Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cinderella Ballet

This fairy tale dates back to ancient China. More than fifty variations of this tale exist. The ballet, however, covers the story we all are familiar with. This fairy tale was written by Charles Perrault. It was part of the Histoires ou Coutes du Temps Pass (Stories and Tales of the Past)which also included the Sleeping Beauty. In 1870, the Bolshoi had asked Tchaikovsky to write the music for this tale. It did not happen. Prokofiev picked up the work many decades later. He began work in 1940 but completed it in 1945 as a result of the mental equilibrium being disturbed during the Second World War. He also worked on his Opera, `War and Peace’ in those five years. The original ballet is written for 170 minutes but later Prokofiev went through cuts to make it comfortable for the performers and brought the ballet down to 115 minutes. There is an abridged version here of just eighty minutes that was performed by the Bolshoi under Yuri Feier as the Premier performance in 1945. Later, Prokofiev added another thirty five minutes from his earlier transcripts. Still, fifty minutes of the original ballet length ultimately got scrapped and it does not get performed today. The scenario for the ballet was done by Nikolai Volkov. This ballet has inspired many choreographers. Prokofiev completed his best ballet, Romeo and Juliet, in 1940. He wrote three piano suites of movements from the entire Cinderella ballet which are occasionally performed. The 115 minutes performance has been given by Andre Previn and the London Symphony.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Biggest Match Winner Overseas for India

Bhagwat Subramanya Chandrasekhar was born on 17th May 1945 at Mysore. He studied there and had a passion for cricket from a very early age. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar had a polio attack in his childhood that affected his arms but he turned his handicap into an advantage. Taking a long run up and bouncing before he delivered, he bowled fast and sharp googlies and venomous top spinners at almost a medium pace of about a hundred kilometres an hour from the back of his hand with a whiplash action. He was a right hand bat and a leg break bowler. He used his wrist, flexing it any way he wanted. He could not throw the ball with his right hand. He could only bowl with it. He threw with his left hand. He played 58 tests scoring 167 runs with a highest score of 22 that was considered alright for a tail ender but he was always considered a rabbit with the bat. He took 242 test wickets. His best bowling was 8/79. He played only one fifty over match against New Zealand. He played 246 first class matches and took 1,063 wickets. He made his test debut on 21st January 1964 against England at Bombay. He played his last test also against England at Birmingham on 16th July 1979. He played first class cricket from 1963 to 1980. He played for Karnataka. Indian team was starved for a win abroad as it took forty two years to register their first win overseas. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar was the man who was very helpful in getting them those victories. He picked up forty two wickets in just five tests in that fateful year of 1971. He was a totally unpredictable bowler. Batsmen were all at sea against him. Once he was asked in an interview as to how he planned his attack and he replied saying that he himself did not know about what he would bowl next. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar was erratic at times with his bowling but among the famous spin quartet, it was he that bowled the maximum number of unplayable deliveries. His remarkable bowling performance at the Oval test in 1971 when he took 6/38 got India its first series win in England. Later on, in 1978, he was also instrumental in getting India its first win in Australia by taking 12/104 in the Melbourne Test. With slow medium pace bowlers in the side, he was often the fastest bowler in the Indian team. He turned the ball both ways with a decent pace. In the 1975 Test against West Indies at Calcutta, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi persisted with him and though he was smashed for many fours by Clive Lloyd, he still managed to bowl him and ultimately won the test for India. Though he managed to get 22 as his highest score, he always struggled as a batsman. During the 1978 tour, the Australian team gave him a bat with a hole in the middle as a memento and he enjoyed the joke being mild in nature. A decade after he retired, he was involved in a bad car accident that left both his legs injured critically. He moves around in a wheelchair now. He is a fan of Hindi film music and likes the singing of Mukesh particularly. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar became one of the most successful leg spin bowlers in the history of cricket. He considered Ken Barrington as the best batsman he had bowled to. Sir Vivian Richards considered Dennis Lillee and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar as the most difficult bowlers he had ever faced.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Puppet on a Chain

I have read this book after forty four years. Man! Did I miss a great read so far?! Alistair MacLean had style and wrote with a sophisticated art of spinning webs in his narration. This book could be the motivating precursor to the French Connection series that became popular with Gene Hackman and Fernando Rey. Major Paul Sherman is an interesting character from Interpol. He, along with Alistair Maclean, has a fair understanding of good classical music as he identifies all the strains on the candy machine music boxes. It is surprising, though, that MacLean never takes him for at least one visit to the famous Concertgebouw, the House of the Amsterdam Orchestra that grew up mostly with Maestro Bernard Haitink. Maclean could have easily inserted a scene of the Concertgebouw during his narration of this exciting tale. The famous `Puppet on a Chain' is the one resembling Astrid Lemay, a pivotal character in the book. People call Maclean the master of action and suspense. There is no doubt about it as you read this book. It is a Classic by all means. I will give it a AA (Four and a Half Stars)and recommend it to all readers of good fiction. Paul Sherman is from the Narcotics Bureau of Interpol. He is on the trail of a drug lord in Amsterdam. Maclean builds up the plot very skillfully. He writes about Amsterdam in such a fashion that you feel that you are there yourself in the city, seeing those high houses and those famous canals as you walk through the eyes of Sherman. You don't just walk there; you come across police cars, racing taxis, women in trouble, pyschos, puppets, drug junkies and ,above all, murder. Alistair Maclean was the son of a Scottish minister. He spent his childhood days in the Scottish Highlands. He enrolled in the Royal Navy in 1941. Post Second World War, he taught English at the Glasgow University and became a schoolmaster. He spent over a couple of years aboard a wartime cruiser and a submarine. It does not come as a surprise that his first novel was about a submarine, `HMS Ulysses', followed years later by another masterpiece, `Ice Station Zebra'. He met with considerable success with his `HMS Ulysses'. It was written and circulated in 1955. After that book, he has penned twenty eight more bestsellers in the world; this is one of those. Many other books of his have been turned into exciting films like this book such as `The Guns of Navarone' and `Where Eagles Dare'. You may not come across the gadgetry of Bond (Fleming)in the books of Maclean or the ingenuine finesse of a Bourne (Ludlum)in Sherman but you do have a tale spun around an interesting character that comes across as an intelligent sleuth conveying a credible sense of a menacing danger across to the modern readers.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C # Major

I love this concerto. I hail it as one of the greatest piano concertos of the modern era. It is a difficult concerto to perform and a delightful one at the same time. I have heard many versions of this concerto but today I heard Lang Lang and had no hesitation in holding this reading with Paavo Jarvi and L'Orchestre de Paris as the definitive one. Serge Prokofiev wrote this is in 1912.