Terry Teachout has contributed to COMMENTARY for over twenty years, the last ten years of them as our regular music critic. One of our most versatile and wide-ranging writers, he has addressed subjects ranging from Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau to Isaac Bashevis Singer, from Bruno Walter to Walt Disney—and everything in between. (He’s also written excellent biographies of H.L. Mencken and George Balanchine, and is now working on a life of Louis Armstrong.) This weekend, we offer a mere handful of some of his best work, while reminding you that Terry’s writings as deep as they are broad, and that you can browse all of them here.
Culture in the Age of Blogging
I.B. Singer and Me
Living with Art
Taking Sinatra Seriously
The Problem of Shostakovich
In last night’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton continued to insist on her illogical disavowal of her 2002 vote in the Senate in favor of authorizing the use of force in Iraq: “It was a sincere vote,” she said, “based on the information available to me. And I’ve said many times that if I knew then what I now know, I would not have voted that way.”
But of course Clinton did not know then what she knows now. No one did. Those who voted for or against the war had to base their decision on the information available to them at the time. The TV program, The Time Tunnel, which I used to watch in the 1960’s, was not a reality show, but Clinton and others like her seem to think that if they could only go back in time, bringing their current knowledge with them, they could alter the course of history. Andrew Sullivan plays the same game, only, given his higher IQ and learning, even more dishonestly—see my Tiramisu, Andrew? for his particular recipe.
The decision to go to war can certainly be debated, as can the conduct of the war. If we are to find a good way forward, it is this latter subject that is now more pertinent.
Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich, world-renowned cellist and conductor, has died. Rostropovich, born in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1927, made his Russian debut at 13 and his American debut (at Carnegie Hall) in 1956. He leaves behind important recordings of composers ranging from Bach to Bartók (particularly noteworthy is his 1995 recording of the former’s cello suites), as well as a National Symphony Orchestra vastly improved by his 27-year tenure as its conductor. Rostropovich, famously, had his Soviet citizenship revoked in 1978, after an eight-year-long series of public skirmishes with the Brezhnev regime over the censorship and suppression of artists and intellectuals—particularly of Rostropovich’s friend Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The world’s loss of Rostropovich is a serious one, for music lovers and defenders of artistic and intellectual freedom alike.