Sunday, December 03, 2017

Buebeard's Castle in Sydney

SSO harpists
Bluebeard's Castle is a one act opera by Béla Bartók and this Sydney Symphony production was the first time I had heard it. I was taken by surprise at how very moving it is. Bartók manages to convey  how scary intimate relationships can be and the singers, particularly soprano Michelle DeYoung, added a human dimension that underscored the music.  

If you are reading this and have the opportunity to see this production it is well worth the effort.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thoughts on #metoo

In 2005 I attended a life drawing course in northern NSW.  'Life drawing', for those not familiar with art lingo, is the practice of drawing the naked human figure.  Drawing nudes helps you draw clothed figures with more certainty and art students spend a lot of time in life drawing classes.

This particular 4-day course had two models as subjects, and they modeled together. It is the only time I have had this luxury. They were a couple and stood, sat or lay in loving and gentle poses.  I have seldom seen models with such an admirable ability to be still without apparent stress for long periods. They said they did a lot of yoga to prepare for the course.

The class was for more advanced students and they arrived at the teaching room each day much earlier than the 9am advertised starting time. The teacher of this committed class of about 30 mainly female students was an older English artist who introduced the day by reading us snatches of poetry. We all worked like demons until about 4:30 in the afternoon when everyone was completely exhausted, then we did a show and tell about our work before heading to the local pub. It was a wonderful, creative and inspiring course.

My room was in a local hotel, one of those old style buildings with surrounding veranda. My room opened out onto this veranda and early each morning I went out to the veranda to read relax before the start of class. Our tutor's room lead out onto this veranda as well and he too was an early riser. We would share bits of poetry or discuss politics on the veranda before it was time to leave for class.

One day he asked me it I had noticed anything in particular about the work the class was producing. No, I said, not really. I was probably too involved with my own work. Well look about you, he said, and you will find that only you and one other student are producing work in which the couple looks loving. I did look about me that day and realised that what he said was true. One student was drawing lots of kicking legs, another was painting doll like figures with big eyes. Many were drawing or painting thrashing figures. One woman had announced to the class in general that her figures always looked as if they were in a rape scene. Before the tutor's quiet comment I had not taken much notice but now I realised she was not alone.

The couple hang on my wall. This painting
was produced on the last day of class
in a state of exhaustion. 
56 x 76 cm

Here is one of the many stories appearing that help explain.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Alexander Gavrylyuk in Sydney

Alexander Gavrylyuk plays
The Ukrainian born Australian virtuoso pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk played in Sydney last night. The audience held their breaths as he wrung emotion from Bach, Haydn, Chopin, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff and wildly applauded whenever there was an opportunity. As the man in front of me nodded in time to Rachmaninoff's Preludes I wondered when he had last heard them played so convincingly. 

The little sketch above was made early in the evening and captured Gavrylyuk in one of his seldom upright moments. He danced with, pounded and caressed the piano, often bent so low that he looked as if he might hit his head on the music stand. Whatever his posture, his playing was extraordinary.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pipe problems

The plumber's mate had to scrabble around in my back garden for some time before he was able to locate the end of the sewer pipe last week. The plumber had been in the day before and jetted away the blockage and now his mate was attempting to find the end of the pipe to feed in an exploratory camera.  When he eventually located the pipe his camera soon found the blockage culprit.

Even a tiny hole is probably enough to encourage a tree to grow into a pipe and my backyard trees have probably been tapping this rich water source for some time judging by the size of the roots in the pipe. The offending pipe is two meters deep so they are going to have to take down the back fence and bring in a big digger. The fence has needed replacement for some time and now the tree-root-problem has forced my hand.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Magazines - fruitless search

Part of the newsagent shop in Frankfurt Railway Station
Another part of the same shop
Every so often I land in a newsagents looking for something to read, something lightish but not silly. I invariably leave empty handed. All the women's magazine fall into the 'silly' category, the computing/gaming magazines are mainly for beginners or only of interest to people with a particular computer model, ditto cars/caravans etc., home renovation magazines and similar are full of glossy photos of interiors that look like upmarket motels, naked ladies and sports are not in my field of interest, business/economics/newsweek etc. still spruik the tired old neo-liberal mindset, health/wellness mags are full fake news and in Australia there is little from foreign countries on the  shelves.

