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Sunday, August 14, 2016

If they had lived

Last night in London, BBC Two televised one of its Proms concerts featuring the music of Ira and George Gershwin. Ira lived until 1983 but George died of a brain tumor in 1937 at the age of 38. I'm an American born in the 20th century, so it's no surprise that the music of Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein has always had hold of my head and heart. Copland lived to age 90, Bernstein to age 72. How much more great music like this would Gershwin have written if not for his early death?

Today, a similar question. I visited the Wallace Collection, one of the UK's lesser known but fabulous museums of European fine art and decorative art from the 1600s to the mid-1800s. That period is not my favorite, but I was captivated by paintings from an artist whom I'd not heard of before: Richard Parkes Bonington. The Wallace Collection has 35 of his works, which show a mastery of light and detail at the very end of the Romantic period.

Bonington died at age 26, explaining why his work is not in every major museum. I wonder how he would have reacted to Impressionism.

In our own era we have the sad "27 Club", including the Lizard King. I wonder what he'd make of Donald Trump.