George Enescu, Romanian Rhapsody No 2……..and a little thank you to Michael Portillo

A few weeks ago I was watching the first of Michael Portillos “Great Continental Train Journeys” and in that episode he was travelling through Romania.

 Armed with his trusty 1913 Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide, Michael Portillo ventures east through Romania to the shores of the Black Sea. Along the way he encounters a bloodsucking vampire in Transylvania and brown bears in the Carpathian forest, before visiting a fairytale castle with modern conveniences in Sinaia, striking oil in Ploiesti, tapping into the nation’s musical soul in Bucharest and loading cargo from a crane in Constanta. This leg of his journey ends at Constanta, where he explores what is now emerging as Europe’s largest grain port.

 The scenery in the country was breathtaking and sort of dispelled the stereotypical idea that the country is one of abject poverty in a very grey land.

It was whilst exploring the musical heritage of the country that I heard a piece of music playing in the background and thought “I know that” and I vaguely remember buying a CD* with it on many years ago. It turned out to be George Enescus “Romanian Rhapsody No 2” and I had forgotten what a lovely piece of music it is.

George Enescu (1881 – 1955) is considered the most important Romanian musician. He was a composer, a violinist, a teacher, a pianist and a conductor, a complex and brilliant artistic personality. He began playing the violin at the age of 4, receiving musical guidance from his parents and from a famous traditional singer, Niculae Chioru. At the age of 5-6, he had already begun to compose. He started the professional study of music under the guidance of professor Eduard Caudella.

Between 1888 and 1894, he studied at the Music Conservatory in Vienna, with Joseph Hellmesberger jr. (violin) and Robert Fuchs (composition), among others. At only 8 years old, he has his first public appearance as a violinist.

After graduating from the Music Conservatory in Vienna, he continued his studies at the Music Conservatory in Paris (1895-1899), under the guidance of Martin Pierre Marsick (violin), André Gédalge (contrapunctum) and Jules Massenet and Gabriel Fauré (composition).

Among his colleagues in Paris, we mention Maurice Ravel, Florent Schmitt, Charles Koechlin and Theodor Fuchs.His debute as a composer took place on the 6th of February 1898, at the Colonne Concerts, in Paris, with the musical work “Romanian Poem” op.1. The musician appeared in exceptional conditions, due to the exquisite protection of Elena Bibescu.

His two Romanian rhapsodies have become his best known works but he still remains a neglected figure in the concert halls of the world. In an attempt to remedy this a little I am posting an excerpt from my favourite piece, Romanian Rhapsody No 2 played by the Berlin Staatskapelle under Daniel Barenboim. Unfortunately the full piece has not been put on YouTube but you can seek out other performances by various orchestras however, they are not as well recorded as this excerpt.

Give it a listen, I will guarantee you will not be disappointed, then go on to listen to the whole piece and explore Enescus other compositions.

So thank you Michael Portillo for reminding me what a wonderful piece of music this is.

*Rhapsody No 2 – George Enescu Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Christian Mandeal (Arte Nova Classics)

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Calais “children” asylum seekers…………..or perhaps not!


The BBC pixilate the faces of these “children”…..I wonder why?

I have listened to two phone in programmes today on the BBC about the so-called “children” who the government is about to admit to Britain to live here. Firstly, Nicki Abdul Campbell was at his sycophantic, mawkish best on pleading the case for the “children” to be admitted. No doubt the three line whip dished out by the BBC high command that all presenters must show sympathy and be non critical of the asylum seekers, was embraced by all and sundry.


The Daily Mail has no such qualms about showing these so called “children”

Jeremy Vine was also at it to day and it was noticeable on both phone ins the tone of the presenters voice to those advocating “let em all in” to those being very critical of the policy. A number of very middle class women seemed to phone into these programmes virtually saying they were ashamed of their country for not giving refuge to these children. Campbell in particular fell over himself to soft soap these people but was less receptive to critics of the policy.


