Tag: Catherine Kautsky

Pianist Catherine Kautsky chronicles Paris in the time of composer Claude Debussy in new book

While she is more accustomed to “hearing” thoughts take shape than she is to seeing them emerge on the printed page, Lawrence University Professor of Music Catherine Kautsky has turned a fascination with the intimate interactions between music and social history into her first book.

Catherine Kautsky
Catherine Kautsky

In “Debussy’s Paris: Portraits of the Belle Époque” (2017, Rowman & Littlefield), Kautsky paints a vivid picture of Paris during the period between the end of the Franco-Prussian war (1871) and World War I (1914), the period commonly referred to as the “Belle Époque,” and ventures into the war years as well.

Kautsky treats readers to a tour of Paris through her detailed descriptions of the city’s passions, vices and obsessions, and then reflects on how French composer Claude Debussy’s piano music (1862-1918) mirrors the city. She explores how some of his key works reveal not only the most appealing facets of Paris but also the more disquieting aspects of the period, including minstrel shows with racist overtones, colonization which entailed brutal domination, and nationalism rife with hostility.

In its review, Booklist called “Debussy’s Paris” a “fascinating fusion of music, literature and social history. [Kautsky’s] graceful and erudite prose is embellished with period illustrations and bolstered by a carefully selected bibliography. A treat for music lovers, Francophiles and anyone who appreciates the arts.”

The seeds of the book were first sown more than 20 years ago during an academic sabbatical year Kautsky spent in Paris during the mid-1990s. Two years later, while serving as director of Lawrence’s London Center, Kautsky met two renowned Debussy scholars whose interests resonated with her own and inspired further research.

“When I returned to the United States, I started writing a number of articles on the connections between Debussy’s piano music and literature,” said Kautsky, who is in her 25th year teaching piano in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music. “At that point I was hooked on Debussy, though I certainly wasn’t yet envisioning a book.

“[Kautsky’s] graceful and erudite prose is embellished with period illustrations and bolstered by a carefully selected bibliography. A treat for music lovers, Francophiles and anyone who appreciates the arts.”
— Booklist

“I was totally fascinated by the intersections of Debussy’s music with many other aspects of French life at the turn of the century,” she added. “I noticed that while people had written a lot about commonalities between the music and impressionist and symbolist art, there was less about all the ways Debussy draws on literature — from poetry, to journalism, to fairy tales—and even less on how his titles give constant clues to the social history of fin-de-siècle Paris.”

Cover of the book Debussy's ParisThe book deals with historical and political issues in Debussy’s Paris, many of which remain all-too-relevant in America today. For instance, a seemingly benign and entertaining genre like the cakewalk emanates from blatantly racist minstrel shows, and the book includes a number of disturbing “cakewalk’ cartoons from Debussy’s day which echo the genesis of our own racism in assumptions about “dark” Africa. Similarly, the French nationalism which drew Debussy in before WWI —encouraging France and Germany to engage in years of bloodshed—parallels “America First” slogans proliferating in our own times. And the colonialism which featured the exoticism of Arab nations and neighbors while simultaneously demeaning their primitive ways, is highly topical as we examine the role of Moslem culture in Western nations.

“My book is not about placing personal blame on Debussy for any of these ‘isms,’” Kautsky explains. “Rather it’s about the ways in which a composer, often unwittingly, illustrates his times and beliefs through his music. Debussy makes the task of drawing inferences infinitely easier, for he furnishes us with titles every step of the way. By looking at those titles, we learn about the literature, the art and the politics that gripped France in 1900.

“I’ve loved putting together the strands of politics, art, and literature as diverse as Proust and Peter Pan,” she added. “Hearing music in the abstract is more than enough, but hearing it as the composer must have heard it—through the prism of his own life experiences—adds another dimension that I’ve found irresistible.”

The recipient of Lawrence’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016, Kautsky earned a bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory, a master’s degree from the Juilliard School and a doctorate degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

Pianist Elizabeth Vaughan Wins State Music Competition

Lawrence University pianist Elizabeth Vaughan earned first-place honors Saturday, Oct. 15 in the 2013 Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Wisconsin state competition conducted at UW-La Crosse.

Elizabeth-Vaughan_newsblog
Elizabeth Vaughan ’15

Vaughan, a junior voice and piano performance major from Highland Park, Ill., won the Young Artist (19-26 years of age) competition. She advances to the MTNA’s five-state East Central Division competition Jan. 10-11 at Baldwin Wallace University. Winners at the division competition advance to the MTNA’s national competition March 22-26, 2014 in Chicago.

Vaughan is the 13th Lawrence student in the past 15 years to win the Wisconsin MTNA piano competition. She is a student in the studio of Professor Catherine Kautsky.

Lawrence pianists dominated the competition, which featured a total of 12 students. Besides Vaughan’s first-place finish, senior Thomas Lee, Chicago, Ill., earned alternate (second place) honors while seniors Max Feldkamp, Appleton, Jonathan Gmeinder, Hartland, Daniel Kuzuhara, Madison, and junior Laetitia Lehman-Pearsall, Bainbridge Island, Wash., each were accorded honorable mention honors.

