Montana State University

Mendelssohn in Montana festival set March 26-28 at MSU

March 25, 2009

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A three-day event that will bring together musicians, scholars and music lovers to celebrate the 200th birthday of German composer Felix Mendelssohn will be held March 26-28 at Montana State University.

"Mendelssohn in Montana: A Humanistic and Artistic 200 Years Commemoration," will feature lectures by musicologists and historians, including R. Larry Todd, one of the country's foremost Mendelssohn scholar.
There will be eight scholarly sessions and four concerts, according to Jeff Safford, history professor emeritus at MSU.

Safford said the three-day event was more than two years in the planning. A celebration of the 200th birthday of the composer, who is often called "the Mozart of the 19th century," is fitting, Safford said.

"Mendelssohn was a genius and one of the 19th century's leading pianists and organists," he said, adding that Mendelssohn is credited with the development of the modern symphony and reviving the 18th century composers Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart.

Felix Mendelssohn was born Feb. 3, 1809 to a German Jewish family that converted to Christianity when Mendelssohn was a child. While Mendelssohn composed symphonies, concerts, oratorios and chamber music, he is also recognized for a large contribution to church music, Safford said.

"There's no underestimating Mendelssohn's talent or the central part he played in German culture in the early 19th century," Safford said. He added while Mendelssohn had long been considered controversial because of his Jewish roots in anti-Semitic Germany--the Nazi's censured his work--tthe composer has enjoyed a resurgence in interest and status in recent years

The symposium begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26, with a keynote address by R. Larry Todd of Duke University in MSU's Strand Union Ballroom. Todd is the author of the biography, "Mendelssohn: A Life in Music." A concert pianist as well as an academic, Todd will elaborate on some of his ideas on the piano. Todd's lecture, "Reflections on the Mendelssohn Bicentenary," is MSU's annual Margaret and Harry Hausser Lecture in the Humanities and is free and open to the public.

The symposium's Friday events begin at MSU's Reynolds Recital Hall, located in Howard Hall across from the MSU Duck Pond. John Michael Cooper of Southwestern University will speak on "Dangerous Youth: Mendelssohn, Mozart and the Myth of the Eternal Child" at 10:30 a.m. Celia Applegate of the University of Rochester will speak at 2 p.m. on "Mendelssohn's Bach in the Shadow of Beethoven."

Shuichi Komiyama, MSU professor of music, will direct a Mendelssohn chamber music concert at 3:30 p.m. in Reynolds Hall. A Mendelssohn choral concert, under the direction of Kirk Aamot, MSU professor of music specializing in choral performance, is set at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 27, at Hope Lutheran Church in Bozeman. Hope Lutheran Church is located at the corner of South 19th Ave. and West Graf Street, about a mile south from the intersection of College Street and South 19th Ave. For those who have not registered for the symposium, Friday and Saturday evening concerts are $10 for adults, $5 for students.

The symposium events on Saturday, March 28, begin at 9 a.m. in Reynolds Recital Hall with a lecture by Joseph Mussulman of the University of Montana on "Mendelssohn in America: A Confluence of Spirits." Jeffrey S. Sposato of the University of Houston will lecture at 10:30 a.m. on "The Judaic-Christian Issue in the Life of Felix Mendelssohn."

David Clay Large, professor of history at MSU and a specialist in German history, will speak on "Mendelssohn and the Third Reich" at the Mendelssohn lunch, scheduled at noon Saturday in the Strand Union Ballrooms. Cost is $15 for those who want to only attend the lunch.

The conference will return to Reynolds Recital Hall at 2 p.m. with a lecture on Mendelssohn's sister, Fanny. Marian Wilson Kimber of the University of Iowa will speak on "Into the Domestic Sphere: Problems in the Reception of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel."

A Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel salon concert under the direction of Ilse-Mari Lee, cellist and professor of music at MSU, follows at 3:30 p.m. in Reynolds Recital Hall. Komiyama will direct a Mendelssohn orchestral concert scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Hope Lutheran Church. Vilmos Olah, concertmaster for the Budapest Dohnyani Symphony Orchestra, will be the guest soloist.

Registration for the symposium, which includes all eight sessions, four concerts, lunch, and receptions, is $50. Registration must be received by March 23. To obtain a flyer/poster with a registration form, contact the MSU Department of History (406) 994-4395, or MSU Department of Music (406) 994-4641. Or, e-mail Jeff Safford at js50bach@yahoo.com or go to: http://mendelssohninmontana.com/

Mendelssohn in Montana is sponsored by Humanities Montana, Montana Arts Council, the American Computer Museum, the MSU President's Office, the President's Fine Art Series, MSU Women's Caucus, the MSU Provost's Office, the MSU Humanities Institute, Associated Students of MSU, the MSU Departments of History and Music, the Harry Hausser Fund for Excellence, Jack Ostrovsky, Robert Uhlman and Marvin Morgenstein.

For a complete schedule, go to: http://mendelssohninmontana.com/

Jeff Safford (406) 587-3782, js50bach@yahoo.com