Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Almost February and I'm getting impatient.

Almost February and no real signs of spring. A few years ago Chris and I had a fortnight in Turkey. Arriving in April we had only packed light clothing - but it was very cold. Everyone made a bee-line for the local shops to buy woolly jumpers. The hotel manager said: 'Spring starts tomorrow.' We laughed at his absurd comment but, sure enough, the skies cleared and temperatures rose at an astonishing rate. Tortoises were aroused from their torpor and were soon trundling around the hillsides.

Stravinsky, when interviewed about his 'Rite of Spring' ('Le Sacre du Printemps') , recalled his childhood and spoke of '...the violent Russian spring that seemed to begin in an hour and was like the whole earth cracking'.

Here in Britain spring creeps in on tiptoe. Am I obsessed with spring? These damp chilly days have their highlights but if I am obsessed I am in company with painters, poets and composers. I took a brief look at my CD's:

Benjamin Britten: Spring Symphony

Spring Symphony: a glorious celebration of spring through setting of English poets.

Frank Bridge: Enter Spring

Enter Spring: A delightful work by Frank Bridge. Britten's main tutor and surely a much under rated composer.

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

The Rite of Spring: One of the great works of the 20th century - or any other century.

Nielsen: Springtime in Funen

I bought this CD for Carl Nielsen's 'Aladdin' suite, so 'Springtime in Funen' was a pleasant surprise.

Copland: Appalachian Spring

This Aaron Copland work is familiar to all for its use of a Shaker song called 'Simple Gifts'. The tune was later used by Sidney Carter for a hymn: 'Lord of the Dance'.

My friend John Pimm won't be surprised to find that I lack a CD of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'!

Anyway, I've laboriously made my point. We all love spring and it is therefore no surprise that we yearn for the warmer weather.  On today's walk the only flowers I saw (other than the ubiquitous Viburnum tinus) were a few precocious flowers on  Berberis darwinii and one solitary bloom on Cymbalaria muralis.

Berberis darwinii. Bell Lane, Byfield.
29 January, 2014

With its tiny 'Holly leaves' Berberis darwinii is surely one of the most delightful of all hardy shrubs. It is native to Chile and Argentina but is naturalised here and there in Britain.

Cymbalaria muralis, Bell Lane, Byfield.
29 January, 2014

Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis, is usually found on walls. Not surprising really, given that 'muralis' means 'of walls'.

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