Gmeinder and Laetitia also study in Kautsky’s studio. Lee, Feldkamp and Kuzuhara are students of Associate Professor Anthony Padilla.

The MTNA performance competitions recognize exceptionally talented young artists and their teachers in their pursuit of musical excellence.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence Welcomes Chicago Symphony Orchestra Cellist John Sharp for Guest Recital

John Sharp, principal cello of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performs a guest recital at Lawrence University Sunday, May 19 at 5 p.m. in Harper Hall. He will be accompanied by Lawrence University faculty pianist Catherine Kautsky, who played with Sharp during her graduate studies at Juillard School.

Following his recital, Sharp will conduct a master class at 7:30 p.m. in Shattuck Hall 163.  Both events are free and open to the public.

John Sharp, principal cello, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

In 1986 at the age of 27, Sharp was among the youngest players ever named a principal chair for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He joined the CSO after three years as principal cello with the Cincinnati Symphony. Prior to the CSO, Sharp also performed as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the New York String Orchestra.

“We are delighted to have John Sharp back on campus playing with our very own Catherine Kautsky,” said fellow cellist and Professor of Music Janet Anthony. “John is a cellist’s cellist. He has a gorgeous, elegant sound and is an exceptionally interesting and insightful musician. We are in for a real treat.”

A graduate of Juillard School, Sharp has been a featured performer across the country, including concert appearances at the Marlboro Music Festival and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.  He was the featured soloist in several CSO recordings, including Strauss’s “Don Quixote,” Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto” with Itzhak Perlman and Benjamin Britten’s “Symphony for Cello and Orchestra.”

Sharp performs on a cello made in 1694 by Joseph Guarnerius.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

Lawrence Student Musicians Shine in State Competitions

Lawrence University musicians collected two firsts and two seconds in the 2013 Wisconsin National Federation of Music Clubs’ Biennial Student/Collegiate Competition.

Kinsey Fournier, a senior from Conway, Ark., and Tess Vogel, a sophomore from Southbury, Conn., earned first-place honors in the clarinet and piano divisions, respectively. Each was awarded $1,000 prizes and will advance to the national competition. National winners will be announced in April.

Anthony Capparelli, a junior from River Falls and Daniel O’Connor, a senior from Dallas, Texas, earned second-place honors in the WNFMC’s piano and organ divisions, respectively, and received a $750 prize. Vogel and Capparelli study in the piano studio of Catherine Kautsky. O’Connor, a finalist for the prestigious Frank Huntington Beebe Award, is a student of university organist Kathrine Hanford, while Fournier is a student of associate professor David Bell.

The WNFMC competition, conducted via submitted audition tape, is open to musicians 19-25 years of age in 13 categories. Students are required to perform a repertoire from memory covering a challenging range of 4-5 musical styles, depending upon the category.

Additionally, Alexis VanZalen, a senior from Holland, Mich., earned second-place honors in the recent American Guild of Organists Young Organists Competition in Milwaukee. She received a cash award of $500.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

 

Composer Claude Debussy’s 150th Birthday Celebrated with Day-long “Carnival”

From colonialism to issues of racism, the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music piano department commemorates the 150thbirthday of French composer Claude Debussy Sunday, Oct. 28 with a day-long, multimedia examination of the social and cultural history of Paris that influenced Debussy’s work.

Music, art, theatrical readings, a dance competition, a gamelan demonstration and even a circus act will be featured in the “Debussy Carnival.”  The celebration begins at 11 a.m. and continues throughout the day in Harper Hall of the Music-Drama Center. All events are free and open to the public.

In conjunction with various presentations (“Humor in Debussy,” “Race and the Cakewalk”) and demonstrations of early Parisian courtly dances, the Lawrence student piano majors will perform nearly all of Debussy’s works for piano, many of which are short (2-3 minutes) pieces.

Professor Catherine Kautsky

“This celebration promises to be fascinating on every front,” said Professor of Music and keyboard department chair Catherine Kautsky, who will perform a 1 p.m. faculty recital as part of the day’s activities with conservatory colleagues Joanne Bozeman (soprano), Wen-Lei Gu (violin) and Steven Spears (tenor).  “No composer absorbed more from his surroundings than did Claude Debussy. We will be transported to his Paris of 1880-1918, complete with its circus acts, gamelan performances, as well as the political ambiguities arising from new colonies, visiting minstrel shows and a constant simmering resentment against the Germans.

“Debussy’s music is by turns funny and infinitely evocative— my hope is that the slides, readings and dances with which we surround it will well communicate all that imagination!”

An exhibition of art works that inspired Debussy’s compositions will be on display in the Harper Hall lobby from 11-7 p.m.  Following the celebration, the works will be exhibited Oct. 29 – Nov. 2, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. in the Quirk Print Gallery in the Wriston Art Center.

A cakewalk dance competition will be held at 3 p.m. with a fresh-baked cake awarded as a first-place prize to the winning couple. The competition is open to all interested campus and community participants. Interested dancers are invited to a cakewalk instruction/practice session from 10-11 a.m.

For a complete schedule of events, visit http://go.lawrence.edu/debussy.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,450 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.