Program List for The Fisher Center at Bard College - Summer 2021

The Fisher Center

The Fisher Center at Bard College

                                                                                                                    Image Credit: Scott Barrow

Oblong Books is happy to be in partnership with The Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College. Please see below for a list of current and upcoming Fisher Center programs. For each program we have curated a list of relevant books and CDs to enhance your experience and to allow you to dive deeper into the subject matter. 


Nadia Boulanger and Her World


Program One 
The Exemplary Musician

August 6

Anchored by TŌN, and exploiting Bard’s unusual ability to integrate orchestral, choral, solo and chamber works within a single event, this opening concert pairs several of Nadia Boulanger’s own compositions—her Mussorgskian piano piece Vers la vie nouvelle, selected songs and Lux aeterna, her brief tribute to her sister, Lili—with music by some of her most distinguished female students.

Nadia was both teacher and role model to Louise Talma, the first woman to receive back-to-back Guggenheims; Julia Perry, who synthesized her classical training and African-American heritage; Polish neoclassicist Grażyna Bacewicz; South African-British composer Priaulx Rainier; and Nadia’s adored but envied younger sister, Lili.

Lili is represented by her haunting Pie Jesu, a piece she dictated on her deathbed, and by Faust et Hélène, the cantata with which she became the first woman to win the coveted Prix de Rome, surpassing the older sister to whom she dedicated it.

Program Two 
Contemporaries and Colleagues

August 7

Nadia Boulanger was just ten when she first entered the Paris Conservatoire, where for the next seven years she would rub shoulders with some of the leading lights of French music.

Program Two traces these early musical relationships, coupling songs she wrote in her teens with chamber works by then-preeminent Debussy, her composition teacher Fauré, and renowned classmates George Enescu and Ravel.

It was in an exam in 1904, the year she swept the Conservatoire prizes, that Boulanger first met Raoul Pugno. From then until his death ten years later, the older composer and keyboardist would become her mentor, friend, probable lover, and performance partner, as well as the composition collaborator with whom she co-authored works including the song cycle Les heures claires, from which an excerpt will be heard.

Program Three 
88 x 2: Music for 2 Pianos

August 7

Throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th, piano duets played a vital part in Western musical life. Nadia Boulanger routinely had her students sight-read orchestral works as piano duets, and a pair of grand pianos took center stage at the soirées she hosted each Wednesday. Having toured Europe in her youth playing four-hand recitals and two-piano duets with Pugno, she went on to collaborate with her celebrated young students, performing her own adaptation of the aria from Bach’s Widerstehe doch der Sünde with Clifford Curzon, premiering Stravinsky’s Sonata for Two Pianos with Richard Johnson, and recording selections from Brahms’s Liebeslieder Waltzes with the great Dino Lipatti.

Program Three will also feature excerpts from Visions de l’Amen, a shimmering wartime masterpiece by Messiaen, who succeeded Boulanger as one of France’s foremost music teachers.

Program Four 
The Epitome of Chic: Paris Between the Wars

August 8

With the end of World War I, France would soon witness a flourishing of forward-looking musical developments. Program Four offers a snapshot of the age through vocal and chamber works by both Boulanger sisters and a host of their fellow Parisians.

The French capital was home to exiled Russian master Igor Stravinsky, a lifelong friend of Nadia’s, who championed him as the model of musical modernism. Drawing on Baroque and Classical forms and aesthetics as the antidote to Romantic excess, Stravinsky’s neoclassicism inspired many of their contemporaries, including Albert Roussel, Erik Satie, and Les Six, the avant-garde group whose members included Francis Poulenc, another of Boulanger’s most respected colleagues, and Elsa Barraine, who followed Lili to become one of the first female winners of the Prix de Rome.

Also recalling the younger Boulanger sister was Pierre Menu, another favorite and prodigiously gifted student of Nadia’s who died too young.

Program Five 
Teachers, Mentors, and Friends of the Boulanger Sisters

August 8

It was at Pugno’s suggestion that Nadia Boulanger transferred from Fauré’s composition class to that of her fellow organist Charles-Marie Widor, who became one of her key supporters. Years later, Widor hired her to teach at his new American Conservatory at Fontainebleau, and when he retired from the Conservatoire, her accompaniment teacher Paul Dukas was appointed in his place.

Program Five features both Widor’s Third Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (a true orchestral work, unlike the solo pieces he designated “Organ Symphonies”) and Dukas’s masterwork, the consummately orchestrated Symphony in C. These share the program with Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings, which premiered under Boulanger’s direction, and Lili Boulanger’s own orchestrations of her D’un matin de printemps and of eight songs from her innovative cycle Clairières dans le ciel.

After Lili’s death, Nadia became her most dedicated advocate, posthumously programming, performing and promoting her sister’s music at every turn. Nevertheless, Lili’s orchestrated versions of these songs have gone largely unheard, and the complete set of eight has yet to be performed together.

