The Bard Music Festival was founded in 1990 to promote new ways of understanding and presenting the history of music to a contemporary audience. Each year, a single composer is chosen as the main subject. The biography of the composer, the influences and consequences of that composer’s achievement, and all aspects of the musical culture surrounding the time and place of the composer’s life are explored. Perhaps the most important dimensions of the festival are the ways in which it links music to the worlds of literature, painting, theater, philosophy, and politics and brings two kinds of audience together: those with a long history of interest in concert life and first-time listeners, who find the festival an ideal place to learn about and enjoy the riches of our musical past.
The festival also seeks to bridge the worlds of performance and scholarship in new and exciting ways. As a result of this collaboration, each concert is curated and the concert format varies, so that different genres and instrumental groupings appear in a single program, breaking the mold of the standard vocal recital, piano recital, or quartet concert. Concerts are complemented by informative preconcert talks, panel discussions by renowned musicians and scholars, and special events. In addition, each season Princeton University Press publishes a book of essays, translations, and correspondence relating to the festival’s central figure.