Dr. Bradley Strauchen-Scherer is an associate curator in the Department of Musical Instruments.
Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015
The Department of Musical Instruments recently published a highlights guide, Musical Instruments: Highlights of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which features approximately one hundred objects from around the world. Representing cultures from the ancient to the present, each object is accompanied by text that chronicles its historical, technological, or musical importance. Throughout the book, themes connect objects across time and place, and in the case of free-reed instruments, illustrate the cultural exchange of musical ideas.
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015
In the modern orchestra, wind instruments made before the twentieth century are considered to be outmoded and unusable. Technical developments such as valves and keys were so fundamental that nearly all were replaced by newer models. By contrast, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century string instruments, particularly violins by the famous Cremonese maker Antonio Stradivari, remain sought after by leading performers. Subtle alterations have enabled these violins to stay in use, even as performance spaces grew larger and compositions pushed instruments to their technical capacity, demanding a larger sound and a greater compass of notes.
Posted: Thursday, February 26, 2015
This lavishly embellished cornet evinces the instrument's position as the most popular brass instrument of virtuoso soloists and band leaders throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The cornet first appeared in Paris in the 1820s and incorporated valves, invented only a few years earlier, into its design. This enabled the instrument to be played chromatically and with a strong, even tone throughout its entire range—a marked contrast to the natural trumpets and keyed bugles in use at the time.
Posted: Monday, November 17, 2014
In honor of the bicentenary of the birth of instrument maker Adolphe Sax, the Department of Musical Instruments has opened Celebrating Sax: Instruments and Innovation in gallery 682 of The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments. This new exhibition features some astounding instruments by the maker and his family, and traces the influence he had on other builders of musical instruments.
Posted: Monday, November 3, 2014
November 6 marks the two-hundredth birthday of Adolphe Sax (1814–1894), and the Met will be celebrating the occasion with a special exhibition, Celebrating Sax: Instruments and Innovation, which features instruments made by three generations of the Sax family. Rare saxophones, brass instruments, and even an exquisite ivory clarinet are among the twenty-six instruments selected to showcase the inventions and innovations of this extraordinary family. The exhibition opens with a free concert by internationally acclaimed saxophone soloist Paul Cohen at 2:30 pm this Wednesday, November 5, in The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments.
Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014
An extraordinarily early and rare wind instrument in the Museum's collection is a tibia from the ancient Mediterranean world. Music was abundant in the Roman Republic, to which Syria was annexed as a province, and the tibia, a double-reed instrument, accompanied many events in Etruscan and Roman daily life. Its ubiquitous depictions in mosaics, pottery, and sarcophagi portray tibia players in wedding processions, entertaining at formal meals, and providing music for laborers. Ovid wrote that the tibia "sang" in temples, at gaming events, and during funeral rites. Both Ovid and Livy recounted a legendary strike by tibia players, which underscores the instrument's great importance.
Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014
Lovers of chamber music have good reason to raise a cheer on March 31, which marks the 282nd birthday of composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), who is often referred to as the "Father of the String Quartet."
Posted: Monday, February 24, 2014
Arnold Dolmetsch (1858–1940) is widely acknowledged as the father of the modern-day early music or historical performance movement. Playing repertoire of the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods on instruments like those that composers knew during their lifetimes brings the essence of these very different soundscapes to life. This week marks Dolmetsch's birthday, and one can celebrate his legacy by attending a period-performance concert in order to appreciate the artistry, scholarship, and innovation of this performance style. Sparked by Dolmetsch's work, an increasing number of soloists, consorts, chamber groups, and orchestras around the world now focus on historically informed performance practices.
Posted: Monday, January 13, 2014
Unlike violinists, French horn players, and most other members of the orchestra, clarinet players usually have a pair of instruments at hand to tackle the concert repertoire. Look closely at the clarinet section and you will notice them switching between instruments during a performance. This is because music in flat keys is easier to play on the B-flat clarinet, while music in sharp keys lies best under the hands on the A clarinet. Clarinets are better in tune when they can be warmed up before playing—a problem when switching back and forth quickly between instruments.