30 December 2012

Digital rebirth for my vintage Leica lenses -- via Fujifilm X-E1 (Part 1): 50mm Noctilux 1.0, 75mm Summilux and 135mm Tele-Elmar

It is a long story. But I'll cut it short.

Before the advent of digital photography, i.e. when I shot film, I used Leica M lenses and cameras, M3, M6, M6TTL and M7, because Leica lenses were, and still are, top-quality lenses and Leica M cameras were engineering masterpieces, particularly the M3, and at that time their prices were never as outrageous as current ones. When the world changed over to digital, unfortunately a dichotomy between Leica lenses and Leica digital cameras became evident, the latter being unworthy partners of the former. At that time, I thought it was foolish to pay such sums of money for an M8 or M9 whose specifications were simply below par.

So my Leica lenses became seldom used.

Then alternatives in terms of mirrorless cameras appeared: the Panasonic and Olympus micro-4/3 systems, Sony NEX system and the interesting Ricoh GXR with A12 M-mount system. I then tried the Panasonic G3 with a M-mount adapter. But I'm not impressed with the focusing system and the result. Then came the Fujifilm X-Pro1, but it was overpriced. I was quite sure that some cheaper and more cost-effective bodies would appear later. Now such a body comes, the X-E1. One caveat: the X-E1 has only an APS-C sensor.

I won't go into details of what the X-E1 can and can't do, and how it does this and that. A simple Google search can tell you all that. The only thing I'd like to say is that the Leica rangefinder system is intrinsically compromised for focal lengths of more than 90mm. In fact one is at pains with focusing even the 90mm Summicron with the 0.72x or even the 0.85x viewfinder magnification in the M6 or M7. The M3, with a 0.91x magnification, is of course better, especially when compared with the dismaying 0.68x in the M8 and M9, but for very precise focusing for the 135mm, it has often been a hit-and-miss affair. Of course you can add an external 1.25x or 1.4x magnifier but that is quite cumbersome -- I have been using one. And the M3 has no frame lines for 75mm. The problem goes on in the other end of the focal length spectrum, for wide-angle lenses external finders mounted on the hot-shoe need to be used. These viewfinder problems can be circumvented largely by high-end through-the-lens EVFs, and this is exactly what the X-E1 can offer. Yes, EVFs have their intrinsic deficiencies, but they are much improved than early generation ones.

It then becomes reasonable that I take out my vintage 75mm Summilux-M and 135mm Tele-Elmar to test them on the new X-E1 body with the Fujifilm M-mount adapter. I add in the 50mm Noctilux-M, as the depth of field (DOF) is so small at f/1 that precise focusing is not easy on an M body, especially if there is some mechanical mismatch in the focusing system. The production of these 3 lenses has ceased.

The gear in question: Fujifilm X-E1 with Leica 50mm/F1.0 Noctilux-M, 75mm/F1.4 Summilux-M and 135mm/F4 Tele-Elmar (taken with Panasonic G3 with Leica DG Summilux 25mm/F1.4 ASPH at f/8, 1/60s, ISO 160, with flash)

Here are some picture taken with these lenses on Fujifilm X-E1. All pictures were taken using the largest aperture in each lens. The pictures were resized to 1600 pixels. No tuning was performed on them except some cropping in 2 of them. The bokeh of the 75mm Summilux is very pleasing.

Leica 75mm Summilux-M at f/1.4, 1/400s, -1/3EV, ISO 200

Leica 75mm Summilux-M at f/1.4, 1/450s, ISO 200

Leica 75mm Summilux-M at f/1.4, 1/350s, ISO 200
(The blurred background is a tram stop with people in clothes of different colours.)

Leica 75mm Summilux-M at f/1.4, 1/40s, ISO 200

Leica 135mm Tele-Elmar at f/4, 1/70s, ISO 1600

Leica 135mm Tele-Elmar at f/4, 1/120s, ISO 1600

Leica 50mm Noctilux-M at f/1, 1/60s. ISO 400

Leica 50mm Noctilux-M at f/1, 1/60s. ISO 400

Leica 75mm Summilux-M at f/1.4, 1/30s, ISO 1600 
(This is Andrew's Canon)

The bokeh in the picture above is so creamy and lovely.

