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Von Otter on the prowl

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Jan 14, 2015 11:39 AM


Anne Sofie von Otter performing in Beijing in 2011

I could only assume that Anne Sofie von Otter was a great teacher. Why? Not because she is a great singer—but because she is brainy, cosmopolitan, and articulate. Still, you never know. You never know whether a great artist, or any artist, will be able to convey what he knows. Sometimes the great artists are busts as teachers. Sometimes the mediocre ones bloom as teachers. Teaching is their highest calling.

Von Otter, the Swedish mezzo-soprano, gave a master class in the Marilyn Horne series last night. By “Marilyn Horne series,” I mean The Song Continues, a week of recitals and master classes at Carnegie Hall, presided over by the great American mezzo.

Horne introduced her colleague last night. She said something like the following: “I always feel close to a Swede, because my grandfather came from Sweden.”

One is used to seeing Von Otter in recital gowns or opera costumes. For last night’s class, she was dressed down, wearing ultra-casual pants and pink Nike sneakers. Her accent in English is veddy, veddy British. She says “Right” in the way the Brits do—meaning “Okay then” or “I see.” And she employs that charming British error “try and.” Have you ever noticed this? They “try and do something,” rather than “try to do something.”

I figured Von Otter would be a great teacher. And she is. But she accomplishes her purposes in ways I might not have expected. She is not cool and cerebral (unless she wants to be). She is an actress, even a ham (when that is helpful).

She acts out, physically, what she wants the singer to do. Or the pianist, for that matter. She prowls and slinks around the stage. She is a master of pantomime, a musical Marcel Marceau. When she prowls and slinks—and struts and crouches and twists—she is physically willing the music to be the way it ought to be.

I found her fascinating to watch. And it occurred to me that she would make a fine conductor. Part of the job of a conductor is to find physical movements—gestures—that match musical needs.

Here is something else: Von Otter indicated the rhythm by blurting funny sounds into a microphone. She indicated the character of the music this way, too. It was not especially conscious, on her part. These sounds merely came out of her. No reporter or critic should write this, but, “You had to be there.”

Don’t let me leave the impression that she can’t talk. On the contrary, she is uncanny in her ability to zero in on the mot juste. A pianist, for example, is playing “Die Kartenlegerin,” the Schumann song. Von Otter tells the pianist that a particular motive should be “naughtier.” Perfect.

Everything she said, or did, was smart, musical, and right. She managed to be authoritative and humble at the same time. She allowed for freedom of interpretation—“There are a thousand ways to do this,” she said repeatedly. But she nudged the students toward a better interpretation.

One of the songs she taught was “Erlkönig,” by Schubert. Nicely, even charmingly, she told the tenor that Schubert’s note values were better than his own. If Schubert wanted you to end a note at a certain point—you really should.

Blessedly, she did not get bogged down in details. She was a stickler for details—but she did not get bogged down. Let me explain. Often, she’d say, “You’ll have to work this out at home.” The German is no good or something. Go and learn this German. You’re sharping. Fix that, later on.

Time after time, I have seen a teacher in a master class waste the whole session by trying to get a student to do something he can’t possibly do on the spot. You have to know when to move on.

Speaking of which—I’ll stop now. I have gushed about Anne Sofie von Otter for about 25 years, and I could gush about this master class for 25 more pages (or whatever the online equivalent is). A while back, I ended a piece about her, “Anne Sofie von Otter is no less than a beacon of civilization.” She is also a delight. And a superb, unusual teacher. And one of the most comprehensively musical people alive. 

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Critic's Notebook for January 12, 2015

by Christine Emba

Posted: Jan 12, 2015 07:14 PM


 

Karen Marson, Wave with Traffic Light Study, 2013

Sign up to receive “Critic's Notebook” in your inbox every Monday—it only takes a few seconds and it's completely free! “Critic's Notebook” is a weekly preview of the best to read, see, and hear in New York and beyond, compiled by the editors of The New Criterion.

This week: Islam, apocalypse, and model trains.

FictionWest of Sunset, by Stewart O'Nan (Viking): This work of historical fiction focuses on the last three years of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life. By 1937, Fitzgerald seemed to have lost everything: his finances, his wife (to mental illness), and his literary success. After briefly trying to make it in Hollywood, he died in 1940 at age 44. Interspersing flashbacks to earlier moments of his life throughout the novel, Stewart O’Nan shows the heartbreak of the final years of one of America’s most beloved writers. –RH

Nonfiction: The Fall of Language in the Age of English, by Minae Mizumura (Columbia University Press): Born in Tokyo, raised and educated in the United States, and a student of French, Minae Mizumura acknowledges the value of a universal language in the pursuit of knowledge yet also embraces the different ways of understanding offered by multiple tongues. She warns against losing this precious diversity, depicting Japan’s linguistic and literary heritage with a fascinating vividness. CE

Poetry: Fire Songs, by David Harsent (Faber & Faber): Fire Songs was released in August, but it was announced today that the volume has won its author the TS Eliot Prize for poetry after his four previous appearances on the shortlist. This eleventh collection is concerned with endings: martyrdom, war, apocalypse, and lost love, delivered in a haunting, lyrical tone.  CE

