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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Of Englishwomen and Mozart

Here are two don’t-miss articles in today’s New York Times—one because of its subject matter, the other because of its writing.

It seems the National Portrait Gallery in London has an exhibition of 60 portraits of women travelers on view through Oct. 31. A small show by exhibition standards, “Off the Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travelers” sounds like a book in the making.

Though their portraits never graced the walls of England’s clubs, the exhibition and catalog show these female travelers all had “a preference for living far from a damp, cloud-covered island where the place of women was clearly defined.

“Their reasons for leaving were, variously, health, curiosity, research, religion, marriage and scandal. Their reasons for staying away were weather, power, freedom, excitement, love - and again, scandal.”

And their contributions in the fields of science, literature and human relations could fill volumes.

How can you tell if a violin is really, really happy? Listen. Or read this review in today’s NYT by reviewer Jeremy Eichler. It’s pure poetry, concise and beautiful. Here’s a sampling:

“The German violinist Christian Tetzlaff may have been exhausted by the end of his two performances at the Mostly Mozart Festival on Tuesday night, but one imagines that his violin was supremely happy. After all, the instrument had scaled two peaks of the literature in a single night: Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante and a Sonata and a Partita by Bach. It's hard to speculate about the meaning of bliss for a box of wood with strings, but this combination of music might be pretty close.

“The Mozart work is the kind that draws expressions of knowing delight from connoisseurs and pleasant surprise from newcomers … in one of the loveliest musical dialogues ever written. The two instruments find endless ways of calling and responding, interweaving their gracious lines and exploring disparate worlds, though always in relationship to each other.”

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