Friday, 16 December 2011

Federal Europe 2

Federal Europe: Should we blame Germany ?

" Greece cannot compete with Germany; but need it?"

Germany tends to export more to the world than it imports from it, so, while Germany runs a trade surplus, its trading partners have to run a deficit. This attitude to trade is termed mercantilism and was common throughout Europe from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, whereupon in most of the developed world Free Trade gradually won the day with more complex models and mechanism for balancing the value of trade. However, in Germany a liking for mercantilism lingered and, some say lingers still [Sergio Cesaratto, Antonella Stirati, (2011) "Germany and the European and Global Crises"; n. 607].

Tied to the mercantilist notion of a positive trade balance, is the notion that the accumulation of bullion constituted the accumulation of wealth in a country. Mercantilism (as its name implies) is the product of merchants, and to some extent of the Civil Service. In the heyday of European mercantilism (1340-1789; or from the Black Death to the French Revolution) mercantilism made a certain amount of sense. A trade deficit meant that a country ran out of gold. Without gold it could not field a significant army. If you could out-trade your competitors, you could probably vanquish them in the field as well, exclude them from markets, seize their colonies, etc.; the British have done all these. The highly competitive commercial policy of mercantilism goes 'hand-in-glove' with an equally aggressive foreign policy.

The attack on mercantilism was the work, not of remorseful merchants, but of philosophers and theorists (Locke, Hume, Smith, Ricardo). Mercantilism is today regarded (generally if not universally) as in error. Trade need not be a 'zero-sum' game in which the gain of one is the loss of another; it is now accepted that it is possible for trade to benefit both parties. Furthermore, Adam Smith also argued that the accumulation of bullion does a country no more good than an accumulation of peppercorns; bullion is just another commodity. As gold flows out of a country its value will rise; similarly its value will fall in a country where there is a net export of goods (and thus import of gold).

But, let us return to 20th century Europe, and test the notion that Greece and Germany cannot co-exist in the Euro. Before the introduction of the Euro the currency markets would quickly bring the system into equilibrium. With excessive import of German goods, the value of the Greek drachma would sink relative to the D-Mark, making German exports to Greece prohibitively expensive. The Eurozone removed this automatic 'regulator of trade' and 'balancer of budgets'. No longer would Greece automatically stop buying German cars when it ran out of D-Marks.

What should have happened is that, as Greece ran out of Euros, their value in Greece should have risen; Greek salaries expressed in Euros should have fallen. However, the opposite happened; the Greeks (perhaps looking at salaries and wages in the rest of the Eurozone) let their own wages rise much faster than the Eurozone average. [The Greek public payroll rose from 38 percent of state revenue in 2000 to 55 percent in 2009.] Trade balance was lost, and money flowed out of the country. Fiscal balance was lost and the Government borrowed. Why not? 

Against borrowing the natural control is interest rate. Excessive borrowing raises interest rates, but by two different mechanisms; as lenders fear their debtors will devalue, and as lenders fear their debtors will default. Greece in the Eurozone cannot devalue; so interest rates were initially low, and debt accumulated. There seems also to have been a deliberate hiding by the Greek government of the real level of government debt. Now that proper EU scrutiny has been made, the markets and rating agencies seem to consider default likely. That might be the best option. Those who protest against default are probably the creditors who would lose the money they should never have lent in the first place. In the meantime the ECB and IMF authorities have imposed severe austerity measures, capping salaries, etc. Unfortunately, cutting public salaries by 20% cuts tax revenue by more than 20%. The debt:GDP ratio grows worse.

This fiasco need not have happened, and need not happen again. The Eurozone is a new concept, and there is much to learn. The main point I am making here is that because Greece cannot devalue the external value of the Euro to promote exports it must learn to revalue the internal value of the Euro; i.e. change internal prices and salaries.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Federal Europe 1

Federal Europe: how can rich and poor co-exist ?

"If Ecuador can share a currency with USA, why not Greece with Germany?"

In the nineteen eighties and early nineties the ethos in the European Communities (EC) was positive, expansionist, welcoming. Funding was made available to improve impoverished corners of Europe, and to fund collaborative research between member states. The motive was no doubt to entice conservative populations into the concept of a united Europe. It seemed to be an accepted principle that all Europeans should enjoy the same benefits and the same standard of living. No one complained.

No one accept me. Holidaying in southern Europe, as we northerners love to do, I was struck by the absurdity of this thinking. Those who live in the sunshine do not need shopping arcades and motorways; they do not need work, achievement, wealth, museums and theatres in order to feel that life is worthwhile, for it is so patently enjoyable simply to sit under a tree and to wait for the cool of the evening. Europe, extending from Norway to Spain and from Ireland to Hungary, comprises very different lifestyles and life-purposes, as well as very different standards of living. This has been true for centuries, and no doubt for millennia. I have implied that it is largely to do with climate, though historical accidents will have played a part; and to some extent migration will have allowed people to select a climate, a culture, and a lifestyle, that suits their temperament. It should never have been part of the European mission to even-out cultural and economic differences; both are intimately connected to each other and to the terrain.

Simon Wolfson (Baron Wolfson of Aspley Guise; Next, P.O Box 4000, Sheffield, S97 3ET) believes it is impossible for rich Germany and poor Greece to co-exist in the Eurozone and to share a common currency. (Admittedly, some others share that view). I, on the other hand, question the impossibility of rich and poor countries sharing a common currency.

I was surprised to learn that Ecuador (in 2000) adopted the US dollar as its national currency. Their own monetary unit, the Sucre, came off the gold-standard in 1932 at 5.95 to the US dollar but by the end of the millennium had sunk to 25,000 to the dollar. Its rapid slide was a disadvantage to trade and tourism. Ecuador does not have access to the US Federal Bank, and it cannot print dollars. But it has complete sovreignty over its interal finances; it can raise and spend tax with complete independence from the USA. If Ecuador runs a trade surplus with the USA it keeps the dollars; it thus misses out on the interest that would accrue if it bought US bonds. The US on the other hand benefits from what amounts to an interest-free loan of the 'goods and services' it gains in this exchange.  (International Economics, Robert Carbaugh, 13th ed. 2011). In effect, Ecuador opted, in 2000, to go back onto a sort of gold-standard; a pseudo-gold-standard (Milton Friedman, Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 4, Oct., (1961) pp. 66- .)  Ecuador and the USA are vastely different in per capita wealth yet they share a common currency. This is only possible while Ecuador operates a fiscal balance internally, and a trade balance externally. If Ecuador can share a currency with USA, why not Greece with Germany?