In a sense, my vintage Leica lenses are offered a rebirth in the digital world, at a fraction of the cost of the Leica M8 or M9, with no significant loss of the magic of these lenses.

It is one of the best Christmas presents for me in years.

25 December 2012

A festive Brucknerian sojourn in Taipei

Wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and blessed New Year.

Christmas tree in Taipei Train Station

Sometimes when my passion for Bruckner's music has reached fever pitch, I'd tend to do some funny things in the eyes of the disinterested. That was exactly the case when I decided on Friday 14 December to fly to Taipei and attend Shao-Chia Lü's Bruckner's Sixth concert two days later on 16 December. As I need to go to work on Saturdays and Mondays, particularly the latter when I invariably have a very busy schedule, the only option left is to fly to Taipei on Sunday morning and come back to Hong Kong on the first flight on Monday morning. That would mean I have to take the first coach at 04:30 from the Taipei train station to the airport to catch the 07:00 flight, so as to arrive in Hong Kong at 08:45 and then go to work straightaway. Every one will notice immediately that it is not the smartest itinerary in comfort terms. But anyway it was what this silly bloke had pursued.

This is not my first time going to Taipei for concerts. I've done that quite some years ago, but as there were no special reasons to entice me to concerts there in recent years, this trip suddenly became something like meeting with an old friend. The National Concert Hall is housed in a very beautiful building, one of two similar buildings flanking the Liberty Square in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in central Taipei.

The National Theater in the foreground and the National Concert Hall in the background

The National Concert Hall Taipei

The National Theater Taipei

I was lucky to be able to book online a ticket in one of best positions, in the centre of the stall seats. Much to my surprise, this is not a top-priced ticket but only second in the price ladder. As such the pricing in this concert hall is a little strange and different from all of the concert venues I've attended. However, who would complain paying less for one of the best positioned seats? 

It is a pity that the attendance in this concert was rather disappointing. When I last checked the online ticketing service on 15 December, there were still more than 1000 tickets left for sale. This concert hall has 2074 seats. Looking around before the concert, my impression was that the hall was almost half empty, but with a sizeable portion of the audience in the stalls seats, it didn't look that bad.

The Taiwanese audience is one of the best in terms of concert etiquette I've encountered in my concert attending experience. They are quiet and attentive, which although it sounds so simple and basic, is not something to be taken for granted in many other places. And it made the concert all the more memorable.

The concert leaflet on the left and the programme booklet on the right

The concert programme on that night is truly generous. The first half is made up of Mozart's Symphony No. 35 "Haffner" and the world premiere of a commissioned work by Christian Jost, Taipei Horizon. The second half is the main attraction for me: Bruckner's Symphony No. 6 in A major. The programme notes can be accessed on line here.

The seating of the strings section on that night was, from the left to the right of the conductor, first violins, second violins, cellos and then violas. The tone and playing of the violins are enviable. However, one would wish for a cello section with more weight and depth in tone. The woodwinds are a definite asset in the orchestra. It is overall a very fine ensemble, superior to many Asian orchestras.

The Mozart was light and graceful in the Andante and Menuetto, but I'd wish for a little more fire in the outer movements. The premiered work is a single movement piece which I quite like.

Shao-Chia Lü proves to be a very eloquent Brucknerian as judged from his live recording of Bruckner's Fourth and the present concert of the Sixth. One of the hallmarks in his Bruckner is the warmth and beauty of sound he conveys. His phrasings and legatos are lovely. While musicologists might have differing ideas in the debate about speech-like versus song-like interpretations in Bruckner, Lü's is definitely song-like and lyrical.

