Elizabeth Abbate

Professor of Core Studies
Affiliated Departments
music history

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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 esoteric traditions. At the Conservatory, Abbate teaches courses on 19th- and 20th-century symphonic literature, on the music of Stravinsky, Webern, and Messiaen, and on 19th- and 20th-century art song.

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 music history and in jazz improvisation at North Texas State University during her time as a violinist in the Fort Worth Symphony and Chamber Orchestra.

Professional Awards and Recognitions

  • Whiting Fellowship recipient—Harvard University
  • 2019-2020 Berklee Faculty Development Grant

Notable Recent Works

  •  “Magic Squares, Cosmic Unity, and Eternal Laws of Nature: A New View of Webern’s Op. 24 as a Synthesis of Contemporary Esoteric Thought”—Paper presented at Esoteric Music, Music Performance, & Music Research Symposium, February 23, 2020, Nazareth College, Pittsford, New York (2020)
  • “‘As in Hölderlin’s Rhine’: Gnostic Constructions in the First Movement of Mahler’s Third”— Paper presented at Music and Philosophy Study Group conference, King’s College London (2019)
  • “Colors of the Celestial City: Esoteric and Cognitive Aspects of Messiaen’s Synesthetic Consciousness”—Paper presented at European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism conference, University of Amsterdam (2019)
  • “Ritual and Ecstasy in Tippett’s Midsummer Marriage”—Paper presented at American Musicological Society annual meeting, San Antonio, Texas (2018)
  • “Hieros gamos in Tippett’s Opera The Midsummer Marriage: Explorations of Embodiment and Transformation”—Paper presented at Association for the Study of Esotericism conference, Rice University, Houston, Texas (2018)
  • "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)