Monday, November 14, 2011

The Influence of Islamic Architecture in Spain

http://youtu.be/W1BUHchr57Q




This is a fine specimen of the influence of the Moors in Spain and the effect of Islamic architecture. You can notice the balanced geometric shapes. The thin columns give a reminder of the days when the Muslims were ruling the Iberian Peninsula. `Alhambra' in Arabic means `The Red Fortress'. It is a palace constructed in the mid fourteenth century by the Muslim rulers of the Emirate of Granada in Al Andalus. It occupies the top of the hill of the Assabica on the south eastern border of the city of Granada.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Audemars Piguet



POST I
Master Watchmakers since 1875
Audemars Piguet is well known throughout the world for over one hundred and thirty six years. Their logo in Suisse says, ‘Le Maitre d’horlogerie depuis 1875’. They are indeed the master watchmakers since 1875. They have been recognized for their superb craftsmanship, highest quality and majestic designs in fashion and luxury watches. They are famous all across the globe as manufacturers of luxurious watches with unique properties and style. As one of the world’s oldest watchmakers, the Company is owned and run to this day by the families who established it. Jules Audemars and Edward-August Piguet started the Company in1875 in Vallee de Joux which is a valley of the Jura Mountains in the Swiss Vaud Canton, located about fifty kilometres north of Geneve and Lausanne. Audemars and Piguet combined their skills to design watches for the famous watch making houses in Geneva. Audemars Piguet’s great moment came in 1972 when they achieved a world first in watch making when they introduced the world’s first sports watch, ‘The Royal Oak’.

POST II
The Families are carrying the Audemars Piguet Tradition
After setting up the watch making company and making it world famous, both founders, Jules Audemars and Edward-August Piguet, handed over the manufacturing rein to their successors in their respective families as they both died in the successive years leading up to 1920. Their successors have continued in the same tradition of style and verve to make the company flourish. Though they suffered severe setbacks during both the World Wars, they came back strongly with the launch of the first ladies’ wrist watches and super thin models by making sure that their business did not receive a big dent. In 1972, they introduced the world’s first sports watch, ‘The Royal Oak’. This watch has revolutionized the shapes and the aesthetics of watches with a unique design of its steel edges as well as its octagonal shape. Audemars Piguet specializes in the making of intricate fashion and luxury watches. Even after their phenomenal success, each watch of theirs is still handmade.
POST III
Historical Gems from Audemars Piguet
Besides giving the world the first wristwatches for ladies and the first sports watch, other highlights and gems that are historical from Audemars Piguet include the first wristwatch with mechanical winding and tourbillon. A tourbillon, that means whirlwind in French, is a mechanical watch device that transfers energy to a time keeping element. They have also given the world the smallest self-winding watch with a universal perpetual calendar. They are also the pioneers of Dual Time and the Ladies’ Minute Repeater Chiming Watch. Their dual time watches run with automatic movement which features a second time zone displaying power reserve. They are considered today as one of the three biggest watchmakers in the company of Vacheron Constantine and Patek Philippe. The Company designs over sixteen thousand fashion and luxury watches in a year and has produced some of the most extra ordinary and timeless pieces ever crafted. In fact, they are the leaders in designer watches that specialize in miniaturization as well as precision with their sophisticated timepieces.

POST IV
Leading Showcase Boutique in Geneva
Audemars Piguet has opened a flagship bouquet in Geneva in March earlier this year at 12, Place de la Fusterie. This boutique is the Brassus manufacturer’s leading premium showcase in the Swiss capital of elite watch making. This is the largest and the twelfth boutique of the watchmakers until now. It is a well designed and spacious interior. There is a central section for the latest designs and for those products that are based on the annual selected theme. It also includes a private library for relaxation and reading where you can relax with cigars and wine. Apart from the central section, there is an after sales area where you can appreciate the craftsmanship. The boutique gives a complete picture of the product range, showcasing some older timepieces that have become landmarks in the company’s history along with its latest creations. The overall effect as conveyed by the boutique brings out the Company’s core values of innovation and excellence in designing fashion and luxury watches.


POST V
A Perfect Energy Efficient Manufacturing Commitment
The new production unit, Brassus Bois SA, is an ideal workshop for making timepieces. This workshop has been designed as per the new Minergie ECO label. It involves energy efficient electricity and heating, top quality construction material which is both environmental and user friendly throughout its life cycle. The building has blended well with the surrounding landscape. Its heating system respects the surroundings. Audemars Piguet has a remote heating network that will ultimately provide heating for close to a hundred local buildings. The process of manufacturing is fully optimized and the working conditions for more than three hundred employees that have been set up in small operational units are beyond compare. The Company has taken care of the health of the workers who will be making fashion and luxury watches. It has taken precautions with the electromagnetic fields and other ecological issues. This workshop has become a model re-landscaping project.


POST VI
History of a World Famous Collaboration
The long history of this world famous collaboration goes back to 1875 when a twenty three year old Jules Audemars joined hands with a twenty one year old Edward-August Piguet to start their own watch making company. Both were trained watchmakers. They learnt their trade after completing their public school studies in the town of Le Brassus. Around this time, Audemars was learning to design `ebouches’ which are blank watch movements that are finished and fitted by a watch manufacturer. He had set up a workshop at his parents’ farm. Meanwhile, Piguet was working as a self employed `repasseur’ who is a master watchmaker who performs the final regulation on a timepiece. Audemars engaged Piguet to work for him. Audemars became in charge of production and technical supervision. Piguet looked after the sales and management side. This formula has worked well right up to this time with the Audemars looking after the technical matters and the Piguets looking after the commercial affairs. This world famous collaboration gave birth to Audemars Piguet who emerged as one of the world’s finest fashion and luxury watchmakers.

POST VII
Timepiece for Holy Celebration
When the Vatican Radio, which was commissioned by Pius XI especially for the voice of the Pope, completed its eighty years earlier this year, Audemars Piguet made a gesture of celebration and designed a special watch for the Pope. The Vatican Radio was an all white watch. It uses Roman numerals to indicate the hours and the regular standard numbers to indicate the minutes. The numbers have a unique presentation feature. They grow larger when they are closer to the left side of the watch’s face, like the thirty to fifty-five minutes mark. The watch is engraved with an inscription that says, ‘Radio Vaticana 1931-2011’. This was meant as a one-time creation by the fashion and luxury watchmaker, specifically meant to be worn by the Pope Benedict XVI. A couple of million Catholics all over the world would be eyeing this watch and wishing to get their hands on it.
POST VIII
Improving Biodiversity and Battling Climate Change
Patagonia Sur and Audemars Piguet are collaborating in the battle against climate change. They are aiming towards improving biodiversity and replenishing the Patagonian native forests. Audemars Piguet has always led the way in corporate social commitment besides being one of the world’s leading fashion and luxury watchmakers. They are now a founder member of the Corporate Conservation Circle of Patagonia Sur. They have come out with a novel business model which is aimed at the conservation of ecologically valuable ecosystems in the Chilean Patagonia. This innovative project will bring together companies that are interested in committing themselves to the care and protection of the environment. The Company started a Foundation about two decades ago with a focus on the conservation of forests around the world. This project will include planting of 7,500 native species trees in an area of 614 acres with a plan of an estimated removal of 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
POST IX
Djokovic is the Latest Ambassador
After the U.S. Open, the world number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic, was made a brand ambassador for the fashion and luxury watch designers. Djokovic has joined the brand’s team of ambassadors that includes many famous sports personalities like Michael Schumacher, Leo Messi, LeBron James, Sachin Tendulkar, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy. Djokovic is highly appreciative of the timepieces and their refinement. Some months ago, he had paid a visit to the watch company and during his visit; he showed his admiration for the brand’s latest watches after taking a tour of the famous workshop in Le Brassus. In addition to his tennis playing abilities, Audemars Piguet has acknowledged the generosity shown by Djokovic who is involved with a number of charity organizations. He has founded the Novak Humanitarian Fund that provides access to tennis courts and scholarships for young Serbians. It is also associated with the donation of ambulances to hospitals in Kosovska Mitrovica and Brus.


