Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014
Musical instruments have the power to transcend their roles as performance objects to become symbols of love, war, ritual, identity, and even politics. In Ireland, for instance, the harp has been an important emblem of national identity for more than eight hundred years. The harp was used during the Middle Ages to accompany epic tales for entertainment, as well as to impart history. Later, traveling musicians moved about the country and used the instrument to impart news, share songs, and tell stories.
Posted: Monday, March 10, 2014
Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C. F. Martin, currently on view through December 7, traces the innovation of Christian Frederick Martin (1796–1873) and his development of a distinctly American form of the instrument. In conjunction with the exhibition, Rosanne Cash recently performed at the Museum and toured the Musical Instruments galleries, where the Grammy Award–winning musician shared a few of her thoughts about what a guitar means to her.
Posted: Monday, March 3, 2014
On Wednesday, March 5, the Department of Musical Instruments will present a gallery concert featuring the Kakande Quartet, who will perform music from the Mandé Empire of West Africa. The ensemble is led by the renowned Guinean balofon player Famoro Dioubate. As a jali, or griot, Dioubate represents an eight-hundred-year lineage of musicians that serve as the primary storytellers and historians of their society.
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: Friday, February 21, 2014
February 21 marks the birthday of classical guitarist Andrés Segovia (1893–1987). The Museum is home to two of his instruments—including the famed 1937 guitar made by Hermann Hauser, an instrument that Segovia called "the greatest guitar of our epoch."
Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
With her letter of February 16, 1889, Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown (1842–1918) became a "surprise collector" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. As a woman of the time, her confident, independent tone was as unexpected as her collection was little known. She was the wife of a respected New York merchant banker, John Crosby Brown of Brown Bros. & Co., and she herself was of impeccable New England ancestry—the grand-daughter of shipbuilders, clergymen, and schoolmen.
Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014
One of the earliest American guitar virtuosos was the African-American Justin Holland, who built a steady career as a performer, composer, and arranger, even before the Civil War. One of the most important guitarists of his generation, Holland was also an avid endorser of the guitar-builder Christian Frederick Martin, many of whose guitars are currently exhibited in Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C. F. Martin, on view through December 7.
Posted: Monday, February 3, 2014
February 3 marks the birthday of nineteenth-century German composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809–1847). A prolific composer, Mendelssohn wrote pieces for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo piano.
Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
This year the Museum officially celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments. In 1889 Mrs. John Crosby Brown, the largest donor in the Department's history, gave the first 278 of what would ultimately be more than 3,000 instruments. She was not the founder of the Museum's instrument collection, however—that honor belongs to Joseph W. Drexel (1830–1888). This post is dedicated to Drexel, and is the first in an occasional series that will highlight the history of the collection during this anniversary year.
Posted: Monday, January 27, 2014
On January 27, 1756, the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. One of the many musical instrument treasures in the collection at the Museum is a pedal piano attributed to the workshop of Johann Schmidt of Salzburg, Mozart's hometown. Schmidt was a friend of Mozart's father, Leopold, and may have helped him secure the job of court organ and instrument maker in Salzburg.