THIS WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLES
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Tugging at the heartstrings
Felix Mendelssohn was on his honeymoon when he wrote a quartet for strings in E minor, one of three listed as Opus 44. Reviewer Tim Summers described it as “one of a surprisingly large number of excellent pieces” he wrote while enjoying this happy time with his bride, Cecile. It was not long after he published the manuscript before, according to Wikipedia, “its popularity with string players student, amateur, and professional (was) second to none other of Mendelssohn’s six quartets – and justly so, though picking the best apple from a lot as fine as the three Opus 44 pieces is not a happy task!” Not everyone takes their work with them on their honeymoon, but a honeymoon was, after all, a holiday with plenty of free time. Felix was intensely happy, loved his work as a composer, and the season was spring. “It was not a frantic or emotionally volatile outpouring,” says Tim Summers, “though Mendelssohn seems to have found himself happily productive, and working to approach composition in a manner befitting his new stature as a mature and married man.” Surprisingly, he dedicated this set to the Crown Prince of Sweden, not to his bride. This, and the timing of the composition, is indicative of the composer’s strong work ethic. Born into an affluent Jewish family of philosophers and bankers, Felix and his sister Fanny were both outstandingly precocious musically. Their parents more than encouraged this: the children’s day started usually before 5 am. After hearing Felix at twelve years of age, Goethe considered his accomplishments to outshine those of Mozart at the same age. The world is fortunate to have been endowed with the honeymoon quartets. Ten years later Mendelssohn wrote one further quartet – it was a personal outpouring of grief in response to Fanny’s unexpected death, and would be his last quartet as Fanny’s death occurred only a few months before his own.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s death occurred ten years before Felix Mendelssohn was honeymooning with Cecile. Forty years earlier, fifty years before Mendelssohn’s wedding, Beethoven composed the first of many string quartets. One of them, No 4, Opus 18 in C minor, will join the Mendelssohn on a program to be played at Kettering on October 22nd by the Huon Quartet. Writing for Earsense, Robert Simpson says, “Beethoven worked painstakingly for two years to produce his first string quartets … acutely aware of the rich legacy of quartet literature already preceding him [by Haydn and Mozart].” This quartet is unique among its set of six for being the only one in a minor key. C minor is regarded as ‘the’ minor key for Beethoven; he chose it for his fifth symphony, one of the best known of all classical compositions, with its “ridiculously famous four opening notes” that Beethoven described as “Fate knocking on your door”. For his piano sonata known as the Pathetique, and for his final piano sonata, chosen by legendary pianist John Lill as his favourite piano sonata. The C minor quartet may have been based on a compilation of his early material. Nevertheless, it represents him at full power, says Robert Simpson. Simpson speaks of
“a clear simplicity of texture … no lack of subtlety in the proportions, and a sense of movement as perfect as a cat’s”. He refers to a “strong sense of purpose rather than the tragedy or pathos often associated with a minor key, and an unmistakably optimistic lift”. The finale is one of Beethoven’s rare excursions into the Hungarian style of which Haydn was so fond but, unlike Haydn, Beethoven allows the minor key to persist to the end.
Specialists in the field
The Huon String Quartet consists of Elinor Lea, violin, Rohanna O’Malley, violin, Jane Tallon, cello, and Anna Larsen Roach, viola. String quartets are their repertoire of choice within this group, but individually each has strong links with Hobart’s musical scene. Elinor played and toured extensively with the Australian String Quartet for nine years and as well as teaching privately and raising a family, she is Associate Concertmaster of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Rohanna has won many awards, and was twice a finalist in the Hephzibah Menuhin Memorial Awards. She has been a member of the TSO since 2009. Jane has worked as soloist and chamber musician for the past twenty years, both in Australia and overseas, and recently directed Brahms – Life, Love, Letters at the Hobart Town Hall. Anna was an inaugural member of the National Academy of Music, plays with various ensembles, and is currently a member of the TSO. Around the walls at the Kettering Concert will be art works by Pam Adams. Pam taught geography for 30 years, and has been painting in watercolours for over 15 years. Her former career gave her a love and understanding of landscape, and her watercolours of the soft light and gentle colours of the Tasmanian landscape have been exhibited and won prizes on many occasions. They are the perfect accompaniment for the Mendelssohn and Beethoven quartets.
Sunday 22 October, 3pm, Kettering Hall. Tickets $15 at the door.
