Featured on the program was a clutch of obscure, trivial pieces by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, the figure at the heart of this year’s festival at Bard College, alongside works by peers now revered and reviled. In his prefatory comments Mr. Adams recounted a historical confluence of nascent nationalist aesthetics, a quality frequently ascribed to Sibelius’s cool, evocative creative output, and radical racial agendas espoused by late-19th-century proponents of eugenics, like Madison Grant, the wealthy conservationist who helped found the Bronx Zoo….
A regular festival participant at Bard, Mr. Adams is among the more affable scholars you can encounter here, which just made his measured delivery, lacerating wit and undisguised revulsion that much more chilling.
“The 19th century had two dangerous obsessions: one was with ‘progress,’ the other with ‘purity,’ ” Mr. Adams said. “Students of history know only too well the ghastly results of those two obsessions.”