Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Excuses, Excuses!!

What can we possibly say? How can we possibly excuse ourselves? That we have failed to post over the past couple of months pales into insignificance when we consider how much we have neglected you, our friends and Followers, who, despite our silence, have continued to maintain contact with so many kind and thoughtful enquiries through comments and emails. For this we send our heartfelt thanks.

Teddy, who joined us at the State Opera House, on the occasion of the St. Matthew Passion

We are delighted to report that nothing is amiss. Indeed, quite the contrary. Our lives have been filled with the most delightful of events - Opera, Ballet, Concerts, Soirées, Theatre, Exhibition Openings, Dinner Parties, Parties, Restaurants, Film Nights, Excursions - always in the company of the most wonderful friends and leaving little time for the most part to sleep!

And so it continues. But, we do assure you, you are far from forgotten. For the present our days are filled but we will, at the first possible opportunity, return to you all. And to this we so much look forward.

For now we ask your forbearance! 

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Back to the Future

"Children should be seen and seldom heard" is a credo that our parents subscribed to fully. One learned how to play quietly, never to speak at the dining table and only to venture an opinion when directly asked for it. No doubt a reaction to this parenting has resulted in our natural exuberance wherever we go, our love of loud chatter at dinner and our forthright views on anything from the price of fish to the philosophy of the human condition.

Lance Hattatt in contemplation before 'Ambivalent Space' by Róbert Várady [image JRH]

And perhaps our childhood experiences, most often as viewers of adult behaviour rather than as fully involved participants, have also accounted for our independence from the mainstream, of being outsiders and observers, ever the individuals as opposed to part of the crowd. We have found a kindred spirit.

We were introduced to Róbert Várady, the painter, and his works through the Várfok Gallery, Budapest's oldest privately owned art gallery. He is self-effacing, open and erudite. His art is powerful, haunting and, at once, both highly representative of the age to which it belongs and, yet, of another era entirely.

the painter Róbert Várady in front of his oil on canvas, 'Metropolis III', at the Várfok Gallery 

Realistically painted figures occupy a space and time which, in turns, is real and unreal, fixed and yet floating. They share an interface with a variety of geometric images, carefully drawn yet never clear cut. And, no matter how many characters there are, they appear to have no real underlying connection one with another nor, indeed, with their observers. The viewer, never pampered, patronised or comforted is challenged to make something of it all.

'Doing Business at Full Moon' , Róbert Várady, oil on canvas 2011, at the Várfok Gallery

In similar ways to how the new technologies confront humans constantly to reappraise and decode an ever developing cyberspace, so Várady's pictures ask questions, pose ideas and invite one to wrestle with the task of making sense of the individual and of society at large.

'Unidentified Object Slightly Radiating', Róbert Várady, oil on canvas 2011, Várfok Gallery

The art historian, Andrea Bordács, has written that "Várady's painting is the art of no man's land". Meditative and lonely figures, seen but not heard, seek an identity for self and a place in an almost virtual world. What better metaphor for life in 2013?

N.B. The exhibition, Várady Róbert / Tér(v)iszony, runs at the Várfok Gallery, 1012 Budapest, Várfok utca 11 until March 2nd.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

As Luck Would Have It

Crossing the Danube via the Elizabeth Bridge, it is impossible to ignore the Klothilde Palaces. Side by side, a matching pair, they act as sentinels, guarding the gateway to nineteenth century Pest. 

For too many years they remained neglected, run down, symbols of a troubled past. That is until very recently when Fortune, smiling and munificent, restored these wayward twins to former glory.

the Klothilde Palaces [courtesy of Geolocation, Wikimedia] looking west

We are no strangers to them. For in December of last year M, our most generous friend, following a spectacular evening at the ballet, hosted the most glittering dinner and party in what has now become the Buddha Hotel, Restaurant and Bar.

the grand staircase of the Klothilde Palace leading upwards to the Buddha Bar [December]

looking down from above into the Buddha Restaurant on the night of M's December party

