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Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise

Alex Ross The LA Phil returns to the Bowl

Solo for Orchestra. The New Yorker, Sept. 21, 2020.

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Alex Ross For Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the greatest, greatest-hearted public figures of our time, died today at the age of eighty-seven. Like many people, I am more or less speechless with despair at the news, but I wanted to offer up some music in her memory. In 2012, she wrote up a list of her favorite recordings, which I published on the New Yorker website. On it was Matthias Goerne’s Schubert album An mein Herz, which she said she listened to at home while working. The recording of “Du bist die Ruh” embedded above appears on that disc. Ginsburg had a deep, lifelong love of opera, and I got to witness her enthusiasm first hand at the Santa Fe Opera in 2013, while I was working on a profile of Joyce DiDonato. I know without having to ask that Joyce is one of dozens of opera singers whom Justice Ginsburg befriended and who are now devastated by her death — as is everyone who still believes in an American ideal.  זיכרונה לברכה: may her memory be a blessing.

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Alex Ross For Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the greatest, greatest-hearted public figures of our time, died today at the age of eighty-seven. Like many people, I am more or less speechless with despair at the news, but I wanted to offer up some music in her memory. In 2012, she wrote up a list of her favorite recordings, which I published on the New Yorker website. On it was Matthias Goerne’s Schubert album An mein Herz, which she said she listened to at home while working. The recording of “Du bist die Ruh” embedded above appears on that disc. Ginsburg had a deep, lifelong love of opera, and I got to witness her enthusiasm first hand at the Santa Fe Opera in 2013, while I was working on a profile of Joyce DiDonato. I know without having to ask that Joyce is one of dozens of opera singers whom Justice Ginsburg befriended and who are now devastated by her death — as is everyone who still believes in an American ideal.  זיכרונה לברכה: may her memory be a blessing.

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Alex Ross My mother contra Wagner

With my parents and David Remnick at the Rest Is Noise book party, 2007.
Tonight I will be speaking with my friend and colleague Anne Midgette at a virtual event hosted by Politics and Prose, the great DC-area bookstore. It will be a bittersweet occasion, since my previous appearances at Politics and Prose were rather joyous events, with my family and several of my high-school teachers in attendance. My mom died in February, and I can’t help thinking about her today. I confess that she was always a little hesitant about my plan to write a book about Wagner and Wagnerism, though she enthusiastically followed the project, as she did everything I undertook. When she was volunteering for the Smithsonian’s Steinway Diary project, she would send me snippets of Wagneriana from late-19th-century America, and tracked down a Theodore Thomas reference that had eluded me. But Wagner was not a composer she listened to willingly, or at all. There were no Wagner records in the home growing up. I don’t remember any specific objection being voiced against him, simply a general feeling that he was suspect. I think this is still fairly common with many people who have been schooled in the “strict” classical tradition, the Bach-to-Brahms lineage. Christoph von Dohnányi once told me that his mother had the same attitude. When he conducted Wagner, she would say, “I only come because you do it!” I recall my mom approvingly reading my 1998 New Yorker article about Wagner, which was more antagonistic than my current take. Nonetheless, she would have been thrilled to have the finished book in her hands. Her reverence for books was absolute, and the fact that her son had become a writer of books gave her, I think, no end of pleasure.

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Alex Ross My mother contra Wagner

With my parents and David Remnick at the Rest Is Noise book party, 2007.
Tonight I will be speaking with my friend and colleague Anne Midgette at a virtual event hosted by Politics and Prose, the great DC-area bookstore. It will be a bittersweet occasion, since my previous appearances at Politics and Prose were rather joyous events, with my family and several of my high-school teachers in attendance. My mom died in February, and I can’t help thinking about her today. I confess that she was always a little hesitant about my plan to write a book about Wagner and Wagnerism, though she enthusiastically followed the project, as she did everything I undertook. When she was volunteering for the Smithsonian’s Steinway Diary project, she would send me snippets of Wagneriana from late-19th-century America, and tracked down a Theodore Thomas reference that had eluded me. But Wagner was not a composer she listened to willingly, or at all. There were no Wagner records in the home growing up. I don’t remember any specific objection being voiced against him, simply a general feeling that he was suspect. I think this is still fairly common with many people who have been schooled in the “strict” classical tradition, the Bach-to-Brahms lineage. Christoph von Dohnányi once told me that his mother had the same attitude. When he conducted Wagner, she would say, “I only come because you do it!” I recall my mom approvingly reading my 1998 New Yorker article about Wagner, which was more antagonistic than my current take. Nonetheless, she would have been thrilled to have the finished book in her hands. Her reverence for books was absolute, and the fact that her son had become a writer of books gave her, I think, no end of pleasure.

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Alex Ross Wagnerism publication day

Bea cautiously sniffs my latest creation.

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Alex Ross White supremacy in classical music

Master Pieces. The New Yorker, Sept. 21, 2020.

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Alex Ross A Richard Barrett moment

Watch this interview for background on Barrett’s COVID-era collaboration with the Alinéa Ensemble, whose Everything But the Kitchen Sink series is well worth exploring.

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Alex Ross At the grave of my mother

For Mom; Grieving with Brahms.

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