Art:  Sideshow Nation III: Circle the Wagons! (January 10-March 15): If you could see only one painting show a year, the annual group exhibition at Sideshow Gallery in Williamburg should be top of your list. With over six hundred artists represented floor to ceiling and every space in between, this annual blowout is a one-stop shop for what’s happening, casting an ever wider net over the greatness of the borough (um, hello, Brooklyn Museum!). Concurrently, and on a smaller scale, is Paperazzi at Janet Kurnatowski Gallery in Greenpoint, the omnium gatherum for works on paper. —JP

Music: La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera (January 15-24), and NYFOS @ Juilliard: Great American Songwriting Teams (January 14): Don't expect any surprises from Franco Zeffirelli's staging, but Thursday's performance of La Bohème at the Met has the potential to be one of the most exciting nights of the Met's season thus far. An absurdly star-stacked cast is led by Kristine Opolais as Mimì and the ascendant Marina Rebeka as Musetta. Jean-François Borras, who made a splash in a last-minute debut as Werther last season, sings the romantic lead Rodolfo, and Mariusz Kwiecien drops in for a bit of "luxury casting" as Marcello.

For a lighter alternative, try the New York Festival of Song's "Emerging Artists" series. On Wednesday, Juilliard students will present a program celebrating America's great songwriting teams. Featured will be works of Comden & Green, Bock & Harnick, Rodgers & Hart (& Hammerstein), and others. ECS

Other: Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden (closes Monday, January 19): A "holiday train show" of model trains shooting through a garden landscape of miniature buildings made of tree bark sounds like an express ride to Tourist Town. With its timed tickets, sold-out crowds, and $26 adult fare (not to mention $15 for parking), the annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is just that but more. With more than 150 meticulous models of local landmarks crafted by artist Paul Busse, this is more accurately an architecture show of lost New York—hopefully one now shorn of its holiday crowds. —JP

From the archive: Islam, civilization & the nation state, by Daniel Johnson: On the interplay between militant Islam and the Western nation.

From our latest issue: Self-censorship, by Douglas Murray: One of the most damaging forms of censorship is self-imposed.

 

 

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In Case You Missed It

by Christine Emba

Posted: Jan 09, 2015 01:17 PM


Cartoon by David Pope

Recent links of note:

The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders
George Packer, The New Yorker
The murders are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades.

Scare Tactics: Michel Houellebecq Defends His Controversial New Book
Sylvain Bourmeau, The  Paris Review
His controversial new novel depicts a Muslim-run France. Is it bad Op-Ed, election-year pulp fiction, or social critique?

What We Lose if We Lose the Canon
Arthur Krystal, The Chronicle of Higher Education
“A law of diminishing returns kicks in once we stop making distinctions between the great and the good […] Some books simply reflect a deeper understanding of the world, of history, of human relationships, of literature itself than do other books.”

A Top-Notch Middlebrow
Roger Kimball, WSJ
Will Durant’s books made it clear that history was our story.

When T.S. Eliot Invented the Hipster
Karen Swallow Prior, The Atlantic
"My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
Hand-turned in Brooklyn from salvaged brass by artisanal pin-makers"  

—The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock*

*Additional line not by T.S. Eliot.

From our pages:

Free Speech Under Threat
Roger Kimball
An overview of the conference "Free Speech Under Threat: How Anglosphere Values Are Being Undermined by Fear, Political Correctness, and Misplaced Concerns about Privacy.”

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Briefly Noted: Donatello, Michelangelo & Cellini at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

by Dominic Green

Posted: Jan 07, 2015 04:51 PM


Baccio Bandinelli, Self-Portrait, about 1545 

Boston's museums are usually better than its weather, and they certainly are this winter, with the reopening of the Harvard Art Museums and Goya visiting at the MFA. In the excitement, a small but perfectly formed exhibition of drawings might be overlooked. Now at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Sculptors' Drawings from Renaissance Italy is an intriguing enquiry into the relationship between drawing and sculpture, and how two-dimensional images became three-dimensional. It also casts a revealing light on the rivalrous intimacies of Renaissance Florence.

The exhibition is anchored by one of the Gardner's permanent residents, a life-size self-portrait by Baccio Bandinelli (1493-1560). Bandinelli's massively inert Hercules and Cacus stands in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence, suffering perpetually from its proximity to Cellini's Perseus with the Head of Medusa, and the copies of Michelangelo's David and Donatello's Judith and Holofernes. An adulator of Michelangelo, emulator of Donatello, and rival of Cellini, Bandinelli was not the greatest of sculptors—a  contemporary compared his lumpy Hercules to "a sack of beans"—but he was a first-rate entrepreneur in the cut-throat style. Vasari recounts how, when Michelangelo's Battle of Cascina was discovered at the Palazzo Vecchio, Bandinelli obtained a copy of the key to the room in which it was exhibited. Later, while the city was distracted by the deposition of Piero Soderini and the return of the Medici, Bandinelli slipped in and cut up the drawing; either to possess the work of the idol he resented, or to prevent his rivals from studying it. Cellini, no stranger to murder, admits in his autobiography that he contemplated killing Bandinelli.