The nervousness in the opening of the symphony -- some imperfect intonations in the brass and the violin's rhythmic opening could be more distinct -- was soon overcome from the second thematic group onwards. I was smiling when I heard the immense range of fine modulations the conductor bestowed on the first movement and the rich palette of colour the orchestra showed. The first movement finished with an exuberant incandescence in the coda. The woodwinds stole the limelight particularly in the Adagio, not least the oboe lament in the first theme. The dialogue between the cellos and first violins was also absorbing. I'd like to hear, however, a little more contrasts between the different thematic groups in this sonata-form slow movement. A finely balanced rhythmic Scherzo was paired with a Trio with lovely exchanges between the superb woodwinds and the strings. When it came to the Finale, the orchestra did not disappoint. The orchestra and the conductor were like hand in glove, and together they concluded the symphony in the triumphant A major splendour.

Objectively I might say the night was a qualified success, but deep in my heart I was already satisfied with having the opportunity to hear this less-often performed Bruckner symphony so finely and dedicatedly performed. 

I have already set sight on the NSO's next Bruckner concert: Bruckner's Fifth conducted by Günther Herbig on 10 May 2013.

Before I end this post, let me share with you some snapshots of the beautiful phalaenopsis orchids in Taiwan. These orchids are simply amazing.

19 December 2012

When Mariss Jansons met Ludwig van Beethoven

Mariss Jansons performed Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra before a papal audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall, Vatican on 27 October 2007, and this concert was issued on DVD (Arthaus Musik 101457) and SACD (BR Klassik 900108) before to much acclaim.

Now comes his full cycle on BR Klassik 900118, a 5-CD box set, recorded between 2007 and 2012. The oldest was the Second recorded on 1-2 March 2007 and the newest was the Sixth, on 8-9 November 2012 -- just a little more than a month ago! 

I have to say that it is a very impressive cycle.

13 December 2012

A mature Sino-Austrian symbiosis -- Shao-Chia Lü with the Taiwan Philharmonic and Bruckner's Fourth Symphony

Shao-Chia Lü (呂紹嘉), a Taiwanese conductor graduated from the Hochschule für Musik Wien with excellence in 1991, has won the International Kiril Kondrashin Competition for conductors, International Besançon Competition for Young Conductors (both first prize and Lyre d'Or award) and the Pedrotti International Competition for Orchestra Conductors. After having worked for more than 10 years in Europe, he became the Music Director of the Taiwan Philharmonic, also known as the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), in 2010. A highly gifted musician, he has made many concerts with the NSO to great acclaim. He was featured in a previous NSO Live CD, recorded even before he was the Music Director of the NSO. The present 2-CD is his second in this series. Disc 1 includes Bruckner's Symphony No. 4, and Disc 2 contains The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius and Pelléas and Mélisande by Schoenberg.

The Bruckner was recorded live at the National Concert Hall, Taipei on 25 September 2010, while the other 2 were recorded live in 2011. The conductor-orchestra rapport was so mature in the Bruckner concert that it come as a total surprise, at least to me, that it was only his second concert as Music Director with the NSO.

As you can see from the pictures below, the packaging is a lavish display of care and love, and it is not just skin-deep. The liner notes, attached to the inside front cover and of 23 pages, are what one would expect from a conscientious release. Bibliographies and essays are bilingual, in Chinese and English. What warms my heart is that the programme notes in Chinese are not mere translated copies of those in English, or vice versa. The English essays make use of Georg Tintner's notes from Naxos, while the Chinese ones are written by Prof. Lu-Fen Yen (顏綠芬), Professor of Musicology in the Taipei National University of the Arts. Even the recording equipment and monitors are listed at the end.

The beautiful cover with an attached bilingual flyer

The add-on bilingual back cover

The original front and back cover in English

The attached liner notes on the left and the inner cover for the CD trays on the right

The package fully opened showing the 2 CDs

How about the performance then? My simple answer is: every doubt, every incertitude, every misgiving about a Chinese orchestra led by a Chinese conductor in a Bruckner symphony is answered admirably in this performance by Lü and the NSO.

The music unfolds naturally with nifty phrasings and subtle nuances, but the wood is not missed for the trees. The long span of the structure is evident as Lü always shows a clear sense of direction, for example from the Hauptthema to the Coda in the first movement. Tempo relationships are finely balanced. The second movement, Andante quasi allegretto, is simply lovely. The cellos play with such cantabile that melts my heart. The flutes are like angels. The hunting Scherzo is fittingly lively and rhythmic. Lü's fine control and the orchestra's ensemble might are clearly shown in the crescendo and even subito passages in the Finale. When the symphony comes to its end, it finishes gloriously.  

The only minor problem is the recorded sound: the lower frequencies are lightweight. Thus in general the strings lack the body while the lower strings in particular lack the weight and darkness of many Austro-German orchestras. But the transparency of each instrumental group is a joy to listen to. This slight de-emphasis of the bass soon gets out of my mind as my attention is firmly grasped by the beautiful musical flow. To me the hi-fi element in a recording is only of secondary importance to the musical element after all.

Hats off to the maestro and the orchestra.

I: 18'25"
II: 15'10"
III: 11'12"
IV: 22'24" with applause (Music ends at 21'07")

04 December 2012

Anthology of the RCO -- Beethoven symphonies

Looking through the 7 volumes of the Anthology of the RCO, I found that a complete cycle of the Beethoven symphonies is almost present. Only the Second is not represented in this series. 

The 8 symphonies included are listed as follows:

Sym 1: Wilhelm Furtwängler, 13/7/1950 (Vol 1, CD12)

Sym 3: Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 16/10/1988 (Vol 5, CD12)

Sym 4: Willem van Otterloo, 19/3/1972 (Vol 4, CD4)

Sym 5: Erich Kleiber, 28/4/1950 (Vol 1, CD12)

Sym 6: Wolfgang Sawallisch, 10/3/1991 (Vol 6, CD3)

Sym 7: Josef Krips, 24/5/1952 (Vol 2, CD4)

Sym 8: Pierre Monteux, 14/5/1962 (Vol 3, CD1)

Sym 9: Mariss Jansons, 25/12/2006 (Vol 7, CD9)

From the earliest recording in 1950 till the last in 2006, this "cycle" spans more than half a century. Only the arguably least popular Beethoven symphony, the Second, is not included. It also features a formidable list of conductors, from the giants in Europe in the 1950's to the orchestra's present Chief Conductor. Many of these recordings are important not only in their historical significance, but also in their artistic value.

30 November 2012

A new, cute and immensely popular Bruckner-Ikonographie in Japan

The six composers in the new pins series designed by Kazuo Ozawa and issued by Bookunion in Japan

The popularity of Anton Bruckner among classical music fans in Japan has never been in doubt, but how immensely popular it is is sometimes out of everyone's expectation. The six pins shown above are to be issued on 1 December 2012, but pre-orders for the Bruckner pin are in so overwhelming amount that this item had to be de-listed soon after it appeared on HMV Japan's online shop. However, all the other 5 pins are still available at the time of writing. If we assume that all the six different pins are issued in the same quantity, then Bruckner appears to be more popular than Beethoven or Mahler here. And if we speak of the 3 B's, traditionally referring to Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, this pins series has taken the position to replace Brahms with Bruckner. This may only be a tongue-in-cheek explanation. The official introduction has given the reasons for the choice of composers: 3 "kings of composers", namely Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, and 3 "modern" composers popular in Japan, namely Bruckner, Mahler and Shostakovich.

These are small nickel plated pins measuring H26 X W13-16mm and 0.7mm thick. The listed price is 630 Yen (tax included). The designer/illustrator is the famous cartoonist on classical music in Japan, Kazuo Ozawa (小澤一雄). 

