Saturday, March 17, 2012

Building Collapse During The Blitz

A photographer captures the collapse of a London building during The Blitz.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hamburg: 7 July 1941

Hamburg’s elegant Jungfernstieg, made for strolling, at midday on Monday, July 7, 1941.

From the rare color photograph, one would never know that it was taken in the very heart of the second-largest city of a nation that had been at war for two years—and a nation that had invaded the Soviet Union barely two weeks prior to the date of the photograph.

Exactly two years and three weeks after the photograph, the city of Hamburg fell victim to a massive Allied air raid that caused giant firestormsfirestorms that destroyed vast portions of the city.

Within days of the firestorm, Hamburg was evacuated of its civilian populace.

The city, lying in ruins, was no longer habitable.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Berlin Food Riots

A Berlin butcher shop in the early months of 1919, the morning after the shop had been raided for its stock.

In the first six months of 1919, food riots occurred all over Germany.

Germany, never self-sufficient in food, had been in a state of virtual starvation since the early months of the war, a result of the British Naval Blockade.

To the consternation of the United States, Britain continued its Naval Blockade after the war ended—and it did so in order to force Germany to sign the Treaty Of Versailles.

The U.S. vigorously protested the continuation of the blockade once the war was over—the U.S. saw no need to starve the German public after cessation of hostilities—but Britain was firm in its resolve to continue the blockade.

The U.S. was unable to gather support from other nations in an effort to convince Britain to end the blockade. France was utterly indifferent to the post-war needs of the German populace, as were all other nations with a voice at the Versailles treaty table.

Herbert Hoover, who had traveled to Germany and witnessed for himself the widespread starvation and death, had a series of near-violent encounters with top British officials, including Prime Minister Lloyd George, urging that the blockade be ended for foodstuffs.

U.S. newspapers expressed outrage over Britain’s deliberate starvation of Germany.

On humanitarian grounds, the U.S. government contemplated using the U.S. Navy to break the blockade.

And yet Britain maintained its blockade until Germany affixed its signature to the treaty.

No one knows precisely how many persons starved to death as a direct result of the eight-month post-war blockade—but the figure is believed to be unimaginable.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Marriott Hotel In Edina

The parking lot of the Marriott Hotel in Edina.

Oh, wait.

This photograph does not depict the Marriott Hotel in Edina . . .

Because there is no Marriott Hotel in Edina.

In fact, there are no hotels at all in Edina, because the city is too exclusive to allow hotels within city premises.

In any case, no Marriott has a parking lot so large.

That means this must be the local Presbyterian church.

A business with its own transport subsidiary.

And a grand, grand entrance, complete with curb service . . .

That certainly looks like it was designed for a Marriott.

The pillars on the portico are many times the size of the pillars at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Of course, Washington, a man of considerable wealth, never possessed the financial resources of the local Presbyterian church, said to be the wealthiest Presbyterian parish in the United States.

Which is why the pillars are so large . . .

And so frightening.

Is this a suitable entrance for a humble house of worship?

Andrew’s parents, increasingly disgusted, are on the verge of reverting to the Lutheranism of their youth.

And the rest of us, I am sure, will quickly follow.

No tears from me. (I was born and raised a Methodist.)

There is something about Christ Presbyterian Church that has always rubbed me the wrong way.

Concert Exhaustion

I suffer from concert exhaustion at present, and so does Andrew.

We heard two orchestral concerts last weekend, and two orchestral concerts the weekend before that. Since January 1, we have attended eight concerts and recitals. That is a heavier dosage of concerts and recitals than I normally prefer.

So what is on our schedule for this weekend? A recital by pianist Imogen Cooper at Sundin Music Hall.

Despite our recent flurry of concert activity, I am happy to go to the recital. Cooper has announced a program of Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Schumann. The fare is appealing.

The concert will be sponsored by The Frederic Chopin Society of Minneapolis.

Minnesota is home to countless organizations with 19th-Century do-gooder titles, such as The Frederic Chopin Society and The Schubert Club, two prominent Twin Cities music organizations. The concept of self-improvement lives on in Minnesota if nowhere else.

I have never been inside Sundin Music Hall. It is one of several concert halls in the Twin Cities I have never visited.

I continue to be astonished how many fine music venues there are in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. There are more fine music venues in the Twin Cities than there are in London—and the Greater London Metropolitan Area has ten times the population of the Twin Cities Greater Metropolitan Area—and additional Twin Cities music venues are in the works, what with a second concert hall at The Ordway now under construction.

The following weekend, I think we may attend a performance of Donizetti’s opera, “Lucia di Lammermoor”, to be presented by Minnesota Opera. Andrew and I had planned to skip this particular Minnesota Opera presentation because neither of us is fond of the music of Donizetti, but word-of-mouth from insiders privy to rehearsal results has been exceptional—and the positive word-of-mouth from music professionals has caused Andrew and me to reassess the situation.

The soprano scheduled to sing Lucia sang the role last autumn at Lyric Opera Of Chicago, a far more important company than Minnesota Opera, and she has been a regular presence at the Metropolitan Opera for the last three or four years. Andrew and I decided we would be foolish to miss out, especially since Minnesota Opera mounts only five productions each season.

The following weekend, we shall attend a Minnesota Orchestra concert of music by Sibelius, Szymanowski and Kodaly. We shall use the subscription tickets of Andrew’s parents, as they shall be in France.

Three days later, we shall hear violinist Christian Tetzlaff in solo recital at Mann Concert Hall. We bought our tickets this afternoon once we discovered that some seats had been placed on sale for $10.00. We decided that to hear Tetzlaff play solo violin literature by Bach and Bartok for a mere $10.00 was irresistible.

The following weekend, we shall attend a performance by Houston Ballet, which will be on tour in the Twin Cities. Since Andrew’s parents will still be in France, we shall use their tickets.

In the month of March, we WILL forego two concerts by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, concerts that we had earlier penciled into our calendars. Both programs are predominantly devoted to Haydn symphonies, which I love—but our recent surfeit of concert-going resulted in the two SPCO Haydn programs being removed from our list.

Something had to go . . . and the SPCO Haydn programs took the hit.