Taiping, April 2024

Before I will visit my hometown Amsterdam in May, I wanted to visit my (second) hometown Taiping. I booked hotel Furama for three nights and arrived on 1 April by ETS, where Lay Chun and Kar Seng were already waiting for me at the station. This time we had lunch in CRC, the Chinese Recreation Club. I had stir-fried pork with ginger, very nice.

A few weeks earlier, Lay Chun had noticed, passing the ruined Town Rest House, that something was going to happen, a “ground-breaking” ceremony, but for what? (left photo). If you have been following my blog, you know about my interest in, and fascination with the two ruined buildings along Station Road, see for example my report Taiping Bandar Warisan, written in 2019. So of course I was intrigued. On 9 March my friend Liew Suet Fun attended the ceremony and reported about it in the Friends of Taiping Heritage Society FB group. It’s a private group, just become a member if you are interested in Taiping Heritage.

The ambitious plan is to restore/rebuild the two ruins and transform them in a 4-star boutique hotel! Many VIP’s were present. See the right photo.

After our lunch we drove past the two buildings. The fencing of the Rest House, temporarily removed for the ceremony, had been put back. Note the remains of the right wing, destroyed by fire last year.

We also had a look at the other ruin, originally the Perak Railway Headquarters. Here I am standing next to the signboard with all the VIP’s. The plan is to keep the facade and add two floors. The “Taiping Boutique Hotel” is expected to be completed in two years.

Actually the building has already occupants. The fencing looks solid, but it has a “secret” entrance, Here it is, a small makeshift door to enter the building. The bike has been parked nicely next to the entrance.

Left the “room” , I thought it wise not to explore further 😉 . Through a small gap in the fence I could take a picture of another “room”. I wonder if the authorities are aware of this use by homeless people.

Here is my “own” room in the Furama Hotel.

I walked to the Lake Gardens, only a few hundred meters away from Furama.

My friends Grahame and Safina had invited me for dinner. Because she is Muslima, I expected a “buka puasa” dinner. But Grahame was the cook and he had prepared a very traditional English dinner with roast lamb , roast potatoes and veggies!

The next morning I had breakfast with my friend Foo. We often have Chee Cheong Fan at Tong’s stall in the Circus Ground, but it is now managed by his son and they have two weekly closing days on Monday and Tuesday. So we went to the Wan Li Xiang coffee shop, next to the Mall. Also quite good CCF.

After breakfast we had a look at the “rebuilding” of the iconic Taiping wet market. Here is the oldest part (1884), the fish, fruits and pork market. Making good progress, the “grapevine” rumours that it should be finished in autumn this year. I am missing the cast-iron metal structure parts, I hope they will be reused. The Taiping people are still a bit worried, read this July 2023 article in FMT: Mystery of the vanishing (Malaysia’s oldest) market.

The other part of the market (chicken, beef and mutton) is still barren, although the piles of wood suggest that work will start soon.

Foo also showed me the house where he was born, and told me interesting details about his life as a kid, enjoying the long stairs, leading to the first floor. It is now an electronic shop, I asked the lady if I could take a picture of the stairs. She must have been surprised, but did not object.

Detail of the first floor facade. Nice architecture, well kept.

Walking back to my hotel, I enjoyed Taiping as usual. I passed the Tsen Loong Association, it was open, I had a look inside.

A nice bungalow near to my hotel, built in 1915. Many street names have been changed in 1955, for example Birch Road is now Jalan Maharaja Lela. First time I noticed that a road near my hotel was originally named Jalan Speedy. Now it is named after Ngah Ibrahim. who asked Speedy to come from Penang and help him in the conflict between the Ghee Hin and Hai San.

One reason that I like Furama hotel is that it is a few minutes walk to the Lake Gardens. The gardens are beautiful any time of the day.

In the afternoon I walked to the Galeri Perbandaran, where I met Jamilah and Aiman, both very interested in Taiping Heritage.

Dinner at the Lemon Tree seafood restaurant in Matang. It has become a kind of tradition during my Taiping visits to have a dinner with a group of friends. They almost weekly join for dinner, this time was a special occasion because one of them had won a Tesla car as a lottery prize. Very nice dinner, as usual.

The next morning I had breakfast with George and Jenny, George was in Taiping for Cheng Beng and to meet friends, quite busy, so it was nice that we could meet, I had very tasty pork noodles.

I walked back to my hotel. Passing the colorful Dobi Line and relaxing for a while at the Lake Gardens.

I skipped lunch, as I was preparing for a buka puasa dinner with my friend Halim. He had suggested that I could fast from noon onwards. Abstaining from food is no problem, but not drinking anything was impossible for me, especially as it was really hot in Taiping.

I didn’t know that my Singapore friend ST Lee would also be in Taiping. We have not met for may years, so we arranged to meet 3 pm at the famous Ansari chendol place.

I decided to walk, although it looked like it would start to rain soon. I had just started, when a car stopped next to me. The driver opened his window and asked me, do you need a ride, it will rain soon. Surprised by his friendliness, I accepted his invite. Andy was the owner of the Rainy Corner restaurant near my hotel. He was on his way to deliver some goods. When we arrived at Ansari, I asked him to join me for a drink. Malaysian hospitality on its best!

A few minutes later ST arrived and we had our cendol. It was in September 2017 that we accidentally met in the same Ansari Cendol!

Here we are standing in front of his Taiping house in Jalan Barrack.

I walked back to my hotel and decided to have a look at the Rest House, mainly to check if it was still possible to “sneak” in with the “new” fencing. And yes, that was still possible. Left picture shows the present condition of the facade, with the signboard showing how the
“new” building will look like. Right the gap in the fence. I do not understand why this has not been blocked

Some more photos, also of the interior. I am not an expert, but I think renovation or restoration is no longer an option, it will be rebuilding, hopefully keeping at least the original design.

Halim picked me up from Furama at 4:30 pm. We visited a Pasar Ramadan to shop for the dinner. Those markets are often crowded, we went early on purpose.

We arrived at Halim’s house around 6pm, I was prepared to wait until 7:30. But what a surprise, at 6:30 he and his wife said, come, let’s eat! It turned out that both were not fasting that day because of medical reasons! It was a nice dinner, too much to finish everything.

Halim is an accomplished amateur painter and was happy to show me his paintings, in the right picture pointing to his latest creation.

They drove me back and I asked them to drop me off at the Raintree Walk. Very scenic to walk back to my hotel.

The last day, my friend Yeap picked me up from my hotel, we had breakfast in an Indian restaurant.

One reason for my Taiping visit was to have a look at the graves of the Malay nobles who had killed J.W.W Birch in November 1875. Recently I came in contact with Sabri Zain, who is very knowledgeable about the Perak War. See my report The Battle of Kota Lama. He wrote a FB page about these graves. They are located in Matang, not far from Kota Ngah Ibrahim!. Even many Taipingites are not aware of their existence! Their location is indicated on Google Maps, access is easy. Here is the small cemetery just beside the road.

There are two graves, of Dato’ Sagor and Pandak Indut. The grave of Maharaja Lela may not have been preserved. I found another page about the graves Makam Dato Sagor Yang Terbiar, dated 2017 Since then the site has apparently been cleaned and is now reasonably well maintained.

Modern technology, click on the QR-code and you will get the English text. The right photo shows the (smaller) grave of Pandak Indut

The grave of Dato’ Sagor is a lot bigger.

Here are two interesting snippets from the Straits Times Overland Journal, 8 February 1877, about the hanging of the pahlawan-pahlawan Melayu (Malay warriors/heroes)

The road passing the tombs, ends at this massive rubbish dump. Probably a reason why the site is quite unknown.

