Arts feature

How the West was won

Alexander Stoddart unravels the relationship between art and politics The great British philosopher Brian Magee, writing about Richard Wagner’s political life, points out that it is wrong to think of the Sage of Bayreuth moving to the Right in his later life. Magee’s proposal is compelling; Wagner leaves left-wing politics precisely as men who are

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Artist and Believer

I guess it’s no surprise that, while the rest of us were twiddling the dials on our cheap plastic transistors (made in Japan) to find Radio Caroline, the future Archbishop of Canterbury as a teenager in the Sixties was tuning in to Radio Three. He was hoping to hear the first blast of the latest

Traces of self

Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons Tate Modern, until 14 September This year, Cy Twombly celebrated his 80th birthday. As the leading modern American artist who decamped to Europe and went his own way regardless of developments at home, Twombly was for many years out in the wilderness. But he held his course and now he

Gripped by paranoia

2,000 Feet Away Bush Relocated Royal Court The Chalk Garden Donmar America is nuts about paedophiles. That’s the take-home message of Anthony Weigh’s new play 2,000 Feet Away, which stars Joseph Fiennes. The title refers to a provision of Megan’s law which sets out the minimum permissible distance between the home of a paedophile and

Visual fuss

Ariadne auf Naxos Royal Opera House The Pilgrim’s Progress Sadler’s Wells One of the odd things about the Strauss–Hofmannsthal collaboration is that while the literary half was endlessly aspiring, writing works which might serve the high function which Wagner saw for music–drama, even if Hofmannsthal didn’t much care for Wagner’s works, the musical half was

Whisper or scream

Since the recent death of Karlheinz Stockhausen, his compatriot Helmut Lachenmann, 73 this year, has inherited the Emperor’s mantle of grandiose invisiblity. I’m pitching it with provocative unfairness! Yet the struggle to extract gold from their mass of water or rock is beset with legitimate reservations that cannot be begged: Stockhausen the visionary charlatan–genius, Lachenmann

Toffs are different

When I was up at Oxford, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, my deepest wish was to find a letter one day in my pigeonhole informing me that a distant relative had died and that henceforward I was entitled to style myself the Marquess of Wessex (or wherever), until eventually I inherited my dukedom. That


Oxford treasures

Beyond the Work of One — Oxford College Libraries and their Benefactors  The Bodleian Library, Oxford, until 1 November, admission free A few years ago, my old tutor, the much- missed Angus Macintyre of Magdalen College, gave me a letter that meant I could get into the Codrington Library — Nicholas Hawksmoor’s 1716 gem at