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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Music (M.M.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Before 1933, Erwin Bodky actively participated in musical life in Berlin. When he was a student, the Prussian Government had given him grants in 1920 and 1921 to study with the distinguished composers Richard Strauss and Ferruccio Busoni. His international performing career was launched when, at the last minute, Bodky was asked to replace a pianist for a performance with Wilhelm Furtwängler. When he became a professor at the Staatlich Akademie für Kirchen- und Schulmusik in Charlottenburg in 1926, he immersed himself in early music, performing on harpsichord and clavichord and founding his own collegium musicum. His publications, Der Vortrag alter Klaviermusik (Berlin: Hesse, 1932) and Das Charakterstück (Berlin: Vieweg, 1933), promised a future wealth of scholarship.

However, in 1933, Bodky was expelled from his teaching position because he was a Jew. After officials came to seize part of his instrument collection, he and his family fled to Amsterdam, where they were in exile for five years. In 1938, he managed to escape Europe by securing a position at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Bodky would become one of the most important proponents of early music in the United States. Over the last twenty years of his life, he promoted historical instruments, performance practice, and forgotten early music repertoire. His many accomplishments in the United States include the founding of the Music Department at Brandeis University and the Cambridge Society for Early Music, the introduction and promotion of the collegium musicum, and the publication of the treatise The Interpretation of Bach’s Keyboard Works (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960).

This thesis provides the first detailed examination of his influence in the United States. His roles as performer, scholar, and teacher are each explored. Relying upon unpublished archival material, academic records, memoirs, and numerous concert programs in addition to Bodky’s published writings, this study reveals that Bodky had a significant impact on how early music was performed, taught, and received in the United States.


First Advisor

Erinn E Knyt

Second Advisor

Ernest May

Third Advisor

David Josephson