Michael Cole, the curator of Renaissance Drawings, has reunited Bandinelli with Michelangelo, Donatello, and Cellini. Cleverly, Cole recreates their historical proximity while opening underexplored perspectives. Renaissance sculptors frequently worked from wax or clay models. If they did not draw to study, like the pupils in Enea Vico's engraving The Academy of Baccio Bandinelli (1550), they drew to develop ideas, and to define projects for patrons. Bandanelli left hundreds of drawings, as did Guglielmo della Porta, but other artists, such as Cellini, left only a few. This exhibition includes two drawings that, if their attributions are accurate, are the only surviving sketches by Donatello and Leone Leoni; Donatello's light and witty David, and Leoni's studies for the head of the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria, with and without his famous hat.

 

Donatello, Donatello, David, about 1450

For singular power of vision, Michelangelo remains paramount. In a series of four nude studies (possibly superimposing a classical Venus over a male model), the body is chiseled with short, sharp strokes, the flesh and sinew rippling from the paper like Prigioni emerging from their marble. Next to them is Michelangelo's terracotta model of the same study, allowing us to observe the development from two dimensions to three. Bandinelli would be posthumously enthralled and enraged by these glimpses into the workshop.

More formally, we see proposals like Michelangelo's design of 1505-06 for the tomb of Julius II, which took forty years to realize; Guglielmo della Porta's proposal for the tomb of Paul III in St. Peter's which, though conceived as a freestanding work, was installed against a wall and modified by Bernini; and, unusually, a combined design and contract by Fra Mattia della Robbia, for a tondo of the Virgin and Child (1524). All these remind us that the enduring forms of sculpture can begin with the most evanescent of strokes on paper, and that the process of creation, however complex the workings of patronage, remains a single work in an artist's mind.

Though notation can achieve beauty in its own right, a drawing made in the hope or expectation of being realized in sculpture does not so much capture its subject naturalistically as anticipate a reality yet to take form. A series of juxtapositions reveal the challenges of translating two dimensions into three. Michelangelo's powerfully architectural Pietá is condensed into a later plaquette without harm, but the intricacies of Guglielmo della Porta's design for The Banquet of the Gods (c.1560-70) are lost amid the gold, lapis lazuli, and cornelian of its relief, probably by Cesare Targone; Guglielmo's delicate Fall of the Gods is also simplified in translation into Fidia della Porta's plaquette. Yet Cellini's cast of Perseus and Andromeda, designed for the pedestal to Perseus and the Medusa and not previously exhibited in this country, outstrips its drawing. Cellini's drawing of a standing woman in mourning is the only surviving drawing from the pedestal scene. As she enters the third dimension, she becomes kinetic, rotating her body away from the viewer, and raising her arm. A second Cellini drawing reverses this process. For the entrance to Francis I's palace at Fontainebleau, Cellini proposed a bronze of an anguished satyr, but his design was not accepted. Before leaving Paris, he drew the rejected satyr, anguish and all.

 

Benvenuto Cellini, Satyr, 1543-45

Another reunion temporarily conjoins two pieces of a single sheet by Jacopo della Quercia, the left and right sides of his design for the Fonte Gaia in Siena (1415-16). It is not clear whether Bandinelli had a hand in the division of Jacopo's sheet but, as in Renaissance Florence, Bandinelli is at this exhibition's center. When the marble for Hercules and Cacus fell into the Arno on its way to Bandinelli's studio, his rivals joked that it had tried to drown itself before he could spoil it. Yet this exhibition shows Bandinelli to have been a subtle draughtsman, as well as a skillful businessman.

In his self-portrait, Bandinelli proffers a red chalk drawing for another Hercules and Cacus; a sketch that, if it ever existed, never found a patron. Here, we see two sketches for the Hercules in the Piazza della Signoria; one of them is missing his left arm, as if Bandinelli's idea has yet to solidify. There are also three superbly fluent drawings in red chalk: two of a young man, possibly preparatory sketches for a relief, and a beautiful, androgynous head. In all five drawings, Bandinelli displays a spontaneous delicacy of line that disappears in his sculpture – a surprise typical of this ingeniously compiled exhibition.

 

Donatello, Michelangelo, Cellini: Sculptors' Drawings from Renaissance Italy opened at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston on October 23rd 2014 and will remain on view until January 19th, 2015.

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The Potemkin Village of Georgetown

by Mark Judge

Posted: Jan 07, 2015 11:11 AM


 

It is all well and good to break down the barriers that previously have made so many private institutions in this country little more than ghettos. But unless this is accompanied by comparable efforts to insure that these institutions are able to retain something of their historic identity, the resulting “pluralism” is almost certain to end up functioning as a Trojan horse for homogenization. Even as we congratulate ourselves on our openness to diversity, we shall, in fact, be becoming more and more alike.

 

-R. Bruce Douglass, Georgetown at Two Hundred

To understand the revolutionary transformation of Georgetown University, it’s helpful to go back to a single day: April 14, 2009. On that day President Barack Obama gave a speech on economics in Gaston Hall, a grand auditorium that is considered a crown jewel in Georgetown’s campus.  Gaston is a 750-seat space with a backdrop that displays the coat of arms of several Jesuit universities as well as allegorical religious paintings by the Jesuit interior designer Francis Shroen (1857-1924).

On the day of President Obama’s speech, however, there was something missing from the backdrop. Prior to arrival at Georgetown, the White House had made a demand. On a wooden archway behind the dais on the stage at Gaston, there was a gold monogram of three letters: IHS. The letters are an ancient Jesuit symbol for Jesus Christ, and those letters would have to be covered before the president spoke. The university complied, covering the monogram with what appeared to be a piece of black plywood. For good measure, they erected a blue backdrop on the stage and set up a row of flags. Georgetown, the oldest Jesuit and Catholic university in America, would not be allowed to display any religious imagery during the speech.

