How's your hair?

Yesterday Pantene had an event for all the hair lovers of Stockholm. Pantene disappeared for about 7 years in Sweden but are going to be back in stores in September. It was a well put together event with live styling on the stage by the amazing hair stylist Dejan Cekanovic, amazing juices from Juiceverket, good food and a lot of fun people. Pantene had one question for us all; How's your hair?

Nails = the perfect accessory

via GG

Just take a look at these nails. What a stunning detail! I also want these see through nails with the fresh white print. I just love it, especially with her dark colors. It can't be that difficult to do?

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, May 2012)

BUSONI Piano Concerto
Rome Symphony / Francesco La Vecchia
Naxos 8.572523 / ****1/2

The sole Piano Concerto of Italian pianist-composer Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) has the honour of being designated the longest piano concerto in the standard classical repertory. There are probably longer concertos (possibly by the British Parsi eccentric K.S.Sorabji) but this behemoth, which plays for 70 to 80 minutes, has garnered a respectable number of recordings, including those by pianistic heavyweights John Ogdon, Garrick Ohlsson, Peter Donohoe and Marc-André Hamelin. Concert performances are understandably rare, not least because of its dense monolithic writing in five movements, including a finale with an unseen male chorus singing from Oehlenschläger’s Alladin

This is a true epic, with a universality akin to Haydn’s The Creation or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, but in this case the ode is, “Feel Allah close to you, and observe His works.” The gargantuan piano part is a tribute to Lisztian virtuosity. The fourth movement All’Italianais a furious Tarantella that sweeps everything before it, and the music is possessed with a monumentality that can now only be referred to as Busonian. Veteran Italian pianist Roberto Cappello, a former winner of the Busoni Piano Competition, copes admirably with the outsized demands, and the Italian orchestral forces are anything but overawed. This ambitious newcomer shares a common advantage with the legendary Ogdon recording (EMI Classics); both retail at super-budget price. 

LISZT Lieder
With Helmut Deutsch, Piano
Virgin Classics 0709282 / ****1/2

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) wrote so much for the piano that one may excused for forgetting he was also a very fine composer for the voice. This collection of German and Italian songs by the marvellous German soprano Diana Damrau should go some way to dispel the myth that he was “all fingers”.  Nevertheless, his Lieder require a vocal range, technical adroitness and interpretive ability that are beyond all but the most virtuosic of singers. Damrau has all of these. There is an epic quality to Die Loreley, arguably his best known song, about the Rhine maiden who lures sailors to a watery grave, or a free-spirited and almost defiant stance in Die Drei Zigeuner (The Three Gypsies). Simple and plain Hungarian folk music it is not.

Pianists will recognise O Lieb, so lang lieben kennst (O Love, As long as you can), which is the original sung version of the famous Liebesträume No.3, or the three sonnets in Italian after Petrarch, which are better known in the Italian book of Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage). There are some differences in the melody of Pace non trovo (I Find No Peace) when heard alongside the familiar Sonetto No.104. The piano accompaniment parts for all of the songs are not for amateurs either, and veteran pianist Helmut Deutsch sensitively brings out all the details in tandem with Damrau’s passionate issues. Liszt’s Lieder are more exhausting to listen to than Schubert’s, and understandably so.

The Royal Tourist: Queen Elizabeth visits New York City; most notably takes a stroll through Bloomingdale's

New Yorkers greet the Queen with a tickertape parade in 1957. Courtesy jeffs4653/Flickr 

What do you buy a queen on her Diamond Jubilee, celebrating 60 years on the British throne? Well, most royal figures are quite difficult to buy for, but luckily, Queen Elizabeth has already revealed her preference in local department stores. For back in 1976, the woman who never goes shopping found herself one late afternoon perusing the merchandise at Bloomingdale's department store.

Queen Elizabeth has been to New York three times during her sixty year reign over the Commonwealth. In a couple cases, she came specifically to address the governing body at the United Nations Headquarters but managed squeeze in a few extra activities each time, befitting her status as one of New York's wealthiest, most high profile tourists.

She first arrived in 1957, via Staten Island, riding over to Manhattan in an Army ferryboat. In the harbor, she caught sight of the newly built replica of the Mayflower (the Mayflower II), fresh from its completed voyage retracing the Pilgrims' course over the Atlantic. The Queen was nearly wide-eyed during the ticker tape parade in her honor, with over a million New Yorkers lining the streets to see the young monarch, from City Hall to the Waldorf-Astoria.