How on earth were the indebted countries of the Eurozone allowed to break the obviously inexorable rules regarding balancing both tax and trade budgets? Some people were aparently prepared to lend the Greek government money which it promptly spent. I think those lenders were at least as guilty as the borrowers, particularly as their motive was personal gain. So, let the borrowers default! 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


growth of the economy

"Do not be deceived — 1% growth in GDP means 4% shrinkage of the economy."

For my previous aperçus regarding Greek Debt and Bank Capitalization see my Occidentis blog. I am now puzzling over the terminology in which the government and hence the media discuss growth of the economy. We are told day-after-day, week-after-week that the only way to get out of deficit is "Growth", and that the Office of National Statistics has downgraded estimates for past quarterly growth from  0.5% to 0.4%; while the Office for Budget Responsibility  has similarly downgraded its forecasts for future growth. We 'Small-is-Beautiful' people, i.e. those of us who have no ambition to conquer the world economically, might wonder why we should not be content with the status quo. Why do we need always to grow? But wait!

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) attempts to measure the total productivity of a country and is defined by an agreed formula usually written as the sum of gross private consumption + government spending + businesses' capital investment + net exports (or exports minus imports):

GDP = C + G + I + NX

Data is widely available stretching back decades and it is clear that since the second world war there has been an almost logarithmic growth in British GDP, with a doubling time of about 10 years. However, data on inflation show that the cost of a standard and agreed mix of purchases such as the Consumer Price Index (which has replaced the slightly more inflationary Retail Price Index) has shown an almost identical growth over the same period.

In other words gross domestic production (as opposed to GDP) has NOT incresased by more than a whisker in the last several decades if we correct for inflation. The increase in the 30 years from 1980, corrected for inflation is not 4 fold; it is a mere 1.1 fold; i.e. a 10% increase in 30 years. It further means that, with current inflation running at 5% (per annum) and current GDP increasing at a mere 1% p.a., the economy is not in stasis — it is shrinking. Do not be deceived; 1% growth in GDP means a 4% shrinkage of the economy. So maybe we do need see a rising GDP expresed, as it is, in a shrinking currency.

When I was a boy it was not uncommon to see a working horse with 'blinkers'; leather patches attached to the bridle such that the horse could not see to left or right, and only obliquely could it see ahead where it was going. I was told that this was so that the horse would not be alarmed by passing traffic. I think politicians have put blinkers on us the public, so that we do not get alarmed at what is going on. Recession to the BBC (Radio 4 World at One pm) means negative growth in GDP; to me it means negative growth in 'real terms'; i.e. any growth in GDP that is less than inflation.

On the other hand, a dramatic decline in gross private consumption does not worry me particularly, even when measured in real terms, for we were consuming far more than we were manufacturing during those boom years; we were busily spending money imagined for us by the financial sector and now imagined away again; dream money (see Bank Capitalization). What should worry us is not a decline in living standards, for we are still absurdly well off, but high youth unemployment. As a nation we have to find a product that the world want to buy, and settle down to make it at a price that tempts buyers. We are most of us sitting around waiting for someone else to think up what that product is and build the requisite factory, so of all people we waiters cannot complain. We can only wait patiently, and hope that somebody, somewhere, it doing the thinking.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Programme Notes

Piano Sonata in C major, Op. 2, No.3 — Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

i.   Allegro con brio, ii. Adagio, iii. Scherzo, allegro, iv. Allegro assai. 

This sonata, published in 1796, is the 3rd of Beethoven's published sonatas and bears a dedication to Franz Joseph Haydn. In July 1792 Haydn persuaded Elector Maximilian of Bonn to give Beethoven 2 years' leave so that he could study composition with Haydn in Vienna. In 1794 Haydn returned to London for his second visit leaving Beethoven in Vienna, no longer supported by the Elector but earning his own living, by playing, teaching and composing. (His Op. 1 trios, published in 1795, earned Beethoven enough money to support him for the best part of a year.)  Our Op. 2 sonata, 3rd in the set and the most virtuosic, is strongly Haydnesque (humorous, extrovert, classical, and rhythmically vigorous), yet it is clearly Beethovian also, thematically inventive, experimental in key changes and departures from sonata-form; and in expressing more emotion than Haydn. (You may hear an interesting discussion of the sonata by Andras Schiff at


7 Fantasien, Op. 116   ———   Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)

In 1890, after writing his 2nd string quintet, the 57-year-old Brahms decided to give up composing. However, he soon resumed, writing (in his remaining 6 years) 4 works for clarinet, 4 sets of short piano pieces (Opp. 116 – 119), and some vocal music. He died in April 1897 (11 months after Clara Schumann). These later sets, like his earlier forays in the genre, may represent in some respects a backward glance at the integrated cycles of short piano pieces that were among Schumann's most characteristic works. Brahms' style is a lyrical, but carefully structured, romanticism; he avoids the 'flying trapeeze' virtuosity of Liszt, and the 'story-telling' romanticism of the Liszt/Wagner school. Though not himself polemical, Brahms was often put forward as the antithesis of Liszt/Wagner romanticism. Opus 116 (composed 1892) comes 13 years after his immediately preceding piano work – the 2 rhapsodies of Op.79. The Op.116 set is not so rich in tunes as either the earlier or the later sets; there is a slight tendency to wooden chords, and a quaint reliance on instructions to play with the "uttermost intimateness of feeling", or "sweetness". The  piano writing lies well under the hands – if you have very big hands. (The pieces end as often as not with a 10-note chord; literally 2 hands full.) Compared with Op. 79 there is much rhythmic innovation and complexity (notes across-the-barlines, 3-beats-against-2, etc.). It might be said that, with Op. 116, Brahms was exploring and developing a form he perfected in Opp. 117, and 118. It contains 7 pieces; the capriccios are fast and energetic, the intermezzi slower and more relaxed.

