This week: On the Mayflower’s homecoming journey, Fairfield Porter, Mahler’s Ninth Symphony & more.
“Housebound: Fairfield Porter and his circle of poets and painters” at the Parrish Art Museum: Fairfield Porter lays a strong claim to the title of greatest American painter of domestic life. His subtle and evocative scenes of friends and family in Southampton, New York, and on Penobscot Bay, Maine, fit uneasily in the narrative of American mid-century art as a battleground of heroic abstraction and clashing avant-gardes, but their atmospheric beauty and painterly mystery continue to delight well after all that other dust has settled. Now re-opened after a long hiatus, the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, is hosting a exhibition of “Housebound” paintings by Porter, poems by his wife, Anne Channing Porter, as well as works by those many poets and painters who befriended and lived with him and his family: Frank O’Hara, Jane Frielicher, John Ashbery, Alex Katz, and others. All works have been pulled from the museum’s own extensive collection of Porter and his pals, making this a bona fide family affair at the Parrish. Look for my full review of the show in the coming weeks. —AS
Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, with Claudio Abbado and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra: The year 2020 should have belonged to Gustav Mahler. For reasons that hardly merit recapitulation, orchestras have been unable to move ahead with in-person festivals and concerts celebrating the composer’s 160th birthday. In place of yet another socially distanced livestream of a Mahler symphony, commendable though these doleful efforts to press ahead may be, perhaps this is a fitting moment to revisit an old classic. A high watermark in Mahler performance is Claudio Abbado’s definitive turn at the Ninth Symphony with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2010, one of the then-ailing Mahlerian’s last performances with the orchestra he helped to found. Pay special attention to its closing minutes, as the slow, stuttering breath of the violins (instructed by Mahler in the score to “die away”) fade into several minutes of stunned silence from orchestra and audience, followed, of course, by rapturous applause. —IS
“Pen & Ink Architecture Meets the Virtual World: Exploring Digital Advances in Design, with Peter Pennoyer Architects” (August 13): Traditional design and technological advancements may seem strange bedfellows, but, as Clive Aslet once noted in these pages, “Classicism depends on repetition and repetition is the stock-in-trade of computers. In the design process, detail that is hand drawn can be replicated ad infinitum on the computer screen; if the proportions remain constant, detail can also be enlarged or reduced.” This is something that Peter Pennoyer, the leading American classical architect and a contributor to The New Criterion, understands well. Far from eschewing digital design tools, Pennoyer and his firm have embraced them. On Thursday Pennoyer, Colin Slaten (Building Information Management Director at Peter Pennoyer Architects), and Philip Davis (3D Production Manager) will discuss the firm’s use of technology in a livestreamed lecture. Available at first only to Institute of Classical Architecture & Art members, the video will later be made free to the public. —BR
Mayflower’s homecoming journey: After completing a three-year rebuilding at Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport, Mayflower II (a replica of the Pilgrims’ ship) is returning this week to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in a celebratory flotilla that will take it up the Cape Cod Canal. Plimoth Plantations, the village museum, is once again open for visitors and will begin scheduling tours of the famous ship later this week. Four hundred years after the landing at Plymouth Rock, the small replica craft speaks to the hardships, endurance, and faith of these settlers who have so defined America in myth and memory. —JP
From the archives:
“What’s left of Descartes?,” by Roger Kimball (June 1995). On the complex legacy left to modernity by René Descartes.
“The Chris Buskirk show,” with Roger Kimball. Roger Kimball joins Chris Buskirk for a discussion on beauty, aesthetics & national vitality.
“The bells ring on,” by Adam Chen. On the art of the carillon.