Nor does The Times newspaper seem to have a problem with photographs

The fact that many of these asylum seekers are supposed to be under the age of sixteen but all the evidence is that many are in their middle late twenties does not seem to have registered with the “let em all in” brigade. And as a number of publications asked “why are they all fit young men, where are the women and children, wives and sisters?” The BBC in particular seems to ignore this particular issue.

The fact that the British government want to do health checks to find out the true ages of these asylum seekers has brought out the “bleeding heart liberals” in droves. It is inhumane they say, some have even compared it to the Holocaust and the way Jews were treated…………you do despair at times about the intelligence of some of these people.

I have one question to ask of the do gooders, “the intelligence services have warned that IS is trying to smuggle suicide bombers into European countries disguised as asylum seekers, so when a bomber detonates his vest in London, Manchester or Birmingham and kills numerous people, what explanation will you give to the relatives of those killed for advocating not thoroughly checking those seeking entrance to the UK?”

And of course when Jezza is asked to condemn the killings by islamic nutters he will utter that immortal phrase of his, “I condemn all bombings”………..still, thats what you can expect from a Hamas loving antesemite!


Since I wrote this earlier today some figures have emerged from the Home Office relating to this issue, and after viewing them you will realise the concerns that people have about “so called” children.



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La Boheme in Vilnius, Lithuania.


On my recent rain-soaked visit to Vilnius one of the highlights of the week was to take in a performance of Puccinis La Boheme at the Lietuvos Nacionalinis Operos ir Baleto Teatras with my friend and colleague Renata.

I last attended when they had been performing Madam Butterfly a few years ago, and on that occasion had been “blown away” by the sets used, visually they were absolutely stunning. So whilst I had high expectations of this production I did not feel it would match Butterfly.

How wrong I was. The set design by  Cristina Mazzavillani Muti (from Italy) ranged from simply beautiful, to at times, breathtaking, but at no time did it detract from the performance on stage. To say that it was a feast for the eyes is simply an understatement.

As for the performance, it was a very professional from all concerned, Angelo Fiore (tenor) pored his heart and soul in to the role of Rudolfas and handled the demanding aria “Che gelada marina” with aplomb, but lets face it, after you have heard Pavarotti sing this, everyone else pales in comparison. Fiores voice is more of a light lyrical tenor and at times he sounded a little strained on the top notes, but this is a very minor criticism.


For me the real star of the show was Viktorija Miškūnaitė who, I understand was making her debut in the role of Mimi.  Born in Šiauliai, Lithuania, Viktorija Miškūnaitė received one of the most prestigious State Theatre and Culture awards THE GOLDEN CROSS OF STAGE 2016 and was declared BEST OPERA SINGER OF 2015 by the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre (LNOBT).

From a rather tentative start in the role of Mimi, her voice sounding a little underpowered, she gained in confidence as the performance progressed and demonstrated what a powerful and emotional voice she has. I came away from the theatre thinking “possibly I have just seen a performance by a future star of the opera.”

I have to credit the orchestra with some exceptional playing, the strings in particular were very impressive, and superbly conducted by Julius Geniušas. Acknowledgement also for the young children who performed in the opera and sang their hearts out.

As a final comment it was interesting to see the makeup of the audience. It was a full house with literally standing room only and the age range was from children under ten years of age to “oldies” like myself. It was pleasing to see that culture is taken seriously in Lithuania and that even young children are exposed to both classical music and opera.

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Vilniaus Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo arkikatedra bazilika (or as I know it the “White Cathedral”)


I made one of my regular trips to Vilnius in Lithuania on the 4 October 2016 and stayed for six days. On this occasion the weather was atrocious, virtually non stop rain for the duration of my visit. This is very unusual as I have been visiting the city since 2006, made over thirty visits and, in every month of the year except July.


I have braved -30c degree temperatures in winter and around 28c in summer but I have never experienced such awful weather as in my last visit. In spite of this I managed to get out and about to take some photographs and it was whilst walking past the Vilniaus Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo arkikatedra bazilika that I noticed the beautiful decoration around the main door.


