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Thursday, August 30, 2012

George Coșbuc: Decebal către popor

era priceput în ale războiului și iscusit la faptă; știind când să năvălească și când să se retragă la timp, meșter în a întinde curse, viteaz în luptă, știind a se folosi cu dibăcie de o victorie și a scăpa cu bine dintr-o înfrângere; pentru care lucruri el a fost mult timp pentru romani un potrivnic de temut

Viata asta-i bun pierdut
Cand n-o traiesti cum ai fi vrut!
Si-acum ar vrea un neam calau
S-arunce jug în gatul tau:
E rau destul ca ne-am nascut,
Mai vrem si-al doilea rau?

Din zei de-am fi scoboratori,
C-o moarte tot suntem datori!
Totuna e dac-ai murit
Flacau ori mos îngarbovit;
Dar nu-i totuna leu sa mori
Ori caine-nlantuit.

Cei ce se lupta murmurand,
De s-ar lupta si-n primul rand,
Ei tot atat de buni ne par
Ca orisicare las fugar!
Murmurul, azi si orisicand,
E planset în zadar!

Iar a tacea si lasii stiu!
Toti mortii tac! Dar cine-i viu
Sa rada! Bunii rad si cad!
Sa radem, dar, viteaz rasad,
Sa fie-un hohotit si-un chiu
Din ceruri pana-n iad!

De-ar curge sangele parau,
Nebiruit e bratul tau
Cand mortii-n fata nu tresari!
Si însuti tie-un zeu îti pari
Cand razi de ce se tem mai rau
Dusmanii tai cei tari.

Ei sunt romani! Si ce mai sunt?
Nu ei, ci de-ar veni Cel-sfant,
Zamolxe, c-un întreg popor
De zei, i-am întreba: ce vor?
Si nu le-am da nici lor pamant
Caci ei au cerul lor!

Si-acum, barbati, un fier si-un scut!
E rau destul ca ne-am nascut:
Dar cui i-e frica de razboi
E liber de-a pleca napoi,
Iar cine-i vanzator vandut
Sa iasa dintre noi!

Eu nu mai am nimic de spus!
Voi bratele jurand le-ati pus
Pe scut! Puterea este-n voi
Si-n zei! Dar va ganditi, eroi,
Ca zeii sunt departe, sus,
Dusmanii langa noi!

This life is never any good
Unless thou live it as thou would!
So now, as tyrants scheme and stroke
To vilely bend us in their yoke,
When life already is a curse,
Would ye that it be worse?

Were we from godly seed to grow
We would be deathbound even so!
It makes no diff'rence if one dies
An early death or late demise,
Yet lions die in glory's reign
And dogs in wretched chain!

Thou vainly fight in forward rows
If whining thou confront thy foes!
A whiner is no better than
A dastardly disgraceful man,
So if thou mutter and complain,
Thy tears are spilled in vain!

Keep quiet? 'Tis what cravens do!
The dead, we know, are quiet too!
But if alive and straight thou art,
Let laughter overfill thy heart,
For he who dies and laughs doth well,
So laugh thy way to hell!

Should brooks themselves be bloodied red,
As long as death thou do not dread
Thy spirit never shall be trod!
To thee thyself shall seem a god,
As laughter in thy visage glows
And awes thy mighty foes.

So, they are Romans?! Lovely name!
If God himself, Zalmoxis came
With all his gods to ask for land,
We would accept no such demand!
Nor is there reason they should try:
Do they not have their sky?

And now, my men, an arm and shield!
Today is fate to us revealed,
So he whose guts appear to lack
Is free to turn and wander back,
And he who thinks he might betray
Away from us, away!

Indeed have I nought left to say:
Ye all have sworn on shields today!
Ye all have prowess through and through
And gods in heaven to turn to!
But while the gods are far from here,
The enemy is near!
English rendering by Paul Abucean

(George Coșbuc)


George Coșbuc

George Coșbuc
(1866 - 1918)
fotografie aflată la Biblioteca Judeţeană Octavian Goga, Cluj, Fondul Emil Isac
no copyright infringement intended

When it comes to Romanian literature I am very old school. Especially when it comes to poetry.

