This week: truffle hounds, the artistry of dining menus, Van Gogh’s cypresses, Rachmaninoff’s writer’s block & more.

A menu from the Palmer House, Chicago, 1886. Henry Voigt Collection of American Menus. On view in “A Century of Dining Out: The American Story in Menus, 1841–1941” at the Grolier Club, New York.


Truffle Hound: On the Trail of the World’s Most Seductive Scent, with Dreams, Schemers, and Some Extraordinary Dogs, by Rowan Jacobsen (Bloomsbury): Though Flocky, the winning Lagotto Romagnolo, did not make it out of the sporting group last week at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the breed can hold its head high for the starring role it plays in digging up those fungal gemstones: white truffles. Rowan Jacobsen’s Truffle Hound, out in hardback and coming in paperback in October, introduces us to these “adorable mops with bright beady eyes and bonkers enthusiasm” and a host of other characters both animalian and human in Truffle Hound, a rollicking examination of the delicacy and those who seek it. —BR


Vincent van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889, Oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. On view in “Van Gogh’s Cypresses” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Van Gogh’s Cypresses” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (May 22 to August 27): Among the many unforgettable images one pictures when thinking of Vincent van Gogh are his cypresses, those wavy, jagged, dark emerald and brown trees that feature prominently on many of his canvases. On Monday, May 22, and in previews this week, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will open a new exhibition with a concentration on the artist’s conifers. On view will be several noteworthy loans: A Wheatfield, with Cypresses (1889, National Gallery, London)—a summer landscape Van Gogh painted during his time in Saint-Rémy—and the famed Starry Night (1889, MOMA), featuring that majestic cypress in the foreground. Be on the lookout for an upcoming review for Dispatch by Jane Coombs—JW


Stefan Jackiw, Alisa Weilerstein, and Daniil Trifonov.

Stefan Jackiw, Daniil Trifonov, and Alisa Weilerstein perform Rachmaninoff, 92nd Street Y, New York (May 20): Sergei Rachmaninoff, fresh out of conservatory, was devastated by the failure of his Symphony No. 1 in 1897. César Cui, a leading composer and critic, eviscerated the premiere, for which the conductor, none other than Alexander Glazunov, was ill-prepared and likely drunk. Rachmaninoff’s creative spring was stifled. What, then, was a depressed Russian intellectual of the fin de siècle to do but submit himself to hypnotherapy? Half mesmerization and half talk therapy, the treatment revived Rachmaninoff, who dedicated his first new work, the perennially popular Piano Concerto No. 2, to his doctor. The piece that directly followed that one was the Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, which like its big sibling pushes the emotional language of Russian Romanticism to new heights. The cellist Alisa Weilerstein and the pianist Daniil Trifonov will present it this Saturday at the 92nd Street Y, joined by the violinist Stefan Jackiw for Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A Minor and a performance for violin and piano of Lutosławski’s Partita—IS


A menu from the Hotel Pennsylvania, Fountain Room, New York City, 1924. Henry Voigt Collection of American Menus. On view in “A Century of Dining Out: The American Story in Menus, 1841–1941” at the Grolier Club, New York.

“A Century of Dining Out: The American Story in Menus, 1841–1941” at the Grolier Club, New York (April 26 to July 29): A history of America is on the menu in “A Century of Dining Out: The American Story in Menus, 1841–1941,” on view through July 29 at New York’s Grolier Club. Drawing on the Henry Voigt Collection of American Menus, the exhibition features more than two hundred objects arranged chronologically from what the show calls the first hundred years of dining out in the United States. Drawing on ephemera from hotels and restaurants, in addition to a Mississippi riverboat, a utopian commune, and a military encampment, the exhibition includes menus from Taylor’s Saloon, the premier lady’s restaurant of antebellum New York, and Wels’s Eating House, where Edgar Allan Poe wrote “The Raven.” Curated by Voigt, with illustrated works from some of America’s most storied establishments, the exhibition reveals a history of American dining in the best of taste.  —JP


“The meaning of ballet with Lincoln Jones.”
A recording from The New Criterion’s Friends and Young Friends spring soirée with Lincoln Jones & Hannah Barr of the American Contemporary Ballet, Los Angeles, with an introduction by Executive Editor James Panero.

From the Archives:

“Degas in Chicago,” by Hilton Kramer (November 1996). On “Degas: Beyond Impressionism” at the Art Institute of Chicago.


“Keeping the vigil,” by Isaac Sligh. On a 1965 recording of Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil and a recent performance by the Clarion Choir.

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