FREE September 2014 concerts and conference celebrate musician and patron Sara Levy

Imagine the scene: A young hostess, seated at a keyboard instrument—a harpsichord or piano—her fingers rushing dazzlingly left and right, the instrument overflowing with sound. The dazzling musician: Sara Levy (1761–1854), a member of an elite circle of German–Jewish intellectuals who achieved prominence in the late 18th century.

A two-day symposium, “Sara Levy’s World: Music, Gender, and Judaism in Enlightenment Berlin,” which will feature concerts, presentations, and a play reading, is set to take place at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick September 29–30, 2014. Using Levy as its point of departure, the symposium will present new understandings of music, gender, religion, and Enlightenment philosophy at the outset of European modernity.

Even within her groundbreaking circle, Levy stood out: She was a talented musician, studying with Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, eldest son of the famed Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach, and commissioning compositions from both Friedemann and his brother, Carl Philipp Emanuel. She represents an essential link in the transmission of the music of J.S. Bach—a catalyst for the “Bach revival” of the 19th century. As a patron and collector, she played an active role in forging a common German musical culture accessible to both Christians and Jews.

“Thinking about someone like Sara Levy presents us with an opportunity to cross boundaries, to think in new ways,” says Rebecca Cypess, assistant professor of music at Mason Gross and co-organizer of the symposium. “Here was a Jewish woman, educated in the secular world of German culture yet deeply committed to her religious tradition, who participated in the European Enlightenment. And she was an artist: She performed both old and new music, both privately and publicly, and she formed productive relationships with some of the most prominent musicians, philosophers, and critics of her age—Christian and Jewish.

“How did all this happen?” asks Cypess, a resident of Highland Park. “And given the religious strife of our own era, what can we learn from Sara Levy?”

Co-organizer Nancy Sinkoff, associate professor of Jewish studies and history, director of the Center for European Studies, and a resident of New York, will begin the daytime sessions with a presentation titled “The Worlds of Sara Levy.”

“Our symposium is unique,” she says, “inviting the audience to enter Sara Levy’s world not only through scholarly presentations, but also via the music she performed and heard, and through the exquisite parody, Leichtsinn und Frömmelei, a play by her contemporary Aaron Halle Wolfssohn.” Wolfssohn’s play—in Hebrew and Yiddish—deals satirically with the tensions between tradition and modernity, Judaism and Christianity, religion and Enlightenment, men and women. The reading will take place on Tuesday, September 30, at 3:00 p.m. in Nicholas Music Center.

Full Schedule of Events

Monday, September 29, 2014; 7:30 p.m.

"In Sara Levy’s Salon" - FREE
Nicholas Music Center, 85 George Street, New Brunswick
A concert featuring music owned and played by Sara Levy, including works by J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, W.F. Bach, J.N. Forkel, Frederick the Great, and their contemporaries. Played on period instruments. Commentary by Christoph Wolff (Harvard University).
Rebecca Cypess, harpsichord and fortepiano; Steven Zohn, transverse flute; Frederick Urrey, tenor; Yi-heng Yang, fortepiano; Dongmyung Ahn, viola; Benjamin Shute, violin.

Reception - FREE

This will be held in Rehearsal Hall 104 directly after the concert.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014; 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
duclos french concert A salon scene in an engraving by Antoine Jean Duclos after a painting by Augustin de St.-Aubin. 1774.

8:30 a.m. Welcome and Conference Overview, "The Worlds of Sara Levy" - FREE
Shindell Choral Hall in Robert E. Mortensen Hall
, Douglass Campus
Nancy Sinkoff, Rutgers University

9-10:30 a.m. Session 1: Judaism and Gender in Enlightenment Berlin - FREE
Shindell Choral Hall in Robert E. Mortensen Hall, Douglass Campus
Chair/Moderator /Respondent: Shmuel Feiner, Bar-Ilan University
Natalie Naimark-Goldberg, Bar-Ilan University
Lilianne Weissberg, University of Pennsylvania

10:30-noon Session 2: Philosophical and Musical Aesthetics in Sara Levy’s World - FREE
Shindell Choral Hall in Robert E. Mortensen Hall, Douglass Campus
Chair/Moderator of Q/A: George Stauffer, Dean, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University
Steven Zohn, Temple University
Yael Sela-Teichler, The Open University of Israel

12:45 p.m. Kirkpatrick Choir of Rutgers - FREE
Voorhees Chapel, 5 Chapel Drive, New Brunswick
Directed by Patrick Gardner, the choir will perform C.P.E. Bach's cantata "Klopstocks Morgengesang," a work whose publication Sara Levy and members of her family helped to underwrite.

1:30-3 p.m. Session 3: Boundaries of Tolerance in the Enlightenment - FREE
Nicholas Music Center, 85 George Street, New Brunswick
Chair/Respondent: Michael Marissen, Swarthmore College
Martha Helfer, Rutgers University
Elias Sacks, University of Colorado-Boulder

3-4 p.m. Semi-staged reading of excerpts of Aaron Halle Wolfssohn’s play, “Leichtsinn und Frömmelei.” - FREE
Nicholas Music Center, 85 George Street, New Brunswick

Readers: Shmuel Feiner (Bar Ilan University), Natalie Naimark-Goldberg (Bar Ilan University) and Joel Berkowitz (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

4-5 p.m. Roundtable Discussion/Summation - FREE
Nicholas Music Center, 85 George Street, New Brunswick

Moderated by Christoph Wolff, Harvard University

Cypess and her colleagues will begin the symposium on September 29 at 7:30 p.m. with a concert of music that Sara Levy held in her collection and most likely played in her salon. September 30 will feature presentations as well as a concert by the Kirkpatrick Choir of Rutgers, directed by Professor Patrick Gardner of North Brunswick, in Voorhees Chapel at 12:45 p.m.

The conference is a presentation of the Mason Gross School of the Arts, the School of Arts and Sciences, the Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life, and the Center for European Studies. Events are co-sponsored by the Department of Music, the Department of History, the Department of Jewish Studies, and the Department of German, Russian, and East European Languages and Literatures.