Recent links of note:

“Impressionist and Modern masterpieces collected by the Morozov brothers finally go on show in Paris”
Sophia Kishkovsky, The Art Newspaper

Following the modernizing reforms of Alexander II from the 1850s onwards, once-sleepy Moscow grew into a thriving industrial city by the late nineteenth century. Among the newly educated and wealthy class of merchants were Ivan and Mikhail Morozov, the great-grandsons of a former serf who founded a successful textile empire. Around the turn of the century, Mikhail, the older and more flamboyant brother, began taking regular trips to Paris, where he developed a taste for Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, becoming the first Russian to acquire works by Gauguin and Van Gogh. Though Mikhail’s unhealthy lifestyle—both brothers were notably portly—cut his life short at thirty-three, the younger Ivan was no less daring a collector and, inspired by his brother, acquired works by Cézanne, Picasso, and Matisse, as well as significant works by Russian avant-garde artists such as Natalia Goncharova. When the Bolshevik Revolution erupted, the artworks were nationalized, and so Ivan, unwilling to remain as a state-appointed “deputy director” of his own collection, left the country and died in Karlsbad. Two hundred works from the Morozov Collection go on display this week at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.

“Dancing master”
Richard Bratby, Gramophone

Can a composer ever be “too listenable, and too successful, for his own good”? Some believe the late English composer Malcolm Arnold (1921–2006) was treated unfairly by critics who preferred avant-garde music to tonal symphonists like Arnold, who also wrote over a hundred film scores including the Oscar-winning Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). Others think that the composer was his own worst enemy—alcoholism and mental illness stifled his output and triggered volatile behavior that made him difficult to work with. Writing in the September issue of Gramophone (available online to subscribers of that magazine), Richard Bratby urges readers to put aside both biographical anecdotes and snobbish criticism and instead listen to the “endless melodic fertility, the mastery of orchestral colour, the use of irony and popular idioms to convey extreme emotional states” that have earned Arnold comparisons to Shostakovich by at least two recent biographers. While Arnold remains a solid favorite of British youth orchestras, we might see wider audiences rediscovering his music as the hundredth anniversary of his birth approaches. Just last year a premiere recording by the BBC Orchestra of his 1952 opera The Dancing Master (a TV version was rejected at the time for being too “bawdy”) received great acclaim, as did the Proms premiere of his Fifth Symphony.

“ ‘Conquering the Pacific’ Review: Sailing Against the Wind”
Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, The Wall Street Journal

In 1494, Pope Alexander VI drew a line in the Atlantic Ocean and through modern-day Brazil, ratified by the Treaty of Tordesillas, that divided the world between the empires of Portugal and Spain. Under the terms, Spaniards were only allowed to sail west, so in order to get their hands on the riches of East Asia, they needed to forge a trade route across or around the Americas—and find a way to cross the Pacific. Nathan Perl-Rosethal in The Wall Street Journal reviews a new book by Andrés Reséndez on the first return voyages from the Philippines to Mexico. In 1564, the Viceroy of Mexico dispatched a four-ship flotilla to the Philippines, but clashes between the inexperienced commander, Miguel López de Legazpi, and his navigator threatened the expedition. The smallest of the four ships, the San Lucas, was commanded by another unqualified aristocrat and lost contact with the fleet. Remarkably, the ship made its way to the Philippines solo under the de facto leadership of an Afro-Portuguese pilot, Lope Martín, and subsequently became the first to complete the round trip journey back to Mexico. Perl-Rosenthal recounts Martín’s adventure-filled life story, which includes insulted Mexican officials, an execution order, and a mutiny.

Podcasts:

“Music for a While #52: Strains of Salzburg.”Jay Nordlinger, The New Criterion’s music critic, talks music—but, more important, plays music.

Dispatch:

“In San Clemente’s venerable halls,” by Stephen Schmalhofer.On the history of the Roman basilica.

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