Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, with its grand opening chords, is one of the most recognizable and popular pieces in the classical music repertoire. Van Cliburn’s recording of the concerto, made after his victory at the First International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the cold war, became the first classical album to go triple platinum, and the first LP that many classical music lovers owned. For many, the concerto is the sound of classical music. Yet the piano’s famous opening chords are not, in fact, what Tchaikovsky wrote at all.
Among the works on view at the Museum of Biblical Art’s new show, “Sculpture in the Age of Donatello,” is the artist’s large sculpture of the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, carved for the Campanile of the Florence Cathedral, likely between 1427 and 1436. “Speak, damn you, speak!” Donatello, we are told, repeatedly shouted at the statue while carving it. The dream of a statue that can speak or breathe or move is a fantasy shared by many cultures throughout time, and the story may be apocryphal. Still, it points to the fundamental appeal of Donatello’s sculptures: by some strange magic they seem to capture the phantom of life.
Peter van Ham, an authority on early Indo-Tibetan art, has given us a splendid photographic record of the mid-eleventh century masterpieces of the Tabo monastery—the most intact of all early medieval Buddhist artistic sites in the Western Himalaya.
In Readers Make Their Mark, an exhibition of annotated books from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, you can see readers writing in books of every kind, for every imaginable reason. Sometimes they are learning the basics. Sometimes they are making proclamations about their own books. And sometimes they respond to their books in ways that still seem familiar .
One night in the 1980s, a low period for me, as I slumped on my regular stool at Farrell’s, in Brooklyn, staring into my fourth or fifth of their enormous beers, the gentleman to my left struck up a conversation. Like nearly everyone in the bar but me, he was a cop, a retired cop to be exact, and unlike most of them he looked like a churchwarden, lean and grave and puckered, definitely on the farther shore of eighty. He had much to say; his proudest accomplishments had gone unrecognized. It seemed he had been the first to put together a numbered list of the most-sought reprobates from justice.