Many Catholics were outraged at the covering of the monogram, charging that political correctness was forcing Georgetown to hide its identity from the public. In fact, what Georgetown had done during President Obama’s visit was to reveal its true face. When one considers the state of Georgetown today, it becomes apparent that the front of an institution steeped in a Jesuit tradition of faith and learning is the real Potemkin façade the university is offering to the world. Over the past forty years a revolution has taken place at Georgetown, a revolution that has now succeeded. I have worked at Georgetown on two different occasions and in two different eras, and can say with certainty that the storied, Jesuit-founded school is no more religious today than the University of the District of Columbia. And Georgetown’s academic standards may be lower.

The image of Georgetown’s Catholic facade hiding the reality of a school driven by secularism and political correctness was evoked in June 2013 by William Peter Blatty, a Georgetown class of 1950 alumnus. Calling themselves the Father King Society, Blatty and 2,000 petitioners issued a 200-page indictment of Georgetown, charging that the school could no longer claim to be a Catholic university. Its failings are many and detailed: there is Georgetown’s 2012 invitation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak at a graduation ceremony (Sebelius is one of the architects of Obamacare, which pushed Catholic organizations to provide contraception and abortifacient drugs to their employees through health insurance); there’s Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown student who lobbied on Capitol Hill for government-funded contraception; there is the university’s annual production of The Vagina Monologues, the controversial play that graphically celebrates female anatomy; there is the vocal and visible gay lobby at Georgetown, GU Pride, whose leader declared to The New York Times that “every month is a good month to be gay at Georgetown.”

When considering this list—which is only partial—it’s almost funny to hear critics of Georgetown complain that the university is violating Ex Corde Ecclesia, John Paul II’s 1990 Apostolic constitution that called Catholic universities to meet certain guidelines in order to remain Catholic schools in good standing. By the 1990s Georgetown had moved so far beyond Catholicism—or regressed, you might say—that there was even a debate on campus about whether to keep crucifixes, the central symbol of Roman Catholicism, in the classrooms. Fr. Thomas Reese, who was then the editor of the Jesuit magazine America, put it this way: “What we’re trying to deal with at a Catholic university is how you intelligently dialogue from Christian tradition with a pluralistic culture.” Yet as is most often the case, “pluralism” came to mean not a healthy dialogue and respect for all points of view, but the suppression of orthodoxy. Today’s Georgetown is not the traditional Catholic school founded by an archbishop in the late 1700s, but it is also not the more liberal Jesuit institution of the mid to late twentieth century. Georgetown today is a radical institution.

This is important to understand, because Georgetown’s defenders tend to cite a tradition that goes back to the school's founding, or smile with self-assurance and observe that Jesuits have always been independent-thinking intellectuals with a degree of liberalism. Indeed, the official response to Blatty from Georgetown was that “our Catholic and Jesuit identity on campus has never been stronger. Academically, we remain committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition.” Georgetown spokesperson Rachel Pugh then added that Georgetown students are required to take two courses in philosophy and theology. What Pugh didn’t note is what those classes are: in philosophy, after a required introductory ethics course, choices include “Philosophy of Sport,” “Gender & Justice, “Philosophy and Star Trek,” and “Global Warming.” In theology, one of the required classes is either “The Problem of God” or “Introduction to Biblical Literature.” Choices for the second include “Yoga and Meditation,”  “Feminist Theology,” and “Catholics go to the Movies: Questioning Catholicism from the King of Kings to the Da Vinci Code.”

What has happened to Georgetown in the last few decades is not an evolution still tied to the history of the school, but a rupture. Making vague homages to Georgetown’s rich Catholic history when confronted with the reality of modern Georgetown is a piece of legerdemain that the university’s public relations office has perfected over the years. Considering Georgetown’s history, it’s hard to blame them. The school was founded in 1789 by John Carroll, America’s first archbishop. Carroll wanted to found an academy for the shaping of boys, and while there would be no religious requirement for admission, one of his goals was clearly to encourage young men to become priests. The curriculum was based on the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum, or program of studies, and included Latin, Greek, reading, writing, arithmetic, and French. “We trust in God,” Carroll said in 1787, “that many youths [from the academy] will be called to the service of the Church.” Crucial to this effort was the American Revolution, which promised Catholics the religious freedom that had been lacking not only in England but the New World; as a boy in the mid-1700s Carroll had been forced to study in France because of the anti-Catholicism in America. After the Revolution, Carroll celebrated that “the fullest & largest system of toleration is adopted in almost all the American states: publick protection & encouragement are extended alike to all denominations & [Roman Catholics] are members of Congress, assemblies, & hold civil and military posts as well as others.”

Georgetown grew in stature under the leadership of Patrick Healy, a Jesuit who was president of the school from 1873 to 1882 and raised the resources to build Healy Hall, the Flemish Romanesque-style building that is Georgetown’s major tourist attraction. The School of Foreign Service was founded in 1919 by Edmund Walsh, another Jesuit. Walsh would go to Russia in 1922 to help provide famine relief, and he returned a dedicated anticommunist who wrote influential books and advised Presidents.