No one seemed to know exactly what it was for but it was suggested it was for some festival that is celebrated at the church. They reminded me a little of the “well dressings” that take place each year in Derbyshire villages.


A close inspection of the tabard showed it to be made of dried and pressed flowers and plants, straw, ribbon and small pieces of what appeared to be a kind of sackcloth. From a distance the decorations looked very impressive, but close up they were stunningly beautiful and intricate.


Of course a visit to the cathedral requires time to spend admiring the architecture from different vantage points in cathedral square, where you are as likely to meet groups of Polish and Japanese tourists as very young children practicing their skateboard skills. All done under the watchful eye of the statue of Gediminas which overlooks the square.


Yes, the weather was crap, but I still find the city fascinating and wandered about at times in the rain, particularly parts of the “old town.” What did strike me was the amount of development work taking place, new build and the refurbishment of old buildings with the aim of preserving their “look” at least on the outside.


So do not let my complaints of the weather prevent you from visiting this wonderful little capital city. It has much to offer culturally (excellent opera house where I saw La Boheme on most recent visit), historically it is fascinating, some cracking eating houses (try Bistro 18 and the fish cake starter in particular), and of course a visit to the hill of three crosses is essential to understand the “soul” of Lithuania.

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2016

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An icon returns to Bury…….



The “Scotsman” emerges from the trees

Earlier in the year I went to see the Flying Scotsman steam train when it was doing trial runs between Bury and Rawtenstall, along with several thousand other enthusiasts. Since then it has been on a “tour of Britain” including making the journey from Kings Cross station on London to York watched by thousands along the route………there is something about this train that invokes a feeling of a different age, a nostalgia for something that has been lost (thank you Dr Beeching!).


Leaving Rawtenstall Station

What has been very interesting is that it is not just “old men” like me who have turned out to see it. Whilst up in the Yorkshire dales I went to Pickering station to see the train along with several thousand others, many of them young families and some with very young (excited) children, and many of those attending would only have been born well after the golden age of steam trains.


Photographers capture the entry to Ramsbottom Station

Yesterday the “Scotsman” was back running from Bury to Rawtenstall pulling coaches packed to the rafters with passengers, both young and old. I went to Rawtenstall first and photographed the train leaving the station, along with the youngest photographer I have ever seen (I think she was about three years of age and had a Nikon camera slung around her neck.


Nikon camera at the ready, a young enthusiast waits with anticipation……

I then drove to Ramsbottom to catch the train on the return journey. I paid my £3.00 for a platform ticket (money well spent as it all goes to maintaining the East Lancs Railway) and waited for the train to arrive. The train was not scheduled to stop but because the train coming in the other direction was late we were told that the Flying Scotsman would stop for about ten minutes, never have I been so pleased that a train was late for once!


Conversation between station master and train driver………

Eventually the train appeared through the trees and slowly made its way into the station, and I have to say it had been polished to within an inch of its life, it looked absolutely stunning. I took a lot of photographs and had to compete with those taking “selfies” in front of the train and families lined up to have their photographs taken at the side of the nameplate………..a lot of happy people with smiles on their faces.


Preparing for departure from Ramsbottom

After ten minutes the whistle sounded and this behemoth of a train pulled out of the station pulling a lot of coaches, inside hundreds of passengers waiving and with enormous smiles on their faces, a day there will always remember. For us on the platform it was just the sheer pleasure of seeing such a magnificent piece of engineering (step forward George Riley and Sons who virtually had to rebuild the train) restored to its former glory.

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2016



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Wedding Parties in Uzupis


Whilst making my way down to the river that runs alongside the independent “nation” of Uzupis last Saturday I came across a wedding party that was braving the elements on one of the bridges across the river.


Uzupis is exclusive, most unusual and most bohemian neighborhood in Vilnius. Uzupis residents safely say that it is a country in the country. This tiny area of the town, with the spirit of romance, booming tolerance hovering in the air, abundance of creative energy, flows of inspiration, creates true art and breaks all, even the smallest, stereotypes.



