Titian, Rembrandt, and who? Several years ago I read an assessment of Peter Paul Rubens in the New Yorker which called him "history’s chief painter’s painter," while snatching back the compliment in the next breath, dubbing him "the leading pictorial decorator, propagandist, and entertainer for a Catholic Europe." Since depreciation is more fun than appreciation, the magazine's art critic says, of Rubens' female nudes, "all that smothering flesh, vibrantly alive but with the erotic appeal of a mud slide." As zingers go, here's another goodie: "Nor do Rubens’s characters appear significantly more intelligent than his farm animals."
Huntley Dent’s recent review of Bernstein’s Mahler and now his lucid evaluation of several recordings of Tristan und Isolde put me in mind not so much of operatic traditions as those of the concert hall, since Wagner’s music drama is so deeply rooted in the orchestra and the conductor who leads it. The modern symphony orchestra and the concert halls in which they play evolved as a substantially bourgeois institution over the course of the nineteenth century.