Program Six 
L’Esprit de Paris

August 12

As the first concert of Weekend Two discovers, the Boulanger sisters came from a distinguished musical family. A winner of the Prix de Rome himself, their father, Ernest Boulanger, was a composer of comic opera whose own father taught at the Conservatoire and whose mother, Marie-Julie Boulanger (née Halligner), was a mezzo-soprano who created roles in the Opéra-Comique’s world premieres of Daniel Auber’s L’ambassadrice, Gaetano Donizetti’s La fille du régiment and many more.

Presented as a performance with commentary, Program Six explores French music’s lighter side through vocal excerpts from operettas, comic operas and popular songs and chansons.

Program Seven 
Crosscurrents: Salon and Concert Hall

August 13

Salons were a haven for the Parisian avant-garde, especially those of Boulanger’s colorful friend and patron, the sewing machine heiress Winnaretta Singer, Princesse Edmond de Polignac. It was there that many ensemble pieces first came to life, including Lipatti’s neo-Baroque Concertino.

Boulanger also led the first performance of Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto, having instigated its creation; it was her idea for Washington’s Bliss family to commission the composer to write a Brandenburg-inspired piece for their private salon at the D.C. estate that gave the work its name.

Composed during the Nazi occupation of Paris and notable for the triumphant trumpet solo of its Finale, Honegger’s Second Symphony for Strings premiered at the Collegium Musicuum in Zurich.

In Program Seven, TŌN presents these ensemble works alongside Nadia’s post-Impressionist Three Pieces for Cello and Piano and the Prelude for a Pensive Pupil by her Australian-born student Peggy Glanville-Hicks, who would become a critic for the New York Herald Tribune and musical director at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Program Eight 
Boulanger the Curator

August 14

Copland said of his famous teacher, “She knew the oldest and the latest music, pre-Bach and post-Stravinsky, and knew it cold.”

Even as a performer, Boulanger was driven by the urge to educate, and her concert and recital programs offered unorthodox history lessons through bold juxtapositions of old and new. Whether in Polignac’s salon or the concert hall, her soulful interpretations of Bach cantatas and Monteverdi madrigals typically shared the program with cutting-edge new music by Stravinsky, Paul Hindemith and others, selected and ordered to highlight compatible key and tempo relationships, as well as their more obvious differences.

Program Eight draws inspiration from Boulanger’s groundbreaking approach to programming through recreations of some of her own idiosyncratic yet inspired groupings.

Program Nine 
Remembering Ethel Smyth and Boulanger’s Circle at Home and Abroad

August 14

The American Symphony Orchestra’s first concert opens with Fête galante by Dame Ethel Smyth, a Victorian-born English suffragist whose lovers included the Princesse de Polignac, and whose grand opera The Wreckers received its first fully staged American production at SummerScape 2015.

Program Nine also features the harmonically adventurous Fifth Violin Concerto by Boulanger’s student Grażyna Bacewicż, a revered figure in Poland who merits wider recognition worldwide.

Boulanger’s own reach extended far beyond her homeland, and her impact on American composition was immense. She taught no fewer than eleven Pulitzer Prize laureates, including modernist masters Aaron Copland and Walter Piston, who was one of three Boulanger students to win the award twice. Both composers are represented, Piston by his Fourth Symphony, one of the past century’s finest contributions to the genre, and Copland by the popular and patriotic Lincoln Portrait, a work performed on many significant occasions with such venerable narrators as Eleanor Roosevelt, Barack Obama and the composer himself.

Program Ten 
The Catholic Tradition in France: Clarity and Mysticism

August 15

Owing to the long dominance of the Roman Catholic Church, France boasts rich sacred choral and organ traditions that even the post-Revolutionary banning of religious music-making did little to stifle.

Program Ten provides a generous sampling of both, with sacred solo organ works by Boulanger herself, a devout believer for whom the concert was a kind of religious ritual, as well as her colleagues and contemporaries. These include her organ teacher Louis Vierne; Jacques Ibert, who dedicated the Fugue from his Trois pièces pour orgue to her; Jeanne Demessieux, the first female organist to perform in Westminster Abbey; and Messiaen, whose La nativité du Seigneur offers a perfect consummation of his musical ideals.

Interspersed with these organ works are movements from masses by Fauré, Jean Langlais, André Caplet and Cécile Chaminade, the first female winner of the Légion d’Honneur, and other choral selections, including  Ave Verum by Camille Saint-Saëns, who had advocated for Boulanger’s elimination from the Prix de Rome; Quatre Motets by her sometime performance partner Maurice Duruflé; the neoclassical Salve regina by her good friend Poulenc; and the highly chromatic O sacrum convivium, Messiaen’s only liturgical motet.


Program Eleven 
Boulanger’s Legacy: Modernities

August 15

“What made Boulanger a great and magnetic teacher, was less the imposition of an aesthetic than the transmission of discipline and the encouragement of individuality. Indeed, the sheer range of her pupils’ styles and development is astonishing.” —Leon Botstein

Program Eleven samples the impressive diversity of her students’ achievements, from Paris Violon by Michel Legrand, the Oscar and Grammy-winner whose 250-plus film scores include The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Yentl, to classical chamber works including Enchanted Preludes, Elliott Carter’s polyrhythmic duet for cello and flute; a piano sonata by George Walker, the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music; songs by Marc Blitzstein, Thea Musgrave and David Conte; the posthumously rediscovered Adagio, by Roger Sessions; three of Czech-born Pulitzer Prize-winner Karel Husa’s Twelve Moravian Songs; Roy Harris’s rhapsodic, improvisatory Toccato for piano; Philip Glass’s Third String Quartet, “Mishima,” originally written for Paul Schrader’s film of the same name; a solo flute tango study by Astor Piazzolla, master of Argentina’s tango nuevo; and Adolphus Hailstork’s moving Adagio for Strings.


