the low-lying farms to the left depend on the strength of these dykes!

HondsbosscheEnPettemerZeewering

A few years ago it has been decided to try a more audacious solution, instead of raising the dykes, fight back against the sea and create new dunes in front of the existing dyke!

In the last two years about 35 million (!) cubic meters of sand have been dredged from the sea and deposited in front of the existing sea dykes, creating a new “dune-scape”. The result is clearly visible from Google Earth…:-)

GE

The Netherlands at its best..:-) There is an interesting visitor center in Petten: Informatiecentrum Kust, Zand tegen Zee (in Dutch). From there you can climb the newly created Lookout Dune.

It was cold and windy during our visit. PLenty of kite surfers and horse riders.

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North-Holland is a fascinating province. Must spend more time there during my next visit..:-)

Museums, museums, museums

During my recent stay in the Netherlands I have visited an unusually large number of museums…:-). I have reported already about the two patrician canal mansions and the Royal Palace. Here are four more, in chronological order.

During the usual visit to my sister, she suggested that we could visit the Kranenburgh Museum in Bergen. Bergen is a village in the province of North-Holland, in the first part of the 20th century it was an “artist colony”.The expressionist Bergen School of painting had its origin here and the museum contains many works of art from that period.

But that’s not why we went there. In December 2015 a special exhibition was opened, prepared by guest curator Joost Zwagerman, and titled “Silence out loud”  Various aspects of silence in art. I found the exhibition very impressive, really evoking silence. 

Joost Zwagerman, a Dutch writer and columnist has been working two years on this project. And he has not seen the final result, because he took his own life, a few months before the opening of the exhibition. Sad.

A few days later I visited an exhibition about Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in the Singer museum in Laren. Laren is another Dutch art colony and the Singer museum has many works of art from the “Haagse School“.

Kirchner was a German expressionist painter and one of the founders of the artist group Die Brücke. I like his work, it is always a pleasure to come across his paintings in a museum and in this exhibition they had collected many of his works of art.

Born in 1880, he volunteered for military service in 1914, but was discharged soon after a mental breakdown. Having health problems, he moved to Davos in Switzerland and stayed there the rest of his life. One of his friends there was the Dutch painter Jan Wiegers, one of the founders of the artist collective De Ploeg. See below…:-). With the rise of Nazism his art was considered “entartet” (degenerate) and many of his paintings were destroyed. Worried that Hitler might invade Switzerland, he killed himself in 1938.

My next museum visit was to the Groninger museum. Here in December 2015 an exhibition opened about David Bowie. I am a fan of this fascinating artist. When his album Ziggie Stardust was published in 1972, I was beginning to discover the “alternative” pop music. I would have liked to see this exhibition, but it was planned to close early March, before I came back to the Netherlands.

Then, on 10 January 2016, he died, just after publishing the album Blackstar, with the macabre song Lazarus . The number of visitors surged and the museum decided to prolong the exhibition until the beginning of April, extending the opening times. You had to book a time slot!  I visited the exhibition on 31 March, and it was an impressive multimedia experience. Photography and sound recording not allowed, understandable. Secretly I took one picture, just for the record…:-)

My time slot started at 4pm, I arrived early, so I decided in the meantime to have a look at the permanent collection of…. De Ploeg, mentioned above…;-)! That was a good idea. Interesting to compare the two expressionist schools, their differences and similarities. In Laren one painting by Jan Wiegers, here two paintings by Kirchner.

The last museum visit was actually rather accidental…:-). I was going to meet after many years a former colleague from my school, and she suggested that we could have coffee in the museum cafe of the Allard Pierson museum in the center of Amsterdam. This is the archaeological museum of the University of Amsterdam. But when we were there, we noticed that there was a temporary exhibition, called the DWDD Pop-Up Museum 2DWDD is a popular Dutch television talkshow, which I avoid to watch because I am allergic to the ADHD host…:-).

He has quite a few regular guests in his show and the Pop-Up Museum is a project where these guests are asked to select a museum of their choice, visit the depot (where usually most of a museum collection is kept) , choose some works of art and create a room for the exhibition. Actually an interesting idea. The first edition of this project was a success, this is the second one, open until 22 May 2016.There are nine rooms, here a selection. In the captions you see the name of the guest and the museum they have selected.

Altogether seven museums in one month. Not bad..:-)