Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Vladimir Putin On Hypersonic, Markovian Self-Adjusting Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

"President Vladimir Putin boasted Tuesday that Russia has new missiles capable of penetrating any missile defense system and said he had briefed the French president on their capabilities.

"Russia has tested missile systems that no one in the world has," Putin said. "These missile systems don't represent a response to a missile defense system, but it doesn't matter to them whether that exists or not. They are hypersonic and capable of changing their flight path."

Putin said the new missiles were capable of carrying nuclear warheads. He wouldn't say whether the Russian military already had commissioned any such missiles....

Putin said the new missiles were capable of changing both altitude and direction, making it impossible for an enemy to intercept them since "a missile defense system is designed to counter missiles moving along a ballistic trajectory."

Putin and other Russian officials have boasted of the new missiles in similar comments in recent years, but they haven't identified them or given any further details other than about their ability to change their flight path on approach to a target.

Military analysts said Russian forces experimented with a maneuvering warhead during a missile launch several years ago, but voiced doubt about their ability to deploy such weapons anytime soon.

Analysts said the new warheads, designed to zigzag on their approach to targets, could be fitted to new land-based Topol-M missiles and the prospective Bulava missiles for the Russian navy, now under development.

Russia opposed Washington's withdrawal in 2002 from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to deploy a national missile defense shield, saying the 30-year-old U.S.-Soviet pact was a key element of international security. Putin called the decision a mistake that would hurt global security but not threaten Russia.

The ABM treaty banned missile defense systems on the assumption that the fear of retaliation would prevent each nation from launching a first strike - a strategy known as mutually assured destruction." ...

Vladmir Isachenkov "Putin Boasts of New Missile's Capability" WashingtonPost.com January 31, 2006.

Trident Intercontinental Ballistic Missle being launched from a U.S. Submarine.

Photo credit: Wikipedia www.answers.com/topic/ history-of-nuclear-weapons

Karel Husa's Music for Prague 1968

On January 31, 1969, composer Karel Husa's Music for Prague 1968, written in response to the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia, was premiered in its wind band version by the Ithaca College Band, in Washington, D.C. Exactly one year later, the orchestral version was premiered with the composer conducting the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.


... "Music for Prague 1968 was the first of a triptych that Husa calls his three "manifests," scores intended to address serious issues of international concern. As he wrote in 1974: "musical notes become the sounds of protest; through these sounds music has its only power; it has no bullets or bombs or death danger; all it can do, perhaps, is warn what the future might be."

Apotheosis of this Earth was composed in 1971 as a prophetic warning about the dire consequences of humanity's rape of the environment. In his preface to the score Husa declares: "Man's brutal possession and misuse of nature's beauty -- if continued at today's reckless speed -- can lead to catastrophe."...

The third "manifest" is a dramatic work, a ballet based on the Euripides play The Trojan Women. Here the ghastly toll exacted upon women and children by the ravages of war is played out upon the stage, evoking our horror and pity. Transcending the limitations of language, The Trojan Women delivers its urgent message in a primal union of music and gesture. William Mootz wrote in the Louisville Courier-Journal (29 March 1981): "Like the play, the ballet is a protracted lament for the victims of war. It is a desolate, angry and disturbing piece of theater, and it moves to a moving climax with imagination and unmistakable artistic authority." ...

Source: Byron Adams "Karel Husa: Composer Essay" © 1997 Associated Music Publishers, Inc. http://www.schirmer.com/composers/husa_essay.html

Soviet Invasion of Prague, Czechoslovakia, in August 1968. The three Soviet tanks are arrayed in front of Prague's National Museum.

Photo credit: encarta.msn.com

In Memorium, Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King, human rights activist and widow of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

"She was studying music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 1952 when she met a young graduate student in philosophy ..."

Photo credit: John Bazemore/AP via nytimes.com

The Khanenko Museum Of Art, Kyiv, Ukraine (Also, and Incorrectly, Known As "The Museum Of Western And Oriental Art")

... "The Khanenkos lived for some time in Moscow, then in St. Petersburg and in Warsaw where Khanenko occupied a high position in the regional court of justice. They traveled widely all around Europe. It is not clear what motivated the very successful lawyer and his wife, the daughter of a millionaire, to move from the capital of the Russian Empire [Petersburg] to the provincial town of Kyiv (at that time it was provincial)...

By the end of the nineteenth century the Khanenkos had amassed a vast art collection whose individual pieces had been purchased in Paris, Madrid, Venice, Rome, Brussels and Warsaw [and Moscow]. The well-known Russian collector Tretyakov gave Khanenko advice where to look for outstanding works of art in the Russian collections. It was from the Khanenkos' collection that the Museum later sprang up. But it must be admitted that their collection was wider in scope and the variety of exhibits was more extensive and was not limited to Western and Oriental art as it is now [sic]. There were archaeological pieces dating to the times of Kyivan-Rus-Ukraine, as well as Russian and Ukrainian paintings of much later times...

Bohdan Khanenko had "his own", very personal, view on art and its history and development. He wanted to bring together under one roof works of art of different cultures but of the same epoch and thus show the underlying unity of the world art, and also create a special atmosphere in which these pieces of art would reveal all their qualities to their best advantage...

Bohdan Khanenko, a great patron of art and refined intellectual, did not live to see the ruinous results of the Bolshevik revolution and almost total destruction of culture. His wife [Varvara ~ Barbara] was not as lucky. In his will he bequeathed his art collection and many thousands of his books to the city of Kyiv he loved so much. His only condition was: both the art works and the books must be accessible to the public. His wife was appointed to carry out the terms of his will (the Khanenkos had no children and Varvara was the sole executrix)....

The Bolshevik authorities showed "a great benevolence" towards Mrs Khanenko: she was allowed to stay in her house and live in a tiny room that previously had been occupied by her parlor maid. But at the same time she was strictly forbidden even to have a look at her art collection, already not hers, but "the state's." She was a courageous woman and at night she stealthily crept downstairs and walked through the rooms with her art treasures. Varvara Khanenko died in 1922 and a faithful servant had her buried next to her husband at the cemetery of the Vydubetsky Monastery [in Kyiv]...

In 1941, shortly before the Nazi German troops occupied the city of Kyiv, a considerable part of the Khanenko collection was evacuated, and not a day too soon. During the German occupation quite a few items from the collection were taken away to Germany. But the mansion itself survived the fires, bombings, and shellings. The eminent scholar and art historian Hylyarov stayed in Kyiv all through the three terrible years of German occupation and took care of the Museum in the best way he could. After the Red Army recaptured the city from the Germans, the Soviet power "honored" Hylyarov for saving the Museum from being totally gutted and despoiled by arresting him and putting him into prison for "collaboration with the Nazi German invaders." ...

After the war the Museum was brought back to life but by the end of the [nineteen]-eighties it became clear that it must be closed for urgent repairs. The Museum was closed down just at the time the Soviet Union was disintegrating. There was not enough money allocated for the renovation, and inflation was so high it was impossible to keep up with it. All the Museum items were carefully preserved in the basement."...


The Khanenko Museum of Art is now open; and its magnificent and beautiful rooms restored to their original 19th century conditions.