Her favorite moment arrived after the UN session, when she was whisked to the top of the Empire State Building to gaze out of the hazy city. Like any great New York trip, she was out too late, arriving at Idlewild Airport at 2 in the morning for her trip home. She shared her thoughtful take on her experiences here: "The mental pictures of New York are nearer reality than those of any other city."

Below: Queen Elizabeth on her second visit to New York, 1976, courtesy Madison Guy/Flickr

In 1976, she and Prince Phillip returned the city, a bit older and less desirous of scaling skyscrapers this time around. As part of the city's bi-centennial celebrations -- and perhaps inspired by the Mayflower on her previous visit -- the Queen decided to participate in a little historical reenactment herself. Most famously, the Queen graced the steps of Trinity Church to receive back rent owed the crown -- 279 peppercorns. (I wonder where they found peppercorns in 1976 Manhattan, this being the days before Whole Foods?) A bronze plaque presently marks the spot at Trinity where she accepted the peppercorns.

After a luncheon at the Waldorf ("relaxed, animated and fairly hungry"), the royals fit in a couple unusual stops. The first was a spot of afternoon tea at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, accompanied by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Afterwards, they sped downtown for a tour of Bloomingdale's, not only stopping traffic, but reversing it, to allow the Queen to exit her vehicle from the right side.

She quietly moved from floor to floor, admiring the many displays of products of British make, particularly the pottery and furniture. She was also greeted to a private fashion show, Her Majesty led through a room of mannequins garbed in the latest stylish trends from 1976. Along the way, a few American designers made appearances to greet Queen Elizabeth, including Calvin Klein.

What accounts for such an unusual detour in the Queen's itinerary? Apparently, bedazzled by her 1957 trip, she wanted to do as New Yorkers do. Or, as a representative of Bloomingdale's remarked, "we thought -- and the Queen agreed -- that it would be a very American experience for her to go amidst all the crowds and just pretend she might be shopping." [source]

If the entire event seems a tad surreal to you, this was then reinforced by the presentation of a Sioux peace pipe to the Queen, meant to "symbolize the peace that has existed between Great Britain and the United States."

This would be her lasting memory of New York for 35 years, until 2010, when she returned again for a few hours to address the UN and to visit Ground Zero. Given the sobriety of her visit, she did little sightseeing but braved the 100-degree weather with her trademark stolid grace.

Dye me orange

The Stylish Outlaws are a big fan of orange for the coming season. We want to dress in orange from tip to toe. Orange is such a beautiful and bright color. 

Todays art inspiration

Fashion = Art?
Art = Fashion?
Art + Fashion = ?

Don't stop until you get enough

Yesterdays post made me hungry for more Prabal Gurung and purple. I can not get enough! Take a look at this heavenly lookbook.   

Free movies with beer -- legal in Coney Island since 1912

Coney Island's Bowery strip, the most notorious area of the amusement district. In the center of the postcard, you can make out the sign for Wacke's establishment.

What's New York in the summertime without a free outdoor movie? Or for that matter, a regular film night in any New York bar? Believe it or not, this carefree pleasure has its roots in a small but significant decision that was made one hundred years ago this week.

In May of 1912, people were still reeling from the Titanic disaster and sorting through a messy presidential election between four viable presidential candidates (Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and Eugene V Debs). But most left their worries behind once they stepped off the train at Coney Island, where the amusement parks were just opening their doors that month, making way for the summer crowds with an even wilder array of rides and shows.

Most of the amusements at Steeplechase Park were totally new, as a fire in 1907 had decimated most of the park. Nearby sat the ruins of Dreamland, destroyed in a fire in 1911 and never rebuilt. Luna Park also expanded in 1912 with many new rides, including one that seemed to mock the misfortunes of its rival parks -- the Great Fire Show, which presented a Western town ravaged in flame.

But a brand new entertainment was making itself known in Coney Island -- moving pictures. For instance, when Luna Park threw open its doors on May 25, 1912, the park contained a theater which presented some of the world's first color short films in the British-invented Kinemacolor process. (Here's an example of one of the films that may have exhibited here)

The popularity of motion pictures, which were often exhibited between vaudeville acts or in continuous runs in theaters called nickelodeons, soon exposed the fallacy of one particular New York law. For operators had to have a theater license in order to present a free show, even though, technically, a film could be easily displayed in a non-theatrical environment -- namely, a saloon.

