May 18, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

According to the first Princeton Companion (Princeton University Press, 1978), Woodrow Wilson “had a larger hand in the development of Princeton into a great university than any other man in the twentieth century. He left a vision of an institution dedicated both to things of the mind and the nation’s service, promoted a spirit of religious tolerance, and held up ideals of integrity and achievement that still inspire the Princeton community.”

In the words of The New Princeton Companion (Princeton University Press, 2022), “While many of Wilson’s accomplishments and ideas have had lasting beneficial impact, he was a divisive figure both during and after his Princeton presidency and his record of racist views and actions has deeply tarnished his legacy.” The trustees’ 2020 report concluded that the continued use of Wilson’s name on the University’s school of public affairs “impeded the school’s and the University’s capacity to pursue their missions.”

The Fountain’s Story

The Wilson article in Robert Durkee’s New Princeton Companion also mentions the 39-foot sculpture Double Sights, installed in the fall of 2019 on the plaza in front of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, formerly named for Wilson. Walter Hood’s sculpture is composed of “a slanted white column resting on a straight black column, both columns etched with quotes from Wilson,” along with quotes from contemporaries “who were critical of his views and policies, particularly as they related to race and gender.” The structure’s stated purpose is to educate the campus community “about both the positive and negative dimensions of Wilson’s legacy.” more

“GROUP!”: Performances are underway for “Group!” Directed by Maria Patrice Amon, the musical runs through May 22 at Passage Theatre. Above, from left: Jessica (Liz Barnett) facilitates a court-ordered anti-addiction group therapy program, but her methods (such as passing around a soccer ball on which she tapes impractical ideas) scarcely help the participants, including Sandra (Nicole Stacie), Ceci (Tamara Rodriguez), and Everly (Deja Fields). (Photo by Jeff Stewart)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Passage Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Group! By turns poignant and wry, the new musical portrays six women who meet at group therapy session to battle addiction.

Five of the women attend the program because of a court order. The sixth, Jessica, is the well-meaning but ill-equipped facilitator who moderates the sessions. Although Jessica appears to have little in common with the women she is trying to help, all of them are expected to succeed by a system that hinders their ability to do so.

Group! tells an original story set in present-day Trenton. The book is by Julia B. Rosenblatt; the dialogue segues seamlessly into Eloise Govedare’s lyrics. Composer Aleksandra M. Weil draws on a variety of musical styles, but uses an energetic pop rock sound to anchor the score.

Upon entering the theater we immediately see scenic designer Kayla Arrell’s set. Most of the action takes place in a room with (artfully) drab walls and uncomfortable-looking plastic chairs. A door marked “exit” is prominent, letting us wonder whether these women will successfully exit the therapy program. The walls are decorated with posters on which are written platitudes such as “change,” and “believe and succeed.”

Above the therapy room are three windows representing apartments. Moments that use that upper level — in which we see the participants’ lives away from the sessions — have some particularly effective and dramatic lighting by Alex Mannix. more

SAUCY COMEDY: The 1942 Noel Coward classic “Present Laughter” comes to Kelsey Theatre May 27-June 5.

Kelsey Theatre continues its 2022 season with MTM Players’ production of Noël Coward’s popular comedy Present Laughter weekends from May 27 through June 5. Kelsey Theatre is located on the Mercer County Community College campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road in West Windsor.

First produced in 1942 with Noël Coward in the leading role, the three-act play is a semi-autobiographical comedy that follows a self-obsessed actor in the midst of a mid-life crisis. The show’s unexpected twists include seductions, suspicions, adulteries, and blackmail.

Performances are Friday and Saturday, May 27 and 28 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, May 29 at 2 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, June 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults; $18 for children, students, and senior citizens. Visit

BACK ON TRACK: The Diderot String Quartet is among the ensembles returning to Richardson Auditorium this summer for Princeton University Chamber Concerts.