In the later part of the 20th century Georgetown became home to Jesuits who were more liberal—that is to say, Jesuits who may have pushed the envelope a bit with theological speculation, but who had no wish to overturn Western culture and the Catholic Church itself. Such a man was Father Thomas King, after whom William Blatty named the Father King Society. Fr. King (1929-2009) wrote books on Sartre, Thomas Merton, and the somewhat controversial Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, and opposed war and the death penalty. He was pro-life, founding the Georgetown group Faculty of Life, and initiated an 11:15 pm nightly Mass at Georgetown’s Dahlgren Chapel.

Yet starting in the 1970s, Georgetown, along with other universities, became infected with political correctness. A key figure was James Slevin, who founded the Georgetown University Writing Center and served three terms as the English department chairman. Under Slevin, the English department began teaching deconstruction, colonialism, queer theory, comic books, and other faddish literary courses. His views are summarized in a paper he once delivered, “Educating for Justice”:

I should begin by confessing a few psychological disorders. I am more concerned about injustice than justice. More than that, because I am interested in injustice, I sometimes worry that people interested in justice are trying to change the subject—trying to distract me. My paranoia is pervasive. I worry that these same people want to talk about diversity because they don’t want to talk about racism; they want to talk about multiculturalism because they want to avoid talking about colonialism and neo-colonialism; they want to talk about the cultivation of private virtue because they don’t want to think about systemic oppression.

I was hired into Georgetown’s English department in the mid-1990s, and in 1996 department chairman Slevin decided to change the requirements for majors. Whereas English majors were once required to study Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer, works from Old Middle English, the Renaissance, and the Restoration, now they would have three categories to choose from: Literature and Literary Theory; Studies in Culture and Performance; and Studies in Writing: Rhetoric, Genre, and Form. Literature and Literary Theory was the last bastion of traditional literature; Studies in Writing explored deconstructionism and other academic fads; and Studies in Culture and Performance will, as one professor told a campus newspaper, "include the study of anything that aids in the construction or representation of cultural values like race, gender, and sexuality."  One afternoon in the English department, I watched as one professor told another, “the revolution is going to start right here.” When I expressed doubt about a conference on “Queering the Middle Ages,” I was told that eventually I would be won “to the devil’s side.”

Georgetown today is not traditional Georgetown, or even the more liberal Georgetown of the twentieth-century Jesuits. Today Georgetown is a university run by left-wing radicals, teaching some very bright and friendly students who oftentimes don’t know what hit them. Seduced by the brochures featuring glossy pictures of brick archways and Jesuits in deep thought, students arrive only to wind up in the classroom of someone like James Slevin. I left Georgetown in 1996—I had wanted to be an English professor, but had no desire to queer the Middle Ages or anything else—and didn’t return until 2008, when I was hired to teach a summer course in journalism. In the time that had passed, the requirements for the English major at the university had been deconstructed even further.

But perhaps most heartbreaking is the loss of Georgetown’s spiritual charism, as William Blatty’s indictment shows. In the eighteenth century, John Carroll came to the town of Georgetown with the dream of building a university that would educate young people in the Ratio Studiorum, but also, and perhaps more importantly, allow Carroll, in a country that was still largely anti-Catholic, the freedom to fully express and practice his faith. Traditional Catholics, classical scholars, and even students with basic common sense today find themselves as outnumbered as Archbishop Carroll was over two hundred years ago, but the forces opposing today’s faithful are on the campus itself. In 2001 students started Jesuit Heritage Week, an annual festival whose putative purpose is to celebrate Georgetown’s noble pedigree. You’ll find on the website announcements for programs about Jesuits and education, Jesuits and Opera, and a volleyball game with members of the Society of Jesus, but unlisted are the events which comprise the majority of the events: Protestant services, Muslim outreach, a speech by pro-abortion politician Mark Shriver, and, of course, “Jesuits and LGTB: Being Queer at Georgetown.” When constructing their Potemkin village, the radicals at America’s oldest Catholic university know which façade to show. 

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Critic's Notebook for January 5, 2015

by Christine Emba

Posted: Jan 05, 2015 08:59 PM


 

Trevor Winkfield, Sketch for Peter Gizzi, detail (2012)

Sign up to receive “Critic's Notebook” in your inbox every Monday—it only takes a few seconds and it's completely free! “Critic's Notebook” is a weekly preview of the best to read, see, and hear in New York and beyond, compiled by the editors of The New Criterion.

This week: Newspeak, Bushwick, and sopranos in the library.

FictionThe Long Green Shore, by John Hepworth (Text Classics): The Australian author and National Review contributor John Hepworth (1921–1995) wrote this war novel in 1947, shortly after his own experiences fighting in World War II in the Middle East and New Guinea, but it was not published until 1995, right before his death. His novel focuses on the fighting against the Japanese in New Guinea in early 1945, and Hepworth writes touchingly about a devastating period of the twentieth century. This new edition includes an introduction by acclaimed New Zealand author Lloyd Jones. –RH

Nonfiction: The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams, by Phyllis Lee Levin (Palgrave): Sixth president John Q. Adams was not only ‘The Greatest Traveler of His Age,’ but his country’s most gifted linguist and most experienced diplomat. Adams’s world encompassed the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the early and late Napoleonic Age, and his life and achievements are worth revisiting. Using the expansive Adams family papers, Levin illuminates the early life and career of this oft-overlooked figure. CE

Poetry: “Trevor Winkfield’s Pageant” at the Poetry Foundation (January 6 –March 13): This week, we send you to Chicago. Trevor Winkfield is a painter, writer, and translator who for several decades has collaborated with many poets of the New York School. An exhibition at the Poetry Foundation will show the original designs of Winkfield’s book covers for such poets as Charles North, Miles Champion, and Larry Fagin, together with limited-edition books done in collaboration with Harry MathewsJohn Ashbery, and Kenward Elmslie. The exhibition is presented in collaboration with Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York.  –RH

Art: Bushwick openings (Monday, January 5th & onward): This weekend looks like a good time to pay a visit to Bushwick, with several exhibitions set to open across the neighborhood. Especially strong prospects include “Gary Petersen: Not Now, But Maybe Later” at Theodore: Art, “Working Knowledge: A Group Exhibition” at Lorimoto, “3 WHO 3D: New and Recent Sculptures by Michael Ballou, Shari Mendelson, and Kurt Steger” at Valentine Gallery, the opening of a new Brooklyn venue for the alternative gallery empire Tiger Strikes Asteroid, and a one week flash exhibition of small works by eighty artists curated by Julie Torres at Momenta Art—JP

Music: Angela Meade at the Morgan Library (Sunday, January 11th): Angela Meade, one of America's fastest-rising sopranos, will present an intimate recital at the Morgan Library as part of the George London Foundation's annual recital series. On Sunday she will sing works by Meyerbeer, Strauss, Mozart, and Verdi, with Danielle Orlando at the piano. She will be joined by another recent London Award winner, the baritone Nicholas Pallesen. ECS

Other“The Drift of U.S. Foreign Policy and Challenges to Western Survival (Saturday, January 10th): As part of its November conference on the 50th anniversary of the publication of James Burnham's Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism, Yale University’s William F. Buckley Jr. Program hosted a panel entitled "The Drift of U.S. Foreign Policy and the Challenges to Western Survival." Panelists included James Kirchick, fellow at the Foreign Policy Initiative, KT McFarland, national security analyst for Fox News, and author Ibn Warraq, moderated by Charles Hill, diplomat in residence and lecturer in International Studies at Yale University. For those who were unable to attend the conference, a video of the panel will be airing this weekend on Book TV. CE

From the archive: The god within?, by Eric Ormsby: On Harold Bloom’s view of what constitutes the best of American religious poetry.

From our latest issue: A lesson in Newspeak, by Daniel Hannan: A damaging semantic shift.

 

 

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Hilary at the Phil.

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Dec 29, 2014 01:39 PM


Hilary Hahn; photo by Michael Patrick O'Leary

In my upcoming “chronicle” for the magazine, I have a note on a New York Philharmonic concert, guest-conducted by Jaap van Zweden. Actually, I have notes on two such concerts. My chronicle is Van Zweden-heavy.

On one of the concerts was a soloist, whom I do not mention. She was Hilary Hahn—always worth mentioning. I’ll give her her due here.

With Van Zweden and the Philharmonic, she played Korngold’s Violin Concerto. Let me go on a detour for a second (just a slight detour).

Several weeks ago, I wrote an essay for National Review in which I talked about the ephemerality of music criticism. Music criticism is a branch of journalism, and almost all journalism, of course, is ephemeral. “It’s fish wrap by Friday.” As my colleague Rick Brookhiser points out, the very word “day” is in “journalism”: jour.

Anyway, I said in this essay that practically no lines of music criticism have survived. I could think of two, really, off the top of my head. Can you sing them along with me?

James Huneker found Emma Eames cold as Aida: “There was skating on the Nile last night.” And Irving Kolodin tagged the above-mentioned violin concerto as “more corn than gold.” Ha ha.

Before they emerged from the wings to play the concerto, I had a worry: Hilary Hahn and Jaap van Zweden are super-disciplined types. Would they be too disciplined for the Korngold? This concerto requires bloom, “give,” and liberality—even doses of schmaltz. Would these rigorous musicians be willing to deliver? Put another way, would they be willing to give in?

When Hahn took the stage, orchestra members clapped for her. This told you something. They know—they know she is great. (Did I just use the G-word? I did, consciously, and have about this woman for years.)

The Korngold Concerto has an often-botched beginning. It is hard to coordinate, between soloist and orchestra. These performers handled it perfectly. Throughout the first movement, Hahn phrased beautifully, thought beautifully. She was occasionally a little stiff and occasionally a little flat. When she was flat, it tended to be on high notes. Her violin reminded me of a soprano.

Was Emma Eames flat, as she sang her (allegedly) frosty Aida? Can’t say.

In this first movement, I would have appreciated more bloom, more give, more abandon, from both the soloist and the conductor. But they were plenty Romantic. They did not throw cold water on Korngold.

When she began her part of the middle movement—the Romance—Hahn was very inward, private. This was effective. And she played the rest of this remarkable movement with a similar intelligence.

At the beginning of the Finale, violinist and orchestra were surprisingly not-together. The playing was a little slapdash. Discipline had not been my worry about Hahn and Van Zweden, believe me! But they soon got themselves together.

I happen to like this movement a little more demonic than they played it—not dark-demonic but bright-demonic, or merry-demonic. Still, this was a very satisfying Korngold Concerto.

