Lenin’s Finger

The Design Museum’s Imaginary Moscow exhibition recalls a lot of points from the Royal Academy’s Revolutionary Art exhibition that I’d attended the week before; suprematist inkwells, ‘Those who do not work do not eat’ porcelain or the film of the destruction of Moscow’s cathedral to build the Palace of the Soviets (although the film of the freezing cold swimming pool Brezhnvev converted the aborted construction project into is new). A suprematist children’s book featuring the adventures of two squares is also something of a novelty.

This exhibition dwells on unbuilt aspects of Moscow; the Palace itself (including a fullsize model of the finger from the Lenin statue),  designs for Lenin’s mausoleum, the Lenin institute, communal housing and government buildings. Architectural blueprints from Lissitzky and Melnikov are punctuated by suprematist drawings from Popova and propaganda posters. Leonidov’s Lenin Institute and Lissitzy’s Cloud Iron designs are utopian gravity-defying designs that would be challenging now, while Vesnin’s Commissariat of Heavy Industry and Iofan’s Palace are much more similar to buildings that were actually constructed at the time (in concept if not in scale). The designs for Lenin’s Mausoleum are rather more fantastical given that many of those submitting designs worked in professions like carpentry; in one such concept Lenin is precariously balanced on top of a large globe surmounting the building. A film showing all of the planned construction in Moscow sits alongside Aelita Queen of Mars, and much of it does indeed look like a set of model for a science fiction film.

Afterwards, I walk round Holland Park, looking at the lovely Kyoto and Dutch gardens; the waters in the pond are perfectly clear and carp can be seen swimmingly lazily about below. I also run into a squirrel and encounter a peacock before walking down the Thames to Albert Bridge and then back to Victoria.

The following week I go to the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition. As one might surmise the interest is as much in a social history than in art; items include the fatal calling card from the Marquess of Queensbury (unsurprisingly his handwriting was as terrible as his spelling), physique magazines, Wilde’s cell door, stills from Victim, Noel Coward’s dressing gown, a copy of the Wolfenden report and (most entertainingly) a set of over two hundred buttons collected as trophies from guardsman a gay couple had slept with. Much of the exhibition dwells on theatreland and music hall; there are probably few exhibitions where photos of historical drag acts sit alongside the Bloomsbury Group.

The exhibition begins in the Victorian period with Simeon Solomon, Edward Leighton and Henry Scott Tuke; I’d previously been unaware that Evelyn de Morgan’s relationship with Jane Hales is often interpreted as like that of Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal, with Jane’s face recurring on paintings like that of Aurora, shown here. Interpretation plays greatly here; if Meteyard’s painting of Love in Bondage was not intended as an allegory of forbidden love, it gains that interpretation by the association of its context here. Equally, figures like Semele and Endymion take on a same-sex aspect purely due to Solomon’s androgynous rendering (which is not intrinsically all that different to someone like Burne Jones) rather than by the specific subject matter. Even so, it’s often a rather mournful section; a Solomon drawing shows a male bridegroom holding the hand of his melancholy lover behind his back as he embraces his bride. A cup is dedicated ‘on the mournful occasion of his transition into matrimony.’

In a lot of cases, the gay element is the subject rather than the artist; the next room features paintings of Edward Carpenter and Havelock Ellis along with a series of beautifully elaborate miniatures designed for a lesbian couple (one of the many reminders that while figures like Solomon and Wilde loom large so many people quietly lived, loved and passed away unremarked). Two portraits of Radclyffe Hall and Oscar Wilde stand near one another. Both are dressed similarly but where the Wilde portrait is a full length depiction of a confident and successful man (auctioned after his disgrace), Hall’s is more emphatic. She looks away from the viewer and her expression is somber. Much of the exhibits are much defiantly pagan; Beardsley’s Yellow Book illustrations, Cecil Beaton’s glittering photos of figures like Stephen Tennant through to Duncan Grant’s paintings of bathers.  A painting of Laura Knight painting a female nude is another example of the layers of meaning being accrued to a work rather than something inherent in it, in contrast to the more explicit intention behind a similar nude by Dora Carrington.

I’m surprised to see examples of Halliwell and Orton’s legendary defaced library books and equally surprised by how funny they are; there’s also one of Halliwell’s paintings. For all his reputation as an artistic failure, it’s rather good. Finally, the later sections are taken by with Hockney and Bacon alongside less well known artists like Keith Vaughan, John Minton and John Craxton. The Minton paintings particularly interest me; I also like some of John Deakin’s photographs of London’s gay scene, from Francis Bacon to a woman dressed as a drag queen, Afterwards, I go to the David Gwinnutt photos at the National Portrait Gallery, extending the same theme into the eighties. I also note one of Grayson’s Perry’s drawings; Map of Days. It uses a medieval town map as a model for mental states, including pastiches of a range of architectural styles. Not sure I’ve liked all of Perry’s work, but I like this.

Corbet’s Childhood of a Leader is something of an oddity; an attempt at depicting the childhood of a future fascist leader during the drafting of the Versailles treaty. Some of the incidents used echo actual events (Mussolini would throw stones at a church in his childhood just like his proxy here) but the comfortably bourgeois background as the son of an establishment diplomat looks little like those of Hitler, Stalin or Mussolini, who all came from rather more lower class milieu. The abstraction is something of a problem; it doesn’t really tell us much about the likes of Franco or Mosley and doesn’t really seem to apply well to contemporary demagogues either; it would work as well as a frame for a serial killer film as for the purposes devised for it here. The film intends to show how power changes depending on the social status involved, with this being paralleled to the peace conference; the sacking of an elderly servant forming one of the key events.  Nonetheless, the film mostly stresses the personality traits that go into the development of such a mentality and decentres social or economic elements (perhaps this is rather welcome given the contemporary tendency to stress the former above all else). The film is loosely based on a Sartre story showing such a scenario in Freudian terms; The boy’s infatuation with his tutor turns to anger when he discovers her alone with his father; the plot does deviate from the straightforward Freudian line when  his conspiracy against both of them to end in an act of violence against his mother whose absence had previously given him nightmares.  The child’s feminine appearance is often commented on (with the boy’s long hair he looks a lot like Bjorn Anderson in the film of Death in Venice). The use of the same actor to depict both a family friend and the adult dictator (this time with his hair entirely cropped) further suggests the issue of paternity is complicated.