On my way back to my hotel, a last look at the Lake Gardens, before checking out.

I had lunch with David Chiang at Lian Thong, one of my favourite restaurants, where I had roti goyang and coffee. David is a young energetic entrepreneur with an interest in heritage. He has lots of ideas about bringing back to life Taiping heritage sites.

Then it was time to take the train back to PJ

As usual, a rewarding and interesting trip.

Antonio and Andreas

Curious about the title of this blog? Here are Antonio and Andreas.

Left Antonio Vivaldi, an Italian Baroque composer (1678 – 1741) and right Andreas Scholl, a German countertenor (1967 -).

In this post the connection between the two are three beautiful religious masterpieces, composed by Vivaldi and sung by Scholl.

The first one is Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater, composed in 1721 for alto or countertenor. It describes the sorrow of Mary, the mother of Jesus during his crucifixion. The first stanza reads: Stabat mater dolorósa juxta Crucem lacrimósa, dum pendébat Fílius (The sorrowful mother was standing beside the Cross weeping, while the Son was hanging)

Here is the Stabat Mater, sung by Andreas Scholl. Click on the manuscript to listen.

Many recordings exist. Listen to Who sings Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater best? for a comparison of four countertenors and one alto. For me Andreas Scholl is the best.

The second one is Vivaldi’s Salve Regina, also about Mary, the mother of Jesus, venerated by Catholic Christians. The first stanza reads Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae, vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve.(Hail O queen. Mother of mercy, Our life, tenderness and hope; hail.). In this YouTube Scholl is singing while you can follow the score.

There doesn’t (yet) exist a Who sings Vivaldi’s Salve Regina best? I found a few recordings of RV 616 on YouTube. Here are Calos Mena, Spanish countertenor , Sara Mingardo , Italian contralto, and James Bowman , English countertenor. Listen and judge for yourself.

VIvaldi was a prolific composer, the Catalogue of Vivaldi’s works has more than 800 entries. He composed the Salve Regina four times (one got lost). Here are recordings of RV 617 by Gabriela Eibnerova, a Czech soprano (beautiful!) and RV 618 by Gérard Lesne , a French countertenor.

The third one is not about Maria. It is a cantata, a setting of psalm 127, named after the first two Latin words, Nisi Dominus (Unless the Lord …). Click here for the complete text. And listen to this magistral recording by Andreas Scholl (in 2000).

Many years ago the Nisi Dominus was my first introduction to Vivaldi as a composer of more than the Four Seasons. This post is about his sacred music, but he also wrote beautiful operas, just listen to the aria Gelido in ogni vena from his opera Farnace and to Armatae Face et anquibus from Juditha Triumphans.

To preserve the balance in this post between Antonio and Andreast, listen to Andreas Scholl in works by other composers. Here is the Agnus Dei from Bach’s Mass in B minor and the duet Io t’abbracio from Handel’s opera Rodelinda.

The third part of Nisi Dominus has been recorded by many singers, both countertenors and contraltos. There is a YouTube Who Sings Cum Dederit Best, but for reasons unclear to me, Andreas Scholl is not included. Several comments on the video criticise this omission.

To finish this post in a lighter vein, I will give you the text of Cum Dederit. Personally I find the music still emotional, even after listing numerous times. Wouldn’t you expect a deeper meaning? Here is the Latin text and translation

My paraphrase: The Lord will give his beloved a good sleep and reward them with a numerous offspring.

Soon it will be Easter

In a few weeks time it will be Easter, this year quite early, 31 March. Christians celebrate on that day the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross three days before, on Good Friday.

In this time of the year I always listen to Bach’s passion music, either going to a concert (when I am in Amsterdam), or nowadays more often, on YouTube.

In 2014 I wrote a post about the St Matthew Passion. In that post I mentioned one recording, directed by Gustav Leonhardt in 1989, where the female parts (alto & soprano) are sung by males (countertenors and boy-sopranos/altos), as was common in Bach’s time. Watching my post again, I noticed that this recording is no longer available. That happens often with YouTubes about music, mostly a matter of copyright violation.

But I found a beautiful “replacement”, a recording by the Tölzer Knabenchor & Hofkapelle München conducted by Christian Fliegner.

This is for me at the moment the most impressive performance of the St Matthew passion. Choir, Soloists, Orchestra and Conductor, everything is perfect.

An interesting detail is that Christian Fliegner began his musical career as a boy-soprano in the same Tölzer choir that he is now directing. Here is a recording (~1980s) where he is singing the aria Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben from Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

In the same blog post I wrote about Bach’s St John passion. I gave a link to a recording by Ton Koopmans, but that recording is also not available anymore on YouTube. Searching for an alternative, I found a 1985 recording by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

It fits perfectly in this blog for several reasons. In the first place because it is again an all-male performance. And the choir is the same Tölzer Knabenchor! Fliegner was born in 1976, it could well be that he was singing as a boy-soprano in the choir during the Harnoncourt recording!


I named this blog Soon it will be Easter and wrote in the opening paragraph that Easter falls early this year. How is the Easter date determined? Here is the rule:

    Determine the date of the first full moon after 21 March. Easter falls on the Sunday after that date.

    For example, this year the first full moon after 21 March falls on 25 March, a Monday. Easter is on the next Sunday, 31 March. Next year the first full moon after 21 March falls on 13 April, a Sunday. Easter is on the next Sunday, 20 April.

    Teluk Intan, March 2024

    After visiting Melaka (in August) and Seremban (in September), Aric and I made another overnight trip, this time to Teluk Intan. We visited the town in 2014, see Journal 5-10-2014 and had seen all points of interest. This time it was a convenient place to stay overnight and visit a few other attractions in the neighbourhood. Our program had three targets:

    • The Elephant Memorial
    • The Pasir Salak historical complex
    • The grave of J.W.W. Birch

    We started our trip on a Friday afternoon and reached Teluk Intan in about two hours. Before checking in at the Rick Resort, we first visited the Elephant Memorial. In 1894 there was an accident where an elephant attacked a train to protect its herd. The train derailed, the elephant died.

    A memorial has been erected at the location where it happened. A signboard beside the road tells you where the trail starts and gives a description of the accident. It’s not much of a trail, but a very a short one. Not many people visit this place.

    Here is the memorial.

    The railway between Tapah Road and Teluk Intan opened in 1893 and closed in 1989. The tracks have been dismantled, but the railway bridge across the Bidor river is still there, now used for bike traffic. The map shows Teluk Intan in the 1940s when the railway was still operational. In the other picture the remains from a pedestrian walkway next to the railway are still visible.

    Not far from the bridge we found this attractive mural. I am not happy with the proliferation of murals all over Malaysia, but this one is very appropriate and well-done.

    We had booked a room in Rick resort. Our room was not large but had the luxury of a private jacuzzi.

    After a short rest we went out again for dinner. There is not much special food in Teluk Intan, but we found a nice family-run Char Koay Teow stall, just along the road. Traditional preparation, using charcoal.

    The main attraction of Teluk Intan is the leaning tower. It was brightly lit and many families were enjoying the evening. We spent quite some time there. Aric is trying to tilt the tower a bit more.

    He had brought his drone.

    The resort was also nicely illuminated. I enjoyed the jacuzzi with a beer.

    The next morning we checked out and went to the town center for our breakfast. The Maharani hawker center is located on both sides of the street.

    We had Ying Yong Glutinous Rice with Char Siew and Curry Chicken.. Interesting, but a bit heavy for breakfast. The stall owner was willing to pose with his food.