Post X
Longest Supporters of After-School All-Stars
Audemars Piguet has helped in the growth that After-School All-Stars has seen. The support has been for many years. The support phase has seen through the launch of four initiatives and three national programs. The support has been through financial resources to make these additions possible. Just recently, they have donated a million dollars to help After-School all-Stars in its attempt to expand its work and programs. Audemars Piguet, the fashion and luxury watch designer, is an important partner with ASAS in their battle to offer access to education and opportunity for those young people who deserve it most. Earlier this year in June, there was a gala to raise over a million dollars in company with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is a patron ambassador of Audemars Piguet right from his Terminator days. The gala was held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. The live auction was conducted by Sothebys.
POST XI
Four Seasons Installs Royal Oak Clocks throughout its Properties
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts have chosen Audemars Piguet as their official timekeeper in both North and South America. They have put up the Royal Oak clocks throughout their properties. This is a partnership between the world’s oldest watch manufacturer and the renowned luxury hotel brand. At their hotels in New York City, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Miami, Las Vegas, Houston, Chicago and Beverly Hills, guests are greeted by the iconic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak clocks located strategically. Four Seasons have got these clocks in twenty one of their properties including the one in Costa Rica. The clocks adorn high profile locations at the main entrance, concierge desk and spa and business center. At Beverly Hills, they have five clocks that have been placed together horizontally at the front entrance. In Mexico City, the hotel’s lobby, second floor meeting room, athletic club and business center feature these clocks. This partnership is unique as both the companies are timeless and exude the ultimate in fashion and luxury.


POST XII
Features that have earned them Global Admiration
It is accepted universally that Audemars Piguet is one brand of Swiss fashion and luxury watches that has gained global admiration as a result of their designs and stylish steel edges with excellent utilization of distinct hexagonal screws. Their unique features are minute repeaters, perpetual calendars and time hopping functions. Each series of theirs has a personal story attached to it. They have existed in the business for the past fourteen decades because of their superior products. The world’s first minute repeater movement was designed by them in a wristwatch in 1892. Since then, the managing families and the brand have added many impressive and collectible models in the portfolio. Even today, their wristwatches are recognizable instantly. They combine innovative design with high construction quality to make their watches impressive. When the Royal Oak was launched in 1972, it captured the imagination of the watch making world as the world’s first sports watch.
POST XIII
iPhone4 and iPad Apps
The Audemars Piguet application which has been designed as a flippant variation of its website allows the users to explore great content and astounding graphics. The high resolution screens of both iPhone4 and iPad exhibit the signature models and intricate mechanisms of Audemars Piguet. The App includes films that have new models acting in them to promote these fashion and luxury items with videos that highlight the expertise in watch making. You will also find their online magazine, `Audacity.ch’ with its latest news, innovations and icons of the brand. The `Try It’ function lets you try a model of your selection by virtually placing it on your wrist. Once the photo has been taken, you can share it with your friends by eMail or MMS. Another selection takes you to all Audemars Piguet boutiques and points of sale all over the world, particularly those that are closest to you, thanks mainly to the integrated global positioning system.



POST XIV
The Online Information Platform
‘Audacity.ch’ is an online magazine that has been started as an information platform by Audemars Piguet about a year back. The site has been opened for all watch enthusiasts and haute horlogerie. It is also meant for the press, the collectors and the general public. It will specially cover the brand news concerning the sponsors, boutique openings, new product launches, AP icons, limited editions and technical innovations. The magazine also deals with the craftsmanship and the workmen behind it who exercise that expertise. The magazine shares the Company’s heritage by telling the general public all about the legendary watches and the people who are creating history with the brand. This website is going to focus on three corporate values of the fashion and luxury watch manufacturers – they are excellence, tradition and the audacity to inspire. The articles that are published here are meant for a large audience circulation and are also intended for the written press.
POST XV
A Very Special Timeless Museum
Musee Audemars Piguet has been built in the first Audemars family residence and is a testimonial to the traditional roots of the fashion and luxury watch making factory that was set up in 1875 by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet. Apart from the factory, the museum is a testimony also to the crucial role that the brand has played in the history of watch making in the six rooms spread out in the museum. During your visit to this museum, you will get a chance to explore one of the most excellent illustrations of traditional Suisse watch making. You can see the pocket watches that were made in 1780 even much before the existence of Audemars Piguet. You can come down history lane to the superb contemporary grand and intricate designs. In this museum, you can also go through two workshops where half a dozen craftsmen demonstrate their expertise.



