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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.