"Khanenko's cultural heritage is the core of the museum's collection. There are Egyptian statues and bronze sculptures, antic terracotta and glassware, Roman and Greek sculptures, Byzantine exhibits, ivory, church stained-glass, icons, fabrics, jewelry of Kievan Russia. With time the collection was enriched and formed, thanks to the efforts of many famous people. The famous patron of art from Saint Petersburg, V. Shavinskiy, donated about 200 priceless masterpieces of Flemish, Netherlands and Dutch painting schools. The museum's stock was enriched with unique Chinese paintings of the 16th-20th centuries. Taisia Jasparre, native Ukrainian wife of French ambassador in Peking Andre Stephen Jasparre, presented 400 scrolls of paintings to the museum. The collection of the museum consists of about 25,000 exhibits and is considered to be the biggest foreign art collection in Ukraine. "

Opening text source and photo credit: Andriy Hlazovy http://www.wumag.kiev.ua/wumag_old/archiv/2_98/muzey.htm
With thanks.

Also see: http://www.kiev.info/culture/western_oriental.htm

Diego Velasquez. Portrait of Infanta Margaret. Circa 1659-1660.
Collection of The Khanenko Museum of Art, Kyiv, Ukraine.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Nikitskiy Imperial Arboretum And Gardens, Yalta, Crimea

"On the 10th of June, 1811, with the active participation of scientist-botanist, inspector in silkworm breeding in the South of Russia, M. Biberstein, "The edict of the founding of the Imperial Botanical Gardens [Arboretum] at the public cost in the Crimea" was signed in Petersburg [Imperial Russia, by order of Tsar Alexander I]. In that same year, near the village of Nikitskiy, six kilometers from Yalta (now - settlement Botanitcheskoye), 1012,5 acres of land were bought from landowner Smirnov. M. Biberstein offered his assistant, 30-year old K.K.[Christian] Steven [of Russian citizenship, though originally from Sweden], the post of the manager of the garden. In September 1812, the first plantings were made. So, the beginnings of the modern State Nikitskiy Botanical Gardens were marked. During 14 years of tireless activity K.K. Steven, nicknamed afterwards "The Nestor of Russian botanists", had gathered more than 450 species, hybrids and kinds of plants, practically from all the countries of the world.

In the Lower Park of the garden grows Californian oak (it cannot be met anywhere else in Ukraine), and in the Seaside Park there are the most heat-loving trees and shrubs: myrtle, pheyhoa, orchidaceous tree, and hamerops (palmetto). In Nikitskiy Gardens there are also Allepian pine-trees, Numidian (Algerian) silver-trees, grass-leaved Californian oaks and Arizonian cypresses, Virginian junipers and the only specimen of "iron tree" (Persian parottiya). The tree reaches the height of 6 metres, has the crown of broad-oval leaves, and takes pink-orange coloration in autumn.

The excursion about Nikitskiy Gardens begins in the Upper Park, where along the skilfully put into shape alleys, one can meet the plantations, the species of which were delivered from all the continents of the Earth: bamboo from Northern China, evergreen stone oak, powerful trees of silver fir, plantain, and gigantic sequoiadendron (Wellingtonia). In this part of the garden, the 500-year old berry-like yew trees grow, reminding one of the former local relic forests." ...

Text credit (adapted for clarity): © 2002 Ukrainian Ministry for Health Resorts and Tourism and Tavrical National University.

Today, the Nikitskiy Botanical Garden (Arboretum) is considered one of the finest in Europe and the whole world. Its parks are a vast open-air museum which comprise more than 18,000 species of trees and plants. It is administered by the Ukraine Academy of Agrarian Sciences.


Nikitskiy Botanical Garden (Arboretum), near Yalta, Crimea (Autonomous Republic of Crimea), Ukraine.

Memo: Remember To Bring Trees On Friday, If Jet Blue Allows

..."A study of three dozen cities using satellite imagery by the nonprofit group American Forests, completed two years ago, found that over the past 25 years, cities have lost up to 30 percent of their tree canopy to development.

San Francisco's tree canopy hovers at a slim 11.9 percent of the city's surface area, compared with New York's 21 percent and Washington's 28.6 percent.

The loss of the so-called urban forest, said Deborah Gangloff, the group's executive director, is the result of sprawl, budget cuts and street widening, among other factors. The average city street tree lives 7 years compared with 60 years in a park and 150 years in a forest, the group's research shows.

"They're stuck in a concrete box, get bikes chained to them, with dogs relieving themselves and cars hitting them," Ms. Gangloff said. "They don't have room to grow because of power lines and sewer pipes. It's a hard life."...

Patricia Leigh Brown "New Laws Crack Down on Urban Paul Bunyans" New York Times, January 30, 2006.

Satellite image of Kyiv, Ukraine, 2001, showing residual tree groves and forests.

"Kiev (or Kyiv), Ukraine's capital and largest city, is located in the north-central part of the country on the Dnieper River. It is Ukraine's leading centre for industry, commerce, science and education. The city grew enormously between 1950 and 1980. A powerful technological complex with dozens of industrial companies was created, employing many highly skilled personnel. Kiev also became an important military centre for the Soviet Union. Because these developments created a large demand for labour, migration increased from rural areas in both Ukraine and Russia. Given that land had no formal value under socialism, planners were not motivated to economise on space. Massive suburbs and an extensive transportation system were built to accommodate the expanding population, although many rural buildings and tree groves survived in the city's hills. The [April] 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, 100 km to the north of Kiev, brought in thousands of refugees from the accident zone. In 1991, Kiev became the capital of an independent Ukraine.

According to the 2001 census, Kiev is home to about 2.6 million people. Other estimates based on recent migration patterns place its population at closer to four million people. Rapid urban expansion together with the economic transition and the privatisation process have created urgent environmental problems for the city. These include air pollution from energy and transport emissions, pollution of surface and underground waters by sewage and a decline in biological diversity. Another key environmental challenge for Kiev is coping with consumer, industrial, toxic, radioactive and other wastes. In 1998, some 300 enterprises and organisations in the municipality were using technologies whose by-products include radioactive waste. In addition, within the city limits there is a state-owned centre for depositing radioactive wastes transported in from around the country. A lack of effective new technologies for treating wastes, as well as a lack of space for landfills, is causing waste to accumulate on city land. Unsanctioned dumps of toxic industrial wastes are polluting the area's soil and water. There is an urgent need for more specialized wastetreatment facilities."


Text and Satellite Image credit: United National Environmental Programme Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA) and Global Resource Information Database (GRID).

© UNEP/DEWA/GRID-Europe 1998-2006 All Rights Reserved

Night's Black Bird III

BAGHDAD, Jan. 30 -- "Iraqi Health Minister Abdul Mutalib Ali Mohammed Salih said Monday that a 14-year-old girl who died almost two weeks ago in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah was found to have been infected with bird flu.

The girl, Tijan Abdel Qadr, died after experiencing severe respiratory symptoms consistent with those present in the disease that has killed more than 80 people, the vast majority in Asia, since it was first diagnosed in 2003. Medical scientists fear that if left unchecked, the disease could spread to broad swaths of the global population.

