If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Deplorable Proposition

A Deplorable Proposition

Napoleon Crossing the Alps

The General

In 1798, General Napoleon addressed his troops who were preparing to do battle with Mamluks, a slave-warrior caste which had directly and indirectly ruled Egypt for over five hundred years.

Myrbach-Charge_of_the_Mamluks Battle of the Pyramids

His goal was to wrest Egypt from the Ottoman Empire and obstruct Britain's access to India.

Pointing at the Great Pyramids of Giza that stood before them, he cried out: "Soldats! Du haut de ces Pyramides, 40 siècles nous contemplent".
(Soldiers! From the top of these Pyramids, 40 centuries look down upon us.) This estimate of Napoleon's of the antiquity of the pyramids was all guesswork on his part as no one at that time really knew the age of the pyramids. 

As it turns out, even this seemingly generous figure underestimated their true age by half a millennia (not a bad guess but).

Bonaparte Before the Sphinx_Jean-Léon_Gérôme
It is noteworthy that Napoleon Bonaparte was born in the same year as Mohammad Ali, for it was he would actually set the stage for Mohammad Ali's rise to power in Egypt. 

In 1798, Egypt was an Ottoman province ruled by the Mamluks. However, in that year, Napoleon invaded Egypt and conquered the Mamluk army at the Battle of the Pyramids.

Battle of the Pyramids on 21 July 1798 Louis-François_Baron_Lejeune
This short occupation of Egypt by the French had a very lasting effect on the country and for that matter, on Egyptology, but after a sea battle with the English off Egypt's Mediterranean coast, Napoleon was forced to withdraw back to France.  Some of his military forces remained to occupy the country, but they too were soon withdrawn, leaving behind a power vacuum in Egypt.

Muhammad Ali Pasha or Mehmet Ali Paşa

The Pasha 

After defeating the Mamluks in Lower Egypt, Napoleon failed to consolidate his control over the entire country.

Nelson managed to descry his fleet and in 1799, Napoleon left Egypt on a more pressing matter: to assume mastery of France. Two years later the French quit Egypt entirely.

This left a power vacuum which lead to a civil war and in 1805 control of the country fell to Muhammad Ali, an Albanian commander, who claimed to be reasserting the suzerainty of the Ottomans over Egypt but in practice began to rule the country as an independent nation.

Mohammad Ali Pasha, the first and most famous of this line of Egyptian kings was actually born in Kavala, a small Macedonian seaport on the coast of the Aegean, what is now known as A much younger Muhammad Ali, in this drawing by Chris Hellier, is referred to as Mehmet Ali Pasha Greece, in 1769. 

At that time, Kavala was a part of the Ottoman Empire. The son of the local police chief, his father, Ibrahim Agha, when Mohammad Ali was still quite young, and so the boy was taken in to service by the governor of the city, where much of his early training took place.

He was Turkish by origin and Turkish speaking, yet trained in a European province of the Ottoman Empire, so he brought with him political skills honed in the century-long conflict between the three great empires that disputed control of the Balkans.

Commonly called Mehmet Ali, as a young man he worked for a while as a tobacco merchant, before taking a commission in the Ottoman Army.

Slaughter of Mamluks

Muhammad Ali liquidated the Mamluks, first by assassinating their leadership (the old feast and daggers trick) and then through outright massacre of the troops, destroying their power forever.

Massacre of the Mamelukes at the Cairo citadel

He then went on to create a modern professional army which was based on peasant conscription, education institutions and a series of massive infrastructure projects designed to boost Egypt's economy and develop it into a formidable industrial and military power. 

SUEZ CANAL Cotton market at Zigazag Egypt


He built roads, canals, dams along the Nile and established Egypt as the world's largest cotton producer.

Through these tireless efforts at modernization and his ruthless exploitation of the peasantry, Muhammad Ali sought continually to strengthen his autocratic grip on the country and his de facto independence from Istanbul.

The Mosque of Muhammad Ali was built over 24 years, from 1824-48, and it was modelled on the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The mosque made a statement of Muhammad Ali's independance from the Ottoman Sultan.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Man Violin

The Man Violin

“However hard I try, I can’t recall ever having been without a violin during my childhood. I was three and a half when my father brought home a toy violin for me. As I played it I imagined I was a street violinist, a poor man’s occupation that was widespread in Odessa at the time. But I could not imagine any greater happiness”. The little prince adulated by his mother (“Do you know why he is so intelligent? Because, as a child, he bathed in my milk!”) becomes for all of his fellow musicians “King David”, a title he did not usurp.

It was love at first sight for David, the child, when he saw his first violin, a toy his father gave him when he was three. The little prince was born in Odessa in 1908 and started to work on the violin with Piotr Stoliarski, who also taught Nathan Milstein and later Oistrakh’s own son Igor. In 1937 he won the First Prize at the Eugène Ysaÿe Competition in Belgium.

Then begins a splendid career which is confined, however, to the USSR for a long time: a hostage to the regime, he will be authorized to travel abroad only after the death of Stalin. Oistrakh, like his friend Shostakovich, will remain his entire life in Russia. Yet the rumor of his genius stretches beyond the borders and he becomes a legend in the West. 

A major work from the repertoire, the Brahms Violin Concerto in which he is able to deploy all the facets of his playing style which reconciles the irreconcilable: Dionysian and Apollonian, firmly rooted in the ground and as light as air, a virtuoso without exhibition.

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77   

is a violin concerto in three movements composed by Johannes Brahms in 1878 and dedicated to his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim. It is Brahms's only violin concerto, and, according to Joachim, one of the four great German violin concerti.

