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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Albeniz: Cadiz

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual 
Hardly flamboyant at all!

Isaac Albeniz, 1860 -1909, was a virtuoso Spanish pianist and composer. I love his music which never fails to put me in a good mood so I hope, if you spare a few minutes to listen, that you will get that same pleasure! I have put links to some of his works at the end of this post. Although he never composed explicitly for the guitar much of his work has been successfully transposed for that instrument and some of his compositions are better known these days as guitar works. I am thinking principally of pieces such as Asturias.
He is most famous for the Suite Española  and his other suite Iberia, both of which are based on specific styles of regional Spanish folk music. The Suite Española consists of eight pieces of which my favourites are Granada and Cadiz. Both of these have been transposed into fabulous guitar versions. Here are links to piano and guitar versions of both:
During the Segovia piece you will see a photographic selection of locations in Granada, Spain starting with the Alhambra Palace, a truly magical place in a beautiful city. I don't suppose I'll ever get there again but I've got the music forever.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

London Monopoly (22): Bond Street

I am now on the home straight of my tour around the London Monopoly board and the real estate values are rising sky-high! Bond Street is the final property of the Green Set.
Bond Street by James Gilray 1796
Fashionable 'gentlemen' are forcing ladies to step into the road as they crowd the pavement (sidewalk). Gilray is also satirising the female fashion of wearing vertical feathers on their hats.

Bond Street is one of the world's most expensive retail locations on a par with Fifth Avenue, New York and the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. It is divided into New Bond Street and Old Bond Street in the southern half  but is effectively all one street. The auction house Sotheby's has been located there for over a century and at one time Bond Street was synonymous with art dealers and antique shops but, inevitably, high-fashion boutiques now dominate. This makes it a lot less interesting. Something of note is a sculpture of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt sitting on a park bench. Tourists are fond of sitting between the two while having their photo taken.
"The statue, which is named ‘Allies’, was created in 1995 by Lawrence Holofcener, an artist with dual nationality who was commissioned by the Bond Street Association to commemorate 50 years of peace in the area. It features life-like bronze statues of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, with their faces crafted into permanent smiles as they share a silent joke."
Bond Street is named for Sir Thomas Bond 1620–1685. head of the syndicate which developed the area although the street as it is now was founded in 1700. The most famous residents were probably Admiral Horatio Nelson and Lady Hamilton.
A typical Bond Street store front.
Coming next in this series:Liverpool Street Station with a wonderful story from before the Second World War. 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Painting of the Month (43) March 2014: Lebasque

The Blue Robe (1920)

Henri Lebasque (1865 – 1937) was a French post-impressionist painter and a friend of Henri Matisse. Perhaps not technically brilliant but I like his colourful scenes of the times he lived in. He painted several pictures featuring views through open windows which was a popular genre at the time.
See, for example 'Open window at Collioure' by Matisse (left) and the painting by Raoul Dufy (below). Lebasque painted mainly female figures often in a domestic or rural setting and, as was the fashion at the beginning of the twentieth century, a great colourist. Yellow and purple are on opposite sides of the colour wheel and bring out the best in each other as can be seen here in the contrast between the yellow fields and the purple of the distant hills and the curtains. What is surprisingly common in art is the back view of the female subject; there are many examples of this in the history of art.
Click here to see a whole collection of such views. Although there is more detail in the foreground of this painting, the composition leads the eye to where the woman appears to be looking - out of the window.