And only last week we were there once more, together with M, this time in celebration of the Chinese New Year at Richard's invitation. What immense fun too it proved to be. Throughout dinner, each course more delicious than the last, in a restaurant which positively dazzled, we were entertained to cavorting, dancing dragons whose brilliance and colour transported us from a snow filled Budapest to an Orient of gaiety and promise.

a dragon cavorts in the most entertaining fashion through the Buddha Restaurant last week

an impassive Buddha looks on at the antics of the dragon in celebration of the New Year

striding into a New Year last week, a yellow dragon partnered by one clothed in red

Then in complete contrast, the gentle, quiet sophistication of a dancer whose beauty, grace and charm captivated and enthralled the entire room.

an admiring onlooker at an adjacent table looks on in wonder at the grace of the dancer

Afterwards, in the upstairs bar, and now well beyond the witching hour, to music, dancing, laughter and more dragons we ate the most wicked of chocolate puddings and 'partied' the night away.

much merriment and enjoyment to be had at our table in the bar, well into the early hours

And in opening our Fortune Cookies, no snakes in the grass to be found!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Chandeliers and Champagne

To take Afternoon Tea at The Ritz Hotel in London is a treat. To stay at The Ritz is a luxury. To live at The Ritz for some ten years or so is the making of a legend. Yet this was, and is, the life of Richard Adams and, joy of joys, he is now to be found mostly in Budapest where our worlds collide.

Richard Adams, interior decorator, aesthete, bon viveur, and stylish peacock is a man of extensive and varied sensibilities. Audaciously bold, sharp eyed, quick witted, dramatically gestured and disarmingly attractive, he is prodigiously creative, generous, excellent company, a most loyal friend, and an all round 'good egg'. We love him.

Richard Adams caught in one of many looking glasses in his beautifully styled apartment
In Richard's artistic and beautifully manicured hands, clients can be certain that he will bring a civilising, cultured and knowledgeable influence to bear on any decoration scheme. He is master of his Art. And, above all, the end result will be charming, comfortable, elegant and, perhaps most significantly, fun. He is reluctant to describe his decorating style but a close inspection of his Budapest apartment reveals an interior where Neo-Classical with Baroque overtones meet 1960s London Carnaby Street via the Italian Renaissance. It is nothing if not eclectic, never for a moment pretentious and always, at every turn, visually exciting.

seen behind his desk, Richard Adams in the drawing room of his Budapest apartment

a wonderful arrangement of curtains in the drawing room; the chairs, a set of four, are French

A crystal chandelier of impressive proportion dominates the central axes of the drawing room and entrance hall corridor, pulling the visitor in from the moment he or she steps through the door. A white leather sofa, replete with leopard print cushions, is backed by a magnificent mural of St. Peter's in Rome. Silk curtains in shimmering sea-green festoon the high windows and, importantly, cascade onto the floor. Elegant looking glasses play with light and space, objets trouvées delight the guest explorer, plush upholstery is off set by bare stone and skilfully constructed cabinets hide from view those everyday essentials which are deemed to offend the eye. The marble lined bathroom is pure Hollywood.

a chandelier of impressive proportion dominates the central axes of hall and drawing room
Richard Adams and Lance Hattatt in conversation seated before the drawing room mural

throughout the apartment looking glasses reflect light and space adding a sense of infinity

a deep, sunken bath  is positioned centre stage in the luxurious, marble lined bathroom

Richard's apartment is testament to the work of a consummate professional. With his sure touch and exacting eye for detail, it is no surprise that his order books read like pages from Debrett's and an International 'Who's Who'. And as for what Richard reads, why 'Vogue', of course!

the lamp is dimmed over the drinks' table, the cat is comfortable, and we are away to dinner

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Out With The Old - In With The New

"So very newly married," an aged parent used to say, with not a little touch of scorn in her tone, when looking at one wall of a room painted in a contrasting colour to the others. Over time we have adopted the phrase as our own, meanwhile taking great care to avoid this, and hopefully other, decorating downfalls.

