Archive for December, 2014

Cartier-Bresson’s wooden church photograph – 1970s

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Washerwomen by the river Kamenka, Suzdal – early 1970s

This photograph has been scanned from my copy  of  Henri Cartier–Bresson’s book ‘About Russia’ published by Thames and Hudson in London in August 1974 and no doubt bought by me in London in August 1974. £6.50 when £6.50 was £6.50. Cartier-Bresson made three trips to the Soviet Union, his book, published in 1955 in England as ‘The People of Moscow’ was the  result of his first trip in 1954, the trips in 1972 and 1973 resulted in ‘About Russia’.

Last week I bought a pristine copy of ‘Mosca’ the Italian edition of ’The People of Moscow’ in the wonderful bookshop Hoepli in Milan. They had several copies, no doubt they had recently been discovered in a box at the back of a cupboard. ‘Mosca’ cost me 100 euros – £4.25 in old money (1955) so not a bad price. That got me looking at my Cartier-Bresson books on my return and ‘About Russia, turned up this photo of a wooden church. I’m pleased to say that it still exists. It is the Church of St Nicholas (1766) from the village of Glotovo. It was transferred to Suzdal in 1960.

Last copy of ‘Wooden Churches’ flies to São Paulo

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Today I posted the last copy of ‘Wooden Churches – Travelling in the Russian North’ to Rua Vergueiro, São Paulo, Brazil.

Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938)

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Feodor Chaliapin painted by Boris Kustodiev (1878-1927) 1922

Last weekend I went to Vienna to see a performance of the opera Khovanschina by Modest Mussorgsky. It’s an opera I’m always keen to track down. The music and the story are very powerful but apart from that I’m always intrigued to see how the final scene will be presented on stage. A scene where a community of Old Believers martyr themselves in a burning church rather than give themselves up to be slaughtered by the czars troops. Not an easy thing to stage.

I had great hopes for this production as it was directed by Lev Dodin. But despite a set made of charred timbers, no ‘coal effect fire’ lighting was attempted and no wind machine blown red silk used. And the protaganists and chorus were slowly lowered below stage, not raised to heaven. Apart from that the singing was great and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Semyon Bychkov sounded wonderful.

Another plus was an English language programme where I came across this quote from Chaliapin ‘As a composer, Mussorgsky sees and hears all the scents of a garden or a tavern, and describes them so strikingly and persuasively that the audience finally hears and shares those aromas… That is realism, to be sure, but a realism of a special kind, such as we are familiar with from Russian peasants who with plain timber and simple axes build a church whose artistic ornamentation surpasses even the best inlaid work.’


The Church of St Nicholas, Purenema, Archangel Region, July 2012


Get every new post delivered straight to your Inbox.

Join 149 other followers: