Thursday, 31 March 2011

The high aesthetic line?


A certain irony was not lost on us as we swanned around a sybaritic preview of the Victoria and Albert Museum's The Cult of Beauty on the evening of the Arts Council's proclamations. Much has been weighed in the balance recently, with practicality leaving l'art pour l'art in the dark. Actually, much as ACE's forced hand has inevitably been one step forward, two steps back, it does seem to me from looking at the list that they've chosen for the most part wisely in favouring the dynamic, happening organisations over those a little too inclined to rest on their laurels. At least I'm pleased about the Aurora Orchestra and the Britten Sinfonia (was I right about Tete a Tete, too? Not seen it listed since the hearsay). Anyway, whatever the merits and the wielding of influence which undoubtedly determine in part who flourishes and who struggles, handouts to arts groups aren't a given, and dead art is sometimes worse than no art at all.

As I couldn't help feeling when confronted with the rows of lifeless, porcelain-skinned redheads who greet you in Room One of the exhibition. Did the aesthetic movement have to mean a move away from psychological portraiture? Standing out head and shoulders above the rest was Whistler, only an honorary Englishman, of course, and though I've seen all the larger canvases exhibited elsewhere, I was very pleased to see the portrait of Carlyle down from Glasgow. Hardly part of the escapist brief, I know, but to see a human face was such a relief.


Rather whizzed past what I didn't care for, but spent some time with Whistler's lithographs of Battersea and Venice.


What else would I take away? Not the costumes, not the jewellery, not more than a handful of the paintings; maybe a first-edition Beardsley or two.



Felt that little section could have had a bit more naughtiness about it; no tits or phalli on display (trying to correct that just a little above). And the recorded poetry readings which accompanied it, endlessly recycled, were read by the flattest, most boring voices imaginable.

The photographs added a bit of life, even when Julia Margaret Cameron dresses up her sitters in historical guise. Don't think this one of May Prinsep as Beatrice Cenci was among those on display, and it's not quite as camp as the one of Lord Leighton, but I like it.


I must say, though, that I missed the air of a wider context. Presumably it was the V&A's brief to stuff all the middle-class Londoncentric escapism into one exhibition, and not to show what was happening on the continent at the time. But when you think of how a much finer exoticism was to burst in the designs for the Ballets Russes only a decade after the demise of the aesthetic movement, and how these very rooms were so recently filled with an exhibition one hundred times more dazzling in its art, I found it even more oppressive, and couldn't get out from under the sculpted feet of Eros in the last room quick enough.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Springtime pond life


Oh to be in Borders country when the clocks spring forward. I was, for one night only, and a more Fotherington-Thomasesque mood could not have been inculcated by the purling stream beneath my bedroom window, the scudding clouds across blue skies which lasted at least until mid-afternoon, and all nature truly waking up, albeit a good few weeks later than down south.


After lunch, the father of the house - a good woodsman and Broughton-by-Biggar's most generous possible trustee of its hillsides - suggested we go and look at the frogs in his half-pond, half-lake just outside the village. He's delighted that the alders on the fringe, pictured up top alongside spawn in the water, have self-seeded from those in the plantations furter up the slope. As for the amphibians, we could hear them from a distance, and what we saw close-up was not always pleasurable to behold, but that's nature for you.


The lady frog in the gangbang is presumably not in too much distress. And yes, we did see frolicking lambs in the fields, too, but the above is also part of the spring rush. Anyway, bullrushes, waterbird song, reflections: what can I add?




Finally for a glimpse of stream and wood life, too. Our snowdrops down here are long since gone; at Chapelgill they're still hanging on


and stink cabbage is just shooting up in their midst.


Following my new-found fondness for outlines of trees before they fully leaf, the beeches along the edge of the wood proved photogenic candidates.



And then through one of the loveliest drives in the UK to the drear of Lanark, and the train journey to Glasgow for a slice of operatic bourgeois life. I think all the more fondly of the packed weekend culturally speaking since it's been flanked by such dross in London, an unusual turn of events: Peter Brook's stultifying A Magic Flute last week, and a mediocre if by no means badly sung Fidelio yesterday. Looking forward now to a longer natural break from the civic whirl.