I get taken to a couple of plays as well; firstly, The Miser at The Garrick. Played as a straightforward farce with plenty of topical references (trickle down economics, boom and bust) and audience interaction (mostly to an unnamed banker in the front row), it works very well. A pointed reference to the Guardian’s three star review (on the grounds that all the characters were played as grotesques, not just the Miser) doesn’t really diminish this. By contrast, Salome at the National Theatre is plain dire; the staging is often very imaginative (as a character walks along a ladder into the light or as a curtain of sand falls in the background) but even the incessant wailing in the background and the turning of the circular stage are just plain annoying but its turned from an exercise in eroticism into rather trite political agitprop.

Advertisements

Strange Matters

The week after the vote I find myself in Oxford for a Philomusica performance at the Sheldonian. I walk around parts of Oxford, looking at the new Blavatnik Building and Bio-chemistry buildings. From the performance I especially liked Bartok’s Romanian Dances, Soloviev-Sedoi’s Moscow Nights and Paganini’s Caprice No. 24.

The following weekend and I’m in London for a performance of Macbeth at The Globe. First, I visit the Tate’s new Switch House. The building is an oddity; a brick extrusion from the original power station that lurches out at odd angles. It looks like some sort of strange growth, towering over the glass and steel thickets of luxury housing around it. The interior is perhaps a bit more nondescript, with many of its floors closed to the public. The viewing platform at the top offers unusual views over the city; looking out over half-completed skyscrapers I find myself wondering how many of them will actually be finished now. Signs not to disturb the neighbours are placed around the platform; presumably in response to complaints from resident oligarchs in the buildings below. The Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition at the Tate is rather wonderful. O’Keeffe frequently expressed irritation with sexual interpretations of her flower paintings or attempts to read death symbolism into her animal skull paintings. The implication in both cases is that she was simply interested in their geometry and colour rather than their interpretation. And yet, aside from early synaesthetic paintings dedicate to visualising music, very little of her work is purely abstract. Instead it is rooted in a series of highly specific regions; New England’s forests and oceans,  Manhattan skyscrapers, New Mexican ravines and pueblo churches.

The performance at The Globe is well acted but not brilliantly directed.  The sisters are shown veiled, their parts sung as a chorus rather than spoken. This works well but the soundtrack often drown out the performance and the use of puppetry to suggest the supernatural borders on the bathetic. Parts are often excessively ad-libbed with contemporary jokes. Macbeth is given an unscripted child who appears sat at the end on Malcolm’s throne; I rather preferred the Fassbinder film and its switching to Fleance at the end. This year’s Proms visit begin with Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Rossini’s Barber of Seville. The Rossini is interesting for breaking a ‘fifth wall’ between performers and orchestra; as when the conductor pauses to correct Bartolo’s singing. Seated for the latter, I noticed how bad the hall’s acoustics were; whenever a performer turned away I stopped being able to hear them. The next performance is Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet Symphony; something of a fragmented piece with parts narrated by a semi-chorus, instrumental sections and a more dramatic finale.

A following weekend and back in London for an exhibition of Georgiana Houghton’s spiritualist drawings at the Courtauld Gallery.  Something of an oddity, it strikes me as a mid-point between William Blake (mostly the detailed annotations on the back of each work) and Kandinsky (given that Houghton is essentially creating abstraction in the interests of showing the other side of the veil). The paintings range from flowers (serving as a spirit avatar) to abstract works that occasionally incorporate realistic elements (the eye of God or, more bizarrely,  a portrait of the then Princess Victoria). After that, I head off to the Newport Street Gallery. I’m mostly interested in the building’s architecture, with its sweeping spiral staircases. The Jeff Koons exhibition is a less enthralling prospect, although some of the silver statues and sculptures are quite intriguing.

With a few days off, I visit Kew Gardens and Chelsea Physic Garden. For the former, I visit the interior of Kew Palace for the first time, the Henry Moore sculpture, Kew church, Princess Charlotte’s Cottage and the views from nearby across the Thames to Syon Park. For the latter, there’s a display of Wardian cases near to a tea plant along with details of the medical properties of the garden’s Cannabis display. The Pomegranate tree near the entrance was fruiting; sadly no Mandrakes in season at this time though.

Lastly, I visit Hockney’s exhibition of 82 portraits and a still life at the Royal Academy. The still life shows a group of fruits arranged after a sitter was unable to attend; probably a rather more innocuous version of the blacking of Marino Faliero’s painting in the Doge’s palace. The portraits are all cast against a set of themed backgrounds in blue and green, with the subjects sat on a yellow chair.  Colourful clothing like red dresses and purple shirts completes the colour spectrum. Most of the paintings clearly form part of a common set, but some stand out; the way Edith Devaney leans forward towards the viewer, Barry Humphrey’s arch pose or the way Celia Birtwell is painted sideways while sat on the edge of her chair. The drafting style is loose and it often seems best to stand away from the paintings and look at them as a group rather than inspecting individual details.

Easter

I begin this Easter I drive up to Compton Verney for its Canaletto in Britain exhibition. I recall a lot of the paintings from a similar exhibition at Dulwich a few years back but it still impresses; areas like Greenwich and Horse Guards Parade emerge as rather quiet and pastoral locations in contrast to the dense packing of buildings onto London Bridge. Other paintings show a lost London (the Ranelagh Rotunda or Vauxhall Gardens) or one that never was, as with Marlow’s painting of St Paul’s relocated to Venice.

Back in Staffordshire, I visit the church at Clifton Campville with its alabaster monuments before visiting the Brockhampton estate in Herefordshire. I also visit the church of St George at Brinsop, with its combination of medieval stained glass. designs by Ninian Comper and a medieval tympanum & green man. I also visit the church of Saint Mary at Madley,which has an extraordinary set of medieval stained glass windows. On the subject of stained glass, I realise that the Herkenroode stained glass has been reinstated at Lichfield Cathedral; the interior of the Lady Chapel certainly seems a lot lighter than I remember it from before the glass was restored,

Lastly, I spend a day visiting Derbyshire, staring with Hardwick Hall. I’d forgotten how lovely the collection of tapestries and rugs inside it is, but it does seem a pity that a building notable for its large glass windows has to be kept shrouded in darkness with drawn curtains in order to protect them. I’s also forgotten the wonderful wood carving on the furniture, with table legs formed as sea dogs. I then travel onto Eyam, where I visit the church with its Celtic cross, plague memorial window and graveyard suffused with buttercups. Nearby Eyam Hall proves to be full of curiosities; a poem etched into one of the windows, a tapestry room and a weird pair of bacon settles in the hall.