"The test of Tijan's blood emphasized that she had bird flu from the kind that kills humans," Ali told reporters Monday in Sulaymaniyah, located in Iraq's semi autonomous Kurdish region.

The World Health Organization, which had said on Jan. 19 that the teenager did not have the disease, told the Reuters news service that its initial assessment had been based only on tests conducted in Iraq. Further testing turned up positive results for the H5N1 strain of the virus, which is highly lethal and can be contracted from close contact with infected poultry, Reuters reported." ...

Jonathan Finer "Bird Flu Death of Iraqi Girl Confirmed" Washingtonpost.com January 30, 2006.

Vincent van Gogh Crows in a Wheatfield (1890, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam, Netherlands) is the last painting that Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh created before his suicide. His emotional intensity is conveyed through the thick, agitated brushstrokes and the ominous crows, which are symbols of death.

FPG International, LLC

Text source and Image credit: www.encarta.msn.com/media

Georges de La Tour In The Museum Of Fine Arts, Lviv, Ukraine.

A highlight of the collections of the Lviv Museum of Fine Arts is this painting by Georges de La Tour entitled Paid Money (also called The Money-lender, also called The Payment of Taxes). c. 1625-27. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Lviv, Ukraine.

Click on image for enlargement.

Image credit: Olga's Gallery http://www.abcgallery.com/L/latour/latour21.html
With thanks.

Sir Simon Rattle Conducts the Berlin Philharmonic In Haydn, Mozart, Strauss, Adès, And Ravel

To my mind, Justin Davidson is displaying some mighty fine classical music writing over at Newsday.com, as this sample, linked from Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise, I feel, clearly demonstrates:

... "[Sir Simon] Rattle and [the Berlin Philharmonic] attacked Thomas Adès "Asyla" again on Saturday night, and it's amazing that such an important work of blistering bravado had never been performed in New York. Adès, now 34 and already an elder statesman of the British music scene, wrote "Asyla" nearly a decade ago, and it cemented his reputation as a deft and fearless composer. It belongs in the tradition of lucidly psychotic music that extends back through the opium fantasies of Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" to the addled 16th century madrigals of Gesualdo da Venosa, dripping with dissonance.

"Asyla" begins with a soft cloud of clanking, as if a band of cats were warming up on garbage cans. The noise spreads to the strings, and a broad, twilight horn theme tries to cut through the static. Then a rapid, repeating riff on the cymbals kicks the music from its confusion and out into the bright neon night.

The keystone of the work is the huge and thrilling third movement, held together by a pattern of sledgehammer beats that give off sprays of sparks. Heavy dance-club rhythms, of the kind that set off car alarms, pile up, fragment and whirl into a rushing twister of broken-off melodies, screeches and whipping chords. The Berliners' fierce precision only intensified the lunacy. It was exciting to hear such perfectly organized delirium in Carnegie's hallowed Hall.

After all that Dionysian excess, Mozart could be counted on to restore equilibrium; Emanuel Ax played the E-flat Piano Concerto, K. 271 with his infallible sense of taste, lyric tenderness, and natural phrasing."...

Source: Justin Davidson "In Berlin's neon world, a blinding clarity flickers" Newsday.com January 30, 2006 via Alex Ross's www.therestisnoise.com


Filmtheater Kosmos ("Kosmos" Cinema)

"Inserted in 1960-62 into a space reserved for it in the then unitary neo-historical construction of the Stalin Avenue [in Eastern Berlin], this film theater stands out in its functionalism and modernity. Renovated in the mid-nineties to become Berlin’s first multiplex cinema, the audience space with 1,000 seats was retained in accordance with laws for the protection of historic monuments. Today, the theater is part of the Ufa Group."

Source: www.berlin.de/ stadttouren/en/kma_6.html

Photo credit: © studio kohlmeier. With thanks.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

James Levine Conducts the MET In Bartok, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky -- And Some Upstart Named Mozart

This afternoon, Sunday January 29, James Levine led the MET Orchestra, and soprano Anja Silja, at Carnegie Hall in Bartok's Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin, Schoenberg's Erwartung, and Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps.

What's with all the old music?

While, unfortunately, I missed this afternoon's concert, due to work responsibilities, I did enjoy tremendously, James Levine conducting, yesterday afternoon, the MET Opera in Mozart's and da Ponte's Cosi fan Tutti.

Such "reason" in the music!

Such broadcasts make me a big fan of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and make living in the American provinces partially bearable.

Bluebeard's Castle -- I mean Stalin's Castle (Massandra) -- in Yalta, Autonomous Republic of Crimea (Ukraine). (The Crimean Tatars, who Stalin forcefully removed from Crimea after World War II, have been slowly returning, this past decade, to Crimea -- largely from Uzbekistan.)

Photo credit: www.autostop.lt With thanks.

Friday, January 27, 2006

From Bach To Carter At The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra

Tomorrow evening, January 28, the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra performs an intriguing program, under George Thomson, comprised of Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, Elliott Carter's powerful Piano Concerto (with Jerry Kuderna, piano), Edgard Varèse's Octandre, and Igor Stravinsky's Suite from The Firebird.

Excellent programming, in my opinion.

Tonight, I have a ticket to hear "Music for the Steel Qin: New Asian Music for the Piano" with Margaret Leng Tan at the Freer Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. According to the concert notice "The classical Chinese qin, a small zither related to the piano [sic], has been central to the literary, artistic, and scholarly life of China for centuries. Margaret Leng Tan, the celebrated and iconoclastic pianist, performs qin-inspired works by [Debussy, Cage ],Tan Dun, Erik Griswold, Ge Gan-Ru, and Somei Satoh."

Maybe there will be Mozart -- or Part or Crumb, as an encore. [In fact, Debussy was the encore.]

A glimpse of the interior of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, by architect Gae Aulenti.

Photo credit: www.asianart.org

Mozart And Baroque Architecture And Alpine Fresh Air

Perhaps there was something about the wonderful baroque architecture or the Alpine fresh mountain air of Mozart's childhood, youth, and young adulthood.

Salzburg Cathedral dome. Salzburg, Austria was the birthplace and childhood home of Mozart; who was born on this date in 1756.

Photo credit: Courtesy of www.wikipedia.org

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Holocaust Memorial Day 2006

I am thankful to On An Overgrown Path for reminding me that Holocaust Memorial Day 2006, usually held on January 27, is being held this year, today, January 26, in order to avoid the Jewish Sabbath. Please see the superb On An Overgrown Path site for its tribute, as well as yesterday's outstanding post on The Berlin Philharmonic's Darkest Hour. This memorial day is variously described as commemorating the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising or the liberation, by the Soviet Army, of the Auschwitz labor and death camps.

Its name, in Hebrew, is Yom Ha-Shoah. According to the Jewish Virtual Library writings compiled by the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise "There have been numerous attempts to compose special liturgy (text and music) for Yom Ha-Shoah. In 1988, the Reform movement published Six Days of Destruction. This book, co-authored by Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Albert Friedlander, was meant to be viewed as a "sixth scroll," a modern addition to the five scrolls that are read on specific holidays. Six narratives from Holocaust survivors are juxtaposed to the six days of creation found in Genesis."

