Thursday, March 22, 2018

SYMPHONY OF LIFE...A MELODIC RHAPSODY






Dimitri Shostakovich


 
The Three Tenors...with Maestro, Zubin Metha at the helm





(Unintentionally, I appear to be carrying on the musical theme from my previous post...my St. Patrick's Day post)


Bread is the staff of life it has been said.  In Asia more than trice – the advice has been - rice is the staff of life.  In Ireland, spuds were the staff of life until the potato famine blighted the landscape in the 1840s. 

Music, too, is the staff of life.  Music played a key role in my childhood; music of all genres from classical and opera, through to jazz, country, pop and rock ‘n roll, and all in between.

Our piano held pride of place in our home. Used daily, it wasn’t a piece of furniture sitting idly, just for show.  The piano wasn’t our only music source. 

Daily, the radio air waves were filled with the magnificent voices of Caruso, Lanza, McCormack, Tucker, Gigli, Donald Shanks, Donald Smith, John Charles Thomas, ,Jussi Björling, Jan Peerce etc. The ladies - Price, Callas, De Los Angeles, Sutherland, Tebaldi and others sang along, as well.

And then later, I was wooed and readily fell under the spell of the truly wonderful Luciano Pavarotti, and his co-conspirators, Guiseppe Stefano, Placido Domingo, Josế Carreras, Andrea Boccelli and others.   Willingly, I remain enraptured. 

Instrumental classical and romantic symphonies performed by the world’s best orchestras painted musical pictures in my mind, transporting me to a fantasy world filled with beauty and emotion.   Such wondrous music still affects me so.

The staff is the fundamental latticework of music notation upon which the quaver sits a-quivering. The crochet, the little hook, rests briefly in silence until a few strings are attached; then it can turn into a semi, a demi or a hemi. It can become a semihemidemisemi quaver, or even – God forbid - if it isn’t careful, a demisemihemidemisemiquaver! 

Common accidentals occur, too, like having a flat.  If you don’t dodge a sharp you could have a double flat.  It becomes more complicated if you land a flat-and-a-half.  Without warning, a sharp-and-a-half happens. 

The cause of my current apparent insanity is - I’ve just finished bingeing on the quirky, intoxicating, captivating, heart-warming series, “Mozart in the Jungle”.   When I finished watching the four seasons, I suffered a case of severe withdrawals.

An encore was urgently needed, so I immediately attended to that need...I am now re-watching ‘Mozart in the Jungle”, and episode or two a day.  I’m enjoying the series, if not even more, the second time around.  For me, I believe the series could end up being on continuous replay.  Without embarrassment I admit I am hooked.  

I'm also hooked on the Mexican actor, Gael Garcia Bernal, who plays the lead role of "Rodrigo De Souza", the Maestro in the unique series.   What a wonderful character he is. Small of frame, he's larger than life.

Music, Maestro, please! Let’s continue the tone.

The daily classical music programmes on the radio during my childhood played an instrumental part in my listening pleasures. 

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 in B flat minor is no minor piece. Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat major Op. 73 is major, but definitely not flat.  Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade excites. 
 
Joining the throng were Chopin, Haydn, Mahler, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Wagner, Prokofiev, Debussy; the Strauss family e.g. Johann (1,11and 111), Richard, Eduard, Josef waltzed in – the Liszt goes on and on. It’s hard to get a Handel on everyone of them!  Puccini sent Madame Butterfly to stop Ravel from unravelling.  Dimitri Shostakovich entered the scene with a clash of the cymbals, upsetting Stalin and his mob of communist thugs in the Soviet Union.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 34 is as brilliant as Nos. 1, 5, 31, 38, 40, 41, and all in between. So are his concertos – piano, violin and woodwind - particularly when conducted by the prodigious, world-renowned Indian conductor – Maestro Extraordinaire - Zubin Mehta.

In the early 70s, as a member of the audience at Brisbane’s Her Majesty’s Theatre, I was in awe of the marvellous voice of Bundaberg-born tenor, Donald Smith. 