    We had a look at the nearby Guong Dong temple, dedicated to Guan Yin (seated in the center). The deity is Caishen, the god of wealth, an important deity for Chinese 😉

    Then it was time for the main challenge of this trip, finding the grave of Birch. I had found a webpage created in 2019, Jejak Sejarah: Menjejaki Kubur JWW Birch with a map. And Sabri Zain visited the graves about ten years ago, here is his report: Perak Expedition: Bandar Bahru. He gave me clear instructions how to reach the graves. Here is the map of the region with Sabri’s route in green and the 2019 one in red.

    We decided to try Sabri’s route first (the green one). The plantation road was in reasonable condition, but very overgrown, scratching our car so much, that we turned back halfway. Then Aric got the brilliant idea, why don’t we walk to the graves. He had noted that a minor road comes quite close to the graves and that on Google Earth it looks like a vague trail is going in the right direction..

    We found the trail location and parked the car there. It was actually a cattle trail, we had to walk carefully to avoid the cow dung, but it was not more than a 700 m hike before we reached the graves.

    I found it quite impressive, so in the middle of nowhere.

    The grave of Birch is in the center. Left of his grave is the grave of Innes, who died a few days later during a failed attack on Pasir Salak. According to Sabri Zain the other three graves are of a British private, a Sepoy and a Malay scout. I may write a separate post about the killing of Birch and the hectic weeks that followed.

    Aric used his drone to take aerial pictures of the cemetery and the nearby majestic Perak river.

    We walked back to the car and continued our trip to the Historical Center of Pasir Salak. When we arrived we were the only visitors, later a Malay group arrived. I had visited the center long ago and was not impressed. The architecture of the complex is nice, maybe a bit over the top. There are two monuments about what actually happened here. And there is a Time Tunnel as main attraction.

    But the concept of Bumi Pahlawan Melayu (Land of the Malay warriors) which you see displayed everywhere in the complex is not appropriate, in my opinion. It suggest a continuous struggle for independence, from the Melaka sultanate until the formation of UMNO. It would have been better to concentrate on British colonialism.

    The time tunnel is actually quite well done. I remember a “primitive” version when i visited the first time, dioramas depicting the various phases of “Ketuanan Melayu“. Now it is more high-tech and more balanced. Officially not allowed to take photos, but I could not resist the temptation. The Pangkor Treaty (1874) and the hanging of Birch’s killers in Matang (1876).

    Here are the two monuments near the actual location where Birch was speared (while taking a bath in the river!). A British one (for Birch) and a Malaysian one (for his killers). The cannon is a so-called Rentaka, a bronze cannon, used by the Malays during the fighting.

    Pasir Salak was the home base of Maharaja Lela, he had his stronghold there. In the picture you see a replica, but already ruined.

    After this visit we drove back to Teluk Intan for lunch. The town may not be a haven for foodies, but there is one famous speciality, Liew Kee’s Chee Cheong Fun. Prepared with a variety of herbs, without a sauce. Aric bought 27 packs (at RM 8 per pack) to distribute them among family and friends ;-).

    The shop has only limited seating capacity, so we went to the Glutton (!) Square Food court, where we ordered ABC and had a pack of CCF. Both delicious.

    Before driving back to KL, we had a look at three more or less ruined buildings, indicated on this Google Earth map of Teluk Intan. The former palace of the Raja Muda, the Old Police Station and the Woo Choy Mansion. Also marked the Elephant Memorial, the Railway bridge and our resort.

    In 2014 I had also taken pictures of these three buildings and I was curious how much they had deteriorated since then. As you can see, not much difference, the Palace (1922) and Police Station (1882) more overgrown with trees and bushes. The mansion was built in 1918 by “towkay” Woo Choy. It is private property, not inhabited but apparently well maintained.

    All three properties were thoroughly fenced, no trespassing possible, a big difference with Taiping.

    The entrance of the mansion is from Jalan Speedy. You wonder why Captain Speedy is honoured in Teluk Intan? You can find the answer in my blog post In Defense of Captain Speedy 😉

    It was a very successful trip.

    The Battle of Kota Lama (edited)

    When J.W.W Birch, the British Resident of Perak, was murdered by the Malay nobility on 2 November 1875 in Pasir Salak, it was of course clear that the British Empire had to hit back. The result was the Perak War. Not a real war, more a series of skirmishes. The Colonial Office just wanted to catch the people responsible for the killing (and of course also show its strength). In July 1876 the last perpetrators were caught or surrendered. In December the trial took place in the fort of Ngah Ibrahim and in January 1877 three of them, Maharaja Lela, Dato’ Sagor and Pandak Indut, were hanged in Matang.

    Two years later British explorer Isabella Bird arrives in the Malay peninsula and writes a fascinating travelogue The Golden Chersonese And The Way Thither about her visit. I am a big fan and have written a post about her, Isabella BIrd & Taiping. When she arrives 16 February 1879 in Kuala Kangsar to meet the Resident Hugh Low, he is not yet back home. His Sinhalese clerk suggests that she could make a trip (by elephant) the next day to a nearby village. He says “”I’m going to take you to Koto-lamah; no European has been there since the war. I’ve never been there, nor the Resident either.” Read my blog about her adventure. Or even better, read letter XX from her book as she writes very well.

    Kota Lama (as it is spelled nowadays), is a small village , a few km north of Kuala Kangsar. Wikipedia in its article about the Perak War mentions very briefly the Battle of Kota Lama Kanan .

    I am also a fan of Captain Speedy and have read Gulick’s monograph Captain Speedy of Larut (1953). Speedy took part in the Kota Lama expedition, here is what Gulick wrote about it (page 71):

    On 4 January 1876 troops of Ross’s column moved into the two halves of Kota Lama, which straddled the Perak River. Speedy, despite his differences with Ross, was in charge of the political side of the operation. He called on the inhabitants to surrender their arms and the troops then began a home-to-house search. At first there was no resistance and the British relaxed their watchfulness. Ross and a group of headquarters staff officers came up to watch the search. They were attacked by a party of Malays. There was a short but exciting melee in which Ross’s Brigade Major was killed. The attackers were quickly driven off.

    In August 2020 I visited Kota Lama Kanan, now a peaceful kampung. Kota Lama Kiri is on the other side of the Perak River. A cannon is the only remnant of the battle.

    Until a few weeks ago this was what I knew about the Battle of Kota Lama. Then Marianne Pillai, a friend of mine with an interest in heritage, sent me a link to an article about Captain Speedy, published in the Singapore Daily Times of 17 April 1878. Speedy, after years of being thwarted by the Straits Government had, had finally resigned and left the Malay Peninsula in December 1877. The article is a fierce defence of Captain Speedy. Here is the article outlined in red.

    Not easy to read, I converted the text into a readable format and wrote a separate post about it : In defense of Captain Speedy where I also add some comments.

    The description in the article does not differ a lot from the one given by Gullick in his book, with a few exceptions. One of them is the description of the battle of Kota Lama. The description given by Gullick is short: Speedy is in charge of the political side of the operation. According to the article the situation is much more complicated.

    Captain Speedy was actually against an attack on Kota Lama. They might be notorious people, cattle-stealers and robbers, but they had nothing to do with the killing of Birch. However, Brigadier General Ross, who was cross with Speedy (Gullick p 68-69), forced him to join the expedition.

