by Daniel Hathaway
“I’ve always loved music from the early 20th century, particularly during World War I, ” Oberlin violin professor Sibbi Bernhardsson said in a recent telephone conversation. “And I’m fascinated by the decade after the war, which is more varied than any ten-year period in the 19th century. You have the Second Viennese School, the Russian composers, things that are starting up in America, Modernism, and reactions to this and that. It’s a very rich time.”
Bernhardsson, who joined the Conservatory faculty last year after 17 seasons touring with the Pacifica Quartet, was seized by the idea of marking the 100th Anniversary of the cessation of hostilities, using Oberlin’s deep musical and scholarly resources to explore the music surrounding the Great War. “Looking at the number of great chamber pieces that were written during the era, not only are they all very different, some are clearly about the war while other composers were writing as though there was no war going on at all. This became a fascinating thing to me,” he said.
The violinist broached the idea of a festival with Oberlin musicology professor Charles McGuire early last spring only to discover that McGuire, who is in charge of Oberlin’s Murphy Colloquium, had already been talking with his colleagues about mounting a panel discussion about World War I music. “That seemed fortuitous,” McGuire said in a separate telephone conversation. “It’s always better to plan a scholarly panel if it’s surrounded by great music, and Sibbi’s very enthusiastic — a whirlwind when he sinks his teeth into something.” [Read more…]