Published May 24, 2013
food , life
Tags: food, life, recipes
600g chunky cod loin
400g lightly smoked salmon fillet, skinless
300ml full fat milk
150g baby spinach, washed
4 eggs, boiled for 8 minutes, peeled
3 tbsp capers, drained
15g plain flour
Zest of 2 lemons
500g ready-made puff pastry
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water for glaze
1. Put the fish in a large frying pan in whole pieces and pour over the milk. Strip the fronds from the dill stalks, chop and put aside, then add the stalks to the fish in the pan. Gently heat for five minutes, remove the fish and put on a plate. Discard the dill stalks. Blanch the spinach in a little boiling water for one minute, until just wilted. Drain, refresh under cold water, squeeze out the moisture and put aside. Pour the juices from the fish on the plate into the rest of the milk.
2. In a pan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Gradually add the milk and whisk until smooth. Stir on a low heat for two minutes. Leave to cool. Add the lemon zest and dill and fold into the sauce with the spinach. Flake the fish into chunks and add, along with the eggs. Spoon into the pie dish and cool for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7. Roll out the pastry to 3-4mm thickness and cut a narrow strip to line the rim of the pie dish. Paint the rim with egg glaze, press on the strip of pastry, and then brush that with glaze. Cover the pie with the remaining pastry sheet, trim with a sharp knife and seal the edges by pressing together, making a pattern with your finger or a fork.
4. Make some diagonal slashes in the top and glaze with egg (omitting the edges of the pie). Bake for 25 minutes, until golden.
A clarinet can imitate a cuckoo’s call easily enough. But can music describe a landscape? Or tell the story of Romeo and Juliet? Michael Oliver investigates…
One of the denizens of Saint-Saëns’s musical menagerie The Carnival of the Animals is a cuckoo; the movement’s full title is ‘The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Wood’. It’s easy enough for a clarinet to imitate a cuckoo, but how do you impersonate a wood? Trees rustle, in a high wind they creak, but Saint-Saëns doesn’t attempt either; just a measured sequence of simple, quiet chords for two pianos. It’s actually very effective, but it’s hard to say why: do those chords represent the silence of the wood, its deep shadow, the regular spacing of tree-trunks? In each case we have a paradox: either sounds are being used to evoke the absence of sound, or to represent not what we hear in a wood but what we see there. Can you portray a visual impression in music?
Clearly if you want to write descriptive music at all you’re going to have to try: a great many of the beauties of nature are silent (how would Saint-Saëns have evoked a cuckoo at dawn, or at sunset?). In fact the effectiveness of his evocation depends partly on his choice of one of the few birds whose song everyone recognises, very largely on that curiously poetic accompaniment. In an odd sort of way those piano chords, whether they’re intended to evoke green shadows or to sound the way that tree-trunk look or irrationally to impersonate silence, are more evocative than the clarinet’s incessantly repeated two-note call.
Continue reading ‘What Music Can (and Can’t) Do’
Published May 20, 2013
art , culture , music
Tags: art, classical, conducting, culture, music, opera, piano, voice
Ten conductors insulted
1. Karajan: ‘A kind of musical Malcolm Sargent’ – Beecham
2. Richter: ‘The generalissimo of deceit’ – Bruckner
3. Weingartner: ‘A conscientious gardener’ – Debussy
4. Bernstein: ‘He uses music as an accompaniment to his conducting’ – Levant
5. Mengelberg: ‘That revolting red Dutchman’ – Hindemith
6. Nikisch: ‘His virtuosity seems to make him forget the claims of good taste’ – Debussy
7. Stokowski: ‘He is a very fine man I am sure and interested in many things – but not, I think, in music’ – Sibelius
8. Koussevitzky: ‘That Russian boor’ – Toscanini
9. Richter: ‘He could conduct five works, no more’ – Beecham
10. Klemperer: ‘Two hours [rehearsal] with Klemperer is like two hours in church’ – Levant
Ten singers who died before the age of 50
1. Fritz Wunderlich: 36 (German tenor, fell down stairs, 1966)
2. Conchita Supervia: 41 (Spanish mezzo, died during childbirth, 1936)
3. Kathleen Ferrier: 41 (English contralto, cancer, 1953)
4. Karl Hammes: 44 (German baritone, died during Luftwaffe raid on Warsaw, 1939)
5. Peter Anders: 46 (German tenor, car crash, 1954)
6. Claudia Muzio: 47 (Italian soprano, heart failure or possible suicide, 1936)
7. Enrico Caruso: 48 (Italian tenor, pleurisy, 1921)
8. Leonard Warren: 49 (American baritone, on stage at New York Met, 1960)
9. Grace Moore: 49 (American soprano, air crash, 1947)
10. Jussi Björling: 49 (Swedish tenor, heart attack, 1960)
Ten nicknames of Beethoven piano sonatas
1. Pathétique (No. 8)
2. Funeral March (No. 12)
3. Moonlight (No. 14)
4. Pastoral (No. 15)
5. Tempest (No. 17)
6. Waldstein (No. 21)
7. Appassionata (No. 23)
8. À Thérèse (No. 24)
9. Les Adieux (No. 26)
10. Hammerklavier (No. 29)
Sometimes we have an experience that we don’t understand, but if we look deeply, or wait long enough, a reason for that experience will usually reveal itself. All the events in our lives lead to other events, and all that we have manifested in this present moment is the result of past events and experiences. We cannot easily tease apart the many threads that have been woven together to create our current reality. Experiences that don’t make sense, as well as any that we regret, are just as responsible for the good things in our lives as the experiences we do understand or label as “good.”