(A Life in Books)


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Junot Diaz about Tokyo

Cities produce love and yet feel none, says Junot Diaz, and he goes on, cities, after all, for all their massiveness, all their there-ness, are acutely vulnerable. You never come to know everything in a city you fall in love with. Every time you discover another tiny piece of a gigantic puzzle. I realized that in New York, I was there so many times, to realize more and more how ignorant I was, and to celebrate each new discovery.

Junot Diaz came to Tokyo to find there the default setting of the future. And he felt in love with all the bells and whistles of its modernity, the strangeness of it, the impossible overwhelming scale.

I have just read an article about Tokyo, by Junot Diaz, published in Newsweek Magazine:

(Junot Diaz)


Junot Díaz

From all contemporary American authors, Junot Díaz is my favorite. He hasn't published much: Drown came in 1996, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao followed eleven years later, in 2007. He got a Pulitzer for both. This Is How You Loose Her is announced for this September. Besides, other stories and essays, most of them in The New Yorker.

Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to US as a child: his assimilation in the new country followed the hard way, and his books are about immigrant experience. Not only. The universe of the native country is present, too, and it's a wonderful blend of two worlds.

No wonder that his writing is very direct and by all means streetwise, a continuous mix of Spanish expressions in the English flow - and his reviewers used for his style words as vulgar, or ribald - I would add that he knows how to balance his language, it's not about an illiterate bum, it's about a master of the language, and a master of the universes he depicts.

And beyond all the crude realism, there is a subtle romantic flavor: his books are about coming of age.

(A Life in Books)

(Una Vida Entre Libros)


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rainer Maria Rilke: Eine Sibylle

Sibyl, by Francesco Ubertini, cca 1525
oil on panel
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
no copyright infringement intended

Einst, vor Zeiten, nannte man sie alt.
Doch sie blieb und kam dieselbe Straße
täglich. Und man änderte die Maße,
und man zählte sie wie einen Wald

nach Jahrhunderten. Sie aber stand
jeden Abend auf derselben Stelle,
schwarz wie eine alte Citadelle
hoch und hohl und ausgebrannt;

von den Worten, die sich unbewacht
wider ihren Willen in ihr mehrten,
immerfort umschrieen und umflogen,
während die schon wieder heimgekehrten
dunkel unter ihren Augenbogen
saßen, fertig für die Nacht.
Rainer Maria Rilke, zwischen dem 22.8. und dem 5.9.1907, Paris

Long before our time they called her old,
But she'd walk down the same road every day.
Her age became too much to say
In years — and, like a forest's, would be told

In centuries. She comes to stand at dusk —
Her spot each time the same — and to foretell.
She is a hollow, wrinkled husk,
Dark as a fire-gutted citadel.

She has to turn her flock of talking loose
Or it will grow too crowded to relieve.
Flapping and screaming, words are flying all

Around her. Then, returning home to roost,
They find a perch beneath her eyebrows' eaves,
And in that shadow wait for night to fall.

(Rainer Maria Rilke)


Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke
portrait by Paula Modersohn-Becker
oil tempera on cardboard, 1906
Sammlung Ludwig Roselius, Bremen, GE
no copyright infringement intended

(German and Nordic Literature)


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Just a Bit on Indo-European and Non-Indo-European

no copyright infringement intended

Let me speak here about this subject in the most casual manner, as I have a very different background from people specialized in language sciences. I just like the topics, that's all. There is a Romanian expression for someone who speaks about stuff that's not his hat, he heard about it in the streetcar.

Indo-European languages are not spoken all over India, also not all over Europe either. The South of India is the home for Dravidian languages: about 85 genetically related idioms, among them Kannada, Telugu and Tamil (I mention them here as I have friends speaking these three tongues). In Europe, Basque, Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, and Turkish are not in the Indo-European family.

