Merry Celtic Christmas

4th Sunday of Advent. We’re getting there…

4th Sunday of Advent.  We're getting there...
Celtic Christmas

Celtic Winter – Magical Christmas. Thanks to Derek and Brandon Fiechter who composed the Celtic songs in this video.

(Neo-) Classical Sunday: Rohan and Gondor Themes

The Lord of the Rings film series consists of three epic fantasy adventure films directed by Peter Jackson, based on the novel written by J. R. R. Tolkien. The films are subtitled just like the books as The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003).

Compilation of Rohan and Gondor Themes

“Few movies out there have a soundtrack that is as awe-inspiring and jaw dropping as the score for the Lord of the Rings.”

Cultured Wednesday: Karl Friedrich Schinkel

Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s most famous extant buildings are found in and around Berlin.

If you have ever visited or seen pictures of Berlin, Germany, you most likely have seen a building drafted, re-designed or approved by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Prussian city planner, architect and painter. Born on 13 March 1781 in Neuruppin, Schinkel was one of the most prominent neoclassical and neogothic architects of 19th century Germany and despite his influence and achievements, people still think he had even more potential that he could not live up to due to the political circumstances of his time.

Medieval City on a River, 1815

Schinkels most famous extant buildings in and around the German capital include the Neue Wache (1816–1818), the National Monument for the Liberation Wars (1818–1821), the Schauspielhaus (1819–1821) at the Gendarmenmarkt and the Altes Museum on Museum Island (1823–1830). He also carried out improvements to the Crown Prince’s Palace and to Schloss Charlottenburg.

The header to this post shows Schinkel’s stage set for the 1st Act of Mozart’s Magic Flute, dated 1815 just like the above painting, a design that is still quoted by modern-day stage designers when planning the set for this opera. We find his style quite wholesome, a good example of a time when people still had a clear idea of what was good and beautiful, and pleasing in an aesthetic sense, as well as where such ideas originated in the first place.

Castle by the River 1820

Schinkel, like so many artists of the 19th century, traveled a lot in Europe and particularly to Italy, the landscape and cities of which were and still are especially inspiring, it seems – just look at Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his love for Italy, for instance. Of course, Goethe and Schinkel met and respected each other, in fact, the list of names the family Schinkel were acquainted with reads almost like a who-is-who of Germany’s 19th century artistic and royal circles. But returning to the Italian influences, Schinkel’s style, generally speaking, was defined rather by a turn to Greek than Roman architecture. “He believed”, they claim in his Wikipedia entry, “that in order to avoid sterility and have a soul, a building must contain elements of the poetic and the past, and have a discourse with them.” I guess the same kind of discourse between tradition and poetry can be found in his paintings if you are able to discern Nature’s voice in the lay of the land, or the trees that surround Schinkel’s painted buildings.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel died on 9 October 1841 in Berlin, leaving behind his wife Susanne and four children, three girls and a boy, the youngest daughter being 19 years old at the time. He was buried in the Dorotheenstädtischen Friedhof in Berlin-Center, where twenty years later his wife was laid to rest along with their two older daughters.

The Schinkel grave in Berlin

Eventually, several generations of architects from Berlin who were influenced by Schinkel’s style were classified as the “Schinkelschule“. So, if you ever visit Germany’s capital, keep a look out for building designed or re-designed by Schinkel, or later on built true to Schinkel’s style.

(Neo-) Classical Sunday: Clamavi De Profundis’ Song of Durin

J.R.R. Tolkien intended his sub-creation to be inspiring for other artists. And so it is!

Song of Durin – Clamavi De Profundis

Clamavi De Profundis have a rather interesting selection of uploaded videos, among them a good many Middle-Earth-themed ones. On their About page on YouTube, they say: “We are a family that loves to sing together and record inspiring and uplifting music. Our music is influenced by classical and fantasy literature as well as cinematic, traditional, religious, and classical music.”

Lyrics:

The world was young, the mountains green,
No stain yet on the Moon was seen,
No words were laid on stream or stone
When Durin woke and walked alone.
He named the nameless hills and dells;
He drank from yet untasted wells;
He stooped and looked in Mirrormere,
And saw a crown of stars appear,
As gems upon a silver thread,
Above the shadows of his head.

The world was fair, the mountains tall,
In Elder Days before the fall
Of mighty kings in Nargothrond
And Gondolin, who now beyond
The Western Seas have passed away:
The world was fair in Durin’s Day.

