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PEOPLE - February 2001

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  • GUITAR LEGEND DIES: John Fahey, the acoustic guitarist who proved that folk music and instrumental virtuosity were not antithetical, has died at the age of 61. Fahey, who revolutionized the world of folk guitar with his complicated steel-string variations, slipped into a coma following open-heart surgery. Nando Times (AP) 02/25/01
  • GREATEST OF THE 20TH? The debate over Igor Stravinsky has always been a fierce one. Was he the greatest composer of the twentieth century, or an overrated, self-promoting musical bully? Did his decision to flee Russia compromise his music, or make it all the more important? With the century officially over, prominent musicians and composers are weighing in. Los Angeles Times 02/25/01
  • ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Harrison Birtwhistle is everything we envision a composer to be: gruff, hermitlike, and dressed like a poverty-stricken professor at a liberal arts school, right down to the tweed jackets. Maybe that predictability is why he is so often forgotten among modern composers. But get beyond the outward appearance, and Birtwhistle reveals himself to be one of the most consistent, and consistently good, composers of the last hundred years. The Sunday Times 02/25/01
  • FILLING IN THE GAPS: Charles Mingus was one of the great innovators of jazz, and has been written about, studied, and copied extensively. But until quite recently, little was known about the early output of the great bassist. A new recording reveals that Mingus was a rabblerouser from the very beginning, bending existing forms of jazz to suit the inimitable style that the world would come to know as his. Chicago Sun-Times 02/25/01

Saturday February 24

  • SURREALISM OR PORN? The painter Balthus, who died recently at age 92, presents a problem for fans of his breathtaking surrealist work. While Balthus was certainly an innovator, and perhaps a genius, he also had a disquieting habit of painting prepubescent girls in nude and near-nude poses that would make most people more than a little uncomfortable. Balthus claimed that there was nothing sexual in the images, but many continue to regard him as little better than a highbrow Larry Flynt. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/24/01
  • THE LAND OF OZ: Israeli writer Amos Oz is a respected and controversial political commentator, as well as a successful novelist. But drawing the line between his worlds of fiction and reality is growing more and more difficult as the Middle East heats up once again. The Independent (London) 02/24/01

Friday February 23

  • POSTHUMOUS CITIZENSHIP FOR HIKMET: Turkey's most prominent poet of the 20th century, Nazim Hikmet, died in exile in 1963, stripped of his citizenship. Now a movement to restore that citizenship is being pushed by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. "Nazim is known around the world. He doesn't need this recognition, but the Turkish republic does." Not everyone agrees; several nationalist politicians are fighting the idea. The Guardian (London) 02/22/01

Wednesday February 21

  • BEING LIKE BING: How to explain the phenomenon of Bing Crosby? He was more than a simple pop singer or movie star. "The emotions that Crosby elicited did not seem inherent so much in him as in his audience and their lives. He touched on the feeling latent in every common recurrence, Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, each season in its turn" New York Review of Books 03/08/01

Tuesday February 20

  • KRAMER GONE: Stanley Kramer, the famed director of "High Noon," "Judgment at Nuremberg," and "Inherit the Wind," has died in a hospital near Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia. He was 87. New York Times (AP) 02/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • BRA-BURNING DEEMED TOO CALLOUS: Greece has announced that it will not be burning the undergarments of opera star Maria Callas that it acquired at auction recently. The plan to incinerate the diva's unmentionables so as to preserve her honor met with sharp criticism, and government officials have decided instead to stash them away in a safe. Nando Times (AP) 02/19/01

Monday February 19

  • BALTHUS DEAD AT 92: French-born painter Balthus, considered one of the 20th century's finest realist painters, has died in his home at Rossiniere in Switzerland." The New York Times 02/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • MORRISON AT 70: Writer Toni Morrison turns 70 and her friend turn up for a party. "Even at 70, Morrison continues to astonish her readers with a lyrical agility and a grasp of imagery so keen they seem to constitute a language of their own." Washington Post 02/19/01

Sunday February 18

  • MICHAEL GRAVES WINS GOLD MEDAL: Architect Michael Graves wins the coveted Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects. "Graves is a ranking member of an exclusive club of famous architects whose services are in constant demand. There is no definitive membership list, nor an established set of standards to get in. It takes a combination of talent, vision, ambition, discipline, savvy, a sense of timing, and sheer luck." Washington Post 02/17/01
  • MR OPERA DEAD: Opera impressario Boris Goldovsky has died at the ge of 92. "Mr. Goldovsky himself, and then his students, fundamentally changed the nature of operatic performance in this country and the public perception of the art. In his hands, it was not an exotic and irrational entertainment, but the most precise, inclusive, accessible, and communicative of the performing arts." Boston Globe 02/17/01