After two years of streaming concerts due to the pandemic, Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts’ 55th Season of free chamber music concerts will be in Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus again summer.

The season begins Thursday, June 16 at 7:30 p.m. with the Argus Quartet, playing music by Joseph Boulogne, known as the “Black Mozart,” and new music by Donald Crockett and Jessica Meyer. On Sunday, June 26 at 2 p.m., the Diderot String Quartet plays works by Bach and Mendelssohn on historic instruments for a program, “Legacy of the Fugue.” more

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance at Princeton University has announced two artists as Caroline Hearst Choreographers-in-Residence for the 2021-2022 academic year: Dianne McIntyre and Cameron McKinney.

McIntyre and McKinney have spent time this past semester at the Lewis Center engaging with the larger Princeton community and working directly with students while also developing new work with access to the Center’s studios and other resources. They joined earlier named 2021-22 Hearst Choreographers-in-Residence Kyle Marshall and Larissa Velez-Jackson.

Launched in 2017, the Caroline Hearst Choreographers-in-Residence Program fosters the Program in Dance’s connections with the dance field. It provides selected professional choreographers with resources and a rich environment to develop their work and offers opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to engage with diverse creative practices. The artists share their work and processes with the Princeton community through workshops, conversations, residencies, open rehearsals, and performances.

Dianne McIntyre
(Photo by Larry Coleman)

McIntyre is regarded as an artistic pioneer with an impressive choreographic career spanning five decades in dance, theater, television and film. The recipient of a 2020 Doris Duke United States Artists Fellowship, the 2019 Dance/U.S.A. Honor, a 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award, as well as a 2007 John S. Guggenheim Fellowship, McIntyre’s individualistic movement style reflects her affinity for cultural histories, personal narratives and the boldness, nuances, discipline and freedom in music and poetic text.  more

GETTING EXTRA INSIGHT: Artists of the Princeton Festival are shown in a previous roundtable discussion. The topic on June 2 is the upcoming opera “Albert Herring.”

Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s (PSO) Princeton Festival Guild presents its annual Artists’ Round Table on Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library’s Community Room. The Guild invites anyone curious about what goes into putting on an opera to this roundtable discussion centered on Benjamin Britten’s only comic opera, Albert Herring.

Moderated by Guild member and Princeton Symphony Orchestra Trustee Marcia Bossart, panelists will discuss the upcoming production of Britten’s opera, preparing for a role, and the joys and challenges of being in the opera business. more

COLOR ME BLUE: As part of their current tour, the Blue Man Group comes to the State Theatre New Jersey May 24-26. (Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

The Blue Man Group appears at State Theatre New Brunswick for three performances on Tuesday-Thursday, May 24-26 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $40-$98. 

More than 50 million people around the world have experienced the Blue Man Group. The New Brunswick engagement is part of a new North American tour. The group is known for signature drumming, colorful moments of creativity, and quirky comedy. The men are still blue, but the rest is all new, with pulsing, original music; custom-made instruments; and surprise audience interaction.

Since debuting at New York’s Astor Place Theatre in 1991, the live show has expanded to additional domestic residencies in Boston, Chicago, and Las Vegas, an international residency in Berlin, and multiple North American and World tours.

The State Theatre New Jersey is at 15 Livingston Avenue. Visit for tickets.

HOMEBASED TALENT: Fiona Tyndall and Friends performs on June 5 at 4 p.m. as part of Princeton Public Library’s Listen Local series.

The Listen Local series of concerts on Hinds Plaza continues on June 5 when Fiona Tyndall and Friends performs from 4-5:15 p.m. In the event of rain, the performance will be moved to the Community Room.

The concert, “From Clare to Here,” features Tyndall, a vocalist and recording artist; and Ben Stein, an actor and musician; who will be joined by guest artists in a performance of traditional Celtic songs and some popular cover songs from both sides of the Atlantic. more

ART AT SMALL WORLD: Artist and barista Beatrice Weisner-Chianese is shown with some of her works on exhibit at the 254 Nassau Street location through June 7.

