Schubert and His World
25th Anniversary Season
August 8–10—Weekend One: The Making of a Romantic Legend
August 15–17—Weekend Two: A New Aesthetics of Music
Franz Schubert (1797–1828) has long been among the most revered and influential composers in the Western tradition. In a fashion unprecedented in history, the music that made him world famous came to light only decades after his death at age 31. Schubert's biography is shrouded in myth and mystery, and his character and personality remain elusive. He never really left Vienna and its immediate environs; in his lifetime he acquired the one reputation he would never lose: as the defining exemplar of Vienna and Viennese culture. Even his remarkable and gifted close-knit circle of friends was not aware of the grandeur and scope of his compositional achievement.
Modern scholars have succeeded in demolishing the 19th-century image of Schubert as a shy, obscure, lovelorn man of the people, who wrote magical melodies in taverns, surrounded by cheerful friends. This image was cherished by audiences in the late 19th century and exploited by 20th-century Hollywood. A radically revised picture of Schubert now dominates: the composer as outcast, a subversive who set the course of music history away from the monumental example set by Beethoven, whom Schubert revered.
This year—2014— is a fitting one to honor Schubert. It marks the bicentennial of his early masterpiece, the setting of Goethe's Gretchen am Spinnrade, composed on October 19, 1814, a date often called the "birthday of the German Lied." By the time Schubert died, he had become justly revered for his songs and two- and four-hand keyboard music. But as more of his music was discovered posthumously, it became clear that his ambitions went well beyond songs and dances. In time, an astonished public discovered all the symphonies, the last two string quartets and string quintet, the three final piano sonatas, as well as hundreds of songs, dances, keyboard and sacred choral works, and even full-scale operas.
The Bard Music Festival will explore Schubert both as he was known in his own time and as he came to be understood by posterity. The programs include a recreation of the one public concert Schubert presented devoted entirely to his own music, and highlight Schubert's symphonic and choral works alongside later orchestrations of his music by Liszt, Brahms, Berlioz, and attempts by 20th-century composers to complete fragments and music left unfinished. The festival will end with a performance of Fierrabras, an opera that, like so many works Schubert wrote for the stage, failed to be produced during his lifetime. Preconcert talks and panels will address Schubert's biography and the political, social, and economic world around him.
Bard Music Festival weekends include orchestral concerts by the American Symphony Orchestra, chamber and choral music performances, panel discussions, and special events.
Tickets start at $25
This season is made possible in part through the generous support of the Board of the Bard Music Festival and the Friends of the Fisher Center, as well as grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowement for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. Additional underwriting had been provided by Jeanne Donovan Fisher, James H. Ottaway Jr., Felicitas S. Thorne, Helen and Roger Alcaly, Bettina Baruch Foundation, Mrs. Mortimer Levitt, Michelle R. Claymen, Margo and Anthony Viscusi, and the Furthermore Foundation. Special support has also been provided by the Mrs. Mortimer Levitt Endowement Fund for the Performing Arts.
Weekend One: August 8–10
The Making of a Romantic LegendSchubert’s early life and career are juxtaposed with the music of his contemporaries, trends in Vienna, the development of the art song, the legacy of Beethoven, and the new post-1815 rage for Italian opera and the virtuoso performer. Schubert’s hospitalization in 1823 for syphilis, Schumann’s posthumous advocacy in 1839 of the “Great” C-Major Symphony, and the first performance of the “Unfinished” in 1865 are the milestones that frame the first weekend. The concerts explore the obsession with Schubert from the year of his death to the centennial in 1928, Schubert’s connections to local culture and his debt to the classical tradition. The weekend concludes with a double bill of rarities: one of Schubert’s stage works and Franz von Suppé’s hit musical from 1864 based on Schubert’s music.
Weekend Two: August 15–17
A New Aesthetics of MusicStarting with a focus on the last two years of the composer’s life, this weekend considers the nature of Schubert’s originality, his exploration of form, harmony, and the connection of words and music. How did the character and function of music change as the economic landscape was transformed by industrialization and political life became marked by repression and a network of spies and censors? Schubert’s legacy and influence are considered through music for men’s choir, works written for and by Schubert’s closest friends, Schubert’s late piano sonatas, his sacred music, and a performance of the opera Fierrabras.
Past Festivals and Book Series
Stravinsky and His World, Edited by Tamara Levitz
Camille Saint-Saëns and His World, Edited by Jann Pasler
Jean Sibelius and His World, Edited by Daniel M. Grimley
Alban Berg and His World, Edited by Christopher Hailey
Richard Wagner and His World, Edited by Thomas S. Grey
Brahms and His World, Special expanded edition, Edited by Walter Frisch and Kevin Karnes
Sergey Prokofiev and His World, Edited by Simon Morrison
Edward Elgar and His World, Edited by Byron Adams
Franz Liszt and His World, Edited by Christopher H. Gibbs and Dana Gooley
Aaron Copland and His World, Edited by Judith Tick and Carol J. Oja
Shostakovich and His World, Edited by Laurel E. Fay
Janáček and His World, Edited by Michael Beckerman
Mahler and His World, Edited by Karen Painter
Debussy and His World, Edited by Jane Fulcher
Beethoven and His World, Edited by Scott Burnham and Michael P. Steinberg
Schoenberg and His World , Edited by Walter Frisch
Tchaikovsky and His World, Edited by Leslie Kearney
Haydn and His World, Edited by Elaine Sisman
Charles Ives and His World, Edited by J. Peter Burkholder
Bartók and His World, Edited by Peter Laki
Schumann and His World, Edited by R. Larry Todd
Dvořák and His World, Edited by Michael Beckerman
Richard Strauss and His World, Edited by Bryan Gilliam
Mendelssohn and His World, Edited by R. Larry Todd
Brahms and His World First Edition, Edited by Walter Frisch
History of the Festival
The Bard Music Festival was founded in 1990 to promote new ways of understanding and presenting the history of music to a contemporary audience. Each year, a single composer is chosen as the main subject. The biography of the composer, the influences and consequences of that composer's achievement, and all aspects of the musical culture surrounding the time and place of the composer's life are explored. Perhaps the most important dimensions of the festival are the ways in which it links music to the worlds of literature, painting, theater, philosophy, and politics and brings two kinds of audience together: those with a long history of interest in concert life and first-time listeners, who find the festival an ideal place to learn about and enjoy the riches of our musical past.