If only there was a magazine shop in the Sydney Railway station like the one in the Frankfurt rail station. (The pictures above show only half the shop.) My wallet would certainly be lighter each time I visited. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Ceramic dancers

Dancers: framed ceramic
The honey-glaze on the ceramic dancers is an old recipe. It runs off a piece if not contained (which is why the figures were created as depressions) and it is too toxic to use on anything you want to eat off (which is why this is not a plate).

The piece was made in New Zealand with clay that fires to a light honey-colour. I didn't realise what a nice clay it is until I started making ceramics in Sydney where the art-school clay fires to a dull concrete-like gray.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Cockatoos

Cockatoos on the roof. They want to be included in my series of  'fabulous ceilings'.
'
Sulphur crested cockatoos on the garage roof

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Textile art: knitting a fox cub in winter (2)

When the eight year old (previous post) announced she wanted a fox cub and her mother on the front of the partly knitted jumper I was making, I searched for some quad ruled paper to draw the foxes on and bought skeins of dark blue and dark green wool since the foxes had to be 'just like in the book' .

The picture of fax and cub chosen as motive

Mother fox on Quad ruled paper











Today I sewed the finished jumper together.
Front

Back
As the foxes emerged I showed them to the eight year old - she thinks they are wonderful. Phew...

Monday, October 16, 2017

Textile art: Knitting a fox-cub in winter

I am knitting a jumper for an eight year old with colours she said she liked ... mainly blues and pinks.  

I get a bit bored with plain knitting (thus the ad-lib colours) so when I was a good way up the back, I asked her if she would like an animal picture on the front, perhaps a dinosaur?

She thought a while then said 'I know!' and hurried off to find the book with the picture she was thinking of.  It took a while to find, but she knew exactly what she was looking for and eventually emerged triumphant from her overloaded bookshelves.

'There!' she announced showing the picture. 'I'd like the mother and the cub please. And the snowflakes!'

'Hmmm,' I said, thinking of the half-completed back. 'Can I change the colours a bit?'

'No,' she said, 'it should be exactly these colours!'

Picture from Cub's First Winter by Rebecca Elliott
Children are as absorbent as sponges and very impressionable. I thought it fascinating that this picture book has had such an influence on a child (who is now reading the hobbit) that she wants the mother and cub motive on her jumper.

To be continued ....

Friday, October 13, 2017

Emmanuel Pahud and the ACO

The hall was dimmed ... just a pinkish light at the back - and then a flutist started playing CPE Bach's Flute Sonata in A minor. It was a lovely way to start a concert.

What was even better was the next piece,  JS Bachs Ricercar a 6 from The Musical Offering played by flute and orchestra.

I have just looked up ricercar:

ricercar
ˌriːtʃəˈkɑː,ˈriːtʃəˌkɑː/
noun
Music
noun: ricercar; plural noun: ricercars; noun: ricercare; plural noun: ricercari
  1. an elaborate contrapuntal instrumental composition in fugal or canonic style, typically of the 16th to 18th centuries.
It was a fun and fabulous piece of music and hearing it for the first time I wondered why it is not played more often. Bravo Richard Tognetti for putting it in the program and to the ACO playing it with such verve.  Yes, it was an ACO concert and the flutist was the brilliant Emmanuel Pahud.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Songs for Refugees at the Sydney Opera House

Such a moving concert last night at the Utzon Room in the Sydney Opera House.  Three wonderful musicians with passion and insight led us through an emotional repertoire in response to the plight of refugees, particularly those still incarcerated by the Australian Government on Manus and Nauru.

Soprano Ayse Goknur Shanal led the trio with her extraordinary lush and expressive voice, accompanied by cellist Kenichi Mizushima and pianist Harry Collins. The three of them together were riveting and the instrumentalists together (two numbers) equally so.
Cellist Kenichi Mizushima
Hearing artists perform with such passion is an unforgettable experience and these three received a well deserved standing ovation at the end of this generously long concert.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Furruccio Furlanetto sings Schubert in Sydney

Ferruccio Furlanetto sings
Schubert's Winterreise sung by a bass?  Usually this moving song cycle is sung by tenor or baritone and the only bass version I had previously heard had not appealed to me. This evening I heard Furruccio Furlanetto sing Winterreise and realised that it is not the voice type but the ability of the singer to transmit its message to the audience that matters.

