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Grigory Sokolov, Warsaw 10 December 2017 - Spiritual Transcendence Achieved on Earth

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KUSC

Joseph Haydn - Sonata in B Minor, No. 47, Hob.XVI:32              1774-1776 Joseph Haydn - Sonata in G Minor, No. 32, Hob.XVI:44              1771-1773 Joseph Haydn - Sonata in C-sharp Minor, No. 49, Hob.XVI:36   1770-1775
Ludwig van Beethoven - Sonata in E Minor, Op. 90 Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata in C Minor, Op. 111
As I wandered the streets of Warsaw outside the Filharmonia just before Christmas, flurries of light snow brushed my cheeks. In somewhat of a daze, perhaps of dissolution, I began to reflect on one of the handful of truly remarkable musical experiences of my life, the piano recital this evening by Grigory Sokolov. 
Such a miraculous phenomenon went far beyond what is normally regarded as a 'performance', far beyond technical accomplishment or crass celebrity ostentation. This recital inhabited that rarefied…

Warsaw Chamber Opera - Dardanus / Pygmalion - 19 November 2017

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After the great success of Armide I was interested to attend this performance of mainly dance sequences or interludes  from the Rameau operas Dardanus and Pygmalion.This would be an all Polish rather than co-production. Romana Angel,the distinguished dancer, choreographer and founder of the famous Cracovia Danza, the only professional Court Ballet in Poland, was the Director and choreographer of the production. The Australian conductor Benjamin Bayle directed  Musicae Antiquae Collegium Vasoviense. Marlena Skoneczko designed the flowing rather Boucher-style costumes.
The librettist of Rameau's third tragedie en musique  was Le Clerc de la Bruère who was a dilettantish young nobleman of twenty-three who among his country pursuits of hunting and riding, indulged literary activities. He died of smallpox in 1754 in Rome at the age of thirty-eight. We were not presented with the entire opera (the plot has definite limitations and has rather senseless infantile aspects) but danced excerp…

Ewa Pobłocka Birthday Recital - Warsaw Philharmonic - 21 November 2017

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For me this truly beautiful recital lodged in the heart, impervious to the ravages of fashion and time. 
Ewa Pobłocka presented herself from the outset as a servant to this immortal music. Within this cavernous space in a wintry, clammy Warsaw she created an atmosphere of warm contemplative intimacy with a solitary lamp illuminating the music desk of the piano, the main chandeliers in the hall extinguished, a spot-lamp shining on a cascade of platinum hair. Yet this was no theatrical gesture but a privileged invitation to us as listeners to join her company on her birthday for a few precious hours spent in calm spiritual communion as this fine musician explored her treasured Book I of Das Wohltemperierte Klavier. I was reminded of a similarly contemplative, moving late recital by Sviatoslav Richter I attended in the half light of Blythburghparish church on the Suffolk coast during the Aldeburgh festival now many years and musical experiences ago.

Bach presented the work 'For the use…

Benedict Allen in another Papua New Guinea drama - a suitable case for examination of motives

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Canoes drawn up on the beach of the tiny fishing community of Manuwata, Trobriand Islands. Milne Bay Province
I must confess to being irritated by this post-colonial coverage of the Benedict Allen 'lost in the jungle' story currently fascinating the UK press. 
A useful corrective to the current exaggerated 'macho' view of PNG 
If you wish to have a balanced cultural view of this truly beautiful and in many respects peaceful land, in particular the island provinces of the Bismarck Archipelago,  you may like to read this book of mine which was short-listed for the final Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in 2004. The great Polish travel journalist and humanist Ryszard Kapuściński had planned to visit these provinces shortly before he died.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Coral-Sea-Travels-South-West/dp/0006552358/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511257769&sr=1-1&keywords=beyond+the+coral+sea


In those days there were no satellite phones, helicopters or anything else …

Warsaw Chamber Opera - Armide - Jean-Baptiste Lully - 5th November 2017

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Renaud et Armide by Nicolas Poussin (1629)

Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

It is a rare event to see an authentic period performance of a French Baroque opera in Warsaw in modern times. Even rarer is a performance of Armide,  the last spectacle by the Italian-born French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). The recent fraught history of Warszawska Opera Kameralna since the passing of its former Artistic Director Stefan Sutkowski makes an objective assessment an additional challenge. One must admire the fortitude in the attempt to resuscitate and renew the artistic inspiration of this company. Will the artistic traditions of this distinguished organization survive into the future?  
To properly judge the performance of such a work it is necessary to briefly examine the musical meaning of such stage productions to a seventeenth century audience which was rather different in motivation and expectation to ourselves. Under their Apollonian Sun King Louis XIV, France enjoyed an unsurpasse…

All Saints Day in Poland - 1 November 2017 - A Triumph of Humanity - A Memory Recalled

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Click on photographs to enlarge - far superior rendition


[Polish translation of this passage in green below - scroll down]

The original fabric of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Warsaw has almost disappeared except paradoxically among the dead at Powązki cemetery. In many respects it is an extension of the tombs at Wawel in Kraków. Particularly eminent citizens are buried there among the legions of the forgotten. An autumn funeral at Powązki is particularly moving. The mourner emerges into a chill sun from under the cupola of the cemetery church of St. Charles Borromeo. The last leaves of summer flutter down like flakes of gold from an azure sky. One follows the coffin drawn by men dressed in eighteenth century livery of gilded black behind the priest and swaying cross along far-reaching allées to the waiting vault.

On this day Poles not only honour departed members of their own families but all who have contributed to the national identity – in politics, the military, the arts and lib…