Thanks to Lufthansa . . .

When it comes to classical music, I like what I like. And that usually means Haydn, Bach, Vivaldi, Boccherini among others, Mozart of course, Beethoven, and my favourite composer – Chopin. I’ve never been much of an opera buff, but gradually, over many years of travelling, did come to appreciate quite a spectrum of this genre.

Travelling and classical music?

Well, during the 1990s (when I was working at IRRI as head of the Genetic Resources Center), I often had to travel from Manila to Europe, mostly to Rome. And at that time – initially for convenience sake, but later by choice – I travelled with Lufthansa. I was fortunate to be able to travel on Business Class for these long flights, and soon picked up a huge number of air miles, enabling me from time-to-time to upgrade to First Class. I quickly achieved Senator status with Lufthansa/Star Alliance. Alas, I have virtually no miles left. I either used them for upgrades or they expired (quite a devaluation) when the rules were changed.

It was on one of these flights back to Manila, after an intermediate stop in Bangkok, that I and a colleague from a sister center ICLARM (now the WorldFish Center) were the only passengers on the upper deck of a 747-400 in First Class. It was before 9/11 and I was given the opportunity of sitting on the flight deck for the landing in Manila – a fantastic experience. And one I was to experience a couple of years later on an Emirates 777 flight from Dubai when, after having visited the flight deck for a chat with the captain and first officer, I was invited back for the landing!

But I digress. I haven’t flown Lufthansa for many years now, because I moved to Emirates as my preferred airline, since it also flew the route MLA-DXB-BHX (Birmingham) and that’s what we took on home leave. It was more convenient to build up an air miles association with Emirates – it began expanding its routes into Europe in the late 90s and into the new decade. In any case, Lufthansa stopped flying to Manila.

The in-flight entertainment on Lufthansa was rather good, especially the classical music channel. And this is what I used to listen to religiously and, as a consequence, began to build up my classical CD collection based on what I’d heard on these long intercontinental journeys.

Among the ‘highlights’ that I heard, and invested in, are:

  • Rossini’s La Cenerentola, featuring Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, released by Decca in 1993 (436 902-2), with the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. I was absolutely (and I use this description advisedly) blown away by her voice and this particular aria Non piu mesta. The video of the aria is not the recording, however.

  • Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, written in 1762, and recorded on Philips (434 093-2) in 1991. The part of Orfeo is played by a counter tenor. In the recording I heard, Orfeo was sung by Derek Lee Ragin, with the Monteverde Choir and English Baroque Soloists, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. The link below is from this recording, and features Ragin singing the famous aria Che faro senza Euridice.

  • Kiri Te Kanawa singing the music of Georg Frideric Handel (1685-1759) in the soundtrack to the film The Sorceress. This was recorded in 1992 with the Academy of Ancient Music under the direction of Christopher Hogwood. It was released on Philips (434 992-2). I discovered a complete video of The Sorceress on YouTube.

  • Swedish virtuoso trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger playing the Trumpet Concerto in E flat by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). This was released on Philips (420 203-2) and was recorded in 1986, with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, under the direction of Sir Neville Marriner. The CD also has trumpet concerti by Hertel, Stamitz, and Hummel. This video is not, however, the same as the CD recording.

Charles Paget Wade – collector extraordinaire

Snowshill. A small Gloucestershire village, nestling under the lip of the Cotswolds north-facing escarpment, with stunning views from Broadway Tower (close by) over the Vale of Evesham immediately to the north, the Malvern Hills to the west, the hills of South Wales to the southwest, and on a clear day (like when we visited just a couple of days ago) for more than 50 miles northwest to the hills of Shropshire, due north to Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, and the skyline of Birmingham creeping over the distant horizon beyond Warwickshire to the northeast. What a glorious part of this green and pleasant land we call England.

The village is home to Snowshill Manor and Garden, gifted to the National Trust in 1951 by its rather eccentric owner, painter-craftsman, and poet, Charles Paget Wade (1883-1956).

An architect by training, and having wealth derived from the family’s sugar plantations in the Caribbean island of St Kitts, Wade purchased Snowshill Manor in 1919 and used it to house his growing – and exceedingly eclectic – collections of craft work, furniture, paintings, and almost anything he considered beautiful.

There has been a manor house at Snowshill for centuries, but the oldest parts of the manor today date from the early years of the 16th century. In the 1920s he began to lay out the gardens in the Arts and Crafts Style, and today these are a delight of understatement: walled ‘rooms’ in the soft Cotswold limestone, broad sloping banks, intimate spaces.

Wade himself lived in a small house in the garden known as the Priest’s House – a rather rudimentary accommodation that he redesigned, installed ‘modern’ plumbing, and filled the house with even more collectibles.

The manor was turned over to his ever-increasing collection that he had begun to assemble as a small boy. His collection is full of extraordinary beautiful objects: oriental furniture, as well as English pieces; suits of armor from the English medieval period, the English Civil Wars of the 1640s, and Japanese samurai armor; many paintings and religious artifacts; bicycles; spinning wheels; and models and toys, among many other things.

Our visit to Snowshill Manor was a slight disappointment – I had expected rather more extensive gardens to wander through. Nevertheless, just seeing what Wade had accumulated through a lifetime of collecting was truly amazing. The collections at Calke Abbey that we saw recently are the efforts of one family. The Snowshill Manor collection of more than 20,000 items is the passion of just one man – Charles Paget Wade.

Just click on the photos below to open web albums.