A king he was on carven throne
In many-pillared halls of stone
With golden roof and silver floor,
And runes of power upon the door.
The light of sun and star and moon
In shining lamps of crystal hewn
Undimmed by cloud or shade of night
There shone for ever fair and bright.

There hammer on the anvil smote,
There chisel clove, and graver wrote;
There forged was blade, and bound was hilt;
The delver mined, the mason built.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
And metal wrought like fishes’ mail,
Buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
And shining spears were laid in hoard.

Unwearied then were Durin’s folk;
Beneath the mountains music woke:
The harpers harped, the minstrels sang,
And at the gates the trumpets rang.

The world is grey, the mountains old,
The forge’s fire is ashen-cold;
No harp is wrung, no hammer falls:
The darkness dwells in Durin’s halls;
The shadow lies upon his tomb
In Moria, in Khazad-dûm.
But still the sunken stars appear
In dark and windless Mirrormere;
There lies his crown in water deep,
Till Durin wakes again from sleep.

J.R.R. Tolkien

R.I.P J.R.R.T.

There is The Bard, and then there is The Professor.

Today 47 years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien sailed into the West.  We hope that on the Blessed Shore, he is raising a glass today with his son Christopher, looking back at their handiwork, hopefully satisfied with the gift they have given to us who remain behind on the Hither Shore.

JRR and Christopher

Requiescat in Pace, Professor.

beren and luthien donato

Featured Image by Alan Lee, above painting by Donato Giancola.

Classical Sunday: Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte

Entertainment! Have fun!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

German with English subtitles

**IMPORTANT**
As you probably know, the art world is having a really rough time during this pandemic. The royal opera house might even be suspended for a while. In order to help these artists who right now don’t get any money and might even be very close to their last penny, you can donate. We enjoy their art every day of the year. Here’s a time to show support and respect.

For more info check out the video directly on YouTube.

Classical Sunday: Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Well, we have a thing for Italian at the moment, ever since we posted Rossini’s Barbiere. So here’s another opera sung in Italian, and with subtitles, too!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni

Conducted by Riccardo Muti

Teatro alla Scala, 1987

Don Giovanni: Thomas Allen
Il Commendatore: Sergej Koptchak
Donna Anna: Edita Gruberova
Don Ottavio: Francisco Araiza
Donna Elvira: Ann Murray
Leporello: Claudio Desderi
Masetto: Natale De Carolis
Zerlina: Susanne Mentzer

Short Story: July

And thus they rise.

The local library had a short story contest again this year.  The theme was fairy tale- and fantasy-related:  Imagine Your Story.  As an additional prompt, the stories for the contest were supposed to contain the author (that is, me!) in some way or another.  Length was again limited to 1,000 words.  I like writing prompts and I like fantasy and fairy tales, so here is my entry for this year.  It’s just under 800 words long.  Let me know what you think.


 

July

 

There they are again, rising from the grass in the dusk. Not far, not yet. Little specks of light all along the grape arbor and in the adjacent meadow. Against the backdrop of the ever darkening forest they shine, but never for long. A glow here, a glow there. Over there another, and another just next to it, glimmering for a moment, gone again, then glimmering again a little further. So here I sit and watch, evening after evening, enchanted.

Just last night, the last rays of the sun shone through the July green and created a golden circle right there where the yard ends and the wilderness begins. That’s where they all live, I thought then. It’s their palace, that golden circle in the last spotlight of the setting July sun. And I imagined how from there, they all emanated at that moment, spreading out along the grape arbor and through the yard, unobserved, only to rise and shine as soon as the sun had set and their light would suddenly count. So here I sit and watch, evening after evening, enchanted.

***

There it is again, the day walker. Every night when we get our mounts ready for the dance, there it is, watching. I know it can be much bigger, but when I come out, it is always in that place already, short and still. But the Elders are not fooled. This is a day walker, they say, a moving giant, not of the rooted kind that grants us protection and safety, that whispers to us in its ancient voice. This one is not like that. This one moves in the day, everywhere, this one is noisy and unpredictable like all day walkers, it commands fire and water and four-footed creatures. Sometimes it catches us on our mounts and traps us behind invisible barriers. Then giant faces appear close to us on the other side of the barrier, and terrible voices boom while we shake with fear and our loyal mounts glow bravely, undaunted. Many of us have been thus trapped, but only few do not live to tell the tale, so there are many tales of the day walkers. There it is again, watching.

