Deep Focus: Enriching the Aspen Experience

An array of micro-essays by accomplished musicologists, curated to enhance and enrich your historical and aesthetic engagement with the musical programming offered at Aspen’s summer seasons. 

Finding George Bridgetower: The Violinist Behind Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata

Douglas Shadle, Associate Professor of Musicology/Chair of Musicology and Ethnomusicology, Vanderbilt University

Long a staple of the solo violin repertoire, Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata in A Major (Opus 47) has played an outsized role in American cultural history, but not for the reasons we might think. Beethoven collaborated on the piece with George Polgreen Bridgetower (1778–1860), a violin virtuoso whose capabilities impressed Beethoven enough that he later recommended him to others and called the piece “Sonata mulattica” to acknowledge Bridgetower’s African ancestry.

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The Lifelong Suffering of a Genius: Beethoven’s Personal Struggle

Nancy Swift Furlotti, Ph.D.

We often hear about early trauma and its impact psychologically. While many are able to successfully counter the devastating effects of trauma through regular counseling and other professional resources, for others, it can remain a continual struggle. In Ludwig van Beethoven’s case, his very harsh beginning continued to impact his sense of self and personal relationships for his entire life.

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Rebecca Clarke in World War II

Leah Broad, Junior Research Fellow, Christ Church, University of Oxford

In all of Clarke’s war works, there’s a tension between modern and traditional. For most of her life Clarke had been at the forefront of modern music, hailed by the Daily Telegraph as “a frank disciple of modernity” in 1922. But she was not prepared to embrace atonality, which was becoming increasingly dominant in the U.S. thanks to the arrival of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. In many of her war pieces, this friction is absolutely central.

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Gabriela Lena Frank: From Ivory Tower to Redwood Country

Deborah Hayes, Professor Emerita of Musicology, University of Colorado Boulder

Gabriela Lena Frank writes music for a wide range of audiences, from seasoned concertgoers to neophytes, in concert halls, community centers, hospitals, schools, prisons, and even less traditional venues. Now she is engaged in an extraordinary educational project.

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Illuminations of the Art Songs of Margaret Allison Bonds (1913-1972)

Alethea N. Kilgore, Associate Professor of Vocal Studies at Florida A & M University

Dr. Alethea Kilgore brings us a deep dive into Songs of the Seasons, a soon-to-be-published song cycle by Margaret Allison Bonds. Dr. Kilgore’s song-by-song analysis highlights the newfound attention Bonds enjoys from both performers and historians.

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Robert Spano, Music Director

Alan Fletcher, President and CEO