Recent links of note:
Terry Teachout, Commentary
Fryderyk Chopin has always been an elusive figure, but Alan Walker’s 2018 biography has inspired a new fascination with the life and work of the pianist and composer, whose slight body of work made an outsize impact on music in the Romantic period and onward. Born in Poland in 1810, Chopin moved to Paris in 1830, where he became ever-more invested in creating “a new world,” as he put it, in his music. Partly because of ill health and partly out of pure curmudgeonliness, Chopin rarely performed in public. He disapproved of his contemporaries’ work, and most of his own pieces were short and limited to his own instrument. When Chopin died of tuberculosis in 1849, it seemed that he would be known as little more than a minor piano composer. But soon Robert Schumann described Chopin’s works as “cannons buried in flowers” and Heinrich Heine dubbed him the “Raphael of the piano.” Terry Teachout explains how, over the past hundred and fifty years, Chopin’s compositions have been revealed as masterpieces in miniature. For more on Walker’s biography of Chopin, read James F. Penrose’s review in this month’s issue.
Martin Peretz, Tablet
Nathan Glazer, the influential co-editor of The Public Interest and a professor of sociology at Berkeley and Harvard, died last week at ninety-five. Considered one of the last of the “New York intellectuals” of the mid-twentieth century, Glazer co-wrote two books that defined the concurrent trends of crowd mentality and tribalism in American society: The Lonely Crowd (with David Riesman and Reuel Denney, 1950) and Beyond the Melting Pot (with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 1963). Glazer was known for his pragmatic, centrist liberalism, and for promoting the idea that, as Martin Peretz puts it, “competing values had to be accommodated to ensure a healthy polity.” Peretz, the former editor of The New Republic, writes about learning from and later teaching with Glazer at Harvard. The New Criterion will publish a remembrance of Glazer, written by Fred Siegel, in our March issue.
Victoria Stapley-Brown, The Art Newspaper
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has come under scrutiny for accepting donations from the Sackler family, long-time donors who have supported the museum using money earned through the sale of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin. Three brothers—Raymond, Arthur, and Mortimer—were the first in the family to donate to the Met, which opened the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Chinese Stone Sculpture in 1965 and the Sackler Wing, the home of the Temple of Dendur, in 1978. After court filings showed that the Sacklers’ pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma, encouraged sales representatives to tell doctors to prescribe the highest recommended dosages of OxyContin to boost profit, Purdue Pharma and individual members of the Sackler family have been hit with a $500 million lawsuit, and the Met is re-evaluating its donation policies. In response, the Sacklers have claimed that most of their charitable donations to the Met were made before OxyContin was launched in 1995 and have nothing to do with the sale of opioids. A larger issue, which also arose in November at the Whitney, is the implications of companies’ past donations being scrutinized by current ethical standards.
From our pages
Andrew L. Shea