***

And thus they rise. A foot off the ground now, but not for long. Soon they will fly higher, bobbing and gleaming, out of reach, to the top of the lilac, to the top of the maple, way up into the darkness. Above them, the stars appear. Faint at first, then clearer. The Full Buck Moon to the south. Night is wrapping around me like a familiar blanket. Birdsong has ceased. Wish I could make them my friends, these little ones. Look, there is one flying this way.

***

Tonight, I will dare it! I don’t care what the Elders say, will not listen to their warnings and tales of serfdom and imprisonment. Tonight, I will visit the day walker!

***
Maybe it will land on my finger when I hold it out. I wonder if they think at all, the little ones, and what they think about, and if they know they are creatures that, like us, testify to a creator. It is coming closer, glowing brightly over there a moment ago, and already quite close with the next glow. I can see the little black firefly now and not just its light. Come to me, Little One, come and sit with me for a spell. Here, land on my hand. Shine for me, Little One, my heart is filled with wonder. I love your dance. Your lanterns are like stars come down from heaven.

***

I have never felt this small. Never. I do not belong here. Not at all. I hope the day walker does not see me. What a mistake I have made. The Elders are right. Night fliers and day walkers live in worlds that should not meet. Please, brave mount, take me away. What a fool I have been! From now on, I will listen to the Elders. I will stay away from the day walkers as I should. Hurry now, courageous mount, up, up and away!

***

This moment, not quite day anymore, not quite night yet, is such a wonderful and fitting time to meet, don’t you think, Little One? I still don’t know if you think at all, but I wish you would, and were enjoying this moment like I am. Here we are, on the threshold between two worlds. Can you feel it, too? It’s magic!

There it flies off again, glowing its merry good-byes. Goodbye, Little One, join the dance! Thank you for your visit! My heart flies with you, light as a feather and bright as your little lantern. I will join your dance in my dreams! Goodbye!
794 words

Classical Sunday: Elgar’s Enigma Variations

A performance highly praised by the commentators on YouTube.

Edward Elgar – Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma), Op. 36 (1898)

Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, 11 November 2017
00:35 Theme (Enigma: Andante)
02:18 Variation I (L’istesso tempo) “C.A.E.”
04:12 Variation II (Allegro) “H.D.S-P.”
05:04 Variation III (Allegretto) “R.B.T.”
06:30 Variation IV (Allegro di molto) “W.M.B.”
07:14 Variation V (Moderato) “R.P.A.”
09:55 Variation VI (Andantino) “Ysobel”
11:24 Variation VII (Presto) “Troyte”
12:37 Variation VIII (Allegretto) “W.N.”
14:46 Variation IX (Adagio) “Nimrod”
19:36 Variation X (Intermezzo: Allegretto) “Dorabella”
22:02 Variation XI (Allegro di molto) “G.R.S.”
23:09 Variation XII (Andante) “B.G.N.”
26:47 Variation XIII (Romanza: Moderato) ” * * * ”
30:19 Variation XIV (Finale: Allegro) “E.D.U.”

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Jacek Kaspszyk – conductor

Elgar’s Enigma Variations are an interesting piece of music since it is a musical cryptogram, that is, each variation is a musical sketch of one of Elgar’s circle of close acquaintances.

From the Wiki entry on Elgar’s Enigma Variations:

In a programme note for a performance in 1911 Elgar wrote:

This work, commenced in a spirit of humour & continued in deep seriousness, contains sketches of the composer’s friends. It may be understood that these personages comment or reflect on the original theme & each one attempts a solution of the Enigma, for so the theme is called. The sketches are not ‘portraits’ but each variation contains a distinct idea founded on some particular personality or perhaps on some incident known only to two people. This is the basis of the composition, but the work may be listened to as a ‘piece of music’ apart from any extraneous consideration.

Classical Sunday: de Victoria’s Last Works

Come with us on a journey to the time of St. Teresa of Ávila and St. John of the Cross.

The Tallis Scholars: Requiem Officium Defunctorum

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) should undoubtedly be considered the most significant Spanish composer of his time.  He exclusively devoted his life and creative energies to the Catholic Church, and became one of the leading musical figures of the Counter-Reformation.’

In all of his music, the texts are in Latin and drawn from the Roman Catholic Liturgy.

Read more in the description of the above video on YouTube.

%d bloggers like this: