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This week: Barenboim does Bruckner & a book on Balanchine
Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena, edited by Michael C. Desch (University of Notre Dame Press): The diminishing of America’s once mighty class of opinion makers has become, in different circles, a matter of either public concern or celebration in the months since the presidential election. While brief takes on “fake news,” “post-fact” journalism, and the dominance of social media have justifiably become a mainstay on the pages of many periodicals, the Notre Dame political scientist Michael C. Desch deserves credit for presenting a longer view of the phenomenon in Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena. The upcoming book, which is subtitled “Professors or Pundits?,” is a collection of essays about the historic role of experts in curating public knowledge, written by both supporters and skeptics of these influential figures. If Desch’s purpose in composing the book is to spur considered thinking among readers on both sides of the issue, he’ll likely find success; an essay on Reinhold Niebuhr, for example, praises the prolific religious luminaries who once held the public ear, while another piece about scientists in the public eye condemns the politicization of complex subjects by fame-seeking researchers. —MU
Bruckner Symphony Cycle at Carnegie Hall (through January 29): Over the weekend, Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin began an epic project at Carnegie Hall, presenting the complete Bruckner symphonies over a series of nine concerts, many paired with works by Mozart. This week, they get into the real meat of the set, beginning with the brilliant Fourth, “Romantic,” on Monday night. The other highlight of this week, in my mind, is Friday’s program, which will couple the blissful Seventh with Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. —ECS
Balanchine Teaching, by Nancy Lassalle and Suki Schorer (Eakins Press): George Balanchine came to co-found the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet through one of those grand twentieth-century odysseys. Trained in what was then the Imperial Ballet School of Saint Petersburg, he fled the Bolsheviks for Paris where he became Ballet Master in the final years of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Finally, after a turn in Hollywood, he came New York, where he set about teaching American dancers classical technique infused with Modernist sensibility. Through fourteen rare photographs taken by Nancy Lassalle in 1961, Balanchine Teaching finds the master in the center of his classroom leading a professional workshop for American dance instructors. Paired with concise commentary by the legendary dancer and teacher Suki Schorer, the book follows Balanchine through the discipline of daily exercises at the barre, the execution of the plié, the tilt of the head in épaulement, and the importance of the fifth position to a body’s vertical center. “Balanchine’s choreography, he made clear, came from the music,” writes Schorer, “But the capabilities of his dancers to dance as he wanted came from his classes.” The publication, by the non-profit Eakins Press, was originally intended for limited “portfolio” run, but interest has now led to an additional paperback edition. Good thing, because the book is a must-have for anyone who wants a primer on the depth of ballet culture that Balanchine carried with him and all that he was able to share. —JP
“Greek Tragedy in the Modern World” at the 92nd Street Y (January 26): Readers of The New Criterion are unlikely to doubt the relevance of Greek drama to modern life, and yet one can never have too many reminders—particularly from the mouths of top-tier classicists. This Thursday, James Romm of Bard College will lecture on the timelessness of ancient tragedy at an afternoon gathering at the 92nd Street Y. Romm, who recently published a new translation of sixteen plays by Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides, is well positioned to teach an audience how to discern the living substance within these playwrights’ works. —MU
From the archive: “Reflections on the history of ‘Partisan Review’ ” by Hilton Kramer: On A Partisan Century: Political Writings from Partisan Review, edited by Edith Kurzweil.
From the current issue: “The Italian job” by David Pryce-Jones: On the Italian referendum and the unraveling of Europe.
Broadcast: Anthony Daniels & James Panero on Good and Evil in the Garden of Art: Anthony Daniels discusses his latest book of essays with New Criterion Executive Editor James Panero.