Day: January 5th, 2007

Mozart at the Morgan

Friday, January 5th, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Eats, Friends

Sitting at my desk at work, I got another unexpected call: this time, MB and AC inviting me out for lunch with the surprise visitors from Southern Cali. We met in the lobby of my building and our lively lunch at Ho Yip 2.0 offered a preview of the liveliness to come this weekend.

But before the celebratory shots of Patron and demonstrations of value (or is that excellence?) among the technicolor disco lights, one of the last opportunities to check out the “Mozart at 250” exhibit at The Morgan. We met at the Grand Central Market — I just adore the cheese sticks at Murray’s Cheese Shop — and made our way to Madison and 36th Street.

Grand Central Market

What’s this? An actual line, forming outside the Library and Museum entrance — and eventually snaking its way around the corner. At first I was surprised that Mozart manuscripts could draw such crowds, but then I remembered that the popular Bob Dylan exhibit was also going to be closing that weekend. And indeed, most attendees were on line for “Bob Dylan’s American Journey, 1956–1966,” billed as the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to Dylan’s early career.

Morgan Library Line

A few minutes before 7PM, a museum staffer began distributing individual tickets to the Dylan exhibit, and the line began its slow march inside the airy Renzo Piano atrium.

Morgan Library Line

We bypassed the crowded glass elevators leading up to the second floor gallery — where the Dylan exhibit had replaced the manuscript room — in favor of what I consider the highlight of The Morgan, tucked away in the Southeast corner of the complex: the beautiful rooms that make up the original library and study of its founder, J. Pierpont Morgan. But first, a stop inside the white-cubed Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery that houses the glass-cased medieval treasures, among them, one of Morgan’s most important acquisitions: the gold and jewel-encrusted Lindau Gospels (ca. 880). The young man appointed to stand guard over the artifacts shared with us some tidbits he had picked up during the parade of guided tours under his watch. He pointed out a few of the pieces in the room, informing us that they had been purchased by Morgan for $100,000 apiece. Accounting for inflation only, that’s just over $2 million each in 2006 dollars.

Morgan was an avid collector of items, though he never confined himself to an artistic category, a specific period, or uniform aesthetic. Between 1899 and his death in 1913, Morgan went on an epic buying spree, amassing more than 3,000 medieval objects and 600 manuscripts, reportedly spending about $60 million on art, books, manuscripts, and drawings. Chief among those was the Stavelot Triptych, the mid-twelfth century three-part winged display housing relic fragments of the True Cross.

The McKim, Mead and White-designed rooms were just as impressive tonight as they were the last time — the marble and muraled dome entrance, the gilded library with one of Morgan’s three Gutenberg Bibles, the scarlet-damasked study with its Italian Renaissance works and sixteenth-century wood coffered ceiling…

Morgan Library Ceiling

Mr. Morgans Library

Eventually, we were joined by HYB and JL, and together we toured through the Mozart exhibit with its 18th century manuscripts, including the rare first edition of the unfinished Requiem and The Haffner Symphony in its silver case. There were listening stations set up where two people at a time could listen to musical excerpts associated with a manuscript detail. (HYB and his iPod improved upon the offerings.) Lining one wall were pages taken from Mozart’s personal correspondence — saucy, wildly inappropriate letters to his cousin and sister — which offered some insights into the juvenile lurking beneath the genius.

I did a brief walkthrough of the “Saul Steinberg: Illuminations” exhibit across the hall, but a more in depth examination would have to wait for another evening (on view through March 4, 2007.)

On the way to DF’s birthday gathering, we stopped in at Dirty Bird for fried chicken, mac-n-cheese, roasted cauliflower and shallot cornbread — an experience further enhanced by the XM Fred broadcast rotation of Nine Inch Nails  and The Smiths.

Dirty Bird Chicken

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