Monthly Archives: December 2010

My guests


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The meaning of Christmas


‘The fussy eater’ is a column in the Observer written by Ariel S. Leve, an American journalist. Sunday, 12 December, I read her article ‘I can’t eat mince pies, and you smother everything in brandy. What is it with the British Christmas?’ with undisguised pleasure. I think she has a right to share her experiences, as her idea of Christmas food is different from the indigenous British people. So, my idea of celebrating Christmas is contradictory too, and I don’t just mean cuisine.

I look around me and what do I see? At my College there is a little blue house with a snowman inside; at the Bonaccord Centre there are a few ‘flowers’ with a snowman and other fairytale characters. Christmas time also means new promotional menus at restaurants, with special dishes and Christmas crackers with crowns, which I find very funny and I ask myself, ‘Is that because of the Three Wise Men or does everyone feel like a king tonight?’ A few days ago at one of the restaurants, I saw a kitchen porter wearing the same crown as the customers. I guess he was jealous of the customers’ one.

Christmas also means shopping. I can’t help laughing when people constantly ask me ’Did you do your Christmas shopping?’ Obviously, I always answer ‘No’, because I don’t get their big concern about the shopping. I don’t have to overeat during Christmas because eating too much doesn’t mean celebrating the event better. And I always know what to buy for my friends and family. By the way, I heard from one of my lecturers the amusing fact that on December 24th shops are mainly occupied by men.

Last Sunday, The Observer served its readers portions of Christmas meals like mincemeat, cheesecake, prune brownies, apple galette, walnut praline ice cream and many other posh-sounding dishes. So, celebrating this even is also about testing new recipes and drinking; few days ago I had to escape to the other side of the Union Street to avoid being trodden underfoot by a flock of drunk girls.

Christmas means also singing Christmas carols at the beginning of December without considering the Advent has only just started. There could be many other things on this list, for example complaining about the Royal Mail’s delays.

In Aberdeen Christmas time means also a new bus time table. I mean, now it’s clear and no one has to calculate and answer the question, ‘What time will the bus come if it should come every 12 minutes after each hour after 9.40?’

In only a few days, it will be Christmas; for many of us it will be just a time of fun, but maybe sometimes it is worth to bringing the eating and drinking to stop and feel the real meaning of Christmas.

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Tribute to Friedrich Gulda


 

Sometimes, when we go into someone’s creative activity which is unique in our minds, we wish to meet him in person or at least to see him somewhere giving his performance. I wish I could see one of Friedrich Gulda’s concerts. Unfortunately, he died ten years ago; unfortunately I only discovered him on youtube this year.

I remember it was quite accidental; I found Mozart’s Concerto 20 in d and just listened to the music without watching the clip. It sounded very skilful and I would be lying if I said that it didn’t charm me. Later I casually played the clip again and realized what was going on there. Anyway, if I had a set of false teeth they would have fallen out; I saw a crazily dressed man in a little yellow hat and black jumper. He was also wearing a talisman which was rather unrecognisable for me. It was Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000), the Austrian pianist. But it wasn’t his unconventional clothes that absorbed my attention; it was his performing – he was conducting the orchestra and at the same time playing the concert on the main instrument, the piano. In some moments he was playing with his right hand while conducting with his left hand. He played and conducted with all of his body; he was immersing himself in the music and sailing in his own expanse. I have never seen such an astonishing performance in my life.

There are not many online sources concerning Friedrich Gulda. Obviously, a quite extensive article about his life and his works of art can be found in Wikipedia, but as we all know, this source is not very reliable. Also, there are very similar articles about this artist at http://www.allmusic.com or at http://www.bach-cantatas.com. According to these materials Gulda’s nickname was ‘terrorist pianist’, because he refused ‘to follow clothing conventions or scheduled concert programmes’.

Friedrich Gulda was popular because of his original interpretations of Bach, Chopin, Ravel or Mozart. He was also a big fan of jazz and wrote several songs which were connections between classical music and jazz; among other things, he composed Variations on The Doors’ Light My Fire.’

The artist died on January 27, 2000, on the day of the composer’s birthday he admired most– Mozart’s. I wish I could see one of Gulda’s performances. Anyway, now I’m going find his interpretation of Someday My Prince Will Come, as I really like this piece in original performance.


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Scared Charles and Camilla


 

Last Friday I realised that almost every single newspaper had a cover showing a scared Prince Charles and Camilla, who were attacked by protesters. Anyway, I saw that picture on the cover of The Daily Mirror – ‘Camilla attack terror’, The Daily Telegraph – ‘Rioters attack Prince in car’, Scottish Daily Mail – ‘How could they get this close?’, and The Times – ‘Assault on Whitehall’.

Last Thursday in London, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were attacked in their car by protesters who were furious about rising university tuition fees.  The couple were travelling to the theatre. According to the BBC, ‘A window was cracked and their car hit by paint, but the couple were unharmed’.

However, funnier was the fact that each of the aforementioned newspapers actually had the same picture, and I wonder how much the reporter, who sold them the picture earned. To be honest, I don’t know what to think about the incident but only yesterday I heard opinions that it was a good experience for the Royal couple, because they should wake up and taste the life of an average person.

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A great idea for Christmas present – ‘Words for you’


Every year before Christmas we rush to buy presents for our friends and family, and retailers take advantage of our inexperience, sensibility and other attributes of our personalities. That is why their slogans are very specific and basically aimed at catching customers with their sweet baits.

