I am honored that Nola asked me about writing a guest post for her blog about my recent
adventures in Europe.
I am grateful for the opportunity to represent the Moravian Music Foundation at international conferences. I hope to make the Moravian Music Foundation known in scholarly music circles through networking at conferences in conjunction with our online catalog presence on OCLC/ WorldCat (GemeinKat) and RISM.
After my paper on August Heinrich Gehra was accepted for presentation at the International Association of Music Libraries (IAML) 2019 Congress in Krakow, Poland, I learned that the Bach Network Dialogue Meeting would take place the week before it, just outside Cambridge, England. I really didn’t expect that I’d be able to attend this meeting the week before the IAML Congress, but thought I’d ask. The answer might have been no, but the answer couldn’t be yes if I didn’t ask.
I had carried on an email exchange with someone in Edinburgh, Scotland over a year ago. He had been researching German cantatas in 18th century England, and contacted archivist Lorraine Parsons at the Moravian Archives in London. Lorraine suggested he contact the Moravian Music Foundation. As the email exchange continued, I learned the man with whom I’d been corresponding was involved with the Bach Network. I was not familiar with it, but I found their website and was surprised to see the names on their board of directors. It was a veritable Who’s Who of Bach scholars. I recognized names of authors of books in my personal library as well as articles I’ve collected over the years.
The Bach Network meets every other year on their own (and in alternative years meets in conjunction with the ICBM. Now, that’s NOT related to Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, but is the acronym for the International Conference on Baroque Music!), and the meeting format is not a typical conference with multiple tracks of speakers. Rather, it is a relatively small gathering of people and there is a single schedule of speakers. They maintain an open schedule to allow for plenty of questions and discussions. The Bach Network Dialogue Meetings have been designed to foster the exchange of ideas amongst scholars. They meet at an estate outside a village which is outside of Cambridge. Unless you’re driving your own car you have to take a taxi to get there. This encourages attendees to be completely present for the meeting (unlike some conferences in big cities where attendees like to duck out to do things beyond the conference). They also provide opportunity for “early career” folks to share their research, which provides them a hearing and evaluation among high level Bach scholars.
The Dialogue Meetings also provide a series of 5-minute research updates. Anyone attending had the opportunity to be allotted 5 minutes to share their name, where they’re from, and what research they’re currently working on. When combined with the open schedule during the week, this allows people to informally discuss shared areas of interest as well as contact information to carry on their conversations and information exchange.
Seeing the list of names of people presenting I planned to remain a silent spectator; but found the group to be gracious and welcoming. During the Dialogue Meeting I had many opportunities to meet people over breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and to enjoy conversations during an evening’s libation on the terrace overlooking the estate’s gardens. By the end of the week I’d met Christoph Wolff (Harvard and the Bach Archiv — Leipzig), Michael Marissen (author of “Bach & God” and other books and articles), Dana Marsh (Artistic Director of the Washington (DC) Bach Consort), Barbara Reul (Luther College, University of Regina who is a leading scholar of Johann Friedrich Fasch), Ruth Tatlow (Uppsala University, Sweden, author of “Bach’s Numbers”), Eberhard Spree (double bass player in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchester), Fred Fehleisen (Juilliard School of Music) Joel Speerstra (Gothenburg, Sweden, who performed with Christina Ekström at the 2018 Bethlehem Conference), Yo Tomita (Queen’s University, Belfast, N. Ireland), and others. Attending this meeting provided many opportunities to talk about the collections of the Moravian Music Foundation to scholars from all over the world who could steer their students to us.
The following week I attended the IAML 2019 Congress in Krakow, Poland. The plenary sessions provided talks from leading Polish music scholars about the wealth of research being done in Polish music which is coming to light in publications, scholarly editions, and recordings. Admit it, when you hear “Polish composers” in relation to classical music not many names come to mind: Chopin, Paderewski, Gorecki. Can you name one preceding Chopin?
Well, hopefully, thanks to the work of these scholars, you will be hearing more from Polish composers representing centuries of music. Among the evening concerts associated with the congress was a Piano Quintet by Josef Nowakowski (1800-1865) on the program paired with the Schubert “Trout Quintet.” Another concert was an organ recital in the Church of St. Anne which featured mainly Polish baroque composers as well as an organ sonata by C. P. E. Bach.
A third concert was part of the 15th Festival of Polish Music at the Church of St. Catherine and featured the music of several (mainly) 20th century Polish composers.
The congress provided opportunities to hear how other researchers and libraries are making their collections accessible and more widely known, how RISM and the other IAML “R projects” (RILM, RIPM, and RIdIM) can be used in music research, and to attend workshops in the use of RISM, and open discussions about how these tools can be improved. There were also about sessions about recent discoveries in music collections around the world, and summaries of various national collections (Poland, Denmark, and Russia). One fascinating paper shared the results of using thermal infrared imaging to provide incredible representations of watermarks in 16th and 17th-century music manuscripts.
I gave my paper about August Heinrich Gehra (a slightly different version than I gave for the lunchtime lecture) on the last session on Friday afternoon before the final general session (business meeting) of IAML. Fortunately, Evie arrived in time for my presentation, but I was flattered by several others who chose to attend: John Roberts (retired music librarian from UC-Berkeley who is also a Handel scholar, and who had asked me last year at IAML 2018 in Leipzig about some little-known manuscripts in our Lititz Miscellaneous Collection relating to music possibly copied by a Handel copyist), Ewa Hauptman-Fischer (librarian at the University of Warsaw, who has helped me obtain copies of Gehra’s music from her collections), Bernd Koska (Bach Archiv Leipzig) who I met last year in Leipzig, and gave me a nice tour of where he works), Tomasz Gorny (post doc at University of Warsaw whom I met the week before at the Bach Network meeting), Jennifer Ward (RISM office, Frankfurt, Germany), and after the presentation Kristi Bergland (University of Minnesota) whose parents live in the Winston-Salem area and attend a Moravian church. She intends to stop by for a visit the next time she’s home, and I’ll give her a tour and discuss with her some possible research topics.
During our extended stay in Poland, Evie and I traveled by train to Wroclaw (Breslau is the German name of the town). While there we met with Marta Opryszak, a doctoral researcher who found a couple pieces of music by the Kapellmeister of a castle in western Silesia (Christian Friedrich Hennig) in our collections when she searched RISM. We also met her dissertation advisor Dr. Agnieszka Drożdżewska who gave us a nice tour of her part of the University of Wroclaw which in the past had been the home of the Königliche Akademische Institut für Kirchenmusik (Royal Academic Institute for Church Music). This collection, later transferred to the University of Warsaw, included music from Moravian Church collections in Niesky (Germany), Gnadenfrey, and Gnadenberg (the last 2 were located in Silesia, now part of western Poland).
Another week in Poland for vacation did not slow down the pace of amazing things seen, heard, and tasted. Evie and I visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine (where we walked 2 of 200 kilometers of underground tunnels which are as far below the surface as a 40—story building!), Auschwitz-Birkenau, numerous walks (and dinners) in Krakow’s Stare Miasto (Old Town), including Wawel Castle and the fascinating Rynek Underground Museum, a day trip down to Zakopane to view the Tatra Mountains, and the Schindler Factory and Museum (made famous by the movie Schindler’s List).
Despite its sometimes tragic history due to its location among world powers, Poland is a beautiful country with a rich diversity of flavors, music, and culture which reflects the influences of surrounding countries over past centuries.