Modernity defies persecution: Stefan Wolpe & Ester Mägi on a journey between folksong and utmost avantgarde (May 24)


Composers?, © Photo of the woman: Photo by Kaupo Kikkas; Photo of the man: Courtesy of Milken Archive for Jewish Music

29.04.2022 - Article

Music for Thought Series is committed to engaging in a dialogue about the music performed, and for this event we are looking at how avantgarde in music defied authoritarian rule through the lens of two-piano works by two of the most intriguing 20th-century composers, Stefan Wolpe and Ester Mägi.

German-American pianist Hannah Harnest and Finnish pianist Markus Kaitila explore the identities of two of the most thought-provoking modernist composers of the 20th century and the eternal influence of J.S. Bach on musical creativity, featuring two-piano and concerto works. Persecuted by the Nazis and on a journey of forced migration via Berlin, Moscow, Palestine, and New York, German-Jewish composer Stefan Wolpe was torn between the social relevance of his communist ideals and his progressive compositional aesthetics. Ester Mägi, reverently called the “first lady of Estonian music,” experienced the war years as one of the most difficult periods in her life, but eventually found her own style based on national romanticism and Estonian folk music.

The pre-concert talk will feature distinguished Wolpe scholar and historical musicologist Brigid Cohen (NYU Arts & Science) in a pre-concert talk on Stefan Wolpe's music as a testament to his life as a refugee from the Holocaust.

The Music for Thought Series is presenting this event in collaboration with both the German Consulate General and Estonian Consulate General in New York, the New York Estonian House and the Stefan Wolpe Society. We are grateful for their generous support.

This is the fourth concert in Season II of the Music for Thought Series, which is generously being supported by the German Consulate in New York City. The mission of MFTS is to embed the performed music in a current social, historical, and cultural context, and to encourage discussions on the role and relevance of the arts and their creators in society. We want to make a difference by picking up on both historic events and relevant themes from national media and discuss a multitude of issues with experts from distinguished partner organizations.


J. S. Bach: Concerto for two keyboards BWV 1062

Ester Mägi (1922-2021): Kolm Pala - Three Pieces (1956)

Stefan Wolpe: (1902-1972): March and Variations op. 21 (1933)

Featured artists:

Hannah Harnest - piano

Markus Kaitila - piano

Edson Scheid - violin

Ūla Kinder - violin

Adam Kramer - viola

Maria Figueroa - cello

Featured speaker:

Brigid Cohen - New York University-Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Talk: “Stefan Wolpe's music as a testament to his life as a refugee from the Holocaust.”

Location and time:
Estonian House
243 East 34th Street
New York, NY 10016
Tue, May 24, 2022, 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM EDT
Registration required: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/stefan-wolpe-ester-magi-a-journey-between-folksong-and-utmost-avantgarde-tickets-330632951057

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