1. Capriccio — Presto energico (D minor);  2. Intermezzo — Andante (A minor); 3. Capriccio — Allegro passionato (G minor); 4. Intermezzo — Adagio (E major); 5. Intermezzo — Andante con grazia ed intimissimo sentimento (E minor); 6. Intermezzo — Andantino teneramente (E major); 7. Capriccio — Allegro agitato (D minor)


Piano sonata No. 1 in B minor  —————  Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886)

The B minor sonata is considered by many to be Liszt's greatest work for solo piano, and is remarkable in his oeuvre in being 'pure music' (i.e. not programmatic, not depicting fountains, or runaway horses.) It was written in Weimar in 1852-3 where Liszt had retired from his peripatetic life as a virtuoso to concentrate on composition (at the urging of Princess Carolyne Wittgenstein with whom he spent the last 40 years of his life). It is dedicated to Robert Schumann, who had 16 years earlier dedicated his Op. 17 Fantasie to Liszt.  Though there are tempo markings and key changes indicating distinct sections, the 30 minute work is played as a single continuous whole. It is held together by its themes, of which there are 5 that recur in different forms — now heroic, now lyrical. Given the lifelong artistic antagonism between Brahms and Liszt, it is amusing to note that in May 1853 the 20 year old Brahms, touring with the violinist RemŽnyi  and fatigued from travelling, fell asleep while Liszt played through the barely completed and still unpublished B minor sonata. (The following year Liszt seems* unaccountably to have lost the manuscript of an early Brahms sonata for violin & piano which Brahms had left with him!) The dedication to Robert Schumann seems nowhere more relevant than in the final 20 bars, where the Lento assai sinks gradually into silence, for that calls to mind the similar ending of Schumann's Kinderszenen. This was not Liszt's original ending, as can be seen in the facsimile score (see: International Music Score Library Project) where a FF ending is crossed out in red ink and the PPP ending substituted; maybe when the Schumann dedication was decided upon. (In support of this suggestion, let me quote Liszt's letter* to Schumann, 5th June 1839 "As for the Scenes of Childhood, I owe to them one of the keenest joys of my life.....") (*La Mara's Letters)

(Programme notes complied from various sources by Ian West.)


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Programme Notes

Piano Trio no.4  in E Minor, ('Dumky') —— Antonin Dvořák (1841 - 1904)

i.       Lento Maestoso, ii. Poco Adagio, iii. Andante, iv. Andante Moderato, v. Allegro, vi. Lento Maestoso. 

A 'dumky', according to Wikipedia, is a "Slavic (specifically Ukrainian) epic ballad … generally thoughtful or melancholic in character."  It traditionally alternates cheerful with melancholic moods, and its importance in music is that it is not sonata-form. Dvořák wrote several dumky movements but in this work each of its 6 sections is a 'dumky'. The first 3 sections (in the related keys of E, C, A) run together forming a complex first movement; the last 3 sections are in the less related keys of D, Eand C respectively. In 1891, at the age of 50, Dvořák was already an international celebrity with his Stabat Mater, his violin concerto, 3 of his 4 trios, 5 of his 8 quartets, and 8 of his 9 symphonies behind him; but his three greatest and best loved works were still to come — the American quartet ('93), the New World symphony ('93), and the cello concerto ('94). He composed this piano trio in 1891 and, at its premier in Prague, he himself played the piano part. It was a great success and, before Dvořák left in 1892 to take up a 3-year appointment at the conservatory in New York, the trio was played all over his homeland in a 40 concert tour.

Piano Trio no.2 in E minor, Op.67 ——— Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 – 1975)

i.       Andante,  ii. Allegro con brio,  iii. Largo,  iv. Allegretto

The terrible, 3-year-long, siege of Leningrad began in early 1941 while Shostakovich was teaching at the conservatory there. He volunteered for action, but was rejected because of his short-sightedness. He contributed, however, by making speeches and composing. By Christmas '41, after all birds, rats and pets had been eaten, there were reports of cannibalism, and those who could do so escaped, including the Shostakovich family. In May '42 the score of his heroic 7th symphony was smuggled back into the city across German lines and on 9th August the symphony was played by the skeletal Radio orchestra of Leningrad (augmented by anyone who could play an instrument) and broadcast on loudspeakers throughout the city and out towards the German lines. That date marks the turning point of the siege which nevertheless lasted till January 1944. Shostakovich (aged 38) then started work on his 2nd piano trio which was premiered in Leningrad 10 months after the lifting of the siege. The first half of the Andante is rather desolate, on muted strings, but gathers energy, which is the 'keynote' of the 2nd movement. In the last movement plaintive Klezmer melodies alternate with anger (hypnotic and obsessively repetitive), till a degree of resolution is achieved in the last dozen bars. There is no doubt that Shostakovich's eventual response to the war was not heroic, but deeply negative. Jewish melodies (as in the last movement) are a recurrent theme in this as in much of Shostakovich's post war work but his pro-semitism was purely sympathetic; his close friend, the Jewish polymath Sollertinsky, to whose memory the work is dedicated, died February 1944.

++++++++     Interval of 20 minutes     ++++++++

Piano Trio no.1 in B flat major D898  ———  Schubert (1770 - 1827)

i.       Allegro moderato, ii. Andante un poco mosso, iii. Scherzo (allegro), iv. Rondo (allegro vivace)

It has been said "No chamber work by Schubert is more popular than the B flat major Trio". Commenced in 1827, completed in 1828, the last year of Schubert's life, it nevertheless carries no traces of the anguish that appears in "Der Winterreise" and the string quintet. Schubert always had devoted admirers but little public fame. However, in 1827 he was brought to Beethoven's deathbed and (if the story is correct) received praise. In that year also he began to be approached by publishers, and was finally acknowledged by the Musikverein of Vienna.

The first movement has several captivating themes which rotate. As the movement unfolds you think you have heard this tune before; and you have of course, but in a subtly different key. The only sombre touch is towards the end where there is a bar of complete silence; the effect is astonishing, as though a gap in the continuum of time momentarily opens, to reveal…... The Andante is a perfect example of Schubert's counterpoint — three voices each saying entirely different things yet completely agreeing, and never obscuring each other. The scherzo is rhythmic rather than tuneful, but has a softer and more melodic trio section. The finale is a rondo, with tune after tune chasing each other as in the first movement, though rhythmically it is more like the scherzo. The tremolo sections are spooky but not sinister. The Schubertian key-changes are again a little spooky as you shoot suddenly off into a parallel universe. Throughout the trio the piano balances the strings perfectly; in the first movement mostly giving us three voices, but in the Rondo more often two voices with the strings doubling each other in octaves like the piano.

Deficit spending

Deficit-Funded Growth

Regarding the importance of deficit-funded growth, John Lanchester (London Review of Books, 8th Sept 2011) finds that electors in developed Western democracies, and the majority of their politicians, fail to grasp the important point that national finances differ from domestic finances. "The problem is" (he writes) "in large part to do with the application of an incorrect metaphor, the easy-to-understand idea that a household has to live within its income. But Governments are not households, and the idea of cutting your way to prosperity cannot be read across from an individual's finances to those of the state. It is a manifest fact that these policies, and the refusal to embrace stimulus spending, are causing economic slowdowns all over the world...."

