Herewith another installment of the juxtaposition genius Matt Drudge from today’s home page of the Drudge Report:
Herewith another installment of the juxtaposition genius Matt Drudge from today’s home page of the Drudge Report:
Glenn Gould used to be my favorite interpreter of Bach. Since Simone Dinnerstein’s recordings of Bach began appearing, beginning with her Goldberg Variations in 2007, Gould has assumed the somewhat less exalted status as “one of my favorite interpreters” of Bach. My absolute favorite these past 6 or 7 years is Dinnerstein. Indeed, she is not only my favorite interpreter of Bach, she is my favorite pianist, period (if one can still enjoy that now-freighted locution.)
Membership, as the AMEX people keep telling you, has its privileges. Last night, at a semi-secure undisclosed location, members of the Friends of The New Criterion, were thrilled to have Ms. Dinnerstein perform Schumann’s haunting “Kinderszenen,” the 13 “Scenes of Childhood” that Schumann wrote in 1838, followed by Bach’s “Inventions,” the 15 short pieces Bach wrote to introduce his children and students to the mysteries of counterpoint. (Ms. Dinnerstein has just released a CD of Bach’s Inventions and Sinfonias for Sony, and she often performs one or more of the Kinderszenen.) It was a magical evening, reminiscent of the evening some of us spent at Bill Buckley’s New York apartment in 2007 where Ms. Dinnerstein performed all 32 of the Goldberg Variations for a rapt audience.
I have written about Simone Dinnerstein in the space before (here, for example, and here). Last night’s performance prompts me to repeat what I wrote in 2008 after hearing her perform at Lincoln Center:
Perhaps the most ravishing musical experience of my life was listening to Simone Dinnerstein play Bach’s Goldberg Variations’s at the home of a friend in Manhattan last autumn. In the weeks before the performance, I had listened several times to a CD of Dinnerstein’s remarkable 2007 interpretation of the work, but hearing her en famille, as it were, in the intimate setting of a living room with a dozen friends dramatically heightened the experience.
But it was the performance as well as the setting that made the evening so special. Hitherto my gold standard for renditions of this majestic piece of music was Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording. (Gould made a second recording shortly before his death, age fifty, in the early 1980s.) I especially admired the astringent clarity and architecture of Gould’s playing. Gould burrowed deep into the structure of Bach’s music, revealing its bones and sinews. His astonishing technical command allowed him to exhibit latent conversations within the music, rhythmic and emotional exfoliations that elaborated themselves with pristine lucidity, like crystals forming and dissolving in an ice-cold, light-inflected mountain stream.
Dinnerstein’s Bach is a warmer, but no less lucid creature. Like Gould, Dinnerstein commands a breathtaking technical mastery. And like him, she has made the music her own. She does not simply play the Goldbergs. She inhabits them, moving through its 30 variations like the rising sun through the rooms of a palace. Each chamber is suddenly illuminated and its distinctive character gradually revealed as the light lingers in loving dialogue with the soul’s furniture. And just as each day’s light has its own discoveries and omissions, so it was with Dinnerstein’s performances of the Goldbergs. Anyone who had heard the CD of her performing the work would have instantly recognized her stamp on the performance that evening. But what was remarkable was how distinctive each rendition was: like a familiar landscape seen at noon and then again an hour before dusk.
Dinnerstein is a master of rubato–listen, for example, to the way she coaxes Variation 4 to unfold itself before us–but also she handles the presto passages with breathtaking aplomb: her joyful unpacking of Variation 14 is a case in point. Dinnerstein’s Bach is perhaps less cerebral than Gould’s, but no less intelligent. There is an amplitude to her convocations that Gould’s austerity wouldn’t countenance.
But I revisit Dinnerstein’s Goldbergs merely as a prelude to mentioning her performance yesterday at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center in New York. Her late-morning concert, part of the Center’s Great Performers series, included two preludes and fugues (numbers 9 in E-major and 3 in C-sharp-major) from book II of the Well-tempered Clavier, Beethoven’s Sonata 13 in E-flat major, and Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik, a curious, amusing and bemusing work by the contemporary American composer George Crumb. As an encore, Dinnerstein played the lovely A-major intermezzo from Brahms’s opus 118 suite of piano pieces.
It was a memorable occasion. Dinnerstein’s signature combination of technical command and patient lusciousness informed every moment. Her playing is less idiosyncratic than Gould’s, but no less distinctive. Her taste – witness the Crumb – ranges widely, yet there is a clarifying purity to her playing that inoculates it against mannerism. Her personality touches and enlivens all she plays, but one always feels that the focus is on the music, not the music maker. This is true artistry, a sort of musical midwifery in which the point is not the performer but the thing performed. I hope you’ll have an opportunity to hear her (her concert schedule is posted here). You’ll certainly be hearing a lot more about her.
And so you, if you pay any attention at all to classical music, have. Dinnerstein’s Goldbergs catapulted her to classical musical stardom, and her several subsequent CDs — I recommend in particular “Bach: A Strange Beauty” — have consolidated that impressive debut.