POST XVI
Caretaker of a Priceless Heritage
The curator of the Audemars Piguet Museum, Herr Martin Wehrli, is a walking almanac himself as he greets the visitors to this priceless heritage and shares his passion with them. As Audemars Piguet is the oldest watch manufacturer which is still run by members and generations of its founding families, they have been able to preserve archives and old documents and keep them intact. For example, they have every single order book available from 1875 till date. People can easily track the date and place where each of the designs or creations was sold. Mr. Wehrli is a well travelled person. He traverses the globe in pursuit of rare timepieces and gems to add to the already impressive collection that the museum has built up in time which is in excess of nine hundred pieces. The museum is private and is open by appointment only. It has one of the most charming collections of fashion and luxury watch complications in the world.
POST XVII
The Foundation wants to protect the Forests
The Audemars Piguet Foundation has tried hard to use a portion of the remains from the sale of the fashion and luxury watches to protect the Earth’s forests. It is concentrating hard on the promotion of building up forests and providing environmental education to people. The Audemars Piguet Foundation is helping in sowing the seeds from Portugals’s Tapada de Mafra reserve to the trees of New York’s Botanical Gardens and right up to Ghana’s Allanblakia Plantations. On the occasion of the Royal Oak completing a score of years in 1992, this Foundation was created and it gives its full time resources and energies to the cause of building up forests. It has pioneered the environmental education for children on a worldwide basis for the last eight years. In the beginning, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) gave the directions and many project suggestions for the purpose of assuring top quality standards.
POST XVIII
The Foundation Supports Practical Environmental Education
The Audemars Piguet Foundation’s budget on an annual basis will depend on the watch sales. Audemars Piguet has an amount that is fixed for the Foundation on every watch that is sold. The Foundation’s latest projects are the collaboration with Patagonia Sur in Chile and the restoration of almost five hundred hectares of woodlands at several locations in Scotland and in the United Kingdom. They are busy training biodiversity guards in Ecuador and revitalizing the mangroves in Senegal. They are also in the process of planting trees and supporting practical environmental education in Jaipur, India. Each year, they take on about four to five projects with decent on site results. The very fact that the Corporate Headquarters of the fashion and luxury watch designers are in Switzerland itself solidifies the credibility of many of their projects. They receive news and feedback on their projects even after a decade of giving the support at the initiation.
POST XIX
Restoration of Timepieces at the Repair Workshop
The Audemars Piguet repair workshop strives in restoring timepieces that are over a century old. The person in charge of this workshop, Francisco Pasandin, is looking after a long lost brand of expertise in the making of fashion and luxury watches. The repair workshop of Audemars Piguet handles models that are sometimes designed as far back as 1870. Mr. Pasandin is fluent with almost all kinds of watches. It could be a vintage pocket watch or a watch with an independent seconds’ hand. It could be watches with a jumping seconds’ hand, a minute repeater, a dual time function or a lunation indicator. It could also be a watch with a Reaumur scale with a thermometer with the date and the day of the week. It takes sometimes a hundred to almost three hundred hours to get the antique watches to function again. It will all depend on the damage that the watch has undergone in the hands of some other watchmakers.
POST XX
The Repair Workshop has a Team of Skilled Watchmakers
The repair workshop of Audemars Piguet has a team that is made up of ten skilled watchmakers. They piece together extremely complex timepieces almost entirely by their hands. Sometimes, it will take a good part of about fifteen to twenty minutes to restore just a screw that has been damaged by a bad screwdriver. It could take quite some time with more than a hundred screws in a pocket watch. That is not taking into consideration the broken pivots, damaged wheels or parts that have been glued into a movement. Sometimes, they have to take the whole thing apart and begin from scratch. This team of skilled fashion and luxury watchmakers has mastered all the processes right from handling various materials to intricately working out the small parts and then applying the finishing touches on the watches. They are using the tools and techniques that were available even a hundred years back. They may be modern but their way of working remains ancestral. The technical knowledge is recorded in notebooks to be handed down to the next generation of watchmakers.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

James Horner and Titanic

http://youtu.be/saalGKY7ifU

The Pride of South Bombay

No Indian community internalized the civilizing mission of the British as did the Parsis. Only 50,000 remain in Bombay today, mainly in South Bombay, the most disciplined and cultured part of India.
In South Bombay, the cutting of lanes by drivers is punished, jumping a red light is impossible, parking is possible only in allotted areas, roads are clean, service is efficient, the restaurants are unmatched - civilization seems within reach. South Bombay has some of the finest buildings in India , many of them built by Parsis.

The Parsis came to Bombay after Surat 's port silted over in the 17th century. Gerald Aungier settled in Bombay and gave Parsis land for their Tower of Silence on Malabar Hill in 1672. The Parsis made millions through the early and mid-1800s and they spent much of it on public good.

The Ambanis built Dhirubhai Ambani International School , where fees are Rs. 348,000 (US $8,000 a year in a country where per capita income is $ 600 per year) and where the head girl is Mukesh Ambani's daughter.

The Kingfisher Mallyas gilded the insides of the Tirupati temple with gold.

Lakshmi Mittal, the fourth richest richest man in the world says he's too young to think of charity... He's 57 and worth $45 billion.
The Birlas built 3 temples in Hyderabad , Jaipur and Delhi .
Hindu philanthropy means building temples. They do not understand social philanthropy. The Hindu's lack of enthusiasm for philanthropy is cultural. The Hindu cosmos is Hobbesian and the devotee's relationship with God is transactional. God must be petitioned and placated to swing the universe's blessings towards you and away from someone else.They believe that society has no role in your advancement and there is no reason to give back to it because it hasn't given you anything in the first place. Two centuries of British education was unable to alter this.

The Parsis, on the other hand, understood that philanthropy - love of mankind -
recognizes that we cannot progress alone. That there is such a thing as
the common good. They spent as no Indian community had ever before, on building institutions, making them stand out in a culture whose talent lies in renaming things other people built. The Parsis built libraries all over India , they built the National Gallery of Art. The Indian Institute of Science was built in 1911 by Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research was built by Dr Homi Bhabha, the Tata Institute of Social Science was built in 1936 by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust.
The Wadias built hospitals, women's colleges and the five great low-income Parsi colonies of Bombay. JJ Hospital and Grant Medical College were founded by Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy.

By 1924, two out of five Indians - whether Hindu, Muslim or Parsi - joining the Indian Civil Services were on TATA scholarships.
They gave Bombay the Jehangir Art Gallery, Sir JJ School of Art, the Taraporevala Aquarium. The National Center for Performing Arts, the only place in India where world-class classical concerts are held is a gift of the Tatas.
There are 161 Friends of the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI)and 92 of them are Parsi. For an annual fee of Rs 10,000, Friends of the SOI get two tickets to any one recital in the season, they get to shake hands with artistes after the concert and they get to attend music appreciation talks through the year.

Donations of Rs.1 million to the Tirupati Temple(www.tirumala.org) will bring the donor and his family three days of darshan in the year, one gold coin with the lord's portrait and 20 laddoos. The temple's budget for 2007-08 was Rs 9 billion (Rs 904 crore / US $193 million!!!).

The Parsi dominates high culture in Bombay are always full in halls and this means that a concert experience in the city is unlike that in any other part of India . Classical concerts seat as many as two thousand.

Zubin Mehta, the most famous Parsi in the world, is director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra since 1969. He conducted the tenor Placido Domingo, the pianist Daniel Barenboim and the soprano Barbara Frittoli.

No other city in India has this appetite for Western classical music and in Bombay this comes from the Parsis. Despite their tiny population, the Parsi presence in a concert hall is above 50 per cent. Many have to be helped to their seats. Most of
them know the music.

The people who clap between movements, thinking that the 'song' is over, are non-Parsis. Symphony Orchestra of India concerts begin at 7 pm. Once the musicians start, latecomers must wait outside till the movement ends.
The end of each movement also signals a fusillade of coughs and groans, held back by doddering Parsis too polite to make a sound while Mendelssohn is being played. No mobile phone ever goes off as is common in cinema hall - the neighbors are aware of the Parsi's insistence of form and his temper.

The Parsis were also pioneers of Bombay 's Gujarati theatre, which remains the most popular form of live entertainment in Bombay. Any week of the year will see at least a half dozen bedroom comedies, murder mysteries, love stories and plays on assorted themes on stage.

Bombay 's first theatre was opened by Parsis in 1846, the Grant Road Theatre, donations from Jamshetjee Jejeebhoy and Framjee Cowasjee making it possible.

The Parsi in Bollywood caricature is a comic figure, but always honest, and innocent as Indians believe Parsis generally to be.