For an excellent Map of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 1942, please see:


Also please see:



Warsaw, Poland's Krasinskich Palace, now the home, after long-delayed restoration, of Poland's National Library.

The Warsaw Ghetto began just behind the formal gardens of Krasinskich Palace in an area roughly circumscribed by the Krasinskich Palace, the Saski Palace (completely destroyed by the Nazis, but with plans now underway to rebuild it), and the Jewish, Catholic, and Lutheran cemetaries to the West.

Warsaw's prewar Jewish population of more than 350,000 constituted about 30 percent of the city's total population [somewhat lower than that of Odesa, Minsk, Vilnius, Lviv, Grodna, and numerous other Eastern European cities]. However, in number, the Warsaw Jewish population was the second largest in the world after that of New York City.

Source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Photo credit: http://polish-jewish-heritage.org (Montreal, Canada). With thanks.

Reader Response: The Condition Of The Great Choral Synagogue Of Drohobych, Ukraine

"I was born in Drohobych and I have lived here for 22 years. From what I remember, the choral synagogue (that one on the photo) was used as furniture store in Soviet times and was later (I can vividly recall mom and dad buying our sofa there sometime in late 1980s).

After Ukraine gained independence, the synagogue was indeed returned to the Jewish community. However, the Jewish community in Drohobych numbers a scarce 30-40 Jews, most of them old age pensioners.

They have not looked after the synagogue for years and thus it was gradually looted by petty criminals and became a shelter (and a toilet) to homeless people. It is NOT 'again being used as a synagogue'.

Only recently (about a year ago, in early 2005) I have noticed some signs of improvement. They have made a gate and locked the door at least - nice start. It would be interesting to see the synagogue functioning again but I doubt it will be soon."

Posted by nasxodax to Renaissance Research [August 5, 2005] at 1/26/2006 01:30:34 AM



My response:

Thank you very much for your insightful comment, nasxodax.

I hope that the slight improvement that you noticed at the beginning of 2005 will accelerate. (I visited Drohobych rather quickly in April of 2005, and June of 2004, and we did not examine the condition of Choral Synagogue carefully.)

Earlier this month [January 2006], I visited Synagogues in Zhytomyr, Ukraine; and Grodna and Minsk, Belarus (as well as the site of the completely destroyed Rose Synagogue, in Lviv, Ukraine.) [We also visited old and new Mosques in Crimea and Odesa.]

The Zhytomyr Synagogue is partially functioning and the Jewish community maintains offices in part of the [smaller] structure. [The Kyiv large Synagogue is also a fully restored and functioning religious center. I visited it on earlier trips. But I do recall the very old Zhovka and Brody, Ukraine Synagogues being in very poor conditions.]

The Minsk Jewish community is building a very large, beautiful new Synagogue in the vicinity of the American, Russian, and Ukrainian Embassies. [I will try to locate and post a picture of the new building. Also, while the American and Russian Embassies are in large, 19th c. villas, the Ukrainian Embassy is in a large beautiful, modern structure.]

The experience of the Grodna, Belarus large Synagogue sounds a little more comparable to that of the large Choral Synagogue of Drohobych -- but perhaps it was luckier in its location. The building had a locked door, and an elderly female member of the Jewish community responded when we rang the bell, just before twilight. She explained (in Russian) that there were plans for a major restoration of the structure, and she showed us the Renaissance structure inside. Fortunately for the structure, it was located on a bluff only about 300 meters from the Old and New Grodna Royal Palaces (the New Palace having been used as the Belarus Communist Party Headquarters until 1991). Restoration efforts to develop the general area as a significant tourist site were underway. (Near the Palaces --now being used as excellent regional museums and the regional Ministry of Culture -- and the unrestored Synagogue, were two fully restored Orthodox Cathedrals, one from the 11th century and one from the early 20th century. The 11th c. Boris and Glib Cathedral was the oldest, unmodified church in Belarus.)


I also recall that the Great Synagogues of Oradea, Romania, and Pecs, Hungary, are carefully secured (and awaiting total restoration, in the case of the Oradea, Romania Synagogue.) The Great Synagogues of Szeged and Pecs, Hungary are fully functioning, beautiful large Synagogues. (I will assume that the Pecs Synagogue is close to being fully restored by now. I visited it in 2003.]

Thank you again for your comment. I would appreciate it if you would let me know anything further that you learn about plans to restore the Drohobych Choral Synagogue.

Drohobych, Ukraine Choral Synagogue.

Drohobych is located south of Lviv, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. It is an industrial center which grew affluent in the early 20th century as a center of oil refining in the Eastern Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is adjacent to the
Boryslav industrial area, which was a center of the European salt trade since medieval times.

Polish writer and visual artist Bruno Schulz was a highly distinguished native of Drohobych, being born there in 1892. He taught art in the local Gymnasium until his murder by the Nazis in 1942. According to the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Schulz "viewed Drohobych to be the center of the world and [he] was a penetrating observer of life there, proving himself an excellent "chronicler." His writings and his art are both saturated with the realities of Drohobych. His stories are replete with descriptions of the town's main streets and landmarks, as well as with images of its inhabitants." ...

"[A] series of murals painted by Schulz just before his tragic death (on November 19, 1942, the writer and artist was shot in the streets of Drohobych by a member of the Gestapo) in "Landau's Villa" in Drohobych. Discovered (and photographed) by German filmmaker Benjamin Geissler, for the preceding fifty years it was thought that they had been destroyed. Unfortunately, the discovery was partly destroyed when representatives of the Yad Vashem Institute in Israel secretly removed significant fragments of the murals and transported them outside of Ukraine. The pieces that remained were transferred to the Drohobychina Museum in Drohobych ... (Malgorzata Kitowska-Lysiak)."

See http://www.culture.pl/en/culture/artykuly/os_schulz_bruno

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Contemporary Music Sampler At Hertz Hall, University Of California At Berkeley

On January 29, Magnus Lindberg appears at a Composers Portrait Concert (in collaboration with Miller Theater, Columbia University) in Hertz Hall, the University of California at Berkeley. The concert will feature the International Contemporary Ensemble conducted by Timothy Weiss. Mr Lindberg is described as "among Europe's most talented young composers, particularly admired for the energy, color, and a thrilling density of his recent music, which defines a new classical modernism". The program features Mr Lindberg's Clarinet Quintet; Related Rocks; Linea d'ombra; and Duo Concertante.

On February 11, Mark Dresser, Myra Melford, Bob Ostertag and David Wessel appear in a joint concert. "Each an internationally recognized and acclaimed improviser, Mark Dresser, Myra Melford, and Bob Ostertag joined the University of California faculty in the fall of 2004. Together with electronic musician David Wessel, director of UC Berkeley's acclaimed Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT), these musical pioneers fuse acoustic with live computer-based performance in a program demonstrating the excitement and possibilities of the improvised musical medium."

