Friday, 14 April 2017

Estonia's first spring flower

This is Hepatica nobilis, known by us rather unpoetically for such a beauty as liver leaf or crystal wort and by Estonians simply as 'blue flower', my friend Andres Kaljuste told me. He has a place on the Lohusalu peninsula not far from Laulasmaa, Arvo Pärt's preferred retreat since he and his wife Nora returned to their beloved homeland from Berlin, bringing all their stuff with them. A new home for that abundance of material was why, on a second visit to Estonian Music Days, Tallinn's big spring festival of new music, a happy band of us were taken to see work on the new Arvo Pärt Centre, to a glorious design of glass and wood by the winning Spanish architects, close to the retreat. Hence one of several photos of Hepatica in the nearby forest.

This isn't the time and place to expand on the trip - I have yet to write up the experience of four fabulous days for The Arts Desk, as I did last year - but a few more nature perspectives in Laulasmaa might not go amiss. From the room at Aliina (for so the house is called, after the first piece Pärt wrote following his long official silence) with a piano,

downwards to one of many lichens on the ground,

and upwards to the larches (note the crane creeping into the picture - that area will be partly cleared, but there's a fine fusion promised between design and nature).

On our way to Laulasmaa, we stopped for a short wander along the cliff above Dagmar Beach.

Here there was no cold wind, and the bushes were more advanced than elsewhere in their budding.

Even so, inland looked forbidding beneath massed clouds.

The spring which had burst in London was not even incipient in Tallinn, where snowdrops still flourish in clumps beneath the tower of Pikk (Tall) Hermann.

This was just before 7pm on my first evening, heading from the hotel to the Niguliste Museum for the first concert along a memorable road I'd not taken before. Moon was up.

With only shoots on the trees, you could still catch atmospheric glimpses of old buildings like Kiek in de Kök.

Been an exhausting week-plus. I returned from Estonia last Sunday night, had only half a day at home to catch up on some work and flew - eventually, since non-running Gatwick Express trains made me miss my first flight - to Amsterdam for a second stint - as Chairman, this time - judging Dutch school orchestras in the Concertgebouw for Orkestival 2017. More on that anon: as with last year, I owe each of the spirited groups of participants a few helpful notes. Flowers remain the theme here, so here's our dear friend Machteld driving me in convoy with her sister Eline, my now-godson Charlie and beloved lapdog Johnny past tulip fields, a spectacular sight even on a grey day.

The excursion followed a leisurely morning at and around mein hosts' home in the Sapharti Park, recorded at a different time elsewhere.

Now the park was green, white and pink

with tulips growing around the monument.

Eline had the inspiration that we should go for lunch in the farmhouse of Keukenhof Manor, a road and a quiet world away from the coaches and cars parked around the famous gardens. It was a delightful interlude, made all the more memorable by our jovial waitress who joined us for a photo outside. I like the slightly chaotic and not entirely flattering spontaneity of this one, which gives us more than li'l Johnny's rear.

There was only time for a quick spin around the grounds as the rain began,

and a glimpse of the sweet old thatched cottage hired out for private functions,

before walking past the last of the magnolias

back to the car for the whizz to the airport. In light of what followed - one and a half hours of unannounced flight delay, then no trains at Luton Airport station, so bus, train, tube - it was an ideal tonic.

Finally, full bloom ahead at Chelsea Physic Garden on the first open Sunday of the year.

Here's a range of exotic Mediterranean and Turkish tulips


the tiniest of narcissi,

early peonies incipient

and one out

as well as the annual blossoming of the Judas Tree

and of the Paulownia lilacensis.

Today's at home for Good Friday, maybe an excursion to Westminster Abbey for 3pm liturgy, and reflection around the (eventually) revelatory Dvořák Requiem I've just reviewed: writing a note on Beethoven's Missa Solemnis for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and listening to Bach yesterday proved perfect preparation.