Small World Coffee is featuring the art of two of its employees through June 7.

Barista Beatrice Weisner-Chianese is exhibiting at the 254 Nassau Street location and works by former barista and current social media manager Jacqui Alexander are on view at the 14 Witherspoon Street location.

Wiesner-Chianese is a self-taught artist using photography, painting, and paper quilling as her mediums. Her art is inspired by the world around her as she attempts to capture a variety of colors, textures, and abnormal perspectives. more

“REMEMBER THE 4TH”: This holiday banner from the 1860s is on display along with a wealth of historical and contemporary photos, educational and archival videos, interactive multimedia, and historical objects during the “Voices And Votes: Democracy In America” traveling exhibit at The Gallery at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor. The exhibit runs through June 20. (Courtesy of the National Museum of American History)

In partnership with the New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH), Mercer County Community College (MCCC) is hosting “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America,” a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution, in the Gallery at MCCC through June 20. The Gallery is located on the college’s West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road on the second floor of the Communication building.

The exhibit is presented free to the public and is appropriate for all age groups. More about the exhibit and special programs can be found at

Gallery hours for the exhibit are Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Closed on May 28 for Memorial Day weekend.) Dates of note include open hours on MCCC’s Commencement Day, May 20; Future Voters Day on June 4; and A Tribute to John Watson on June 17.

Among other partners in the MCCC project are the New Jersey League of Women Voters and the Citizens Campaign through the Trenton Civic Trustees.  more

“THIRD THURSDAYS”: The monthly photography presentation and artist talk series at Mercer County Community College’s James Kerney Campus Gallery in Trenton will take place on May 19 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. This month features works by Aaron Turner and Wendel White. The public is invited in person or via Zoom. Reservations are required at

“Third Thursdays,” the free monthly photography presentation and artist talk series at Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) James Kerney Campus Gallery (JKCG) at 137 North Broad Street in Trenton, will take place May 19 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event, curated by Heather Palecek and Habiyb Shu’Aib, will feature work by Aaron Turner and Wendel White. Hosted by Director of the JKC Gallery, Michael Chovan-Dalton, the talk will take place live and on Zoom. All are invited to register at

Chovan-Dalton said, “This will be the final Third Thursdays for this semester at JKC Gallery and I am pleased to present two artists who have shared their work with us in a solo show. We look forward to welcoming Wendel White and Aaron Turner on May 19.”

Turner is a photographer and educator currently based in Arkansas. He focuses on photography as a transformative process to understand the ideas of home and resilience in the Arkansas and Mississippi Deltas. He also creates still-life photography in the studio environment on the topics of identity, history, and blackness as material and abstraction.

Turner originally pursued a career as a photojournalist working for newspapers but was eventually drawn to photography as an art form. more

May 11, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

“A cage went in search of a bird.”

  —Franz Kafka, Aphorism 16

In his introduction to The Aphorisms of Franz Kafka (Princeton University Press $24.95), Reiner Stach tells readers they may “wind up in unfamiliar, sometimes inhospitable territory, which can then turn terribly beautiful.” Stach quotes the aphorism designated number 17 as one that Kafka might well have placed at the beginning “as the motto for the entire collection” —  “I have never been in this place before: breathing works differently, and a star shines next to the sun, more dazzlingly still.”

Words and Music

In the terminology of the recording studio, “A cage went in search of a bird,” Aphorism 16 (A16), is the master take “recorded on November 6, 1917,” with “A cage went to catch a bird” as the unused alternate. Discussing why “search” prevailed over “catch,” Stach suggests that rather than depriving “the bird of its freedom,” an “act of overpowering, with the cage as perpetrator and the bird as victim,” Kafka reworded the sentence so that the premise of a search “could be projected onto any number of social relationships.”