On March 5, John Adams and Alarms Will Sound will present (in collaboration with Miller Theater, Columbia University) a Composer Portrait Concert featuring Mr Adams's China Gates (1977); Chamber Symphony (1992); Gnarly Buttons (1996); and Scratchband (1997). "Bay Area audiences need no introduction to the work of John Adams - one of the best known and most-often-performed of America's composers. As Andrew Porter wrote in The New Yorker, Adams is the creator of a "flexible new language capable of producing large-scale works that are both attractive and strongly fashioned." Called "the future of classical music" by The New York Times, Alarm Will Sound is a 22-member band committed to innovative performances and recordings of contemporary music. Founded in 2001, it has already established a reputation for performing demanding music with energetic virtuosity."

Program notes to the Magnus Lindberg concert are currently available at:


Program notes to the other two concerts will be available two weeks before each concert.

The University of California at Berkeley's new Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library.

"It contains the only known score of Alessandro Scarlatti's 1683 opera, "L'Aldimiro," as well as an 11th century Gregorian chant manuscript, the papers of jazz great Earl "Fatha" Hines, and an original manuscript of Stravinsky's ballet, "Orpheus," written in his own hand."

Photo credit: http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/

On The Proper Use Of High Temperature Kilns

" ... Nineteenth-century Washington had nearly 100 [beehive] brick kilns. Most of them were sited along the Anacostia, in order to exploit the fine clay that was dug from the river's bed and banks. These domed ones were built, circa 1909, by the United Brick Corp., which, in the 1920s, produced 140,000 bricks a day. They were fired -- at 1,900 degrees -- for three or four days. Then they took as long to cool. There used to be 12 kilns on the New York Avenue site. These two survive.... The yard, which made its last brick in 1972, is not open to the public. That's because the National Arboretum, which acquired the land 29 years ago, intending to landscape it, has yet to begin. The beehive kilns, however, may be viewed from afar."

Paul Richard "FROM THE COLLECTION : Washington's Prize Possessions" Washington Post January 22, 2006.


Why, in heaven's name, would anyone want to "landscape" this historical, industrial site; perfect as it is?

Washington, D.C.'s New York Avenue brick kilns, built ca. 1909. "Arresting structures wholly utilitarian and whose beauty is incidental."

Click to enlarge image.

Photo credit: Stefanye C. Washington -- U.S. National Arboretum via WashingtonPost.com

Shadows Of Near Forgotten Ancestors: Map Of Nazi Einsatzgruppen Massacres In Eastern Europe, 1941-42

Map Of Nazi Einsatzgruppen Massacres In Eastern Europe 1941-42, From The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Click on Image for Enlargement. (The map color key is off. In the box, the top classification should show as pale orange.)


(c) Smithsonian Institution

This image is from the website of the Smithsonian Institution and may be copyrighted. The Smithsonian Institution explicitly considers the use of its content for non-commercial educational purposes to qualify as fair use under United States copyright law, if:
1. The author and source of the content is clearly cited.
2. Any additional copyright information about the photograph from the Smithsonian Institution website is included.
3. None of the content is modified or altered.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

An American Contemporary Music Sampler At The Library Of Congress

Library of Congress Contemporary American Music senior curator Stephen Soderberg is hosting an American Composer Portrait mini-series at the LOC, this Winter and Spring.

The February 2 program features the chamber music of Roger Reynolds (a special web-site on Mr Reynolds is already available at www.loc.gov/rogerreynolds/), the March 31 concert features the chamber music of Milton Babbitt (with Robert Taub, Judith Bettina, and Curtis Macomber), and the April 12 concert features a lap-top electronic and multi-media program by Morton Subotnick. The latter two concerts, at present, feature pre-concert discussions hosted by Mr Soderberg. (I assume that there will also be a pre-concert discussion for the Reynolds event, as well.)

On February 17, Peter Schickele delivers the Louis C. Elson Memorial Lecture on the history of the string quartet, titled "STRING QUARTET: THE DARK HORSE OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC: How the most European-rooted musical genre has come from behind in the race to embrace diverse cultural influences."

On March 17, Mezzo Sopranos Margaret Lattimore, Stephanie Novacek, and Mary Phillips, and Guest Flutist Eugenia Zukerman perform song cycles by contemporary composer-pianists Ricky Ian Gordon and Jake Heggie, along with duets and trios by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.

On April 6, the Turtle Island String Quartet performs. The ensemble fuses the classical quartet aesthetic with contemporary American musical styles including folk, bluegrass, swing, bebop,funk, R & B, new age, rock, hip-hop, and world music.

The next day, on April 7, the Juilliard String Quartet performs the Washington premiere of 45-year–old, Argentine-born composer Ezequiel Viñao's "Loss and Silence". The work premiered in New York City last October. [Osvaldo Golijov is another 45-year-old Argentine-born composer based in the U.S.]

On May 19, Cho-liang Lin and Andre-Michel Schub will perform the world premiere of Bright Sheng's new violin sonata.

See the Library of Congress site for additional program and pre-concert lecture information.



What, no discussion by John Harbison on the composition of his eleven-poem Czeslaw Milosz [1911- 2004] orchestral cycle (in English), to be world premiered next month by Dawn Upshaw and the New York Philharmonic, under Robert Spano?

(Program notes to that major new work will be available in mid-Februrary at

The Vilnius, Lithuania television transmission tower, today, which was the central point of Lithuania's not-quite-velvet revolution of 1991. On January 13, 1991 (almost exactly 15 years ago) clashes between Soviet troops and unarmed Lithuanian civilians occurred, leaving 13 dead and many injured. This further weakened the Soviet Union's legitimacy, internationally and domestically, leading to its dissolution later that year.

Some of the poems set by John Harbison in his 2005 Czeslaw Milosz orchestral song cycle, to be premiered by Dawn Upshaw and the New York Philharmonic under Robert Spano, were composed in Vilno, Poland (Vilnius, Lithuania today) during the unsettled 1930s.

Photo credit: http://www.lituanica.com/ With thanks.
Copyright © 1999-2004 Lituanica.com All rights reserved.

Edward Rothstein On Holocaust Children's Objects

"In the exhibition "Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust," which opens today at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, there is nothing intrinsically remarkable about the objects on display. What, after all, is the interest in a stained short-sleeve lime-green sweater that might have been worn by any 8-year-old girl? What is so important about three wooden stubs with ink-drawn faces stored in a battered pillbox?

Yet despite this exhibition's shortcomings, these ordinary objects have an unmistakable aura, as powerful as that of an imposing artwork. Their mundane appearance is loaded with implication; their stains and signs of wear haunt the mind if not the eye. The very fact that they look as if they were plucked from a rummage heap contributes to their power.

For the sweater, with its flimsy lacelike neckline, was worn by Krystyna Chiger in 1943 in the sewers under the streets of Lvov, Poland, where she and her family spent 14 months in hiding as the Nazis liquidated the Jewish ghetto above their heads. And the wooden stubs were made by Jurek Orlowski and his brother - "toy soldiers" with which they played Robin Hood - in a dark flea-infested cellar where they were hidden by a Polish family, before they were discovered and sent to Bergen-Belsen. ...