2.30pm: re the Arts Council cuts/grants, I just don't get it: why punish some and over-award others? Latest summary here. It reads like a mess to me, and of course it was obvious that some would lose out. One good piece of news: funding for Tete a Tete Opera means we should get the production of Martinu's The Three Wishes they've been hoping to do.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Robert Tear: life and soul


So the last of the three great British tenors has just gone to join Philip Langridge and Anthony Rolfe Johnson up/out there - what a hell of a Britten/Vaughan Williams concert they could give together. He'll be making them laugh, too, as he did Elaine Padmore, Petroc Trelawny and me when we met for what turned out to be a relaxed book-review programme at Broadcasting House just over a year ago. A curious mixture: waspish but kind, anecdotal but hugely interested in other people. And liked to shock, just a bit: I gave them the Finnish equivalent of 'cheese', 'muikku', when a studio manager took the above photo - it's actually a delicious lake fish - and he retorted with 'blowjob - you see, it makes people grin somewhat bemusedly'.

Quite apart from the gorgeous, bigger-than-Pears stream of sound he made in his prime, watching Tear on a concert platform was always a delight. Some thought his febrile response to everything going on around him was stagey; it wasn't, he couldn't be otherwise. The only Britten opera I saw him in was Death in Venice, where he made a suitably tormented Aschenbach, and his enjoyment was as visible as Rozhdestvensky's in an extraordinary Britten Spring Symphony at the 1980 Proms (Schubert 9 in the first half, typical Noddy programme).

After a not very involving Moshinsky production of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress in which he wore a bad young-Auden wig, there were plenty of cameos. Just found this touching specimen, of crazy-fond Hauk-Sendorf, one of 337-year old Emilia Marty's old lovers (from her Eugenia Montez days), in The Makropoulos Case. Lehnhoff's Glyndebourne triumph seems to be playing on the continent, and is sung in German, but it's very much Silja and Tear as I remember them:



This morning we sat down to listen to his recording of Vaughan Williams's On Wenlock Edge, in the orchestral version of the early 1920s conducted by Rattle. Here are the first four songs.



The only one I especially care for as expressive poem-setting - along with 'Bredon Hill', which is to be found in Part Two - is the typically spiritual 'From far, from eve and morning'. The Housman text is worth quoting in full:

From far, from eve and morning
And yon twelve-winded sky,
The stuff of life to knit me
Blew hither; here am I.

Now - for a breath I tarry
Nor yet disperse apart -
Take my hand quick and tell me,
What have you in your heart.

Speak now and I will answer;
How shall I help you, say;
Ere to the wind's twelve quarters
I take my endless way.


And now I must hie me back to a piece on productions of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream for one of the new ENO guides, which of course had me thinking of this best of tenors yesterday, some time before I heard the sad news.

30/3: A generous obit here will fill you in on more of the life. Love the lead picture of him in Sir John in Love.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Master and delinquent



The master is, of course, that greatest of conductors Neeme Järvi, something of a hero for me since he set the sleepy Edinburgh concert scene ablaze when I was an impressionable student; the delinquent is not I, in what's an especially nerdy looking photo, nor even, in truth, the real subject, my just-18-year-old godson Alexander. You'll understand what I'm talking about when you read the full story further down.

All this was only part of an eventful weekend whizz between Edinburgh, Glasgow and Broughton-by-Biggar. The lynchpin was a new Scottish Opera production of a Strauss opera I hold curiously dear - Intermezzo, the barely fictionalised tale of a marital storm-in-a-teacup between the composer and his wife. It turned out to be a discreet, human and gaudily but not inappropriately Klimt-framed show, classily sung and conducted. The Arts Desk, where the review went up yesterday, wondered if I couldn't find something else to cover while I was there. And what serendipity: the finest conductor the Royal Scottish National Orchestra has known before Stéphane Denève, who's doing such great things there now, was back in Edinburgh's Usher Hall on Friday for his only programme with the orchestra this season.

It was mainly taken up with 'the Leningrad', one of the four Shostakovich symphonies out of the fifteen I don't have any sort of soft spot for. Still, it's got all the usual traits, fireworks and between-the-lines nastiness, and I knew Järvi - whose performance of it back in the 1980s was one of the few I didn't catch live with the then SNO - would do wonderful things with it. He did, above all in a last five minutes I'll never forget - and just when I'd given up all hope of Shostakovich's less than convincing finale; again, read all about it on The Arts Desk. And you can hear the Radio 3 broadcast of the whole, splendid concert for the next week on the BBC iPlayer (with thanks to Petroc Trelawny for plugging the Arts Desk review at the end).