22 November 2012

China Philharmonic Orchestra played Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 -- video streaming

Bruckner's symphonies have seldom been played by orchestras in China except perhaps recently. It'd thus be interesting to have an opportunity to view such a concert. By sifting through the China Central Television's (CCTV) web-based CCTV Concert Hall archive, I managed to find a complete Bruckner concert on video streaming. It is a concert of the China Philharmonic Orchestra (中国爱乐乐团 ) conducted by Okko Kamu on 13/3/2009 performing Bruckner's Symphony No. 4. This concert has a special significance to this orchestra: it was its first Bruckner concert ever since it was formed in May 2000 in Beijing.
Here is the link.

P.S. In the CCTV archive, there are also video clips of Daniel Harding's Beijing concert on 9/3/2012 with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra on Bruckner's Fifth. Only the last 3 movements are included: Adagio (excerpt), Scherzo (complete) and Finale (excerpt). But beware, these excerpts are preceded by advertisements.

20 November 2012

A series that took 10 years to complete -- Anthology of the RCO

In September, a blog entry was made introducing Volume 7, the last, of the Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra series.  Now it has arrived and joined its 6 predecessors in the series. Ten years have elapsed since the release of the first volume, issued by Q-Disc (the RCO Live label has not been founded before 2004), in 2002. All through these years, many wonderful live recordings in this series have given me so much pleasure that I was always on the lookout for the next release.

At first sight, it all looks nothing special: an old orchestra issuing some recordings from its archive. But when we realise that the music, conductors and soloists were carefully chosen to represent the legacy of a great orchestra and a tradition of sound which not everyone is fortunate or old enough to experience in person, we will come to appreciate the significance of these recordings and get to be thankful that this Anthology series does exist.

Here's a picture of the whole family:

Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Vol. 1-7

(I now realise that the picture of Volume 7 I posted in the previous blog entry is only an old draft from the product information sheet, and the issued product has a different cover art as shown above.)

The Mehta Bruckner 8 is split on 2 CDs with the first 3 movements on CD7 and the Finale on CD8. It was a recording of the concert on 2 December, 2005, and the 1955 Nowak edition was used. Here are the timings: 15'45", 15'18", 28'47", 22'53".

P.S. As there is much interest in knowing the music included in Vol. 7, here is a scan of the track listing printed on the bottom of the box. Please click the picture to enlarge.

18 November 2012

The memorable concerts in Beijing

On 2nd and 3rd November, I attended two concerts in Beijing on consecutive nights. These were the last two concerts in this year's Staatskapelle Dresden Asia tour led by Christian Thielemann. They went to Japan first, then Taiwan and finally Shanghai and Beijing. They didn't come to Hong Kong and so I had to travel to another city for the concerts. The first choice is Taiwan as it is easier to book tickets online, but the only concert there doesn't have Bruckner. So I have to turn to the other 2 cities. They have two concerts each in Shanghai and Beijing, with the same programmes, both featuring Bruckner's Seventh on the first night. Shanghai is a little closer to Hong Kong but the dates of the concerts clashes with some of our local important engagements, and so the only choice is Beijing. Tickets can be booked online in both Shanghai and Beijing, but they cater only for local residents as non-domestic credit cards, e.g. Visa, MasterCard, etc., are not accepted. Here I have to thank my friends in Hong Kong who have close connections in Shanghai and Beijing for booking the tickets for me. Without their generous help I wouldn't have had the chance to attend these memorable concerts.

Thielemann left Munich and took the helm of the Staatskapelle Dresden in 2012, much to the disappointment of the Munich audience. His live recording of Bruckner 8 with this orchestra in September 2009 (Profil SACD PH10031) is one of my favourites. Seasoned classical music lovers are well aware of his influence in the German classical music scene these days, although his interpretations can be subject to controversy sometimes.

Wangfujing, Beijing

Snow everywhere in the morning of 4th November

The concerts took place in the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) (国家大剧院), an ellipsoid building of titanium and glass surrounded by an artificial lake. Tiananmen Square is its neighbour to the east. The following picture was taken just before the concert.

