Saturday, 10 December 2011

John William Waterhouse

'I am Half Sick of Shadows' said the Lady of Shalott

She left the web, she left the loom,

She made three paces thro' the room,

She saw the water lily boom,

She saw the helmet and the plume,

She looked down to Camelot.

Out flew the web and floated wide,

The mirror crack'd from side to side

'The curse is come upon me', cried

The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse,

Like some bold seer in a trance,


The broad stream bore her far away.

('The Lady of Shalott' by Tennyson)

I met a lady in the meads,

Full beautiful -a faery's child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

And her eyes were wild.

She took me to her elfin grot,

And there she wept, and sigh'd full sore,

And there I shut her wild wild eyes

With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep,

And there I dream'd -Ah! woe betide!

The latest dream I ever dream'd

On the cold hill's side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,

Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

They cried -'La Belle Dam sans Merci

Hath thee in a thrall!'

('La Belle Dame Sans Merci' by Keats)

.. in a clear wall'd city on the sea,

Near gilded organ pipes, her hair

Wound with white roses, slept St. Cecily;

An angel look'd at her.

('The Palace of Art' by Tennyson)

Miranda (1875), the daughter of Prospero

('The Tempest' by Shakespeare)

'Get out of my sunshine', replied Diogenes

Nothing could be more pitiably effeminate than the appearance of this young man.. An unmeaning smiled dilated his thin, colourless lips; and as he looked down on his strange favourites, he occasionally whispered to them a few broken expressions of endearment, almost infantine in their simplicity. His whole soul seemed to be engrossed by the labour of distributing his grain, and he followed the different movements of the poultry with an earnestness of attention, which seemed almost idiotic in its ridiculous intensity. If it be asked, why a person so contemptible as this soltiary youth has been introduced with so much care, and described with so much minuteness, it must be answered, that, though destined to form no important figure in this work, he played, from his position, a remarkable part in the great drama on which it is founded -for this feeder of chickens was no less a person than Honorius, Emperor of Rome.

('Antonina; or, the Fall of Rome' by Collins)

'Where's my serpent of old Nile? For so he calls me'

('Antony and Cleopatra' by Shakespeare)

The Oracle or Teraph was a human head, cured with spices, which was fixed against the wall, and lamps being lit before it and other rites performed, the imagination of diviners was so excited that they supposed that they heard a low voice speaking future events.

Waterhouse, 1884.

Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses

('Odyssey' by Homer)

Ulysses and the Sirens
('Odyssey' by Homer)

caerulaque induitur velamina perque ferarum

(Metamorphoses, Book XIV by Ovid)

Who would be a

A mermaid fair,

Singing alone,

Combing her hair

('The mermaid' by Tennyson)

So spake she, and our high hearts consented thereto. So then in the daytime she would weave the mighty web, and in the night unravel the same.

('Odyssey' by Homer)

Greek - FYROM relations in the early 1990s

On April 3, 2008, the NATO communiqué in Bucharest read that ‘an invitation to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be extended as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached’. The Karamanlis Premiership vetoed its northern neighbour’s accession into NATO and three years later, on December 5, 2011, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Greece was wrong to block FYROM's bid because of the row over its name.

According to the ICJ ruling, Greece breached its obligation not to object to the country’s admission to or membership in NATO under Article 11, paragraph 1, of the Interim Accord of 1995. Greece claimed that it was justified to block the candidacy because FYROM had already breached the Interim Accord. However the ICJ noted that only one breach had been established – the use of a prohibited symbol in 2004 – and that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had discontinued using the symbol that year. Moreover, it stated that Greece had failed to establish that it had objected to the NATO candidacy in response to that specific breach.

