Concerto IV in C minor
Akademie für alte Musik Berlin
(Gaulish coin from the reign of Valentinian III, 5th c.)
Martyrdom (by starvation) at Newgate Prison of members of the London Charterhouse
William Exmew, Thomas Johnson, Richard Bere and Thomas Green were monks of the Charterhouse (Carthusians) in London who refused to support King Henry VIII in his break with the Pope in Rome.
In 1537, as punishment, Exmew was hung, drawn and quartered (disembowelled while still alive) at Tyburn and the other three were chained in a standing position to posts at Newgate prison until they starved to death.
Exmew is shown with them in the painting but, while he was also chained to a post in prison before his execution, this was not at Newgate, but the Marshalsea.
Jascha Heifetz plays the Paganini Caprice No. 24
Fireworks and showmanship. But it’s a very musical performance as well, full of spirit and variety. And the way he physically dominates his instrument - the way it is held as solid and still as a table under his strong and rapidly moving bow-hand and fingering-hand - is fantastic.
There’s a man who’ll never have a sore neck. His posture is perfect and, no doubt, that’s partly how the rest can be too…
Below: examples of the letter “nu” from a handwritten copy of a letter of Clement of Alexandria found in Mar Saba monastery in 1958, collated by Roger Viklund.
Nike is Greek for victory. The goddess of victory was called Nike (pronounced “Nye-kee”).
The first letter of her name is the Greek letter “nu”, which is pronounced like “n” in the Roman alphabet. However, this letter in the Greek alphabet has the appearance of a “v”.
When written in handwriting, this letter could be much more like a “swoosh”. (See examples above.)
The Nike “swoosh” is just the first letter of Nike - the Greek letter “nu”.
Francis Poulenc, composer.
He was easy-going, liked a drink and could be moved to tears by little things, like the memory of a street at twilight or an old photograph.
Like his mother, he loved “exquisite bad music”, such as the salon songs of Cécile Chaminade. And he had a very French tolerance for smut. One of his Ribald Songs concerns a girl who offers a candle to the God of Love, hoping to find a lover. The god replies: “Beauty, while you’re waiting, you can always use the candle.” Serious composers aren’t supposed to do things like that. And they’re not supposed to write sentimental café-concert songs. Or spice up a solemn moment by ending a piece with a naughty, jazz-like chord, as Poulenc did in his setting of the Gloria.
The description by Poulenc’s friend Claude Rostand that he was “part monk, part rascal” is exactly right, and it’s the secret of his peculiar strength. Some composers are technical virtuosos, but Poulenc was a virtuoso of feeling, born at exactly the moment when French culture needed such a thing to make sense of its contradictions.
He could turn on a dime from sentiment to austerity, and from straight-faced Dadaist absurdity to desperate pathos. The notion that low material could serve high purposes was something he learnt from Stravinsky, about whom he once said admiringly: “Constructing a temple out of the same materials as a nightclub, that is the lesson in asceticism of one of the greatest composers the world has ever known.”
A myth grew up that his deliciously sensuous music came easily to him. “The myth is excusable,” he said, “since I do everything to conceal my efforts.” Poulenc was far more inspired by poetry and art than music and once said it was looking at Matisse’s illustrations for Mallarmé’s poems that taught him the value of refining an idea.
Edited version of an article by Ivan Hewett in the Telegraph 24 Mar 2013