The Corner


Starting, and Stopping, the Music

The German tenor Jonas Kaufmann rehearsing in Vienna, February 22, 2017 (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

My Impromptus column is a grab-bag today, as usual, beginning with General Ray Odierno, who passed away a few days ago. According to many who worked with him, he was a model of an American army general. I met him once, with a group of journalists in 2008. We were in Faw Palace, one of Saddam Hussein’s former pads. My column also touches on Bright Sheng, the composer who got into hot water at the University of Michigan, where he teaches; the Saudi government, which is buying a Premier League team; and the new Babi Yar memorial center in Kyiv. I end with something lighter (as what could not be?): Jeremy Paxman and “the liberty to be crotchety.”

On the musical front, here is a review of Jonas Kaufmann, the German tenor, and Helmut Deutsch, the Austrian pianist, in Carnegie Hall. I will note something here in the Corner. Everyone has a smartphone now, and people take pictures and record videos during a concert. As Kaufmann was singing his sixth and final encore — Strauss’s “Cäcilie” — he stopped and made a plea to the audience: “Please respect the rules. Stop filming!” This garnered some of the biggest applause of the night.

Last night, Lang Lang, the Chinese piano sensation, performed in Carnegie Hall (review to come). The hall was packed with young Chinese people who seldom go to concerts but adore Lang Lang. They snapped and filmed all through. The ushers went nuts, marching up and down the aisles, policing.

In my Impromptus on Monday, I had a note on “Eskimo”/“Inuit,” for I had been rebuked for using that first word. I got some mail, including from Alaska. The mail is very interesting. The gist of it is: It depends. Some Eskimos or Inuits like “Eskimo,” some like “Inuit,” and, of those who like “Inuit,” some are offended by “Eskimo” and some aren’t.

Then there is the whole debate about “American Indian,” “Native American,” etc. Perhaps we don’t need to reopen that one right this second.

A reader writes, “Jay, I offer you some assistance for your next caroling session.” He then suggests an alternative version of “The Christmas Song,” by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé. You know the original, right?

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping at your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

Our reader suggests,

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost champing at the bit,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Inuit.

The carol might be sung, our reader suggests, by “Nat King Solar Panel.”

Anyway, a merry Christmas to all. Or rather, a happy Wednesday to all. Again, for today’s Impromptus, go here.


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