Rebecca Cypess, “Silence from the Salon: In Search of Sara Levy”

It may be a holiday today, but The Avid Listener has a new essay for you nonetheless! This week we bring you an essay by a new author–Rebecca Cypess–about a musician who is largely unknown: Sara Levy. Rebecca gives us some biographical detail (important since so little is known about Levy), but also has a larger argument to make about how we “lose” critical historical figures when we construct stories about the past. Levy, who studied with W. F. Bach (one of J. S. Bach’s many sons), was a crucial link between J. S. Bach and the 19th century musicians who revived his music. She was a keyboard virtuoso, a collector of scores, an important patron, and a prominent salonnière in Berlin.

Here’s an excerpt from Rebecca’s essay: “A virtuosic performer, a patron, and a collector of music, Levy preserved and transmitted repertoires that would have been lost without her, including a large number of works by members of the Bach family. Yet until very recently, music historians have ignored her or even swept her under the rug. A Jewish woman at the center of German musical history? As unlikely as it seems, Levy’s story is very real, and is a product of a pivotal moment in European history.”

You can read the full essay here. It’s a great story, one we think you’ll love reading and sharing with friends, students, and colleagues.

Next week: an essay by ME based on work I’ve been doing about labor and protest songs called “‘Solidarity, Forever’: Zilphia Horton’s Labor Songs, Communism, and the CIO.”

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