Back down south,  I decide to revisit Canterbury, mostly so that I can see the place for myself rather than at the whims of a tour guide. This time I’m able to see a bit more of the cathedral, including the cloisters, chapter house and the frescos of St Hubert. I’m also able to visit the ruins of Augustine Abbey and the church of St Martin, as well as the remains of Canterbury Castle. On the way back, I’ve booked tickets for a performance of King John at the Temple Church in London. The performance takes place in candlelight, with a stage having been erected in the middle of the nave. John is shown as a rather weak and indecisive figure than as being ‘determined to prove a villain.’ The absence of a dominant central protagonist gives a degree of unpredictability to events, as with the unexpected deaths of Arthur, Eleanor and ultimately John himself. I also go to see Tom Morton Smith’s Oppenheimer at the Vaudeville Theatre; it does occur to me that I don’t think I’ve ever see a play performed in a West End theatre before. The theatre does come over as having seen better day. The play rather reminds me of a film or documentary; the narrative suddenly flashbacks between different times without the actors leaving the stage while images of atoms are projected onto the stage, effectively providing a form of special effects. The play even has its own soundtrack.

At the British Museum a few weeks later, I visit its exhibition of Greek sculpture. This contrasts original Greek sculptures (the Discobolus of  Myron, the Westmacott Youth and the Parthenon sculptures by Phidias, for example) with replicas of Greek sculpture as it originally appeared, such as a gilded statue of Athena which shines out against the darkness. Nude depictions of Greek warriors counterpoint to more puritanical Assyrian depictions. The Sonia Delaunay exhibition at the Tate rather reminds me of their previous exhibitions on Malevich and Rodchenko; like them Delaunay works in many different media, with the exhibition including bookshelves, mosaics, curtains, book bindings, dresses and home furnishings as well as her painting. Much of the work also demonstrates a lot of the familiar tropes of the time; partial abstraction in which figures like singers and dancers blur into light and movement or more full abstract work based around electric lights (circular patterns called electric prisms – it rather reminds me of Klee’s magic squares) – the most orginal pieces are the mural she created for the International exposition, based around aircraft parts. Painted in bright blues and yellows and overlaid with blueprints, it’s quite unlike most of her work. I also enjoy the Eric Ravilious exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Much of the watercolours on display are pastoral, but it’s a heavily qualified version; ruined buses and dilapidated caravans rest in England’s green and pleasant fields. Unsurprisingly his war work strongly shows this tension with many paintings of ships and fighter plans but also frankly picturesque depictions of the locations he was sent to. Lastly, I also go to the Impressionism exhibition at the National Gallery; being primarily about the art dealer who backed the impressionists it does accordingly rather lack focus; I find myself rather disliking Renoir’s sentimental paintings of children and much preferring his dance paintings, surprised by a Manet painting of a naval battle and liking Sisley and Monet’s landscapes (especially of Dutch windmills and of the Houses of Parliament).

Another weekend, and I visit the Sky Garden on Fenchurch Street. It’s a rather grey and dull day, so the visibility is somewhat limited; one one side the only comparable building is the Shard while on the other a few buildings like the Gherkin compete. The garden at the summit with its assemblage of ferns seems rather odd, like something out of a film.

Lastly, I visit Oxford to see a couple of exhibitions at the Ashmolean. This is mostly for a set of Gilray prints. As often with Gilray I’m struck by how his preferences vary; for the most part his work is anti-whig propaganda, but he equally turns his fire on Pitt, while his attitude towards the royal family is hardly that of a conventional Tory. There’s also an exhibition of British drawing, including Ravilious, Nash, Sutherland, Piper, Ruskin, Holman-Hunt, Hamilton-Mortimer, Turner, Beardsley, Rossetti,  Rowlandson and Francis Barlow.  I have a bit of time before the return train, so I go for a walk along the Oxford canal.

London Preserv’d

As summer sunshine gives way to thunderstorms and vice versa, I travel to the Tate Modern to see the Matisse exhibition. I arrive a little early and walk along the Thames shore for a while; I notice that much of the materials that make up the beach are items like old bricks that have been rounded and worn but also that the amount of animal bone is extraordinary, with as many bones littering the shore as there are shells. Once inside, the Matisse exhibition straddles arts and crafts with works designed as wall ornaments (often using leaves as a pattern; William Morris would have approved), stained glass windows as well as book covers and illustrations. In fact, the decorative element works well as the cut-out technique used lacks sufficient precision for the representational; the works become an exercise in the serendipitous like Pollock’s dripped paint; Matisse is recorded as saying that he disliked the cut-outs being turned into prints due to the loss of the physical character when the layers of paper are flattened.

Afterwards, I go for a walk along the Thames before arriving at The Globe for a performance of Antony and Cleopatra. I have to admit to not being overwhelmed; the performance makes too much of the comic aspects of the play (the best performance is easily that of Phil Daniels as Enobarbus, who acts the leads offstage) and understates the tragic and fails to make full use of The Globe’s intimate space to create anything distinctive. The most memorable parts are attributable to the staging; Cleopatra’s golden chair dominating the stage or the sacrifice of a goat. It’s a different matter entirely the following week, with the performance of Otway’s Venice Preserv’d by The Spectator’s Guild. I arrive a little early in Greenwich again and spend a while looking at the Baltic Exchange stained glass in the National Maritime Museum. Then I wait at the Cutty Sark for the carnival to start and we are led by a group of harlequins through south London’s council estates to the Paynes and Borthwick building; an unfinished development that will serve in lieu of renaissance Venice. The play has has a modern prologue added that parallels its events with those of a maritime city divided between the ‘chavs and chav nots’ – this with a glance at the towers of Canary Wharf that can be seen gleaming on the other side of the river. As the play progresses we move from room to room, from inside to outsideas planes from the city airport fly overhead. The interior sets are often intriguing; with gauze separating them from the audience so that they can be projected on and gain a film-like quality (no need for suspension of disbelief over the appearance of ghosts; film of the dead characters are projected onto the walls. As the actors were filmed underwater it takes on an especially ethereal aspect. Elsewhere, the actors roam amongst the audience who are asked to don red capes so as to take the part of the Venetian Senate. The play itself seems unjustly forgotten, with the narrative of a bloody revolt against the tyrannical government of Venice resonating against the execution King Charles, Gunpowder Plot and events like the Popish Plot. One thing it does have in common with Antony and Cleopatra is the focus on female characters and their lack of power, with Aquillina and Belvidera’s actions proving the fulcrum on which narrative shifts. The acting is far better than that at the Globe with brilliant performances from all of the cast.