Smith began his career on Radio 4BU in the 1940s; oddly enough, singing country songs.

Donald Smith was a natural tenor who went on to sing opera, not only in Australia, but also overseas at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Donald Smith received rave reviews everywhere he performed. Adoring fans flocked to see him each time he appeared at the Sydney Opera House. 

The evening I witnessed Smith’s sublime performance in “Cavalleria Rusticana” you could’ve heard a pin drop.  When he sang “Vesti la giubba”, the famous aria from Leoncavallo’s two-act opera, “Pagliacci”, you could’ve heard a feather drop. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house.  Unashamedly, I admit mine weren’t. 

Sonata Bites: Preheat oven to 281C/425F. Cover base of baking sheet with foil. Brush over 1tbs olive oil to cover entire pan. Slice 1 kumara/sweet potato into ¼-inch slices. Place slices onto the sheet.  Pour 1tbs olive oil into a small dish, using a brush, brush tops of sweet potato slices with the oil. Lightly season with salt. Bake in oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven; gently flip the sweet potatoes slices over. Place back in oven; bake an additional 5-7 mins. Remove; set aside.

To prepare the Guacamole: Add flesh of 4 small avocados, 1/4c coriander/cilantro, 2-3tbs lime juice, 1-1/2tbs red wine vinegar, 1/2tsp chilli/red pepper flake to a food processor; season to taste. Lightly pulse until smooth. Set aside. To prepare the Chipotle Prawns: In a small bowl, add 450g green (raw) peeled, de-veined large prawns, 1/2tsp smoked paprika, 1/2tsp ground cumin, salt, cracked pepper and chipotle chilli powder. Toss to coat prawns in the seasoning blend. Heat a large pan to med-high heat. Add 1tbs olive oil to pan; then add prawns. Cook 2-3 mins per side.  Assemble the bites. Top each sweet potato slice with a dollop of guacamole, one prawn; garnish with fresh corn.  Serve.....A melody on the palate.

Italian Easter Bread: Have 1-1/2c peeled, boiled and riced potatoes on hand. Dissolve 2-1/4tsp dry yeast in 1c lukewarm milk. Add 1tbs sugar; stir. Set aside 10 mins. Whisk 5 room- temp eggs at med-speed until frothy, 3-4 mins. Gradually add1c sugar; whisk another 3-4mins. Whisk in 1/2c veg oil and zest of 1 orange. Combine yeast with riced potatoes; add to eggs; whisk at low speed. Add 3c plain flour; mix on low speed, 1min. Switch to dough hook; add 3c plain flour. Mix 5-8mins until smooth and elastic; or you can knead by hand. Line large baking sheet with paper.  Place dough in lightly greased bowl; turn dough to coat with the grease. Let rise until doubled in size.  Punch dough (you beast!). Cover, let rise until doubles in size. Punch dough again; divide into 6 portions. Place on baking sheet; cover with tea towel; let rise, 30-50mins.  Brush loaves with egg wash. Bake in preheated 175C oven, 25-30mins. Cool on wire racks.

Italian Fried Rice: Warm large pan over med-heat; add 2tbs x-virgin olive oil; when warm, add 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves and pinch of chilli flakes. Sauté 30-60 secs; add 1 punnet halved cherry tomatoes, ½ bunch fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces, 1 or 2c thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms; season; about 5-6mins; add a few fresh basil leaves, sliced; sauté until wilted. Add 3-4cs cooked short grain brown rice, 2-3c chopped leafy greens, like spinach and kale, stems removed; season; sauté until rice is warmed through and greens wilted. Optional...serve with grated Parmesan or Pecorino, poached or fried egg and/or toasted, chopped nuts.

Bittersweet Symphony: Combine 45ml strawberry-flavoured vodka, pureed fresh strawberries and 90ml lemonade in tall ice-filled glass; garnish with a strawberry. 

