Sylvia Kahan

Sylvia Kahan - Professor -  profile photo

Research Interests

  • 19th-century and 20th-century French music


  • D.M.A., CUNY Graduate Center


Affiliated Campus(es)

  • College of Staten Island

Sylvia Kahan teaches courses in music history, music theory, and keyboard musicianship, as well as giving private instruction in piano and chamber music. In her teaching, she foregrounds the interconnections of the historical and cultural forces that shape music composition, music analysis, and performance practice. Many of her courses include the teaching of skills that enable students to write about music more clearly and confidently.

Sylvia Kahan is Professor of Music at the Graduate Center and College of Staten Island, CUNY, where she is a member of both the Piano and Musicology faculties. As a pianist, she has performed as concerto soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician in all of New York City’s major concert halls and throughout North America and Europe. Her recitals have been broadcast on WQXR, WNYC, and National Public Radio. She has participated in the Tanglewood, Aspen, Waterloo, Delta, and Nancy (France) summer festivals. She has collaborated with the English Chamber Orchestra, sopranos Dame Felicity Lott, Roberta Peters and Shirley Verrett, and members of the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony.

As a musicologist, Sylvia Kahan specializes in late 19th-century and 20th-century French music and culture. She has written on women's music patronage in Paris and New York, Proust and music, 19th-century music criticism, Nadia Boulanger, Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré, Edgard Varèse, French mélodie and opera, and the history of octatonicism. Her two books, Music's Modern Muse (2003) and In Search of New Scales (2009), both published by University of Rochester Press, have received outstanding reviews. Music's Modern Muse served as the inspiration for a lecture and concert produced by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and for a segment on Winnaretta Singer-Polignac on the Smithsonian Channel. Recently been published in 2nd edition and French translation as Winnaretta Singer-Polignac: Princesse, mécène et musicienne, it has been hailed by French critics and audiences.

Sylvia Kahan served two terms as President of the New York Chapter of the American Musicological Society.



  • Winnaretta Singer-Polignac: Princesse, mécène et musicienne. Dijon, France: Les Presses du reel, 2018. 808 pp. ISBN: 978-2-84066-268-6, EAN: 9782840662686
  • In Search of New Scales: Prince Edmond de Polignac, Octatonic Explorer. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2009. 389 pp. ISBN 15-8046-133-6
  • Music’s Modern Muse: A Life of Winnaretta Singer, Princesse Edmond de Polignac. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2003, paperback 2009. 576 pp. ISBN 978-15-8046-305-8


  • “Patrons and Society: Gabriel Fauré’s ‘Career’ in the Paris and London Music Salons,” in Fauré Studies, ed. Carlo Caballero and Stephen Rumpf. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Forthcoming, December 2018.
  • “A Critic’s Progress: Émile-Mathieu de Monter’s Musical Reporting of the Paris 1867 and 1878 Exposition Universelles for the Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris,” in Nineteenth-Century Music Criticism (Music, Criticism & Politics, 3), ed. Teresa Cascudo García-Villaraco. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2017, 33-58.
  • “The Whitney Connection: Varèse and his New York Patrons,” in Edgard Varèse – Composer, Sound Sculptor, Visionary, ed. Felix Meyer and Heidy Zimmerman. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell and Brewer, 2006, 92-100. Published in German as “‘Mit freundlicher Unterstützung von Mrs. Gertrude Whitney’: Varèse und seine New Yorker Mäzeninnen,” trans. Felix Meyer, in Edgard Varèse – Komponist, Klangforscher, Visionär, ed. Felix Meyer and Heidy Zimmerman. Mainz: Schott, 2006, 92-100.
  • “Fauré’s Prelude to La Passion (1890): A Re-examination of a Forgotten Score,” in Regarding Fauré, ed. Tom Gordon. Newark, NJ: Gordon and Breach, Newark, 1999, 239-72.


  • Rien de la tonalité usuelle: Edmond de Polignac and the Octatonic Scale in Nineteenth-Century France,” 19th-Century Music 29.2 (Fall 2005), 97-120.
  • “Prokofiev and the Princesse de Polignac,” Three Oranges Journal 7 (May 2004), 5-9.
  • Kahan, Sylvia and Nathalie Mauriac-Dyer, “Quatre Lettres inédites de Proust au Prince de Polignac,” Bulletin Marcel Proust 53 (December 2003), 9-21.


  • “Bent Scales and Stained Glass Attitudes”: la réception critique de la musique de Debussy aux Etats-Unis (1884-1918)”, Regards sur Debussy, eds. Myriam Chimènes and Alexandra Laederich. Paris: Fayard, 2013, 449-62.
  • “‘Quelque chose de très musical et de très raffiné’: La collaboration de Nadia Boulanger et Marie-Blanche de Polignac.” In Nadia Boulanger et Lili Boulanger, témoignages, études, catalogues et discographies, ed. Alexandra Laederich. Lyon, France: Symétrie, 2007, 85-98.


  • François LeRoux and Romain Raynaldy, Le chant intime (Paris: Fayard, 2002). Translation by Sylvia Kahan for Oxford University Press, New York. Forthcoming, December 2018.

  • Pascal Terrien, ed. A History of the Saxophone Through the Pedagogical Methods Published in France: 1846-1942. Translated by Sylvia Kahan. Sampzon, France: Editions Delatour, 2015. 273 pp.ISBN 978-2-7521-0262-1


  • Chamber music recital, College of Staten Island Chamber Players, DiMenna Center, NYC.
  • Pianist for Tania Leon’s opera, Little Rock Nine (excerpts), Capitale, NYC.
  • World premiere of Steve Cohen’s Toccata Veronese (commissioned by Sylvia Kahan), Composers Now festival, Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC.
  • Concerto soloist, Mozart: Piano Concerto in F major, K. 459, Staten Island Symphony, Jose Alejandro Guzmán, cond., Springer Concert Hall, College of Staten Island, NY.
  • Recital with Dame Felicity Lott, soprano, François Le Roux, baritone, Graham Johnson, piano, Palazzo Contarini-Polignac, Venice, Italy.
  • Chamber music recital, “The Intimate Fauré,” University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Chamber music recital, The OMNI Ensemble, Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.
Sylvia Kahan - Professor -  profile photo


Affiliated Campus(es)

  • College of Staten Island