31 October 2023


The classical offerings have been rather sparse in Koln this visit but we got to the Kolner Philharmonie for the Orchestra Phalharmonique de Radio France under Kimmo Frank with soloist Sol Gambetta. It's an orchestra of ~85 players and 7 basses. The Koln Philharmonie is a magnificent building with great acoustics. Sol Gambetta is a name and recording star on the cello. What's not to like? Well, I'm not too keen on French impressionism in visual or musical arts and this was all Ravel with a Lalo concerto. Even so, I enjoyed the concert. We started boxes above the choir seats (not too, too dear). The sound was pretty good even there and the engineering views were incredible. I moved to some free seats in front of stage, near the basses, at interval and the sound was better, insistent, clear in parts. A huge pleasure, and I could see. The conductor was not tall yet he moved his chair off the podium and sometimes sat. Not sure how the performers all followed him but it sounded together. The swells and such would be easy enough but the hits worked too. Sol Gambetta was a star, well decked out in a flowing gold dress, playing some deleriously fast lines at times and smiling with pleasure. So I enjoyed it lots, even if it's not a fave style. The music was Ravel Alborada del gracioso), Lalo (Cello concerto Dmaj), Mel Bonis (Trois femmes de legende) and Ravel (Daphnis nad Chloe) but the Mel Bonis was replaced on the night with Ravel (Prelude to the afternoon of a faun). Ravel heavy, but I could come to it occasional concerts with decent musicians like this.

The Orchestra Phalharmonique de Radio France under Kimmo Frank (conductor) with soloist Sol Gambetta (cello) performed at the Kolner Philharmonie, Cologne.

30 October 2023


The Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln (Museum of Applied Art) is a small and thus easy visit very close to the Funk Haus, the central location of WDR Westdeutsche Rundfunk. I am yet to see their famed big band, but that's another story. The warnings on the rusting entrance were somewhat a reference to the urgency and quality of post-WW2 rebuild and maybe even the state of those eras of design. This is design from ~1900 through to the post-modern. It's amusing and a bundle of memories. Even the young will have seen films of bakelite radios and Bauhaus furniture and record players with plastic lids and telephones with rotating dials and early iMacs and Walkmans. They weren't so long ago; before the era of the mobile phone. There were some items that I knew from ordinary, daily life, not even at student times when you use old tech. So it was a blast from the past and some chuckles and some history to learn of everyday items and rapid change in these decades of new tech. PS, we survived the rusting portico. BTW, on the way we ran into a men's choir singing in the rain.

The Museum of Applied Art is in Koln. The men's choir was Grungurtelrosen Kohler Mannerchor.

29 October 2023

Riotous rio trio

There are gigs that just have you musing for more. I've been listening to some tunes from Trio Grande the morning after and realising they'd played those tunes and recognising the styles and immense chops and interplay and improvisational intent in it all. Live, it could seem like a bit a plaything although with immense capability. Perhaps it was the smiles from Gilad and sometimes from Nate. Will, on the other hand, could look a bit lost in his work. His were the most perfect of inventions, individual notes then scurries, intervallic rather than substitutional, ever reasoned, then perhaps also one hand on the Nord keys for piano, sometimes second hand on the Korg synth for bass, then searching for a pedal to sustain when he returns to the alto for those fascinating solos. Devastating is more the word for Gilad, fast, then deliriously faster, chordal fingering, some taps, plenty of hammer ons and the like. I liked it especially with a distorted tone, biting and intrusive, but mostly it was clearer than than, fast but never flighty. Then Nate. I'd noticed the bass next to this stool before the gig and someone insisted he's on drums, but I wondered. I hadn't guessed he'd pick up an Ibanez 5-string to play half the gig or more with it in his lap, tapping notes to frets with his left hand, tonics but also fills, with right hand on snare or cymbals or whatever and feet each on kick and hihat, and working a treat. I just once noticed ra apid-fire 16-th note passage on snare (?) and felt that the timing was not quite perfect, but then realised every other timing had been just perfect so I hadn't noticed the immensity of the skill on this. And how difficult this would be and how servicible the whole two instrument thing was. I had a listen to some tracks from a solo album, I think a one-man solo outing, and it's a corker, with various instruments and those drums and singing too. Similar with Will and those glorious solos, on his album, too, and Melissa Aldana on a few tracks, too, for the tenor, I guess. And this is all with tunes written by all and at breakneck speeds and with the oddest of timings and some crazed heads front and back. Just one pushy, insistent, loud 90 minute set with these NYC masters within a few metres, this being a club with close quarters (if you play a few extra Euros for those seats). Trio Grande? I guess it's an illusion to Rio Grande and that works, although I don't think I'd want the title Grand Trio, but then I wouldn't deserve it. These guys probably do.