Coney Island theater proprietor Herman Wacke, no stranger to the moving image, is touted by some as the first commercial exhibitor of a motion picture at his Trocadero Hotel in 1893. Wacke's hotel, a stalwart from Coney's early years located along a strip of cabarets and beerhalls affectionately called the Bowery, was nearly destroyed in the fire that consumed Steeplechase in 1907. In 1912, Wacke fanned a few new flames.

He began showing films for free in the saloon as a way to entice people to come in and purchase food and beer. Wacke's was probably the best known of many along the Bowery to exhibit films in this fashion. But the proprietor didn't have a license to do so, and during one particular sting, Wacke was arrested -- "charged with conducting a free show in connection with his bar" -- and fined $5. Not a huge sum of money for a successful saloon owner, and Wacke went willingly, becoming a test case for a law that many certainly thought was rigid and overly meddling.

The charge was eventually overturned by a Kings Country Supreme Court judge who announced that such incidental performances were not subject to the law. The decision was announced in a headline in the May 28, 1912, edition of the New York Evening World: Free "Movies" Are O.K.  It Is No Crime If They Accompany The Beer And Hot Dogs.

The law would be challenged again a few years later by the owners of posh Manhattan cabaret Maxim's, who also presented so-called 'free' performances.

As one of America's premier leisure destinations, Coney Island was so closely associated with films of this period that it even starred in a few of them, including Mack Sennett's 'At Coney Island' in 1912. There's even an Edison film from 1903 called 'Rube and Mandy at Coney Island'.

Of course the best Coney Island-themed silent film is the Buster Keaton/ Fatty Arbuckle comedy from 1917.

 Top photo courtesy Ephemeral New York.


HERE IS A SERIES OF CONCERTS NOT TO BE MISSED! The first Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle to be performed by a Singaporean. Only the fourth such cycle to take place in Singapore (the previous ones were in 1983, 1998 and 2004, given by Anton Kuerti, various pianists and Mikhail Pletnev respectively, all with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra), this one is special because it features local piano titan LIM YAN and The Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lim YauPianomania is privileged to have a few words from pianist LIM YAN, who obviously relishes his forthcoming experience with Beethoven.

Congratulations! You will be the first Singaporean pianist to perform all of Beethoven’s five piano concertos in a cycle here, and even beating Melvyn Tan to it. When was this not-so-crazy idea with The Philharmonic Orchestra first mooted?

The Philharmonic Orchestra had previously presented complete cycles of symphonies by Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert and Sibelius, and it is an intriguing idea to explore the entire output of one composer in a particular genre; to immerse oneself in the musical language of a particular composer and to study his works intensely. It’s music director Lim Yau and I had been discussing the possibility of a Beethoven piano concerto cycle for some time now – years, I think – so when this opportunity arose we went ahead and plunged right in!

Surely you must have performed one or two of these concertos in the past. What do Beethoven’s piano concertos mean to you?

Each of Beethoven’s five piano concertos is an important work of the repertory, and that is a remarkable testament to his genius and his perfectionist streak. Off-hand, the only other composer I can think of with a comparable record in the genre is Rachmaninov. As a piano virtuoso himself, Beethoven’s writing for the instrument is not only idiomatic but also revolutionary – for example, the characteristic long pedal markings for effect.

The three ages of Beethoven.

We see Beethoven’s style evolve with these concertos, from the Haydn-Mozart model of Op.19 (the Second Concerto but chronologically the first), through the Middle Period concertos of Op.37 and 58 (Third and Fourth Concertos) to his maturity in Op.73 (the Fifth or “Emperor” Concerto). How differently do you approach each of these works?

Undoubtedly, Beethoven was an innovative composer who was constantly pushing at the edge of the envelope – for example, up to the Third Concertowe have a standard concerto structure with double exposition, et cetera. Suddenly, in the Fourth Concerto it is the piano which opens with a quiet four-bar phrase. And the Fifth Concerto practically begins with a written-out cadenza punctuated by three orchestral chords. It is as if Beethoven was showing us that there are alternatives; that a concerto does not have to start in a certain fixed way. I am quite sure that Liszt was strongly influenced by the opening of the Fifth for his own First Piano Concerto, as well as Grieg and Schumann, to name just three other composers.