I’ve been reading Sontag’s Volcano Lover, which is in one sense a historical novel relating to the relationships of Nelson, William Hamilton and Emma Hamilton and is in another a more disinterested narrative in which none of those characters are ever referred to by name and in which an assemblage of more minor characters are allowed to narrate events from their own very different perspectives. Much of the novel is also given up to describing collecting or literature as a form of escape against events like either the action of the volcano or the wars devastating Europe at the time. I’ve also read the Orkneyinga where it’s interesting that christian and pagan worldviews overlap; the martyrdom of Saint Magnus sits alongside a warrior’s code of honour that mixes uneasily with christianity. Lastly, I’ve also read Thomas Bernhard’s Extinction; like many of Bernhard’s novels it creates a dialectic between a conservative and reactionary society in one instance and an isolated and nihilistic outsider in another. This manifests itself in the narrator’s contemptuously aristocratic attitude to his sister’s marriage to a bourgeois manufacturer or the way in which his friend Maria rejects his hatred for his family home or his friend Spadolini’s homily for his derided father.

Vergangenheitsbewaltigung

Unlike Bernd Eichinger’s earlier Downfall, which depicted events around one central figure over a relatively short period of time and an extremely confined space, The Baader-Meinhof Complex takes place over the course of the ‘red decade’ from the 1967 killing of Benno Ohnesorg by the West Berlin police (recently re-evaluated as inflammatory act by the Stasi) to the RAF’s plane hijacking and kidnapping spree that later became known as the ‘German autumn’ of 1977. The events proceed across the entirety of West Germany, with excursions to Jordan and Iraq, and include a large cast of the gang’s central figures. Like Downfall, The Baader-Meinhof Complex works by presenting events as reportage, intercutting the narrative with scenes with contemporary television footage (rather oddly showing the crushing of the Prague spring alongside student riots in Paris). One of its particular strengths is its observation that this particular revolution was remorselessly televised, with the protagonists repeatedly captured on film throughout and spending much of their time watching the reporting of their actions on television.

Inevitably, this opens the question of whether the film glamourises the terrorists, making them heroes in an action movie filled with glamorous locations. If one compares the film posters to the wanted posters that could be found on nearly every street in West Germany, then it is difficult not to notice that the modern actors are rather better looking compared to many of the bespectacled faces on the original. Nonetheless, if the characters are shown driving fast (stolen) cars, wearing leather jackets and raybans, much of this is simply because the characterisation of the originals as rebels without a cause is not entirely unreasonable; Baader did model himself in figures like Marlon Brando. Baader always wanted to be a leader, but as a young man he had little success inspiring others to follow him. When he was a teenager, he was sent to a new boarding school near Munich. In a attempt to draw interest Baader began periodically coughing into a handkerchief, while dropping hints that he had some incurable lung ailment. The other students noticed that his handkerchief never showed blood. Most students saw his sad attempts to generate interest exactly for what they were, and they ignored him. Later Baader would adopt a swaggering style. In new situations he often talked aggressively, trying to establish early that he was the toughest in the room. His act never really worked with some of the crowds he mixed with, like the Rockers — who saw through Baader immediately. But within the burgeoning student movement he found that his tough-man routine was accepted unquestioningly. Baader’s life as a terrorist was as much the story of a dedicated violent poseur as the story of a Marxist Revolutionary.

The film is thus rather acute when it comes to depicting the gang as intellectually vacuous, their actions borne out of sociopathic delinquency rather than conviction. Confronted by an Italian third making of with their stolen car, Baader is outraged, just after he has incited Mahler to steal a woman’s wallet. Ensslin’s hysterical rants about the immorality of standing by in inaction is counterpointed by the wailing of her ignored children. The policy to only attack representatives of the state and not workers does not last long, from the security guard in the department store they burn down, a librarian they shoot or the typesetters at Springer publishing.

Conversely, the film is not as good at pinpointing the group’s ideological underpinnings. If Baader was simply a thug, Ensslin and, to a lesser extent Meinhof, were ideologues. One would not be aware from the film that the gang were used as an instrument by the Stasi, from whom they received funding. German universities were awash in what would now seem to be radical Marxist thought, filtered through Fanon, and parsed by Marcuse, Horkheimer, and the other titans of the Frankfurt school. Students learned that German society, like all western society, was in the throws of late Capitalism, eventually to be replaced by true Democratic Socialism. While it does acknowledge the RAF’s connections with Palestinian terror organizations in both Jordan and Iraq, it does not have Ulrike Meinhof’s character recite the diatribe she wrote justifying what she called the Munich “aktion” – the 1972 murder of Israel’s Olympic wrestling team. It also does not feature the earlier new-left bombing of a Jewish Community Centre in West Berlin on November 9th 1969, the anniversary of Kristallnacht. This left-wing anti-semitism culminated in the Entebbe hijacking in 1976, in which two German members of the Revolutionary Cells — another terrorist group to emerge out of the West German student movement — and two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked an Air France jet, flew it to Entebbe and separated the Jewish passengers and the non-Jewish passengers before Israeli commandos stormed the aircraft. The cells had also planned to assassinate Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. This from a student movement that began as a rebellion against the ‘Auschwitz generation.’ Horst Mahler, the actual founder of the gang is now a neo-Nazi.