On the other hand, Indo-European languages are spoken also outside India and Europe: let's mention the Iranian languages (which in turn are spoken not only in Iran, also in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and in the Kurd regions) - Farsi, Pashto, Kurdish and Balochi. I saw many Iranian movies and I think I can recognize when someone is speaking Farsi or Pashto. To be sure: I don't understand any word, only I understand that the people speak one of those two idioms. It happened to me once, actually: three people who were walking in front of me were talking and I asked them whether their language was Farsi. It was Pashto (if you don't believe me, I would come with the old Italian saying se non è vero, è ben trovato).

Some other time I saw two guys speaking in a language that was totally unknown for me. It seemed to sound vaguely like Russian: not any Russian word, rather the way to put the accents in the sentences. It was Kurdish. Now, as you can presume, there is no closeness in any way between Kurdish and Russian, as one belongs to the Iranian group, and the other to the Slavic. What happens is that when you hear someone speaking a totally unknown language, you try to guess, and the flow of logic is always running kind of this doesn't look like English or some German, neither like Spanish, nor French, is it then Russian or what? It happened to me many times to be asked in America whether I was speaking Russian: my Romanian accent was not sounding like Germanic at all, neither Spanish, nor French, so the next guess was obvious.

Now, speaking about the origin of the Indo-European family, when I firstly encountered this concept, I assumed that the wedlock was India, as there was so much talk about Sanskrit. Much later, while visiting the Baltic countries, I was told that there was an astonishing closeness between  Lithuanian and Sanskrit: I couldn't check that affirmation, only there was a story about some people from India who had come once to Vilnius, and they had been understood without much difficulty.  The explanation resided in the very conservative character of Lithuanian: a language with an extremely slow evolution, so keeping many words and constructions from the unknown Proto-Indo-European, the mother of all our tongues. It was even believed that Lithuanian was much closer to the origin than Sanskrit. Again, I cannot check in any way all these allegations, as I didn't discuss the matter with specialists.

There were many theories about the place where Indo-European languages originated: the scholars took many aspects in consideration, starting with the so-called cognates (common words in the genetically related tongues, like mother / mutter / mati /mater / madar  - the common word in English / German / Russian / Latin / Farsi): as an example, looking for cognates defining different plants and animals could lead to a region where these plants and animals exist. Of course the search is much more complicated and far from trivial.

Two competing theories are widely accepted today: the Kurgan theory (formulated in 1950 by Marija Gimbutas) places the origin in the Pontic-Caspian steppe sometime in the 4th millennium BCE - a pastoral civilization imposing its language through military conquest; the Anatolian theory (formulated by Colin Renfrew in 1987) places the origin in Anatolia sometime in 7th millennium BCE - an agricultural civilization imposing its language through trade - by an irony of history (or should we rather say of prehistory? just kidding) Anatolians speak today Turkish, a non-Indo-European language. There are also other theories (for instance the Armenian theory - stating that the first Indo-Europeans were Armenians, okay?).  Maybe I should come back to each one before too long, now I suggest you to read an article from NY Times on this topic:

(A Life in Books)


Friday, August 24, 2012

The Glasses of Schubert

The Glasses of Schubert, Haus der Musik, Vienna
image posted on Facebook by Sine musica nulla vitano copyright infringement intended

(Old Masters)

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Waltzes of Chopin

one of only two photographs of Chopin
(this one is rarely reproduced due to its deteriorated state)
date: 1847
posted on Facebook by Sine musica nulla vita
no copyright infringement intended

The first eight waltzes were published during Chopin's lifetime. Other five were published in the decade following his death. Since then, other seven waltzes have been published (from 1868 to 1932). Add to this number about fifteen other, whose manuscripts are considered lost.