Τhe UN-led ‘Interim Accord’ (following the Security Council Resolution 817/1993) was a turning point for the relations between the two countries. In short, Greece recognized FYROM under its provisional name and lifted the (previously imposed) embargo while the latter removed the Greek Macedonian emblem from its flag and accepted the interpretation of certain clauses of its constitution which were likely to foment irredentist claims and justify interference in the domestic of Greece under the pretext of ‘caring for the status and rights’ of Macedonian minorities.

As the title of a remarkable book regarding the Greek stance towards Europe points out, in the 1990s, the role of Greece in a changing Europe (the dissolution of Yugoslavia) could possibly be placed between European Integration and Balkan Disintegration.

On the eve of the crisis in Yugoslavia, the EU committed itself to work towards the maintenance of the unity of the federal Yugoslav state. However, under German pressure, in 1991, the Extraordinary EPC Ministerial Meeting recognized the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, although the Badinter Arbitration Commission, previously set up by the EU to advise the members on the applications of the Yugoslav Republics for recognition, had disqualified Croatia. Genscher, the German Foreign Minister, made a deal with Samaras, the Greek Foreign Minister, to exclude the Yugoslav ‘Macedonia’ from recognition if Greece agreed to fall in line with the others on Croatia. In relation to FYROM, the Ministers decided that the newly born country should ‘adopt constitutional and political guarantees ensuring that it has no territorial claims towards a neighbouring Community State and that it will conduct no hostile propaganda activities versus a neighbouring Community State, including the use of a denomination which implies territorial claims’ (EPC Press Release 129/91). Subsequently, the Badinter Arbitration Commission issued an advisory opinion in favor of recognition that Greece considered as inadequate. Therefore, EU requested the Portuguese Presidency to approach the two sides in order to find a common acceptable solution. The ‘Pinheiro Package’, proposed by the Portuguese Foreign Minister, Joao Pinheiro, in April 1992, suggested the name ‘New Macedonia’ as a suitable state denomination. However, Samaras, following the maximalist ‘no Macedonia or its derivatives’, turned out the proposal. Even after the ‘Pinheiro Package’, Europe backed Greece although not all members were that keen on such a pro-Greek approach. In their meeting at Gimaraes, in May 1992, they declared that they could recognize the former SRM as an independent and sovereign state, ‘under a name which could be acceptable to all interested parties’. Furthermore, two months later, in the Lisbon summit, additionally to the Gimaraes declaration, the EU leaders stated that they would recognize the new state ‘under a name which will not include the denomination Macedonia’.

The wave of nationalist hysteria unleashed during the early 1990s made any potential compromise seem impossible. New ‘experts’ of the Macedonian Question emerged, the so-called ‘Macedonologues’, seeking to ‘enlighten’ the public on a rather complicated issue (Kofos 1999). Gradually, a unique consensus emerged through the politics of populism, strongly influenced by a faulty nationalistic perception over the facts and history. On the one hand, FYROM’s ‘Macedonian’ propaganda was historically unfounded. On the other hand, Greece’s reaction to the provocations was mishandled. The purpose of the slogan introduced in the one million strong demonstrations in Thessaloniki, in 1992, - ‘Macedonia is Greek’ (η Μακεδονία είναι Ελληνική) – was dual. To make a statement on the direct connection of the modern Greek Province of Macedonia to the ancient Macedonia and, therefore, defend the people’s right to their heritage and to declare that no tolerance is acceptable when Greek fundamental rights are being violated. Nevertheless, the aforementioned slogan was a misleading one, in the sense that although the territory of the ancient King Philip’s Macedonian Kingdom coincided, more or less, with the present Greek province, however, in modern times, Greece, Bulgaria and FYROM have the geographic right to parts of the wider region of the ‘Macedonia’. As Kofos points out (1999), even suggestions to use the term ‘Slav Macedonian’ or any other compound name (such as ‘Vardar Macedonia’) were viewed as national treason. The new independent state was christened ‘Skopje’ in public parlance as well as in official documents, while its people were referred as ‘Skopjans’. Even the century-old ‘Macedonian Question’ was purified to become ‘Skopjano’.

