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.