Neeme and I were supposed to meet at 5.30, but Radio 3's presence meant that the interview got shifted to 7pm. Yes, with a concert starting half an hour later. That's often been Neeme's style - he'll talk up to a concert, unlike Gergiev who will go on and keep the audience waiting if he's got more to say - and as usual the ideas and the enthusiasm were just pouring forth. I must say that when I last saw him in London, the performances - of Taneyev and Kalinnikov symphonies - were masterful, but he looked a little tired and unhealthy. Not so on Friday. Dear Edinburgh-based friend Ruthie, to my surprise, said she'd be happy to come in with me rather than hang around for half an hour; Neeme was predictably easy about that; and R can confirm that the first thing he said was how much he'd been enjoying my blog - 'I keep going back and back, more and more' - and what a good thing it was to express what you feel about all sorts of things in life. Here I am - again, a spur-of-the-moment thought that since Ruth was there, she might as well snap us - apparently telling him that the next entry would be extremely short. Not.


The interview will eventually appear as one of TAD's Q&As, so enough of that. But I ought to try to get to Tallinn in September when the male members of the clan - Neeme flanked by sons Paavo and Kristjan - will each be conducting a different orchestra on three consecutive nights.

So what about Armadillo? Well, I haven't heard it yet but I can imagine its fusion of jazz, rock and funk must be rather accomplished; clever Alexander has just got a distinction in Grade 8 clarinet, which is about as good as it gets. The full story of the Peeblesshire debacle, which made the front page of the local rag, is a bit sad and sorry, certainly not up there with the lead story of the weekend, the London protests against the cuts which of course I was nowhere near. The gig was planned to celebrate A's 18th birthday. First it was scheduled for Stobo Village Hall, then moved to Peebles Burgh Hall owing to police and council intervention, and finally cancelled at the last minute on health and safety grounds.


A has no need to disguise his identity with the dark specs (my idea as he doesn't like being photographed and surely wouldn't want his full visage seen here). His band honourably asked for a discussion at Peebles Police Station, but authority was adamant that this decent pack posed a public disorder risk. Result? 200 young people who'd bought tickets wandering round Peebles with nothing to do but...drink. And of course, as Alexander was quoted as saying in the article, the town was 'swarming with police...yet they claim they couldn't let our gig go ahead because of staffing shortages'. One phrase in the front-page piece especially makes me laugh, in this sentence: 'Police have revealed that they recovered a bumper haul of alcohol from underage drinkers around the Peebles and Innerleithen area on Saturday night'.

A bumper haul: the state totters! Anyway, the gig has been rescheduled, so Alexander will get to celebrate his birthday in style, and now he's 18 years and one day old, he can - not that he will - drink as much as he damned well pleases. Get off their backs, authorities: young people aren't as stupid or as reckless as you imagine. Oh, and some of them think Shostakovich is pretty amazing, too.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A voyage round Charles Darwin


His home and interior lives have almost as much to fascinate us as the five years he spent travelling the globe on the HMS Beagle (pictured above at Tierra del Fuego by the ship's artist, Conrad Martens). What's not to love about Charles Darwin, unless you happen to be a creationist? Sensitive, kind, scrupulous in both his professional and private capacities, an optimist despite personal tragedies ('according to my judgment, happiness decidedly prevails'), a careful master of the most lucid prose and above all a man human enough to admit that Homo sapiens might not be best equipped to understand 'the mystery of the beginning of all things', which is why he was 'content to remain an Agnostic'.


The religious question is set out with all his customary clarity and humanity in a few vital pages of his 1876 'Recollections', helpfully included in the Darwin reader which has been my bible in recent months. But to learn even more about the man in all his wonderful variety, I can't recommend too strongly the selective biography written by his great-great-grandson Randal Keynes. I've been wanting to read it since being so very moved by the film which took it as a basis, Creation, a subtle masterpiece which hasn't as yet had the acclaim it deserved (being banned in large parts of the USA didn't help). The title of the book has gone through various metamorphoses, from the infelicitous Annie's Box to Darwin, His Daughter and Human Evolution and now plain Creation.


