Saturday, August 31, 2013

Say has anybody seen my sweet Gipsy Rose

June 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of me being interested in the Dutch Top40 as broadcast weekly at that time by Veronica. To celebrate this piece of my youth, I intend to make Saturday Top40 1973 day in this blog for the rest of the year - providing a link to the list of that day 40 years ago and selecting my favourite song of the new entries of that week. Today we feature the list of 1 September 1973. There were five newcomers that week, in quality ranging from yuck to just OK. My pick of the week is Say has anybody seen my sweet Gipsy Rose, by Tony Orlando and Dawn. Art Rock score: 7/10 (OK song, good to hear it on the radio).


Friday, August 30, 2013

La Vie Parisienne August1923

As one of the best European summers in recent years is slowly winding down, a suitable vintage French magazine cover - although it may take the term bathing suit too literally. This gem was created by Leo Fontan.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ten silly operas

A humorous article that might seem more Potpourri material, but given the subject, I decided to post it here. This Limelight Magazine contribution lists ten operas with plots even sillier than most in that genre - and by renowned composers such as Donizetti, Gounod, and Mozart. The plots are summarized well and YouTube links are provided. Recommended.

web site

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day to night by Stephen Wilkes

Day to Night is a fascinating ongoing series by fine art photographer Stephen Wilkes. He documents the transition of famous urban landscapes with time by presenting day and night shots in one image. Using over a thousand images taken between sunrise and sunset), he takes about a month to edit his shots into one composite image. I have selected his image of Shanghai above, but the link gives more examples. As always, all rights retained by the creator.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kampen church abstract

One of my own favourites of the year. This is a detail of one of the columns of Kampen's most important church, which was completed in the 15th century. I upped the contrast and the colours to get a fascinating abstract.

Camera: Canon IXUS 115 HS, 12 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.033 (1/30) sec
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 5 mm
ISO Speed: 640
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Monday, August 26, 2013

Paging Lempicka

A vintage photograph from 1928 of a flapper girl driving an automobile - a subject that could have inspired a Tamara de Lempicka painting. The photographer is Andre Kertesz, who had his own blog entry here.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Unicef: Bring back the child

Very creative and effective - these two advertisements by Unicef in Sri Lanka targeted against the recruitment of child soldiers. Excellent work by the local ad agency Leo Burnett.

Creative Ads

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Radar love

June 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of me being interested in the Dutch Top40 as broadcast weekly at that time by Veronica. To celebrate this piece of my youth, I intend to make Saturday Top40 1973 day in this blog for the rest of the year - providing a link to the list of that day 40 years ago and selecting my favourite song of the new entries of that week. Today we feature the list of 25 August 1973. There were a number of great newcomers that week, including Paul McCartney's Wings (Live and let die) and Stealer's Wheel (Everyone's agreed that everything will turn out fine). My pick of the newcomers of that week is Golden Earring's anthem Radar love, which went on to become their first mega-hit outside the Netherlands. Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time).

Fair warning: The linked video uses the beautiful LP album cover image, which is a drawing of a nude girl. I have brushed over the naughty parts for the picture used in this blog post, but the video itself may be considered NSFW by some for that reason.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Riverview waterdome

Frankly, I am disappointed with the quality of entries at the advanced Photoshop contest section of Worth1000 this year so far. Therefore, I went once more through their archives, and came up with this beautiful image by their member ufosgalore for the Bizarrchitacture 3 contest of nine years ago - the unique dream houses you'd like to own. All rights retained by the creator, as usual.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Rhapsody in pink

I have decided to start a new category in this blog: "My digital art". The free software SuperPhoto that came with my new laptop has inspired me to create numerous digital art versions of my own photographs. For painting-like images from our home town of Kampen, I have already started a separate blog. In Art for Art's Sake I will include creations based on other shots. The first example uses the Stained Glass effect on a flower shot. The link leads to the original photograph (icon image source).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Norway (the land of the midnight sun)

A bit of a curiosity, this 1925 travel poster for Norway - mainly due to the choice of font, which we tend to associate with Germany. That aside, this is a beautiful depiction of a gorgeous country, including the midnight sun itself, the inescapable fjord, and an original choice of wildlife: puffins and killer whales. This is one country I definitely still want to visit.

Vintage Posters

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vogue July 1926

A vintage Vogue cover that gives a wonderful summer feeling. Beautiful Art Deco design, with a hint of Modigliani, by Eduardo Benito.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Unbuilt museums

The linked Hyperallergic article gives an interesting overview of a baker's dozen of museum designs that were never actually built. The architects involved include top names such as Gaudi, Wright and Gehry, whose plans for a Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance (depicted above) really stand out. A great read.

web site

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sibelius' symphonies

Between 1986 and 1999 I built up a considerable collection of classical music CD's (exceeding 2000 CD's in total). For various reasons I have played them a lot less in the past decade, but I am embarking on a rediscovery tour that I intend to share in this blog. In the twenty-second installment, I re-examine the symphonies by Finnish grandmaster Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957), skipping the early Kullervo, which has been termed a choral symphony, but is nowadays usually identified as a symphonic poem.

