Friday, January 27, 2012

13 Dec Tuesday - Imperial College revisited and Mitsuko Uchida at Barbican Center

Imperial College revisited :
Although our apartment was only steps from Imperial College, we had yet to visit the campus. It held fond memories for Patrick who did his sabbatical in 2004 and so I thought a visit was  long overdue. Friends who did their PHds have moved on but the vibrancy of this excellent place of learning is very evident, with plenty of Asian ( China mainly ) students striding very purposefully to their lecture halls. We went to the students co-op and bought many  Tshirts. The one for Elroy said " when I grow up, I want to graduate from Imperial".

Tate Britian at Pimlico :
Patrick has never  visited  Tate Britain despite his long stay here previously so we made our first museum visit to here. I remembered this place, specifically for its  John Turner line drawings and Constable's landscape pictures. A couple of paintings captivated me :  "An iron forge ", " Day at the Derby",  "Mother and Son" and a painting of a royal lady were some that were so lifelike and well executed. Even contemporary sculptures " Eye" , "Woman" , "The left handed ( hare ) drummer " excited me !

On the Thames
Millenium ferry to Tate Modern :
After lunch at the museum café, we took a Millenium ferry to Tate Britain 4 km down the Thames. Being Oyster card and Travelcard holders, we enjoyed  30% discount , an expensive ride that we would otherwise not have taken ( 4.50 / 1.50 GBP ) . The NW end of the Thames glowed with the last light of the wintry day, a sight to behold. We cruised past Westminster, London Eye, London Bridge and many landmarks. It was refreshing to see the  famous landmarks from a different point of view.

Millenium Bridge to St Paul:
Tate Modern's old angular power house façade was undeniably ugly but it was popular with young people. We saw a 'live art installation'  propelling from the top of the Tate down, with camera crews interviewing some 'celebrity' at the end of the tether. I wondered what the 'installation's' artistic message was.

In the Tate, we bought 2 George Orwell books ( 'Books vs Cigarettes', 'The decline of the English murder' )  , a surprise find. Then it was northwards past the Millenium Bridge to capture the last of London by daylight on camera. St Paul's cathedral greeted us at the other end , together with a bunch of  picketers  who had been camping out in front  of the cathedral since September.

Barbican Center - Concert by London Symphony Orchestra and concerto by Mitsuko Uchida:
It was a long walk to the Barbican Center from St Paul, since the area around was not built in a grid, making navigation difficult. At long last, we reached the Barbican and I decided against  a pub dinner after getting the concert tickets. It was a wise move, because we had a sumptuous and leisurely dinner at the Foodhall and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

The London Symphony Orchestra played Haydn and Neilson. I found Haydn delightful but H preferred the more sophisticated piece by Neilson. When it was time for Uchida to finish off the evening, she delighted the full house with Beethoven's "Emperor". At quiet times in the first movement, the LSO swamped Uchida but she recovered fast enough to take command. The second movement went seamlessly to the third movement ,with Mitsuko Uchida leading a strong  and energetic entry.  Cleary she was enjoying herself and her personality shown , especially towards the last moment when 'in cahoots with the timpanist' came to a grand finale with the LSO. Conductor Sir Colin Davis was perched on  a little high chair, precariously conducting the LSO. Had it been for the energetic Lan Shui, he would probably have toppled halfway  through the first movement.

It was almost 10 pm when we finished and 11 pm when we were back. What started off as an easy day began to build into a crescendo as we prepare for a 2-day trip north to Edinburgh tomorrow.

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