Recordings, master takes, alternate takes, words and music are on my mind after weeks reading Kafka’s Aphorisms and listening to Charlie Parker, the alto saxophonist the jazz world knows as Bird. The recording studio analogy to choosing “search” over “catch” doesn’t quite hold, since the commercial object is to both find and capture an audience. In the case of a player who brings you into the studio the way Parker does when he cuts a take short with a shout or a whistle, you save the alternate take as an example of the artist in the living moment, so that future listeners can compare it to the soaring and searching of the master take that has an effect comparable to Kafka’s A17 —  you’ve “never been in this place before,” your “breathing works differently, and a star shines next to the sun.”  more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Symphony Orchestra closed the 2021-22 season this past weekend with a classical violinist who is making his mark worldwide. Led by PSO Music Director Rossen Milanov, the Orchestra and guest violinist Stefan Jackiw performed a lesser-known and somewhat underrated 20th-century concerto, bracketed by a very contemporary work and a symphonic classic.

American violinist Jackiw began playing violin at age 4, eventually earning concurrent degrees from Harvard University and New England Conservatory of Music. In Saturday night’s performance (the concert was repeated Sunday afternoon), Jackiw showed himself from the opening measures of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major to be a very physical player, leaning into solo lines with a youthful and fresh sound. Korngold’s Concerto (nicknamed the Hollywood Concerto when it first premiered) was definitely cinematic, full of lush music designed to pull at listeners’ emotions. Korngold’s colorful orchestration provided numerous solo opportunities for the wind and brass players, including oboist Lillian Copeland and hornist Gabrielle Pho.

The solo violin part in Korngold’s Concerto was continuous, and Jackiw showed impassioned violin playing throughout the piece. In the second movement “romance,” he was joined in an elegant duet by English horn player Gilles Cheng, with the solo line well complemented by flutists Armir Farsi and Mary Schmidt. Jackiw’s solo line immediately took off in the third movement “finale,” for which Korngold borrowed heavily from his own film scores. The principal theme of this song-like movement sounded as though it should be familiar, but as it was passed around among the players, the tune was jazzed up and altered (especially by the brass), leading to a spirited conclusion to the Concerto. more

“RIDE THE CYCLONE”: Performances are underway for “Ride the Cyclone.” Produced by McCarter Theatre and Arena Stage, and directed by McCarter’s Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen, the musical runs through May 29 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. Above, from left, are Constance (Princess Sasha Victomé), Noel (Nick Martinez), Ocean (Katerina McCrimmon), Jane Doe (Ashlyn Maddox), Ricky (yannick-robin eike), and Mischa (Eli Mayer). (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

In the musical Ride the Cyclone, six teenagers are killed in an accident while riding the titular amusement park ride. In an otherworldly warehouse they meet The Amazing Karnak, a mechanical fortune teller that is about to be destroyed by a bass-playing rat who is chewing on his power cord.  The fortune teller offers to send one of the teenagers back from the dead, instigating a literal fight for their lives.

It must have been entertaining to listen to early pitches for the show, whose book, music, and lyrics are by Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond. But within the eccentric, morbid plot are engaging, uplifting character arcs, conveyed by songs that are by turns eerie and exuberant. Ride the Cyclone is both offbeat and upbeat.

Ride the Cyclone is being presented at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre (in a co-production by McCarter and Arena Stage). In a program note, Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen — who directs the production — recalls a quote from Our Town: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it … every minute?”

Both Our Town and Ride the Cyclone acknowledge the fragility of life; lyrics in the song “Jawbreaker/Sugarcloud” echo the line quoted by Rasmussen. Karnak fulfills a role similar to that of Our Town’s Stage Manager: an emcee to guide the characters.

Any similarity between the two shows generally ends there. In Wilder’s play, the dead characters are confined to chairs. In the musical, the characters sing, dance, and even spin in midair. Our Town usually is performed with no scenery and few props. Ride the Cyclone rejects this aesthetic, reveling in lavish production elements. more

WORLD PREMIERE: A work by composer Rollo Dilworth is on the program when the Princeton Boychoir performs on Saturday, May 14 at Trinity Church.