He is right that we, the public, cannot easily shake off the simple notion that deepening government debt seems a desperate way to reduce government debt. And the majority of conservative politicians seem to think likewise (e.g. Matthew Hancock MP in his blog:

We can agree (of course) that governments are not households; but what are the differences that makes the metaphor invalid? Neither a household nor a government can "cut its way to prosperity", they can only cut their way to balancing income and expenditure. One crucial difference is the effect of "the multiplier". A household can live very well on 90% of its previous expenditure. Lower household spending will tend to lower consumer prices and the 10% cut in spending will have a less-than-10% effect on standard of living. With governments it is different. A large fraction of government spending goes on wages, and therefore straight into the pockets of domestic consumers, and from there (by the multiplier effect) into the pockets of domestic and foreign producers. An ill-considered cut in government spending will cut demand out of the economy; business will languish; by this multiplier effect, a 1%  cut may take 2% out of gross domestic production, and therefore 2% out of tax revenues. The deficit is not decreased; it is increased! Cuts in public spending should be made very carefully. Perhaps benefits could be cut without fiscal loss, if that forced recipients to work; though not without hardship. Or NHS spending on medicines, but not on salaries. 'Surgical' cuts!


Another crucial difference is that governments can, at the stroke of a pen, increase their income — by raising tax revenue. But again they should be cautious; money taken out of the pockets of the average household will lower demand and thus (by the multiplier) lower GDP and the global tax take. However, I cannot see that taxing financial transactions would do any harm; they are entirely valueless to the real economy. Nor taxing large incomes, for they are not spent anyway. Nor blocking tax loop-holes; Mitt Romney made a big contribution in Massachusetts by closing tax loopholes to businesses. And above all, large accumulations of wealth should be taxed, by death duties or inheritance taxes.


Table 1 — Interest rates paid on sovereign debt by different countries in recent years.






















In the short term, governments (like households) can borrow money to bridge the deficit.  When interest rates are low, as at present (See Table 1), there is little incentive to pay the borrowed money back. Japan has an enormous government debt, but a miniscule rate of interest (perhaps because the debt is held by Japanese citizens and businesses). Depending on the bond, or 'gilt', issued (5 year gilts, 10 year, etc.), the debt becomes due for repayment in a rolling manner, and is usually paid back by simply taking out another loan. But, what if interest rates are then higher? There is little to no chance of the British Government defaulting on its (our) debt. We never have in 250 years. For debts in Sterling we can always repay the debt by printing money. However, the consequent inflation would raise interest rates just as surely as a perceived risk of default. A government would be mad to borrow simply to sustain its deficit (its hypertrophied civil service, National Health Service, or army). Except (you may ask) in the very short term? Yes (I would answer), even then.


John Lanchester talks sardonically of the "non-scenic route" to where we are going, meaning I suppose the one that involves a decade of tightened belts. But is there an alternative? Which is his "scenic route"? Surely he is not advocating increased borrowing in the hope of increasing GDP? In my analysis we have lived in a bubble of borrowed money for a decade and there is no way back to that level of prosperity. We never did have that level of GDP, for it was not wealth that we produced. To borrow more money now to "stimulate growth", is like a bankrupt borrowing money to bet on the horses; there is little chance that it will do anything other than increase the country's indebtedness.  To borrow money from the open market seems to be equivalent to stretching oneself over a barrel and inviting punishment.


Classic Keynsianism may now be out of date. The crucial question in regard to government borrowing is the question of where the money is coming from; who holds the debt. If it is internal, interest rates may be low; if it is external, interest rates will rise with inflation and the country is in hoc to the international money-markets. Talk of 'growing the economy' raises questions of where the increased GDP is going to come from. Are we going to under-cut the Chinese and make our own telephones? Real growth in a global sense can only come from an increase in efficiency. It is a slow process.


As far as I can see our only way to fiscal balance is a mixture of 'surgical' cuts and judicious realignment of government spending, together with carefully controlled increases in overall taxation (e.g. capital gains, death duties, and stock market and banking activities). To this might be added a tiny amount of focused devaluation ('quantitative easing)'?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The philosophical summing junction

We spent a happy hour or so, tossing around the question of who to save in the event of nuclear war; not that we anticipate needing a plan of action, but rather as a challenge to the concept that philosophy is a method of clarifying and solving problems. I attempted to draw the exchange to a close by suggesting that in our 60 minutes of vigorous thought and discussion we had produced between us an almost complete answer to the question of how to proceed. Someone else said he scored it "philosophy nil, chaos 100". Clearly I had failed to make my point. Here (below) I try again, giving myself a bit more space.

In the discipline of electronics and analogue computers there is a concept that goes by the name of 'the summing junction'. It functions (in my head) as follows: The junction has 2 inputs and one output, such that the output is the algebraic sum of the two inputs. If one input is at +5v (relative to the earth rail) and the other is at +2v then the output is at 7v. You get the idea? (If one was at +3v and the other at -4v the output would be at -1v.)

In my head it is a simple matter to conceive a summing junction that had 100 inputs and one output, but which worked in exactly the same way; or 1000 inputs. You might ask how a single output number like -1, or  +42, could be the answer to a question like "what should we do?". Agreed. But, if one of the inputs says 'go in this direction' and another says 'go in this other direction' then the summing junction tells us a direction in which to go. So, some of the inputs could be 'act selfishly', 'act altruistically', 'be pragmatic', 'be political', 'be Darwinian'.

It is easy to think of 2 vectors in a plane. If they were of equal magnitude, one pointing north and the other pointing east, the resultant would point northeast. It is easy to see that we can extend this to 3 dimensions; adding an equal vector vertically upwards would produce a resultant that pointed northeast but upwards at an angle of 45º (I think; well, that will do for now anyway.) Not so easy, but just about convincing, would be the contention that 100 different dimensions could be handled in the same way; there would be such a thing as their geometric or logical resultant. (Up or down in the 'moral' dimension, left or right in the 'political' dimension, soon/late, near/far, ordered/random, the prudent dimension, the possible, the Benthamite, the Nietzschean; whatever!)

We spent an hour tossing ideas into the ring. Some ideas led to the conclusion 'pick survivors at random', some said 'protect your family', etc, etc. It is hard to state the answer, but I submit that it is quite easy (now) to see that the answer is a complex function, indeed a type of sum, of the arguments (and emotions) advanced.