The University of Chicago has just published a new edition of Richard Weaver’s quirky classic Ideas Have Consequences, which was first published in 1948. Probably, Dear Reader, you have heard of but not read the book. Now is your chance. Let me mention a few of the book’s many attractions:
1. It is, as I say, a classic, more specifically, it is a classic in the library of modern conservative thought. Readers of Roger’s Rules should know Ideas Have Consequences.
2. Weighing in at a mere 200 pages, the book would have gratified Polonius, who rightly observed that “brevity is the soul of wit.”
3. It carries a new foreword by R. Kimball, and you would not want to miss that now, would you?
And just what does Richard Weaver have to tell us? Let me turn to a talk he gave in 1962, just a year before his early death in 1963, before the Young Americans for Freedom Foundation:
The past shows unvaryingly that when a people’s freedom disappears, it goes not with a bang, but in silence amid the comfort of being cared for. That is the dire peril in the present trend toward statism. If freedom is not found accompanied by a willingness to resist, and to reject favors, rather than to give up what is intangible but precarious, it will not long be found at all.
How do you reckon we’re doing with that resistance, that willingness to reject the favors of a coddling state and hold fast to “what is intangible but precarious”? To ask the question, I think, is to answer it, but Weaver has a number of useful, admonitory things to add to that central, anti-statist insight.
I just finished taping a podcast on Ideas Have Consequences with John J. Miller over at National Review Online. Look, or rather listen for, it in the next couple of weeks at John’s splendid series Between the Covers.
David Goldman, aka Spengler, has published a thoughtful piece about Putin, Ukraine, and the future of Russia. I say “published,” but “republished” is more accurate. It first appeared nearly six years ago, in August 2008. But “Americans Play Monopoly, Russians Chess” is as pertinent today as it was when it was first published.
Some scene setters:
1. On the night of November 22, 2004, Vladimir Putin watched the television news in his dacha near Moscow. People who were with Putin that night report his anger and disbelief at the unfolding “Orange” revolution in Ukraine. “They lied to me,” Putin said bitterly of the United States. “I’ll never trust them again.” The Russians still can’t fathom why the West threw over a potential strategic alliance for Ukraine.
2. Demographics. Goldman reminds us of the dismal truth: “The United Nations publishes population projections for Russia up to 2050, and I have extended these to 2100. If the UN demographers are correct, Russia’s adult population will fall from about 90 million today to only 20 million by the end of the century. Russia is the only country where abortions are more numerous than live births, a devastating gauge of national despair.”
Sure, extrapolation from present trends to future realties is always hazardous. But those present trends are also present realities, and in the case of Russia’s population they pose an existential threat. Putin has tried mightily to increase natality, and has had some modest success. But Goldman provides the demographic backdrop: “demographers observe that the number of Russian women of childbearing age is about to fall off a cliff. No matter how much the birth rate improves, the sharp fall in the number of prospective mothers will depress the number of births. UN forecasts show the number of Russians aged 20-29 falling from 25 million today to only 10 million by 2040.”
Yikes. And what does this mean? It means that “Russia has passed the point of no return in terms of fertility. Although roughly four-fifths of the population of the Russian Federation is considered ethnic Russians, fertility is much higher among the Muslim minorities in Central Asia. Some demographers predict a Muslim majority in Russia by 2040, and by mid-century at the latest.”
3. And this brings us to the Ukraine. Goldman, remember, was writing in 2008, but he might have been writing yesterday.
The place to avert tragedy is in Ukraine. Russia will not permit Ukraine to drift to the West. Whether a country that never had an independent national existence prior to the collapse of communism should become the poster-child for national self-determination is a different question. The West has two choices: draw a line in the sand around Ukraine, or trade it to the Russians for something more important.
My proposal is simple: Russia’s help in containing nuclear proliferation and terrorism in the Middle East is of infinitely greater import to the West than the dubious self-determination of Ukraine. The West should do its best to pretend that the “Orange” revolution of 2004 and 2005 never happened, and secure Russia’s assistance in the Iranian nuclear issue as well as energy security in return for an understanding of Russia’s existential requirements in the near abroad. Anyone who thinks this sounds cynical should spend a week in Kiev.
Is Goldman right?
Not everyone has seen Valdimir’s Putin’s latest Op-Ed. It think it’s important, and wanted to share it with readers now. Doubtless, Putin had a ghost writer, but I think this accurately captures his sentiments:
As you know, the last few weeks have been kind of crazy around here. Last month, protests in Ukraine ousted the country’s Kremlin-allied president and ignited a wave of Ukrainian nationalism that threatened to destabilize Russia’s economic and military interests in the region. Of course, I couldn’t simply stand by and let that happen, so I intervened and ordered a forceful takeover of the strategically important peninsula of Crimea—a territory with historical ties to Russia that our nation had long desired. It’s certainly no easy task to forcefully annex an entire province against another country’s will, so I just wanted to thank you—the government of the United States, the nations of western Europe, and really the entire world population as a whole—for being super cool about all of this.
Seriously, you guys have been amazing. All of you. I really appreciate it.