Let us also not forget that the piano was undergoing some changes during this time as well. The keyboard expanded from five octaves to almost seven octaves and with it also the range of expressive possibilities. In the first two concertos in particular, the music often traverses the entire range of the keyboard or hovers around the extremes. One can imagine Beethoven sometimes wishing for an extra note or two!

The opening bars of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.4 in G major, Op.58.

Which of these concertos did you find the most challenging to learn and interpret?

I’m afraid I am going to have to go with the clichéd answer which is the Fourth Concerto. I think there is a good reason why this concerto is often singled out. It is for me the least concerto-like of the five. The typical dynamic and drama of a concerto involves pitting the soloist against the orchestra – the struggle of one against many – but the texture in the Fourth Concerto more often resembles that of a symphony with piano obbligato. Even though there are very many notes, the piano frequently has a subservient role in the context of the whole. Add to that a seemingly calm and sedate, lyrical main theme (highly unusual for Beethoven!), and it is almost as if Beethoven is challenging one’s preconceived notions of a concerto; to re-evaluate and re-think what is understood by the term “concerto”.

Do you have a particular favourite? And why?

Growing up, the Great Composers series of recordings was an important part of my musical education as that was how I first got to know many of the pieces in that collection. I still remember vividly the first issue, which featured Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and being totally captivated by this music which I had never heard before.
Later on in the series, the Emperor Concerto was featured, with its equally arresting opening, and I was hooked. I even managed to obtain a score and tried to pick my way through the easier bits, with limited success. I could only boggle at passages like the double thirds in the first movement.

Now, over two decades later, I still love the Emperor, and I still struggle to play double thirds…!

Do you have any favourite recordings of the concertos?

One musician whom I admire greatly for his interpretation of Beethoven’s music is Daniel Barenboim – not just as a pianist but also as a conductor. To me, he gets right to the heart of the music, without any showboating, cheap effects or eccentricities – just pure music. I recently discovered the recording he made in 2007 with the Staatskapelle Berlin, conducting all five concertos from the piano, and was completely blown away by its conviction. The orchestra was also on top form and so sensitive to everything that Barenboim did. 

You recently performed the “Emperor”with the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra in Hanoi (conducted by Adrian Tan). What was the experience and reception there like?

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience with VNSO in Hanoialthough the weather was unbearably warm! Temperatures went up as high as 40°C sometimes and rehearsals became quite uncomfortable, especially in poorly-ventilated spaces. We even cancelled one session of rehearsals because of the heat wave! Thankfully we managed to get through the performances – Adrian and I were both drenched in perspiration by the end – which were on the whole well-received.

I must also mention, as an integral part of the Vietnamexperience, the food which was absolutely delicious. The flavours of the fresh produce are really highlighted and enhanced by the light cooking and condiments. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

We notice that Beethoven’s Triple Concerto (Op.56) has been included in this cycle, which means you play six concertos instead of just five! It has been described as a “Piano Trio” Concerto, so what is the piano part like, as opposed to the violin and cello parts?

Certainly, the Triple Concerto features quite an unusual instrumentation and it is interesting to see how Beethoven tackles the relationship, not just of soloists versus orchestra, but also strings versus piano. Although all three instruments have their moments in the spotlight, I think the piano rightly plays a more supportive role here to the more lyrical and expressive strings. The cello part in particular is especially prominent. It introduces the main subjects in each of the three movements, and is also technically demanding. The cello is so high up in its register that half the time the music almost sounds like a concerto for two violins and piano!

Since while you’re at it, why not also learn the D major Concerto (Op.61), Beethoven’s own transcription for piano of the Violin Concerto?

Yes indeed! Perhaps for the next cycle, together with the Piano Concerto No.0 (in E flat major, WoO 4)!

We wish you all the best!

The Beethoven Piano Concerto Cycle with Lim Yan and The Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Lim Yau) takes place at the School of the Arts (SOTA) Concert Hall at 8 pm on:

8 June (Friday): Nos.1 and 5 “Emperor”
13 June (Wednesday): Nos.3 and 4
16 June (Saturday): No.2 and Triple Concerto (with Grace Lee, Violin and Lin Juan, Cello)

Seasonless, Genderless & Timeless

Rad Hourani will be the first one to show a unisex Haute Couture collection at Paris Fashion Week in July 2012. The collection is innovative and he describes it as: timeless, seasonless and genderless. The collection will then be available at his website. How exciting! 