Though to state the answer is difficult, I suggest that there is available a complex and delicate piece of machinery that can function to some extent as the multi-dimensional, vectorial, summing junction just postulated; like a gold-leaf electroscope but more complicated and more sensitive. All that you require is a pair of ears connected up to a brain, and a tongue. Ideally, one would collect a bunch of these together in one place and let them interact for an hour or so, until the 'resultant' steadied. For delicate or 'high definition' work the tongues might need to be calibrated on white noise, in case they were not of equal loudness; so also the ears, and the brains! 

Greek Debt

As to Greek Debt, I think I have solved the problem. The Greek people clearly do not want to cut government spending, and I can understand their position. The Germans for their part do not want to continue much longer to pay the difference between Greek government spending and tax income; and I can understand that feeling also. Perhaps the Germans would be reconciled if they got some Greek real estate in exchange; perhaps an island or two each year depending on the size of the deficit. This could continue for  many years; indeed indefinitely, for, as Germany acquired more and more of the sovereignty the deficit would gradually become their problem, and not that of the Greeks. Neat dont you think?



Yours sincerely,

L. Cawstein,

12 Longhirst, MORPETH

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Diving-Bell Spider

Diving-bell spider (Argyroneta aquatica)


It was announced on the BBC news this evening (ref. 1) that the diving bell spider (Argyroneta aquatica) can stay a surprisingly long time underwater in its 'diving-bell' bubble of air. A 'dive' of 24hr was recently reported. It seems to me quite possible that a canny spider could survive indefinitely in a submerged bubble. A submerged bubble or indeed a rubber balloon filled with air and submerged in water contains (at equilibrium) the same concentration of oxygen as in the air above the water.

                        There are some facts about the solubility of oxygen in water that are slightly counter intuitive. We all know that we drown in water, and readily conclude that there is not enough oxygen in the water to sustain our aerobic metabolism without which we suffer acidosis, cramps, and death. That is true but only part of the problem; the weight and viscosity of the water make it impossible for us to take enough of the stuff into our lungs, and out again per minute to supply the oxygen we consume in a minute; we would need gills to achieve the through-put. But it is perfectly correct that the concentration of dissolved oxygen in water is enormously less than the concentration in air.

The molar concentration of O2 in water at 20 o is close to 0.284 mmoles per litre (at STP; ref 2.) The concentration of oxygen in air is 21%, or 0.21 litres per litre of air. As the volume of one mole of an ideal gas at standard temperature and pressure is 22.4 litres, the molar concentration of pure O2  gas is close to 1/22.4 moles per litre or 0.0446 M, so when diluted with dinitrogen to 21%, its concentration will be 9.37 mM; which is 33 time the concentration of O2 in cold water. So an active fish has to 'breathe' a great deal more water than the amount of air we have to breathe to stay active. (There is much less dissolved oxygen in tepid water than in cold water, and even fish then have a hard time surviving.)

Now for the mysterious part. Notwithstanding its much lower concentration in water, the equilibrium 'activity' of dissolved oxygen is exactly the same in the two media. And if a bubble of gas is immersed in water (or if a rubber balloon is filled with air and submerged in water), the concentration of oxygen in the trapped gas (at equilibrium) will be exactly the same as in the air above the water. What might prove difficult for a submerged spider will be the diffusion rate of oxygen through the water, and into the bubble (or balloon). The bigger the bubble, the better the rate, because there is more area for the oxygen to difuse across. Stirring the water of course would make a great difference, but is not relevant in stagnant water. On the other hand, illuminated green plants generate oxygen and may help the spider survive by raising the concentration above 0.284 mM. Anyway, a canny spider goes on adding to the size of its bubble until it is satisfied that it has the capacity it requires (ref. 3). Amazing!

(The inert gasses in the bubble will remain at the same concetration as in the air; there is nothing to disturbe the equilibrium discussed above; they will diffuse into and out of the water at the same rate whether that be to and fro the air above the water or to and fro the bubble.)


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Clancy and Trigg

Willie Clancy and The Trigg Morris Side Visit to Miltown Malby, May 1972.

I told this story to my piping friend Jeff Byrne in the summer of 2006, and a version of it may have been published by him elsewhere. Indeed I have told the story many times, and doubtless have forgotten and distorted details. But Jeff's interest led me to check the memories of friends in Cornwall who were with me on the Irish trip of May 1972. This is a good time to fix these memories.

I was the first musician of the Trigg Morris Men, a revival side formed in 1971 in central Cornwall, dancing traditional Cotswold Morris. (Their web site (1) gives more details about the side, and the Morris tradition generally). If Cotswold Morris seems slightly odd for Central Cornwall, it was certainly so in remote County Clare at that time in the early seventies.

As an enthusiastic young Morris Side we were eager to show off our own music; but we were enormously enthusiastic worshippers at the alter of all traditional music. Visualize seven Morris dancers, a Morris musician plus two wives and a girlfriend in a Ford Transit minibus, travelling by ferry from Swansea to Cork. We were directed by Danny Linnehan (an Irish lad at the Bodmin Folk Club) to go to his native Knocknagree in the heart of 'Sliabh Luachra' (2) as an excellent starting point for our pilgrimage in search of living traditional Irish music. Our 'Squire' at the time was Vic Legg (a fine traditional singer), and our 'Bagman' was Roger Hancock; both are still dancing with Trigg and have confirmed details of this trip. Vic recalls travelled up to County Clare from Knocknagree, crossing the Shannon by ferry to Kilrush, where we encountered the Horse Fair. ("Anything from a £50,000 race-horse to a £5 donkey" Vic remembers someone saying.) From there Vic recalls we made our way to “… Doolin where we met two of the three Russell brothers, Packie and Micko. (Gussie wasn't there.) Packie. played the concertina, and Micko. the whistle, or flute, or both. Sadly, none of them are alive today”. (Vic was deeply into the Irish traditional music scene, and knew where to go and who to meet.)

The encounter with Willie Clancy came the next day. I wrote some notes at the time which I transcribe verbatim for, though unpolished, they carry an immediacy. This was written on Wednesday the 31 May 1972 [with later ‘clarification’ in square brackets].

