September Letters: Philadelphia reinvented….

Readers respond about Philadelphia's reinvention, Treacy Ziegler's 'art of absolute loneliness,' the trouble with Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, 'Statements After An Arrest,' at the Philly Fringe, Opera17's 'We Shall Not Be Moved,' Louis Kahn and 'Columbus,'Trump's mental state, Clayton Storyteller, the Barrymore Awards, Frank Rizzo's statue, Sam Maitin, Confederate monuments, and 'Andrew Wyeth in Retrospect.'

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Richard da Silva

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on September 19, 2017

Another knowledgeable contribution from Mr. Rottenberg, experienced observer.

As for people's attractions to Philly, I came, for one, in 1980, with a young man's impulse for adventure in the nearest metropolis, after withdrawing from the University of Chicago and briefly living with my parents who had moved form New England to West Chester County. To me then, Philadelphia seemed to move too fast to notice itself. Here was a place where Whirl was King, having driven out William Penn. (Although compared to Manhattan, Center City felt like a small town.)

As Dan limns, our city, known in the early national period (1790-1840) as the Athens of America, now seems continually to be up and coming and a good place to live (or expand a monopolistic business). As you imply, the legendarylocal tendency for self-deprecation seems out of date.

Personally, I've put down psychic roots and enjoy seclusion when needed amid the cultural liveliness. Still, there are times when I can't help admiring Ogden Nash's lament, "Progress was all right once, but it went on too long." As for the apercu of T. S. Eliot with which you close the piece, is literary modernism's first poet even still taught at the University of Pennsylvania? Anyone who lives long enough is likely to experience some or a great deal of cultural dislocation, as well as Eliots's comforting clear and nostalgic memories.

Mike Hazard

of Minneapolis, MN on September 20, 2017

Dan, the Philly riff is buff fluff.

Joseph Glantz

of Levittown, PA on September 20, 2017

Modern and Contemporary America Poetry is taught at the University of Pennsylvania. An online course taught by Al Filreis has become one of the standards for all MOOC courses. Whether T.S. Eiiot is discussed— well, you should check with Mr. Filreis. Here's the course link. And here's an article about the course which appeared in the last issues of the Pennsylvania Gazette. The Kelly Writer's House at Penn, where the live version took place, has many wonderful events that are wonderful to explore.

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Nancy Herman

of Merion, PA on June 04, 2014

What a beautiful, very sad article this is. It should be circulated among law makers.

Janis Kobeko

of Sonoma, Ca on September 19, 2017

Thank you for caring about the lost souls incarcerated on Death Row. I am also an artist/teacher and working for the last five years learning about death row from a friend who was in solitary for 22 years. He is 53 now and has been in San Quentin since he was 19 for a 10-year sentence. He wrote two books in solitary and I recommend both! I visit him when I can and he is one of my dear friends and a very wise man. He has found Buddhism and meditates and it saved him from giving into this horrible situation. A descendent of slaves and sharecroppers and born into a very dysfunctional family. His name is Jarvis Jay Masters and his case is a sham, but he is another black man in prison. I love your work with art and the computer. Bless you for all your love and caring! Janis

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of Moscow, Russia, on August 08, 2016

What is fraudulent here being this article. Tchaikovsky, in fact, had premiered the piece in 1875 and revised it before he came to conduct it in the US. Click here.

Author's Response


The Wikipedia link cited by the letter-writer is labeled on the site: “This article needs additional citations for verification.” In fact, it is behind the times and inaccurate. The Tchaikovsky Museum and Archive in Klin, Russia, this year published the authentic version about which I wrote.

Tchaikovsky composed the piece in 1875 and revised it slightly in 1879 and that’s the authentic version. It’s also the version that he conducted during his American tour in 1891 and in concerts in Russia up until his death. The discredited score— which has been played for many years and which the Moscow writer defends— was never sanctioned by Tchaikovsky, just as my article stated.

Yes, the composer revised his piece. But what’s been played for more than a century is not that at all but, rather, a spurious later alteration made by others.

Robert Stankowic

of Poysdorf, Austria, Au on September 23, 2017

This distorted version of the concert seems to be the result of the "virtioso" mentality that was present during the whole 20th century. And not only in the Tchaikovsky. Kulenkmpff was even worse when he "improved" the Schumann VC and completely butchered it, Carl Flesch butchered the chaconne, and many violinists followed him in that, and so on.

I can't understand, why soloists during this time obviously did not bother to look into the score and to perform some serious analysis. Otherwise they would have recognized that during what they banged as heavy chords, the piano is just accompanying the orchestra, which has the main theme of the first movement. Fortunately, young pianists of our time begin to take composers' intentions more serious and to throw these "improvements" out.

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Margaret Darby

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on September 16, 2017

Bravo to the Free Library for staging this very exciting work, and to you for covering it in a review.

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Margaret Darby

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on September 16, 2017

Opera Philadelphia has been diving into community engagement for years. Michael Bolton has been working on projects with schools in conjunction with Art Sanctuary for more than seven years — and, you are right, Opera Philadelphia is not afraid of the new, the hip, and the wild. And they are still producing superb traditional operas.

David Devan and crew are to be commended for bringing a taste of opera to every part of the Philadelphia community. May their Festival O17 reap many rewards.