    The description of the expedition in the article is different from other reports I have seen. The main difference is that apparently there where TWO parts of Kota Lama, on both sides of the Perak river. Kota Lama Kiri on the left right bank and Kota Lama Kanan on the right left bank. (also nowadays there are two kampungs!). Therefore the British troops are split in two parts. Colonel Cox commanding the troops on the left bank with Maxwell as Commissioner, and Captain Speedy proceeding on the right bank.

    Captain Speedy, not being one of the Commissioners, and having been telegraphed for the previous evening from Larut to participate in the proceedings, saw no alternative before him but to submit; and was desired by the Brigadier General to accompany the party who were to advance along the right bank of the river. The troops who proceeded to the village on the left bank, were commanded by Colonel Cox, accompanied by Mr. W.E. Maxwell, Asst. Queen’s Commissioner, and the course which was pursued was as follows.

    Here is what happened in Kota Lama Kiri Kanan. A violent encounter! Gullick writes that Ross was disappointed not to have a fight. Might this fight have been provoked? The report below suggests it.

    On our troops landing and advancing through the village, the Malays fled into the jungle, taking their arms with them, and it was then deemed advisable to put an end to the settlement by burning the village. Accordingly one or more of the houses were set fire to. Almost at the same time the General and his party landed, and one of the houses being soon after entered, it was discovered to be filled with the women of the village. These women being naturally alarmed began to scream, when the men who had been lying in ambush in the jungle, thinking their women were being insulted rushed in, and fired a volley upon our men, following this up by charging with their spears. In this skirmish the Brigade Major Hawkins, two Goorkhas, and some others met their deaths and one of the Queen’s Commissioners was carried of the field hors de combat although unwounded.

    And here is what happened in Kota Lama Kanan Kiri. A peaceful solution, managed in a diplomatic way by Captain Speedy. “Not a shot was fired” ,

    Meanwhile on the right bank of the river the scene presented an aspect of rather a different nature. Captain Speedy had requested to form a cordon with this men round the village. This being done, Captain Speedy, accompanied by a few men, entered the village and advance to the houses of the head men, and told them that the British Government demanded that they should deliver up their arms. To this they demurred, but Captain Speedy represented that as their village was surrounded, submission would be their wisest course, and he guaranteed that no harm should be done them were they to yield, and the men eventually submitted. Not a shot was fired, not a threat used, and no ill feeling whatever had been displayed on the part of the Malays; on the contrary a friendly feeling was at once established, and while waiting for the party on the other side of the river to complete their proceedings, Captain Speedy occupied his Kota Lama allies in getting them to show him how they had trained their monkeys to climb, and gather the fruit from the coconut palms.

    The writer ends his report as follows:

    Yet for this successful policy he from first to last received no word of approbation, or gracious acknowledgment; on the contrary, the unsuccessful leaders of the other party, evidently stung by jealousy and dissatisfaction, persistently declared on any reference to the event that the men on the right bank of the river were of a peaceable disposition, and not hostile to the Government, and that no difficulty was to have been expected with them. Captain Speedy’s name was, moreover, invariably suppressed in all letters regarding the Kota Lama attack, a fact in itself sufficiently significant of the petty feeling which prevented a fair statement of the facts.

    Reading this report I was of course very surprised. What is the true story? I started searching the Internet for more information. Soon I found a webpage, created by Sabri Zain, titled The Battle of Kota Lama, part of a collection of web pages about The Perak Civil War. Here is the introduction of Sabri’s webpage

    McNair’s book Perak and the Malays is available online and interesting to read. In chapter XXXII he describes the attack on Kota Lama. He took part in the expedition himself, as he was the Commissioner and Maxwell the Deputy-commissioner (p 384) Here are a few quotes from the chapter.

    Kotah Lamah — a place that had long been noted as a resort for the worst characters, and freebooters of the vilest description

    On the arrival of the troops at Qualla Kungsa these people were not openly hostile

    ... it was determined to disarm the people

    … the demand for arms to be given up was acceded to on being made by Captain Speedy

    .. armed men were seen rushing off, in two or three instances, to the jungle.

    General Ross and his party landed at the middle of the village, and were searching the various houses to see that they contained none but women and children

    … they were assailed by a body of fifty or sixty spear-armed Malays, who had been hidden amongst the trees.

    Compare these quotes with Gullick’s description, They are quite similar, possibly because Gullick used McNair’s book. But why does McNair not mention that the troops proceeded on both sides of the Perak River?

    I searched further and finally found what I was looking for in the London Gazette, the journal of the British government, where the official dispatches are published. I found two that are relevant to the topic of this blog (there may be more).

    The first one is a dispatch in issue 24296 written by Brigadier-General Ross, while the second one, in issue 24298, has been written by by Edmund.Garforth, the Commander of the Naval Brigade attached to the Laroot Field Force. Both dated 5 January 1876, one day after the battle. Here are the two dispatches, click on them to open the link where you can enlarge the image to make it readable. Garforth’s dispatch (right) starts actually on page 4 of the 24298 issue.

    Here are a few quotes from the report by Ross, with my comments.

    For long this village has -been the haunt of all the worst disposed and turbulent Malays. The Queen’s Commissioner, deeming it necessary to disarm the inhabitants and to destroy the houses of certain known leaders, I made the following arrangements.

    The village is Kota Lama. From the start of the expedition the target was clear: punish the village and destroy it.

    The village of Kota Lama is on the left bank of the river. Lieutenant-Colonel Cox crossed
    with his party in boats, and moved up the bank a little more than a mile, when he extended the men, the left of the line keeping close to the river, and skirmished through the village.
    Mr. Maxwell, Deputy-Commissioner, accompanied Lieutenant-Colonel Cox

    Captain Young moved his party in a similar manner up the right bank, to a village of the same name; his orders were to collect any arms, but not to destroy or injure houses or property, as the inhabitants have been well disposed. Captain Speedy, Assistant – Commissioner, accompanied Captain Young.

    Here is finally the true situation, there were two parties proceeding to the two parts of Kota Lama, left (kiri) and right (kanan). One led by Cox with Maxwell, the Deputy-commissioner, the other one led by Young and Speedy. Ross mistakenly writes that Speedy was the Assistant-Commissioner. But he was not a Commissioner , he was the Assistant-Resident of Larut! McNair and Maxwell were the two Commissioners

    The people of Kota Lama Kiri Kanan are bad, the people of Kota Lama Kanan Kiri are “well disposed”. Does that make sense?

    Major McNair, I, and my staff went with Captain Garforth’s party of the Naval Brigade. We landed on the left bank just above the village, and, leaving a few blue jackets in charge of the boats, we moved in the direction of the village, expecting there to find Lieutenant-Colonel Cox’s party.

    So there were actually three parties. Ross himself with Garforth’s men, came by boat. Accompanied by McNair, the Commissioner.

    … after about an hour and a half we came upon several houses .close to each other, the largest being occupied by women and children. It being necessary to ascertain whether any men also were in it, Major McNair sent in two of his Malay followers, and himself looked in. After satisfying himself that there were only women and children, he had just got down from the steps, telling those inside not to be alarmed as they would not be harmed, when we heard several shots, and from a jungle close by some 50 Malays rushed out upon us, a few with fire-arms and the rest with spears.

    According to the newspaper article, the women started screaming, the men rushed out of the jungle to their rescue and the fight started. Doesn’t that make more sense?

    The report by Edmund.Garforth is basically the same.

    … at daylight on the 4th January, the following forces, under Brigadier-General Ross, left Qualla Kandsor for a village called Koto-lama, on the left bank of the Perak River, distant three miles.

    Kota-lama is the village that the late Mr. Birch was stopped at by an armed force, and for some time has been harbouring the worst characters in this part of the country, and it was the intention to destroy the houses belonging to these men.