"Last night [Tuesday 30th May 1972] we hoped to join a ceilidh at Spanish Point, but found nothing happening at the Armada; nor at Quilty could we find anything. So we drove back into Miltown Malby. We stopped on the way in and Vic [our 'squire'] asked some girls playing in the street if they could tell us the pub habituated by the great player of the Uilleann pipes -- Willie Clancy. They could not, but as we were by chance parked immediately outside his house they offered to call him out. Vic said "No, you cannot do that to a great man!"; then "--but, dammit, I would like to shake his hand." After 10 minutes Vic came out of the house and said that Willie Clancy would like to meet us all; so we [8 Morris men in full kit with bells and baldricks, plus 3 women] trooped into his small house. After we had chatted to his wife for a few minutes Willie came through; a tall, smiling, man with sandy hair, boyish face and a one-day beard. He wore carpenter's overalls complete with boxwood rule. We shook hands and engaged in conversation. Then he took up the long box containing his pipes, and said it was time for a glass of porter, and directed us [to go ahead of him up] to Lynch's Bar. Vic entered the dark bar and O'Fleary [can that be the right name?] came to greet him out of his kitchen beyond the bar, where he had been sitting by the stove. When we explained that Willie Clancy was coming round to play he took us all into his kitchen. [Willie and his wife arrived.] We bought a round of Guinness, chatted a while and Willie played a tune on a whistle. We went out onto the street and danced a few [Morris] dances, but it was very cold outside. So back into the kitchen. Some other friends of Willie's were gathering. A fellow (could it be Martin Talty?) produced a dark wooden flute with an ivory mouthpiece and practically no keys; and Willie and he played. Very, very, fine music. One could go on listening all night. But we got to singing songs and with our lasses we danced a Dorset four-hand reel across the kitchen. And Willie danced a solo jig, and Willie's foil -- old "Farmer" -- was persuaded to tell us a story. "At half past midnight, O'Fleary, who had been flitting about noiselessly smiling all evening, let us out one by one into the street from the dark bar. A very fine evening.”

Vic, Roger, and I have all added further recollections, albeit recalled some 34 years after the event. Vic remembers that, when the minibus stopped beside them in Miltown Malby, the two girls were playing a game with two balls bouncing against the house wall. They might still remember the occasion, as the Morris men were in full costume (for the anticipated ceilidh); and the occasion was only months before Willie Clancy’s untimely death. Roger recollects that the man referred to as “Farmer” was named Michael, and that Willie jokingly called him his ‘manager’. Old “Farmer” preceded his story by protesting that these English youngsters wouldn’t understand him. I found it hard going but I think I got the gist; one of those stories where you wake and find it was all a dream. I thought the landlord had seemed reluctant to open up the pub until told what had prompted us to knock him up, whereupon he sprang to. We soon had quite a throng in the back kitchen, though the pub had appeared shut for the evening. I concluded that someone had spread the word that Willie Clancy was to going to play, which someone told me was a rare event by then. It seemed that the enthusiasm of our visiting Morris Side had proved sufficient to stimulate Willie into playing. Vic visualizes Lynch’s bar as having two counters to walk between; on one side a bar, and on the other groceries. He also recalls that upon entering the empty bar off the dark street it was lit by a single light, which was a brand new electric sign on the Guinness pump, connected to the ceiling rose by a long piece of flex. Roger recollects that, as the Trigg Men drove through Miltown Malby the next day, they saw Willie Clancy and his wife in a throng of others dressed for church, (or possibly a funeral).

This story is but a small thing in terms of all that is recorded elsewhere of Willie Clancy’s life and music; one evening of music and dancing in the last nine months of his life. However, it is an unforgettably vivid memory for most of us who were there, and testifies to how Willie Clancy was appreciated, both locally and internationally.



Monday, 23 May 2011

Injunctions and contempt

Dear Sir,

As far as I am concerned Radio 4 PM programme has committed contempt of court. A 'maverick' MP disclosed the name of a footballer in the house of commons, but that is a priviledged arena; there can be no gagging of parliament. However, to report that outside parliament is contempt.

Yours sincerely,
L. Cawstein,
12 Longhirst, MORPETH

Thursday, 19 May 2011

False pleas should carry a penalty

Dear Sir,
Ken Clarke is getting into trouble for suggesting lighter sentences for an early "Guilty" plea. It seems to me a good idea to differentiate. So what about Doubling the Sentence for a Mendacious "Innocent" plea. Or a subsequent charge of "Perjury and Wasting Court Time"?
Yours sincerely,
L. Cawstein,
12 Longhirst, MORPETH

