Beauty Amid the Brutality

August 31, 2018

Erich Burnett

WWI combat promoting "Creative Arts & Music in the Shadow of War" event

Cross-campus collaboration celebrates artistic master works and hidden gems made in the shadow of WWI.

In the span of one week during November 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany conceded defeat to the Allied Powers, finally drawing to a close the War to End All Wars.

As the centennial anniversary of the armistice draws near, Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music, in conjunction with the Allen Memorial Art Museum, will present a series of recitals and discussions that focus on the wildly diverse creative output of that period.

Creative Arts and Music in the Shadow of War: Commemorating the Centenary of World War I takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 8 and 9, in multiple venues on campus.

The program is the brainchild of Professor of Violin Sibbi Bernhardsson, whose inspiration stems from his love of music of that era—as well as his appreciation for the great fount of artistry at his disposal at Oberlin.

Sibbi Bernhardsson
Sibbi Bernhardsson

“When I came to Oberlin, one of the things that attracted me was all of the great resources we have here, especially in terms of our faculty and the museum and the college,” says Bernhardsson, a former member of the Pacifica Quartet who began teaching at the conservatory in 2017. “At Oberlin, we can put together what would often be considered large-scale projects somewhat easily because we have all of these resources here.”

And he achieved an astounding feat in the process: Some two dozen conservatory faculty will take part in recitals featuring music written between 1914 and 1918, panel discussions, and lectures over two days—all of it free and open to the public. They will be joined by colleagues from the Allen Memorial Art Museum and the Oberlin College faculty, as well as esteemed guests.

“There was a lot of great music from the early 20th century, and so much great music written during World War I,” Bernhardsson says, noting the vast differences in how various artists—musicians and others—have derived inspiration throughout history.

“So many composers feel their music is completely affected by world affairs, and others feel their work should only be viewed abstractly, without any regard for what’s happening in the world. So we decided it would be fascinating to discuss that: Should art and music be viewed through the lens of current affairs?

That topic will be the focus of a 3:30 p.m. panel on September 9. It will be led by Oberlin Professor of Composition Stephen Hartke, whose own work is invariably inspired by world events.

The complete schedule of events is as follows:

Throughout the weekend, the downtown restaurant The Feve (30 S. Main St.) will be offering a special menu of cocktails authentic to the era.

Saturday, September 8

10:15 and 11:15 a.m.
Gallery talk and viewing: From the Trenches: Artists Respond to WWI
Allen Memorial Art Museum (87 N. Main St.)

Acquired by the Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM) in 1950, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Self-Portrait as a Soldier (1915) is considered one of the most iconic works of art created during World War I. Join AMAM curator Andrea Gyorody and Oberlin College history professor Leonard Smith for a one-hour session, beginning with a gallery talk on the painting’s historical, political, and artistic contexts, followed by a private viewing of select AMAM works related to the war. Each session is capped at 25 participants.

1 p.m.
Concert 1
Warner Concert Hall

A pre-concert lecture with Professor of Musicology Charles McGuire will be followed by the performance at 1:30. Program to be performed:

Debussy’s Cello Sonata (1915), with cellist Darrett Adkins, and pianist Angela Cheng

Ravel’s La Valse for two pianos (1918), with Alvin Chow and Angela Cheng

Elgar’s Piano Quintet (1918), with Sibbi Bernhardsson and David Bowlin, violin; Kirsten Doctor, viola; Darrett Adkins, cello; and Haewon Song, piano

3:30 p.m.
Richard D. Murphy Musicology Colloquium: Music in and After the Great War
David H. Stull Recital Hall (77 W. College St.)

Speakers will discuss the following topics:

Gayle Sherwood Magee, Professor of Musicology, University of Illinois: “For King and Country: Canadian Nationalism and Songwriting in the First World War”

Claudia Macdonald, Emerita Professor of Musicology, Oberlin Conservatory: "Music, Montana and the Great War"

Colin Roust, Professor of Musicology, University of Kansas: “World War I through the Eyes of Georges Auric”

Charles McGuire, Professor of Musicology, Oberlin Conservatory (moderator)

8:00 p.m.
Concert 2
Warner Concert Hall

Program to be performed:

Gaubert’s Trois Aquarelles for flute, cello, and piano (1915) with flutist Alexa Still, cellist Steuart Pincombe, and pianist Allie Su

Ives’ Piano Sonata No. 2, “Concord Sonata” (1915) with pianist Robert Shannon

Sunday, September 9

1 p.m.
Concert 3
Kulas Recital Hall

A pre-concert lecture by Assistant Professor of Composition Elizabeth Ogonek will be followed by the performance at 1:30. Program to be performed:

Janáček’s Sonata (1914), with violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson and pianist Peter Takács

Debussy’s Syrinx for Solo Flute (1914), with flutist Alexa Still

Busoni’s Albumblatt for Flute and Piano (1916), with flutist Alexa Still, flute and pianist Tony Cho

Selections from Foote’s Three Songs - 1914-1918, Weill’s Ofrah’s Lieder (1916), and Eisler’s Ändere die Welt, sie braucht es! (1930), with mezzo-soprano Lorraine Manz and pianist Tony Cho

3:30 p.m.
Panel Presentation: “Creative Arts and Music During the Shadow of War”
Stull Recital Hall

Panel will include:

Stephen Hartke, Professor of Composition

Andrea Kalyn, Dean of the Conservatory

Raphael Jiménez, Professor of Conducting

Farshid Emani, Assistant Professor of Islamic Art History

Peter Minosh, Lecturer in Architectural History, University of Toronto

Zeinab Abdul-Magd, Associate Professor, Middle Eastern History 

7:30 p.m.
Concert 4
Kulas Recital Hall

A pre-concert lecture with Professor Emerita of Musicology Claudia Macdonald will be followed by the performance at 8:00. Program to be performed:

Rebecca Clarke’s Sonata for Viola and Piano (1918-19), with violist Peter Slowik and pianist James Howsmon

Sigfrid Karg-Elert’s Sonata Appassionata, Op. 170 (1917), with solo flutist Alexa Still

Debussy’s Violin Sonata (1916), with violinist Marilyn McDonald and pianist Robert Shannon

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