artist: Garrick Ohlsson
00:00 - Op.18
05:38 - Op.34
21:13 - Op.42
25:17 - Op.64
34:29 - Op.69
43:02 - Op.70
52:22 - in A Flat, Kobylańska Katalog IVa13
54:08 - in E, Kobylańska Katalog IVa12
56:56 - in E Minor, Kobylańska Katalog IVa15
01:00:01 - in A Minor, Kobylańska Katalog IVb11
01:02:17 - Sostenuto in E Flat, Kobylańska Katalog IVb10, Waltz
01:04:36 - in E Flat, Kobylańska Katalog IVa14
01:07:17 - in F Sharp Minor, Kobylańska Katalog Ib7, Valse Mélancolique
(video by wgw575)


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Monday, August 20, 2012


Statue of Petrarch in Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
no copyright infringement intended

His real name had been Petracco, but he remained known under the Latinized form, as Petrarca. The English language countries went further, referring him as Petrarque.  I would prefer the Latinized form, as it was this way I firstly heard about him in school. He is considered the Father of Humanism.

Let's start with the  sonnet that opens his Canzoniere:

Voi ch'ascoltate in rime sparse il suono
di quei sospiri ond'io nudriva 'l core
in sul mio primo giovenile errore
quand'era in parte altr'uom da quel ch'i' sono,

del vario stile in ch'io piango et ragiono
fra le vane speranze e 'l van dolore,
ove sia chi per prova intenda amore,
spero trovar pietà, nonché perdono.

Ma ben veggio or sí come al popol tutto
favola fui gran tempo, onde sovente
di me mesdesmo meco mi vergogno;

et del mio vaneggiar vergogna è 'l frutto,
e 'l pentersi, e 'l conoscer chiaramente
che quanto piace al mondo è breve sogno.
Sonnet form: abba abba cdc  cdc

Here is an English rendering, done by A. S. Kline:

You who hear the sound, in scattered rhymes,
of those sighs on which I fed my heart,
in my first vagrant youthfulness,
when I was partly other than I am,

I hope to find pity, and forgiveness,
for all the modes in which I talk and weep,
between vain hope and vain sadness,
in those who understand love through its trials.

Yet I see clearly now I have become
an old tale amongst all these people, so that
it often makes me ashamed of myself;

and shame is the fruit of my vanities,
and remorse, and the clearest knowledge
of how the world's delight is a brief dream.

I found a video with this sonnet, using scenes from a great Chinese movie that I recommend to all of you, The Road Home.

(video by ibride)

(Una Vita Tra I Libri)

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Vado ben spesso cangiando loco

Vado ben spesso
cangiando loco;
ma non so mai
cangiar desio.

Sempre l'istesso
sara' il mio foco
e saro' sempre
l'istesso anch'io.

vado ben spesso
cangiando loco;
ma non so mai
cangiar desio.

A small poem with unknown author, scored by Giovanni Battista Bononcini, with an interesting story: Liszt would use it in his Années de pèlerinage, attributing it to another composer (Salvator Rosa). I will come back to this later. I tried an English rendering, which was not easy, so if you don't like it, gtry a better one:

Very often I go
change my site;
but I never know
how to change my desire.

Always keeping the speed
will be my target
and I always will
keep the same speed.

Very often I go
change my site;
but I never know
how to change my desire.

(the Bononcini's)


Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Musical Dynasty: the Bononcini's

Portrait of Giovanni Battista Bononcini
Italian Baroque composer and cellist
(1670 - 1747)
no copyright infringement intended

Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Per la gloria d'adorarvi
aria from opera Griselda (1722)
Joan Sutherland
(video by ioSonoCallas)

Giovanni Battista Bononcini: Sonata I in A minor for Violoncello
Allegro, Andante, Grazioso - Minuet - Grazioso
Anner Bylsma: Violoncello
Gustav Leonhardt: Harpsichord
(video by Der Klänge der Götter)

Giovanni Battista Bononcini was the brother of Antonio Maria Bononcini (also a composer and cellist) and the son of Giovanni Maria Bononcini (a composer and violinist): the dynasty  of the Bononcini's (or Buononcini's, as their name came to us in slight variations).

