The Kingdom by R. S. Thomas

It’s a long way off but inside it

There are quite different things going on:

Festivals at which the poor man

Is king and the consumptive is

Healed; mirrors in which the blind look

At themelves and love looks at them

Back; and industry is for mending

The bent bones and the minds fractured

By life. It’s a long way off, but to get

There takes no time and admission

Is free, if you will purge yourself

Of desire, and present yourself with

Your need only and the simple offering

Of your faith, green as a leaf.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from H’m (1972)

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Courage by Anna Akhmatova

We know what trembles in the scales,

What has to be accomplished.

The hour for courage. If all else fails,

With courage we are not unfurnished.

What though the dead be crowded, each to each,

What though our houses be destroyed? –

We will preserve you, Russian speech,

Keep you alive, great Russian word.

We will pass you to our sons and heirs

Free and clean, and they in turn to theirs,

And so forever.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(23 February 1942)

from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra Concert

Held at St David’s Hall, Cardiff on 17th May 2016.

A performance of Prokofiev’s Russian Overture 13′, Prokofiev’ Piano Concerto No 3 28′ and Shostakovich’ Symphony No 5 48′


The evening consisted of the following:
Pre-Concert Talk (FREE) – Jonathan James & Noriko Okawa, 6.30pm – 7.00pm, Lefel 1
Join Bristol-based music educator Jonathan James in conversation with pianist Noriko Ogawa.

Young Artists Showcase (FREE) – Beatrice Acland (soprano) & Ella O’Neill (piano),
7pm, Level 3 foyer stage
Young soprano Beatrice Acland is a current MA Opera student at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. She is joined by fellow student Ella O’Neill, for selections of vocal music by Rachmaninoff and Dvořák.

Post-Concert ’30-Minutes’ (£1.50) – Katie Lower (flute) & Joshua Abbott (piano),
9.30pm, Lefel 1
Prokofiev Flute Sonata in D, Op. 94

Post-Concert Tickets £1.50 (No Ticket Service Charge applies)


Moscow State Symphony Orchestra
International Concert Series

Tuesday 17 May, 7.30pm to 9.30pm

‘The Moscow State Symphony Orchestra might well be the world’s least-heralded great orchestra … With these revelatory Russians, a free seismic test is part of the bargain.’ – Los Angeles Times

The Moscow State Symphony Orchestra is led by their Conductor Pavel Kogan and accompanied by the piano soloist Noriko Ogawa.

For almost seven decades the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra has been one of Russia’s leading orchestras, forming a legendary partnership with their conductor Pavel Kogan. Hear them in work by two of Russia’s greatest composers, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Noriko Ogawa is the soloist in Prokofiev’s high energy, sardonic and sometimes bitter-sweet Third Piano Concerto and the concert ends with a classic: Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, a dark tragic courageous reply from an individual to the state.

This UK tour by the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.


Standard Price £7.50 | £15.50 | £19.50 | £26.00 | £32.50 | £39.50
Platinum Tickets (including prime seat in Tier 1, a glass of champagne and a programme) £48.00
Friends of St David’s Hall £2.00 off
Under 16 £ 5.00
Students (up until 6.00pm on the day of the performance) £ 5.00
Claimants £2.00 off
Disabled people (plus one companion) £ 7.50
(Wheelchair users plus one companion seats at lowest prices)


 

REVIEW
I missed the pre-show talk but the Young Artists Showcase of Beatrice Acland (soprano) & Ella O’Neill (piano) was on the same level as my seating and was a really good pre-show ‘warm up’ for the audience. WMC (Wales Millennium Centre) also do a similar thing in their foyer of letting younger acts do a short performance and it can only do good to give them an opportunity.

pre show

It would have been nice if they were introduced by a member of staff rather than having to do so themselves as it would give them some respect as contributors to the evening’s events.

The joke I am reminded of by these circumstances is the one about a restaurant advertising for musicians to play for free, to promote themselves, and someone replying by imitating the poster’s use of language and advertising in rebuttal for free meals at their home to promote the restaurant.

I’m sure they were treated well but from the look of it they turned up, got on stage and did their thing then left without any significant staff interaction.

I can only imagine, when that worse case scenario does occur at any venue, it would be setting the venue up for a downfall in the future. Of course there would have been a staff turnover by them so there is always a slight aspect of inheriting a poison chalice if the previous senior staff were not cordial with people who were only beginning their careers at the time.

Beatrice and Ella were both very good and I hope to see their names again in the years to come. Despite how I make it sound they did receive applause after each piece and seemed happy with the performance.

For the main event I saw for the first time in person the seating behind the stage being used. I personally was sat towards the front in the stalls. Ironically the behind stage seating, when an orchestra is the sole aspect of the performance, is probably preferrable. Definitely when Okawa’s grand piano was being wheeled to the front it was the only seating that didn’t have a lot of the stage obscured.

