Leon Botstein and The Bard Music Festival received a BIAAS grant for its exploration of the life, work, and legacy of Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Korngold and His World: Bard Music Festival 2019 took take place at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, in August 2019.
Composer Korngold burst onto Vienna’s musical scene at age 13 with works that astonished the musical elite with their maturity. Hailed as a musical genius by Gustav Mahler, he continued to take the audience by storm with works of lush, Romantic sound till changes in aesthetic trends and the political situation pushed him to the margins. The German hostilities that led to World War II prompted Korngold’s move to 1930s Hollywood where he came to dominate and define music in the U.S. movie industry. Taking place over two weekends (August 9–11 and 16–18, 2019), the festival looked at Korngold’s life on both sides of the Atlantic, from his upbringing in Austria, with a focus on how its politics and culture shaped his life, to his time in the United States, where the specific musical language developed during his time in Vienna continued to influence—and infuse—the scores he created for film. The lasting influence on U.S. culture of Korngold and other artists who emigrated from Austria will also be explored.
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 festival explores their biography, considers the influences and the consequences of their achievement, and examines all aspects of the musical culture surrounding the time and place of their life. The festival is led by co-artistic directors Leon Botstein and Christopher H. Gibbs. Leon Botstein is also the President of Bard College and Leon Levy Professor in the Arts and Humanities.