Music Department Faculty in Discussion with Ian Bostridge for the Berlin Family Lectures

Ian Bostridge headshot


Acclaimed tenor Ian Bostridge looks at how classical music can express the inexpressible: the nature of existence; the fluidity of identity; the inevitability of death. Through three Berlin Family Lectures focused on “Musical Identities,” Bostridge sets out to explore and evaluate some of the works at the very center of the classical vocal repertoire, asking how they construct identities—historically, poetically, and musically. 

For complete information about the 2021 Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lectures, visit


Lecture 1: Identity in Performance

Berthold Hoeckner headshot

Sunday, April 11, 1:00-2:30 p.m. CDT
Introduction and discussion with Berthold Hoeckner, Professor of Music and the Humanities in the College

Classical music offers a fluid and complex perspective on identity. This lecture will focus on three vocal works from disparate eras, which explore and use identity in different ways.

Lecture 2: Hidden Histories

Anne Robertson headshot

Saturday, April 17, 1:00-2:30 p.m. CDT
Introduction and discussion with Anne Walters Robertson, Dean, Division of the Humanities and Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor of Music and the Humanities in the College

The hidden history of colonialism in the classical music repertoire is rarely acknowledged in the concert hall. This lecture will explore it by taking as a case study Maurice Ravel's Chansons Madécasses (Songs of Madagascar), a staple of the vocal repertoire, originally composed in the 1920s.

Lecture 3: Meditations on Death

Martha Feldman headshot

Saturday, April 24, 1:00-2:30 p.m. CDT
Introduction and discussion with Martha Feldman, Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor of Music and the Humanities in the College

The final lecture will look at identity's ultimate dissolution—death—and explore some of the ways in which classical composers have confronted it, in private and public mode. The lecture focuses on three works by Benjamin Britten.

Visit the Berlin Family Lectures website at for more information about the artist and events. These Berlin Family Lectures will be delivered on Zoom Webinar. Registration is free of charge and open to the public.

Concert Stream with Ian Bostridge, tenor

Ian Bostridge headshot

Friday, April 16, 7:00 p.m. CDT
Tickets: $15, free for UChicago Students

In a recital recorded in London's historic Wigmore Hall, fifteen-time GRAMMY-nominated tenor Ian Bostridge—who visits the University of Chicago (virtually) to deliver the 2021 Berlin Family Lectures—and poetic pianist Imogen Cooper reveal Beethoven the lover through some of the composer's most sentimental songs. The pair also share the concentrated surge of creativity unleashed by Robert Schumann when he was at last permitted to marry his love, Clara Wieck.