(Old Masters)


Friday, August 17, 2012

Two Self-Portraits of Salvator Rosa

oil on canvas, cca. 1645
National Gallery, London, UK
presented by the 6th Marquis of Lansdowne in memory of his father, 1933
no copyright infringement intended

Two self-portraits of Salvator Rosa, both painted in the same period. The first one has the title Philosophy, and carries a Latin inscription: AVT TACE AVT LOQVERE MELIORA SILENZIO (which means Be quiet, unless your speech be better than silence, undoubtedly a very good advice for us, bloggers). As a painter, Salvator Rosa is now considered a proto-Romantic. During his lifetime he was, well, Baroque, like everybody then. As a poet, he wrote lots of satires, which produced lots of enemies. Actually he was the kind of perpetual rebel, and not only in writing.

oil on canvas, cca. 1647
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
bequest of Mary L. Harrison, 1921
no copyright infringement intended

(Old Masters)

(Una Vita Tra I Libri)


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Missionary Baroque

Andrea Pozzo, Allegory of the Missionary Work of the Jesuits
no copyright infringement intended

The so-called Missionary Baroque is the musical repertoire once played in the Jesuit Missions from Latin America. They had a very short history on that continent, as the Jesuits were suddenly suppressed in 1767 (by Pope Clement XIII) and forced to leave. The musical manuscripts remained in the former missions, to be recently re-discovered: in 2001 thousands of musical scores were found in Southern Bolivia (in Chiquitos and Moxos).

Sonata en trío (Anónimo, S. XVIII)
(two violins and basso continuo)
Archivo Musical de Chiquitos (AMCh), Bolivia
(video by Belarmo)

(Old Masters)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Michelangelo at the age of sixty
a portrait by Jacopino del Conte, cca. 1535
no copyright infringement intended

(Old Masters)

(Una Vita Tra I Libri)


Frank Cadogan Cowper: Lucretia Borgia

Lucretia Borgia Reigns in the Vatican in the Absence of Pope Alexander VI
by Frank Cadogan Cowper, 1908-1914
oil on canvas
Tate Collection
(Acquisition Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1914)
no copyright infringement intended

This is a re-creation of an obscure and scandalous incident from the history of the Popes. In 1501 the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI, Lucrezia Borgia, took his place at a meeting. Frank Cowper has invented this suggestive moment in which two noblemen part Lucrezia’s dress so that a Franciscan friar can kiss her shoe.The room in the Vatican in which Lucrezia Borgia appeared still exists. It was decorated by the Italian Renaissance artist Pinturicchio. Cowper went there to copy it and painted the faces of the Cardinals from their original portraits.

Was Cowper the last of the old masters, or rather a modern pretending to be old, while talking mockingly of the old ways?

(Frank Cadogan Cowper)


Gentile da Fabriano: Playing the Organ

Music: Playing the Organ
Fresco by Gentile da Fabriano
Hall of the Liberal Arts and of the Planets, Palazzo Trinci, Foligno, Italy
(posted on Facebook by Sine Musica Nulla Vita)
no copyright infringement intended

L'orgue est une cosmogonie. D'ici ses résonances métaphysiques. Dans l'orgue, l'absolu est interprété par lui-même (The organ is a cosmogony. Hence its metaphysical overtones. In the organ, the absolute is interpreted by itself)
(quoted by Giuseppe Soavi)

And Tiziana Grandi: Il registro...con i campanelli! Ci sono ancora organi che lo conservano...pochi ne assaporano la magia! (The register... with the bells! There are still organs that keep them ...I just savor the magic!)