Princeton Boychoir’s fifth anniversary season will culminate with a gala concert, “Brothers, Sing On!” on Saturday, May 14, 7 p.m. at Trinity Church, 33 Mercer Street. Audiences will hear selections from all three choirs that make up the training and performance choir for boys.

The highlight of the evening will be the world premiere of a newly commissioned choral work by conductor and composer Rollo Dilworth. A new arrangement of the spiritual “Ev’rything’s Gonna Be Alright,” the piece captures the feelings of hope the choir feels moving forward out of the pandemic and into the future. more

WILLY WONKA AND FRIENDS: The cast of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” on stage at the State Theatre New Jersey May 13-15.

State Theatre New Jersey presents Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory for four performances on Friday, May 13 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 14 at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, May 15 at 2 p.m.

Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory tells the story of Willy Wonka, world-famous inventor of the Everlasting Gobstopper, who has just made an astonishing announcement. His mysterious factory is opening its gates, to a lucky few. That includes young Charlie Bucket, whose life definitely needs sweetening. He and four other golden ticket winners will embark on a life-changing journey through Wonka’s world of pure imagination.  more

STOPPING AT THE STATE: Kenny Wayne Shepherd brings his Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band to the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick on May 20.

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band will stop at State Theatre New Jersey on Friday, May 20 at 8 p.m. as part of their U.S. tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Trouble Is… with special guest Samantha Fish. The band will perform Trouble Is… in its entirety. Tickets range from $34.50-$100.  more

Ballets set to music of Igor Stravinsky are a highlight of the New York City Ballet’s current season at the David Koch Theatre in Lincoln Center. George Balanchine’s “Symphony in Three Movements,” created during the original Stravinsky Festival 50 years ago, is among the works through May 15. Additional works by Balanchine and Jerome Robbins are being performed, along with premieres by Justin Peck, Silas Farley, Pam Tanowitz, and Jamar Roberts. The season ends with a week of Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” May 21-29. Visit for tickets.

“BASKET OF DAHLIAS: This oil painting by Elizabeth Robbins is featured in “A Brush Above the Rest,” on view May 14 through June 30 at Highlands Art Gallery in Lambertville. The opening reception weekend is May 14 and 15 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Highlands Art Gallery, located at 41 North Union Street in Lambertville, is hosting its first art show opening in over a year due to COVID-19. The opening reception weekend for “A Brush Above The Rest” is May 14 and 15 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibit is on view through June 30.

“A Brush Above the Rest”  features a wide variety of subject matter from many gallery artists, including Tina Garrett, Michael Godfrey, Cindy Baron, Paula Holtzclaw, Joseph Orr, John Pototschnik, Jason Tako, Lili Anne Laurin, Elizabeth Robbins, Susan Blackwood, Howard Friedland, and Kenn Backhaus.

Backhaus and Baron will be painting informally during the weekend. For more information, call (908) 766-2720, email at, or visit

ACP BOWL PROJECT: The fundraiser on Saturday, May 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. will offer one-of-a-kind handmade bowls created by artists in the Arts Council of Princeton’s Ceramic Studio. The first 50 buyers will receive a free scoop of ice cream from the bent spoon.

Join the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) for The ACP Bowl Project on Saturday, May 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and purchase one-of-a-kind handmade bowls. Artists in the ACP Ceramic Studio have created unique ceramic bowls, available for $30 each. All proceeds benefit the Arts Council of Princeton, helping to support year-round outreach programs and community events.

The first 50 buyers will receive a voucher for a free scoop of ice cream from the bent spoon. Bowls are first-come, first-served while supplies last.