Symphony 1 in E minor op39 (1899)
My version: Philharmonia Orchestra/Ashkenazy (Decca, 1986, 39 min)
My version: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Berglund (EMI, 1986, 37 min)
Sibelius was 35 when he composed his first, and it shows - this is an accomplished work by a composer with considerable experience. The opening movement centers on an energetic recurring theme, and an almost Viennese beautiful melody. The following Andante has a sadness ranging from protest to resignation, which in some ways harks back to Tchaikovsky's Pathetique of 6 years earlier. The confident scherzo is built throughout around a main theme where timpani and brass are dominating. The final movement once more introduces some beautiful melodic fragments before ending in a very effective way - with pizzicato whisper after the climax. All in all, one of the better first symphonies in history, and well worth the "important" label - close to essential actually.

Symphony 2 in D major op43 (1901)
My version: Berliner Philharmoniker/von Karajan (EMI, 1981, 47 min)
My version: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Berglund (EMI, 1986, 40 min)
The popular second symphony, perhaps one of the last romantic masterpieces, opens with an Adagietto, in which beautiful pastoral moments are followed by burst of intensities. The turbulence is increased in the Andante whereas the pastoral feelings are replaced by a brief dirge-like theme played on the bassoon. This movement gives a feeling of struggle, be it internally or externally. The short, partially energetic partially pensive, scherzo leads without pause to the final, a heroic movement that has made many Finns identify this symphony with their fight for independence from Russia. The main theme is among the most memorable that he produced. All in all, this is definitely an essential symphony, on par with the other popular one, the fifth.

Symphony 3 in C major op52 (1907)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Ashkenazy (Decca, 1983, 29 min)
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Berglund (EMI, 1987, 29 min)
Perhaps the first in which his strong individual voice comes through. The first movement starts quietly and ends heroically - fans of Howard Shore's music for Jackson's LOTR trilogy will recognize this movement as one of the sources that he used (without credit)... The second movement is an Andantino full of grace and melancholy. The final, for me the weakest movement, echoes previous themes and introduces new ones in a continuous drive - before it ends with a whisper rather than a bang. I ranked this symphony as important, but it is close to essential.

Symphony 4 in A minor op63 (1911)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/N. Jarvi (BIS, 1984, 38 min)
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Berglund (EMI, 1984, 34 min)
A bleak work, echoing the uncertainties in his life following a cancer operation. In the dramatic first movement, there are more echoes of Mahler than elsewhere in Sibelius' oeuvre. An almost circus-like recurring melody fragment in the short scherzo cannot really lift the general feeling of despair, which gets amplified in the subdued but impressive slow movement. The finale opens brightly enough with melodic fragments, accentuated with bells ringing, but eventually the lethargic feeling returns and the symphony ends with an unresolved feeling. Perhaps his least immediately accessible symphony, but well worth hearing repeatedly.

Symphony 5 in E flat major op82 (1921)
My version: Philharmonia Orchestra/Ashkenazy (Decca, 1981, 31 min)
My version: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Berglund (EMI, 1986, 30 min)
After a magical introduction dominated by the horns, Sibelius' most popular symphony gets under way slowly but surely with recurring lilting motives from the strings, countered by lower wood winds. The slower first half then gives way to a scherzo like second half. The subdued Andante second movement is summarized excellently in Wikipedia: "a set of variations on a theme of the flute heard at the beginning on the strings, played pizzicato with chirping woodwinds to create a cheerful feeling". The final starts with a strings race, which eventually gives way to a swan call inspired horn motif that has been used in many pop songs, most notably First Class' hit Beach baby. Both ideas are further developed, until a heroic end - which uniquely consists of six chords each with a second of silence in-between. An essential symphony, even though I prefer the 4th over it.

Symphony 6 in D minor op104 (1923)
My version: Philharmonia Orchestra/Ashkenazy (Decca, 1984, 28 min)
My version: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Berglund (EMI, 1986, 31 min)
More than any of his other symphonies, the sixth reminds us why Sibelius is one of the greatest composers of tone poems of all time. The cold beauty of the Nordic countries, devoid of human life, gets converted into a convincing sound world, both in the opening Allegro and the second Allegretto movement. A short fitting scherzo precedes the energetic finale, which has the best themes by far. All in all, this is a very worthwhile and truly Sibelian symphony, but in the end lacks better thematic material throughout to rate it higher than important.

Symphony 7 in C major op105 (1924)
My version: Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/N. Jarvi (BIS, 1985, 21 min)
My version: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Berglund (EMI, 1984, 21 min)
His final published symphony (he destroyed the extensive sketches for the eighth) is a condensed one movement work, by far the shortest in his repertoire. In many ways it has the feeling of a symphonic poem, be it that one has to make up the story as the music plays along - and indeed, it turns out that Sibelius used fragments of an unpublished symphonic poem throughout this composition. For me, this is an elusive work, full of beautiful sounds whenever one pays full attention, but admittedly the mind (at least my mind) does tend to wander off occasionally. After a more concentrated listening session, I still rank it as important though - even though for me it is by a small margin the weakest of the seven.

Hors concours: None.
Essential: Symphonies 2,4,5.
Important: Symphonies 1,3,6,7
Good to have: None
Not required: None
Avoid: None

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saint Tropez (Gitarren bei Nacht)

June 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of me being interested in the Dutch Top40 as broadcast weekly at that time by Veronica. To celebrate this piece of my youth, I intend to make Saturday Top40 1973 day in this blog for the rest of the year - providing a link to the list of that day 40 years ago and selecting my favourite song of the new entries of that week. Today we feature the list of 18 August 1973. Of the newcomers of that week I picked the Vicky Leandros hit - one of those campy songs that I disliked at the time, but now find fun to listen to. And I had a bit of crush on Vicky as a teenager.... Art Rock score: 8/10 (great song, I would put it on my MP3 player).


Friday, August 16, 2013

Photogenic Alchemy by Matthew Cetta

Fortunately there are still photographers who manage to get astonishing effects without Photoshop. New York-based artist Matthew Cetta uses all kinds of liquids added to the photographic emulsion, to obtain fascinating results. The one shown above was created with absinthe, the (in)famous French liquor. As always, all rights retained by the creator.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Potpourri: Stavronikita Project

From time to time I will be highlighting some of my own favourite posts in my parallel blog, Art's Potpourri. These can be recent or from some time ago. This one was originally posted 19 January 2013.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


This cover of the 1978 album by legendary country rock band Poco is a minimal masterpiece, with fitting fonts and beautiful diagonal design. The cover art was done by graphic designer Phil Hartman, the brother of Poco manager John Hartman.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Beach baby

An image that is at the same time creepy, disturbing, and fascinating. Is it a coincidence, an arranged shoot by a photographer, or a piece of art? The link does not provide any information; all I know is that it was shot at a beach in Victoria British Columbia. If it freaks you out, my apologies - but I cannot stop looking at it.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

IJssel abstraction

A surprise hit on Flickr: I shot this one night without thinking it would make much impact if I would post it at all. It is a set of traffic lights, reflected in the waters of the river IJssel in walking distance from our home, with added intentional camera movement. Quite unexpectedly, it became my 59th shot to reach Flickr Explore, the 500 most interesting photographs uploaded that day world-wide.

Camera: Canon IXUS 115 HS, 12 Megapixels, handheld (intentional movement)
Exposure: 0.6 sec
Aperture: f/5.9
Focal Length: 20 mm
ISO Speed: 1600
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bad bad Leroy Brown

June 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of me being interested in the Dutch Top40 as broadcast weekly at that time by Veronica. To celebrate this piece of my youth, I intend to make Saturday Top40 1973 day in this blog for the rest of the year - providing a link to the list of that day 40 years ago and selecting my favourite song of the new entries of that week. Today we feature the list of 11 August 1973. The newcomers of that week are even more pathetic than the week before: four rubbish songs, a reasonable Doctor Hook song, and my pick of the week: one of Jim Croce's greatest hits (but one of his weaker songs to my taste): Bad bad Leroy Brown. Art Rock score: 7/10 (good song, I like to hear it once in a while).


Friday, August 09, 2013

Montparnasse Blues

Here is a painting by Dutch artist Kees van Dongen (1877-1968) that I had not seen before. It was made around 1925, and captures the elegance of that decade very well. More on van Dongen in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Camille Roman

An Art Nouveau vintage poster by Georges de Feure from 1893, advertising the singer Camille Roman. Love the design and the colours in this one. I could not find any information about the singer herself.

Vintage Posters

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Unusual concertos [54]: Harmonium

Before the purge of end 2008, one of the most popular topics of this blog was "Unusual concertos", classical concertos for all kinds of instruments and orchestra. I have decided to revive this, aiming for less familiar composers in general. In its original incarnation, I came to 40 different concertante instruments - realizing 50+ this time.

The fifty-fourth concerto deals with the harmonium or pump organ (image source). This instrument was widely used in smaller churches and in private homes in the 19th century, but it is not regularly seen in classical music, for the obvious reason that larger and more capable organs are at hand in concert halls and churches. I am aware of only one concerto for it, by Dutch composer Martijn Padding. It is played by Dirk Luijmes and the Asko-Schoenberg Ensemble under Etienne Siebens, available on an Etcetera CD.

Go here

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Le Sourire March 1933

Le Sourire (the smile) is a magazine in the French language, that I had never heard of before. It is also not easy to retrieve more information, but it appears that ist first issue was in 1899. This is a gem from the thirties, and very fitting for the warm summer we have in the Netherlands this year.