Posted inEssay

The Intelligence of Bodies

When VAN asked me to do a review of an artificial-intelligence-created realization of Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony called “Beethoven X: The AI Project,” which is based on the skimpy sketches he left when he died, I more or less groaned in my reply. “Not for me,” I said. “I know pretty much what I’ll think about […]

Posted inEssay

An Old, New Song

During this pandemic year, distanced from the world, I’ve taken solace in Schubert’s 1827 song cycle “Winterreise,” which plumbs a man’s anguish as he travels through a wintry night away from the woman who has rejected him. The desolation of solitude, darkness and ice, and the lilting or storming interplay of piano and voice, have […]

Posted inI Know, But

I Know, But: The “1812 Overture”

When Tolstoy began working on what would become War and Peace, his 1869 opus that moves fluidly between historical novel and philosophical treatise, he initially had a completely different story in mind. Rather than craft a constellation of parallel and intersecting histories between 1805 and 1820 (with a particular focus on Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of […]

Posted inRankings & Roundups

Every Schubert Song, Ranked

In her 2019 review-cum-retrospective of John Updike, writer Patricia Lockwood noted that her assignment felt “like a flamboyant completist stunt, like one of those Buzzfeed articles where someone ranks every episode of the original Care Bears cartoons.” I would like to situate this ranking of every Schubert song in the same hallowed pantheon as the […]

Posted inInterview

The Eternal Factor

New Year’s and third lockdown resolution: trying to listen to and rank every Schubert song. (I’m not done yet, but I attempted something similar for the Scarlatti sonatas.) Because my impressions are very subjective—not to say flat-out wrong—I also decided to get a more holistic view of this oeuvre, which numbers somewhere around 700 lieder, […]

Posted inProfile

Once More Unto the Breach

On New Year’s Eve, 1991, the Berlin Philharmonic gave its annual New Year’s concert in the city’s Schauspielhaus. The Wall was still fresh in the minds of Berliners from both the former West and East; the two cities had only resorbed as one a little over a year earlier. Under the baton of Claudio Abbado, […]

Posted inHistory

The Smoldering Progressive

Pity Paul Dukas. For most listeners—even serious music lovers—his work is the mere soundtrack to the anthropomorphic avatars of the Disney corporation. Despite floating in the same fragrant creative broth of early 20th-century Paris as Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy he has been rather overshadowed by both, to say nothing of his twelve-tone contemporaries in […]