As the years have passed, so we have extended the scope of the 'newly married' phrase beyond wall finishes, applying it with equal measure to matching curtains and cushions, colour co-ordinated bed linen, bathroom 'sets', which may well include loathsome lavatory seat covers, and almost anything from Marks and Spencer, Laura Ashley and the British Home Stores. We are not without opinion!!

the dining room showing chairs in variety, a collection of glasses and an assortment of china 

Now in our 33rd Wedding Anniversary year, it would require some stretch of the imagination, if not to say entry into the realms of science fiction, to describe ourselves as 'newly married'. And yet, lurking in the deep recesses of the sideboard cupboards, are to be found our fully matching, flamboyantly floral, many pieced 'Floradora' dinner and tea services which might, we are alarmed to think, suggest otherwise.

the table set for a recent dinner party with 'Floradora'  in evidence, but mixed if not matched 

'Floradora' with its red and blue flowers, swags of foliage and gilded, scalloped edges has served us well over the years but change is in the air. It is for Herend, the porcelain of Hungary since 1828, that we are now, to borrow a Betjeman term, enthusing and mix, not match, is very much the order of the day. A start has been made with soup and dinner plates, appropriate enough, we feel, as soup is a delicious stalwart of most Hungarian lunches and dinners. Tiny, stylised deep pink flowers are the sole decoration on the otherwise plain white china with a delicate, basket-weave rim. 

a glimpse of one of our  Herend purchases - a 1920s soup plate with delicate flower pattern

Dating from the 1920s and purchased from our favourite Budapest antique shop they, like us, or so we trust, wear their age well. We think fondly of the dining tables which they will have graced with their simple elegance over the decades.

And so future dinner parties will take on a new look. More Darby and Joan than newly married, perhaps?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

In Concert

It was all somewhat surreal. But that was not the start. To begin with we had been invited to meet members of The Bard College Conservatory of Music at a dinner given at the home of Olivia and Lászlo Bitó whose celebrated 'salons' are, indeed, the pinnacle of Budapest society. What a wonderful evening it was, surrounded by such a plethora of young talent whose wide ranging interests, knowledge and enthusiasms were, and are, infectious.

complimentary tickets for The Bard Conservatory of Music concert - Sunday, 13th. January

And if friendships were to be cemented, then they were at a drinks party which we gave later in the same week prior to the opening of their Central European Tour.

Sabrina Tabby, centre, a Bard student in conversation at the Drinks Party held in our apartment 

at the Drinks Party, a smiling Szilvia Mikó, pianist with The Bard Conservatory of Music 

Alex Meyer, oboist, prepares to brave the cold of Budapest on leaving the Drinks Party

But we digress. For what was it that gave to last Sunday night that strange, always elusive, air of mystery and magic? Could it have been the softly falling snow lightening the darkening streets? Was it the concert hall itself, a building stripped bare, unfinished, work suspended? Or was it, most likely, the anticipation of a joyous occasion of the most wonderful music played by young people who, even in so short a time, could be counted as friends?

the unfinished, but most interesting, main concert hall of The Budapest Music Centre

our friend, Dávid Nagy, is captured in the porthole of the concert hall  before the performance

Opening with a 'Quintet for piano and winds' by Mozart in which our most treasured friend, Dávid, playing the bassoon, excelled and where the highly individual Alex [oboe] and Renata [clarinet] gave most spirited performances, the pace never slackening, Mozart gave way to the second item, Schubert's 'String Trio in B-flat Major' which, not unexpectedly, proved to be an absolute delight.

ending the Mozart 'Quintet', from left to right Szilvia Mikó, Ferenc Farkas and Dávid Nagy

from left to right, Dávid Nagy, Alex Meyer, Ferenc Farkas, Renata Rakova and Szilvia Mikó

Thereafter followed an entirely new work by the young Bard composer Sunbin Kim entitled 'Two Mirrors'. This most exciting and complex piece, with its heightened discords and underlying melody, was superbly played with incredible assurance by Bitó scholar, Adrienn [flute], fourth year student, Sabrina [violin] and former pupil of Kveta Glasnakova, Rastislav [cello]. In this they were joined by Péter Bársony [viola] from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest.

Sabrina Tabby and Péter Bársony seen at the conclusion of Sunbin Kim's 'Two Mirrors'

composer and Bard student, Sunbin Kim, pictured  at work before the start of the concert

In conclusion Dohnáyni's 'Sextet in C Major' brought the concert to a triumphant and dramatic close where the verve, panache and exuberance of the players themselves became a very echo of the music itself.