In the days before modern cars came to India the words 'Parsi-owned' were guaranteed to ensure that a second-hand car listed for sale would get picked up ahead of any others. This is because people are aware of how carefully the Parsi keeps his things. His understanding and enthusiasm of the mechanical separates him from the rest. Most of the automobile magazines in India are owned and edited by Parsis.

The Parsis are a dying community and this means that more Parsis die each year than are born (Symphony concert-goers can also discern the disappearing Parsi from the rising numbers of those who clap between movements).

As the Parsis leave, South Bombay will become like the rest of Bombay - brutish, undisciplined and filthy.

Preserve this race.....

You are privileged if you have a Parsi Bawa as your friend...He/She is indeed a "Heritage" to be treasured for ever.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Titan

Completely imaginative and original opening to a magnificent Titan Symphony Of Gustav Mahler in D major. It is an impassioned integration and fusion of natural drama and gypsy folk music of the Alpine regions. The orchestral forces assemble together in a masterful display of artistry and technique in the opening movement - Langsam Schleppend Wie Ein Naturland Im Anfang Sehr.
http://youtu.be/Xvd14vVzm_k

Composed in 1884 and inspired b Jean Paul's novel `The Titan', this Symphony's Second Movement is `Blumine' (The Flower Piece). It is indeed like a flower blooming into immortality with the theme carried by the trumpet. It is a beautifully crafted movement with the closing strains on solo violin and soft strings and woodwinds with the final glissando on the harps. It is a pity that most of the conductors omit this movement and not include it in the reading of the Symphony. Zubin Mehta has done full justice to it.
http://youtu.be/iGgI46Hf3XI

The Third Movement: Kraftig Bewegt Doch Nicht Zu Schnell Landler Scherzo Trio. This movement was described as bringing spring with no end and a set with full sails. It is composed in A major. It is based on an Austrian Landler Folk dance. It is written in a truly mad and deep style that is releasing an ardent energy and depicting true joy of life. It is being played in a live concert by the Orchestra Del Maggio Musicale Fiorentina with Zubin Mehta at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow on 5th April 2011.
http://youtu.be/65y-Ixzm4Yo

The third movement is the slow movement. Feierlich und Gemessen, ohne zu Schleppen. It is a hunter's funeral and the hunter is being carried by animals. The melodic material is based on the popular Alpine folk melody `Bruder Martin' or also known as `Frere Jacques'. Mahler changed it though and transformed it into a minor mode. the movement ends with simple alternating fourths in the lower strings bringing the key motive back from the initial movement.
http://youtu.be/K56-KpR1ICE

The Finale - Sturmisch Bewegt - has to burst in after the dissipating gong resonance of the Hunter's Funeral in an impetuous fashion. There is a storm. The great theme after the storm has to be phrased in an excellent way. It has to be interpreted as anxious, angry and dramatic to conclude in a blaze as Zubin Mehta does in his reading.
http://youtu.be/05TE1WX4dUs


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

EGMONT

Ludwig Van Beethoven. Egmont. Op.84. It is a set of compositions written as incidental music for the 1787 play of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Beethoven completed it in June 1810. It has an overture and nine parts for soprano and orchestra.
The music is on the subject of Count Egmont's heroism. Beethoven expresses his own political statements in the music, particularly about the sublime importance of the sacrifice of a man who is condemned to death but has the guts in raising a voice against oppression.
The definitive performance is by the stupendous reading of Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic followed by worthy performances of Herbert von Karajan with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Zubin Mehta with the Maggio Musicale di Fiorentino and Wilhelm Furtwangler with the Berliner Philharmoniker.
http://youtu.be/_MrFo3uDTkU

This is the complete incidental music to the play:
http://youtu.be/N-g4m-124Kk

http://youtu.be/1264jv5CXfo

http://youtu.be/nnTpNu-RS9o

Take out time to read the play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe which was written in 1788.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nino Rota's Romeo and Juliet - 1968

Beautiful Composition for the Franco Zeffirelli Film with Leonard Whiting as Romeo and Olivia Hussey as Juliet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCmUWNUzaqo


Nino Rota (1911-1979). Talented Italian Composer. Versatile. Wrote five ballets, ten operas and many choral and orchestral works. He also wrote chamber music. His string concerto is beautiful. The work that he did for films is unforgettable with the Zeffirelli film ` Romeo and Juliet' and Coppola's `Godfather'.

http://youtu.be/c5_e-scRrnY

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coriolanus

http://youtu.be/QoultibNlus

Beethoven's Coriolan Overture is based on the play by Shakespeare as well as the one by Heinrich von Collin to whom the overture is dedicated. It is one of the last tragedies of Shakespeare that is known for its military and political themes. Caius Martius is a proud Roman General who does not hold himself back in displaying his outspoken and arrogant contempt of the Roman extremities. The Tribunes banish him and he raises an army to take his revenge on Rome. He is then given the cognomen or the third name of Coriolanus. He represented political honesty in a corrupt world. The play by Shakespeare was written in 1608.
Beethoven scored his overture brilliantly with all the subtleties included with a resigned ending on the contrabass pizzicato representing Coriolanus' suicide. The definitive performance of this overture is one attached here by Wilhelm Furtwangler with the Berliner Philharmoniker in the 1943 performance. The timpani accentuation and the crescendo effect has not been achieved by any other conductor after him. Karajan follows next with the Berliner Philharmoniker and the third goes to Otto Klemperer with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Die Ruinen von Athen

Op.113. Ludwig Van Beethoven. Overture and Incidental Music. Text written by August von Kotzebue. Die Ruinen von Athen depicts Athens under the Turkish rule and how Athene/Minerva finds a new refuge for the muses in the city of Pest. This is the place where Franz Liszt spent many of his days. It is a delightfully crafted overture and music played superbly by the Berliner Symphoniker and the Konzertchor under the direction of Hans Schonzeler.

http://youtu.be/SUPAf7eEo0o


http://youtu.be/yX3nWbeSqx8


http://youtu.be/31UGuN6eWKs


http://youtu.be/-BGVOMxDrQU

Fantasia on Themes from the Ruins of Athens

On 4th March 1874, Franz Liszt delivered a stirring performance of his `Fantasia on Themes from Ruins of Athens' by Beethoven. S.122. This was a charity concert in Budapest and there were more than two thousand people present. The result was a pandemonium.The technical master of Liszt on the pianoforte astonished all who heard it.
http://youtu.be/mJzKVDiBbtU

This is a spectacular performance by Michel Beroff with Gewandhausorchester Leipzig conducted by Kurt Masur.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Konig Stephan

Op.117.
Andante con moto - Presto
King Stephen overture and incidental music by Ludwig van Beethoven belongs to Hungary for its dramatic setting. August von Kotzebue composed the text for this incidental music. The music was presented on the occasion of the opening of a German language theater in Pest, Hungary. It was written in August 1811. There are falling fourths that are heard at the opening of the overture and recur later at the recapitulation. A woodwind tune of Hungarian tones comes in dolce to introduce Hungary's national hero. In the overture, Beethoven uses a juxtaposition with a theme that comes again in his opening movement of the Choral Symphony.
The music is played brilliantly by Herbert von Karajan with Berliner Philharmoniker and choir.

