UC Berkeley Associate Professor of Music Nicholas Mathew’s schedule is pretty full most semesters. Between teaching a range of research and performance courses, maintaining a schedule of piano performances, and continuing to publish new research on late eighteenth-century music there is not much time for anything else in his professional calendar. But this year Mathew added more to his plate: a fellowship at UC Berkeley’s Townsend Center, helping to curate a series of concerts and lectures dedicated to the Mendelssohn family at the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, and designing a program of special events with the Takács Quartet, hosted by Cal Performances.
“It’s been a busy year intellectually and musically,” said Mathew “but I’ve enjoyed the chance to engage the public in different ways.”
Mathew has been researching across disciplines for some time, so a fellowship at the Townsend Center was a natural fit. Founded in 1987, the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities encourages interdisciplinary scholarship, awarding fellowships annually to researchers whose academic interests traverse multiple disciplines. Mathew’s first book, Political Beethoven, was an interdisciplinary study that combined thickly textured material history and political theory alongside close music analysis. This year, his Townsend Fellowship will support a new project that focuses on music-making and commercial life in the expanding metropolitan centers of late eighteenth-century Europe, particularly with respect to the music of Beethoven’s most famous teacher, Joseph Haydn.
When Cal Performances announced that the Takács Quartet would be performing the complete cycle of Beethoven quartets in Berkeley, they approached Mathew, along with the Takács’ first violinist Edward Dusinberre, to discuss how they might design new ways of engaging with these well-known works. The first installment of this high-profile collaboration took place in October.
“Ed and I already knew each other a little, because he had been completing a fantastic book about the Beethoven quartets and the compelling history of the Takács Quartet itself — so a stimulating collaboration was practically inevitable,” said Mathew.
The Takács Quartet returns to Berkeley in March and April 2017, when Mathew will be joined by Mark Ferraguto (Penn State) and Mary Hunter (Bowdoin College) to talk — appropriately enough, in the Bay Area — about the “new media” of the early nineteenth century, and their consequences for Beethoven’s string quartets.
So what will Mathew do to follow up his dizzying 2016-17?
“Well, I’m on leave — and I hope to return waving a brand new book in the air. Fingers crossed.”