Trio Grande performed at King Georg, Koln. TG are Gilad Hekselman (guitar), Will Vinson (alto, keys) and Nate Wood (drums, bass).

Mediaeval means church

Then just across the road to the Schnutgen Museum. I had described this collection to Megan as one of religious statuary so I was surprised to find Schnutgen described simply as a collection of mediaeval art for it was virtually all religious, through stained glass and religious robes and reliquaries and implements for masses and memories and ivory and bronze and mostly statues of saints and Mary and Jesus. None-the-less, the collection is impressive and worthy although I had seen it before and the gruesome aspects of mediaeval religiosity, in the days of short and painful lives, did grate. I was amused by the stutue of Jesus on a horse on wheels for a procession; slightly horrified and a little confused by a locked cell with skull from centuries later; taken aback by the modelled head of St John the Baptist on a plate and amused by the reappearance of St Denis (?) holding his skull and mitre. Otherwise just enjoying a connection with another era, for these are still people and products of their society as we all are; their society is just different.

The Schnutgen Museum of mediaeval history in in Cologne.

28 October 2023

Just local history

I hadn't realised thee extent of Cologne's past history on my previous visit. I'd come across the Roman road and a few remaining Roman remains but The Roemisch-Germanisches Museum had been closed, presumably for restoration and I could only look down on a massive mosaic and famed from a floor level glass window. This time we discovered the collection was relocated to the Belgian House, just metres from our unit, so the visit. The display was not vast (as I like it) although the collection is. One panel spoke of 2m items being dug up in one tunnel build. These could be just glass shards or discarded oyster shells or broken tools, but historical and it speaks to the history in this place. And we discovered the history reached back to Neanderthals through stone and bronze ages through the Roman empire to the Franks. We first visited the Romans with their stone memorials, a lengthy run of busts and memorials and a road marker, through tools for various purposes, decorations and jewellery and stunning glassware, and the incredible road map for the Roman Empire, the Tabula Peutingeriana (held in the Austrian National Library in Vienna). A naval base was located just near Koln so their tools and various discards in the waters. Then on to the Franks after the rout of Rome by the Germanic peoples, again personal fineries, more glass, and through burial remains from the Paleo- and Neolithic and to two cutting stones, one in process of preparation, perhaps 60k years old. And the stunner is that these collections are locally sourced, from the city and surroundings. The website lists a string of larger items which may reside with the mosaic, and crowns and more that weren't at the Belgian House, but what was was a wonder none-the-less. A long history and much change and a stunner to think that it's still just local!

The Roemisch-Germanisches Museum is located in the Belgian House in Cologne.

Art apart

Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here's my latest visit to the main local art gallery in Koln, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum. I wouldn't miss it. It's not too large, spread over 3 floors from mediaeval which was quite a scene in Koln at the time, through baroque and into the impressionists. My preference was the early works, for the discovery of people and perspective and the strange other worldliness from our time. To what degree were they like us? I can't answer although there's plenty that's relatable, if lots that isn't. Whatever, here are a few pics.