If Hahn lacks one thing in this piece, it is this: the fat, lush tone. Hers tends to be thinner. It is not the worst failing—and far from a deal-breaker—but it is a failing, or at least a drawback.

Like most people in the hall, probably, I hoped she would play an encore, and I hoped it would be Bach. (Hahn is one of the best Bach musicians—of any type—in the world.) It really should have been in D major, the key of the concerto. But there is no D-major Bach for unaccompanied violin, so far as I’m aware. There is D minor.

Hahn came out with something in E major, which was jarring to the ear at first—we had bathed in D major for a half-hour or so. But she played her bit from this partita so well, it mattered not at all. Some orchestra members beamed at her as she played. They know.

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Make your gift before the new year!

Posted: Dec 23, 2014 12:46 PM


The year may be winding down, but there is still time to make your gift and receive a tax deduction for 2014! Donations of any size are most welcome, as every contribution helps us to maintain the robust network of support that we need to make The New Criterion a thriving presence in America's cultural discussion. 

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A Look Inside the Anti-Police Protest Movement

by James Piereson

Posted: Dec 23, 2014 11:24 AM


Many of the supporters and enablers of the anti-police protest movement of recent months have insisted that it is overwhelmingly a peaceful movement largely made up of idealistic reformers and members of minority communities. They insist that it is not a “radical” movement with an animus against either the police or middle class society. That narrative has been undercut by the tragic shooting of two New York City Police officers last week and by a march in New York City a few days before that during which protesters chanted, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now.” 

There was another protest event on the Brooklyn Bridge a few weeks ago that should have been taken as a signal that the movement was spinning out of control from peaceful marches into violent confrontations with police.  That event, along the arrests that followed, gives us a window into the inner character of the protest movement.

On the evening of December 13, several hundred supporters of the movement marched across the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan for the purpose of staging protests at City Hall and other locations in the City.  During that march across the walkway of the Bridge, one protestor picked up a garbage can and tried to throw it out on to the adjacent roadway and into the path of automobile traffic.  Two police officers intervened to stop the man and to place him under arrest.  At this moment, at least six other protestors came to the aid of their comrade, knocking the officers to the ground and then kicking and slugging them into submission. One officer suffered a broken nose in the melee. The assailants escaped into the night, but not before several witnesses used smart phones to film the attack.  Police also recovered the backpack of the man who started the incident by trying to throw the garbage can on to the roadway.

Armed with this evidence, the NYPD was able to apprehend three men and two women on felony and misdemeanor charges in connection with the incident.   At least two of the protesters sought in the incident are still at large. The biographies of the individuals who were caught are revealing:

Cindy Gorn, 29, charged with assault, rioting, and resisting arrest, is a graduate student at Columbia University and a professor teaching courses in geography at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY.  According to the College’s website, Ms. Gorn studies geography from the perspective of Marxist philosophy, and is also interested in “social movements, autonomous labor movements, health, and the environment.” She is also a “healing arts practitioner.”  She teaches one course titled, “Mapping the World:  Critical Cartography and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) for Social and Environmental Justice,” in which she uses maps to demonstrate to students “the inherent contradictions of capitalist society.”  She also teaches at Hunter College, Columbia University, and Barnard College.

Erik Linkser, 29, who began the incident by throwing the garbage can onto the roadway, was charged with assault, rioting, resisting arrest, criminal possession of a weapon, and possession of marijuana.  Mr. Linkser is an English professor at Baruch College in New York City where he teaches courses in writing and composition. He also teaches writing courses at Queens College. He holds degrees in English from the University of Iowa, and studied for a time at Harvard University. He writes and publishes poetry, including one interesting number that goes like this: “F--- the police/To rise as you/Disappear below current/Interpretations of observations/F--- the police!”

Zachary Campbell, 32, charged with riot and resisting arrest, is a Spanish instructor, graduate student, and “Transliteratures Fellow” at Rutgers University. 

Marcia Garcia, 36, Campbell’s estranged wife, was similarly charged with riot and resisting arrest.  She is a program coordinator at the Queens Museum of Art and up until last year worked as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

Robert Murray, 43, is charged with various counts of riot, assault, and resisting arrest that could easily land him in jail for a lengthy term.  According to press reports, he tackled and slugged a police officer during the melee, breaking the officer’s nose. Murray is an organizer for the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) New York City, where (according to press reports) he is paid $105,000 per year. Murray was also a protester with Occupy Wall Street, and has been arrested during protests in the past, including once while demonstrating against the Republican National Convention in 2004. 

The profiles of these individuals speak volumes about the real character of the protest movement.  Three of the attackers are teachers, professors, and graduate students at colleges and universities in the Metropolitan area, in which capacity they transmit their radical views to students and colleagues.  One is a union organizer and professional protestor—a “union thug” or “enforcer” in the description of more than one local newspaper. The fifth, the estranged wife of another assailant, is a museum administrator who has held jobs in two of the top art institutions in the City. 

It appears that all are ideological radicals, opposed not only to the police but to “capitalism,” business, and middle class society.  Their goal is revolution, not reform, and judging by this incident they are not shy about employing violence to get their way.

All five are highly educated, mostly with graduate degrees.  They have passed muster with academic advisors and committees that have approved their degrees.  Other academics have proceeded to hire them to go into the classroom to instruct students. In that sense, their political views reflect those of a significant slice of the higher education industry in New York City and nationwide. 

