Recent links of note:
“From bad joke to 21st-century classic: the best recordings of Korngold’s Violin Concerto”
Richard Bratby, The Spectator
“I feel like a ghost wandering in a world grown alien,” reflected Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1939. “I cannot cast out the old way of writing and I cannot acquire the new. . . . it will not come to me.” This was a feeling shared by many émigré composers who fled the chaos of Europe for America in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, music critics in the West, hungry for the increasingly iconoclastic tones of modernism, often greeted the late-Romantic music of the more traditionally minded of these composers with scorn. Rachmaninoff’s fellow émigré Erich Korngold (1897–1957), though appreciated by audiences, waged a losing battle against the arbiters of taste of that time. To make ends meet, he brought his sweeping Romantic themes to Hollywood, where he worked as a film composer. Richard Bratby explores the story of Korngold’s once-derided, now-beloved Violin Concerto (1945) and the mid-century intelligentsia’s crusade against Romantic music.
“Will this Renaissance boy be the next big thing at auction?”
Susan Moore, Apollo
Botticelli’s Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel (ca. 1480) grabbed the headlines last month with its sale for $92 million at Sotheby’s. Coincidentally, a far-lesser-known painting that hung alongside the Botticelli in an office for much of the twentieth century, a Portrait of a Youth (ca. 1460s–70s) attributed to Piero del Pollaiuolo, is now up for sale. It carries an interesting story as well. Susan Moore writes for Apollo on the painting and its former owner, one Thomas Merton, an art collector and physicist whose inventions for MI6 helped tilt the intelligence battle in the Allies’ favor during World War I.
“Venetian Glass Beads May Be Oldest European Artifacts Found in North America”
Nora McGreevy, Smithsonian
At around the same time as Botticelli and Pollaiuolo were painting in Florence in the fifteenth century, glass beads fashioned in nearby Venice were making a remarkable journey all the way across Eurasia to a trading post in northern Alaska, where they eventually found their final resting place near the entrance of an underground house. Nora McGreevy for Smithsonian has more on the beads’ recent identification and how this will impact our understanding of the relationship between pre-Columbian America and medieval Europe.
“Music for a While #41: Well-tempered and Catalan.”
Jay Nordlinger, The New Criterion’s music critic, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
“Anna from Vienna,” by Jay Nordlinger. On a livestreamed recital by the Russian soprano Anna Netrebko.