In some respects, the converse also applies. The film is strong when it comes to depicting police brutality during the visit of the Iranian Shah to West Berlin or the police state tactics used by the authorities to locate the gang. Less is made of the continued presence of Nazi party members in the administration at the time. The Wanted poster itself had originally acted to glamourise the gang, showing that half of the gang as female. German society was still characterised by the tripartite ideal of Kinder, Kuche, Kirche (Children, Kitchen, Church), where it was still technically illegal to co-habit with a man who was not your husband, where all abortion was outlawed, and where men were legally recognized as the head of the household. To men and women alike, the posters made the gang appear both liberating and chic. Even the police seemed to be tacitly accepting the Baader-Meinhof Gang’s premise of gender equality by equally spacing the women and men throughout the poster; few would have noticed had the poster lined all the of the men along the top rows and the women along the bottom, indicating men’s traditional dominant role and women’s traditional auxiliary role. If anything, police chief Horst Herold is used as a means of authorial commentary, (inbetween plying his colleagues with lobster soup), regularly stating that the group are protesting against political problems which objectively exist and which must be addressed in order to resolve the conflict – in practice, it took the fall of the Berlin wall to dissipate the violence. The result may simply be that film is not as well equipped to deal with subjects of this kind as the novel is.

Not entirely unrelated themes emerged in the rather more traditional setting of the Old Vic, with a performance of Joe Sutton’s Complicit. The interior of the building had been extensively remodelled to replace the conventional stage with a circular dais at the centre of the theatre. The result is rather like the Globe, allowing for a rather more intimate performance where the actors are not quarantined from the audience. With only a few props and three actors (David Suchet’s performance being particularly good), the play is a rather intense piece although a little unsatisfying: it feels like a vehicle to explore political ideas around torture rather than a character piece.

The Tate’s Rodchenko and Popova exhibition leaves me feeling a little depressed; ane arlier exhibition last year had captured Rodchenko’s decline into a propagandist on a par with Leni Reifenstahl. This exhibition covers an earlier period and demonstrates how great the fall was. The early work of both artists is easily comparable to that of artists in Western Europe. The texture on many of Popova’s works recalls Kandinsky, while her use of wood as a canvas and wood dust to add texture to the paint anticipates Duchamp’s readymades. Rodchenko’s focus on the geometrical recalls Mondrian, Braque and Malevich, while a painting of two layers of black anticipates Rothko’s version of abstract expressionism. Nonetheless, their social context created difficulties their Western counterparts lacked. Like the Futurists, the Russian constructivists embraced the machine age, dwelling on the dynamic and geometric. The discarding of representational models seemed to chime with the Bolshevik policy to discard the traditional elements of society. In practice though, the attempt to reconcile avant garde art with politics was an uncomfortable one. Assigning a utilitarian purpose to artforms lacking representational content proved difficult at best, with attempts to replace subjective artistic creation with objective construction of forms doing little other than to obfuscate the problem with terminology. A point of crisis comes as Rodchenko paints three solid blocks of red, yellow and blue and declares it the end for painting. Hereafter, art must be aligned to industry, and a turn to architecture, textiles, set design and advertising (under Lenin’s new economic policy) follows. This isn’t entirely unusual in art; the Arts & Crafts movement was closely related to the Pre-Raphaelites. Figures like Lautrec, Millais and Mucha produced adverts. The difference between high and low art is certainly an arbitrary one, as examples like Chinese ceramics show. Nonetheless, it’s difficult not to be relieved that Millais didn’t base a career on his Pears soap work and it’s equally hard not to be dismayed at seeing Rodchenko and Popova throw themselves into often rather bad posters for Red October biscuits and rubber boots. This seem particularly so when one considers that their design work was not greatly more purposeful than their artwork; Popova might have thought seeing a peasant woman wearing one of her designs the highpoint of her career but in practice the peasant’s need for clothes was not overly dependent on Popova’s designs. While the suppression of constructivism in favour of socialist realism was certainly done by Stalin’s fiat, it also seems surprising that it was not done earlier; as an artistic project it was simply rendered superfluous by the the same October Revolution it had embraced. Before leaving I revisit the Soviet School room – a collection of Soviet propaganda posters. None are overly constructivist in style but they do represent a better view of what popular style in the Soviet Union was than the work of Rodchenko and Popova.

Zola’s Germinal and The Belly of Paris both betray a visceral hatred of the Second French Empire, to the point of siding with the assorted communists who wished to see it annihilated. By contrast, the novel that depicts that annihilation, The Debacle takes a surprisingly moderate. The novel is balanced between the views of two characters, Jean and Maurice. The latter is depicted as intelligent and unstable, accordingly sides with the commune. The former is portrayed as stolid but dependable, and accordingly sides with the government. The relationship between the two is oddly homoerotic, with them kissing; “no woman’s arm had held him as close and warm as this.” Dead soliders are frequently depicted locking in dying embraces of hatred or love. When Jean kills his friend the act is described as being akin to the removal of an infected organ. At the same time, the novel dwells on the possibility of the creation of a ‘new France’ by Jean, even after he has said that “it was destruction for destruction’s sake so as to bury the ancient, rotten, society beneath the ashes of the earth in the hope that a new society might spring up.” The novel endless debates these points, beginning and ending with the observation that “Is not life a state of war every second? Is not the very condition of nature a continuous struggle?… war if life and it cannot exist without death.” The evolution analogy is explicit with the soldiers compared to wild beasts or to black ants on the march. While here, as in Germinal, Zola advances the idea of a new dawn (typified in Jean and Maurice’s love; ” in the midst of the savage egotism around him… this total self abnegation”), the novel stresses the “self centered rage of the individual” and a relapse into savagery. Unlike in Stendhal, there is no sense of glory in the fighting and no sense of a guiding hand, with Napoleon being depicted as weak and powerless.

I often have reservations about reading much postwar American literature, much of which seems imbued with a sense of machismo and a fear of emasculation by women. Where nineteenth century American literature foregrounded pioneer mythologies of the lone hero, its later counterparts centre on the irrelevance of such figures cast into the enfolding social structures of a commercial, bourgeois, society. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates is perhaps less bad than examples like Hemingway and Bellow, but it still seems present. The plot rather reminds me of Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying: but whereas Orwell is sceptical of romantics seeking to shun mundane existences of work and family, Yates leaves little doubt that he subscribes to them. As such, when Frank seems to avoid a bohemian life in Paris in favour of public relations, his animosity to April’s sponsorship of these ideas manifests itself as misogyny, citing Freud’s ideas of penis-envy or characterising abortion as a ‘denial of womanhood,’ later admitting that his masculinity had felt threatened. Shep Campbell imagines April after years of being the breadwinner as having become like a man. Frank denounces a woman who criticises his affairs with a secretary as a ‘latent lesbian.’ When it comes to the final tragedy, the voice of the chorus represented by John Givings denounces Frank as a coward but rather than praising April he also denounces her as a tough shrew who gave Frank a hard time. Frank is allowed to step outside prescribed social structures, April is not, meaning that she must be punished.