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Margaret Darby

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on September 13, 2017

Thank you so much for this double review. I had visited the Louis Kahn exhibit and was confused that there seemed to be more images of buildings he did not build than those he pushed to completion.

I found the movie Columbus much more positive than you did. When Jin befriended Cassandra, he helped her to see her strength and potential and convinced her not to waste it. In turn, she absolved him of filial guilt. Better than watching paint dry, but, I admit, there is a lot of dead space in that film.

Joseph Glantz

of Levittown, PA on September 14, 2017

To play devil's advocate: Don't most creative projects end up on the cutting room floor? Is Louis Kahn really different than other artists in that respect? And maybe a point about Columbus is that the relationship between Jin and Cassandra was much like the architecture of the town: modern/contemporary, in that two generations could speak to each other in a way that traditional relationships couldn't?

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Richard da Silva

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on September 05, 2017

I just want to nit-pick and take a swipe at the so-called science of psychiatry. I read in the New York Times (February 14, 2017) the letter from Allen Frances, the medical man at Duke University whom you mention. Consider his second paragraph, a muddle of confusion and contradiction:

"Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn't meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn't make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder."

How's that for a sterling example of the scientific method at work? There's a reason that psychiatry's nickname is "the sick man of medicine." Its claim even to be a medical science is controversial among the informed and intelligent. It's a semantic mess that probably misunderstands a great deal of what it pretends to know about human behavior.

I didn't vote for the current occupant of the White House, but I have been known to pray that the Lord guides him well so as to minimize damage and do some good.

Your own predictions here certainly have held up. Let's hope the waves Donald Trump makes don't drown us.

Bob Levin

of Berkeley, CA on September 06, 2017

Gee, Dan, you're missing the obvious. As Steven Beutler, M.D., diagnosed in The New Republic in February: Irritability, inability to concentrate, delusional thinking and grandiosity, impaired memory and judgment, squinting and hair loss = Stage Three Syphilis.

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Clayton Williamson

of Brunswick, GA on September 06, 2017

I'm honored that I made your WTF list, Alaina. Thanks for the plug... I think. I hope you'll come out and see the show. Though I used the strange title as a hook, I like to feel that I've got more than strangeness to recommend me.

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Richard da Silva

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on August 30, 2017

While I really did enjoy this article and found it stimulating, at the end I couldn't help thinking; Whoa, slow down: "Change" — that word you seem infatuated with — can be for the better or for worse. And it brought to mind the wonderfully reactionary adage: "Civilization is only the imperfectly exercised control of youth by age." The confidence you express in your cutting-edge and progressive reforms just might be partially misplaced with results not be as ameliorative as you expect.

As Nathaniel Hawthorne put it in his Blithedale Romance: It's good to have some old-fashioned blockheads around when the excess of utopian passion inevitably falls short. Circumstances very often fail to rise to meet expectations, as in the commune of free spirits that Hawthorne describes as failing in moral disaster. Shouldn't we try to relate to persons as unique individuals, rather like Dr. King perhaps, rather than as mere units of a group? And love thy neighbor as thyself; don't consign him to a re-education camp.

I realize my scattered jottings are not very specific to the subject and details of your well-done article. Carry on! A kind word turns away wrath.

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Bob Levin

of Berkeley, CA on August 31, 2017

Thanks for this, Dan. Good writing, good thinking, good clarity and calm (and indignation as appropriate). Refreshing in these brain-clotting times.

Margaret Darby

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on September 02, 2017

We should examine the intent of those who erect statues memorializing horrible people. The intent of placing statues of Civil War heroes in prominent places can only be intimidation, especially those erected during the Jim Crow era.

As to Mr. Rendell's intent when he steamrolled the funding and statue of Mayor Rizzo and made sure it was placed prominently near City Hall, only he can say. But something tells me it was not to make a friendly gesture towards a political opponent who was unable to appreciate the tribute.

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Barbara Beitel

of Cape May Court House, NJ on September 01, 2017

Sam Maitin's art is wonderful, full of life, color, vibrancy and a joy that radiated from his creativity.

More wonderful than his art was Sam himself, the best of friends, the brightest of men, a mensch of the first order. I was privileged to work with him. He helped me develop my nonprofit, designed the logo, and generally introduced me to his friends in the arts. Knowing Sam was a wonderful opportunity to see both genius and goodness equally yoked in one fine human being. I miss him so much.

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Margaret Darby

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on August 23, 2017

Maria, Please keep talking and writing about racism in the United States. I believe that the only good that can come of the horrors of hate that our current administration has abetted is that we face our racism.

As to loving those extremists, that is indeed a tall order. I have had the younger ones in my classroom and was not able to change them. But with voices like yours, I am encouraged to persist.

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Jackie Atkins

of Cape May, NJ on August 23, 2017

Must all of Philadelphia society bow to the demands of a "diverse and passionate few hundred people"?

Robert Small

of Swarthmore, PA on August 23, 2017

Having lived through the crimes and times of Rizzodelphia, I realize that many people, of many colors, bear scars from that time. For a survivor, or a child of a survivor, to have to to walk past that statue on a regular basis...

Maybe Riuzzo's statue should go to the Mummers Museum, which he helped to found, along with having some panel discussions on his legacy.

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Reed Stevens

of Campbell, CA on August 28, 2017

"Miss Olsen" is so gloomy. Glad Wyeth is too late to paint "Miss Reed Stevens."