Thursday, July 21, 2011

Some pix and news of three concerts. Finally a Screws, euro and Murdoch-free blog entry

Here are a couple of pics I took today, in no particular order and of no particular merit. I have also changed my blog pic for a while, just for the crac.

The picture below is one I saw a chap taking as I was driving home. 'What are you doing,' I asked him, and he told me he had been commissioned by Bradford City Council to compile a series of photographs taken in each EU member state which celebrated diversity in community which are intended to show solidarity with the European Union. Well, if it's good enought for him, it's good enough for me I thought, especially as he had a load of very expensive looking equipment whereas my pic was snapped on a GE C1033 on offer at E Leclerc in Lagon.


The table and chairs in the next picture were sitting next to me in the cafe in Bazas cathedral square and we fell into conversation (as you do when you are abroad) and the stories they had to tell! They were very good about having their picture taken and managed to keep quite still when I took it, keeping their natural Gallic exuberance in check.


There's a rather amusing story attached to my next picture. It seems that several years ago the Socialist mayor was defeated over some minor issue and never came to terms with his fate. Apparently, he began behaving in ever more odd ways daubing various buildings at night with Socialist slogans and symbols until finally the prefecture had to have him sectioned. He was a keen nuclear abolitionist in his youth and the people of Bazas, who were otherwise very fond of him decided the last symbol he painted before his arrest should be preserved in his honour.


Below is the pulpit in the parish church in Illats where I am staying. Last year, when the village got to hear that I keep a blog, they voted in (by a rather slim majority, but let's no go there) a district ordinance giving me squatter's rights whenever I am visiting (that is, I can preach from the pulpit whenever I like). I'm not too sure whether it is just a symbolic right or whether I could, in fact, exercise it, and so far I have decided to err on the side of caution.


Finally, no collection of holiday snaps would be complete without a pointless, though pretty, shot of a small river taken from a bridge. Here is mine, taken just a few minutes drive down the road.


. . .

Part of my stay was taken up going to concerts, although as I couldn't get away earlier in the month, we weren't able to go to any of those which are part of a Baroque music festival. However, we went to three, of which I enjoyed two and a half. Let me get the half out of the way I didn't enjoy. It was at the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in Martillac, about 25 minutes drive away, in which a Roger Muraro (I'm reading from the programme - I'd never heard of him, but then I've never heard of most of these people) played pieces by Liszt, Schuman and then Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique rearranged for the piano by Liszt, or bloody Liszt as I like to call him. I like Schuman (although he can get a little close to the mid-nineteenth century lush romanticism of which a little goes a very long way) but I don't like Liszt. Nor, for that matter, do I like Chopin. They spend far too long aimlessly noodling around on the keyboard, and the main impression I get is that they are rather keen to show us how clever and versatile they are. In addition, Liszt does bang about on the keyboard as though it were a tympany. I think I had only heard the Symphonie Fantastique once before and it wasn't a piece I was in a rush to hear again, so you can imagine just how much I enjoyed Liszt's interpretation of the piece. It went on for way over an hour and at one point I think I even stopped breathing.
However, the night before was a treat, as was the night after. Monday's concert was at the same chateau, although part of a different festival. It started at 5.30pm with a masterclass given by a chap called Maxim Vengero (and my aunt can't get over that I had never heard of him. Then, in the concert proper, he played Brahms sonatas for violin and piano, encoring with a piece by Ravel, which I have yet to identify, but which was joy.
Last night at the Chateau Gravas a Barsac was a much smaller concert of French Baroque music played on a harpsichord, viol de gamba flute accompanying a soprano. And the older I get, the more I like that kind of music. Stuff bloody Liszt and Chopin, crash, crash, crash bang, bang.
Also at the chateau was an exhibition of work by some chap called Paul Flickinger (he's not German but from Alsace). My aunt like his stuff, I didn't. It reminded me of what I've decided to call 'corporate art', the kind of stuff huge conglomertes like Shell, Pepsi, Ford and Transnational Acquisitions pay through the nose for to hang in their lobbies and corridors. As soon as I saw it, the word 'contrived' came to mind. But then what do I know (except, of course, that Liszt and Chopin, and for that matter Wagner, are a pain in the butt. One reason why Wagner goes on and on and on was that he was paid by the hour. That always brings the worst out in a composer.)

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