Leon Botstein ASO

Bard College President and American Symphony Orchestra Conductor Leon Botstein will deliver the 23rd Mary Stevens Reckford Lecture in European Studies in Graham Memorial on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.

“I am surprised and grateful to be invited to speak at such a distinguished university located in one of the country’s most important centers of research, scholarship, and teaching,” said Botstein when he was invited by Mark Katz, director (on leave) at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities. Acting IAH Director and Chancellor Emeritus James Moeser will welcome the audience. Emil Kang, UNC Executive Director for the Arts and Professor of the Practice, will introduce Leon Botstein.

The lecture, entitled “Sounding Forms: What Music and Its Practice Reveal About Modern European History,” examines the period in the 19th and 20th centuries with the generation of Chopin and their reception of Beethoven. THe lecture will end with a discussion of music using the examples of the repertoire and weaving in the dominant pre-1945 figures: Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Shostakovich.

The IAH hosts the annual Mary Stevens Reckford Memorial Lecture in European Studies, which was established in 1990 by UNC Classics Professor Kenneth J. Reckford to honor his late wife, Mary Stevens Reckford (February 25, 1934 – November 12, 1987). Because her birthday is in February, the lecture occurs annually that month.

The lecture is designed to appeal to educated lay people, rather than specialists. Speakers are asked to provide “pleasure, instruction, an interdisciplinary approach and a sense of shared humanity,” according to Kenneth Reckford.

A graduate of Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mary Reckford took graduate courses at UNC through the Evening College for five years, studying such topics as Renaissance intellectual history, St. Augustine, sixteenth-century English literature, Arthurian literature, the Mediterranean world in the sixteenth century, and the history of science from the late-medieval period through the eighteenth century.

Botstein said history is critical to understanding the present in more than “lessons to be taught by history, but there are patterns, and there is a cunning to history. The study of history forces us to consider both the continuities and the discontinuities in the human experience.”

He has been Bard College president since 1975, where he is also the Leon Levy Professor in the Arts and Humanities. On Feb. 8, the New York Times published Botstein’s opinion piece “American Universities Must Take a Stand.” In it he calls on leaders across institutions of higher education to “defend the principles that have enabled institutions of higher education to flourish. These are freedom and tolerance, and openness to individuals no matter their national origin or religion. The actions and spirit of the new administration threaten the American university’s core values. The voices of our leaders in higher education must be heard in opposition.”

Since 1992, Leon Botstein has also been music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and a conductor of international renown. With the American Symphony he has pioneered the concept of thematic concert programming, relating musical works to cohering extra-musical themes drawn from history, literature, politics, and the visual arts. He is the undisputed leader in the rediscovery of neglected repertoire; his American premieres of works by Strauss, Hartmann, Dukas, Schmidt, and Chabrier have brought these significant works back to the concert and operatic canons.

Botstein received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from Harvard. Additional honors include the National Arts Club Gold Medal, the Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate School of the Arts and Sciences, the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, and the Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2009, he received the Carnegie Academic Leadership Award, and was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2010. He is also the 2012 recipient of both Longy Conservatory’s Leonard Bernstein Award for the Elevation of Music in Society and the University of Chicago’s Alumni Medal and most recently received and Honorary Doctor of Music from Sewanee: The University of the South.

Botstein’s career as a musicologist and academic leader may seem incongruous. He disagrees. His background in music, he says, “teaches me a profound respect for the richness and power of human imagination. It breeds a respect for the individual, a respect for the freedom and complexities of human expression, and perhaps, most importantly, for the beautiful and the sublime.”

The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. Register here for tickets.



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