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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spending



A bright start to the day and up with the lethargic lark rather than his earlier brother.  By the time that we were up and doing it was time for lunch.

My spag-bol was undoubtedly the worst meal that I have had in our “local” restaurant on the sea front.  It was tasteless and the meat (if that it what it was) was pallid and innocuous at best.  The beer was OK - hoppy brew from Galicia.  And the view.  The view makes up for it all.  The sea was sparkling and the waves were big enough and the light bright enough to make them deliciously translucent.  On the beach a lone photographer with an absurdly long lens taking pictures of two valiant water-ski idiots as the only people in the water.

Barcelona was cold, very cold – and it was an urgent necessity to get into shops to avoid the inclement weather.  Two bookshops later I was able to face looking for the Picasso Museum for the exhibition that we failed to see the last time I was in Barcelona.

There was no queue this time: there was no exhibition either.  I had obviously misjudged the length of time that the Picasso/Degas show was going to be open and I had to make do with the permanent collection.

There are some excellent paintings in the museum, but the Blue and Rose periods are not really represented and there are only one or two masterpieces.  There are ceramics to throw after the dogs and paintings from his later periods, but the quality stuff from his youth is a little sparse.

They do have very early stuff and they had mounted a special exhibition around his large early painting of a sick room entitled "Science and Charity."  Painted for a competition and on the advice of his father who thought that such a subject would be just the thing for the judges to pick.


And in the exhibition a real treat: the Luke Fildes painting (that I have often seen in reproduction but never in the frame, so to speak) of The Doctor.  This was completely unexpected and an absolute delight.
 
The painting looks very different when seen as a 2cm by 3cm reproduction than when being looked at in a gallery as a large, impressive painting.

It is a very engaging painting with much freer brush strokes than are apparent in small reproductions.  The handling of the light is masterly and there is even a small section of flowers and flimsy curtain material that gives at least a part of the painting an almost Whistler-like appearance.  Yes, it is Romantic and the hard-edge Social Realism that shocked and delighted viewers when it was first exhibited in 1887 now seems mannered and contrived, but the vitality of the composition and the modelling of the doctor’s face and the almost Symbolist other-worldly face of the sick child give a compulsive interest which the Picasso signally does not have.

I visited a second museum in the aftermath of the elation I felt after seeing an unexpected painting.  This was the “Mammoth” museum that is apt and a lie: there is a mammoth there but the museum is tiny.  I had to pay a child’s rate to get in (thanks to my teachers’ card) and now that I’ve seen the place I have no lively expectation that I will repeat the experience.

By way of compensation I returned to El Corte Ingles and the classical music department.  My recent copy of the BBC Music Magazine (which I cannot recommend too highly, etc.) has a review of one of the box sets that I seem set on buying nowadays.  Brilliant Classics (awful name!) produce box sets of CDs of spectacular value and I have already purchased Grieg and Dvorak.  The review in the BBC Music Magazine was for the Mozart set of a vast number of CDs for around a hundred quid.  
That may seem like a high price but not for 170 CDs!  As El Corte Ingles has the 3 for 2 offer I was tempted (and duly fell) and bought Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms (the Brahms being the cheapest and therefore “free”) making the cost of each of the CDs I have bought about .5 of a euro or about 42p!  And just before the sceptics among you start assuming that at such a low price the musicians and orchestras must be of contemptible obscurity, I have to tell you that I do not consider the Guarneri Quartet, or The Borodin Trio or The Academy of St Martin in the field or a selection of other soloists and orchestras of similar quality.
 
I may have to spend the rest of my life listening to them!
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