17/4 Thought the below was a nice addendum, sent to me by Andres' partner Sophia. They're back at Lohusalu for Easter, though all is not entirely tranquil: the building mania that is plaguing the Estonian coast east of Tallinn is threatening an unwelcome addition on the peninsula. Corruption is not unknown in that mostly admirable little country...  Anyway, this is how it was over the weekend - sun and snow.


Susan said...

I'm particularly grateful this morning for these many reminders of the beauty that still exists in the world. Our daffodils are out, a happy sign, and we are about to go for a walk on the Rail Trail.

David said...

Hoping this isn't an especially bad morning for you. Every day brings some new horror, so you may be referring to the big bomb which blew the equivalent of a huge budget. Must admit that I hadn't seen any news for over 24 hours when after the lovely day judging Orkestival I looked, and couldn't believe my eyes. Above all because nothing (Trump and Syria, the poor man battered about and pulled off the plane, various Brexit nonsense) made any sense.

Happy walking! We may or may not get to Norfolk, but at any rate we have to do a big ramble tomorrow or Sunday. Just back from an extraordinary Good Friday liturgy at Westminster Abbey (plainsong, Victoria, Lotti, Bruckner, Lutheran and Anglican hymns plus some weird 'Veneration of the Cross' which I just don't get - nor does J, despite his Catholic upbringing).

Willym said...

Thank you dear heart for reminding me that there is beauty in the world. Sadly only spent a day in Tallinn and strangely I was looking at some photos today of the Church of the Holy Spirit that I took on our all too brief visit there.

You do know that you are an exception photo journalist don't you?

David Damant said...

Remember that the media report only the bad and dramatic news !! .......As regards Syria, I can only wish for a return to secret diplomacy - private approaches to Putin ( by the G7 as well as Trump) might have achieved something, especially as Trump had made favourable mentions of Russia earlier, but doing everything through a megaphone only makes things worse.

David said...

Will, thank you too for such kind words. Always a support in the strange e-world. The Church of the Holy Spirit has the most beautiful interior of the Tallinn churches, no doubt - lots of tourists stand and gape at the lovely clock outside, but few go in. This year's trip to Estonian Music Days started with a concert in St Nicholas Church - the Niguliste Museum, chokka with altarpieces and religious art as well as the famous panels of Notke's Dance of Death; by serendipity I hadn't been able to get in before, so to launch my time with a top notch concert in there was bliss.

David - flowers! But while I think no diplomacy is going to work with a leader as lying, deceitful and hostile to the good running of other countries as Putin, I agree that megaphoning, and megabombing, is only going to make things worse. And when it's done by a #fakepresident as erratic and capricious as Trump, WW3 could indeed be on the cards. International diplomacy has essentially collapsed.

David Damant said...

I went to the Baltic States, including Tallinn, for some years after the collapse of communism, and there was an air of release - rather as if they got up every morning and suddenly thought - "We're free !". Perhaps they did. This freshness will probably be affected by the failings of human nature as bourgeois influences grow ( and I appreciate that music is some protection against that.) Also the tensions that arise naturally in societies are less in small societies - more like city states.

David said...

Absolutely right on all counts - though I am optimistic; they've seen how getting rid of red tape has allowed the economy to flourish. It depends on successive governments, of course. But for the time being I see Estonia as the Utopia of the European project.

Deborah van der Beek said...

What a horrid name for a lovely flower! Beautiful. Here, the primroses are amazing. Every year more and more. And now cowslips – which I grew, painstakingly from seed, are seeding themselves into the lawn en masse. Am contemplating what to do: move them? Change lawn?

David said...

Your flower meadows are amazing. Is a lawn with cowslips so bad?

David Damant said...

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Susan said...

I didn't respond earlier, as it was hard to know what to say, and, anyway, I preferred simply to savor the flowers! But just to say, it was not so much any particular news as frustration at how hard it is for people, even of good will, to grasp the magnitude of this and come together in a constructive way. Some days seem more hopeful; others seem Sisyphean. Now, we are actually off to a protest, as our horrid Congressman, who has refused to hold even one town hall, is gathering not far from us with a bunch of right-wing bigwig donors. We've got home-made signs made up and all.