NCPA entrance

The programmes are:

2 Nov
Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod, from Tristan und Isolde
Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 in E major

3 Nov
Wagner: Overture to Tannhauser
               Prelude and Liebestod, from Tristan und Isolde
               Overture to Rienzi
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor

The programmes are typical of Thielemann's strong Austro-German predilection in his repertoire. The two Preludes and Liebestods from Tristan und Isolde were quite different on the two nights: plainly narrative on the first and rather intensely emotional on the second; but the pianissimo passages were simply heart stopping on both. The overture to Rienzi was marvellous, a veritable aural feast. The Bruckner was one of the best Bruckner concerts I've ever attended. It's almost a transcendental experience. Rubato was nicely integrated into the music without leaving an impression of cutting in. Thielemann took a longer than notated pause between each thematic groups in the exposition of the Finale, and this gave extra weight to this Finale which has been criticised as lacking massiveness. The Brahms however was less satisfying as Thielemann's tempo variations were apparently overdone.

Programme leaflet (free) and book (RMB 10)
Thielemann kissing the lady who presented him with a bouquet of flowers
A confident maestro

10 November 2012

The wait is almost over -- Barenboim/Staatskapelle Berlin Bruckner 4-7 on DVD

In June last year, I blogged the video streaming on ARTE Live Web of Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin's concerts of Bruckner's Symphonies 4-9, and remarked that, "I hope Accentus Music will issue this June 2010 partial cycle on DVD or Blu-ray, but when I emailed them their answer was that they didn't know if and when it would be released. Another wait." Now the wait is almost over. Accentus Music has just decided to issue this series of performances on DVD and Blu-ray, starting from Symphony No. 4 in January 2013. (Japanese release may be earlier, at the end of December 2012). Those of us who have watched the video streaming will be looking forward to the release of these excellent Bruckner concerts.

While on Barenboim, mention should be made that next Thursday (15th November) will see his 70th birthday. Accentus Music, in cooperation with ZDF and ARTE, will celebrate his birthday with a two-part documentary and a live concert broadcast on ARTE of his "birthday concert" with the Staatskapelle Berlin. This link will give details of these events.

08 November 2012

Following the trail of Anton Bruckner in Austria (4) -- Ansfelden (II) 1837

Bruckner's happy days in Hörsching were cut short when he was summoned back to Ansfelden by the end of 1836 because his father was ill. He had to relieve some of his father's duties. A happy ending it was not to be. His father died on 7 June 1837 at the age of 46, reportedly of consumption. 

The grave of Bruckner's father

The young Bruckner, not yet 13 at the time, had to begin a new phase in his life, separated from his beloved mother, in St. Florian, a place to be endlessly interwoven with him on earth and in heaven.

14 October 2012

Following the trail of Anton Bruckner in Austria (3) -- Hörsching 1835-36

As I noted before, the "Bruckner Tour" in August 2012 has covered most of the places where Bruckner had lived for a certain period of time, but not all.

One significant place not included in the itinerary is Hörsching where Bruckner lived with his godfather, Johann Baptist Weiss, from the spring of 1835 till December 1836. It was said that Bruckner's father recognised his son's musical talent and arranged for him to be taught by his godfather who was more musically gifted than Bruckner Sr. himself. Bruckner spent 18 months of his childhood in Hörsching with happiness, and what could well be most influential in his musical education is that he received his first regular tuition in the theory of music and figured bass and organ playing from Weiss. During his time in Hörsching Bruckner finished probably his first composition Pange lingua (WAB 31).  Here is a quote from the Preface of ABSW XXI (Kleine Kirchenmusikwerke) written by Leopold Nowak in October 1983 (English translation by Eugene Hartzell):

The "Pange lingua" (No. 1) shows us the spirit stirring in the 12-year-old Bruckner to express in notes what he had heard in the choir loft in Hörsching. For all the clumsiness of the writing (could an untrained child have been anything other than clumsy?), this first preserved composition for the church is valuable evidence of the creative power that was starting to form. We must be grateful to the aging Bruckner who in 1891 confirmed the authorship of the 28-bar piece by "restoring" it; otherwise it would have been merely a bit of dilettantish harmony exercise which would not have been likely to draw any notice.