http://youtu.be/iyCl2yQlWk8


http://youtu.be/CG1xMyExpMo


http://youtu.be/Gji1EzgRkDs

Monday, July 4, 2011

Zur Namensfeier

A lovely overture by Ludwig van Beethoven. The Name day Overture. Op.115. Berliner Philharmoniker. Herbert Von Karajan. This overture was written in 1815. It was a general composition for any occasion of Name Keeping.It was played specially on the day of the Feast of St. Francis. In France, this overture became popular as the Name Day Hunt.

http://youtu.be/aWIadVpxlDE

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Die Weihe Des Hauses Ouverture von Ludwig Van Beethoven

Beethoven composed eleven overtures between 1801 and 1822. They are largely different works created for various occasions. The overture here is `Des Weihes des Hauses' (The Consecration of the House). This was written in 1822 for the initial opening of the Josephstadt Theater in Wien. Beethoven was inspired by Handel in this composition. It is Maestoso e Sostenuto at its opening with the brass and timpani accompanied by staccato strings. It continues spiritedly with the music leading us to a furious Allegro to conclude the overture. This performance is by the Berliner Philharmoniker under Herbert Von Karajan.

http://youtu.be/E6swXra9sbw

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Seven Samurai



http://youtu.be/QlivViv4i_4


A Masterpiece by Akira Kurosawa. 1954.
A film that has influenced several others for more than four decades.
It has inspired films like 'The Magnificent Seven' and Hindi blockbusters like `Sholay' and `China Gate'.
Many filmmakers use this as a study film.
Kurosawa mesmerises and tells a great story.
It is about 205 minutes long and each frame is a worthwhile one.
It offers a master lesson in how to pace an epic tale.
The story takes place in a sixteenth century village in Japan that is regularly attacked by bandits. The Samurai are hired by the village elders to shield them against the bandits. The cast is led admirably by Takashi Shimura who turns out a remarkable performance. It deserved a best actor oscar without any doubt. Hollywood has not recognised this film as much as it deserved. Toshiro Mifune has also turned out a brilliant support performance. The visuals are excellent, especially the one scene focusing on a bowl of rice and rice dumplings to drive home the value that a bowl of rice had for the Samurai. This was their price for the battle they were going to wage. The Samurai come off as a selfless lot who sacrifice themselves for the cause of the farmers. The final scenes shot in the rain are superlative.
The film won a Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1954. It deserved much more than this. The jury at the film festivals have their ears and eyes plugged with shit sometimes. They can't see a gem versus a knick knack.
Kurosawa made four Samurai classics - The Seven Samurai, the Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo and Sanjuro. I have to see his another classic `Rashomon' yet.
The music by Fumio Hayasaka is haunting and outstanding. It is a superb and distinct score.
This film is cinematic perfection and one of the best films ever made.
It was voted by `Sight and Sound' as one of the ten greatest films of all time.
I rate it AAAA.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Die Geschopfe Des Prometheus

A superb performance by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Herbert Von Karajan.
http://youtu.be/TEz8rtrdP4w

This recording of the sixties still holds good as the definitive performance of this great overture to 'The Creatures of Prometheus' by Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The New York Times At Special Bargain Rates

Another short story from Stephen King's compilation,'Just After Sunset'. The story has an eerie impact. This story is about Anne. The story begins when she is in a shower and getting ready to attend her husband's memorial service who had gone missing in an airline crash. The relatives have assembled in the drawing room. She is ready to go to them when the phone rings. She picks it up and the voice on the other end is of James, her husband. 'They had thirty years together and one word is all she needs. He says Annie like no one else, always did'.
'For a moment, she can't speak or even breathe.He has caught her on the exhale and her lungs feel as flat as sheets of paper'.
"James? Where are you? What happened?" . 'The murmuring relatives are, after all, planning his funeral'.
James chuckles, "I don't exactly know where I am".
'Her first confused thought is that he must have missed the plane in London, even though he called her from Heathrow not long before it took off. Then a clearer idea comes; although both the New York Times and the TV news say there were no survivors, there was at least one'.
"Jimmy, are you all right"? "Are you burnt"? "Are you in the hospital"?
"Hush", he says. "I'm all right. Most of us are".
"Most-? There are others"?
"Not the pilot", he says, "He's not so good. Or maybe it's the co-pilot".
"Who's this really? Why are you being so horrible"? She's cold all over. 'There's a clear strand of mucus hanging from one of her nostrils'.
'It's his voice'. "Jimmy, Are you still there"?
"Yeah, but I can't talk long. I was trying to call you when we went down and I guess that's the only reason I was able to get through at all".
"Jimmy, did you know you were going down?"
"Not really", he says, "Everything seemed all right until the very end - maybe the last thirty seconds."
"James.. honey.. the plane crashed two days ago."
"Really? Mrs. Corey said time was funny here."
"Where are you exactly?"
"Looks like Grand Central Station.. only bigger and emptier.. there certainly aren't any trains .. and we can't hear any in the distance.. but there are doors going everywhere. Oh, and there's an escalator, but it's broken.."
"Are you scared?"
"Scared? No. A little worried, that's all. Mostly about which door to use... Listen, not to let the McCormack kid do the gutters this fall, last year he almost broke his fucking neck.. And don't go to the bakery anymore on sundays. Something's going to happen there, and I know it's going to be on a sunday, but I don't know which sunday. Time really is funny here... I have to go, Annie, I can't stay here and the phone's going to hit the bed any second now.."
'Then in her ear there is only black silence'.
'There is no record of an incoming call at 3:17 P.M. on that afternoon of her widowhood'.
Time passes by. The memorial service is held for her husband and the world goes on. After few days, she reads in the bargain rate New York Times,'Jason McCormack, the son of old Hughie McCormack, was killed in an accident on Labor Day. He fell from the roof of a summer cottage while cleaning the gutters and broke his neck.'
'Five years after the death of her husband and the death of Jason McCormack, Annie remarries... Craig, the new husband, is only semi-retired, and his business takes him to New York every three or four months... When she and Craig go back to New York, they fly. And when she's back home, she stops going to Zoltan's Family Bakery on sundays when she's home despite her favourite raisin bagels. She goes to Froger's instead. She's at Frogers buying doughnuts when she hears the blast. She hears it clearly even though Zoltan's is eleven blocks away. LP gas explosion. Four killed, including the woman who always passed Annie her bagels with the top of the bag rolled down, saying, " Keep it that way until you get home or you lose the freshness..."
'When she gets home , Annie can hear the phone ringing inside. Either everyone has gone down the block to where the local school is having a sidewalk art sale or no one can hear that ringing phone.. Except for her, that is. And by the time she gets her key turned in the lock, the ringing has stopped.'
'Star sixty nine reports the last call at eight forty last night. Annie dials it anyway, hoping against hope that somewhere outside the big room that looks like a Grand Central Station movie-set, he found a place to re-charge his phone. To him, it might seem he last spoke to her yesterday. Or only minutes ago. Time is funny here, he said. She has dreamed of that call so many times it now almost seems like a dream itself, but she never told anyone about it.'
'She has almost turned ninety now and with a firmly held belief in the afterlife.'
'She nevertheless holds the phone very tightly as the number she has star-sixty-nined rings once, then twice. Annie stands in the living room with the phone to her ear and her free hand touching the brooch above her left breast, as if touching the brooch could still the pounding heart beneath it. Then the ringing stops and a recorded voice offers to sell her The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates that will not be repeated.'
The short story has a punch of an impact. AAA.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rachmaninov's C Minor Piano Concerto

