Friday, September 19, 2014

75 Years Ago

An International Musicology Congress, hosted by the nascent American Musicological Society, took place 11–16 September 1939 in New York. Two letters from well-known musicologists unable to attend give an indication of the shadow looming over the meeting (and the world):

Albert Schweitzer (L)
w. Charles Munch
Strasbourg Festival, 1954
Albert Schweitzer wrote:

 “I would have been very happy to assist with the Congress and to participate in discussions about musical questions, which are my specialty. But because of the political situation, I cannot leave Africa now. In the case of a war, I should not be cut off, far from my hospital, which would be more necessary than ever.”

In fact Schweitzer did not leave Lambaréné (Gabon) between 1939 and 1948. In 1949 he made his only visit to the United States, to speak at the Goethe Bicentennial Convocation and Music Festival in Aspen, 27 June – 16 July (now reckoned as the inaugural moment for the Aspen Festival and Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies). In Boston, 19–20 July 1949, he signed the cabinet of the new pipe organ in Symphony Hall, missing the arrival at the BSO of his cousin (by marriage) Charles Munch by a matter of days. Schweitzer's daily itinerary in the U.S. HERE.

Romain Rolland
Romain Rolland’s letter of regret included the following:

“There was a time when musicological publications maintained a jealously national character. Why not seek to establish them now on a truly world-wide basis? . . . In the field of art, there is not—there should not be—any rivalry among nations. The only combat worthy of us is that which is waged, in every country, and at every hour, between culture and ignorance, between light and chaos. Let us save all of the light that can be saved! Music is the sun of the inner universe.”

Rolland was invited in his capacity as first professor of musicology at the Sorbonne (from 1903) and pioneering Beethoven scholar-critic. His La Vie de Beethoven (1903) and Beethoven et Goethe (1930) were by then widely known; he had just published the first version of Beethoven: les grandes époques créatrices—La Messe solennelle et les dernièrss sonates (1937).

Proceedings of the New York Congress were published as Papers Read at the International Congress of Musicology Held at New York, September 11th to 16th 1939, ed. Arthur Mendel, Gustave Reese, and Gilbert Chase (New York: Music Educators' National Conference for the American Musicological Society, 1944).

The famous (to musicologists, anyway) photograph made at the time is featured in an earlier post on Musicology Now. 

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