(Gentile da Fabriano)

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Gentile da Fabriano

Pseudo-Arabic script in the Virgin Mary's halo
(the script is further divided by rosettes like those on Mamluk dishes,executed in pastiglia)
detail of Adoration of the Magi
by Gentile da Fabriano (c. 1370 – 1427)
no copyright infringement intended

Not only was Gentile da Fabriano Italy's outstanding representative of the International Gothic style (a phase of Gothic art which developed in Burgundy, Bohemia, France and northern Italy in the late 14th century and early 15th century), he also contributed to the advanced art that foreshadowed the birth of the Renaissance. Unfortunately, most of Gentile's influential fresco paintings have been destroyed. Gentile worked in Venice, Florence, Siena, Orvieto, and Rome... Gentile's most famous surviving works were made during a short but influential stay in Florence in the 1420s, where he probably encountered the austere realism of his younger contemporary Masaccio.

Gentile made other contributions to Renaissance art: abandoning abstract backgrounds for real skies, introducing a light source into the picture, depicting cast shadows, and making the earliest known drawings after the antique.

His lyrical atmosphere, elegant refinement, and attention to detail in rendering landscapes, animals, and costume typify the International Gothic style, originally developed in French and Burgundian courts and used especially in illuminated manuscripts.

(Old Masters)


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Last of the Pre-Raphaelites: Frank Cadogan Cowper

How the Devil, disguised as a vagrant Troubadour, having been entertained by some charitable nuns, sang to them a song of love
painted by Frank Cadogan Cowper (1877 - 1958) in 1907
oil on canvas prepared with gesso
posted on Facebook by Sine Musica Nulla Vita
no copyright infringement intended

The scene represents the interior of a convent refectory, with a door leading into the cloisters on the left of the picture. The nuns are concluding their evening meal. In the foreground the wandering minstrel who has been received as a passing guest, has mounted the table, and is singing the song of Love. While the nuns are torn by feelings of varying emotions. Some are good, some evil, some in grief, some in despair.
In the background the great stained glass window represents the Last Judgement, the Archangel Michael in golden armor in the center panel weighs the souls in the scales, and separates the good from the Bad. In the left half of the window the good souls are being assisted by angels as they rise from their graves, and are being welcomed by St. Peter with the keys, as they ascend the golden stairs, robed in white and enter the gates of heaven, while in the top left hand corner The Blessed Virgin Mary looks out of Heaven to receive them.
In the right half of the window the bad souls are being torn from their tombs by demons, and are being carried by them naked into the flames of Hell. In the bottom right hand corner is seen the face of Beelzebub himself. The window is a faithful copy of the 15th Century stained glass in the west window of Fairford Church, Gloucestershire.

Frank Cadogan Cowper was born in 1877 in Wicken, Northamptonshire, a strict religious upbringing, as his grandfather was Rector of Wicken. He went to London and studied at the St John's Wood Art School in 1896 and then at the Royal Academy Schools from 1897-1902, first exhibiting there in 1899. He worked with Edwin Austin Abbey before traveling to Italy to complete his education. In 1907 he became an Associate of the Royal Academy and in 1911 a full member of the RWS. He is often thought of as the last Pre-Raphelite - and worked on a mural scheme for the Houses of Parliament in 1910 with several other similar styled artists. By the 1920s he had moved on to portraiture as history painting was becoming increasingly unfashionable. He was elected RA in 1934. Patrons in these years included the writer Evelyn Waugh. He continued to exhibit right up to his death in 1958.

(Old Masters)

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Latta House in Prairie Grove, Arkansas

posted on Facebook by Civil War Trust
no copyright infringement intended

The Latta House, a witness of the Battle of Prairie Grove in 1862 - on December 7th it will be the 150th anniversary.

For Blake Whitley, it reminds of his great-great grandfather, who lost his arm to a canon ball in that fierce struggle. For Donna Head Martin, the view of this house calls sweet memories: time ago, a youngster got down on one knee on the front porch and asked her to marry him. They have been husband and wife since then, for better and for worse, for all these years. And I think the gesture of that youngster spoke volumes of his love for Donna, also of the spirit of the place, the special feeling of Southerners for their history. It was that place, charged with a special spirit, making a strong sense to him, raising all his senses to the absolute.