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8l37utZxMQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_bp4rcjgyk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0llKV3M6hvU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCVukg-_a_w

I have blogged earlier in the past few years on this great piano concerto. I had not posted the videos for readers to feel the music. My best rendition of this masterpiece is by Philippe Entremont playing with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein. That is the greatest recording of this concerto. With all great regard to the Master himself, Entremont has paced the second movement in a way that even Rachmaninov would succumb to and weep. It is unfortunate that I could not access any video recordings of that performance.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elgar's Cello Concerto

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlTontPm49M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6wt64X8Am0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gsekb1qwZs0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjYy71hqu84


Cello Concerto in E Minor. Op. 85
This was his last great work.
It was composed during the summer of 1919 at Elgar's cottage, 'Brinkwells', in Sussex. The premiere was on 27th October 1919 with Felix Salmond as the soloist and Elgar conducting the London Symphony at Queen's Hall. This performance was not well received. Frankly speaking, the audience did not know their elbow from their knee in appreciating a great work.
This concerto represents the disillusionment Elgar felt after the end of the first world war. This is also an introspective on death.
The Concerto opens with a solemn dramatic adagio recitative in the solo followed by a short cadenza . The violas then present the main theme that Elgar had composed while he was recuperating from a throat operation. The violas then pass the theme to the solo cello. The cello repeats it and then modifies it into a stronger, painful reinstatement. Then, the cello moves into a lighter-hearted and lyrical middle section moderato. The main theme is presented again as a transition and after an impassioned utterance, the movement whimpers before a pizzicato enters into the lento without a pause, later transforming into an allegro molto second movement which is a melancholy scherzo with orchestration of the greatest economy.
In the brief slow movement Adagio, there is still greater economy and solemnity; a continuous solo for the cello.
The finale Allegro Moderato which is a rondo where the excitement of the principal theme is broken by references to earlier themes and particularly to the mood of melancholy that makes this as one of Elgar's greatest works.
My favourite interpretation is the one by Sol Gabetta and the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra Copenhagen conducted by Mario Venzago. Another great version is the Jacqueline Du Pre with the London Symphony under Sir John Barbirolli.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Le Poeme du Feu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QOJAoy8eQM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35u6HHvbeAs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOZGAPVSDkA


I have heard it twice today. I went back to it. I heard the Martha Argerich/Berlin/Abbado version though I am posting below the Vladimir Ashkenazy version for its brilliant visuals.
Aleksandr Scriabin's Le Poeme du Feu - Prometheus is a great impressionistic piece of music creation. He uses fourth-based harmonies. This composition was a hit when it was first premiered on 2nd March 1911 with Scriabin as the soloist in Moskva with Serge Koussevitzky conducting. Scriabin died early at the age of 43 in 1915. This work would have made Debussy, Ravel and Glazunov proud.
The work's harmonic structure is evolved from a tonal centre in a six-note complex of different fourths (c f# Bb e a d). Here, the sound makes you feel that space has become time. For Scriabin, the theft of fire was central to the Prometheus myth. This symphonic poem with a piano accompaniment and choir is representative of Prometheus with the central theme narrated by the trumpets. The music describes the flickering and shimmering permutations of fire through piano and woodwinds with tremolos on the strings. Scriabin felt that Prometheus is the bringer of light and through sound and colour he reaches for the stars themselves as aptly showed in these visuals.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Johannes Brahms: Serenade in D Major

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlY-c84HPSA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqQEu6MUvq0


I have heard this after almost thirty four years. It is still as fresh and the recording is superb.
Istvan Kertesz with the London Symphony. 1968.
Brahms composed his two orchestral serenades between 1857 and 1860.They were his first purely orchestral works to be published. The D Major Serenade was first intended to be a chamber work like an octet or a nonet. Then Brahms converted that to a work for small orchestra. He laid the orchestra out as fifteen strings, single woodwinds, two french horns, trumpet and timpani.
This Serenade respects musicians like Haydn, Beethoven and early symphonies of Schubert. The first movement that I have posted here pays homage to the finale of Haydn's D Major 'London' Symphony with its main theme and the 'drone' bass in open fifths by which it is supported and set for Brahms' favourite orchestral instrument, the french horn. Brahms had himself played the horn in his early days in Hamburg. The second subject is a string theme that breaks out into triplets. These triplets develop a third theme that brings back the exposition. The movement ends with a poetic coda where the flute takes over from the horn.
The second movement, Scherzo in D Minor, reminds us of the D Minor Piano Concerto and also of the scherzo of the B Flat Major Piano Concerto. The Adagio Non Troppo third movement in B Flat Major is rich and in sonata form and evokes memories of the 'Scene by the Brook' of Beethoven's 'Pastoral'. The fourth movement is a minuet with G Major and G Minor alternates. In this, we are reminded of the original instrumentation of the serenade. The fifth movement is the second Scherzo in D Major and is again dominated by the first french horn. This reminds us of the third movement of Beethoven's Second Symphony. It has a trio in D Major with a quaver motion in the accompaniment. The finale is a rondo which bounces a lot with a refrain and expansive subsidiary themes that ultimately find their way into the french horns and trumpet bringing the Serenade to its majestic close.
An Excellent reading by Kertesz. A great conductor with a great work. Purely Pastoral. The painting brings out the emotion perfectly in the video.

Tragedie dell'Ascolto

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMXqo8d-o6E


Luigi Nono was influenced by Schoenberg and the atonal composers. He was influenced philosophically by Marxism. He has written opera of note in the late twentieth century. Prometeo is an opera described by him as a "Tragedia dell'Ascolto' (Tragedy for Listening). It was premiered at the church of San Lorenzo, Venezia on 25th September 1984 under Claudio Abbado. In the late nineties, he gave another great performance of this opera with the Berlin Philharmonic.
There is a remarkable three-part vocal fragment running as a thread through the opera. Nono enhances the natural clarity of the human voice by letting it sing on the sonorous intervals of octaves and the fourths. The tones are sustained for a long time so that it seems as if the voice only sings vowels.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

For the Love of a Princess

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fk8323r577w



A beautiful composition for the film Braveheart by James Horner with the London Symphony Orchestra. A truly haunting theme.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sospiri

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_JvCKBRpFA

I heard this today for the first time. It is beautiful.
Sospiri for Strings, Harp and Organ. Op.70. Sir Edward Elgar.
Sospiri means elegiac sighs in Italian.
It was first performed in August 1914 and shows influence of the dark times during the first world war. Elgar's wife described this as " a breath of peace in a perturbed world." The Adagio is reminiscent of Gabriel Faure in its style. The main melody enters dissonantly over the harmony and its evolving wide intervals are really evocative of sighing. The long-held final cadence resigns this sensitive and expressive adagio to serenity.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Balakirev's First Symphony in C Major