Which will do, though the emphasis still remains on the heartbreak of his ten-year-old daughter Annie's death at Malvern in 1851. Keynes nevertheless manages to weave in all the major events and writings, giving them just enough space and context (we learn about everything from the Victorian attitude to the afterlife, the philosophy of Hume and the darker side of society to children's novels and bathing devices).


Daguerreotypes clearly didn't do the Darwin family's simian features a favour - nobody ever looks relaxed or happy in them, and clearly Annie's smile lit up a room. What I find most touching of all about Darwin's many depressions after losing her is that in 1863, virtually unable to move and watching the tendrils of a plant growing in his study, this most articulate of men could hardly string a sentence together. And yet, in speechless grief at the death of his beloved Joseph Hooker's daughter, he did manage after weeks to pen a note: 'My dear old friend, I must have pleasure of saying this. Yours affect[tionatel]y C. Darwin'.


We all know the cruel reductionism of the press when difficult and complex ideas first lodge in the consciousness of the general public. Yet of course Darwin's did, and continue to do so, with scientists agreeing that even his unprovable hunches turn out to have been correct. On the Origin of Species really is that miracle of miracles, a scientific study to be read and understood by everybody - perhaps in that respect only Freud is comparable, another master writer - not least because as David Damant reiterates, Darwin spent so many years long polishing its prose and taking care with how he communicated what he had to say.


And I do love the man from everything I read, not least because of the big and happy family full of offspring who don't seem to have had a harsh word for him later in life. Zooming down the wooden staircase slide at Down House, always being welcomed into papa's study and having the wonders of nature painstakingly explained wouldn't have been a bad childhood. But thank God child mortality rates aren't what they used to be. In this privileged land, at any rate.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

An outline of trees


When I first started walking round Kew with a tree guide in hand all those years ago, happy just to distinguish a chestnut from a maple, I was mighty impatient for bud and leaf; the late winter just seemed to drag on for ever. Now I admire the skeleton, or should I say the frame, since a tree in winter is still very much a living thing. The specimen above is, we think, Kew's largest: Quercus castaneifolia, the chestnut-leaved oak, found only in the Caucasus and the Elburz range of Iran. Planted at Kew in 1846, its reach is the same as its height - 30 metres - and not a limb got lopped in the mighty hurricane when trees all around were falling in their dozens.


I was going to wait until our chestnutty oak put forth its leaves, for comparison's sake, but of course oaks tend to leaf last, so it could be a long wait. In the meantime, Acer opalus, the Italian maple, near the Alpine House is producing early flowers, yellow to its light green foliage.



That and the magnolias were the arboreal stars when I went the other week. The budding specimen here looks good against a carpet of chinodoxas (I think: Deborah can correct me if I'm wrong. That's the Greek, by the way, for 'glory of the snow').


The same (again, I believe) carpet the swards sloping up to the temple of Aeolus.


Still bare, though, is one of the oldest trees in the gardens. The famous Ginkgo biloba was planted in 1762 by George III's mother Augusta, and still going strong - as it should, because it could live for at least another 2,500 years.


It's hard to get one's head around the fact that ginkgos were growing in this country, or whatever it was then, 65 million years ago. And like the Quercus castaneifolia, the ginkgo will probably see us all out.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Not faded and gone


The elegy lingers on. I guess it was because Tom Moore proved so loveable and candid in company that his verses, so perfectly wedded to the Irish melodies which gave them life, still spring off the printed page. It helps to have a good context for them. That we certainly got from the lecture-recital in which Moore's biographer, Linda Kelly, gave us a taste of his life, with performers as classy as mezzo Elena Marangou, a certain diplo-mate tenor here only ever consenting to appear as J and pianist Oliver Williams infusing a savour of settings by Stevenson, Britten, Duparc (in French) and Schumann (in German). Oh, and nearly last in the programme but by no means least, a little cycle of four songs specially written for Elena (and Linda) by Greek baritone/composer Tassis Christoyannis (splendid comic Ford in Richard Jones's Glyndebourne production of Verdi's Falstaff).