I have lived for seven years in a place where the South begins, and I think I observed that special feeling. It's impossible to name it. It's subtle. You can be there and not get it. You need a peculiar sense, to get the view of a monument here, an inscription in a church or in a graveyard there, to understand that fluid thing. It's the spirit of the South. Not far from the building I was living, there was a rock, on the sidestreet. An inscription on the rock, mentioning the first Confederate soldier who had been wounded in the Civil War, in that place.

(America viewed by Americans)

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Leconte de Lisle: Les Montreurs

Tel qu'un morne animal, meurtri, plein de poussière,
La chaîne au cou, hurlant au chaud soleil d'été,
Promène qui voudra son coeur ensanglanté,
Sur ton pavé cynique, ô plèbe carnassière !

Pour mettre un feu stérile en ton oeil hébété,
Pour mendier ton rire ou ta pitié grossière,
Déchire qui voudra la robe de lumière
De la pudeur divine et de la volupté.

Dans mon orgueil muet, dans ma tombe sans gloire,
Dussè-je m'engloutir pour l'éternité noire,
Je ne te vendrai pas mon ivresse ou mon mal,

Je ne livrerai pas ma vie à tes huées,
Je ne danserai pas sur ton tréteau banal
Avec tes histrions et tes prostituées.
sonnet form: abba baab ccd bdb

This sonnet is a response to the poem of Alfred de Musset, Les Vœux Stériles:

Puisque c’est ton métier, misérable poète, […]
Puisque c’est ton métier de faire de ton âme
Une prostituée…

I think these days at the montreurs that are behind so many politicians.

(Leconte de Lisle)

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Bach: Mass in B minor BWV232

Bach: Messe in h-Moll (Credo). Manuskript
(Mass in B minor, BWV232)
image posted on Facebook by Sine musica nulla vita
no copyright infringement intended

(The B A C H motif)

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Monday, August 06, 2012


Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, Self-portrait
oil on panel
Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze
no copyright infringement intended

The liberality with which Heaven now and again unites in one person the inexhaustible riches of its treasures and all those graces and rare gifts which are usually shared among many over a long period is seen in Raphael Sanzio of Urbino, who was as excellent as gracious, and endowed with a natural modesty and goodness sometimes seen in those who possess to an unusual degree a humane and gentle nature adorned with affability and good-fellowship, and he always showed himself sweet and pleasant with persons of every degree and in all circumstances.

It is a memory from the beginning of the 1950s. I was less than ten years. My parents took me once to the Art Museum from the Royal Palace in Bucharest (well, by that time it was named the Palace of the Republic, as it is named, I think, still today; and everyone was still naming it the Royal Palace, as it is, I think, still the case today). Together with us there was a couple of friends of my parents: he was an artist painter and a philosopher, his wife was an art critic. It was a strong friendship between them and my mother, for more than ten years, a friendship that had begun in Paris, where all had spent lots of years.

As we were passing the rooms of the museum, an old gentleman approached us and changed some words with my parents' friends. Suddenly some young ladies appeared as from nowhere and started an animated discussion with him. I was far to small to appreciate his Goethean attitude: a venerable master surrounded by young sympathizers, keeping his Olympian allure, while finding a manifest joy in the happening. And maybe, to be now a bit cynical, I also could not realize how genuine was their sympathy and how Olympian his attitude.

He was Jean Alexandru Steriadi, a venerable artist, of course I did not know him, as I did not know the name of any other artist by then. I remember what some of us said after a while, what is better for an artist, to die young and beautiful as Raphael, or to reach a very old age, when you can be still admired, while you can also be almost forgotten?

Well, Steriadi was very admired, as I could see. He passed away soon after that, and later, sometime in my youth, I started to know and appreciate his works.