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEwJTDZy1EQ

Yesterday, I was hearing Balakirev's First Symphony in C Major performed by the USSR Symphony under Yevgeni Svetlanov.This 1971 recording rarely finds an able competitor in its nationalist reading by Svetlanov. We have Sir Thomas Beecham with the Royal Philharmonic and Herbert Von Karajan with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London giving superb performances of this symphony but Svetlanov goes beyond them. His reading is strong, ferocious and aggressive.
Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev was born into a poor clerk's family in Novgorod in 1837. He received his first lessons in music from his mother at the age of four. Balakirev's musical talents found a patron later in a nobleman, Alexander Oulibichev who had also written a biography of Wolfgang Mozart. Balakirev was first exposed to the music of Glinka, John Field and Chopin. Glinka encouraged Balakirev to pursue a career in music. Balakirev, after Glinka, is regarded as one of the 'Five' nationalist composers in Russia, the other four being Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Borodin and Cesar Cui.
Balakirev started his first symphony in C major in 1867 but completed it in 1898 when it received its first performance. He incorporated a new Russian element in his expression somewhat religious in nature in the opening Adagio of this symphony. He places a lively scherzo and trio as the second movement that is followed by a beautiful sentimental melody in the slow movement with a characteristic fluidity to the flute and woodwinds and a Slavic occidental raspiness to the brass. This is very well brought out by the USSR Symphony under Svetlanov. The finale is a compendium of merry folk themes. At one point, you could hear the brass laughing when the symphony ends on a jubilant note. This is an excellent orchestral work by Balakirev and could be regarded as one of the cracker first symphonies to be written anywhere.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Iolanta: One of the greatest one-act lyric operas

<
I have recently got this recording set. What a great lyric opera I have missed earlier! There is absolutely no reason for its obscurity. It is sheer bad luck for Tchaikovsky. This opera received its first performance at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on 18th December 1892.
The action takes place in the mountains of Southern France in the fifteenth century. This is Tchaikovsky's last opera. His other operas are Voyevoda, Undina, Enchantress, Vakula the Smith, Cherevichki,Oprichnik, Mazeppa, Pique Dame, Maid of Orleans and Yevgeny Onegin besides this.
The Director of the Imperial Theater, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, commissioned Tchaikovsky to write a one-act opera and two-act ballet in 1891. The result was Iolanta and Casse-Noisette(the Nutcracker).
Tchaikovsky was inspired by the one act play by the Danish playwright, Henrik Hertz, in 1845 called 'King Rene's Daughter'. The subject fascinated him for its poetic quality. The librettist was his brother, Modeste. Modeste worked on the translation of the Hertz play in Moscow by Vladimir Zotov.
Both the opera and the ballet were admired by Tsar Nicholas who was in the audience. Even Gustav Mahler later championed Iolanta and made it a regular opera in his repertoire.
The story is about King Rene and his blind daughter Iolanta. She is cured by the miracle working Moorish doctor, Ibn Hakia, who succeeds only when he is assured that she really wishes to be cured. Iolanta is betrothed to Prince Robert who does not love her and he is in love with Mathilde. It is the knightly Vaudemont who takes a liking to Iolanta without knowing that she is blind. When he discovers her plight, he still accepts her and motivates her to see the beauty of the creation in this life. She begins to like him and agrees to get her condition cured by Ibn Hakia.
Tchaikovsky opens the prelude to this one-act opera with a score only for winds (which was run down by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)and brass. A lovely effect is created followed by the introduction of harp and strings for the opening garden scene. The music is reminiscent of Handel (Xerxes), Brahms (second piano concerto Andante), Puccini's La Boheme and Wagner's Tristan Prelude. There is a touch of rococo style in the first few scenes. There is brilliant scoring and melodic interjection in the arias of Ibn Hakia, Robert, King Rene, Iolanta and her duet with Vaudemont. The opera concludes with a majestic contrapuntal scene including Iolanta, Ibn Hakia, King Rene, Vaudemont, Brigitta and Laura (Iolanta's friends), Bertrand (Doorkeeper), Martha ( his wife), Almeric (armour bearer to the King), Robert and chorus.
As I have mentioned earlier, I have heard this opera for the first time yesterday in this brilliant performance by the Kirov Opera and Orchestra under the splendid direction of Valery Gergiev. This is a superb production by Philips recorded in 1996. The recording is crisp and clear. An impressive CD set worthy of an addition to any opera lover's collecction and particularly of those who like the music of Tchaikovsky. This opera deserves more hearings than accorded presently in the universal operatic repertoire. This recording will deserve AAA and five star nod from me.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Cat From Hell

Stephen King's Short Story from his compilation, 'Just After Sunset'. AA.
The story is about a cat that comes from nowhere to take revenge for the atrocities committed on fifteen thousand cats in the name of an FDA approved experiment.
Halston is a hitman. He is sent by his contact to an old man in a wheelchair called Drogan.
"Who do you want hit?"
"Your victim is right behind you", says Drogan.
'Halston quickly grips the handle of the short-barrelled .45 hybrid that hung below his armpit in a spring-loaded holster that laid it in his palm at a touch. A moment later it was out and pointed at ... a cat.'
'For a moment Halston and the cat stared at each other.'
'Its face was an even split: half-black, half-white.'
"He's very friendly," Grogan said. "At first. Nice friendly pussy has killed three people in this household. That leaves only me. I am old, I am sick ... but I prefer to die in my own time."
"I can't believe this," Halston said. "You hired me to hit a cat?"
"Six thousand dollars. There will be another six when you bring me proof that the cat is dead".
Drogan is owner of Drogan Pharmaceuticals.
"In the four-year testing period which led to FDA approval of Tri-Gormal-G, about fifteen thousand cats ... uh, expired". 'Halston whistled. About four thousand cats a year. And now you think this one's back to get you, huh?'.
'Seven months ago there had been four of them here- Drogan, his sister Amanda, who at seventy-four was two years Drogan's elder, her lifelong friend Carolyn Broadmoor (of the Westchester Broadmoors,'Drogan said,'who was badly afflicted with emphysema and Dick Gage, a hired man who had been with the Drogan family for twenty years.Then the cat had come'.
'In mid-May, Gage had found Amanda Drogan lying at the foot of the main stairs in a litter of broken crockery and Little Friskies. Her eyes bulged sightlessly up at the ceiling. She had bled a great deal from the mouth and nose. They got to the head of the stairs and the cat got in front of her... tripped her...'.
'Carolyn Broadmoor was also attached to the cat. She had threatened to leave if he did, apparently.Near the end of June, she died in the night. The doctor seemed to take it as a matter of course... just came and wrote out the death certificate and that was the end of it'.
"Drogan, why don't you just have it put away? A vet would give it the gas for twenty dollars".
"On July third, I called Gage to this room and handed him a wicker basket... a picnic hamper sort of thing. Do you know what I mean? I told him to put the cat in it and take it to a vet in Milford and have it put to sleep. There was an accident on the turn-pike. The Lincoln was driven into a bridge abutment at better than sixty miles an hour. Dick Gage was killed instantly. When they found him, there were scratches on his face."
"And the cat came back?"
'Drogan nodded. "A week later. On the day Dick Gage was buried, as a matter of fact. Just like the old song says. The cat came back."
"It survived a car crash at sixty? Hard to believe."
"They say each one has nine lives. When it comes back.. that's when I started to wonder if it might not be a ... a ...."
"Hellcat?"
"For want of a better word, yes. A sort of demon sent..."
"To punish you."
'Halston smiled humourlessly. He began to stroke the sleeping cat's head and shoulders and back very gently again."All right, I accept the contract. Do you want the body?"
"No. Kill it. Bury it. Bring me the tail. So I can throw it in the fire and watch it burn."
'The cat was in a double-thickness shopping bag, tied at the top with heavy twine. The bag was in the passenger bucket seat.'
'Strange hit, Halston thought and was surprised to find that he was taking it seriously as a hit. He would park off the road beside one of these November-barren fields and take it out of the bag and stroke it and then snap its neck and sever its tail with his pocket knife.. And he thought, the body - he'll bury it honourably saving it from the scavengers. I can save it from the maggots.'
'He was thinking these things as the cat moved through the night like a dark blue ghost and that was when the cat walked in front of his eyes, up on the dashboard, tail raised arrogantly, its black-and-white face turned toward him,its mouth seeming to grin at him.'
'And suddenly the road was gone, the Plymouth was running down into the ditch, thudding up and down on its shocks. Then, second impact. And darkness.'
'It seemed to be grinning like Alice's Cheshire had in Wonderland.His arms would not move. Halston did scream, his mouth yawning open, and that was when the cat changed direction and leaped at his face, leaped at his mouth. It rammed into his mouth, a furry projectile. He gagged on it. Its front claws pinwheeled, tattering his tongue like a piece of liver. The cat was forcing its way into his mouth, flattening its body, squirming,working itself further and further in. Somehow it had gotten its entire body into his mouth. Its strange, black-and-white face must be crammed into his very throat. Protruding from his open mouth was two inches of bushy tail .. half-black, half-white. It switched lazily back and forth. It disappeared.'
'Above Halston's navel, a ragged hole had been clawed in his flesh. Looking out was the gore-streaked black-and-white face of a cat, its eyes huge and glaring.'
'The cat forced its body out and stretched in obscene languor. Then it leaped out the open window. It seemed to be in a hurry noticed a reporter from the local paper. As if it had unfinished business.'

