Elizabeth Abbate

General Info


Professor of Core Studies


Music History

Elizabeth Abbate joined the Conservatory in 1998 and is a professor of core studies in music history.

Abbate completed her doctorate with a dissertation on "Myth, Symbol, and Meaning in Mahler's Early Symphonies." Her more recent work, which incorporates cultural studies and music analysis, reflects her interest in music and esotericism, musical expression of nationalist traditions, and narrative structures in the symphony. At the Conservatory, Abbate teaches courses on 19th- and 20th-century symphonic traditions, on the music of Stravinsky, Webern, and Messiaen, and on the 19th- and 20th-century art song tradition. In addition, she has taught at Harvard University and New England Conservatory.

As a violinist, Abbate has performed with a wide variety of Boston-area groups, including the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), Boston Lyric Opera orchestra, Boston Ballet orchestra, Boston Baroque, the Handel and Haydn Society, and Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra. She can be heard on recordings by BMOP, including the 2016 Grammy-nominated Play by Andrew Norman, as well as recordings by Boston Baroque, Emmanuel Music, the Early Music Ensemble of Boston, and the Linda Chase Ensemble.

Abbate earned a B.A. at Yale College, an M.M. in violin performance at Yale School of Music, and a Ph.D. at Harvard University. She also completed courses in jazz improvisation at North Texas State University during her time as a violinist in the Fort Worth Symphony and Chamber Orchestra.

She currently resides in Lexington, Massachusetts, where she teaches private lessons in violin, viola, and beginning piano and runs a popular summer chamber music camp as part of the Lexplorations program.

Professional Awards and Recognitions

  • Whiting Fellowship recipient—Harvard University

Notable Recent Works

  • "Esoteric Origins: Theosophical Images and Influences in Webern's Op. 29"—Journal of Musicological Research (2018)
  • "The Presentation and Reception of Esoteric Elements in Mahler's 'Resurrection' Symphony"—Paper presented at the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism conference, Erfurt, Germany (2017)
  • "Myth Descending to Earth: Intersections of Tippett's Midsummer Marriage and Lewis's That Hideous Strength"—Paper presented at Arts + The Inklings conference, Langley, British Columbia, Canada (2016)
  • "Alchemy, Lumen Sensibus, and the 'Eternal Feminine': Esoteric Elements in Mahler's Eighth"—Paper presented at the Sixth International Conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism, Davis, California (2016)
  • "Mendelssohn's Scottish Sentiments: A New Look at Music, Meaning and Contemporary Nationalism in Mendelssohn's 'Scottish' Symphony"—Paper presented at 10th Biennial International Conference on Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Glasgow, Scotland (2015)
  • "Mendelssohn's Scottish Sentiments"—Revised for presentation in poster session of North American Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music, North Andover, Massachusetts (2015)
  • "Esoteric Origins: Theosophical Images and Influences in Webern's Op. 29"—Paper presented at Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Workshop, London (2014)