Before two very different audiences, they captured, I think, something of the joy and sorrow commingled in these pieces, in which the sadness of 'The Last Rose of Summer' - the supreme achievement, surely, of Britten's selection, with the ominous questions of the arpeggiating left hand only answered in the very last bar - usually gains the upper hand. Indeed, that song seems unusually prophetic, since Moore was to lose all five of his children, his two sons of sickness serving in the wars overseas. But up until those devastating final years, he seems to have been a a truly jolly fellow - best buddy Byron wrote of their time in Venice that they 'did nothing but laugh' - and his strong moral reactions to most of the injustices of his age, as an Irish-Catholic 'slave' constantly refused his rights by England, make bracing reading. Linda has brought out all the right details, I'm guessing, in what I've so far read of her very affectionate little study.


Moore knew what he had to do with the original Irish airs, first preserved by Belfast organist Edward Bunting. He wrote to Stevenson in 1807:

The task which you propose to me of adapting words to these airs is by no means simple. The poet, who would follow the various sentiments which they express, must feel and understand that rapid fluctuation of spirits, that unaccountable mixture of gloom and levity, which composes the character of my countrymen, and has deeply tinged their music...


And so he did. There's so much to choose from, and so many versions to choose it in (Moore originally used to sing, and often to play, his own settings). Elena gave us the sheer charm of Schumann's Zwei Venetianische Lieder and Duparc's Elegie, as well as Christoyannis's very voice-friendly approach to four of the poet's earlier translations from the Greek (he was known as 'Anacreon Moore' before he became the Bard of Erin). J stuck to a mixture of Stevenson and Britten.


Investigating further, and listening with pleasure to my two CDs of Berlioz Melodies, I hope they'll both respectively be singing that master's typically idiosyncratic settings of 'La belle voyageuse' and 'Adieu, Bessy' (Bessy was Moore's wife of 41 years). I also listened to early McCormack - such freshness, allied with superb bel canto technique - and found a few telling snippets on YouTube. 'The Last Rose' came to opera singers, I guess, through Flotow's Martha, hence Sutherland's championship



and it's quite a surprise to realise that sweet Deanna Durbin was every inch the feeling artist, too.



Rosa Ponselle:



and of course John McCormack in 'The Minstrel Boy', a tough and emotional sing as J will tell you.



Anyway, I'm glad Linda has encouraged a mining of this especially rich seam. The little show, adapted and lengthened or shortened, could run and run.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Japan, 1 September 1923



The force of the earthquake then measured 7.9 on the Richter scale - ostensibly less major than our current overwhelming catastrophe. Yet as the epicentre was closer to Tokyo and Yokohama, and construction then wasn't what it is now, at least 100,000 people died (probably 142,000, but many were never accounted for).

On 8 September 1923 Sergey Prokofiev wrote to the two Japanese musical enthusiasts who had done the most for him during his stay there in 1918 ('are they alive?' he wondered in his diary entry for that day. They were, and soon wrote back to reassure him). Here's a variant below of the photo taken back then, which shows SSP so dapper in his white suit; see the earlier blog entry for further observations.


I saw copies of the letters kept in the Prokofiev Archive when I was working on Vol. 1, noting how Prokofiev had expressed concern for the survival of Yorisada Tokugawa's concert hall and Motoo Ohtaguro's home and music library. But I'm grateful to Shin-ichi Numabe, who reminded me of the exact phrasing Prokofiev used in his letter to Tokugawa, written in his neat English: 'I was deeply moved by the horrible disaster which has befallen Japan. I trust that you and your family succeeded in safely escaping it...Please accept my profound sympathy and my hope that your country will soon recover from this cruel calamity'. My sentiments exactly to Shin-ichi and Yumiko, who've simultaneously reassured me that they and theirs are all safe, at least up to a point.


The September 1923 aftermath was indeed terrible: fires everywhere, and attacks on about 6000 Koreans who had been made scapegoats for some of the destruction and the poisoned water supplies. Of course we now have a problem to grapple with undreamt of then - nuclear fallout from the power stations which were so unbelievably built in the earthquake zone, and which provide so much heat and light for the conurbations. My blood ran cold when I heard that the city 30km from Tokyo where Shin-ichi and Yumiko both live has ten times the usual levels of radiation.

