On Lambton Quay

two violins by Danny Andreini

two violins by Danny Andreini

On Lambton Quay, Bach
for two violins; small boy
stands captivated.

(16 May 2016)

On an autumn afternoon, unexpectedly, a vivacious counterpoint crosses Lambton Quay and stirs up in me both joy and nostalgia.

The writing is on the wall

Rembrandt: Belshazzar's Feast (circa 1635-1638)

Rembrandt: Belshazzar’s Feast (circa 1635-1638)

“Belshazzar’s Feast is described in the Book of Daniel.” The Wikipedia article, Belshazzar’s Feast, gives only the barest outline of the story: “Babylonian king Belshazzar profanes the sacred vessels of the enslaved Israelites. As prophesied by the writing on the wall, and interpreted by Daniel, Belshazzar is killed and Darius the Mede succeeds to his kingdom.” But the article does include a comprehensive list of the many works of art and music which depict the story.

Wikipedia’s overarching article Belshazzar gives more detail, but you might also want to read Wikipedia: The writing on the wall, which explains that “As those at the feast profaned the sacred vessels pillaged from the Jerusalem Temple, a disembodied hand appeared and wrote on the palace wall the words, ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin’. The visionary Daniel was summoned and interpreted this message as the imminent end for the Babylonian kingdom.”

The Babylonian ruler (co-regent with Nabonidus, his father) is killed and his kingdom goes to Darius the Mede … and the Israelites remain in captivity. The Jewish Encyclopedia provides details of the sacrilegious ruler’s death.

The phrase, “the writing is on the wall” and its variants have passed into common usage – usually indicating awareness of some imminent and/or inevitable stroke of fate.

I find the Belshazzar’s Feast narrative interesting in terms of its structure. Would it occur to the wealthy – feasting in plush restaurants while their gated fortresses and garage doors are bombed by taggers – that they, like Belshazzar, are receiving messages from the Hand of God? Probably not. By the way, there is an interesting twist: it is the feast itself – and not the writing on the wall – which constitutes the act of desecration.

The images presented below were captured on 25 April 2014. Three shots of the same tag, they do not pretend to the divine; on the contrary, they endeavour to do nothing more than deconstruct an inter-textual artefact – emptying out the conflictual aspect of the tagger’s having defaced a wall previously painted to advertise and promote Orchestra Wellington and suggesting instead a new set of “artistic” values.

on the wall #01(25 April 2014)

on the wall #01 (25 April 2014)

on the wall #02 (25 April 2014)

on the wall #02 (25 April 2014)

on the wall #03 (25 April 2014)

on the wall #03 (25 April 2014)

Happy birthday, Leonard Slatkin

Slatkin conducting Barber

Slatkin conducting Barber


American conductor and composer Leonard Slatkin turned 69 on 01 September 2013.

The son of violinist and conductor Felix Slatkin, Leonard Slatkin has served Principal conducting positions with the New Orleans Symphony, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Nashville Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre National de Lyon. (The Violin Channel [adapted])

The image links to a YouTube video of Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performing Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.


Bon anniversaire, Claude Debussy

Debussy is celebrated in Google's latest doodle. Photograph: Google

Debussy is celebrated in Google’s latest doodle. Photograph: Google


Google is celebrating the 151st anniversary of the birth of French composer Achille-Claude Debussy with an animated doodle set to one of his best-known pieces, Clair de lune (Moonlight). (The Guardian)

What did Google do on this day last year? (I don’t recall.)

Digging into the archives of |A Twisted Pair|, I found that nothing had been posted to honour Debussy’s 150th anniversaire. The |cross-ties| post for 22 August 2012 carried a nice photograph, and a quote in which the composer admits: “I am too enamoured of my freedom, too fond of my own ideas!”

A few days earlier, The New York Times had carried Anthony Tommasini’s piece, Debussy at 150: The Impressions Still Deceive, which includes the following:

But what happened to Debussy, born 150 years ago on Wednesday in St.-Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris? His anniversary has drawn surprisingly little notice, at least from major New York institutions. Carnegie Hall, the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center have scheduled no special events or festivals. The Metropolitan Opera last brought back its production of “Pelléas et Mélisande” for the conductor Simon Rattle’s overdue house debut in 2010, but for just five performances.

Tommasini’s thought-provoking essay is worth a read. Some nice comparisons and contrasts.

PS (23 August 2013): Here is a link to the YouTube version of the Google Doodle.

Celebrating Lili Boulanger

Lili Boulanger

Lili Boulanger


Marie-Juliette Olga Lili Boulanger (21 August 1893 – 15 March 1918) was a French composer, the younger sister of the noted composer and composition teacher Nadia Boulanger.

Here is a YouTube link to the Nocturne from Deux Morceaux by Lili Boulanger, performed by Yvonne Astruc and Nadia Boulanger:

There is a page devoted to Lili Boulanger on the BBC website.

Happy birthday, Reynaldo Hahn

Reynaldo Hahn (YouTube image)

Reynaldo Hahn (YouTube image)

Reynaldo Hahn (9 August 1874 – 28 January 1947) was a Venezuelan, naturalised French, composer, conductor, music critic, diarist, theatre director, and salon singer. Best known as a composer of songs, he wrote in the French classical tradition of the mélodie. The fine craftsmanship, remarkable beauty, and originality of his works capture the insouciance of la belle époque. (adapted from Wikipedia article)

Wikipedia identifies the YouTube image (above) as “Reynaldo Hahn, painting by Lucie Lambert, 1907”. It links to “Si mes vers avaient des ailes” by Reynaldo Hahn, sung by Susan Graham.

Check out other 9 August celebrities on HistoryOrb.