We think of children in hiding as part of a game, a game that Freud wrote about as if it were the archetypal act of childhood: the child makes things come and go, appear and disappear, affirming some power over the looming, threatening world. What greater power can there be than to make oneself disappear? Hiding also opens new possibilities, in which the solitary child imagines or discovers a new world - lions and witches revealed in the backs of wardrobes.

Only here, of course, everything is inverted: hiding is the sign of absolute powerlessness." ...

Edward Rothstein "Exhibition Review : 'Life in Shadows': Holocaust Children's Objects: Ordinary but Powerful" New York Times January 24, 2006.

"Life in Shadows" continues through June 25 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, Battery Park City, New York City.

Today's architectural shadows of the L'viv [L'vov] Renaissance-era Rose Synagogue, destroyed by the Nazis.

Photo credit: www.lvivecotour.com

The 2006 World Heritage Map: A New UNESCO World Heritage Center, National Geographic, And Hewlett Packard Partnership

Friday, January 20, 2006. "The UNESCO World Heritage Centre is pleased to announce the publication of the 2006 World Heritage map, the first to be produced in collaboration with National Geographic and Hewlett Packard.

The partnership, signed in 2005 for an initial period of three years, combines National Geographic's famous cartography with Hewlett Packard's quality print technology to beautifully illustrate the location of World Heritage sites across the globe.

The map features the 812 World Heritage properties and brief explanations of the World Heritage Convention and World Heritage conservation programmes, as well as superb photos of World Heritage sites with explanatory captions. The dimensions of the map are 78 cm by 50 cm (31 by 20 in.), and it can be downloaded free of charge from this website. It is available in English, French, and Spanish versions. A free printed map can be requested by sending an e-mail to wh-info@unesco.org."


Renaissance Fara Poznanska. Poznan, Poland. Near the birthplace of Nobel laureate poet Wislawa Szymborska. (See post below.)

Tortures -- By Wislawa Szymborska

Nothing has changed.
The body is a reservoir of pain;
it has to eat and breathe the air, and sleep;
it has thin skin and the blood is just beneath it;
it has a good supply of teeth and fingernails;
its bones can be broken; its joints can be stretched.
In tortures, all of this is considered.

Nothing has changed.
The body still trembles as it trembled
before Rome was founded and after,
in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
Tortures are just what they were, only the earth has shrunk
and whatever goes on sounds as if it's just a room away.

Nothing has changed.
Except there are more people,
and new offenses have sprung up beside the old ones--
real, make-believe, short-lived, and nonexistent.
But the cry with which the body answers for them
was, is, and will be a cry of innocence
in keeping with the age-old scale and pitch.

Nothing has changed.
Except perhaps the manners, ceremonies, dances.
The gesture of the hands shielding the head
has nonetheless remained the same.
The body writhes, jerks, and tugs,
falls to the ground when shoved, pulls up its knees,
bruises, swells, drools, and bleeds.

Nothing has changed.
Except the run of rivers,
the shapes of forests, shores, deserts, and glaciers.
The little soul roams among these landscapes,
disappears, returns, draws near, moves away,
evasive and a stranger to itself,
now sure, now uncertain of its own existence,
whereas the body is and is and is
and has nowhere to go.

[Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh].

(c) Wislawa Szymborska and Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Ms. Szymborska was the 1996 Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Nobel laureate poet Wislawa Szymborska

After Krakow and Warsaw, Poznan (Posen in its earlier German form), in Western Poland, is Poland's third most distinguished academic center.

Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska was born in Kornik in Western Poland, near Posen, on 2 July 1923. Since 1931 she has been living in Krakow, where during 1945-1948 she studied Polish Literature and Sociology at the Jagiellonian University.

Photo credit: http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1996/szymborska-bio.html

Monday, January 23, 2006

Sustainable, "Green" History Museums: The Lviv, Ukraine History Museum Hosts The Gomel [Homel], Belarus National Science Museum Microbiology Project

This winter, the Lviv History Museum -- housed, in part, in the former Renaissance- era Polish Royal Chambers (part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site central core of Lviv, Ukraine) -- hosts a temporary exhibition, from the National Museum of Science, Gomel [Homel], Belarus, featuring 36 microscopes, in a circle in a darkened room, showing spectacular images from our microscopic world. The exhibition is reported to be attracting large numbers of -- especially younger -- visitors to the Lviv History Museum.

Gomel [Homel]-- situated in the southeast corner of Belarus -- is the second largest city in Belarus, after Minsk, and, as the closest urban area to the site of the Chornobyl, Ukraine former nuclear power plant, it, and its surrounding countryside, received the greatest levels of radioactive exposure from the April 26, 1986 Soviet Union disaster.

Please see Chernobyl Children's Project International and "Chernobyl: Twenty Years, Twenty Lives" for preview information on the upcoming 20th anniversary commemoration of this key event in twentieth century world technological and political history.

"Chernobyl: Twenty Years, Twenty Lives" is EarthVision's photo journalistic journey through the countries of the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Latvia, Sweden, France, and UK. It follows twenty people in their daily lives nowadays and reflects on how they changed after the events of April 1986. The goal of the project is to learn from the history and look at the accident from the present perspective at different levels, both locally and globally. All twenty stories will be released April 2006.



Spores, known as ascospores, from a mature Morel mushroom, as seen under a microscope. These spores measure twelve to twenty-two microns. There are about 25,000 microns in one inch.

Image credit: © 2001 C. Wayne Ellett and The Ohio State University

Sustainable, "Green" Architecture: The New York Public Library Bronx Library Center

"Designed by Dattner Architects, and constructed by F. J. Sciame Construction, the five-story, "green," or sustainable, structure features an open glass façade that communicates a sense of its internal activity and multiple functions and spaces.

Built on the site of a building formerly owned by Con Edison, the open-floor glass building maximizes an abundance of natural light. A distinctive swooping roof tops the library's glass façade. Each floor is accentuated by open views to the busy thoroughfare of East Kingsbridge Road; streaming daylight nearly eliminates the need for overhead lighting in the public spaces. Windows are lined by banks of comfortable tables, armchairs, and other seating, enabling collective study. Sleekly designed central reference desks are readily accessible on each floor, and clear sight lines improve communication between users and library staff. Conference rooms, available to organizations within the community, are located throughout the building. Ample storage ensures that the Library can continue to grow its collections in the decades to come. Sweeping views of the Bronx skyline, the New York Botanical Garden, and Fordham University's clock tower physically situate the Library within its local community.

The Bronx Library Center building is The New York Public Library's first "green" facility. With its use of local and recycled materials, energy-efficient systems, air quality controls, and natural light, the structure is designed to reduce operating costs and minimize its impact on the environment."


