MARGARET BONDS’S SENIOR RECITAL (1933)

  • First: two pieces found in these programs remained a staple of her recitalist persona for the rest of her career: Robert Schumann’s Papillons, Op. 2 (1831) and, more remarkably, César Franck’s Prelude, Chorale, & Fugue (1884). Both works, notably, are pianistically challenging examples of cyclic form and good examples of the sort of cyclic procedure that would be important to Bonds’s style later on.
  • Second: while the programs of the two junior-year recitals and the Master’s recital are all conservative and fairly academic, the program of the senior recital is remarkably modernist (check out the playlist below): its earliest compositions — those by Debussy, Dohnányi, and Franck — date from the 1880s and 1890s (although the Debussy was a relatively recent discovery in Bonds’s time, having first been publicly performed in 1919 and published in 1920). Aside from those three, the compositions were written in 1920 (Carpenter), 1926 (Berners and Schulhoff), and 1927 (Villa-Lobos). On the whole, it is a conspicuously modernist program.
  • Third: the composers are all White, all male, and mostly European. This is not surprising — indeed, we all know well that today, eighty-seven years down the road, composers of color are marginalized in concert programs, performers of color are outrageously outnumbered in concert life, and narratives of music history and textbooks of music theory unaccountably engage in what Prof. Philip Ewell has termed colorasure. Indeed, the conspicuously conservative program of her Master’s recital invites speculation that perhaps she took some heat for that adventurous senior recital.

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John Michael Cooper

John Michael Cooper

A musicologist with a passion for social justice, bringing unheard music to life for performers and listeners, and teaching.