    Again, from the start it was already the intention to destroy the village, “to teach them a lesson”

    A portion of the force was marched up on both banks of the river, two villages being opposite one another, of the same name ; the one on the right bank was only to be searched for arms.

    “Only searched for arms” because they were basically good people? It just doesn’t make sense. In the newspaper narrative Speedy’s diplomatic approach does. Speedy is not even mentioned in Garforth’s report.

    Having landed with the Naval Brigade and rocket (leaving sufficient men to guard the boats), I was requested by the Brigadier-General commanding to search some houses for arms, which having accomplished I came up with him and his staff at the house of one of the chiefs, about 11. A.M.

    In the report by Ross it is McNair who does the searching, telling the women not to worry.

    About five minutes after this fifty or sixty armed Malays, who had evidently been hidden in the bush (which was very thick), made a sudden and most determined attack on our party. I had previous to this formed the Blue Jackets up as a guard to the Brigadier-General. The enemy immediately came to close quarters, using their fire-arms and spears, the latter with great effect.

    According to Gullick (p 68) Ross was unhappy that there had not been any fight, blaming Speedy for the delay in reaching Kuala Kangsar from Larut. Now he gets his fight!

    The two dispatches fit perfectly with the report in the Singapore Daily Times

    My conclusions:

    In my opinion the article in the Singapore Daily Times, based on the Pinang Gazette, is the most accurate description of what happened on the 4th of January 1876. There has never been a battle of Kota Lama Kanan Kiri, thanks to Captain Speedy’s diplomacy. The battle of Kota Lama Kiri Kanan may have been provoked by the British colonial powers.

    Of course the intriguing question remains, who wrote the four articles in the Pinang Gazette? The details about what happened in Kota Lama Kanan Kiri, especially that the locals showed Speedy how they had trained monkeys to gather coconuts from the trees, suggest an eyewitness.

    Left and Right

    • Isabella Bird crosses the river to reach the village where no European had been since the war.
    • Ross writes in his report, that Cox crosses the river in boats to reach the village.

    CNY 2024

    Yesterday the Chinese New Year celebrations ended with Chap Goh Mei on 24 February. Shopping malls try to outdo each other in elaborate and often spectacular CNY decorations. We visited a few. This year is the year of the dragon, so dragons everywhere.

    On 1 February we went to the Curve, a shopping mall near to where we live. Relatively modest decorations.

    The next day we visited the ExchangeTRX, a new, huge shopping complex in the center of Kuala Lumpur.

    On Saturday our first CNY-dinner with Aric’s maternal family in Kepong.

    The following day another CNY meeting with my Bukit Lanjan hiking friends, just around the corner from where we live.

    On 7 February we visited the Pavilion shopping mall in Bukit Bintang. By far the most impressive decorations.

    On Friday we went to Aric’s family house in Parit Baru for the CNY eve reunion dinner. Traditional steamboat, in multiple sessions because the (extended) family is huge.

    Aric always creates his own CNY decorations around the house and this time he was particularly successful.

    The theme this year was to wear traditional Chinese dress. The right picture shows Aric with a few competitors.

    The extended family is huge 😉

    On 18 February we went to Puchong for the celebration of the Hokkien CNY, another tradition.

    The next day another CNY meeting with Aric’s maternal family.

    On 22 February we went to Jenjarom to visit the Dong Zen temple. Usually a serene quiet Buddhist temple, but during CNY a famous tourist attraction. Huge crowds. This is the centrepiece, flashing lights with loud music.

    Very colorful but a bit kitschy.

    The main hall still has a different atmosphere.

    On 24 February, early morning, we went again to Parit Baru. Prayers for the ancestors.

    Before going back home we visited a local Datok Kong shrine near Aric’s family house

    A busy three weeks 😉

    Aric’s Zodiac sign is the dragon, so you should be able to calculate how old he will be this year. Here is our CNY wish.

    In defense of Captain Speedy

    NewspaperSG is an online digital archive of over 200 Singapore and Malaya newspapers published since 1831. It has a very useful search option, which I have been using regularly, see for example my post about Menggelumchor.

    The 17 April 1878 issue of the Singapore Daily Times contains a long article about Captain Speedy who had left the Malay peninsula a few months earlier. I have marked the article below in red color.

    The anonymous writer refers to 4 articles from the Pinang Gazette And Straits Chronicle. The NewspaperSG archive has a few volumes of the Pinang Gazette, but not from 1878, so the writer of the original articles is unfortunately also unknown.

    Here is the article, split in parts. When you click on it, you will see that it is just readable but not easy.

    That’s why I have converted the text into a more readable form below. Here it is, in blue italic. In between I have added my comments

    The Pinang Gazette contains in of some of its recent issues a series of articles, four in number, giving what profess to be authentic details respecting Captain Speedy’s connection with Perak from the date of his taking service with the Mantri of Larut till his resignation on the 31st December last.

    In 1953 the orientalist J.M. Gullick published a well-documented monograph about Captain Speedy: Captain Speedy of Larut ,covering the same period (and more). It is available online and very readable.

    The object of the writer is to expose what he considers to be the unworthy treatment of Captain Speedy by the Straits Government and the Colonial Office. No startling revelations are made, but some details are given, a brief summary of which may be interesting as a piece of local history relative to the Native States.

    The setting is clear, the writer of the articles is critical of the way Captain Speedy has been treated by the Government of the Straits Settlements and the Colonial Office.

    Captain Speedy formerly served in H.M. 18th Regiment, and, during the Abyssinian Expedition, in 1867, acted as Interpreter to the forces on the staff of the Commanding General, Sir Robert Napier, now Lord Napier of Magdala. After the war he was appointed guardian or tutor of King Theodore’s son, Prince Alameida, and in 1868 he came out to Penang as Commissioner of Police.

    The dates are incorrect. Captain Speedy arrived in Penang in 1871 where he became Superintendent of Police. And he did not resign in July of that year, but in 1873.

    In July of that year he resigned that appointment and entered the service of the since notorious Mantri of Larut, upon an arrangement drawn up in due legal form, to the effect that in return for services rendered, Captain Speedy was to receive $500 a month, or £1,200 a year, and a tenth of all the revenues of Larut, for the period of ten years. As the revenues of Larut in 1874 and 1875, averaged about $200,000 a year, Captain Speedy’s tenth would amount to $20,000 or £4,000, which would have given him an income of over £5,000 a year, had his agreement held, and had not Sir Andrew Clarke interfered in the affairs of Perak.

    The interference of Sir Andrew Clarke -> the Pangkor Treaty (January 1874)

    The service which Captain Speedy undertook to perform was nothing less than to quell the disturbances of the Chinese factions among the tin miners, the See Quans and the Goh Quans, who fought each other for the possession of certain tin mines and the water supply, and had desolated the country as well as put an entire stop to trade. The Mantri himself, having supported the Goh Quans against the See Quans, and the former having been defeated, was obliged by the victorious See Quans to fly the country and take refuge in Penang.

    The whole tin producing land of Larut covers a space of about 50 square miles, and the mines in dispute occupied an area of more than four square miles, their annual product being upwards of 2,600 tons. There is no doubt that Captain Speedy would have effected his object had he not been interfered with, and it is possible enough he might have become the virtual ruler of Larut, if not the whole of Perak.

    “He might have become the virtual ruler of Larut” The writer is obviously a staunch supporter of Captain Speedy.