Cooking for Chemo
Judging by the success of the reality TV cooking show genre, cooking has become a form of popular entertainment. Watching egocentric celebrities, against the backdrop of chaos, frayed tempers and tantrums, is not my thing. The type of show where one cook, pitted against another to produce a 'winner', features too much aggression for me to want to watch. Other cooking travelogue shows, with food as the putative logic for setting off for exotic locations, are more entertaining, and a good way to travel. These food programs, and the cook-off, competitive type, all seem to require a star to hold the whole thing together. In the modern-day logic of fame and fortune, all one has to do to become a 'celebrity chef' is to be seen on a television show in a white hat and tunic, waving
a spatula around.
As an antidote to the fast-food industry, it is a good idea to show people that preparing your own food is better for your health. All of
this enticing food imagery, typically found in books, magazines and television programs, has led to the phrase 'food porn', when all we need is food for survival.
Food is life
I’ve always believed that cooking for family and friends is cooking with love. After an illness, food can be something you lose an interest in, or appetite for. In the case of serious illness, requiring strong medication or treatment, especially chemotherapy, it can be difficult to eat, and you can go right off your food. The Leukaemia Foundation has a national program – Cooking for Chemo – which helps to whet the appetite of people living with blood cancer. The Leukaemia Foundation in Tasmania has been running the cooking program in Hobart for three years, conducting four sessions annually.
The public is invited to the Leukaemia Foundation's next Cooking for Chemo event – a live demonstration with award-winning chef Stephen Lunn. Alongside an oncology dietician, Stephen will create delicious dishes modified for chemotherapy patients' changing tastes and lifestyle. Cooking for Chemo will provide information on nutrition during treatment and on maintaining a healthy diet. The session will be held on Wednesday 8 November, from 10.45am to 1.30pm, at Guilford Young College, 94 Barrack Street, Hobart. The groups of about 30 people are still small enough to maintain a close, interactive atmosphere. The cooking demonstrations are not only suitable for leukaemia patients – patients with other forms of cancer are welcome.
The focus is on nutrition and dietary requirements. You will learn about food safety, and what foods to avoid during chemotherapy, as well as what foods to include in your diet. Stephen has 32 years’ experience as a chef and hospitality trainer, has worked at various establishments around the world, and currently works as the hospitality trainer at Guilford Young College in Hobart. Steven’s engaging, practical approach to demonstrating food preparation works well with assisting oncology dietician Fiona Rowell. Fiona is an accredited practising dietician with 23 years’ experience of working in the UK and Australia in both the public hospital system and private practice. She has worked with patients of all ages and their families in the management of acute and chronic conditions. Fiona is enthusiastic about demonstrating that a good diet can be simple and help patients feel their best, whatever their age. Fiona has spoken at previous Cooking for Chemo events with the Leukaemia Foundation. She is currently working with the Royal Hobart Hospital paediatric oncology team and is passionate about finding solutions to eating barriers so that mealtimes continue to be an important, relaxing, nurturing and health-boosting activity.
Jane Anderson is the blood cancer support coordinator in Southern Tasmania and has worked for the Leukaemia Foundation for 14 years. She stressed the need for involvement from carers and friends, as well as patients, in recovery: “This is very important for the carers and friends, as they do the nurturing before, during and after treatment. From diagnosis til recovery, depending on treatment time, this could be for six months, three years, or for life.”
The cooking demonstrations are also great fun, with the food included. Delicious!
To book for the Cooking for Chemo session, contact Jane Anderson at email@example.com or phone the Leukaemia Foundation on 6231 0620 before 1 November.
The little chef: EBONY BRELLO
The chances are that if you’re reading this, you are not sitting in a bustling, lively cafe on the streets of Italy. But what if you could be transported there by taking a bite out of one of their traditional desserts? Italians take great pride in their homemade desserts, which are all about textures and flavours. This cappuccino cheesecake is no exception. Rich, creamy and soft in texture; sweet but not too sweet, this recipe is a real crowd-pleaser and will have guests wondering how you managed to bring to them Italy on a plate. Bellissimo!