The authorship of A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates is often disputed, with the text attributed to Defoe rather than the eponymous Charles Johnson. Like Defoe, the text presents moral fables that undermine that basic premise with an emphasis on the contingent nature of vice (“in the beginning he was very averse to this sort of life.. yet afterwards he changed his principles”). AS in Defoe ‘sudden changes of conduct’ are far from uncommon. In many cases, crews of attacked vessels are forced into service on the pirate ships, making difficult to determine whether their service was voluntary or not. The author notes at one point that the only difference between a sailor on a pirate ship and a government man of war is circumstance; &quo; who might have passed in the world for a hero had he been employed in a good cause”. As in Defoe, poverty is often cited as a key motivation for vice. However, in a vein that is less characteristic of Defoe, the author often cites little cause for a life of piracy other than piracy: “it is surprising that men of a good understanding should engage ina course of life that so debases human nature and sets them on a level with the wild beasts of the forest.” If Defoe is often Lockean, this is rather more Hobbesian; “nature seems to have designed him for a pirate from childhood”. In some of the tales, the pirates simply end up dispersing back into society, in others they revert to their old ways even when offered repentance.

It’s been a while since I looked round the permanent collections at the V&A and there were more things that I recognised than on my previous visit: the statue of Perseus from Munich in the Cast Court or the three silver lions from Rosenborg Castle in the silver galleries, for example. But there were many other exhibits I didn’t recall; three ivory dragons fighting over a crystal globe in the Chinese section, an articulated metal snake in the same area, Celadon pottery from Korea, Chinese funerary art such as ancestor painting or ceramic horses and camels. In the Islamic section there’s the large Iznik tile frieze, the Ardabil Carpet, Rock crystal ewers and marble window screens. In the European section, I’m quite struck by Leighton’s frescos and a ceiling in the vein of the Great Exhbition that is only visible through a small window, as it has only since been blocked up with the construction of a smaller roof beneath to block out the light. The section on the Great Exhibition itself is quite striking, noting that similar buildings were planned for New York and Munich. The contents of the exhibition included a German style tankard with a byzantine mosaic and gothic planters by Pugin. The Victorian section also includes furniture from Webb, Voysey, Burges (especially ornate cabinets and glassware) and Wyburd through to Mackintosh and art nouveau. The origins of the Gothic revival are traced in Beckford’s Holbein furniture and in the Walpole collection. An entire fake Monk’s cell is included from a house designed in imitation of Strawberry Hill. Imperial influences also abound – Japanese influences on Godwin’s furniture or porcelain clocks, Islamic influences on Owen Jones and Morgan’s ceramics. The section of stained glass proceeds directly from the medieval period to Rossetti, Burne Jones and Piper. The sculpture section contrasts Canova with Thorvaldsen, the paintings section comprising Blake, Martin, Roberts, Rossetti, Alma Tadema and Turner. Last but not least is a small picture of a church reflected in a pond taken by the Victorian photographer Benjamin Brecknell Turner.

Food cooked: Sicilian spaghetti, Peking duck, Balti pasanda, Chicken and papaya soup, Salmagundi, Turkish chicken with walnuts, Calderette of rice with allioli, Flamenco eggs, Steak with anchovy sauce, Duck liver pilaf, Scallop and potato soup, Steak with anchovy sauce, Chocolate cake, Morroccan chicken with pears and honey, Lychee curry, Paprika Hendl, Spaghetti Carbonara, Prok Stroganoff, Portuguese Jugged Duck and Orange, Chicken with Tamarind and Turmeric, Vietnamese seafood with lime and coconut, Apple and Coconut cake, Poacher’s pie, Georgian chicken, Louisiana paella, Crab bisque, Greek prawns with feta and peppers, Pecan pie, Fish with Harissa and Tahini, Bobotie, Spanish pork and chocolate stew, Sri Lankan cashew and chicken curry, Kidneys with Mustard, Guinea Fowl with Pomegranate and Cherry, Chicken with Sumac and Lemon, Poussins with dirty rice, Mediterranean Baked Fish, Polish pork with juniper, Carbonnade Flamande.

Bread and Circuses

Bevis Marks Synagogue is the oldest site of Jewish worship in Britain, dating back to Cromwell and the reformation. I was a little surprised to be asked to wear a Kippah skull cap, not having had any such request in Prague’s synagogues, though I rather concluded that I liked it. The interior, in wood, white plaster and gold leaf is similar to Wren’s churches, just as some of the Prague synagogues took on the guise of Baroque churches. I was also able to gain access to several Wren churches; St Botolph (elaborate Victorian stained glass with stuccoed angels in line across the ceiling), St Bride’s (rather Catholic, with the eye streaming light from the altar beneath a barrel vault, suprisingly homoerotic photographic depictions of the crucifixion on the walls) and St Dunstan in the West (a gothic building, now filled with Orthodox icons). St Bride’s crypts were open and were especially intriguing, showing both the foundations of succeeding churches and cleared gravestones. Finally, St Sophia, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, represents what Westminster Cathedral may one day come to look like, with the mosaics created by the same artist, Boris Anrep. I had been to Brompton Cemetery before but hadn’t realised that it is laid out in the plan of a basilica, albeit one with whose plans were incomplete with several chapels and bell towers never having been completed and the catacombs left largely unused. Unlike Highgate or Kensal Green, Bunhill Fields cemetery is only just outside the city of London and represents an outcast’s cemetery as much as the Jewish cemetery in Prague (which is what it most reminds me of). Containing the graves of Blake, Defoe and Bunyan as well as assorted Cromwells and Wesleys, the tombstones are packed in thickly and are mostly unostentatious, bar the weathered skull motifs found on many of the graves. I walk to St Giles Cripplegate before travelling to the Tower of London. The tower is a rather hyperreal construct, a process that began as early as the restoration when the Crown Jewels were put on display there (originally so that the king’s majesty could be touched, until one of the crowns was damaged) and wooden heads of past kings were put on display to legitimise the monarchy once more (Elizabeth had a special place alongside relics of the Armada and later the Jacobite rebellion). Another curiousity was a Venetian winged lion taken from Corfu, on display inside the White Tower. The white tower itself was only painted and gabled later, while much of the tower is a Victorian reconstruction of the original. Nontheless, what does tend to be interesting about the tower is the Chapel of St John the Evangelist or the graffiti scrawled on the walls by the likes of Arundel or by an astronomer sent to the tower by Bess of Hardwick on suspicion of sorcery. Before I leave I notice a seagull making of with meat intended for the ravens, three of whom indignantly fly in pursuit.