    But his proceedings are said to have been viewed with disfavour and suspicion by the Penang Government, which gets the credit of doing all in its power to thwart him, and is accused of planning his arrest as an outlaw and on a charge of high treason.

    Captain Speedy’s plan for restoring order and the authority of the Mantri of Larut was to enlist a disciplined body of 200 armed Sikhs for service in the country as Policemen. For this purpose, he proceeded to India in August 1873, and with much trouble and difficulty he succeeded, after six weeks of hard work, in securing, principally from the North West Provinces of India, upwards of 200 men, whom he engaged to accompany him to Larut, and whom he brought down to Calcutta.

    According to Gullick (page 34) the Straights Government had notified the Government of India that Speedy was allowed to bring sepoys to Larut

    Here, however, reports, promulgated it is said by Penang Officials from spite and jealousy, reached the ears of the men that Captain Speedy’s proceedings were illegal and would be opposed by the Government. The consequence was that half of them deserted or refused to fulfill their engagement, and demanded their traveling expenses back to their villages. About one hundred of them however remained staunch, and with these Captain Speedy embarked for Penang on board of one of Apcar’s steamers toward the end of September 1873.

    Gullick (page 33-34) writes differently, that Anson, the Lieutenant-Governor of Penang, actually supported Speedy’s mission to India. No mention that half of the men deserted, Gullick calls it a rumour that more than about 100 men were planning to follow

    On his arrival in Penang harbour he was warned by Mr, R.C. Woods, the Mantri’s lawyer, not to land, as it was possible a warrant might be issued against him on a charge of waging war against an ally of Her Majesty’s, and accordingly he started at once for Larut with the men in a small steamer belonging to the Mantri, being accompanied by Mrs Speedy and his brother.

    Gullick also writes that Soeedy did not land in Penang but continued to Larut. However, there is no mention at all of a possible warrant or arrest, had he landed in Penang.

    On arriving in Larut, Captain Speedy advised the Mantri to send a letter to the Chinese faction hostile to him, offering to reinstate them in their mines if they laid down their arms and gave security for their future good behaviour. No reply was received, and, after a delay of two months, active measures were taken,

    Gullick doesn’t mention this act of diplomacy by Speedy

    Captain Speedy advanced from his head-quarters, at Bukit Gantang, with two-thirds of his force and two six-pounder Krupp guns against a stockade 14 miles distant. This and four others were taken with ease in the course of a fortnight, and there remained only two more in the hands of the enemy. One was at Matang, the port of Larut river, and the other at Simpang, two and a half miles inland, and both were rather formidable from their position.

    Captain Speedy was making his preparations for attack, when he was checked by the arrival early in January of Captain Grant, H.M.S. Aron, and Mr. F.A. Swettenham, with Mr. R.C. Woods, from Penang, with a message from Sir Andrew Clarke asking for a ten days’ truce and informing him of the new Government’s intention to take the settlement of affairs in Larut and in Perak in hand himself.

    There followed the famous Pangkore Treaty, which altered all Captain Speedy’s arrangements and projects. He was offered the appointment of Resident of Larut, and to act temporarily as Resident of Perak on a salary of £2,000 a year. This he declined until he was requested by the Mantri to take the appointment. He did so, however, very reluctantly, for the appointment was altogether different as regards pay, status and influence to the one he had contemplated in the service of the Mantri.

    Gullick (p 38) doesn’t discuss this refusal and reluctant acceptance , but he mentions that the £2,000 a year caused irritation with the government officials in Singapore, as it was much more than they got.

    It is claimed for Captain Speedy, however, that he took to the duties of his new post with much zeal, and displayed much judgment and tact in his dealings with the natives, both Chinese and Malays, whose respect and confidence he succeeded in acquiring and keeping to the last from 1874 to December 1877. During the first two years of his administration, and up to the time he left in June 1876, on six months’ leave of absence, Larut flourished to a most surprising and unexpected extent. But it is alleged that he was all along treated in a jealous and unfriendly spirit by Straits Officials from the Governor downwards. One or two instances are given of his treatment by Sir William Jervois, and the following may be quoted:

    According to the writer Speedy is doing very well in Larut, but is treated badly by the Straits government and especially by William Jervois (who succeeded Clarke as Straits Governor). Two examples are given. In the first one, Speedy acted professionally but still was reprimanded “in terms of the curtest nature”

    –Almost at the commencement of the Perak expedition, before any active measures had been taken, Captain Speedy received a letter from the Ex-Sultan Ismail, asking his advice, as to whether he should attempt opposition to the British troops or offer the Government his services. Seeing at once that a communication of this kind should be forwarded without comment to head quarters, Captain Speedy without replying enclosed the letter to Sir William Jervois and shortly afterwards received an answer cached in terms of the curtest nature to the effect that he was never at any time, to hold communication with the native chiefs but to forward all such despatches direct to the Government.

    The second example is a long, detailed report about the so-called battle of Kota Lama on 4 January 1876. Captain Speedy is against the attack on this village. They may be bad people but were not involved in the killing of BIrch.

    – Again during the so called “war” — when it was determined by the Commissioners appointed for the time being, to attack the village of Kota Lama, on the Perak river, Captain Speedy’s advice that this attack should not take place was wholly disregarded, though he felt and represented strongly the extreme unjustice of the proceeding. He represented that the Kota Lama men were neutral, — that they had taken no part in the death of Mr. Birch, and that an attack on their village was quite uncalled for. The unblushing reply of the Commissioners was, that they were freebooters and turbulent, – that they had formerly been cattle stealers, and that it was desirable to give them a lesson.

    The Kota Lama men had doubtless a reputation not undeserved, for a character, which as regarded their neighbours, was none of the most peaceable; but of any participation in the murder of Mr. Birch they were wholly blameless; and as the express object with which our troops were sent into the country, was to punish those murderers, and proclamations had been issued by the Government to the effect that the inhabitants who remained quiet had nothing to fear, by what right the Commissioners reconciled it to their conscience to attack Kota Lama can perhaps be only explained by themselves.

    “… by what right the Commissioners reconciled it to their conscience to attack Kota Lama can perhaps be only explained by themselves”. It is clear that the writer agrees with Captain Speedy.

    The following paragraph casts a rather negative light on the character of W.E. Maxwell, who succeeded Speedy as Assistant Resident of Larut.

    A circumstance had, moreover, shortly before occurred, which was but calculated to inspire feelings the reverse of conciliatory toward the British in the eyes of these men. The Assistant Queen’s Commissioner, Mr. W.E. Maxwell, had, some days previous, gone up the river to a village a few miles north of Kota Lama, in search of a man named Rajah Abbas, who had about 4 years previously broken jail from Penang, and who Mr. Maxwell had reason to believe was living at the house of a Malay named Anjong. On reaching Anjong’s house, however, he found that Abbas had left a few days before. He then enquired of Anjong if he had given him any shelter and the man replied in the affirmative, saying that Abbas had come to his house and remained there for a few days. Hearing this Mr. Maxwell at once decreed Anjong to be worthy of death, and ordered him to be executed. Accordingly he was hanged then and there! to the nearest tree by the men of the Naval Brigade who acted as Mr. Maxwell’s escort.

    Here is the description of the battle. It is so different from the “official” narrative, for example Gullick (page 71) that I have written a separate post about the Battle of Kota Lama. This “novel point of view” I have given a different color.

    The attack on Kota Lama and Captain Speedy’s proceedings thereat are described as follows, and the description presents that ill-managed affair from a novel point of view.