The Uzupis name means “beyond the river” and is protected by Vilnelė River that encircles it. This tiny district has as many as seven bridges leading to this spot of art and romance. When visiting, a viewing of the impressive Uzupis bridge with hundreds of small padlocks is essential viewing. They are brought here by wedding groups, newlyweds, believing that it will strengthen their feelings and connect hearts forever. The key is thrown into the river, so that they never can unlock the padlock of love.


I was told by a friend from Vilnius that in the “olden days” the groom was expected to carry the bride across the various bridges across the two rivers in the city so one can understand perhaps, the reason for choosing a very slim young woman with all that exertion to come.



The bride and groom were all dressed in their wedding finery and stopped to drink “champagne” on the bridge with the bridesmaids and friends and attach a lock as described above.


The bride looked lovely in her dress and her bridesmaids were outfitted in scarlet red dresses, whilst the groom and best man wore a kind of formal morning suit attire. Members of the part went around handing out sweets to members of the public from baskets they carried. Apparently it is an old custom that still prevails today, I first witnessed this custom nearly ten years ago with a wedding party in Bernardinu Parkas.


There were lots of people taking photographs so I took the opportunity to join in, and I have featured a few of the shots in this little piece.

Photographs (c) Kindadukish

Some source material courtesy of

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Lithuania’s Soviet “Brutalist Architecture”


On my recent rain drenched visit to Lithuania I was taken on a photography expedition by my friend Antanas and also accompanied by our mutual friend Renata who came along to see that “good order” was maintained during our wanderings.


We were fortunate in that the Saturday morning of our outing was relatively dry but with a very dull overcast sky and the threat of a shower constantly hanging over us. But this kind of weather does not deter three intrepid explorers and so after meeting in front of the “white cathedral” we set off walking.


First we passed the National Museum of Lithuania with the imposing statue of King Mindaugas at the entrance to the museum (which is still on my list of places to visit) and then walked across the Green Bridge over the River Neris.


Just across the Neris River from lies a trio of disused public spaces: an indoor sports/concert venue, a stadium, and a swimming pool. Unfortunately there is no easy access to the inside of any of these but it is possible to walk around the spots complex.


This is a prime example of “brutal soviet architecture” and seems so out of step now with the rapid modern development of buildings throughout the city, both new and refurbished. The soviet occupation, whilst now some time ago, still resonates with many Lithuanians, both young and old, and there is serious concern about the actions of President Putin and his seeming desire to reconstruct the old “soviet union” by reclaiming Ukraine (witness what is happening in the Crimea) and the Baltic republics.


We then walked on to a “local market” a sort of flea, come junk, come car boot sale. It was suggested that I did not take photographs of the market or stall holders as they might not take too kindly to being photographed, read into that what you will. There was a lot of memorabilia from the soviet era on sale, including cigarettes from that era and god knows what they would be like as it is the best part of twenty-five years since independence.


A lot of the surrounding buildings were soviet style high rise flats and single story traditional wooden houses that can be found throughout Lithuania, and despite being very simple and naive in construction, are quite beautiful.


We continued our walk, taking in the financial district with its modern skyscraper buildings mainly made of glass. Just along from here there was a lot of building development taking place with enormous cranes and half completed tall buildings. Perhaps this is a sign that the economy has really picked up and that the future is beginning to look brighter for this little country, but one with a long historical (and proud) tradition.


Upon completion of our walk we decided that refreshments were called for, so after a short discussion we headed back to the city and went to “Pinavija” café at Vilniaus g. 21 (just down by the right hand side of the Novatel) for kibinai and cake (I have to confess that Antanas and I had been intimidated by threats of physical violence by Renata if we did not go to Pinavija, because they made the best kibinai in Vilnius).


So after kibinai and excellent cake we left the café and went our separate ways. My thanks to Antanas, who always arranges fascinating little photography tours for me when I visit, and Renata who keeps us in order and is a walking “Encyclopaedia Britannica” (or perhaps I should say Lietuva) regarding facts and figures.


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