Photographed by Rad Hourani

Purple Rain

Suit and glasses from Prabal Gurung
Shoes from Alexander Wang
Bag from Celine

PASSAGE A Concerto for Cello and Orchestra by HO CHEE KONG

A new cello concerto by a Singaporean composer will receive its World Premiere at the Singapore Festival of Arts on 1 and 2 June 2012. Passage by Ho Chee Kong will be performed by cellist Qin Li-Wei and the Orchestra of the Music Makers conducted by Chan Tze Law. It will be part of the concert entitled Rite(s) of Spring at the festival, which also see the performances of Holst's Beni Mora (Oriental Suite) and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.  Here are some photos taken from a rehearsal of Passage at the School of the Arts on Sunday evening (17 May 2012).

Composer Ho Chee Kong peruses the score of Passage.

Passage was commissioned by the Singapore Festival of Arts as a sort of prequel to Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring. In the concert itself, Passage will be performed just before the Rite, with a short interval between the two works. Ho Chee Kong has revealed that his concerto is in seven sections as follows:

1. The Sign and Vision (Cello opening solo): during a ritual, a sign appears and the wise man sees a vision
2. Awakening Spirits: the wise man seeks help to interpret the vision
3. Divining the Mist: the spirits point to the mist
4. The Earth Speaks: and he encounters the voice of the Earth
5. Shadows of Spring: which speaks of the coming of a dark Spring
6. Sighting the Chosen (Cello cadenza): the wise man sees the chosen one
7. Heralds of Fate: and realises the fatalism of his vision. 

There will also be a short surprise appended to the end of the work, but more will be revealed at the actual performance. 

Qin Li-Wei is the virtuoso cellist for whom the work was conceived.

Composer, soloist and conductor confer on points in the score.

Ho Chee Kong has this tongue-in-cheek precis on the work and how it links up with Stravinsky's ballet:

"Something like that, where this wise man divined that in order for world peace to happen, he should call for a couple of tribes to come together and play some games, and along the way form an elder council who then decide that there should be a celebration party for everyone, which they did, but unfortunately some young girl got overly intoxicated and danced herself to death, which was initially classified as no foul play but got mixed up in the report and turned up classified as sacrifice. 

Turns out old Igor got the tip from an informant who was the wise man, whom he could not disclose and hence only ended up writing the music for two sections of the Rite

Yup, that's how it happened."

Having heard the entire work from start to end, I can only conclude that Passage will become one of the great concertos in the Singaporean canon of compositions. Concentrated within 16 minutes, it is a very moving piece of music, distinguished by a strong power of the narrative and exotic instrumental colour. The cello part is extremely virtuosic; while standing out in the solo opening and cadenza, it also blends in well with the orchestra's textures. The orchestral part is equally challenging, but the young players of OMM more than stood up to the challenge. The World Premiere on 1 June is going to be a great hit. 

A final conference and it appears that everybody is satisfied with the outcome.

Ho Chee Kong, Qin Li-Wei and Chan Tze Law pose for a shot. 
Next stop, Esplanade!

ANATOMY OF AN ORCHESTRA: A Rehearsal of The Rite of Spring with the Orchestra of the Music Makers

There are few things as fascinating as witnessing an orchestra at work. Here are some photographs taken at a rehearsal in the School of the Arts of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring with the Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM) conducted by Chan Tze Law on Sunday evening (27 May 2012).

THE STRINGS: The violas in action.

The scrolls of the double basses resemble a fern before it turns into a frond.
Even cello cases have very different  personalities.

THE WOODWINDS: Bass clarinets add an unusually deep timbre to the music.
Two members of the flute family: the diminutive piccolo and the alto flute.

The contra-bassoon provides a deep throaty sound to the proceedings.

THE BRASS: A trumpeter's paraphernalia. This trumpeter is playing with a mute in place.
On the left is a Wagner tuba, to be performed by the 7th and 8th horn players. There can be no more awesome sound than the French horn section playing together.
Tubas give a sonority of great heft, and a hand helps mute a French horn.

Trumpets and horns in unison.

THE PERCUSSION: Tubular bells and metallaphones.

A timpanist's bag of assorted mallets.
The percussion always looks like the most exotic section.

TUTTI: The conductor is the interpreter-in-chief. All the musicians follow his lead and perform as one.

A view from the back of the violas.

One is guaranteed a loud reception when seated near the brass. For The Rite of Spring, the volume is close to deafening.