    Here is the conclusion of the writer. Speedy did not get any words of gracious acknowledgment and in the official reports his successful actions were suppressed or downplayed

    Yet for this successful policy he from first to last received no word of approbation, or gracious acknowledgment; on the contrary, the unsuccessful leaders of the other party, evidently stung by jealousy and dissatisfaction, persistently declared on any reference to the event that the men on the right bank of the river were of a peaceable disposition, and not hostile to the Government, and that no difficulty was to have been expected with them. Captain Speedy’s name was, moreover, invariably suppressed in all letters regarding the Kota Lama attack, a fact in itself sufficiently significant of the petty feeling which prevented a fair statement of the facts.

    But neither time nor space would allow us here to enumerate the repeated instances in which the same spirit of narrow minded jealousy was allowed to militate against him.

    A few more examples of the way Captain Speedy was badly treated:

    Upon the appointment of Mr. Birch as Resident of Perak towards the close of 1874, Captain Speedy was definitely appointed ” H.B.M Assistant Resident of Perak attached to the district of Larut” with a salary of £1500 a year, and Lord Carnarvon promised to confirm the appointment but this promise was not fulfilled.

    In July 1876, Lord Carnarvon recommended him for the appointment of Resident of Perak in succession to Mr, Birch, and asked for Sir William Jervois’ advice on the subject, but Sir William merely replied that he did not think him qualified.

    In October 1876, when in England and on the point of returning from leave, Captain Speedy received a letter from the Colonial Office stating that his salary was to be reduced from £1,500 to £750 per annum, and he was told to judge whether it would be worth his while to return. This was a plain hint not to return to the East, but Captain Speedy returned nevertheless.

    The Straits Governor William Jervois was the most negative in his opinion about Captain Speedy. That is also Gullick’s conclusion

    On his arrival in Penang he received a message from Sir William Jervois to go to Singapore and the first thing said to him by Sir William was “Why he had returned, because he had telegraphed home to stop him”. He was then told that the appointment of Assistant Resident at Laroot was to be abolished, as Mr Paul held the title of Assistant Resident of Perak, having been appointed in the beginning of 1876, and that the only feasible plan was to send him to Durian Saba tang as Superintendent and Magistrate.

    Ultimately, Captain Speedy returned to Larut on a salary of £1.000 a year, but in the course of two months and a half he was officially informed that his salary was again to be reduced to £850,and that he was to proceed from Larut to the swamp of Durian Sabatang.

    Durian Sebatang is now Teluk Intan.

    It is alleged that this last measure was adopted in pursuance of the settled policy of the Government Officials in the Straits Settlements since the departure of Sir Andrew Clarke, to drive him out of the service, in the hope that it would be finally successful.

    And it was so eventually, Captain Speedy obeyed the order, but, after ten months’ residence at Durian Sabatang, he determined to resign, and at the end of 1877, he left Perak probably for ever.

    Such is a condensed account of the authentic facts relating to Captain Speedy’s connection with the sate of Perak published in the Penang Gazette. The story is not a pretty one but we can offer no opinion upon it without having heard the other side

    Is this the conclusion of the Singapore writer or the Penang one? Really a pity that the relevant records of the Pinang Gazette have not been preserved.

    The Waldstein Sonata

    The 32 piano sonatas composed by Ludwig van Beethoven between 1795 and 1822 are seen by many as a pinnacle of Western classical music. Some of them are so well-known that they have names, for example the Moonlight Sonata (Claudio Arrau, 1970), the Pathetique (Vladimir Ashkenazy, 1972), the Tempest (Glenn Gould, 1967) and the Appassionata (Emil Gilels, 1973). Numerous recordings are available, I have selected for this blog “old” ones.

    Several pianists have recorded all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. For example Artur Schnabel (1932-1935 !), Wilhelm Kempff (1964-65), Daniel Barenboim (2020)

    My personal favourite has changed over time. At the moment it is sonata no 21 in C major, opus 53 , the Waldstein sonata, composed in 1804, when Beethoven was 33 years old.

    Here is the score of the sonata, by clicking on it you can follow it. Recorded by Wilhelm Kempff

    The Wikipedia article about the Waldstein sonata (see the link above) is very informative, it gives a description of the three movements with several sound samples and concludes: It is considered one of Beethoven’s greatest and most technically challenging piano sonatas

    Almost all pianists have played the Waldstein and many recordings are available on YouTube. I have selected a few, click on an image to hear the recording. They span almost a century with Lamond the oldest I could find (1923 ?) and Yoshikawa a very recent one (2022).

    There are many more. In an article “Beethoven’s ‘Waldstein’ Sonata: a guide to the greatest recordings“, Patrick Rucker, himself a professional pianist, discusses twenty recordings. Not much overlap with my “amateur” selection, only Lamond.

    I am a fan of András Schiff. I like his playing, I like to see him play and I also like to hear him talk. Talk, yes, because almost twenty years ago, he has given “lecture-recitals” in the Wigmore Hall, London , where he analysed Beethoven piano sonatas before playing them.

    Here is what he has to say about the Waldstein. Click on the image to listen to the lecture.

    Personally I find his way of lecturing very charming, his way of talking is gentle and softspoken, it gives the impression that he is more or less improvising, although I am sure that his lecture has been prepared in details, with some little jokes every now and then. Very informative, just give it a try.

    Of course he talks in this lecture about the second movement of the Waldstein. Beethoven had originally written a different one, but when he played the sonata for his friends, they objected, that it didn’t fit with the other two movements. Apparently Beethoven got angry, but he wrote a replacement anyway, calling it an Introduzione, and for me it makes the Waldstein special.

    The original second movement, Andante Favori, is often played as an encore. Here you can listen to both, left the original Andante Favori, right the Introduzione. Both played by Schiff, click on the image to listen. If you have not listened to the full sonata, you may be surprised by the ending of the Introduzione. Actually the third movement follows immediately (“attacca”)

    Schiff is a versatile musician, not only a pianist, but also a conductor. He looks to me a very amiable person, but not everyone agrees with that, click here for some sever criticism . I may write a separate blog post about him another time 😉

    To end this Waldstein blog, here is a special visual recording. Click to watch. Left hand blue, right hand yellow.

    And here is the first page of the manuscript for the Waldstein sonata, written down by Beethoven himself.

    The Toba eruption

    Here is a Google Earth image showing part of Sumatra with its capital Medan. The Malaysian coast is at the right with the harbour of Port Klang. Lake Toba, about 100 kilometres long, 30 kilometres wide, and up to 505 metres deep is the largest volcanic lake in the world. Volcanic? Yes, about 74.000 year ago, there was a volcanic eruption, the largest-known explosive eruption on Earth in the last million years. The eruption left a caldera, which is now lake Toba.

    There exists a classification for explosive volcanic eruptions, similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes. It is called the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI). During an explosive volcanic eruption lots of (molten) rocks and ash (called tephra) are expelled into the air and it is the (estimated) volume of this tephra that is used to classify the eruption. Here is the VEI scale. Like the Richter scale it is logarithmic, each following step means a ten-fold increase in ejected volume. The “How often?” row gives an estimate of the frequency of the eruption, not surprisingly huge eruptions are very rare. There is an older classification of volcanic eruptions, Strombolian, Plinian etc, see Eruption Classifications. The last row gives an estimate of the plume height.

    Here are a few examples

    The Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano located in Sicily in southern Italy. On average it has a VEI index of 2. I visited this volcano twice, in July 1971 and July 1979. In 1971 it had erupted in April. Lava flows had caused a lot of damage and it was a special sensation to walk over solidified lava that was still hot under your feet. In 1979 it erupted in August but during my visit I still could climb up to the rim of the crater.

