Views and Reviews
by Alidë Kohlhaas
The art world celebrates a couple of special events this month. On Saturday, September 15, the Art Gallery of Ontario will observe its 100th anniversary with an Open House from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This is a chance to see all of the AGO exhibits without admission fee, to take part in inter-active graffiti workshops, meet well-known artists, to take a look behind the scenes, hear music and see dance, and to be there when the candles are blown out on a giant birthday cake.
The second event is the official opening of the new wing to the Burlington Art Centre on Lakeshore Road. An Open House will mark the event on Sunday, September 30 from 1 to 4 p.m. There will be tours of the building, the official opening ceremony will take place at 2:00 p.m., and if all this viewing makes you hungry, light refreshment will be served.
What is music to my ears? I will tell you: Canadian tenor Jon Vickers singing in a recital that features 28 songs, including six by Ludwig van Beethoven from his song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte. Of course, these days the 75-year-old Vickers doesn’t perform anymore. Thanks to CBC Records, however, we can here his glorious voice once again. Jon Vickers, My Song Resounds is a reissue of a concert he gave in 1974 as part of the CBC Alberta Festival. It is a recording that those interested in a good voice and beautiful song should have in their CD library. [Jon Vickers My Song Resounds, CBC Records, PSCD 2024, 64:28 minutes.]
Max Bruch’s famous Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, which during the last half of the 19th century dominated the violin repertoire, is still one of the most often performed. Not so his Concerto No. 3 in D minor. Yet, both merit hearing, and we learn why through internationally acclaimed Canadian violinist James Ehnes. His recording with the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal under Charles Dutoit is a very fine example of the composer’s and the violinist’s great talents. There is great sensitivity in Ehnes’s playing of both concerti, and in the interpretation of the orchestral portions of these works. The CD’s sound quality is also high. [Bruch: Concertos 1 & 3, CBC Records, James Ehnes on violin, SMCD 5207, 65:41 minutes.] Both CDs can be obtained by contacting CBC Records at 416-205-3498.
Books are a vital source of entertainment and information in my life. Here are brief comments on a few I read this summer. First, two books by German authors in English translation. Hans Küng, the well-known and somewhat controversial theologian wrote a very readable and revealing history of his church called simply The Catholic Church. It is a must for anyone who seeks some understanding of this church and how it helped to shape European society for good and bad. [The Catholic Church, A Short History by Hans Küng, A Modern Library Chronicles Book Random House, 221 pages, $29.29 hardcover]
Perfume, The Story of a Murderer is by Munich author Patrick Süskind. This book, first published in North America in 1986, has been reissued in paperback. It is an exciting tale taking place in pre-revolution France of the mid-1700s. Süskind captures the flavour and smell of that period singularly well, and at the same time gives the reader an insight into the creation of perfumes. While it is not a mystery, nor a detective story, it contains some of these elements, as well as suspense. [Perfume, The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, Vintage International, 255 pages, $20.00]
Two very Canadian books that will make excellent gifts at Christmas, and are enjoyable to read and view, are Footnotes and Odjig. The first is, as the name implies, about ballet. Although directed at a young audience, it also offers everyone to brush up on the history of the art form, and what it means to be a ballet dancer. The graphics are excellent additions to the text. [Footnotes, Dancing the World’s Best-Loved Ballets by Frank Augustyn and Shelley Tanaka, Key Porter Books, 96 pages, $24.95 hardcover, $19.95 paperback]
Odjig: the Art of Daphne Odjig, 1960 - 2000 is utterly gorgeous. The reproduction of this artist’s work in the book are superb. The text by Bob Boyer and Carol Podedworny gives much insight into the workings of Odjig’s mind and how being a native and a woman artist have influenced her work. This is a truly Canadian book in voice and imagery. A must for anyone who values art, and specifically Canadian art. [Odjig: The Art of Daphne Odjig, 1960-2000, Key Porter Books, 126 pages, $41.95 hardcover]
A third Canadian book tells the story of how Canada and the United States, over a protracted period, settled their boundaries in a peaceful manner. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but it is yet another fine example of how on the northern portion of this continent we have managed to settle territorial claims without bloodshed, though not without political intrigue. A Good and Wise Measure by Francis M. Carroll, a senior scholar of history at the University of Manitoba and a Fellow of St. John’s College, takes a very detailed look at this huge task. It requires concentrated reading, but anyone who cares about Canadian and North American history should read this work. [A Good and Wise Measure, the Search for the Canadian-American Boundary, 1783-1842 by Francis M. Carroll, University of Toronto Press, 462 pages, $29.95, paperback]
Lastly, let me tell you about two books that take you to Asia and to the top of the world. They are two very different books dealing with a controversial subject, from two very different viewpoints. First there is Can Asians Think? This books is by Kishore Mahbubani, who is Singapore’s ambassador to the United Nations. An admitted lover of paradox he dwells on many but fails to recognize that he is one himself. He sets out a challenge to fellow Asians to return their civilizations to their former greatness, shows the difference between eastern and western thought processes, and has a rather rose-coloured view of how Asian powers, especially China, will behave in the future. A well-written, very provocative book. [Can Asians Think? by Kishore Mahbubani, Key Porter Books, 208 pages, $24.95 paperback]
War at the Top of the World, The Clash for Mastery of Asia is a keenly observed, clearly and excitingly written book by a top political journalist, war correspondent, and adventurer. His observations on the wars in Afghanistan, between India and Pakistan, India and China, and his views on the latter two point at some very troubling hot spots on this globe. It is his view that India and China will eventually clash over mastery of Asia, a view very much opposed to Mahbubani’s, but one this writer agrees with from own observations. This is a very instructive book, besides being a great read. [War at the top of the World by Eric S. Margolis, Key Porter Books, 384 pages, $19.95 paperback.]
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