This outdoor sale will take place on the Arts Council of Princeton’s terrace at 102 Witherspoon Street. For more information, visit

“CANAL MULE”: This photograph by Alina Marin-Bliach is featured in “Exploring the World in Black and White,” her dual exhibit with Joel Blum, on view May 14 through June 12 at Gallery 14 in Hopewell.

New Jersey artists Joel Blum and Alina Marin-Bliach each take their own approach to exploring the world of monochrome images in “Exploring the World in Black and White,” on view May 14 through June 12 at Gallery 14 in Hopewell. While color images have their own realm of interest and beauty, black and white images allow the photographer to emphasize texture and details that may not be readily seen in color. Using the natural textures and contrast the photographer is able to create special feelings about the scene and the world captured in the image.

Gallery member Blum of East Windsor looks back to the work of the early photographers who, sometimes using the most basic of equipment, influenced the future artists with monochrome images that reached a level of perfection not matched today. Think artists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, the master of candid images; the magnificence of Brassai in Paris at Night; or more modern artists like Richard Avedon or Michael Kenna, and a list or others too long to include here. This show is Blum’s tribute to these early “influencers” of the art world. The exhibit has no unifying theme, rather it simply searches out his thoughts in the monochrome paradigm. more

CHALK ART: Princeton Makes will host its inaugural Chalk Festival on Saturday, May 14 from 12 to 4 p.m. Shown is a work created for Communiversity, which formerly featured the event.

The Inaugural Princeton Makes Chalk Festival will take place on Saturday, May 14 from 12 to 4 p.m. outside the Princeton Makes store at the Princeton Shopping Center.

The Chalk Festival will feature local middle and high school students making large chalk drawings in the courtyard.  These drawings will be either reproductions or original art of the students. There will also be a chalk area specifically for younger children who want to create their own works.

The Chalk Festival continues a 25-year tradition of public chalk drawings which had been done by local students at Communiversity. The founders of the event, Lisa and Jim Levine, had been looking for another venue for the event, and the Princeton Shopping Center made space available for it to continue the tradition.  more

“FLOATING THOUGHT 13”: This work from the series “A Natural Thickening of Thought” is part of  “Body Matters / Martha Friedman,” on view May 20 to July 10 at the Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge on Nassau Street.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents new mixed-media works by the artist Martha Friedman in “Body Matters / Martha Friedman,” on view May 20 to July 10 at Art@Bainbridge. Friedman, a senior lecturer in Princeton’s program in visual arts, integrates elements of choreography, printmaking, drawing, poured and cast rubber, mold-blown glass, plaster, wax and concrete in her complex multimedia practice.

Highlighting Friedman’s interest in historical practices for preserving, representing and studying the body, the exhibition brings together two new series of sculptures — Mummy Wheat (2021) and A Natural Thickening of Thought (2022) — that draw on influences as diverse as ancient Egyptian mummification, Greco-Roman portrait busts and the early 20th-century drawings of neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Shown together for the first time, these works highlight Friedman’s interest in bodies as site and subject for scientific exploration as well as for conceptualizing a spiritual realm.

“‘Body Matters / Martha Friedman’ continues Princeton University Art Museum’s commitment to activating Art@Bainbridge with powerful works created by today’s most exciting practitioners,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director. “Through her provocative and compelling use of widely divergent materials, Friedman’s sculptures and paintings challenge the boundaries of these disciplines even as they invite us to reconsider our ideas about the human body and brain.”

In the exhibit, rubber — the artist’s primary medium — serves as a metaphor for the body. A liquid that becomes a malleable solid, both stretchy and resistant, its texture mimics flesh. Friedman collaborated with dancer and choreographer Silas Riener, a member of the Princeton class of 2006, in casting his head and shoulders to create the mold-blown sculptures for the exhibition. This process pushed the limits of Riener’s physical training as a dancer; he held his posture for 90 minutes as Friedman covered his eyes, ears, nose, head, and torso in rubber, withstanding heat and breathing through a small slit at his mouth. Friedman suspends his animation in sculpture, freezing his body in time. more

May 4, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

“The only way to even begin to understand language is to love it so much that we allow it to confound us and to torment us to the extent that it threatens to swallow us whole.”

