Baroque by candlelight

Bridgewater hall, set for the four seasons by candlelight

Four Seasons By Candlelight

The 25th of Nov was another great evening at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.

This time it was ‘Four Seasons By Candlelight’ playing Baroque music (a style of Western Classical music from around 1600 to 1760 AD. Which fact I didn’t Wikipedia at all. Honest).

The Mozart Festival Orchestra walked out on stage bedecked in the finest period costume, from the powdered white wigs through waistcots and knee-breeches down to the buckled shoes. It was a masterpiece of showmanship to transport the audience to the time when this music was written and played. I applaud the effort.

The music was divided by an interval; the first half had a well-thought out introduction to the period. It opened with ‘Te Deum'(Charpentier) and then followed Mozart’s ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’, Vivaldi’s ‘Concerto for two trumpets’, Bach’s ‘Air on the G string (don’t laugh!)’, Handel’s ‘Trumpet Suite’ and the beautiful soprano Ruby Hughes singing a moving ‘Dido’s Lament'(Purcell) and a joyous ‘Let the Bright Seraphim'(Handel).

The second half was Vivaldi’s. The Four Seasons.
Spring. Summer. Autumn. Winter.

Credit here must be given to conductor and lead violinist David Juritz for a superb performance, and also for taking the audience along with the music, introducing key aspects of the pieces and generally making it a very enjoyable experience.
I also enjoyed the jolly trumpet soloist Crispian Steele-Perkins (as I suspect most of the audience did).

We walked away from it with a general agreement that classical music made accessible and appreciable is a nice thing to have.

p.s. Happy Birthday to Ioan’s mum and cheers for the free ticket!!

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Humanitarian Imperialism..

..the title of a book, is also what author Jean Bricmont describes as an ideology that legitimises modern Imperialism (and war) using pseudo-humanitarian reasoning and rhetoric.

It’s a book I would seriously recommend to anyone calling themselves a humanitarian or liberal.

It has a lot of case examples and scenarios to highlight the points made and therefore is highly readable.

Bricmont has interesting points on:

  • The rhetoric and illusions of war
  • The duty of conscientious objecters
  • The role of the United Nations
  • The arguments against war
  • The prospects for the future

I’m dying to give some excerpts, but they’d have to be quite lengthy ones to make sense and give context. The best I can do is these snippets:

“…The logical lesson of [the 1938 Munich Agreement that allowed Hitler to seize the Sudetenland] is that the great power gambit of using the discontents of minorities to destabilize weaker countries is extremely dangerous, at least for world peace…”

“…When we see that the principal recommendation given by international organisms to Third World countries is to follow the Western example, we can only wonder what on earth they have in mind. Do they want India and Pakistan to solve the Kashmir problem the way France and Germany solved the problem of Alsace-Lorraine?…”

“Moreover, to call on an army to wage a war for human rights implies a naive vision of what armies are and do, as well as a magical belief in the myth of short, clean, “surgical” wars.”

“…That interrupted honeymoon [of the West briefly welcoming Al Jazeera] illustrates a broader phenomenon. Democracy in the Arab world, which Westerners claim to love so much, would be the worst catastrophe that could happen there, because what the peoples of the region want is a better price for their oil, a more economical management of that resource, and more active solidarity with the Palestinian cause. This is by no means what we want…”

Quotes from Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights To Sell War (Bricmont, 2006 Monthly Review Press New York)

The truth is closer to fiction.

My favourite kind of fiction has always been the kind that ‘could-be’ rather than ‘never could be’.

I do like the escapism of a good fantasy, but I’m not satisfied if the story just has the hero winning a million pounds. I want to see the tax implications and his future investment plans as well.

That’s why when most people talk to me about science-fiction they’re thinking about the hoverboards of ‘Back to the Future II’ or the implausibly humanoid aliens from ‘Star Trek’ while I’m thinking DNA-screening for job roles like in ‘Gattaca’

I realised that fiction writers like John leCarre and Greg Egan are so enjoyable precisely because their ‘fiction’ blurs the distinction between truth and, well, fiction. Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ remains to me a profound exploration of socio-political, religious as well as ecological factors that shape mankind’s history. My Dune is not one of dodgy 80s science-fiction props from the Arts Department.

The book ‘Sandstealers’ by journalist and foreign correspondent Ben Brown that I’m reading falls into the same category. It’s a story about war correspondents (write about what you know) involved in the death of a colleague and halfway through it it hit me: This guy knows what he’s talking about. You feel that although names have been changed, there’s a gritty reality to the tale that only comes from being in such situations.

I picked it up as a page-turner, but it really interested me with questions of morality and judgement that reporters have to ask themselves.