This is especially important to remember at times when we feel directionless or unsure of what to do. It is often at times like these that we take a job or move to a place without really knowing if it’s the right thing to do. We may ultimately end up leaving the job or the place, but often during that time we will have met someone who becomes an important friend, or we may have an experience that changes us in a profound way. When all the pieces of our life don’t quite make sense, we can remember that there may be some hidden gem of a reason that we are where we are having the experiences we are having.
It’s fun to look back on past experiences with an eye to uncovering those gems—the dreadful temporary job in a bland office building that introduced you to the love of your life; the roommate you couldn’t tolerate who gave you a book that changed your life; the time spent living in a city you didn’t like that led you into a deeper relationship with yourself. Remembering these past experiences can restore our faith in the present. Life is full of buried treasures. Chances are, you’re sitting on some right now.
Published May 17, 2013
food , life
Tags: food, life, recipes
700g free-range boneless pork shoulder steaks, each cut into 8 pieces, no need to trim
2 Cox apples, cored and each cut into 16 pieces
100g ready-to-eat prunes
4 tbsp rapeseed oil
4 tbsp Calvados or brandy
Large knob of butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed
30g pine nuts, toasted
1/2 tsp juniper berries, crushed
Sea salt and black pepper
500g ready-made shortcrust pastry
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water for glaze
1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Put the pork, garlic, juniper and one tablespoon of oil in a bowl, season and mix together. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a flameproof casserole and fry the pork in two batches, until brown on both sides. Transfer one batch to a plate, while you cook the next. Return all the pork to the pan, add the Calvados and 100ml water. When it begins to bubble, cover and put in the oven for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a frying pan, add the butter and apples, and fry for around one minute per side. Add to the pork, with the prunes, and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Add the pine nuts, and cool.
3. Heat the oven to gas mark 6. Cut the pastry in half and roll one piece to around 3mm thickness (around 1.5 cm larger than the tin). Brush the rims of the tin with egg glaze and line with the pastry. Add the pork mix, then glaze the pastry rim. Roll out the other piece of pastry to around 3mm thickness, and cover the pork. Trim the excess and crimp the edges with the end of a wooden spoon. Slash the pastry in places, so steam can escape. Paint on the glaze and bake for 25 minutes, until golden.
Tip: The pork filling can be made the day before and kept in the fridge.
Published May 16, 2013
culture , learning , life , music
Tags: classical, culture, greece, learning, life, music, religion, rock
There’s too much music in the world; no one can grasp more than a fraction of it. In order to cope we’re obliged either to become specialists (I know people who never listen to anything later than about 1750, others who concentrate on music post-1900, others who only listen to opera, others still who won’t listen to opera at all), or to make outrageously selective judgments. ‘Mozart wrote 600 plus works. I’ve heard a hundred of them: that’s quite enough Mozart.’ ‘Vivaldi’s concertos are much of a muchness. I’ll make do with half-a-dozen, or I’ll never have time to listen to anything else.’ ‘Manfredini, Albinoni and all those other chaps ending in -ni all sound very much like Vivaldi, so I won’t bother with them at all.’ ‘I once heard a piece of modern music. It was very nasty. I shan’t listen to any more.’
Outrageous, but inescapable? Yes, but… If you give up on Vivaldi after half-a-dozen concertos you may miss the ones that so deeply affected Bach (and perhaps therefore won’t enjoy Bach as much as you might). And what about his beautiful and often moving church music? What does the contemporary music specialist know who’s never heard Tristan? How impoverished is someone who loves Mozart’s operas but doesn’t know his often intensely operatic piano concertos. And so on. John Donne, had he lived until 1994 and had an extensive CD collection, might have remarked that no composer, no musical work indeed, is an island entire of itself.
Continue reading ‘The Problem with Categories’