Well, instead of buying presents that might cost a bomb, we should listen to the voices of our hearts. I know, it sounds too sweet and so sentimental, but isn’t the sensibility a part of our ‘ego’? I mean, our Christmas presents should be from the heart.

Last year one of my lecturers recommended a CD of poems read by actors to students and other people involved in the so called ‘Online Bookclub’ – the CD is called ‘Words for you’. The profit from the CD was going to the charity ‘I CAN’, which supports children up to the age of 16 with difficulties in communication. Later I bought this CD quite accidentally in HMV (not online as I was planning). Well, it was a production from 2009, but real admirers of poetry and good classical music wouldn’t despise it. Also, I thought that the CD would be an excellent gift for every occasion, not only for Christmas.

The CD consists of 27 poems read by actors like: Miriam Margolyes, Samantha Morton, Ben Whishaw, Anthony Head and many others. All of the poems are accompanied by charming masterpieces of classical music. Some of the voices are touching enough even without the music in the background. I would especially recommend ‘Friendship’ by Elizabeth Jennings with Beethoven’s beautiful Piano Concerto no 5. Track no 7 – ‘On the balcony’ by D.H Lawrence with the accompaniment of Grieg’s ‘Last Spring’ is very moving, full of emotions blended with the deep voice of Anthony Head. Other pieces like ‘He wishes for the cloths of heaven’, by W.B. Yeats and ’Sonnet 116’ by Shakespeare,’ She walks in beauty’ by Lord Byron, accompanied by Grieg’s ‘Peer Gynt suite No.2 or ‘Remember’ by Christina Rossetti, accompanied by Sor’s ‘Allegretto’, are worth listening to. To be honest, I would not expect anything more beautiful then track no 23, ’Silver’ by Walter de la Mare, accompanied by the golden piece by Chopin – Nocturne cis –moll.

‘Words for you’ would be a perfect gift for those who are susceptible to the beauty of music, and for those with sensitive ears.

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Astonishing classical music


I like the BBC. I have to confess that I’m fascinated by BBC Radio 3 and its Breakfast in the morning, which is broadcast between 7.00 am and 10.00 am. However, I don’t listen to it every day, just sometimes, especially when I’m studying.

Last week, I was really busy with my writing and other things, so I thought, ‘Why not change Mozart to something else? I ‘torture’ his music almost every day’. I turned on the radio and the music I heard beat me. Actually, I couldn’t have switched on the radio at a better moment. The music that flowed from loudspeakers was such a magic stream of harmony and like a balm for my soul. And I thought with amusement about Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek erudite who lived in the first century A.D and made up a very specific definition of music. He claimed that it is just an ability to distinguish between high and low sounds. Well, in the piece I heard there were so many colours and shadows.

Today it’s difficult for me to put this experience into words. The music is not a picture, or a written piece. It is much more; it is some inner experience that anyone who doesn’t feel the beauty of music will never experience. No other art is able to influence us as much as music that moves, touches and impels us to reflection. Anyway, while listening to that Breakfast I managed to catch with my dry ear that it was contemporary music than from immemorial times. The beginning of the piece was very interesting; it was played on strings which sounded like a beehive. Later it mixed with a low sound of French horns and trumpets which dialogued with each other. All of these instruments created an atmosphere of tension, especially when the music gradually got louder and took the shape of an amazing crescendo. Suddenly that beehive underwent to a hectic dance with the trumpet in the foreground. Also, later a tambourine there was introduced. This music sounded to me somehow lively, like the connection between some rustic dance and an orchestra of amateurs. Obviously, I mean the simplicity of harmony, not the work itself. The piece ended with a decrescendo. The next movement astonished me with its melancholy, but to be honest, I did not remember as many details of it as in the first movement. To be plain, the whole thing seemed to blend together in some significant sadness. There were definitely strings, bass drum and my favourite oboes. I don’t remember the third movement at all, as I was probably too absorbed with my work then.

Later, I found out more about this wonderful work. It was The Karelia Suite, Op. 11 by Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957), one of the most popular Finnish composers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first movement was called ‘Intermezzo’, and my beehive and tension were actually intended by the composer to be march. The second part was called Ballade, and the third – Alla Marcia. According to some sources, the music was influenced by folk music and the history of the Karelia region, where Sibelius spent his honeymoon in 1892.

As we see, intensity of these sounds might be better understood with this little fact about the piece. Anyway, Sibelius couldn’t dress his longing and other feelings towards Karelia any better.

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Winter offences


Yesterday when I was passing by one of the cottages in the street where I live, I noticed a man looking at something. When I approached him, I knew what he was admiring; there were three winter sculptures: a frog, snowman and an obscure lump of snow with the Scottish flag on the top. It reminded me of a funny accident that happened the week before, when a woman from Kent, England called 999 and reported that her snowman was stolen.

The snowman seemed to be very valuable to her, as she used pounds coins as his eyes and tea spoons for his arms. And this raises the question, ‘Is something that we value equal to its real importance?’ What is more important, a snowman worth £2 or someone’s life? According to The Sun, Kent Police received more than 8000 general and 999 calls in 48 hours.

Well, the snowman and frog from my street are not very valuable and they are not in danger of kidnapping, so that man can sleep very well and the 999 line is not busy when it is really necessary.

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