Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Modlin Fortress Tour - Classic Car Club - 18 May 2014

On Sunday I arranged a tour of the Modlin Fortress for the car club of which I am the chairman. It is about 30 kms from Warsaw at the confluence of the Vistula and Narew Rivers.

I suggest you have a look at this link as there are some superb photographs of one of the greatest fortresses in Europe as well as interesting historical commentary and classic cars of course. I cannot repeat the material here but it deserves your attention.

It was the last chance to see many parts of the fortress before redevelopment wrecks the historical atmosphere and ambiance which will be lost forever.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea

Young Girl from the Trobriand Islands during milamala time

I was rather pleasantly surprised to read an article about the exotic Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea yesterday with some superb photographs. 

It brought back so many wonderful even joyful memories of the many months I spent exploring the beautiful and peaceful Islands Provinces of the Papua New Guinea in order to write my book entitled:

Beyond the Coral Sea: Travels in the Old Empires of the South-West Pacific (HarperCollins London 2003)

The great Polish ethnologist Bronislaw Malinowski studied these islanders and inspired me with his superbly written book The Sexual life of Savages. He is one of the great geniuses of modern times and scarcely mentioned these days. 

If you are interested in further reading on the Trobriand Islands my book covers this fascinating region in great cultural detail. 

The island provinces are a true paradise, seldom visited owing to the unfortunate prejudice against visiting the country which has come about by sensationalist reports of violence in Port Moresby and the Highlands.

Michael Moran, onKar Kar Island, Papua New Guinea

I am pleased to say my book is still in print after 11 years and has become the classic literary travel book for the region known as the Bismarck Archipelago. 

The book was short-listed for the 25th Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. 

The book attracted many excellent reviews of which I am really proud as it was a truly challenging expedition

‘If you’ve room for only one book in your baggage this year, take this one. Elegantly and powerfully written, evoking steaming jungle gorges, enervating heat, idyllic coral beaches, wrecked ships, deserted towns and people caught in limbo between the savage past and hopeless future, it is the work of a true traveller…….a meditation on the nature of humanity itself.’ Celia Brayfield, The Times

More reviews at:

Available from Amazon at:

The newspaper article and photographs:

For my Polish readers the book has been translated into Polish with the title Za Morzem Koralowym (PIW) and is available at the Bookshop of the Muzeum Azji i Pacyficu in Warsaw, Allegro and direct from me if you email me.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Daniil Trifonov - Filharmonia Warsaw - 7th May 2014

I am afraid I was so disappointed in this keenly anticipated recital I cannot write about it at the moment with any degree of detachment. Too emotional. You know how lyrical I have been about his playing in the past. Just look at some of my past postings in the archive on this blog.

All I will say is that there were some beautiful things, moments of finesse and nuance (flashes of the pianistic genius I remember) but also a large number of seriously unacceptable aspects of his interpretations (particularly in the Schumann) and an exaggerated display of keyboard virtuosity. I always considered  he was above this type of thing.

He played Debussy Images Book I Nos:1 & 3, Chopin Preludes Op.28 and the Schumann Symphonic Etudes Op.13 plus sundry unfortunate encores. Much of the time he seemed out of control like a young thoroughbred stallion let loose in a field in spring.

I really do not want to go into details - it is just too painful.

The glorious tone emerged occasionally, oases of silver on a grey and stormy lake but this indifferent sometimes unpleasant Filharmonia  Steinway...well I do not wish to appear mean-spirited. He shines on a Fazioli - where was it?

Ah, the modern world of celebrity rears its ugly head yet again. Self-serving agents, too many prestigious concert engagements, recording contracts and covetous marketing have done their rapacious worst to begin what I truly hope is not the ruination of a brilliant fledgling career. I have watched the destructive nature of artistic commodification occur with other outstanding talents. The glittering prizes hide cruel barbs. Of course Trifonov may have been simply having an 'off night' and was tempted to play to the crowd like an impetuous acrobat.

He is very young (23 - actually not all that young in the current world of Wunderkinder) and prodigiously talented so hope remains. Clearly the exposure and avid praise, the international idolatry he has received after winning all those major competitions has done him no favors artistically or musically. 

Where are his teachers and the responsibility they have for guidance in all the pitfalls both psychological and musical that beset the scintillating careers offered to young competition winners?

The audience as ever cheered in their cheap tasteless way, a standing ovation for the crudest of pianist effects - inflated dynamics and extreme velocity - even the mad medley of Strauss Waltzes in an encore emulating Horowitz but with handfuls of wrong notes. This behavior by an audience is a criminally misleading response to a young artist and virtuoso understandably in need of well-judged approval or reticence

The musical price paid through exaggeration in order to interact spontaneously with a rather classically ill-informed youthful audience is too high to pay as a musician. They adored him - a handsome, brilliant, young Russian virtuoso concert pianist - what more could a young sensitive girl want? For me it damages the finest things in art. Franz Liszt himself was guilty of this weakness. His keyboard wizardry negatively impacted at the time and does even to this day on his reputation as a massively significant and revolutionary composer of supremely serious works of the greatest stature for piano and orchestra. Oddly enough much the same was true of the good-looking Percy Grainger lionized for his robust playing not his compositions. 

Certainly the audience for Trifonov was younger than usual and it is good they are attracted to the concert hall (the way audience attendance is ageing and declining in the classical music world) but are they learning the wrong lessons concerning what classical piano music actually is in essence? Piano playing is not a sport...

I was not moved musically for  hardly a moment...a desperately sad occasion for me.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Most Recent Antics

The Russian Antonov An-2 which first flew 31st August 1947 and the perfectly in period 1949 MG TC with yours truly MM at the wheel 
May Day 2014 
I have not been inhabiting the world of culture for a few weeks but indulging my other passion of motoring and finishing various writing projects. The biography of Edward Cahill the pianist is almost complete.

Details of my motoring if interested can be found at

Also I have yet to write up my family Easter experiences.

I am also in the process of putting together another submission to the Australia Council for a grant to write an account of my great-uncle-in-law and his fighting during the Gallipoli campaign based on his diaries of the time.

*However Daniil Trifonov is playing in Warsaw on Wednesday evening May 7th so I shall certainly be giving an account of his much anticipated piano recital