    The Vesuvius volcano is also located in Italy, near Naples. It is not very active at the moment but erupted in 79 AD. spewing 3.25 km³ of tephra, destroying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. VEI index 5. A catastrophic event.

    And that is only VEI-5. Here is the island Santorini in Greece, Or rather what is left of it after a volcano erupted on the island circa 1600 BCE . The eruption volume is an estimated 34.5 km³, so the VEI index is 6. In the center of the caldera two small volcanic islands have been formed. There is still a lot of discussion about the exact date of the eruption, it may have caused the downfall of the Minoan culture.

    VEI-6 eruptions are not rare, they occur globally with a frequency of 50-100 years. In 1883 the Krakatoa erupted (8–25 km³ ) . Similar to Santorini, in the resulting caldera a volcanic island, Anak Krakatoa has formed. In this photo seen in the foreground, with Krakatoa in the background.

    The most recent VEI-6 eruption was Mount Pinatubo in 1991 with an erupted volume of 12.5 km³ Two photos, one taken about one month after the eruption, the other one taken in 2012, where a lake has formed in the caldera. What a contrast 😉

    In recorded history there is only one VEI-7 eruption, Mount Tambora in 1815 with an eruption volume of 144–213 km³ Located on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, it is now a tourist attraction. The caldera is 6-7 km wide and 600-700 meter deep.

    VEI-7 eruptions are so powerful that the plume reaches the stratosphere. This can lead to a volcanic winter event. The lighter particles and ash fall/rain down, but the plume also contains massive amounts of gases like SO2 and H2S which in the stratosphere  react with OH and H2O to form H2SO4 (sulphuric acid) aerosols. They reflect the sunlight, remain in the stratosphere for months or even years and spread globally. The effect is a temporary climate change, affecting crops etc. The year 1816, one year after the Tambora eruption was a Year Without a Summer ! Average global temperature was 0.4–0.7 °C lower, causing major food shortages in many countries.

    After this long introduction, it’s time to come back to the Toba eruption. Because it happened so long ago, the estimates of the ejected tephra are of course less accurate, they vary between 2000-13200 km³ A recent one gives 8600 km³. Meaning that the Toba eruption was at least a VEI-8 (more than 1000 km³) and possibly even a VEI-9 (more than 10.000 km³).

    How much is 8600 km³? Well, if all that tephra would be deposited over Peninsular Malaysia, it would result in a layer of about 65 meter thick!

    When you compare the Tambora eruption with the Toba eruption, Toba should have resulted in a much stronger volcanic winter, possibly lasting many years if not decades.

    Could such a volcanic winter have affected our species, Homo Sapiens ? The Toba eruption happened during the Last Glacial Period . It was in that same period that waves of Homo Sapiens migrated out of Africa. This graph shows global temperatures during the last 150.000 years. The Eemian and the Holocene (our present era) are warmer Interglacials. During the Last Glacial Period temperature dropped as did the sea levels. See my blog posts Ice Ages and Sundaland. As you see in the graph, the temperature variations are rather irregular. There are markers for the Out of Africa waves and the Toba eruption

    In this map the spreading of Homo Sapiens is shown (in red) together with the distribution of earlier human ancestors, the Neanderthals and the Homo Erectus. In 2012 I did a DNA-test to find out when my ancestors left Africa. For my paternal ancestor that was around 50.000 years ago, my maternal ancestor left earlier, ~70.000 years ago. Both after the Toba eruption. Here is my blog: My ancestors .

    The Homo Sapiens population in Africa was small and the migrating groups even smaller, think about numbers in the thousands. They were hunter-gatherers. Sudden climate change might threaten their existence. The Toba Catastrophe Theory, developed a few decades ago, holds that the Toba eruption caused a global volcanic winter, leading to a near extinction of Homo Sapiens, causing what is called a (human) genetic bottleneck. Here is an illustration of a genetic bottleneck. Because only a small number of individuals survives the bottleneck, their genetic diversity is limited.

    It is generally accepted that there have been many bottlenecks in the human evolution, Click here for an article about it. And a few months ago Scientific American published an article Human Ancestors Nearly Went Extinct 900,000 Years Ago That was the time of Homo Erectus, long before Homo Sapiens evolved.

    The Toba Catastrophe is controversial. Did the Toba eruption produce a bottleneck? Was the Toba Volcanic winter so severe and long lasting that the global population of Homo Sapiens was reduced to about 1000 breeding pairs?

    One vocal proponent of the Toba Catastrophe is Donald Prothero, an American geologist , paleontologist and prolific writer In 2018 he published When Humans Nearly Vanished about the Toba Catastrophe.

    But here is an equally vocal opponent, John Hawks, an American paleoanthropologist with a popular blog, who wrote in the same year 2018: The so-called Toba bottleneck simply didn’t happen. He mentions research that humans thrived in South Africa during the Toba eruption.

    I am not an expert, so don’t expect a verdict from me 😉

    Nowadays Lake Toba and Samosir are tourist attractions of Sumatra. Here is a more detailed Google Earth image. Samosir was originally a peninsula until in 1907 a canal was opened through the isthmus.

    I have visited Samosir in 1994, thirty years ago, I don’t remember much about it. Peaceful, interesting Batak culture. You don’t realise that you are staying on top of a dormant volcano. Deep below Lake Toba is a huge magma chamber (50.000 km³ ) that is filling up slowly with magma. This has lifted Samosir already around 450 m. Will there be another supervolcano eruption? Yes, but no need to worry, that may take another 600.000 years.

    Rymba R&R

    Since I wrote a blog post about Bukit Lanjan in March 2021, its hiking trails have been maintained and further developed by volunteers (Rainer, Pathman, Mark and many others)

    Here is an example of a trail that I often walk. Clockwise, uphill using the trails, downhill the tar road to protect my knees. Click on the GE screenshot below to view the Komoot report of a recent hike, with many photos.

    Halfway I have a coffee break at Sunset Boulevard, marked in the GE map. This location has been upgraded a lot with furniture and has become very popular.

    Another location shown on the GE map is Rymba R&R. R&R stands for Rumah Rehat , the rest stops along the highway. Rymba Hills is a residential area, visible bottom left on the map. Over the past year this rest stop has been developed by Pathman, who is living nearby. Here are two pictures, one taken in April, the other one in November.

    And here is the present situation. The plastic arm has disappeared 😉

    When Pathman told me that he often came here in the evening to relax with a drink, I showed my interest to join him, as I am living “around the corner”. But we never managed to fix a date. Until this time! Not the two of us, discussing the meaning of life, but a New Year meeting of the Bukit Lanjan hikers. There were two options, starting with a hike at 4:30 pm, finishing 6 pm at Rymba R&R, or skipping the hike and meeting directly at Rymba R&R. The plan was that everybody would bring something to drink and or eat. Many people first wanted to hike, here is a group picture at Sunset Boulevard.

    Some more photos of the hike. In the center is another interesting location, the Hard Rock cafe. Steep parts of the hiking trails have ropes.

    In the meantime the non-hikers already came to the R&R

    Around 6 pm the hikers arrived and the party started. There were drinks and snacks, Pathman had provided music and solar lights

    It became a very pleasant gathering. We were very lucky with the weather, this time of the year there is often a heavy downpour in the afternoon.

    I went back home before it got dark, because I didn’t want to take risks of stumbling at my age. So these photos (and quite a few others in this post) have not been taken by me.

    As you can see, everybody is enjoying the New Year party.

    Pathman created a YouTube video of the party. Enjoy!

    A nice start of the New Year 2024!