Today, I am living in walking distance to a street having his name. And each time I am passing on that street (which is almost daily), I remember that visit long time ago to the Art Museum from the Royal Palace: my first encounter with Jean Alexandru Steriadi and my first encounter with Raphael.

(Old Masters)

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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Liszt: Années de pèlerinage. Première année: Suisse

Having recently traveled to many new countries, through different settings and places consecrated by history and poetry; having felt that the phenomena of nature and their attendant sights did not pass before my eyes as pointless images but stirred deep emotions in my soul, and that between us a vague but immediate relationship had established itself, an undefined but real rapport, an inexplicable but undeniable communication, I have tried to portray in music a few of my strongest sensations and most lively impressions.

These words belong to Liszt: journeys viewed as pilgrimage (which is formative experience, apprenticeship), later meditated in music, in his Years of Pilgrimage, the way Goethe and Byron were meditating their formative experiences in grandiose constructions of words, in Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, and in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.

François Roffiaen - Le Lac Wallenstadt, 1865
The shores of the lake of Wallenstadt kept us for a long time. Franz wrote there for me a melancholy harmony, imitative of the sigh of the waves and the cadence of oars, which I have never been able to hear without weeping… (Daniel Stern)
(notes of a pianist)
no copyright infringement intended

Here is the first suite of Liszt's Years of Pilgrimage, his Première année: Suisse,  published in 1855. Its parts come with literary captions suggesting equivalences between temples of music and temples of words:

  • [min 0:07 on video] The Chapel of William Tell (All for one - one for all)
  • [min 6:17 on video] At Lake Wallenstadt (Thy contrasted lake / With the wild world I dwell in is a thing / Which warns me, with its stillness, to forsake / Earth's troubled waters for a purer spring - Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage)
  • [min 9:19 on video] Pastorale
  • [min 11:07 on video] Beside a Spring (In the whispering coolness begins young nature's play - Schiller)
  • [min 15:08 on video] Storm (But where of ye, O tempests! is the goal? / Are ye like those within the human breast? / Or do ye find, at length, like eagles, some high nest? - Childe Harold's Pilgrimage)
  • [min 19:34 on video] Obermann's Valley (Could I embody and unbosom now / That which is most within me,--could I wreak / My thoughts upon expression, and thus throw / Soul--heart--mind--passions--feelings--strong or weak-- / All that I would have sought, and all I seek, / Bear, know, feel--and yet breathe--into one word, / And that one word were Lightning, I would speak; / But as it is, I live and die unheard, / With a most voiceless thought, sheathing it as a sword. - from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage; )
  • [min 32:51 on video] Eclogue (The morn is up again, the dewy morn, / With breath all incense, and with cheek all bloom, / Laughing the clouds away with playful scorn, / And living as if earth contained no tomb! -  Childe Harold's Pilgrimage)
  • [min 36:44 on video] Homesickness
  • [min 42:48 on video] The Bells of Geneva: Nocturne (I live not in myself, but I become / Portion of that around me -  also from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage)

Liszt: Années de pèlerinage. Première année: Suisse
(Years of Pilgrimage. First Year: Switzerland)
Pianist André Laplante
(video by musicanth)

Suzanne Howard - Obermann's Valley
(Saatchi Online)
no copyright infringement intended



Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 - Orchestral Version

Composed in 1847 and dedicated to Count László Teleki (a Hungarian writer and statesman), Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 was first published as a piano solo in 1851. Its immediate success and popularity on the concert stage soon led to an orchestrated version. The composer arranged also a piano duet version in 1874.

Karajan was born in Saltzburg as Herbert Ritter von Karajan. His great-great-grandfather, Geórgios Joánnes Karajánnis (Γεώργιος Ιωάννης Καραγιάννης), had been born in Kozani, a Macedonian city, leaving for Vienna in 1767. He and his brother participated in the establishment of Saxony's cloth industry, and both were ennobled for their services by Frederick Augustus III on 1 June 1792, thus the prefix von to the family name.


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