I keep returning to that impassioned sentence from Jhumpa Lahiri’s Translating Myself and Others (Princeton University Press $21.95). The sense of spontaneous energy behind Lahiri’s use of the word “love” is in stunning contrast to the standard “I was struck by” or “I admired” used in other, earlier contexts; in one of the translations she quotes from, the word love is “merely ‘a container we stick everything into,’ a hollow place-holder that justified our behaviors and choices.” Here it comes across as fresh, reinvigorated, uncontained, unconditional, and even heroic, given the challenges she brings tumultuously into play.

The Cracked Kettle

Lahiri’s embattled devotion to language reminds me of Gustave Flaubert’s performance on a similar theme in Madame Bovary: “Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to when we long to move the stars to pity.” In the original it’s “la parole humaine est comme un chaudron fêlé ou nous battons des mélodies à faire danser les ours, quand on voudrait attendrir les étoiles.”

The English version has a Shakespearean kick that makes Flaubert’s mot-juste French appear unwieldy; but that’s how the words look on the page: say them aloud, and it’s another story, another song.

Looking in the Mirror

Lahiri says that “to translate is to look into a mirror and see someone other than yourself.” Even when you’re not the translator, you can imagine Constance Garnett’s bespectacled face in the mirror when reading Chekhov. You know and trust her, she’s given you the Russians, and in Chekhov’s stories and letters, which you come back to again and again, her translations bring you closer to him than any other. Of Garnett’s Turgenev, the first of the Russian giants she brought to English-speaking readers, Joseph Conrad said “Turgenev is Constance Garnett and Constance Garnett is Turgenev.” Ernest Hemingway makes essentially the same point in A Moveable Feast. For him, the language of Tolstoy was the language of the Englishwoman who began to go blind while translating War and Peace. D. H. Lawrence recalls seeing her sitting in her garden “turning out reams of her marvelous translations from the Russian. She would finish a page, and throw it off on a pile on the floor without looking up, and start a new page. That pile would be this high — really, almost up to her knees, and all magical.” more

By Nancy Plum

Sibling musical prodigies can be found throughout history — brother and sister Mozart, the Haydn brothers, and a large family of Bachs — but there is nothing in classical music today quite like the Kanneh-Masons. Raised in Nottingham, England, the seven brothers and sisters of the Kanneh-Mason family each play violin, piano, and/or cello, all at a very high level. They appear professionally both individually and collectively, have won numerous awards, and are especially known for their livestreams of innovative arrangements and performances.

Two members of this acclaimed family came to Richardson Auditorium last Wednesday night as the last performance of Princeton University Concerts’ 2021-22 season. Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, accompanied by his sister, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, played a program of four 19th and 20th-century sonatas for cello and piano, none of which were lightweight pieces and all of which showed that these two siblings have musical skills way beyond their years.

Cellist Sheku has already made history in the United Kingdom as the first cellist in history to reach the U.K. Album Chart Top 10. His popularity as a musician was instantaneous from his performance at the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and he is now in demand as a soloist throughout the world. Pianist Isata has won her own share of awards, drawing on her training at London’s Royal Academy of Music and forging her own path as a piano soloist.

Sheku and Isata mesmerized the audience at Richardson last week with the chamber music of Ludwig van Beethoven, Dmitri Shostakovich, Frank Bridge and Benjamin Britten. One of Sheku’s most striking characteristics as a performer is his range of facial expressions while playing, showing that this young artist pours emotion into every note. Opening with Beethoven’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, No. 4 in C Major, the Kanneh-Masons showed consistent expressive intensity, with clarity in the accompaniment and elegant melodic lines from the cello. The first movement “andante” introduction included a graceful dialog between cello and piano, with Isata playing delicately light trills with a flowing right hand.  more