In a way, hearing these two's different experiences humanises the horror and helps us to realise that people are doing their best to go about their usual business - which is obvious, but it does seem so amorphous and overwhelming otherwise. Yumiko had to spend the night of the quake in a Tokyo bar and got home the next day to find she couldn't get into her room, because all her book and CD shelving had collapsed. She finds it hard to sleep for fear of the aftershocks (the psychological results must be incalculable). Shin-ichi spent the night in terror on the floor of a railway station. Both have been sceptical about their government's record on telling the truth about nuclear accidents. But now, at least, it seems to be honesty time. My thoughts are often with them.

A final reflection from John Stuart Mill, quoted in the revelatory, if concise, biography of Darwin I'm reading by his great-great grandson Randall Keynes: 'Next to the greatness of these cosmic forces, the quality which most forcibly strikes every one who does not avert his eyes from it, is their perfect and absolute recklessness...Nearly all the things which men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another, are nature's everyday performances'. Keynes continues, quoting Mill further: 'She never turns "one step from her path to avoid trampling us into destruction"; such are "her dealings with life" '.

24/3 Further to Naomi's plea below, I take the following details from last night's LSO concert programme. You can support the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami appeal in one of the following ways:

Donate online (link provided): www.redcross.org.uk/japantsunami

or by phone: 08450 53 53 53

or send cheques payable to 'British Red Cross' to:
Japan Tsunami Appeal
British Red Cross
44 Moorfields
London EC2Y 9AL

Monday, 14 March 2011

In search of early Alpines



What would I like to be in another life (not that I can really imagine being anyone else, but it's fun to fantasise occasionally)? At the moment, in the wake of my Darwin phase - which partly turns out to be something of a father-fixation - either a geologist or a botanist. Reading about the great man has brought about a realisation that classification doesn't diminish a sense of wonder about the natural world. And though my knowledge about plants has focused on a mere handful of species, I'm getting to know what I like. So, after our many Apennine walking holidays, and above all last year's excursions to the Julian Alps and the Valais, Alpine plants are my current craze.

Dipping into Jim Jermyn's Alpine Plants of Europe - helpful because it covers the zones from the Pyrenees to the Carpathians and tells you what's unique to each - coincided with an article on the Pulsatilla family in the Kew magazine. That's pasque flowers to the average punter, and being fascinated by their hairy leaves and their early appearance - though the flowering is staggered according to subspecies from the eastertime suggested by the nickame through to early summer - off I went along the river on my bike to the Royal Botanic Gardens. In fact the bloomers in the rock garden were few but splendid, chiefly Pulsatilla halleri subsp. slavica, a Carpathian spring visitor pictured above in one small but noteworthy group and below in a bigger cluster.


I think I snapped the Pulsatilla vernalis - or alba or alpina or even Anemone baldensis, to which the pulsatillas have always been related, and how's an amateur to tell the difference? - on that extraordinarily rich floral trail around the Lago del Predil in the Julian alps (see last year's entries on the place and about the flowers). Here's the putative Pulsatilla


and a reminder of the location, just over the border from Slovenia - which we walked in to, very exciting - with the monstrous dolomitic Cinque Punte in the distance.


One of the most heavenly places on earth, and the south end of the lake has no road, only tracks, hence the abundance of plants.

Anyway, the rock garden at Kew is very bald at the moment, which makes its few flourishings all the more impressive. Here are a crop of Balkan tulips


and can this really be a type of Galanthus, as the label by it indicated? I know they come in more shapes and sizes than just the plain white snowdrop.


Inside the Alpine House, there were a few bright treasures, mostly in pots: the Chilean Tecophilaea cyanocrocus


and the Scoliopus bigelovii or Californian fetid adderstongue (no bad smell detected here), a damp-loving member of the lily family which nestles under redwoods.


Spring is still only half-formed at Kew now, though I get more excited at the early buds and shoots than I once did. The healthily lichened magnolias are all furry and incipient


and there are some spectacular blossoms, not least a rare type of prunus by the lake.


Naturally the daffodils host the way along the main north-south path


and the trees are mostly budding but not yet in leaf; again, I find much more poetry in the bare outlines than I used to. Perhaps I'll return to them for comparison in a month or so's time. Anyhow, I left well satisfied with a couple of Pulsatilla purchases, white and red, along with a Primula denticulata, though I'd actually been on the lookout for Sempervivens. Here's a final reminder of one such kissed by the bee high above Verbier


part of a precipitous clump, which I can't resist including with a look forward to the months when the snow clears and we can go a-wandering again in the heights.