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).

YouTube

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

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

Flickr

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.

YouTube

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).


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).

YouTube

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Legend

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.

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

Flickr

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).

YouTube

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Smoke on the water

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 4 August 1973. The newcomers of that week are a bit pathetic, except for a half-way decent Chicago song, and my pick of the week: a re-issue of the Deep Purple anthem Smoke on the water. Art Rock score: 8/10 (strong song, I'd put it on my MP3 player).

YouTube

Friday, August 02, 2013

Dancing the night away

Just over a week ago, there was a live concert with dancing a stone's throw away from our home. We took part, but in-between I played with my camera. This is a digital combination of four shots taken from the same point - resulting in an almost ghost like image. My 58th shot to reach Flickr Explore, the 500 most interesting photographs uploaded that day world-wide.

Camera: Canon IXUS 115 HS, 12 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 1 sec (1/1)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 5.0 mm
ISO Speed: 1600
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr