Our weekly recommendations on what to read, see, and hear in the world of culture.
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This week: British Art, British Architecture, and the Scottish Play.
Fiction: Book Launch: The Mandibles, A Family, 2029–2047, by Lionel Shriver, in conversation with Bret Stephens (June 28): Consider this advance, but perhaps not premature, notice—Lionel Shriver has a new novel out, with a book launch to follow at the end of June. Advance but not premature? Only because the event is sure to sell out well ahead of its June 28 date. Shriver will discuss The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047—a near-future survey of a family hobbling through a catastrophic American economic depression—with Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal, no stranger himself to global catastrophe. This is close-hewn dystopia, all too real in a world of negative interest rates and burgeoning trade wars. So mark your calendars for June 28 at DUMBO’s Powerhouse Arena. —BR
Nonfiction: The Age of Empire: Britain’s Imperial Architecture From 1880–1930, by Clive Aslet (Aurum Press): In the year 1876, Queen Victoria added another honorific to her list of titles: Empress of India. According to Clive Aslet, the erstwhile editor of that English “U” bible, Country Life, and a distinguished architectural historian (it’s not all girls in pearls), this crowning marked a shift in Britain: “this symbolic event was followed by the transformation of Britain into the seat of self-consciously imperial power, which was reflected in its architecture.” Aslet explores British imperial architecture at its height in the sumptuously illustrated Age of Empire, which will delight not only for its graphics, but also for its insightful commentary on the ways in which architecture and empire bolstered each other. Look for a review of the book by the famed architectural historian David Watkin in a forthcoming issue of The New Criterion. —BR
Art: The Yale Center for British Art Reopening (May 11, 12, and 14): The magisterial Yale Center for British Art is reopening this week after a year-and-a-half closure and eight-year renovation. Housed in architect Louis I. Kahn’s sublime 1977 museum, both ethereal and (quite literally) concrete, the YCBA contains the most comprehensive collection of British art outside of the United Kingdom thanks to the beneficent connoisseurship of Paul Mellon. The free, public museum will be open with extended hours and tours on Wednesday and Thursday, with a full day of programs and activities set for Saturday. Britain's “island story,” from Elizabeth I to the present, is now even better told as YCBA re-joins the Yale Art Gallery across the street as another reason to visit the world-class museums of Yale University and the revitalizing city of New Haven. The opening exhibitions Modernism and Memory: Rhoda Pritzker and the Art of Collecting (May 11–August 21) and Art in Focus: Relics of Old London (May 11–August 14) are located on the third-floor galleries while landscape gardening enthusiasts will want to pop over to Sterling Memorial Library for Moving Earth: “Capability” Brown, Humphry Repton, and the Creation of the English Landscape, on through June 3. —JP
Music: Yuja Wang at Carnegie Hall (May 14): One of the great performances I’ve had the pleasure to attend in the past few years was Yuja Wang’s solo piano recital at Carnegie Hall, in December of 2014. Defying her reputation as a flashy showoff, Wang gave an exquisite performance, bringing probing insight and earnest feeling to music of Schubert, Liszt, and Scriabin, among others. Writing about the recital for The New Criterion, my colleague Jay Nordlinger remarked, “I’m not sure I have the courage to say how good this piano recital was.” She returns to Carnegie Hall this Saturday with a mature program that includes two Brahms Ballades, Schumann’s Kreisleriana, Beethoven’s majestic “Hammerklavier” Sonata, and no doubt a string of encores. And if you can’t make it out to Carnegie Hall, you can still watch the performance live on medici.tv. —ECS
Theater: Macbeth, at the Old Hat Theatre Company (May 13–28): Writing in our April issue, Kevin Williamson observed that, of the dozens of performances of Shakespeare’s Macbeth that he has attended, “the small-budget performances generally come closer to getting it right.” On Friday, the Old Hat Theatre Company—a troupe with which, I must disclose, I have some history—will begin a two-week run of Shakespeare’s brief but intense tragedy at St. Paul’s Theater in Brooklyn. A stage company devoted to presenting raw performances of classical theater, Old Hat has so far given several productions of Shakespearean plays that eschew the trend of imposing heavy concepts on canonical works, instead allowing the text to speak for itself through vivid performances by its actors. —ECS
By the editors: WQXR Classical Moonlighters Competition finals concert: Our very own Eric Simpson made it all the way to WQXR’s Moonlighters Competition finals, selected from more than 170 entries. How did he do? You’ll have to tune in to find out. Those who wish to see the performance in full, which took place this past Friday at the Greene Space, may click here—for the partisans, Eric starts at 45:45. —BR
From the archive: Reaping what Soane is, by J. Duncan Berry: A review of David Watkin’s Sir John Soane: Enlightenment Thought & the Royal Academy Lectures.
From our latest issue: The disease of theory: Crime and Punishment at 150, by Gary Saul Morson: On theory’s deleterious effects in Crime and Punishment.
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