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

N

This short story, from the compilation of Stephen King's 'Just after Sunset', is the best story from the lot and deserves AAA. It begins with a letter from Sheila Bonsaint Le Claire writing to her crush from high school days, Charlie Keen. The letter is about her brother Johnny who died under mysterious circumstances recently and his death being labelled as an 'accidental death'. Johnny was a therapist and treating a patient known in the case study file as 'N' and Sheila suspects that there are forces working here beyond her comprehension.
One of the passages in her letters reveals 'It's as if the patients' woes are a kind of acid, eating away at the psychic defenses of their therapists". She encloses a case file from the therapist for Charlie to study. The deeper part of this is that not long before Johnny's death, his patient N dies of a fall in similar conditions echoing Johnny's death. Sheila warns Charlie to burn the case file soon after studying it.
N, the patient of Johnny, was 48 years old. He was a partner in a large Portland Maine accounting firm. He was divorced and father of two daughters. He had been suffering from insomnia since the past ten months. He had recently developed an obsessive compulsive disorder that was rapidly controlling and ruining his mental peace. For example, he used to tie his laces with the left tied at the top and the right at the bottom.
He was also obsessed with numbers. "When I load the dishwasher, I count plates. If there's an even number above ten in there, all is well. If not, I add the correct number of clean ones to make it right".
Johnny Bonsaint describes his patient N as pale man being pecked to pieces by invisible birds. N asks Johnny, "Have you ever read 'The Great God Pan' by Arthur Machen ? As it's the most terrifying story ever written!"
"But Doc, are you sure? Even if it puts you at risk of winding up like I am now?"
The place that is the centrepoint of the story in case is 'Ackerman's Field'.
"I am an accountant by trade, a photographer by inclination". "Reality is a mystery, Dr. Bonsaint, and the everyday texture of things is the cloth we draw over it to mask its brightness and darkness. I think we cover the faces of corpses for the same reason. We see the faces of the dead as a kind of gate. But there are places where the cloth gets ragged and reality is thin."
"I took another four shots which makes a total of nine, another bad number, although slightly better than five and when I lowered the camera and looked again with my naked eye, I saw the faces in the hills, leering and grinning and grunting. Some human, some bestial. I counted seven stones. But when I looked into the viewfinder again, there were eight. I started to feel dizzy and scared".
"The eighth stone fucking grinned at me and its teeth were heads. Living human heads".
"something spoke. Not English. Something that sounded like,'Cthun, cthun, deeyanna, deeyanna.. but then.. Christ,then it said my name. It said,'Cthun,N,; deeyanna, N. I think I screamed, but I'm not sure, because by then the wind had become a gale that was roaring in my ears".
' In the next session, I tell him that he looks better although this is far from true". 'He prints CTHUN in large capital letters. He shows it to me and when I nod, he tears the sheet to shreds, counts the shreds - to make sure the number is even, I suppose- and then deposits them in the wastebasket near the couch.'
'I could hear the wind that sometimes blows out of there, turning in its own private cyclone. and I knew it was coming. The thing with the helmet-head. He gestures again to the scraps in the wastebasket'.
"At least I'll get a break come winter. If I make it that far".
'I called his home number when I saw the obituary. Got C, the daughter who goes to school here in Maine. She knew who I was. Talked freely'.
Johnny Bonsaint makes notes: 'I am afraid but this fear is completely irrational. Back-trailing a patient' mental illness to its source is never comfortable. I stood at the chain, asking myself if I really wanted to do this- if I wanted to trespass, not just on land that wasn't mine but on an obsessive compulsive fantasy that had very likely killed its possessor'.
'I looked at the stones dead-on. Eight.' 'It's April Fool's and the fool is me. I woke from a dream of Ackerman's Field.'
'Took longer today to make 7 into 8.' 'There it was - the thing with the helmet head, born out of living insane darkness.''The screaming faces in the stones .. CTHUN'.
Johnny Bonsaint also ends up the same way as N, falling rom Ackerman's Field in the valley below and dying. There is a twist in the end when Charlie Keen receives another letter from Sheila saying.'There's nothing out there. Just some rocks. I saw with my own eyes. I swear there's nothing out there, so stay away'. Few days later, he reads another obituary in the paper,'Woman jumps from bridge, mimics brother's suicide.'
In the epilogue, Charlie Keen is writing a note to his secretary, Chrissy, asking her to cancel all appointments for the next week. He says, 'Two old friends, brother and sister have committed suicide under peculiar circumstances.. and in the same fucking place.. I don't mean to be a Philistine about it, but there might be a story in this. On obsessive compulsive disorder. Not as big a blip on radar as cancer, maybe, but sufferers will tell you it's still some mighty scary shit.'
This short storywill haunt your imagination.