33 comments:

  1. My knowledge of classical music is very limited. I like the sound of Italian Easter Bread and I think it was go nicely with a Bittersweet Symphony.

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    1. Hey there, Andrew. Each of us have our individual likes and dislikes etc. Music, as I've written, in its many forms and configurations, has always been a love of mine. My life wouldn't be the same without it playing its part.

      Here's cheers with a Bittersweet Symphony! :)

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  2. music and life, once I was driving my mom to chemotherapy treatments, it was a stormy day in the San Francisco bay area and classical music playing on the radio mimicked the storm. my mom asked me if I thought she'd be ok and at that moment a white bird flew over my car and i said to her, see that white bird, that is a sign, a white bird means you'll be ok and live years and years after this; and she did indeed; sometimes music and nature are a sign of the future.

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    1. Ahhhhh....your comment warms my heart, Linda. As I type my response I am misty-eyed.

      What a wonderful moment you shared with your mother...and what wonderful years you shared with her after that special, special moment.

      Thank you so very much for sharing this...and thank you for coming by. :)

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  3. Music, food, literature - aren't we lucky that there are so many variations on the theme. Something for us all.

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    1. Yes, we are fortunate, EC...and must remember to take advantage the joys that take our fancy.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  4. Lee, I have never heard of Mozart in the Jungle, sounds interesting though (looked it up)
    I do like some classical music :) my late parents bought me a piano years ago so I could learn to play - did my degrees, parents sold the piano and bought me another new one several years ago now which I do play once in awhile and it's usually classical music :)

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    1. Hey there, Margaret..."Mozart in the Jungle" is a wonderful series, in my opinion...not only in my opinion. It's appeal has reached millions of viewers. It's different...it's pure joyful entertainment filled with wonderful characters...and most particular, the little Engeriser Bunny...the Maestro, Rodrigo De Souza". :)

      I had five years of piano lessons...and did well in all my exams, but I've not played for many years.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  5. Classical music mostly leaves me cold. Opera singing has me running for the door. I really, truly, can't listen for more than a minute.

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    1. Hi River....I can't understand how anyone can be left cold from classical music or opera...both are so beautiful; both are filled with so much emotion.

      However, as I so often say...we are all different. And even though I may not understand your dislike either...I respect your feelings towards both. I do know music plays a big part in your life...obviously just not that of the classical and opera forms.

      In saying the above, I am glad I enjoy both. I find both very stirring. I have a catholic taste in music...it covers all genres.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. I took a classical music class in college - I don't remember much - but I loved it - and I loved it because the teacher LOVED it so much.

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    1. Hi Sandie...That always helps in one's appreciation, if the teacher is passionate about what he or she is teaching.

      Our mother and grandmother both loved music, and they opened our minds to all types of music. When learning the piano, I was taught classical pieces.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  7. Amomg the male vocalists you've mentioned in your post , Luciano Pavarotti takes the trophy. He was definitely something else. Strange, but I can't name a female vocalist that was "something else". (By the way, in my childhood I dreamt of becoming an opera singer).
    To this day, opera is for me the highest form of cultural performance as it includes both: music and acting.

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    1. G'Day, DUTA. I love Pavarotti. His voice was truly magnificent...and I loved his sparkling, mischievous brown eyes.

      The women I mentioned, to me are "something else". Listening to Callas sing "One Fine Day" from "Madam Butterfly" - or Joan Sutherland...her voice was stupendous.

      I agree with you final sentence...so very true.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  8. Hi Lee, I remember my grandad buying me a Mario Lanza record at a time when Slade were all the rage. How does that work? It’s good to hear his voice again, even so.

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    1. Hi Terry....My brother and I never missed a Lanza movie when we were kids. We loved him very much. I still have an LP of his here somewhere amongst my many LPs. He died so young at 38 years. He was wonderful as Caruso in the movie "The Great Caruso".

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  9. My knowledge of classical music is very limited ...but I LOVE it !