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Priory Reunion 2011

Priory Reunion, 2011

Dear Friends, I have been stimulated by this wonderful occasion to contribute a few words. However, I conclude that these few words would be better written than spoken, because all of us speaking for even so little as 5 minutes is clearly impossible.
     First, a brief, but heartfelt, "thank you" to Peter Hampson, and Howard Elcock, and indeed to you all.  Second, a few words on "The Off-side Rule" before I sit down.
     I learnt the offside rule as a 9 year old in the context of hockey, and in New Zealand, where (some of you may remember) I was living before I entered the Priory in December 1954. (New Zealand, all sunshine, swimming, and sailing; then 6 weeks of ocean liner with captain and officers in whites, then Shropshire and the Priory.)
     My talk of hockey may surprise you as we played rugby; and I doubt any of you will remember me as a sportsman. I crouched with you all behind the hedge on Longden Road, in the misty drizzle of many a wintry afternoon, grappling with the problem, solved so acrobatically by Mr Bean, of putting shorts on before taking trousers off; with the extra spice of girly giggles from behind the hedge at the out-of-bounds end of the Girls Priory playing field across the road. And I ran up and down the rugby pitch with the rest of you, and ran the 5-mile-run, though some monitors may have wondered, when they compared my spotless shorts with the mud-spattered clothing of others.
The off-side rule, as I learnt it, meant that you could not address the ball if you were closer to the enemy goal than his last three players. This was changed in 1972 to 2 players, restricted to the 25 yard zone in 1987, and abolished completely in 1998! The off-side rule seemed to make very good sense to me, and to fit in with the other Rules of the Game as I learnt them back in 1954, like "no turning on the ball", "no hitting or even touching the opposing players", and "no hitting the ball too hard, as by raising the stick above the shoulder". One should do nothing, I concluded, that might result in hurting or humiliating the opposition, and that almost extended to winning.
     So you would be right — I was no sportsman; I was not very competitive. I have always been reluctant to stretch myself out to be measured, in case the result did not fit my dreams. I was reasonably fit, though. I cycled in to school most summer months, and over to Ray Holliday's house on one occasion, where I learnt how to trap sparrow hawks. Did you (Ray) ever get to visit my home at Dorrington in return hospitality? (Funny how shy I was, for I was intensely appreciative of friendship.) A few sixth formers once come out to Dorrington Grove for a Lunar Society meeting where a man told us about "Radioactivity". But I suspect that Mary Peckett is the only one who can remember visiting Dorrington Grove; and she came not as my friend but as friend of a friend of a brother (my older brother Robert, who, now a retired professor of epidemiology at Cardiff, sends Peter Hampson his apologies and thanks for extending the invitation to him; but Robert is off somewhere; skiing, or sailing offshore, or chairing a meeting.) Oddly, I do not remember Mary and Dave Roberts' visit, and may not have been there; perhaps I was up a tree somewhere with a couple of books.
     Yes, I had lots of brothers; some of you may remember Peter, my immediately younger brother. I know Paul Carson does. I think Howard Elcock took Peter dingy sailing on more than one occasion, though once again I donÕt know where I was at the time. Peter, you may have heard, drowned in a sailing accident when he was 20. Robert also had a sailing accident, many years later (1988). Sailing down the Irish Channel in a 28 footer with 4 on board at 8 o'clock one fine August morning, the keel snapped off. They were many hours in the water and very glad to be spotted by the Stranraer ferry on its way back from Ireland. It was more than 10 years before he bought another offshore boat.
If I drive through Dorrington now, my mind invariable returns to the summer I courted Elizabeth Nicholls, who lived at Dorrington Old Hall, and whose mother kept 20 poodles. Memories, sweet and painful. One summer evening Elizabeth just "happened" to be strolling in the orchard with the 20 dogs; I just "happened" to stroll the mile that separated the Grove from the village. As I approached up the field the dogs started yapping. After a few minutes of helpless miming I gave up the futile task and beat a humiliating retreat. If anyone here is in touch with Elizabeth or knows where she is, I would be very grateful to be able to greet her and say a belated "thank you".
     The last time I played soccer I broke more than the off-side rule. Visualize me in my late twenties and on my third post-doctoral research assignment, still single; working in a uniquely wonderful situation, a private laboratory in a Georgian mansion in deepest rural Cornwall, owned by a wealthy and brilliant scientist, on a project that won him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1978. I was 12th man for an out-of-season friendly between the tennis club and Ranco Engineering. At 5 minutes to kick-off our captain counted his men and said I would be needed, so I trotted off to my car to put on my kit, such as it was — some scarcely used rowing shorts, a Fred Perry sweat shirt and white pumps. They had started already when I trotted onto the pitch and asked our captain my position. He waved vaguely to the right-side mid-field. I enjoyed myself, running up and down, passing the ball to colleagues when it came my way, and by half time when our supporters came trotting on with wedges of orange we were well ahead of Ranco. But they told us in theatrical whispers that, as they cut up the oranges, it became undeniably clear that we were fielding 12 men. I was embarrassed, but thought it would be too conspicuous if I walked off the field, so, in the second half I played in a more neutral  manner, failing to get possession if possible, and, when unavoidable, passing ambiguously to no-one in particular. Gratifyingly, the scores levelled up somewhat, and I felt I had done the right thing — at least by my rules.
     Those were good times. I came out of my shell, played fiddle for the morris dancers, chaired the folk club, brewed dustbins-full of beer, met and married my wife. The next few years were good too; a teaching post at Cambridge, a college fellowship and then family. Heather turned up in 1976, and is  now an architect with two baby girls. Her two brothers are both engineers of sorts, one in Gothenburg working for VolvoTec, one in MIT on the brink of getting married. From '76 till 2002 I was a lecturer at Newcastle University. So, I spent my life in the twilight world of academia, for which I have mixed respect and contempt; the academic (I conclude) carries what he thinks of as "reality" in his head, which is nothing more "real" than a wispy dream; but what a dream!  The universe forms but a small part of that immense picture!
     I have no contempt for the Priory, however. I feel very privileged, and seldom miss the opportunity to declare that I had the best possible education (for me); I found no door closed. Gifted teaching that stays with me throughout life, whether it be Peckett's "Pseudolus Noster", Priestly's "Orpheus and Eurydice", Doc Loehry's "Construe, construe!", or Tam Heginbottom's "Law of Mass Action" seesaw, and advice on explosions. I met a few Priorians when I was a student; fewer in subsequent years. I occasionally met Howard Elcock in Newcastle, occasionally bumped into Peter Roach or Peter Hampson in unexpected places. I missed the big reunion in 2004 as I was working abroad, but caught up to some extent once I got back.
     I look back on the fifties with unexpected touches of nostalgia. I think I am truly a child of the fifties; we did not compete back then, we co-operated. There was space for all, and we needed each other. Did the Off-side Rule really require 3 opposing players between you and the goal? How brilliantly fair! How un-sneaky!
Ian West, March 2011

Programme Notes

Faschingschwank aus Wien, Opus 26  ——  Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856)

Though the music of both Schumann and Chopin similarly represent highly romantic, tuneful and expressionful pianism on a firm structure, Chopin vehemently rejected all attempts to hear stories in his music while Schumann positively courted such. This work, titled "Carnival Jest from Vienna" (and described as fantasy pictures in the Breitkopf edition), was largely composed in Vienna in 1839, towards the end of the long and frustrating battle with Clara Wieck's father who did everything he could to prevent her marriage to Schumann. In name and subtitle it harks back to "Carnaval", his earlier set of fantasy pictures and musical riddles composed in 1834/5 which we hear next, but its moods and its battles are different. Nor are these fantasy pictures named in the same way; they are more like the movements of a "grand romantic sonata", as he subsequently described it. (You will see the significance of the title when we come to Carnaval: (F(asch)ing(sch)w(a)nk).) It is in five movements. 1. Allegro (Very lively; B major) by far the longest movement, a rondo in 3/4 time, notable for its innovative rhythms and a brief reference to "La Marseillaise". 2. Romanze (Rather slow; G minor) a short, simple, sad piece largely in G minor but resolving into G major for the final bar. 3. Scherzino, (Bmajor) a playful respite between the two sombre movements. 4. Intermezzo (With the greatest energy; E minor) a slow melody against a rush of background notes.  5. Finale (To the highest degree lively; B major) the sonata-form finale is reminiscent of Beethoven with the melody moving in both hands. This is the second longest movement.

Carnaval, Opus 9     –———  Robert Alexander Schumann (1810 – 1856)

Carnaval, Op. 9 (1834/5) is one of Schumann's most characteristic and frequently played works. The 24 year old Schumann was studying piano with Friedrich Wieck, a difficult man whose first wife divorced him. Schumann was secretly betrothed to a fellow pupil (17 year old Ernestine von Fricken). Carnaval is subtitled "Cute (or dainty) scenes on 4 notes". The 22 tiny sections mostly begin with musical cryptograms, possible because of the German names of notes (As=A, Es(=eS)=E,C=C, H=B; Fricken's family lived in Asch (Bohemia); Robert A SCHumann). Many of the "scenes" are named after a real or imaginary characters (Chopin, Paganini, Harlequin, Pierrot, Pantalon & Columbine, Ernestine herself and Clara Wieck (at 15 still only girl, though already famous throughout Europe). Eusebius (adagio) and Florestan (passionato) were two sides to Schumann's own personality. Other scenes were named preamble, valse noble, coquette etc. (Trying to identify them distracts the listener from the music.) The work ends with the triumphant "March of the band of King David's men against the Philistines" which represents an important element in the philosophy of Schumann's band of young music critics who recognized the genius of Chopin, Paganini, Mendelssohn, Berlioz and Bennett but resented the popularity of Cramer, Thalberg, Henri Herz, Czerny, Meyerbeer and others they classed as artistic Philistines.