Program Twelve 
Boulanger’s Credo

August 15

In 1962, when Boulanger led the New York Philharmonic in a program featuring the world premiere of Virgil Thomson’s powerful orchestral piece A Solemn Music and Fauré’s beloved Requiem, the Carnegie Hall audience included Botstein, then just 15 years old.

Now, more than half a century later, Bard’s founder recreates this characteristic Boulanger coupling in Program Twelve, pairing it, as she did, with music by her sister: in this case, the hypnotic Vieille prière bouddhique for tenor, choir and orchestra, Psalm 24 and Pour les funérailles d’un soldat.



I was waiting for the echo of a better day promo photoI Was Waiting For The Echo Of A Better Day: Pam Tanowitz and Jessie Montgomery

July 8 - July 10

Choreography by Pam Tanowitz

Music by Jessie Montgomery and Big Dog Little Dog

A new commission from the Fisher Center’s Choreographer-in Residence Pam Tanowitz (SummerScape 2018’s Four Quartets) and the ASCAP Foundation’s Leonard Bernstein Award-winning composer Jessie Montgomery (whose work was featured in Bard Music Fesival's Out of the Silence series in 2020). Performed with live music, this large-scale dance is set against the spectacular backdrop of the Hudson River and the sun setting behind the Catskill Mountains. Utilizing the full breadth of Montgomery Place’s historic parkland, I was waiting for the echo of a better day beckons us back to gather on this land and pays tribute to what came before. More

Justin Vivan BondJustin Vivan Bond: Your Auntie Glam’s Midsummer Flutter By

July 15 - July 17

With Matt Ray, Nath Ann Carrera, and Claudia Chopek

A longtime SummerScape favorite, Mx. Justin Vivian Bond has been heralded as “the greatest cabaret artist of this generation” (New Yorker). They return this season as Your Auntie Glam for three performances of a new concert specially commissioned for Montgomery Place. More

Mwenso & the Shakes Black Roots Summer: Mwenso & the Shakes: Love Will Be the Only Weapon

July 23 - Jul 24

An explosion of ideas, sounds, and radiant joy awaits as Michael Mwenso and his band bring their empowering quest to unify with love and healing to the Stage at Montgomery Place. Come along on their journey through the kaleidoscope of Black ancestral diasporic music and traditions, overcoming the darkness of the past and ascending to our highest human potential. More

Genius Mother Mary

Black Roots Summer: Genius Mother Mary: A Sonic Retrospective of Mary Lou Williams

July 29

For over half a century, Mary Lou Williams tirelessly persisted as a talented Black woman in the male-dominated field of jazz. A piano prodigy from the age of three, her profound intellect and artistry countered any doubt in securing her rightful place in the ranks of Duke, Dizzy, Thelonious, Charlie, Miles, and others for whom she wrote, arranged, and played for. Music director Chris Pattishall (whose lauded recording of Williams’s “Zodiac Suite” was released this year) leads this uplifting tribute to the fearless mother of jazz. More

The Sound of (Black) Music] Vuyo Sotashe by Oluwaseye OlusaBlack Roots Summer: The Sound of (Black) Music

July 30 - July 31

The hills are alive with the sound of Black music! Experience the songs from one of the most beloved American musical classics as reimagined through an Afrofuturistic lens, led by a dynamic group of over 20 musicians and vocalists, including Michael Mwenso, Brianna Thomas, Chareene Wade, Vuyo Sotashe, Zhanna Reed, and more. More

King Arthur (Le roi Arthus) by Ernest ChaussonKing Arthur (Le roi Arthus)

July 25 - August 1

New Production
by Ernest Chausson
The American Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Leon Botstein
Directed by Louisa Proske

Idealism, treachery, honor, and perfidy collide in this richly lyrical opera by French composer Ernest Chausson. This opulently scored work, which premiered in 1903, lays bare the tragedy of King Arthur’s betrayal at the hands of his queen Guinevere and his trusted knight Lancelot. More

[Most Happy in Concert] Tina Fabrique and Mary Testa by Maria Baranova

Most Happy in Concert: Songs from Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella

August 5 - August 7

Conceived and directed by Daniel Fish
Music arrangements by Daniel Kluger and Nathan Koci
Vocal arrangements by Nathan Koci and Daniel Fish
Orchestrations by Daniel Kluger

Featuring Mikaela Bennett, Tina Fabrique, Jules Latimer, April Matthis, Erin Markey, Mallory Portnoy, Mary Testa, and The Resonance Ensemble Jazz Orchestra

Frank Loesser’s masterpiece, The Most Happy Fella, is a gorgeous meditation on our longing for human connection, made only more poignant by the isolation of the past year. More