UC Riverside Music Professor Named 2015 Scholar-in-Residence for Prestigious Music Festival

Bard Festival highlights Carlos Chávez; UCR’s Leonora Saavedra expert on Chavez’s music and background

Manuel de Falla’s El retablo de maese Pedro, performed by members of the American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director, with Nicholas Phan, tenor (left); Louis Otey, baritone, and Cecilia Violetta López, soprano (both on right). In background: Peter van Derick. Designed and directed by Doug Fitch.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – Leonora Saavedra, associate professor of musicology in the Department of Music at the University of California, Riverside, was named the scholar-in-residence for the 2015 Bard Music Festival in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. The festival is considered one of the most influential institutions in classical music. In its 26th year and for the first time, the festival turned to Latin American Music, highlighting Mexican composer Carlos Chávez.

As the scholar-in-residence Saavedra edited a book of essays by scholars from around the world which is published by Princeton University Press in a dedicated series. She was also heavily involved in the programming of not only Chávez’s music, but also music by his contemporaries. Because Chávez is relatively unknown even among such scholars as those on the Bard programming committee, according to Saavedra, she was more involved in the programming than the scholars of previous years.

“It was very exciting to be asked to be the scholar-in-residence because of the opportunity it represented to foster research on Carlos Chávez, to help translate research into actual concert-performing and concert-going, and to have the music performed in very interesting contexts by excellent musicians. The Bard festival is very prestigious, and it was nice for Mexican music and for my own research to be recognized,” she said.

Carlos Chavez Photo credit: 1930–40, Manuel Álvarez Bravo. ©Colette Urbajtel/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, SC

Carlos Chavez Photo credit: 1930–40, Manuel Álvarez Bravo. ©Colette Urbajtel/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, SC

The 2015 festival, titled Carlos Chávez and His World, focused on Chávez – the man whom Saavedra has described as the central figure in Mexican music. She explained that Chávez almost single-handedly remolded Mexican culture through his official roles in national arts institutions after the Mexican Revolution.

“The idea that he was a quintessential ‘Mexican composer’ and that in his case it was not a picturesque, postcard folklore, but some sort of really internal, almost racial essence, marked him forever,” said Saavedra. “Because of this, only his Indianist pieces, such as Sinfonía India, are known. However, most of Chávez’s music goes well beyond nationalism or the desire to encode or construct Mexicanness – it is very fine modern music, on a par with that of his contemporaries in Europe and the U.S.A., who considered him their peer.”

Saavedra isn’t the only UC Riverside professor to be involved with the festival. In 2007, Byron Adams was the scholar-in residence for Edward Elgar and His World and is now a member of the Program Committee of the Bard Music Festival.

“I felt enormously honored to be asked to be scholar-in-residence for the Bard Music Festival in 2007, Edward Elgar and His World. To edit the volume of essays for the festival that Princeton University Press publishes is a wonderful experience, but to help program such a series of events is a way of making one’s musicological concepts spring to life in an extraordinary manner,” Adams said.

The director of the Bard Music Festival is Leon Botstein. Two weekends in August are devoted to performances, panels, and special events. The orchestral concerts take place in the Fischer Center, a complex of concert halls and theaters on the Bard College campus. The famous architect Frank Gehry designed the Fischer Center.

“The festival is unusual in that it emphasizes on widening the repertory by exploring the work on one featured composer and his era: his contemporaries, friends, enemies, intellectual interests, aesthetics, and other matters,” said Adams.

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