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The New Criterion

Quite simply, the best cultural review in the world
- John O’Sullivan



In case you missed it

by Eric C. Simpson

Posted: May 22, 2015 04:39 PM

Sir Simon Rattle, the incumbent music director of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Recent links of note:

The GOP Candidates Most Likely to Be Left Out of the Debates
Harry Enten, FiveThirtyEight
The field for the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination is as crowded as it's ever been. So crowded, in fact, that getting all of the candidates on one stage for a debate is nearly impossible. Fox and CNN have said they will limit their debates to 10 participants, and Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight looks at who's most likely to miss the cut.

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When titans converge

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: May 18, 2015 12:37 PM

James Levine

Some concerts look great on paper—and prove not to be in the hall. Some concerts look weak on paper—and prove great in the hall.

Carnegie Hall’s concert on Sunday afternoon looked great—practically historic—on paper. In the hall, it was impressive indeed, possibly great. There was certainly great music-making in the course of it.

On hand were the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; its music director, James Levine; and the pianist Yefim Bronfman. The program consisted of the Brahms Concerto No. 1 in D minor and the Berlioz Symphonie fantastique.

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More proof from Kissin

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: May 18, 2015 12:34 PM

Evgeny Kissin

Evgeny Kissin, the Russian-born pianist, began his recital at Carnegie Hall on Saturday night with Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata. An electric current ran through the opening measures. Right through to the end of the first movement, the current never left. Kissin played with graceful intensity.

There’s a phrase I have never used before: “graceful intensity.”

I was braced for some bluntness and percussiveness from Kissin, for those have been hallmarks of his playing over the years. But they never really came. And his storms—Beethoven’s storms—were perfectly stormy.

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The irresistible shtick of Stephanie Blythe

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: May 18, 2015 12:32 PM

Stephanie Blythe

At a late point in her career, Marilyn Horne started singing pops recitals. I flatter myself to think that I coined the term. One had always heard of “pops concerts.” (Where have they gone, by the way?) Anyway, Horne did these recitals extremely well, as she did everything extremely well.

On Friday night at Carnegie Hall, another American mezzo-soprano, Stephanie Blythe, sang a pops recital. Actually, it was more like a cabaret recital. Blythe has always been good at popular music. For years, one of her favorite encores has been “What’ll Do,” by Irving Berlin. She sings it simply, unfussily, and heartbreakingly.

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In Case You Missed It

by Christine Emba

Posted: May 15, 2015 02:41 PM

Pablo Picasso, The Women of Algiers (Version ‘O’), 1955.

Sold for $179.4 million at Christie’s this week, an all-time record.


Recent links of note:

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Something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone.

by Kyle Smith

Posted: May 13, 2015 03:25 PM

Brian d'Arcy James and the cast of Something Rotten!

Consider how embarrassing it is to sit for two hours with an infantile look of vapid bliss smeared all over one’s features and you’ll have some idea of how worrisome is Broadway’s new musical Something Rotten! (the St. James Theatre). To the phlegmatic, the curmudgeonly, or the impassive, the show is a positive menace. Any time a critic has to suppress the urge to dash up to the stage and heave flowers at the performers’ feet, something feels amiss.

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Levine's Progress

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: May 12, 2015 02:17 PM

James Levine; photo by Jonathan Tichler

The Metropolitan Opera season has now ended, and it ended with James Levine conducting a doubleheader: The Rake’s Progress (Stravinsky) and Un ballo in maschera (Verdi) on Saturday. It is remarkable, and remarkably good, to have Levine back, after a host of medical problems sidelined him. Every performance seems like a bonus.

I heard Levine conduct The Rake’s Progress on Monday, May 4. This opera, as you know, is an example of Stravinsky’s neo-Classical style. It is based on the engravings of Hogarth, and the libretto is by Auden (with Chester Kallman). The Met’s production is that of 1997 by Jonathan Miller (now Sir Jonathan).

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Westminster Election Diary

by David Pryce-Jones

Posted: May 08, 2015 01:36 PM


May 8th. 16.00 hours. High Noon.

One of Winston Churchill’s most famous bon mots is that democracy is the worst of systems except for all the others. What a tribute!  If Britain were a third world country this election would have ended in violence. Instead, the country’s political scene has been cleansed with an efficiency only slightly less brutal than that of the firing-squad. Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, leaders of three parties unable to perform, had all resigned by lunchtime and will not be heard from any more. The electorate had the chance to expel unwanted figures into the limbo reserved for politicians who failed the tests they are expected to pass.
Out with George Galloway, voluntary trumpeter of Arab dictators. Out with Ed Balls, whose ideological games had wrecked the economy. Out with Vince Cable, who embodied disloyalty to colleagues. Nothing is to be learnt from them and numerous others of the same stamp.  The fate of Ed Miliband, though, has a moral. He intrigued against his brother David, in order to appropriate his place as leader of the Labour Party, only to fail in that position without any possibility of reprieve. The ancient Greeks attributed such self-seeking to hubris, with the necessary payoff of nemesis. This election offers an unforgettable illustration of this age-old understanding of cause and effect in human affairs.

May 8. 0600 hours. First light.

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The New Criterion

About ArmaVirumque


( AHR-mah wih-ROOM-kweh)


In the Aeneid, the Roman poet Virgil sang of "arms and a man" (Arma virumque cano). Month in and month out, The New Criterion expounds with great clarity and wit on the art, culture, and political controversies of our times. With postings of reviews, essays, links, recs, and news, Armavirumque seeks to continue this mission in accordance with the timetable of the digital age.


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