“The Germans have four violin concertos. The greatest, most uncompromising is Beethoven's. The one by Brahms vies with it in seriousness. The richest, the most seductive, was written by Max Bruch. But the most inward, the heart's jewel, is Mendelssohn's.”

The work was premiered in Leipzig on January 1, 1879 by Joachim, who insisted on opening the concert with the Beethoven Violin Concerto, written in the same key, and closing with the Brahms. Joachim's decision could be understandable, though Brahms complained that "it was a lot of D major—and not much else on the program."

Joachim was not presenting two established works, but one established one and a new, difficult one by a composer who had a reputation for being difficult. The two works also share some striking similarities. For instance, Brahms has the violin enter with the timpani after the orchestral introduction: this is a clear homage to Beethoven, whose violin concerto also makes unusual use of the timpani.
Brahms conducted the premiere. Various modifications were made between then and the work's publication by Fritz Simrock later in the year.

Johannes Brahms
Violin Concerto in D major, Op 77

1 Allegro non troppo
2 Adagio
3 Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace

David Oistrakh, violin

Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Kirill Kondrashin, conductor

Royal Festival Hall, London, 19 September 1963

Kirill Kondrashin, one of Oistrakh’s preferred conductors, directs the Brahms concerto, which has all the warmth and confidence one would expect from a classic Oistrakh recording.  Kondrashin conducts the Brahms without a baton, in wide, fluid arm and hand movements, eliciting a rich sound from the Moscow forces. Oistrakh is equally robust in his reading of the solo part, which is astonishing in its breadth and sustained phrasing as well as the sharpness of his attacks with a full-bodied tone.

David Oistrakh - Artist of the People
A film by Bruno Monsaingeon

This is the story of David Oistrakh, the Russian violinist referred to as "King David" in his homeland. His powerful tone, precise technique, and highly emotional style made him a worldwide legend, influencing an entire generation of players. Oistrakh, who remained in Russia his entire life (1908-1974) despite persecution for being Jewish, taught at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, and performed as a solo artist from age 20 until his death. 

A specialist in late Classical and Romantic works, his recordings of many Romantic masterworks, especially the Brahms Violin Concerto, are considered to be without peer. The Brahms Violin Concerto and excerpts from other works are featured in the film. 

There are also interviews with Oistrakh's lifelong friends and fellow musicians: Yehudi Menuhin speaks on what made Oistrakh a great violinist; Mistislav Rostropovitch talks of Oistrakh's relationship with the Soviet regime; Gidon Kremer recalls Oistrakh as a teacher; Gennady Rozhdestvensky , his conductor, recalls Oistrakh the performer; and son Igor Oistrakh recalls his father as a family man and musician. This film is an inspiring look at a man whose stated goal as an artist was to bring the rich world of classical violin music to everyday people.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Salvador Dali. The Persistence of Memory. 1931

Salvador Dalí. (Spanish, 1904-1989). The Persistence of Memory. 1931.
Oil on canvas, 9 1/2 x 13" (24.1 x 33 cm). Given anonymously. © 2008 Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Gallery label text
Dalí: Painting and Film, June 29–September 15, 2008 

Time is the theme here, from the melting watches to the decay implied by the swarming ants. The monstrous fleshy creature draped across the paintings center is an approximation of Dalís own face in profile. Mastering what he called "the usual paralyzing tricks of eye-fooling," Dalí painted this work with "the most imperialist fury of precision," but only, he said, "to systematize confusion and thus to help discredit completely the world of reality." There is, however, a nod to the real: The distant golden cliffs are those on the coast of Catalonia, Dalís home.

Publication excerpt
The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999 

The Persistence of Memory is aptly named, for the scene is indelibly memorable. Hard objects become inexplicably limp in this bleak and infinite dreamscape, while metal attracts ants like rotting flesh. Mastering what he called "the usual paralyzing tricks of eye-fooling," Dali painted with what he called "the most imperialist fury of precision," but only, he said, "to systematize confusion and thus to help discredit completely the world of reality." It is the classical Surrealist ambition, yet some literal reality is included too: the distant golden cliffs are the coast of Catalonia, Dali's home.

Those limp watches are as soft as overripe cheese—indeed "the camembert of time," in Dali's phrase. Here time must lose all meaning. Permanence goes with it: ants, a common theme in Dali's work, represent decay, particularly when they attack a gold watch, and become grotesquely organic.

The monstrous fleshy creature draped across the painting's center is at once alien and familiar: an approximation of Dali's own face in profile, its long eyelashes seem disturbingly insectlike or even sexual, as does what may or may not be a tongue oozing from its nose like a fat snail.

The year before this picture was painted, Dali formulated his "paranoiac-critical method," cultivating self-induced psychotic hallucinations in order to create art. "The difference between a madman and me," he said, "is that I am not mad." 

Gallery label text

Dalí rendered his fantastic visions with meticulous verisimilitude, giving the representations of dreams a tangible and credible appearance. In what he called "hand painted dream photographs," hard objects become inexplicably limp, time bends, and metal attracts ants like rotting flesh. The monstrous creature draped across the painting's center resembles the artist's own face in profile; its long eyelashes seem insect-like or even sexual, as does what may or may not be a tongue oozing from its nose like a fat snail.

Audio -- Visual Descriptions: Salvador Dalí. The Persistence of Memory. 1931


Dali was the man. Music by Mogwai, song is called "Take me somewhere nice"
and it is on "rock action".

original date post Aug.21, 2008