++++++++     Interval of 20 minutes     ++++++++

Sonata No 2 in B minor Op 35  ––  Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849)

i. Grave-Doppio movimento, ii. Scherzo, iii. Marche funbre (Lento), iv. Finale (Presto)

This sonata, though finished at Nohant, was mainly composed during the miserable winter of 1839 in Majorca where Chopin had gone for his health with George Sand and her two children, though the third movement, famous for its 'funeral march', was composed two years earlier. The unmarried pair were not welcomed by the islanders and their eventual accommodation was stark; a deserted monastery. There is a bleak quality about the whole work lightened occasionally by contrasting lyrical sections, but a vigour and inventiveness also. (Chopin was working concurrently on his set of 24 preludes.) The extraordinary technical demands in this sonata never seem to be virtuosity for its own sake but seem absolutely necessary to carry the emotional content of the work. The first movement contains a highly agitated motif, a lyrical 2nd theme and a 3rd element in 6/4 time; then a fusion of all three elements. The agitation, the minor keys and the hammering octaves give the movement a somewhat brooding aura. The second movement (scherzo) opens as a devilish waltz with both hands hammering away in octaves, but contains contrastingly lyrical 'trio' sections (in G major). The third movement begins and ends with the celebrated funeral march (in B minor), but it also has a calm interlude (in D major) reminiscent of the "raindrops" prelude of the same period. The finale is a bewildering and unremitting moto perpetuo of triplets in parallel octaves, without rhythm or harmony; or dynamic until the final two chords.

 Sonata No 3 in B minor  Op. 58  ––  Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849)

i. Allegro maestoso, ii. Scherzo: Molto vivace, iii. Largo,iv.  Finale: Presto non tanto; Agitato

Chopin's 3rd (and last) piano sonata was written in 1844 towards the end of his happy years with George Sand at her country estate of Nohant. It is a vastly different work from the previous sonata; altogether sunnier; much bravura passage work but exuberant rather than shocking; and the lyrical passages so many and lovingly indulged as quite to dominate the whole work. It is far more often played than the opus 35 sonata.

 (Programme notes compiled by Ian West, from numerous sources.  )


Sunday, 23 January 2011

Programme Notes

Variations Concertante (Op. 17)  –––––––––  Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847)

It is well known that Felix Mendelssohn had a musical older sister (Fanny), but he also had a younger sister and an even younger brother, Paul, who followed their father into banking but who played the cello to a good standard as a hobby. Felix dedicating two cello works to him, today's op. 17 and op. 45, a sonata for cello and piano written in1838. (He also named his own son 'Paul', who became a distinguished organic chemist.) Today's opus 17 was composed early in 1829 when Paul was 17 and Felix, aged 20, was on the brink of his first visit to England, and at the same time that he was famously re-introducing the German public to Bach's choral music after its being forgotten for a century. The (French) word concertante signals a virtuosic piece showcasing solo instruments. There is an original theme followed by 8 variations, played without repeats (c.f. Mozart) and flowing seamlessly into one another. The first 7 variations are short; cello has the tune, piano has the tune, piu vivace, con fuoco, then the cello plays pizzicato and the piano seem to go off after two unrelated tunes. This is followed by a tranquil 6th and a minor 7th variation, ending with a little cadenza for the cello. The 8th is much longer, starting with a recapitulation of the tune but that is followed by an accelerando and some florid pianistics; and a quiet ending.


Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano, D. 821   ––  Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828)

i. Allegro moderato,   ii. Adagio,    iii. Allegretto.

The Viennese guitar maker J.G. Staufer in 1823 invented an instrument he called the 'arpeggione' or 'bowed guitar'. Schubert's friend Schuster bought one and within a year had acquired a facility on the instrument. He urged (there is no evidence of a fee) Schubert to write a sonata for arpeggione and fortepiano that would exploit the instrument's special features; the tone was not as strong as that of a cello, but the six strings (tuned in 4ths and 3rds like a guitar) gave the instrument a wide range, and a facility with arpeggios. The frets minimized vibrato and gave the instrument a viol-like purity of pitch and tone. The sonata (in A minor) was finished in November 1824 (around the time of the "Death and the Maiden" quartet) but not published till 1871. No other work for the instrument survives and within 10 years the arpeggione was forgotten (though there is currently a revival, and contemporary instruments are being made.) However, the popularity of this sonata owes little or nothing to the instrument. It is 'suffering Schubert' at his most lyrical, with his piquant swings from sweet despair to forlorn gaiety. 

++++++++     Interval of 20 minutes     ++++++++

Sonata in F major, Opus 99  ––   Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)

i. Allegro vivace, ii. Adagio affettuoso, iii. Allegro passionato, iv. Allegro molto.

This is Brahms' second sonata for cello and piano, written in 1886 after the completion of all 4 symphonies, and with the 53 year-old Brahms in mid career; successful, popular, single, gruff. Like the 3rd symphony completed in 1883, this sonata is in F. Its inspiration was probably the cello playing of Robert Hausmann (cellist in the Joachim quartet). The first movement, in F major and 3/4 time, opens with tremendous energy. The bustling, almost orchestral, piano writing supports wonderfully sustained tunes in the cello. There soon appear Brahms' signature cross-rhythms, and contrasting quieter passages. The second movement, in the (technically) remote key of F sharp (i.e. raised a semitone), opens with the cello providing a pizzicato accompaniment, but eventually it is the sustained lyricism of the cello that sets the tone of the movement; it is less outwardly compelling that the 1st movement, and requires more concentration from the listener. The third movement is essentially a 'Scherzo', opening and closing in F minor but with a central 'Trio' section in F major. The last movement opens sweetly on the cello. The piano imitates, but after a few bars gets distracted by a tempestuous piano subplot. These two elements play off each other energetically; emotion perfectly structured; the height of European romanticism.

(Programme notes compiled by Ian West, from numerous sources.  )