Bertil Van Boer, a musicologist, composer, conductor and violist, is a professor of music at Western Washington University who teaches music history and theory.
At 8 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at WWU's Performing Arts Center Concert Hall, he presents the annual Collegium Musicum concert. It's a free opportunity for people who don't know much about classical music to learn about composers.
Question: Did you grow up loving music?
Answer: I was born in Tallahassee, Florida, where my father, a composer and flautist, was on the faculty at Florida State University. Music was always in our household, and I began writing compositions at about the age of 10, as well as playing violin and viola.
Growing up in Napa, Calif., there was ample opportunity to perform locally, as well as attend symphony and opera productions in San Francisco.
In college, I spent much of my time with music, even though that was not my major, and it was only in graduate school in German literature that I decided that my passion for music outweighed all else.
Q: Where did you attend university?
A: My training in college began at the University of California in Berkeley, where I majored in German literature. During my years there I had the opportunity to take time off to attend the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, where I studied music composition with Cesar Bresgen, a friend of Carl Orff.
I received my master's in music history from the University of Oregon, and after attending Cornell University in musicology I received my doctorate at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, where my dissertation on Swedish composer Joseph Martin Kraus was done under Ingmar Bengtsson.
I was also principal viola of the National Symphony Orchestra of Nicaragua and conductor of Opera Kansas during my years as a faculty member at Wichita State University. I have done consultancy work with the Royal Swedish Opera, the Stuttgart Opera, and Royal Swedish Academy of Music, as well as festivals in Sweden, Germany, the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and the United Kingdom.
I review recordings for Fanfare, as well as present lectures in places such as the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt and the Brioschi Symposium in Italy. I have authored five books and have published editions in the complete works of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, as well as articles in the New Grove dictionaries of music and opera.
Q: What's Collegium Musicum?
A: The Collegium Musicum takes its name from the ubiquitous university orchestras of the early 18th century, most famously Johann Sebastian Bach's ensemble at the University of Leipzig.
The WWU Collegium Musicum is our early music ensemble, which incorporates all music before about 1800. It was formerly directed by professor Mary Térey Smith, and I have conducted it since her retirement. Generally, we have one concert each year that alternates between vocal and instrumental music of the Baroque and classical periods.
Q: What's the program of this concert?
A: We create a small chamber orchestra, with a string core and harpsichord, as well as woodwinds and brass (horns or trumpets/timpani) when needed. Our goal is to bring to Bellingham music that would ordinarily not be heard, much of which is the result of musical research in the archives of Europe and the Americas.
We want to present as eclectic a concert as possible, with as many new "world premieres" (in our 21st-century parlance) as possible, showing all audiences that there is a vibrant and barely touched world of music beyond the standard repertory classics.
This year, we are premiering a symphony found in Malta by Agostino Nani, along with a Telemann Flute Suite, and the Kraus violin concerto with professor Walter Schwede as soloist. He was the violinist who recorded Kraus's chamber works for violin and piano several years ago for Naxos, and has been anxious to perform this very difficult and virtuoso concerto ever since.
Q: What about listeners who don't know much about classical music?
A: For all audiences, this is a chance to have a glimpse into the world of unusual and often stunningly unique works from this period, which one ordinarily would not be able to hear anywhere else.
It is an excellent introduction into the world of classical music for those who have no knowledge, mainly because they are easy on the ear, interesting and tuneful, and accessible, without the weight of history bearing down upon them as with the more known composers.
The expectation is that one comes, hears something terrific, and can leave both entertained and with a new sense of the wide world of music yet to be rediscovered and performed.
Q: What are some of your personal interests?
A: I am a pilot, and at the present time I am in my third year as president of the Chuckanut Flying Club, a wonderful group of friends who share a passion for this avocation. I have piloted aircraft in a number of foreign countries, including Germany, Sweden, Malta, New Zealand and Scotland (as well as going up to Canada several times a year).
I enjoy collecting model trains, having a collection of N gauge sets, a few of which I have painted and assembled myself.
Q: What's on the horizon for you?
A: This summer I will be giving lectures at an international youth orchestra festival in Bolzano, Italy, with Kraus as the featured composer. In addition, I am creating editions from the hundreds of works drawn from libraries so that musicians all over the world can access these terrific pieces; these will be available online from my personal press.
More research, particularly in the world of opera and the symphony, as well as sacred music lost in the archives of the various monasteries in central Europe, will be on the agenda.
From a personal standpoint, I'd like to pilot an aircraft around the Caribbean and over across the northern Atlantic to Europe.
IF YOU GO
What: Collegium Musicum
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 10
Where: Western Washington University Performing Arts Center Concert Hall
Details: 360-650-3130, free admission.