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The New Criterion

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Beethoven times two at the Mostly Mozart Festival

by Eric C. Simpson

Posted: Aug 18, 2014 04:32 PM

Gianandrea Noseda; photo by Ramella&Giannese

One of the particular problems that comes with performing Beethoven's Ninth, at least with modern programming conventions, is how to complement it. At an hour to an hour and ten, it's too long to pair with a full-length concerto (unless you want a twenty-five-minute first half, a twenty-minute intermission, and a seventy-minute second half) but too short to program all by itself (as is often done with, say, any number of Mahler symphonies). The trick is to find an overture of about ten minutes that won't look completely flimsy next to perhaps the greatest warhorse in the symphonic repertoire.

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Lord Elgin in Detroit

by Roger Kimball | from PJ Media

Posted: Aug 17, 2014 02:18 PM

Where is Lord Elgin when you need him? In the early 19th century, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, was serving as British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Exercising fiduciary responsibility for the cultural patrimony of the West was not high on the list of the Muslim’s list of priorities. In Athens, the art […]

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A wrongheaded, brilliant, exciting Don Giovanni

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Aug 15, 2014 05:17 PM

via Salzburger Festspiele; photo by Michael Pöhn

In my years at Salzburg, I have seen three Don Giovannis—three different productions, I mean. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, the great soprano, walked out of the first one. She has since been one of my favorite critics (as well as singers).

The latest production is by Sven-Eric Bechtolf, director of theater here at the festival. I will say a few words about it.

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A Most Strange Performance

by Andrew Koenig

Posted: Aug 14, 2014 01:11 PM

King Lear at the Delacorte Theater; photo by Joan Marcus

“This is most strange,” the King of France says at the beginning of King Lear. “This is above all strangeness,” says Edgar near the end of it. The word “strange” and its variants are repeated no fewer than eleven times over the course of the play, a refrain to which the tragic action always returns.

The staging of Shakespeare in the Park’s King Lear matches the strangeness of the play itself. The director, Daniel Sullivan, eschews the old convention of full regalia and flouts the newer convention of “bold,” distracting staging, choosing instead a minimalist middle ground. John Lee Beatty’s set is simple and unobtrusive, consisting of a bare wooden platform with several sets of stairs on every side; a rough dark background that turns a velvety gray in the dimmed light; and a layer of gravel that looks like “moulten lead” (to borrow Lear’s expression). The set almost focuses attention on its own barrenness, a strange and ingenious effect of self-negation. Austere garments and dissonant music round out the high seriousness of the play.

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Salonen in Salzburg

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Aug 13, 2014 12:51 PM

Esa-Pekka Salonen; via Salzburger Festspiele / Silvia Lelli

On Saturday morning, in the Great Festival Hall here at the Salzburg Festival, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra. He is now the “principal conductor” of this London band. He first conducted them long ago—in 1983, when he was twenty-five. Salonen has one of the best “creation stories” in all of music. I love to tell it. I asked him to tell it in a public interview a few years ago. Later, I wrote it up like this:

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Overcoming the mind at rest: Richard Estes at the Portland Museum of Art

by Leann Davis Alspaugh

Posted: Aug 12, 2014 12:06 PM

The Candy Store, New York CityOil on canvas;  Richard Estes 1969

Richard Estes’ photorealistic painting style is all about overcoming inertia. For years, Estes has patrolled the streets of New York with a camera, shooting randomly at various times of the day or night. Over time, he has amassed thousands of contact sheets showing the same streets and the same buildings. He may return to a scene repeatedly, taking more photos over the space of months or even years. When he’s finally ready to think about a painting, he returns to the darkroom, making one set of prints of a scene’s highlights, another for its shadows. This kind of perseverance gives him a decidedly unromantic appreciation for the tedium of making art: “Usually it’s a pretty calculated, sustained, and slow process by which you develop something […] I think the real test is to plan something and be able to carry it out to the very end. Not that you’re always enthusiastic: it’s just that you have to get this thing out. It’s not done with one’s emotions; it’s done with the head.”

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Making the penthouse rock. A viola?

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Aug 11, 2014 11:23 AM


I had never seen the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse looking so good. This is the space at Lincoln Center with the vast windows and a cityscape outside those windows: New York twinkling. Twinkling at night, I should say. (I have never been to the penthouse in the daytime, but I trust there’s no twinkle.)

The Mostly Mozart Festival holds its late-night recitals in the penthouse. They are one-hour affairs beginning at 10 pm. The festival calls the series “A Little Night Music.” Get it? A Mozart festival (or mostly Mozart festival).

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Obama in Oz

by Roger Kimball | from PJ Media

Posted: Aug 11, 2014 11:20 AM

Actually, he wasn’t there in propria persona.  But during a whirlwind trip that included a conference on the First World War in Melbourne, an outing with some deep thinkers on the Great Ocean Road, the Blue Mountains, and Sydney, I did my best to channel the former community organizer. At a dinner hosted by the […]

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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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