Posted: Monday, January 25, 2016
The Conn-O-Sax was a bold, innovative F alto saxophone made by American instrument manufacturer Conn for a very limited time in 1928. Combining elements of the saxophone and two double-reed instruments, the English horn and heckelphone, Conn attempted to create a new voice for the saxophone. Its innovations were numerous: a straight instrument with a pronounced bulb-shaped bell reminiscent of the English horn, pitched in the key of F (E-flat and B-flat are the typical keys for saxophones), and equipped with an extended range and a custom mouthpiece. The result was a unique timbre, visual appearance, and technical versatility that was visionary for its time. The Conn-O-Sax succeeded brilliantly as a new instrument in America but ultimately failed in the marketplace; we know of only twenty-five to still exist.
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, November 16, 2015
Among the many prominent musicians whom curator Emanuel Winternitz attracted to the Met to perform in his free Member Concerts was the distinguished Warsaw-born pianist and harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, who, like Winternitz, fled the Nazis in Europe and found a permanent home in the United States. Landowska is remembered today for having reintroduced the harpsichord to concert halls, beginning in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, after almost a century of being largely displaced by the more powerful piano.
Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2015
It is always exciting to hear a great instrument from a historic collection used in performance, and it is especially thrilling to hear one made more than four hundred years ago. Recently, the Museum asked the lute player Christopher Morrongiello to perform on a lute in the collection attributed to a member of the Tieffenbrucker family. One of the most important dynasties of Renaissance stringed-instrument makers, the family originated in the town of Tieffenbruck, located in the Füssen region of Bavaria.
Posted: Monday, October 19, 2015
Posted: Monday, September 21, 2015
The new exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty, on view through January 3, 2016, displays several musical instruments, including a variety of ivory side-blown trumpets. While many were used as trade items produced for wealthy Europeans, such instruments also served as integral symbols of royal status and power in several sub-Saharan regions. A number of similar trumpets are also on view in The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments.
Posted: Monday, August 31, 2015
The National Music Museum, located on the campus of the University of South Dakota, is home to the Andrea Amati cello known as the "King," on loan to the Metropolitan Museum through September 8. The instrument was acquired in 1984 by the then-director of the museum, Dr. André Larson, as part of the extensive collection of Laurence Witten (1926–1995). The purchase of this collection and its display were made possible by Robert and Marjorie Rawlins, alumni of the university, and as such, this collection is now referred to as "The Witten-Rawlins Collection of Stringed Instruments."
Posted: Monday, August 17, 2015
In July 2005 I was invited to the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota, to play Andrea Amati's "King" cello, now on view at the Met through September 8. The demonstration was to be a part of the conference "The Secrets, Lives, and Violins of the Great Cremona Makers, 1505–1744"—a four-day event devoted to the life and work of Andrea Amati, who standardized the form of the modern violin, and the other great Cremonese makers who followed him. I was thrilled and very grateful to be asked to see, touch, and play this original, Platonic Ideal of the cello—future examples being instantiations of this divine form.
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2015
For the June gallery concert at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I had the privilege of performing on a 1953 Ignacio Fleta guitar from the Museum's collection. To me, it was quite a revelation. I realized on my way to the first session with the instrument that I hadn't spent a lot of time playing a guitar made before 1980, so I knew I was in for something really special.
Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015
The "King" cello, on loan to The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the National Music Museum through September 8, is a rare surviving example from the decorated set of instruments made in the mid-sixteenth century by Andrea Amati and presented to King Charles IX of France. The "King" has been reduced in size from a large basso, or bass violin, to a modern-day cello. Without this reduction in size, the "King" may have been neglected or lost to time as many other fine instruments have been, and we would be at a loss without its incomparable beauty.