And although they are lost to us for the present they are not forgotten, nor will they be. For each has found a place in our hearts: the laconic Alex, the striking Renata, the charming and gifted Dávid, the self-effacing Ferenc, the highly accomplished Szilvia, the vivacious and prodigiously talented Sabrina, the studious Rastislav, the prize winning Noémi, and the cerebal composer Sunbin Kim.

As they travel forward to Bratislava, Vienna, Brno and Prague, audiences in these cities can, we know, anticipate evenings of exceptional music making. 

Bravo to Bard!!

For those who are interested, here Sabrina Tabby and Dávid Nagy play Mendelssohn's 'Piano Trio in D minor'.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

"Coming Events Cast Their Shadow Before"

This is a time to reflect. As the old year fades into precious memories, and the new is yet an "untravell'd world", we find ourselves on this winter's night in contemplative mood, our thoughts roaming back and forth over what has been and what lies ahead.

caught in the convex - Jane and Lance Hattatt with Carol Duke [photographer]

Most recently, of course, has been the joy of Christmas followed by the jollity of a New Year shared here in Budapest with friends from Germany. But before that, rather in the manner of the eponymous Alice, we found ourselves falling through the mirrored waters of Venice in late November to delight in all that that most seductive of cities has to offer.

mirrored in the Monaco Hotel, Venice by Carol Duke - Jane and Lance Hattatt 

seen in the looking glasses of a Venetian shop - photograph by Carol Duke

Together with our very dear friend, Carol, we yet again stood in awe and wonder before the Tintoretto paintings in the Church of Santa Maria dell' Orto, wept for the eyes of Saint Lucy in the magnificence of the Capella Chapel of the Church of Santi Apostoli, traversed the Stations of the Cross as painted by a youthful Domenico Tiepolo in 1747 inside the mediaeval San Polo and then, some 150 years later, with the painterly eye of Carol, followed in the footsteps of Ruskin, revisiting 'The Stones' where once he himself had gone.

one of the 'Stations of the Cross' as painted by Domenico Tiepolo and photographed by Carol Duke

Another day, on the terrace of The Hotel Monaco - Grand Canal, we sipped coffee and watched the light playing on a rising lagoon, spied idle gondoliers at cards and then, a lone threesome, we danced amongst the mirrored halls upstairs of the old ridotto, Venice's first State-run gambling house.

one of the many mirrored halls to be found in the old ridotto upstairs in The Monaco Hotel

Once more in Budapest we delighted in the magical performance of 'Eugene Onegin' danced by the Hungarian National Ballet Company as part of a glittering evening, for a magnificent dinner came later, hosted by the most generous of friends, Marianne. Further trips to the Opera, dinner parties at home, with friends, in restaurants, a concert or two and, most naughtily, late night revelries in the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel with our darling and indomitable friend, Richard, finally brought the year to a close.

late night in the Four Seasons Hotel with friend Richard Adams and a selection of puddings

leaving a restaurant on a very wet night in December 2012 - Lance Hattatt with two friends

As for the present. And how privileged we are to have Dávid Nagy of the Bard Conservatory Orchestra of New York State as a friend for through him we have met such an exciting group of young musicians whose outstanding talent, combined with a liveliness and intelligence of mind, will ensure, without a shadow of doubt, the resounding success of their European Tour.

Dávid Nagy of the Bard Conservatory Orchestra in our Budapest drawing room this January

So, as the year begins to unfold, so the pages of the shiny, red-bound 2013 diary start to fill. There are Private Views listed, nights at the Opera booked, dinner parties arranged, concert tickets finalised, artists' studios to be explored, whilst beyond the borders of Hungary invitations wing in from Lucca, Milan, Rotterdam, Berlin, Munich and the sunny slopes of Provence.

Jane and Lance Hattatt seen stepping out into a new year photographed by Carol Duke 

And for now a thought, no more than a whisper, for we hardly dare to breathe those most exciting and persuasive of words even to ourselves: The United States of America.