June 30, 2009
"Critics, as they are birds of prey, have ever a natural inclination to carrion."
Alexander Pope, letter to William Wycherley, Dec. 26, 1704
Posted June 30, 2009 12:00 AM
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5939 entries and counting
A list of new things we've liked (subject to unexpected and wildly capricious updating). MUSICAL CD PLAY EXHIBITION CD
Not new, but still worth a look or listen (and no less subject to change without notice). ANTHOLOGY CD
This is a blog about the arts in New York City and the rest of America, written by Terry Teachout, Laura Demanski (otherwise known as Our Girl in Chicago, or "OGIC" for short), and Carrie Frye (who signs her postings "CAAF"). Terry, who lives in New York, is the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal and the chief culture critic of Commentary.
Terry's latest book, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, will be published in December by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the U.S. and JR Books in England. One of his essays is included in Robert Gottlieb's Reading Dance, published last year by Pantheon. He contributed an essay to Coudal Partners' Field-Tested Books (as did OGIC) and wrote the introductions to William Bailey on Canvas and the paperback edition of Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado.
To watch Terry's wsj.com review of Guys and Dolls, go here.
Terry is collaborating with Paul Moravec on The Letter, an operatic version of Somerset Maugham's 1927 play. It was commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera and will open there on July 25, 2009. Here is an ongoing series of progress reports on the writing and production of The Letter.
Lend me your ears (and eyes)
Men at work
Men at work (II)
Men at work (III)
Men at work (IV)
For better and worse
Men at work (V)
Men (and women) at work (VI)
Notes from an unkept diary
The case for lower-case opera
The envelope, please
Right turn at Albuquerque
Men at work (VII)
Scene stealing (I)
Scene stealing (II)
Becoming an artist
In one piece
Among the brethren
By the clock
No, but I heard the movie
The Doctor is in
A doll's house
Free at last
Looking for trouble
Step away from the car, sir
A ripping good show
All blessings are mixed
Almanac (apropos of The Letter, I)
Almanac (apropos of The Letter, II)
Almanac (apropos of The Letter, III)
Tied to the tracks
A very small world
A little taste
Now's the time
Another little taste
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A Minister's Wife (Writers' Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, Ill., closes Aug. 2). Josh Schmidt, Austin Pendleton, and Jan Tranen have teamed up to create a musical version of George Bernard Shaw's Candida that's better than the original. The score is exquisite, the book crisp and pointed, the lyrics plain-spoken yet poignant. The ensemble cast, led by Kevin Gudahl, is excellent in every way, and Michael Halberstam's staging is wonderfully sensitive. A perfect show, in short, one that is surely destined to make its way to New York--but why wait? You'll never see it done better than in Chicagoland (TT).
Emerson String Quartet, Intimate Letters (DGG). Leos Janacek's two quartets, the first inspired by Tolstoy's "Kreutzer Sonata" and the second by his own complex relationship with the married woman who was the muse of his old age, rank high among the masterpieces of modern classical music. Now the Emerson Quartet has recorded its vibrant, incisive interpretations of both works in an album that serves as a perfect companion piece to the group's classic 1988 integral version of the Bartók quartets (TT).
The History Boys (TimeLine Theater, 615 W. Wellington, Chicago, extended through Sept. 27). This Windy City production of Alan Bennett's play about a group of English public-school prodigies and the teacher (Donald Brearley) who loves certain of them not wisely but too well is arguably superior to the original National Theatre production that played on Broadway in 2006, and has the overwhelming advantage of being performed in a very small theater (eighty-seven seats) in which the splendid performances of the ensemble cast can come through with breathtaking clarity. Worth the trip--no matter where you're coming from (TT).
The Collage Aesthetic of Louis Armstrong: "In the Cause of Happiness" (Peter Jay Sharp Arcade, Frederick P. Rose Hall, Broadway at 60th St., up through Sept. 26). Now that a book of Louis Armstrong's collages has been published, a growing number of music lovers are becoming aware that the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century was also a gifted amateur artist who decorated the boxes that held his reel-to-reel tape collection and the walls of his New York home with colorful scissors-and-Scotch-tape assemblages of newspaper and magazine clippings whose freely associational quality recalls the "visionary art" of untrained painters. Jazz at Lincoln Center is currently mounting an exhibition of large-scale reproductions of Armstrong's collages, and a selection of the fragile one-of-a-kind originals will also be on view at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens through July 12. Both shows offer a fascinating glimpse of a little-known aspect of Armstrong's proliferating creativity (TT).
The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946) (Mosaic, seven CDs). Most jazz critics regard the late Twenties and early Thirties as Satchmo's peak years, but a vocal and steadily growing minority begs to differ. This box set will give them plenty of ammunition. Armstrong had simplified and purified his flamboyant style by the time he signed with Decca in 1935, and no apologies of any kind need be made for the recordings he made with his big band and a delightfully wide variety of guest artists, including Sidney Bechet, Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers. Put on "2:19 Blues," "Darling Nellie Gray," "Ev'ntide," "Jodie Man," "Jubilee," "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen," "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," or "Wolverine Blues" and you'll get the point instantly. Many of these 78 sides are comparatively unfamiliar, and all have been digitally remastered to gorgeous effect. Dan Morgenstern's liner notes deserve a Grammy, or maybe a Nobel Prize. This one's a must, and then some (TT).
Out of the Past
Louis Kronenberger (ed.), The Portable Johnson and Boswell. This one's for OGIC, who's teetering on the edge of reading James Boswell's magisterial but long-winded Life of Samuel Johnson. In 1955 Louis Kronenberger abridged Boswell's Life for the Viking Portable series, filling out the volume with a judicious selection of other writings by Johnson and Boswell. This now-forgotten book, which has been out of print for years and years, is an excellent way to experience the Life without braving its occasional longueurs. Used copies are blessedly easy to find (TT).
Fats Waller, Handful of Keys. Every self-respecting record collection needs a generous slice of the collected works of Fats Waller, the stride pianist and comic singer whose 78s can put a smile on the sourest of faces. Proper Records' imported four-CD box set, originally released in 2004 and readily available in this country, contains ninety-five tracks that come about as close as is possible to covering all the Waller-related bases. A few classics are absent, but if you don't know what they are, you won't miss them. Meanwhile, put on "Serenade for a Wealthy Widow" or "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" and see if you don't become happier within seconds. No jazz musician--not even Satchmo himself--has ever succeeded in squeezing more joy into a three-minute package (TT).
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Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Rebuilding Gulf Culture after Katrina
Douglas McLennan's blog
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Martha Bayles on Film...
Drew McManus on orchestra management
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jerome Weeks on Books
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
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Archive 5939 entries and counting
A list of new things we've liked (subject to unexpected and wildly capricious updating).
Not new, but still worth a look or listen (and no less subject to change without notice).