Photo credit: Denis Finnin for The New York Public Library

Friday, January 20, 2006

Epilogue of the Storm: Zbigniew Herbert Days In Lviv, Ukraine [March 2005]

Though I had planned to attend last year's Zbigniew Herbert Days in Lviv, Ukraine, last March, history intervened and I was unable to be in Lviv until April. I did, however, find this Report on the Symposium held in Herbert's "native" city [Lwow, in Poland], as published by the Polish Cultural Bulletin 12 (156):

Zbigniew Herbert Days were held in Lviv on 16-17 March [2005]. The presentation of Zbigniew Herbert's first book ever published in Ukraine took place at Ivan Franko [Lviv] University. The nearly 600-page bilingual [Polish - Ukrainian] selection of verse, translated by Viktor Dmytruk, was published by the distinguished Literatskye Kamenar Lviv Publishing House. The volume kicks off a Library of Slavonic Literatures, whose second work is to be 'High Castle' by Lviv-born Stanisław Lem. Kamenar’s further plans include translations of Mickiewicz and Słowacki. The book’s début was preceded by a seminar opened by Ivan Vakarchuk, rector of Lviv University, and conducted by Professor Janusz Odrowąż-Pieniążek, president of the Polish Writers’ Association and director of the Warsaw Literary Museum. Zbigniew Herbert and his literary creations were also talked about by the late poet’s friends, including Zdzisław Najder and Jacek Łukasiewicz, as well as Ukrainian admirers of his work. Two memorial plaques were unveiled: at St Anthony’s Church in the Lychakiv district of Lviv and in the house at 22 Lychakovska Street [isn't it at about 68 Lychakovska (formerly Lenin) Street instead?] where the writer was born and spent his childhood [1924-1933].

The plaque was blessed by the Latin Metropolitan Archbishop of Lviv, Cardinal Marian Jaworski who celebrated holy mass and delivered a homily dedicated to Herbert. The plaque was unveiled by the poet’s sister, Halina Herbert-Żebrowska. 'Epilogue of the Storm', an exhibition devoted to Herbert prepared by Warsaw’s Literary Museum, opened at the House of Art in Copernicus Street. Herbert Days were organised by the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Lviv and the Foundation to Aid Poles in the East in co-operation with the Federation of Polish Organisations in Ukraine and the monthly literary magazine 'Lviv Encounters' which marked the occasion by publishing a special issue devoted entirely to Herbert."



Last April, I had stumbled upon the plaque at the childhood home of Herbert on Lychakovska Street, and last Tuesday, N. and I attended an Epiphany Mass interspersed with folk carols (sung in Polish and Ukrainian, and underscored by synthesizer, electric guitar, and hand drums) at Saint Anthony's Polish Church, where I found the second new Herbert memorial plague next to the marble basin in which "Herbert was christianed into this world". I am still trying to recall and locate the poem fragment included on this second plaque. [N. told me that Saint Anthony's Polish Church, with its largely bilingual, trilingual, or quattrolingual young membership, is also a center for Contemporary Chamber Opera in Lviv.]


Report from the Besieged City

Too old to carry arms and fight like the others -

they graciously gave me the inferior role of chronicler
I record - I don't know for whom - the history of the siege

I am supposed to be exact but I don't know when the invasion began
two hundred years ago in December in September perhaps yesterday at dawn
everyone here suffers from a loss of the sense of time

all we have left is the place the attachment to the place
we still rule over the ruins of temples spectres of gardens and houses
if we lose the ruins nothing will be left

I write as I can in the rhythm of interminable weeks
monday: empty storehouses a rat became the unit of currency
tuesday: the mayor murdered by unknown assailants
wednesday: negotiations for a cease-fire the enemy has imprisoned our messengers
we don't know where they are held that is the place of torture
thursday: after a stormy meeting a majority of voices rejected
the motion of the spice merchants for unconditional surrender
friday: the beginning of the plague saturday: our invincible defender
N.N. committed suicide sunday: no more water we drove back
an attack at the eastern gate called the Gate of the Alliance

all of this is monotonous I know it can't move anyone

I avoid any commentary I keep a tight hold on my emotions I write about the facts
only they it seems are appreciated in foreign markets
yet with a certain pride I would like to inform the world
that thanks to the war we have raised a new species of children
our children don’t like fairy tales they play at killing
awake and asleep they dream of soup of bread and bones
just like dogs and cats

in the evening I like to wander near the outposts of the city
along the frontier of our uncertain freedom.
I look at the swarms of soldiers below their lights
I listen to the noise of drums barbarian shrieks
truly it is inconceivable the City is still defending itself
the siege has lasted a long time the enemies must take turns
nothing unites them except the desire for our extermination
Goths the Tartars Swedes troops of the Emperor regiments of the Transfiguration
who can count them
the colours of their banners change like the forest on the horizon
from delicate bird's yellow in spring through green through red to winter's black

and so in the evening released from facts I can think
about distant ancient matters for example our
friends beyond the sea I know they sincerely sympathize
they send us flour lard sacks of comfort and good advice
they don’t even know their fathers betrayed us
our former allies at the time of the second Apocalypse
their sons are blameless they deserve our gratitude therefore we are grateful
they have not experienced a siege as long as eternity
those struck by misfortune are always alone
the defenders of the Dalai Lama the Kurds the Afghan mountaineers

now as I write these words the advocates of conciliation
have won the upper hand over the party of inflexibles
a normal hesitation of moods fate still hangs in the balance

cemeteries grow larger the number of defenders is smaller
yet the defence continues it will continue to the end
and if the City falls but a single man escapes
he will carry the City within himself on the roads of exile
he will be the City

we look in the face of hunger the face of fire face of death
worst of all - the face of betrayal
and only our dreams have not been humiliated

Zbigniew Herbert (1924 - 1998)

(translated from the Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter. Ecco Press 1982)

(c) Zbigniew Herbert and John and Bogdana Carpenter 1982

The Great Synagogue Of Grodna [Hrodna], Belarus, ca. 1625 - 1905 - 2005

"The history of the Grodno Great Synagogue dates back to the first half of the sixteenth century, when Rabbi Iofia invited the Italian architect, Santi Gucci, to Grodno and asked him to design a project for a future synagogue.

At that time, Grodno was a very small town with mixed religions. In the center of the town, the building of a beautiful Catholic church was coming to an end (it still exists). The building of another one [actually several] was started. The bells of the Orthodox church [one dating back to the 11th century and the second oldest in Belarus] were heard through the town every day, and the people of different religious views were living in peace and kindness..."

Please see "Rebuilding the Great Synagogue of Grodno, Belarus" by Kate Suvorina of Grodno School No. 14, and Kate Grib of Grodno School No. 30, from the words of Mikhail Boyarski, the Chairman of the Grodno Jewish Community in Belarus [which, unlike the significantly larger Minsk community, I believe numbered 26 members in 1992.]

www.iearn.org/.../ grodno-synagogue.htm

Italian Renaissance interior of the Great Grodna Synagogue, Belarus (formerly in Poland).

Image credit: www.hum.huji.ac.il/ cja/ex_b.htm

For an excellent exterior shot of the Grodna Great Synagogue today, as rebuilt in 1905, in mixed European Empire style after exterior fire in 1899, see the Grodno the Synagogue.jpg
בית הכנסת הגדול בגרודנו at http://eyal.smugmug.com/keyword/jorden

(We viewed the great interior of this World cultural monument by the barest of residual winter twilight. Please, remember to bring a flashlight (torch) when you tour the Renaissance architectual masterpieces of (Western) Belarus -- especially Grodna [Hrodna], Mir, and Nesvizh [the latter two are UNESCO World Heritage Sites undergoing extensive restoration today]. I think that the exterior of the Great Grodna Synagogue, when seen from a short distance near the Old and New Lithuanian and Polish Castles, is even more impressive than the shot referenced here.)