I go for a walk in Greenwich, beginning with St Alfege, whose interior rather reminds me of the churches in Denmark; white plaster and dark wood. Greenwich reminds me a little of Oxford; a place outside of civil society throughout history and whose confrontation with modernity has left it as a fly in amber. I go for a walk around the Naval College Chapel and the Cutty Sark before walking the Greenwich foot tunnel to east London. Here, I return to St Anne’s Limehouse and am able to see the interior. Damage due to damp was all too visible, with the elaborate blue plaster horribly disfigured and decayed. The following day is witness to a St George’s Cathedral. The building was shorn of its spire the second world war and is consequently rather drab and forgettable. leaving a marked sense of incongruity when one walks through to the beautiful interior. I then walked around the park that was formerly the grounds of the Bethelem Royal Hospital and are now adjacent to the Imperial War Museum (former site of Bedlam); within it grows the 34 native trees that colonised Britain after the ice age. Today, the grass has shrivelled and the tree’s leaves are curling and withering in the heat. London silver vaults reminded me of Highgate’s Egyptian avenue of funerary vaults; one descends downwards through a series of maze-like passages and stairwells. Upon arrival, corridors stretch off into the distance with doors on either side. Each shop is effectively a walk-in safe, with each of them selling the same kinds of candelabra and assorted ephemera. Visiting Convent Garden, I noticed the church there now has its own orthodox icon, showing the madonna, flanked by st paul and st genesius, the patron saint of actors.

The Holbein exhibition at the Tate represents the point at which art became full human and secular. Although Holbein did produce religious works they could most charitably be described as inferior imitations of renaissance painting. With most devotional work proscribed in Britain, his painting of Erasmus shows the scholar in the guise typically reserved for saints while other works are created as roundels in imitation of classical coins. Holbein pioneered painting where the subject looks directly at the viewer, so that his works acquire a peculiarly intimate quality (the subjects loom large, taking up the entire canvas). Merchants sought pictures that were true to life to send to far-fling contacts and family, thereby displacing classical and religious paintings. Elsewhere, the Tate had a painting of Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun, Moorish Ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I and the peculiarly surreal painting of The Cholmondeley Ladies. The later section of Blake was also especially interesting, showing Blake’s work in the context of artists between the wars who responded to his vision of a New Albion, such as Nash’s paintings of the Mansions of the Dead and the Flight of the Magnolia as well as Robin Ironside’s Daliesque paintings. Other interesting works include John Singer-Sergeant’s paintings of the Middle-East and Whistler’s surprisingly traditional Crepuscule in Flesh Colour and Green: Valparaiso , Piper’s paintings of Bath destroyed by the Luftwaffe’s Baedaeker’s raids and Rossetti’s The Annunciation. That evening I watched fireworks exploding over London, tracing patterns in the sky with sparklers and watching Millbank Tower silhouetted and Battersea Power Station being lit up by the lights.

Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul exhibits many of the same ambivalent attitudes to civilisation shown by Tacitus; the relatively civilised Gauls prove easy to conquer while the barbaric hunters of the German tribes cannot be vanquished. In a similar fashion, Thucydides records during The Pelopennesian War that the habit of dressing lavishly had been abandoned in Athens as being decadent in favour of Spartan simplicity.

Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop ends with its two protagonists fleeing from the burning shop, a moment Carter saw as being akin to the expulsion from Eden (though the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was perhaps the more obvious metaphor). However, the novel has two such Eirenic moments elsewhere (once in Melanie’s garden at home and once with Finn in the pleasure gardens) with the surfeit of symbolism consequently overwhelming precise interpretations (particularly given the question of whether Uncle Philip represents the devil or a totalitarian god in the narrative). Antal Szerb’s Journey by Moonlight affords a similar problem. Szerb was heavily influenced by Lukacs and the idea of the problematic individual, and the novel accordingly presents a disjunction between society and the bohemian aspirations of the novel’s characters. Conversely, Szerb was also heavily influenced by Karl Kerenyi, a Jungian scholar of Greek myth Lukacs drove into exile. The character’s bohemian rebellion is accordingly expressed as thanatophilia, through doors to the underworld and an Etruscan Eurydice leading Orpheus back down to Hades for their union to take place. The two narratives barely interlock and instead proceed in parallel with one another, the notion of Marxist alienation being aborted in favour of a view of society as despiritualised.

One of the advantages of the layout of the Globe Theatre is that it affords far more possibilities than a normal confined stage arrangement. The last production of Titus Andronicus saw the action spill out of the stage and around the rest of the theatre. Confetti is hurled from the galleries down to the conquering heroes and Emperors of Rome. Bassinius is thrown into a pit into the arena, where scaffolding is errected and moved for hangings and speeches. The actors move amongst the crowds in the arena, all of which seems apposite for a play that is often concerned with bread and circuses. The play itself is an anomaly; its bleak rejection of worldly affairs has more in common with King Lear and Timon of Athens than with the other early works. Like much of Marlowe’s work, it seems well characterised by Artaud’s ideas; "The Theatre of Cruelty has been created in order to restore to the theatre a passionate and convulsive conception of life, and it is in this sense of violent rigour and extreme condensation of scenic elements that the cruelty on which it is based must be understood.

This cruelty, which will be bloody when necessary but not systematically so, can thus be identified with a kind of severe moral purity which is not afraid to pay life the price it must be paid." As in Artaud’s manifesto, the play uses symbolism to work with the emotions and to remove the audience from the quotidian, to attack their senses through violence and to use the grotesque (a late Bakhtinian concept that has lost its vital connection with renewal; much of the play can really only be directed as carnivalesque farce or burlesque. Hence Bloom’s comment that the play should really be directed by Mel Brooks). Whereas later works, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream carefully balance the claims of the wild greenwood and civilised Athens, Titus Andronicus lacks any such symmetry. The play opens with Titus mercilessly ordering the death of Tamora’s son in spite of her entreaties and slaying his own, creating a question mark from the outset as to whether Rome is more civilised than the barbarous Goths (throughout, I found myself reminded of Cavafy’s Waiting for the Barbarians). Later, the ascending of Tamora to becoming Rome’s Empress further blurs that distinction, as much as the use of a Goth army by Lucius to liberate Rome from a despotic ruler. Walking back along the Embankment, I notice that all the trees have had blue and white fairy lights layed over their boughs, vesting the place with an oddly ethereal feel. Two men lovingly kiss underneath the leaves.

