Chávez and His World
August 7–9 and 14–16
August 7–9—Weekend One: The Musical Voice of Mexico
August 14–16—Weekend Two: Mexico, Latin America, and Modernism
In its 26th season, the Bard Music Festival turns, for the first time, to Latin America. The focal point is Carlos Chávez (1899–1978), the central figure in Mexican music of the 20th century. Chávez was a tireless organizer, generous colleague, and the most eminent of Latin American modernist composers. His synthesis of markers of Mexican identity with modernism led Aaron Copland to praise him as “one of the first authentic signs of a New World with its own new music.”
Chávez’s career took to him to Europe and then to the United States, where he met and became friends with Aaron Copland and Edgard Varèse. His music incorporated emblems of modernity but was also among the first to reference Mexico’s indigenous past. Indeed, for a handful of major pieces, such as Sinfonía india (1935), Los cuatro soles (1925), and Xochipilli (1940), Chávez found inspiration and strength in Mexican themes. He played a crucial role in the celebration of native culture (indigenismo). But his influence was not confined to composition. As a conductor, he promoted works by composers from Mexico, Cuba, Canada, and the United States, including Copland, Colin McPhee, Henry Cowell, and Amadeo Roldán, and gave the first performances in Mexico of music by Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Hindemith, Milhaud, and de Falla. Through his work as a governmental arts administrator and founder of several major cultural institutions in Mexico, among them the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Chávez brought international visibility to Mexican musical and cultural life.
Chávez’s career offers the festival an opportunity to look at a vibrant cultural period in Mexico and Latin America. His life encompassed the Mexican Revolution, which was followed by a period of cultural renaissance in literature, film, the visual arts, and music, providing rich material for a reassessment of that country’s history and of U.S.–Mexican relations. Chávez was politically engaged, and in the 1930s, beginning with the Spanish Civil War, helped integrate European refugees from fascism into Mexican society.
The 2015 Bard Music Festival will showcase masterworks by Chávez and his contemporaries. Program themes will include the relationship of the Latin American musical scene to that in the United States; the role of the European emigrés; the legacy and influence of Spain; Mexican musical traditions; and Chávez’s work as conductor and his place among the outstanding Latin composers of the 20th century. The work of Silvestre Revueltas, Alberto Ginastera, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and others will be heard, as will choral music from Mexico dating back to the 16th century.
Bard Music Festival weekends include orchestral concerts by the American Symphony Orchestra, chamber and choral music performances, panel discussions, and special events.
Past Festivals and Book Series
Franz Schubert and His World, Edited by Christopher H. Gibbs and Morten Solvik
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.