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    1. Hey there, Helsie...Yep! There is something wonderfully special about classical music. I love it, too. I find it very emotional. It matters not if one knows much about the history of it, every nuance etc.,....to appreciate its beauty and magnificence is knowledge and satisfaction enough. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  10. Since a child with my parents and beyond with children of my own and now grandchildren I am so pleased to say that music has always been in my life. Where would we be without music, books, art ...

    That piece with The Three Tenors, and yes, Maestro, Zubin Metha at the helm is just THE BEST

    Loved your recipe for Sonata Bites too.

    Have a great week ahead - Easter is just around the corner.

    My good wishes

    All the best Jan

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    1. Hey there, Jan. I can't imagine life without music, books and art, Each plays its own, unique most important role, in my opinion.

      What an awesome trio the Three Tenors were! Listening to them never ceases to enthrall.

      To my surprise Placido Domingo turned up on one episode of "Mozart in the Jungle"...playing himself. It was a wonderful surprise!

      Thanks for coming in...and the same good wishes back to you. :)

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  11. I remember reading somewhere that music and flowers make up the best childhood...I can't remember the exact quote but you get the idea! For me, those two things were the best of my childhood. We always had flowers and my Dad bought a piano for us, even though none of us could play. Luckily, my older sister took to it very well, and I grew up listening to her play. Once, as a birthday present for myself, I asked her to play all the songs in her "Waltz" songbook. I still think that was one of the best presents ever. Music IS forever!

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    1. Hi, Kay....as you can see...this is the reason I said on your blog we are of like mind ...re music. :)

      How wonderful that birthday wish was..and even more wonderful that it was granted. A cherished memory, for sure...one not many other would have...not one like that. A lovely story, Kay.

      Thanks for coming by...you've put a smile on my face. :)

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  12. I admire your ability to play around with words for fun and I admire the fact that in your youth you gained such a wide musical education. In comparison, I feel quite ignorant.

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    1. G'day, Yorkie...I thought you'd deserted me because you'd not passed comment for a few weeks. I was beginning to think I'd said something that caused you offence. Hopefully, that is not so.

      Money was tight when I was a child, but access to gain knowledge about most things, including all genres of music was encouraged. Neither cost very much. My late brother, Graham and I enjoyed the fruits of such access, appreciating what we were being introduced to, and carrying that appreciation forth.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. I would ne'er desert thee fair damsel. I know it's only online through blogging but I consider you to be a good friend even though we sometimes clash swords and a few sparks fly.

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    3. That is good to know. Our sparring is all done in jest. :)

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  13. Just so happens I have some sweet potatoes and was looking for a recipe that used them. Thank you! I am glad you get such a lot out of great music. I'm listening to a series of Daniel Barenboim on Beethoven sonatas, filmed from so close up. the movements of his hands and body help to interpret the music too.

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  14. How wonderful...Barenboim has such fleet fingers...and a gentle touch when necessary...magnificent. A true maestro at the keyboard...as a conductor. He was a child prodigy. Such natural talent generously shared with the world.

    I love sweet potatoes and have just cut some up to roast along with other vegetables for my lunch today...roast chicken and roast vegies. :)

    Thanks for coming by, Jenny. :)

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  15. Sonata Bites and Bittersweet Symphony. How perfect for the post.
    I love all musical instruments but the piano and the wood flute are my favorites.
    I'm sure the musicians would smile to know they gave you such pleasure.
    Great post, Lee.

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    1. Hi Sandra....I adore the drums, too...always have. Love, love, love the drums! :)

      I'm glad you enjoyed my post, Sandra...that's always pleasing to hear.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  16. I keep putting off watching the latest season of Mozart in the Jungle - I want to savor it. Maybe I'll start today!

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    1. Hey, Lynn...I'm going around again...second time around...one or two episodes a day...and loving it even more the second time around. It's a wonderful, absolutely wonderful series, filled with equally wonderful characters...and, of course, music.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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