All are white or “Caucasian,” not members of the minority communities that are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the protest movement. As highly educated teachers or “activists,” they are posing as “tribunes of the people.”  

The collective biography of these individuals gives the lie to the claim that protest movement is some kind of peaceful and moderate enterprise devoted to “opening up a dialogue” or discussing practical reforms in police methods. It is a movement that has dragged in all sorts of disreputable elements that want to bring about chaos and cause as much trouble as they can not only for the police but for the rest of us as well. 

No doubt when they were brought to police headquarters, the five who were charged in the incident assumed that they would depart and be greeted with a heroes welcome by comrades in their movement. The killing of the two police officers last week has upset that expectation.  Now they can be seen more clearly as the bums that they are.  

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Critic's Notebook for December 22, 2014

by Christine Emba

Posted: Dec 22, 2014 05:55 PM


 

Piazza D'Italia con Cavallo, by Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

Sign up to receive “Critic's Notebook” in your inbox every Monday—it only takes a few seconds and it's completely free! “Critic's Notebook” is a weekly preview of the best to read, see, and hear in New York and beyond, compiled by the editors of The New Criterion.

Dear readers,

Whether you’re a longtime subscriber or just joined us yesterday, we hope that you have enjoyed our recommendations for the best in culture each week. As the year draws to a close, consider showing your support for The Critic’s Notebook by making a donation to The New Criterion. Throughout our thirty-third season, our online supporters have been crucial to sustaining TNC as an incisive and intelligent voice in today’s intellectual debate. Your donations will allow us to continue on in our mission to chronicle and critique the best in arts and culture today.

This week: Inventive fiction, malignant unions, and holiday cheer.

FictionHow to be both: A Novel, by Ali Smith (Pantheon): Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Smith’s inventive double novel deals with moral questions, gender issues, the value of art, the mutability of time, and a number of other important questions. Two books coexist under the same title, each presenting largely the same material arranged differently and with different emphases—one version is narrated by an adolescent character mourning the death of her mother after a trip to Italy, where they viewed a painting by the obscure Renaissance artist Francesco del Cossa, and the other narrated from the past by Francesco himself. Both views are captivating, challenging, and often puzzling, exemplifying the versatility of the novel as a literary form. CE

Nonfiction: Waterloo: A New History, by Gordon Corrigan (Pegasus): After twenty-three years in battle, at some points displaying signs of sheer military brilliance, Napoleon lost everything at Waterloo. Before the battle, Napoleon reckoned “the English are bad troops and this affair is nothing more that eating breakfast.” Wellington, his allies, and the Prussians proved Napoleon to be very wrong on June 15, 1815 in the battle fought in present-day Belgium. Gordon Corrigan, the member of the British Commission for Military History and a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, revisits this important battle, and shows how the end of Napoleon was just the beginning for Britain’s military dominance in the world. –RH

Poetry: An Interview with Edward Hirsch: The talented poet Edward Hirsch is a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and the current president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Released this fall, Gabriel—a book-length poem about his son’s tragic and untimely death—has received significant critical attention and is now long-listed for the National Book Award. Many recent interviews have focused on Hirsch’s life and grief, but in this one he discusses the poetics of his extraordinary book.  CE

Art:  Four Freedoms Park: Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park opened at the southern tip of New York's Roosevelt Island in late 2012. Yet most of us (myself included) have been slow to make the trek to see one of Louis Kahn final works of architecture, realized nearly forty years after his death. This is a mistake for anyone looking for a contemplative, sea-girt retreat from the bustle of the city. With the austere lines of a de Chirico painting, Kahn's memorial is a work of crystalline modernism, now just a tram ride away from Midtown.  —JP

Music: Twelfth Night Festival (December 26 through January 6): Two weeks in a row for Trinity Wall Street: while other organizations are mostly shuttered between Christmas and the New Year, Trinity's celebration of the season continues with its Twelfth Night Festival. From December 26 to January 6, Trinity will present a rich lineup of musical offerings, both as part of regular church services and as stand-alone ticketed concerts. The programs will present works by Bach, Mozart, Rossini, Haydn, Handel, Rachmaninoff, and others. ECS

OtherGovernment Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences, by Daniel DiSalvo (Oxford University Press): The Republic will last, some sage has written, until a portion of the people realize it can vote itself money from the public purse. The insidious symbiotic relation between public-sector unions, which draw upon the taxpayer’s fisc to fund lavish benefits for its members, and the politicians who are beholden to them, has come close to realizing this destructive scenario. Even FDR warned against allowing public-sector unions, realizing that the conflict of interest they encouraged had the potential to be destructive of the very values they purported to support. In Government Against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences by the Manhattan Institute’s Daniel DiSalvo expertly anatomizes the origin, growth, and malign influence of public-sector (as distinct from private-sector) unions, showing how their unprecedented power in political life constitutes a vivid threat not just to our economic future but to our liberty and the vitality of our democratic institutions.  This is a must-read book for anyone concerned about the future of American prosperity. –RK

From the archive: A prodigy of parody, by John Gross: A review of A Christmas Garland by Max Beerbohm.

From our latest issue: Eliot in full, by Denis Donoghue: A review of The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot: The Critical Edition, Volumes 1 & 2.

 

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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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