To be honest, I was really dreading a whole big fight over this thing. When you first condemned the seizure of Crimea as patently illegal and in breach of the Ukrainian constitution—which it absolutely was, by the way—I feared for the worst. But then everybody stopped short of doing anything to actually prevent what was essentially a state-sponsored landgrab, and I just thought, “Wow, these guys are a pretty laid-back and easygoing bunch!” It really was a huge load off when you let everything slide like that.
Frank isn’t it?
You can read the rest of the piece here.
So, Obama once again “delays” the law of the land on Obamacare. Why? Because there is an election coming up, silly, and he wants to do what he can to protect vulnerable Democrats. I pick this bit from the Detroit News more or less at random: “In announcing the latest postponement this week . . . the Obama administration carefully credited Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Udall of Colorado, Ron Barber of Arizona and 10 other vulnerable Democratic lawmakers.” What do you think about this? I think the Detroit News is right: “While it may be politically expedient, rewriting a law passed by Congress simply to avoid ballot box consequences is an outrageous abuse of executive power.” Where, I wonder, is the tar? Where are the feathers? Where are the pitchforks and the pullulating multitudes marching and chanting in the streets over this contemptuous exhibition of lawlessness?
Where are you, Dear Reader? Have you written to your duly elected members of Congress? Have you raised this issue with your friends? Why is it that the president of the United States blithely puts himself above the law? “Decency, security, and liberty,” Justice Brandeis once wrote, “alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen.”
In a government of laws [Brandeis continues], existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites man to become a law unto himself, it invites anarchy.
Why is Obama’s lawlessness not the subject of front-page stories in the New York Times? Why is the electorate not enraged by this extraordinary spectacle of lawlessness? Is it because they feel that, despite everything, Obama is in some obscure way “on the right right side”? That opponents of the unaffordable “affordable” health care legislation are beastly meanies? That Obama means well, and meaning well is all that matters? That, being a half-black lifelong beneficiary of affirmative action, he is untouchable?
How’s that working out for ‘ya?
The leader of the free=world, eh?
I am holed up in in beautiful Antigua (Lat. 17.07 Long. -61.81) for a few days with a small cadre of serious thinkers helping to sort out the world’s problems. In this super-connected, technological age, no place, not even this tropical paradise, can be out of contact with the long-running circus of fatuous incompetence being run from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. The latest reminder of the clownish antics which our masters in Washington give us in lieu of leadership comes from the great Stephen Hayes in the Weekly Standard. In a few short paragraphs, tells us everything we need to know about “Obama’s Fantasy-Based Foreign Policy.”
The latest exhibition of stunning incompetence, of course, is the little dance Obama, Susan Rice, and John “reporting for duty” Kerry are performing while Vladimir Putin conducts the invasion by, er, the “uncontested arrival” of Russian troops in the (formerly) “Autonomous Republic” of Crimea. In a way, the Obama administration’s routine is funny, in a Keystone Cops sort of way. The comedy palls however when you realize that the Obama-Rice-Kerry vaudeville act is being performed as an excuse for foreign policy. As Hayes reminds us, team Obama just doesn’t understand the way the world works. They are completely out of touch with the unpleasant realities of power politics. They believe evil is confined to their domestic rivals, whom they propose to regulate and police into conformity, employing where necessary the suited, bureaucratic Gauleiters from the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service to establish what an earlier age called Gleichschaltung, that “coordination,” that “bringing into line” that made Deutschland and its satellites such a place of fun and frolic from 1934 until 1945.
The spectacle of bumbling incompetence on view in the Obama administration’s response to the unfolding drama in and around Sevastopol is hardly an isolated occurrence. On the contrary, from almost the moment he assumed office in January 2009, Obama has assiduously avoided promoting U.S. interests. A full litany might begin with his notorious speech in Cairo early on in his first term. He looked forward to a “new beginning” with the Muslim world, but, as Andy McCarthy and others warned “Obama, Obama, There Are Still a Billion Osamas!” “For five years,” Hayes points out, “the Obama administration has chosen to see the world as they wish it to be, not as it is.” It is a depressing narrative.
In this fantasy world, the attack in Fort Hood is “workplace violence.” The Christmas Day bomber is an “isolated extremist.” The attempted bombing in Times Square is a “one-off” attack. The attacks in Benghazi are a “spontaneous” reaction to a YouTube video. Al Qaeda is on the run. Bashar al-Assad is a “reformer.” The Iranian regime can be sweet-talked out of its nuclear weapons program. And Vladimir Putin is a new, post-Cold War Russian leader.
In the real world, it was a pen pal of the late jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki who opened fire on soldiers at Fort Hood. The Christmas bomber was dispatched from Yemen, where he was instructed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The Times Square bomber was trained and financed by the Pakistani Taliban. Benghazi was a deliberate attack launched by well-known terrorist groups. Al Qaeda is amassing territory and increasing its profile. Assad is a brutal dictator, responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 Syrians. The Iranian regime is firmly entrenched as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror and remains determined to lead a nuclear state. And in Russia we face a Cold War throwback willing to use force to expand Russian influence.
And here’s the kicker. It’s a double whammy: “And Vladimir Putin, it turns out, is who we thought he was. Unfortunately, so is Barack Obama.”
It is sometimes said that a people gets the leaders it deserves. What did we do to deserve this?