The cover of ABSW XXI/1

Pange lingua (1835-6)

Pange lingua (restored 1891)

I had decided even before this Bruckner Tour began that I had to include Hörsching in this trip, even without the comfort and surety of an arranged tour to it, so as not to leave a significant period of Bruckner's life untouched upon. It was a "bold" idea but not a very well planned one, as I'd find out later. On the early evening of 20th August, after our short day trip to Salzburg, I made an adventurous trip to Hörsching with the company of Bambos, an enthusiastic young man I befriended during the tour. We started our journey from Linz. We walked from our hotel to the train station and took the 18:56 train to Hörsching. 

The train we were about to board
Neat and clean layout. Very few passengers.

Armed with only a shared enthusiasm between us in our minds and Hans-Hubert Schönzeler's book (Bruckner), with a picture of the Hörsching church on page 14, in my bag, we arrived at Hörsching station at 19:05 without a trace of idea of where the church was. On one side of the station were large factory compounds and on the other side a few houses and a small road. With no sight of the spire of the church when we looked around, we went to the nearby petrol station to see if someone could give us a clue. The lady in the adjoining shop had no idea of where it was, and she asked an elderly customer if he could help. At first his answer was also negative, but when we showed him the picture of the church in the book, he said this church was definitely in Hörsching. The bad news was it was 3 to 4 kilometres away. He said we should walk along the road and then turn left and later turn left again, and we would get there. So the two of us started walking along the road and soon found ourselves among large fields with the sight of buildings many miles away. Everything was expansive here: the Austrian landscape, our mood and our discussion on Bruckner. However, at the back of my mind there was still a lingering fear that we might never find the church in time, particularly when the sun was about to set. 

When the doubts of where the church is were looming larger and larger, we ran into a moment of discovery. In the taller-than-man corn field on our left, there appeared a gap through which we saw to our great delight the spire of the church we had been looking for.

The moment of discovery.

A close-up shot of the spire.

We decided to take the direct route of walking straight towards the church, literally off the beaten track, crossing dry fields and train rails. But our luck ended some ten minutes later, as we were greeted with a chain link fence with barbed wire on top, on the periphery of an airfield -- it is the Blue Danube Airport Linz. Although having to walk around this airfield was a frustrating setback, particularly when the church was just about 1 km directly in front of us, our hearts were lightened with the confidence that we could make it at long last.

When we finally arrived at the old school house and the church, the sun had set. We walked straight to the plaque on the school house and took pictures for each other.

The old school house on the left and the church on the right. Note the plaque on the wall at far left.

The plaque

We walked up to the church and the door was open. Inside it was completely dark. I managed to take a few pictures of the altar using the widest apertures in my lenses coupled with a flash. After that, as I stood inside this church alone in the dark, I closed my eyes and tried to feel the atmosphere surrounding me, an atmosphere in a place that Bruckner had spent 18 months, full of happiness and spirituality. The satisfaction was immense.

The entrance to the church

The altar

After such an expedition, Bambos and I had a pint of beer in the pub next to the old school house and contemplated how we got back to Linz.

The town before it was completely dark.

We decided to call a taxi to take us to the train station as it was completely dark and we would miss the 20:50 train if we got there on foot. We might be too absorbed in our hearty chat and the taxi might be arriving too late, because by the time we got onto the platform, the time was 21:06. Austrian train service was so efficient and punctual that the logical deduction was we had missed the train. The next and last train would be 21:47. After sitting on the bench for about 10 minutes, I looked around and discovered that apart from the central platform we were on, there was another platform on one side. As we could not afford to miss the last train, I suggested going there and had a check. No sooner did we reach this platform than a train was arriving. A man got off the train and we asked if it would go to Linz, and to our great joy he said it did. We got on this train without knowing whether it was the train we thought we had missed or it was from another line. But it just didn't matter so long as we got back to Linz earlier.

We had a happy and truly memorable evening. Thank you very much Bambos for your wonderful company.