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In order to get the piano to the front, after the overture had been performed, a 5 – 7 minute impromptu interruption occurred leaving the audience just sat in silence staring at the stage staff adjusting things. When you are sat there doing nothing even this short period of time can seem like an eternity despite there obviously being no other options available. The violinists and cellists had to leave the stage, the conductor’s podium moved deeper into the stage and the grand piano actually overlapping the podium. The stage area is very limited so I can only imagine how cramped it was. Once the lid to the piano was opened Kogan was probably unseeable for most people. I was actually concerned that if he lost his footing he would fall directly onto the piano as the rail of the podium had to be left off due to the overlap. That is my only significant criticism of the evening. I imagine they discussed what to do earlier and sadly this was the only option but it was such a distinct interruption to the proceedings I wish they had perhaps agreed to alter the set and have the piano and Okawa’s part performed at the start of the second half instead.
Under the orchestra staff they had to put long pieces of cardboard for friction so no one’s chairs moved about. Do they usually do that? I have never been sat close enough to the stage to notice before.

The performance was, as you would expect, an excellent world-class experience and St David’s Hall is truly the best location still for the acoustics it delivers even in contrast to WMC. Ozawa excelled in her part and ‘stole the show’ if such a thing can be suggested. Kogan, despite never addressing the audience save for gestures and smiles, seemed very jovial and after receiving rapturous applause even performed a short humourous piece which was unexpected and much appreciated by the audience.

The real gem of the evening was the intimate performance of Prokofiev’s Flute Sonata in D, Op. 94 on level one (in the room I am certain used to be a restaurant). The musicians were Katie Lower (flute) & Joshua Abbott (piano). Katie introduced herself and Joshua then gave a small overview of the piece and its history. The ticket was only £1.50 and worth every penny. Sadly there were only about 14 people there which I assume is because it was about 9.45PM and so anyone needing the train or other public transport would have had no choice but go due to scheduling. It is a shame as it was a very enjoyable 30 or so minutes.

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I don’t know if musicians would prefer a small but focused audience, like this, or a larger, if inattentive, audience as Beatrice Acland and Ella O’Neill had prior to the concert. Both have their pros and cons I suppose.

A wonderful evening and I hope the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra return again in year’s to come.


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LIDL’s Stickeez Collectable suction cup figurines

Lidl exclusive

£0.29 each although you get 1 free for every £10 you spend right now as a promotional offer.

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Review: Lidl seem to have wanted to get their piece of the ‘mystery bag’ toy market. These cost far less than any of their competitors which, on average, cost £2 however they are also far smaller. They are composed of vibrant rubber with a suction cup base which is relatively quite effective as only one of the four I had didn’t have a strong suction. The paint work is on a par with that of the Zomblings series which costs far more. The designs are all based around aquatic creatures although there are one or two absurdly monstrous looking ones. They say these are ‘as seen on TV’… I had never heard of them until the person at the counter gave me them…

The small, bubble gum size, packaging is odd. It is inflated as if there is some sort of gas being produced by the figures and threatening to explode which would worry people upon an initial look at them. It is possible they intentionally cause this to protect the toys without having to spend on further packaging which is economical and environmentally friendly (as long as it’s just Carbon Dioxide or another harmless gas).

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All you get in the packet is the figurine itself so you would have to visit the official site or use official merchandising (or look at the above advert in there offers magazine shoved through you post box) if you wanted to know the characters official names.

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It is a very cheap range as the ‘mystery bags’ containing one character each are only 20 pence which is reasonable, the ‘collection bag’ is 99p and seems to just be a basic branded pull sting tote bag, the collection box (which I assume contained a few characters) is £1.99 and there is a magazine (A one off activities filled one I assume as there can’t be much life in this series) for £1.49 so on the whole I think that although it’s not fantastic quality it is nonetheless a really nice, affordable, entry into the marketplace. In comparison to the far more expensive ranges which are far more expensive I can excuse the quality as it is actually on a par with many of their competitors.

My only real scruple is the small size of the figures and that the suction cup on one of the ones I got was much weaker than the others so I wonder if this was a one off or if there may be quality assurance issues when manufacturing the figures. For those interested it was the Drup figure which had the issue and for all I know it was the batches of this one character that may not be up to the standard of the rest of the series. I don’t have any use for these myself though… maybe I will take them into work and stick them on my monitor. If you could get your kids interested in these rather than their more expensive competitors then you are lucky although the small size really will make them easy to lose and definitely a choking hazard for little children unfortunately so you will have to supervise them.

I assume the ‘get one free for every £10 you spend’ promotion is temporary in order to promote it to customers and it was a nice little surprise. Of course it is a free 29p toy for every ten pounds you spend. I wouldn’t go in thinking ‘I really want one so I will spend all that money’ but at the same time it was an amusing novelty which saves them on high marketing costs for the range and gives customers a small surprise ‘treat’ at the checkout as a random thank for their custom without having to offer further discounts or irritate people with ‘join our customer loyalty scheme’ requests.

The figurines I got were:

Purple, tear drop shaped, fish: Drup
Giant blue head with sharp teeth: Balloon
Purple one eyed monster: Ollie
Generic orange fish: Goupie

The packing information:

GB-IE-NL

1 Stikeez figure. Approx. 3cm x 1.5cm

100% TPR (I have no idea what this means…)

Produced by Brand Loyalty Special Promotions. BV. Koningsweg 101, 5211 BH S’-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. Made in China.

Warning! Not suitable for children under three years. Choking hazard – small parts. Toy should be used by young children under adult supervision. Please retain this information for later reference.

(This is also on the packaging in French, Spanish and Slovakian surprisingly. I would have expected it in a Scandinavian language, Italian or German before any other language was considered for being put on the packaging.)


Next time a review of Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’.

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