Coetzee’s Slow Man marks an understated sequel of sorts to Elizabeth Costello, continuing in the same anti-novelistic tradition. Coetzee places the central elements of the novel in the background, whether it is narrative (events are understated, abandoning resolution in favour of the indeterminacy of life) or consciousness (the central character being essentially hollow, experiencing a series of reactions towards Marijana, none of which can be fully characterised as emotion or feeling). As a fable, Slow Man is non-existent, its protagonist gaining no
redemption, resolution or closure, simply a dying fall.

The Globe

Trafalgar Square is in many respects a rather drab affair, its austere neo-classical architecture being composed of shades of grey (comparing Nelson’s Column to the Siegessaule in Berlin, for example, or even the Houses of Parliament visible in the distance). The National Gallery is not an especially striking building from the outside; the marble columns and damask hangings on the inside much more so.

Comparing this visit with my last one is rather interesting; I still enjoyed the paintings by Velazquez, Goya, Caravaggio and Friedrich but was more struck by Murillo (one self portrait in particular, with the nice touch of having his hand resting on the oval frame, bring the artist outside the art) and Hogarth (amidst otherwise interminable Reynolds paintings). Like George Eliot, I found the Dutch paintings particularly engrossing (for example, the ingenious Hoogstraten peepshow, a box with two peepholes whose inside is painted in the manner of a home; looking through the holes creates an illusion of three dimensions; a typically Dutch conceit as with Dou’s framing of his paintings). Though Ruysdael or Hobbema’s landscapes were excellent as was de Hooch’s town scenes, the most interesting was Frans Hals, and his shunning of traditional poses for portraiture as well as almost impressionistic brushwork. I also found myself appreciating Van Dyk and Turner more than was hitherto the case, particularly the documentary aspect of Turner’s paintings; the Great Western Railway and the Temeraire being towed to harbour by a modern steamboat, for example. The same applied to Claude and Canaletto, perhaps out of liking for the subjects as much as the portraits (Canaletto’s paitnings of England are certainly very forgettable), though Claude’s paintings of classical scenes with contemporary sailing ships rather than triremes seem rather odd.

In terms of modern paintings, I still find it difficult to appreciate Monet, preferring Manet and Renoir (perhaps because although their landscapes have similar qualities to those of Monet but a broader range, such as Manet’s paintings of Parisian society). Still, I preferred Cezannes (particularly the use of angular and geometric brushstrokes on landscapes) and Van Gogh; I could have stared for hours at the handful of Van Gogh paintings on display.

That evening, I crossed the Millennium bridge to Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre. The <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/1868426.stm
” target=”_blank”>new skyscraper being built along there looks a great deal better than I had thought it would, as does the bridge itself, but it’s reassuring to see that St Pauls is still the dominant feature along there. It seems somewhat incongruous to visit an Elizabethan theatre next to the 1930s art gallery (frankly, I still expect it to have Nazi banners displayed on the chimney stack). The design of the theatre is certainly a much more intimate experiences than with modern theatres (with the actors cut off from the audience), in spite of the rather cramped conditions. Another odd thing is that they have clearly gone to great lengths to reproduce the original theatre (e.g. the marble effect on the wooden railings) but have neglected to season the wood, much of which is cracking. Finally, the three stage doors for props and scenery introduce a new dynamic into the performance in which, masque like, the choreography of actors moving around the stage becomes much more important.

However, the play, Marlowe’s Edward the Second was nothing short of exemplary, enacted in Elizabethan costume and an all-male cast (Queen Isabelle had all the melodrama of a professional drag queen; the audience smirked when ‘she’ was advised to "be not so passionate"). The play (or masque perhaps in this context?) was perfectly choreographed in terms of changing scenes, assisted by an excellent musician’s company (the drumming being reminiscent of that at the coronation re-enacted at the Proms last year). Edward the Second is a particularly difficult play to perform in modern times; originally it ran the boundary of the homosocial and homosexual (i.e. platonic and sexual love), but that type of careful coding is difficult to replicate today. The Globe solution was to make the play as explicit as Derek Jarman did, which resulted in a vein of black humour becoming apparent (or perhaps more Carry-On innuendo than the The Jew of Malta; the audience laughed at many references that would have been innocent to an Elizabethan audience and missed others, such as Edward’s question to Gaveston whether he ‘knows’ Spencer; an ambiguous phrasing). Perhaps that’s why today, it’s rather more reminiscent of Antony and Cleopatra than Richard the Second. Later, I walked along the side of the Thames as the water lapped against the bank, the city lights danced in their reflections and St Pauls lit up the skyline. A good day.

As far as reading is concerned, I’ve finally read L’Etranger. The notion of failing to adhere to social conventions through pretence is sufficiently striking to explain the book’s reputation, but not nearly as interesting as La Peste, or even Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels (since the moral indifference of the novel does remind me of Highsmith somewhat).

A couple of weeks later, arriving at the Albert Hall, I was struck by the new entrance hall, which surprised me by not being utterly malign. The abstract iridescent design in lieu of a fresco on the portico is actually rather pleasant, though the plain glass sheeting on the windows and doors seemed a bit out of keeping with its surroundings. Entering the Hall I was able to get a place at the very front of the arena just in front of the orchestra, which I meant I could see the musicians pulling faces whenever they fluffed something. Since the overture to Tannhauser is one of my favourite pieces I was possibly a little fussy about the performance, since the string section seemed a little too restrained and the horn section a a little too vigorous at places. I wasn’t quite as familiar with the seven Berg songs and Brahms Symphony no.1 in C minor that followed on, the former quite gentle and lyrical, reminding me of Mendelssohn, the latter reminding me of Schubert and Beethoven. A second concert began the following week with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, a rather fine piece, and ended with Mahler’s Titan Symphony No. 1 in D Major, which seemed somewhat piecemeal; good in places, sketchy in others. Two encores followed; Haydn, and a rather fine rendition of an overture from Lohengrin.