Thursday February 15

  • PATRON SAINT: Investor Alberto Vilar, the world’s most generous individual patron of ballet and opera, says his latest gift - $50 million to the Kennedy Center - "kills two birds with one stone. It isn't just about putting on wonderful performances. It's about doing something to build skills in the world of arts management – to start an international institute where the future heads of organizations like the Kennedy Center can learn all the aspects of running a house." New York Times 2/15/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • "DOT PAINTER" DIES: Australian painter Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, who popularized the Aboriginal "dot painting" style, died Monday at age 75. During his lifetime, his work fetched the highest prices ever paid for an indigenous painting. The Age (Melbourne) 2/15/01
  • TODAY'S BIBLICAL SIGN OF ARMAGEDDON: Luciano Pavarotti has announced his intention to aggressively pursue the opportunity to duet with Madonna. Yes, that Madonna. But he's not getting his hopes up. "I have asked her but she has been busy - first she makes the baby and then, I don't know." BBC 02/15/01
  • A WALKING CONTRADICTION: Arthur Erickson has been hailed as a visionary, and derided as pompous and out-of-touch. He has lived high on the hog, and lost everything. He has built architectural wonders for use as low-income housing, and designed a grand concert hall widely considered to be the ugliest and most acoustically inferior in North America. In fact, it is the inconsistency of the man that makes him so interesting. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/15/01

Wednesday February 14

  • INVALID VALEDICTORY: You may have seen a poem identified as the "farewell letter" of Gabriel García Márquez circulating on the Internet. It's poignant, because García Márquez has lymphatic cancer. It's galling, because he didn't write it. "[N]ot once during his long and distinguished literary career has Gabriel García Márquez ever written poetry." Brill's Content 02/09/01
  • RUSHDIE STILL THREATENED: The edict threatening the life of Salman Rushdie seemed to fade for a few years. Now a hardline Iranian newspaper is again calling for Rushdie's murder. "The daily said in an editorial that Rushdie's move to the United States would make his killing easier.... [T]he country's main military force issued a statement saying the death sentence against Rushdie still stands." Salon (AP) 01/13/01

Tuesday February 14

  • THE DU PRE TRADE: Cellist Jaqueline du Pre seems to hold endless fascination, even years after her death. "Endlessly recycled images of her gilded youth and wheelchair-bound decline symbolise the malign power of the illness that killed her. Meanwhile, the furore unleashed by her siblings' memoir and its consequent film – painful truth or grotesque travesty? – rages on." And now a new documentary (an answering documentary to the "Hilary and Jackie" movie, perhaps?) examines her life again. The Independent (London) 02/13/01
  • BOND MADE SHAM ART SALES: Fallen Australian business tycoon Alan Bond evidently managed to sell millions of dollars-worth of his art collection in the early 1990s as his business empire was collapsing. The sales were a sham, say prosecutors and were arranged through a complicated web of offshore businesses. The Australian 02/13/01

Monday February 12

  • SERIOUS AT SEVENTY: Pianist Alfred Brendel is turning 70 and embarking on a grand birthday tour. He is considered to be a the top of his powers but his writings and pronouncements on music are...a little too serious for some. New Criterion 02/12/01

Sunday February 11

  • REMEMBERING HEIFETZ 100 YEARS LATER: "Jasha Heifetz - the father of modern virtuoso violin playing - has had a powerful influence on practically every violinist. He single-handedly changed the standard of violin playing forever.'' Miami Herald 02/11/01
  • THE MAKING OF A LEGEND: Edward Albee was proclaimed a genius early in his career, then knocked down until his success in 1991 with "Three Tall Women." Now he can do no wrong. "Why this change of critical heart came about, I'm not quite sure. Perhaps it's because there's a new team of reviewers in place, guys who do not have a vested interest in demanding that Albee repeat the much-admired 'Virginia Woolf' ad nauseam." New York Post 02/11/01
  • LIFE BEYOND CONDUCTING: Esa Pekka Salonen just took a sabbatical from his job as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He's coy about his future: "Does the star conductor of the 82-year-old orchestra, one of the most sought-after guest conductors in the world today, mentioned as a candidate to head any major orchestra in need of a music director - in short, one of the great hopes of classical music - does he mean to say that he's giving up conducting?" Orange County Register 02/11/01

Friday February 9

  • ANOTHER FAREWELL: Dancer/choreographer Pauline Koner is dead at the age of 88. Koner was one of the dance world's great outsiders, an iconoclast who never studied modern dance formally, but became one of its leading proponents by combining aspects of multiple styles, from classical ballet to Spanish folk dance. The New York Times 02/09/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Thursday February 8

  • ANNE MORROW LINDBERG DIES: Anne Morrow Lindberg, the writer and wife of Charles Lindberg died Wednesday at age 94. She was the author of more than two dozen books of prose and poetry, including five volumes of diaries. Her 1955 book "Gift from the Sea" was a phenomenal international success. New York Times 2/08/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Wednesday February 7

  • NURSING MATISSE: She was Matisse's nurse for a year and had dreams of a career in design. He used her as a model, and, when he saw her drawings, offered to teach her. But Arokas passed up the chance to become Matisse's only pupil. After a year in his fascinating but restrictive company, the lure of the big city was again too much. 'I wanted to revel in my youth and to join a fashion school - silly girlish things'." The Telegraph (London) 02/07/01
  • FINDING FREEDOM: Nobel Prize Laureate Gao Xingjian ("Soul Mountain") hailed Taiwan in a speech there this week for its support of artistic expression - unlike Hong Kong, where he said he felt "embarrassed" by the territory's lack of freedom. "He called Taiwan the only Chinese community in the world where culture and arts were fully respected." Xingjian’s work has been condemned by the Chinese government, and he has lived as an exile in France since 1988. China Times 2/07/01

Tuesday February 6

  • A WORN-OUT WELCOME: It seems Australians have had enough of Robert Hughes. The tides of public opinion have turned against the once-revered art critic ever since his May 1999 traffic accident, and his vitriolic outbursts that followed. "Whereas only two years ago his name was almost universally spoken with deep respect, he now seems to be torn asunder at every turn." Sydney Morning Herald 2/06/01
  • DEATH OF A TRAILBLAZER: The man who made the trombone a legitimate jazz instrument, and became one of post-war America's most important ambassadors of bebop, has apparently committed suicide. J.J. Johnson was 77. The New York Times 02/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • SPIEGELMAN'S ART: No one has done more for the cause of the serious comic book than Art Spiegelman. The 53-year-old author/artist behind Maus, the chilling narrative of the Holocaust in comic book form, has gained legitimacy and fame from his Pulitzer Prize and the continued rise of the form. His latest work, however, is aimed squarely at a more traditional comic book audience: children.  CBC 02/04/01

Monday February 5

  • XENAKIS DIES: Iannis Xenakis, the Greek-French composer whose highly complex scores were based on sophisticated scientific and mathematical theories, died yesterday at his home in Paris. He was 78. The New York Times 02/05/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • IS MIME OLD-FASHIONED? Mime Marcel Marceau is 78. "He looks as if the craggy head of Methuselah was attached to a 20 year-old's lithe body. In speech and gesture, a child's exuberance alternates with sad wisdom. This is as it should be, for Marceau defines everything through contrast." Irish Times 02/05/01
  • FIGHTING DEPORTATION: A violist with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in Ontario is appealing a government ruling that would send him and his family back to their native Albania. The violist claims that he is in imminent danger from the Albanian government, and the orchestra is backing him. CBC 02/02/01

Sunday February 4

  • MODEL ENTREPRENEUR: 88-year-old Donald Seawell worked as a counter-intelligence agent, wrote speaches fpr Roosevelt and Truman, produced Broadway plays and published the Denver Post. Last season he took considerable risks to produce a 12-hour production of "Tantalus" that drew theatre lovers from all over the world. Now he's helped bring the production to London... The Guardian (London) 02/03/01
  • MASTER TEACHER: Few people outside the world of classical music have heard of 82-year-old Maria Curcio, but within that world she's a legend: as Artur Schnabel's favourite pupil, as the muse of Rafael Orozco and Radu Lupu, and as a tutelary goddess second to none. Her verdict on Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, with whom she once duetted in concert, would get that lady's lawyers scurrying for a writ; likewise, kindness prevents my repeating her damning view of one of today's celebrated young stars in the pianistic firmament." The Independent (London) 02/03/01
  • SAVED BY THE PRIZE: Matthew Kneale was struggling as a writer before he won the Whitbread awrd last week. "If the novel had sunk without trace, it would have been a body blow, both financial and psychological, from which he might never have recovered. Now suddenly he is soaring. On such happy accidents - or bold gambles, depending which way you look at it - careers turn." The Telegraph (London) 02/03/01

Friday February 2

  • GAO IN CHINA: The Chinese Writers' Association has denounced the Nobel committee for choosing writer Gao Xingjian for this year's literature prize, charging the move was politically motivated. Gao became the first Chinese-language Nobel literature laureate in the award's 100-year history. Gao says even though his books are banned in China it is not difficult to find copies of his books on the mainland. Since leaving China in 1988, Gao has lived in exile in France. China Times (Taiwan) 02/02/01
  • LEARNING ON THE JOB: Itzhak Perlman will begin a new career path this fall, when he becomes Principal Guest Conductor of the Detroit Symphony. He is hardly the first high-profile soloist to make the leap to the podium - Bobby McFerrin in St. Paul and Mstislav Rostropovich in Washington both caused controversy when they decided to try waving the baton on a semi-full time basis. A Perlman guest stint in San Francisco reveals much about what he has learned already, and what he has yet to grasp. San Francisco Chronicle 02/02/01

Thursday February 1

  • IT'S NOT OVER 'TIL... Luciano Pavarotti is getting older, and speculation about his retirement from the operatic stage is rampant. Many critics are viewing his current stint as Radames in Verdi's "Aida" as his Met Opera swan song. While Pavarotti will undoubtedly continue to pack concert halls and stadiums, his voice can simply no longer hold up against the rigors of a fully staged, 4-hour opera performance. Ottawa Citizen (AP), 02/01/01