Yields: 10-12 servings
Prep time: 30 mins
Total time: 30 mins
For the crust
1 cup (100g) finely crushed shortbread cookies
4 tbsp (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling
¾ cup (177ml) whole milk
.25 oz (1 packet) unflavoured powdered gelatin
450g (2 cups) cream cheese, softened
1 cup (226g) sour cream
¾ cup (170g) sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
3 tbsp instant expresso powder
1½ tbsp hot water
2 cups whipped cream
Cinnamon for garnish, optional
For the crust
Mix together finely crushed shortbread cookies and melted unsalted butter until mixture resembles wet sand. Evenly press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
Refrigerate while preparing the filling. Already halfway there!
For the filling
In a small saucepan, add milk and sprinkle powdered gelatin evenly onto the surface. Let stand for 2 minutes
Place pan on low heat and stir just until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat cream cheese on medium setting until smooth. Add sour cream, sugar and vanilla essence and beat until well combined. Gradually beat in gelatin mixture
Prepare espresso powder and hot water in a cup and stir until dissolved. Gradually add coffee mixture to the cheesecake batter.
Over the crust, evenly spoon cheesecake batter into pan. Cover and set to chill for roughly 4 hours. When ready to serve, loosen cheesecake from pan using a knife or offset spatula.
In a spiralling motion, pipe or spread whipped cream over top of cheesecake and garnish by sifting cinnamon on top. And lastly, enjoy!
To stem Strawberries, use a straw to push through the base of the Strawberry
and it’ll pop
It was meant to be!
Pacific plastic: a Texas-sized tragedy
On returning from a trip, especially to exotic places, I am often asked which was the best.
Iceland was certainly one amazing place, though I could not live there. Its abundant fish attracted early settlers from other Scandinavian countries.
We got to see the site of Iceland’s earliest parliament (900 AD), though recent archaeological evidence suggests settlement before then.
We also visited the famous geysers (geyser is an Icelandic word). The thermal power from these geysers, which are the oldest in the world, is used to heat pavements and roads in cities to keep them ice-free.
Iceland’s renewable energy policy must be the envy of many. In 2010, Guinness World Records designated it as the greenest country: it attained the highest score on the Environmental Sustainability Index, which measures a country’s water use, biodiversity and adoption of clean energies. Iceland recorded a score of 93.5 from 100.
According to the Global Peace Index, Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world, due to its lack of armed forces, low crime rate, and high degree of socio-political stability. Iceland is also listed by Guinness World Records as the “country ranked most at peace” and with the lowest military spending per capita – not hard when you don’t have an army.
Despite so many outstanding experiences as we toured the island,
a very sad one also comes to mind. We were cruising into Ísafjörður,
a very remote port in the far northwest of Iceland with a population of only 2,500. As we watched the ship dock we saw, floating in the small harbour, plastic bags.
This came soon after hearing of an autopsy on a beached whale in Bergen in Norway (where I had also visited). They had put the whale down after realising it wasn’t going to live, and found it had consumed a about 4kg of non-biodegradable waste. Its death was not unusual, said researchers, as the volume of plastic in our seas continues to grow. As an example to the public, they put the plastic on display, along with the whale skeleton, in Bergen Museum – you could still identify the markings on the plastic, which had started out in many different places around the world.
While sailing back across the Pacific Ocean we learnt of the North Pacific Gyre. Its existence was confirmed when in 1992, a shipping container of 28,000 yellow plastic bath toys was lost at sea on its way from Hong Kong to the United States. No one at the time could have guessed that those same bath toys would still be floating today, and being tracked, in the world’s oceans. That flotilla of plastic ducks has been responsible for revolutionising scientists’ understanding of ocean currents, as well as for teaching us a thing or two about plastic pollution in
Here are the basic facts about the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch. It is estimated to be 7 million tons in weight. It is twice the size of Texas, and up to nine feet deep. In the Great Pacific Ocean Gyre there is six times more plastic than plankton, which is the main food for many ocean animals. An estimated 80% of the plastic originates from land; floating in from rivers or blown by the wind into the ocean. The rest comes from vessels and rigs at sea.
Even when the plastic eventually breaks down due to sunlight, it never completely disappears;
it just gets smaller and smaller. One of
the most alarming statistics from scientific research shows that even the smallest fish now contain small pieces of plastic – which we then eat.
It’s all so sad and depressing, and we often feel helpless in the face of this worldwide problem.
As the website garbagepatch.net says, “The problem is the behaviour of us, the people. Which is also the answer: the people are the solution.”
At least in Tasmania we have banned single-use plastic bags.
For other examples of what we can do see garbagepatch.net/solutions-what-can-you-do.
Of course, for a start you can refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.
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