Furlanetto is a wonderful sniger and I was captivated by his rendition of this lovely work. It was so expressive and heartfelt while not being forced or over acted. 

Just a delightful concert.

A very late train home

I heard a delightful concert last night, but  my trip home was not so delightful.  The electronic train signage said the train went north but instead it went west and I landed in Blacktown. It didn't help that I was playing patience on my phone and missed announcements for the first few stations.

By the time I realised what had happened it was almost too late ... luckily I registered the Blacktown announcement or I would have landed in Penrith and it would have been too late to get home.

I had a long wait until I could get a train back to Strathfield to catch the train I needed, but oh well, at least I did get home eventually - if very late. This happened to me once before several years ago at Strathfield, but that time a lot of other people were with me. Perhaps last night other misled passengers got off earlier, while I was immersed in my card game.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fabulous ceilings #2

Paris Opera singers would have known these ceilings well in the twentieth century when the Palais Garnier was the home of the Paris Opera.  The building excels in fabulous everything. I posted photos from a mobile phone in June - these are a little better.

Fabulous ceiling #2 : Ceiling by Chagall in the concert hall of the Palais Garnier

Fabulous Ceiling #3:Golden ceiling with lizards: Palais Garnier reception hall.
Fabulous ceiling #4: Horses nymphs and furious activity: Palais Garnier Hall

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fabulous ceilings#1

Louvre: fabulous ceiling #1
Is it possible to trump this wonderful ceiling in the Louvre?  I wonder how often the inhabitants looked upwards when it was once a royal palace.

My ceiling is not so fabulous, but just in case you do look upwards you'll find some painted wooden birds floating above you. They were bought in Indonesia many years ago, from children selling them on the roadside.

Wooden birds suspended from the ceiling




Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Kraggerud and the ACO

Kraggerud in Sydney
There is just something about seeing a musician playing music written by a composer from his/her own country and this week I saw/heard a Norwegian violinist, Henning Kraggerud, playing Grieg with the ACO. It was a fine concert and it made me wonder why nationality makes a difference. A complex question that probably has several answers.

Kraggerud took the opportunity to explain exactly what he and the orchestra were playing to the audience. He got a good reception.

Their last piece, Grieg's String Quartet No 1 in G Major is a piece I know well as I made a movie called Dancing Violins featuring this piece in 2010 at the National Art School in Sydney. When you make an animated movie like this you start from the soundtrack and listen to it, or bits of it, over and over and over again - much as  musician does when practicing a piece.

I used the soundtrack from the Engegård Quartet, a Norwegian Quartet I had just heard at the Maribor Music Festival and who graciously consented to me using their soundtrack.

Dancing Violins

Kraggerud and the ACO played Grieg much as the Engegård Quartet played Grieg, with that indefinable touch that makes you feel as if this is really how the composer heard this music in his own head. 


Monday, August 28, 2017

Winter (etching)

It doesn't pay to put your woollies away too early. We are back to winter this week. It was 9C this morning but felt like 0C because of the wind chill factor.

This is an etching I did in Dunedin where the bath was my refuge in winter. I added the colouring more recently.
Winter

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Imogen Cooper - a win win situation

Imogen Cooper plays
You have to be careful what sort of concert you hear after a five star Parsifal but I think I chose just the thing. I heard pianist Imogen Cooper playing Beethoven and Hayden at the Sydney City Recital Hall.

Cooper is as expert in her field as the Parsifal singers were in theirs and the program she chose was clever as well. Light-hearted Beethoven Bagatelles leading into a serious Hayden then a fun Beethoven Variations (yes, Beethoven can be surprisingly witty) before a sombre-piquant piece by Adès leading into Beethoven's Sonata 31, the final piece.
Cooper played the Bagatelles with impish charm. Actually charm sums up a lot of Cooper. She is humorous and enthusiastic and it shows in her music making. After the concert someone near me complemented her playing and she replied “ Well I enjoy playing for you so it's a win win situation."

After the fun pieces she jumped up off the piano stool to bow with a grin but the final Beethoven sonata was different. Captive to the music, she came back to us with much more difficulty. I find those exposed intimate moments so telling. The feeling was mirrored in her.listeners who clapped her back onto stage again and again - not so common in Sydney audiences.

Music played with aplomb and depth of feeling. Cooper and Parsifal have lots in common.