The Conservative government led by Mitsotakis had a very fragile majority in parliament and could not afford to take major political risks. The persistence of the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonis Samaras, in rejecting not only the usage of the name ‘Macedonia’ but, also, any other determinants, such as - Slav-Macedonian - led the country to a thorough international isolation. In October 1992, The Economist was writing that ‘Greek intractability infuriates the Community. Greece will be overruled. So Mr. Mitsotakis [the then Prime Minister] would like to find a way out of the mess. If it were not for the aggressive populists in New Democracy, he would be in favour of de facto recognition for Macedonia. But his two leading rivals for the party’s leadership resist this. Samaras, a former Foreign Minister, opposes the idea of a double name. This week Mr. Samaras resigned his seat, when the party snubbed him on the matter. Evert, a former star in the Prime Minister’s office, says he and his supporters will resign if “Macedonia” is recognized as such’ (The Economist, October 24th 1992). It is evident therefore that the traditional political culture in Greece had been a major obstacle in the adoption of a more pragmatic and issue-oriented policy style, independent from domestic populism and the short-term fear of leadership challenge.

The awkward way of handling the problem by the Greek diplomacy, other infamous policy initiatives such as the total commercial blockade (embargo) imposed on FYROM by Papandreou, in 1994, and the general persistence of Greece’s leadership in handling the situation as a ‘national issue’, gradually led Europe to differentiate from its EU partner and become more reluctant to the new state and less co-operative with Greece.

In conclusion, in the early 1990s, Greece, because of its nationalistic, symbolic and formalistic policy style, failed to use two of the most influential instruments for resolving problems; negotiation and compromise. The political consequences of the short-sided policies promoted a credibility gap between the country and its European partners that would take years to overcome and prohibited the country from playing an important role in the Balkans. New policy objectives were not introduced until after 1996 during the Simitis administration, at the core of which, the only successful route for the country was to modernize, ‘re-Europeanise’ and ‘de-skopjanise’ its Foreign Policy.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Don't be frightened, Mr. Gould is here

Conductor Leonard Bernstein's remarks from the podium prior to the New York Philharmonic concert of April 6, 1962.

Don't be frightened, Mr. Gould is here. He will appear in a moment. I'm not, as you know, in the habit of speaking on any concert except the Thursday-night previews, but a curious situation has arisen, which merits, I think, a word or two. You are about to hear a rather, shall we say, unorthodox performance of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance distinctly different from any I've ever heard, or even dreamt of for that matter, in its remarkably broad tempi and its frequent departures from Brahms' dynamic indications. I cannot say I am in total agreement with Mr. Gould's conception, and this raises the interesting question: "What am I doing conducting it?". I'm conducting it because Mr. Gould is so valid and serious an artist that I must take seriously anything he conceives in good faith, and his conception is interesting enough that I feel you should hear it, too.

But the age-old question still remains: In a concerto, who is the boss? The soloist or the conductor?. The answer is, of course, sometimes the one and sometimes the other, depending on the people involved. But almost always, the two manage to get together by persuasion or charm or even threats to achieve a unified performance. I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist's wholly new and incompatible concept and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould. But this time, the discrepancies between our views are so great that I feel I must make this small disclaimer. So why, to repeat the question, am I conducting it? Why do I not make a minor scandal - get a substitute soloist, or let an assistant conduct it?

Because I am fascinated, glad to have the chance for a new look at this much-played work. Because, what's more, there are moments in Mr. Gould's performance that emerge with astonishing freshness and conviction. Thirdly, because we can all learn something from this extraordinary artist who is a thinking performer, and finally because there is in music what Dimitri Mitropoulos used to callthe sportive element’, that factor of curiosity, adventure, experiment, and I can assure you that it has been an adventure this week collaborating with Mr. Gould on this Brahms concerto, and it's in this spirit of adventure that we now present it to you.