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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: June 19, 2007 Archive

Lola Wasserstein, Kugel Smuggler!

Posted at 8:18 AM on June 19, 2007 by John Birge

A remarkable New Yorker died Saturday. Lola Wasserstein was 89, and provided the inspiration for many of the larger-than-life maternal characters in the plays of her daughter, the late Wendy Wasserstein.

I never met Lola, but when Wendy Wasserstein shared her Thanksgiving memories for my annual Giving Thanks special, I learned that Lola's habit of "smuggling cranberry sauce and potato kugel over inter-borough lines" was a beloved holiday tradition. As Wendy put it:

"Every Thanksgiving when my sister from Vermont and her family would arrive, my mother would already have unpacked all the catering, hidden away the foil and the Tupperware, and be busy boiling garlic to create that real down-home Lexington Avenue atmosphere. On entry, every year, my brother-in-law the doctor would say, 'Lola, it smells delicious!' And she would so graciously reply, 'Of course it does. I've been cooking for hours!'"

Of course, you really need to hear Wendy tell the whole story. And you can, when you click here, and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Two views on music and arts coverage

Posted at 3:32 PM on June 19, 2007 by Don Lee

In yesterday's Star Tribune, Minneapolis teacher (and former actor) Michael Kennedy contributed an op-ed piece saying the Twin Cities face "a quiet artistic crisis." He says the recent cuts in the Strib's arts staff can mean only bad things for the health of the arts community in general.

At least in the realm of classical music, critic Greg Sandow sees it the other way around: If advocates were doing their job better, there would be more coverage.

"Classical music can look predictable to the outside world, and (to be honest) not very interesting," Sandow writes in The Wall Street Journal. "Same old, same old. Great classical masterworks, played by acclaimed classical musicians."

For just about anyone reading this blog, great music played by great musicians is more than enough. But Sandow is saying general-interest newspaper readers are looking for a different kind of incentive: "What does Brahms give us that Mozart, Feist, or Bruce Springsteen can't?"

Kennedy seems especially concerned about a decline in the number of reviews. But I agree with Sandow: Do many people read them? Kennedy is right to say that a healthy arts community needs "clear, serious criticism," but reviews aren't the only way to deliver it. Any feature story aiming to explain Johannes Brahms to a Bruce Springsteen fan would have to invoke "clear, serious criticism" to find credible answers.

And if we need reviews, must they be in the newspaper? Why aren't more of them showing up on the Web?