We were also lucky to view a major temporary exhibition, in the Grodna New Castle Palace, and from the inventories of National Museum of Belarus in Minsk, of 38 portraits, over many generations, of members of the Radziwill dynasty; portraits originally from their Radziwill Family Castle at Nesvizh before the occupation of the Castle by the Nazis soon after September 1939 (The last Radziwill Prince was reported to have fled, from Nesvizh, in a small private airplane from a small airfield near the extensive castle English Gardens, as the Nazis approached. The Castle's art works, and rumored earlier Napoleanic era treasure, was apparently well hidden by this time; though, apparently, only the paintings were recovered and made their way to Minsk after 1944.

The Radziwill's also had palaces in Vilno, Poland [Vilnius, Lithuania today] and Warsaw, Poland -- the latter of which is today's Polish Presidental Palace.


An American Operatic Season Year Lost In Transition... And Then A Philip Glass/Christopher Hampton World Premiere Based On The American Civil War!

Janos Gereben of San Francisco (www.sfcv.org) reports that American General Director David Gockley, fresh from a distinguished career in Houston, is hitting the ground running as successor to Pamela Rosenberg at the San Francisco Opera. After the conservative 2006-07 Season noted below, Mr Gockley has commissioned Philip Glass and librettist Christopher Hampton to create an American opera, for premiere in 2007, on tragic American events at Appomattox, Virginia, during the American Civil War. (Will the Washington National Opera itself witness a Philip Glass premiere in my lifetime, afterall? ... And won't the employment of Mr Hampton as librettist perhaps lead to a potentially stronger work than the Robert Wilson/Glass/Byrne/Anderson civiL warS (or something like that) from the post-modern, American operatically barren, 1980s?)

Mssrs Glass and Hampton are, of course, fresh from their very well received J. M. Coetzee opera, Waiting for the Barbarians, which premiered in Erfurt, Germany last Summer. Will DGG now step forward and record the work as part of their 20/21 program?

San Francisco Opera 2006-'07 season

UN BALLO IN MASCHERA by Giuseppe Verdi
DIE FLEDERMAUS by Johann Strauss, Jr.
RIGOLETTO by Giuseppe Verdi
TRISTAN UND ISOLDE by Richard Wagner
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE by Gioacchino Rossini
MANON LESCAUT by Giacomo Puccini
CARMEN by Georges Bizet
DON GIOVANNI by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
DER ROSENKAVALIER by Richard Strauss
IPHIGENIE EN TAURIDE by Christoph Willibald Gluck

With many thanks to Janos for the information.

Chersones, Ukraine. In the general ancient Black Sea cultural sphere of J.M. Coetzee's novel Waiting for the Barbarians, set to music by Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton in 2005. (While the ancient Greeks controlled the ancient Ukrainian and Russian coastal areas and riverfronts, the Sythians and other culturally energetic peoples controlled the inland area north of the Black Sea.)

(Also see previous post.)

Image credit: http://www.sevastopol.iuf.net/rus/museums/img/chersones.jpg

The Lviv Philharmonic Celebrates Mozart And Shostakovich

Tomorrow evening, at 6 PM, the Lviv, Ukraine Philharmonic, on Tchaicovskiego Ulica, opens its winter season with a concert celebrating the major anniversary birth years of Mozart and Shostakovich. The program features Mozart's Haffner Symphony (#35) and Shostakovich's last Symphony, #15.

Last Sunday, students from both the local music conservatory and academy celebrated the Eastern Orthodox New Year (Julian calendar) with a second New Year's celebration concert; this time with music of Pachebel, Bach, Haydn, Chopin, and Dimitriescu. (The Lviv Music Conservatory is itself housed in a beautifully restored Art Nouveau building -- a far cry from the brutalist cement modernism of the Juilliard School in New York City and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, in Berkeley, California.)

Happily, the beautiful small Lviv Philharmonie, in an exquisite style modern building, will remain open as major renovations on the structure (topped by two lyres and and two swans) begin. (The much more renowned Lviv Opera House is in exquisite condition; and the exterior renovation of the even finer Odesa/Odessa Opera House is now complete. The superb inner neo-baroque plaster work to that Western Opera House -- a much finer hall than the bombed and rebuilt Vienna Opera House --is now undergoing restoration.)

Also happily, the Kyiv Museum of Western and Oriental Art owns a beautiful Rembrandt portrait of a Polish or Slavonic nobleman in a turban. The work is in perfect condition, as are all of the works in Lviv's perhaps finer Lviv Picture Gallery; where no division is made between European and Russian/Ukrainian artists (the museum's collection of Austrian and Polish art is exceptionally fine).

(More sadly, while the works in the Odesa/Odessa Russian Art Museum are in generally good condition, the works at the Odesa/Odessa Western and Oriental Art Museum are in rather poor condition, including some major works by Western European masters.

Also, the Sevastopol Art Museum, which is said to feature a dozen or so Western/Russian/Ukrainian masterworks of painting, is closed for renovation. The world famous Sevastopol Crimean War Panorama, from 1905, remains on view and is the cultural draw of that very beautiful small port city which was closed to all but the Soviet military and their guests from 1917 to 1996. Twice that city has recovered from destruction, ruin once inflicted by the English, French, and Turks (and Italians) during the Crimean War imperialist adventure; and ruin once inflicted by the Nazi imperialist adventure.)

Sevastopol, Ukraine/Russia. Visited by American writer Mark Twain, after the Crimean War of 1854-55, who commented on its "ruin, ruin, ruin". [The theater pictured above was part of the Stalinist era rebuilding of the city, largely completed by 1951. The city is said to have perhaps the finest and most elegant Stalinist era architecture...the Minsk, Belarus Stalinist model city project, while generally very impressive, is perhaps more monumental than elegant, overall.] (The naval port is currently leased by Ukraine to Russia until 2019. Close to Sevastopol is the Greek/Byzantine city of Chersones; where Prince Volodomyr of Kievian - Rus was baptised as a Christian in 988, beginning over 1000 years of Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarussian Eastern Orthodoxy. This baptism was celebrated this past Wednesday eve and Thursday by tens of millions of Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe and its diaspora. Yesterday also marked to beginning of Epiphany Frost, said to be the coldest period of the Eastern European winter.

[Prince Volodmyr married the sister of the Byzantine Emperor, and returned the city to Byzantine rule... In 2004, Presidents Putin and Kuchma, of Russia and Ukraine, jointly oversaw the completion of the major rebuilding of Saint Volodomyr Cathedral, in Chersones, next to the ancient site of Greek trade and culture, and Christian baptism and cultural change and renewal in Eastern Europe.... Some of the finest artifacts from ancient Greek Chersones are in the fine, 180 year old Odesa/Odessa Archeology Museum, newly and beautifully displayed under funding and direction of a Greek Cultural Foundation and Greek cultural consultation.]

Image credit: www.eurotravelling.net. With thanks.