October 23–26, 2019
Fanny Magaña Nieto
Jimena Palacios Uribe
Antonio Haghenbeck´s harpsichord in Casa de la Bola, Mexico City
Antonio Haghenbeck y de la Lama (1902-1991), a wealthy, unmarried Mexican businessman of German descent, gathered an eclectic collection of antiques including musical instruments. These are preserved in his former residences, now converted to museums: “Casa de la Bola,” “Ex Hacienda de Santa Monica,” and “Ex Hacienda de San Cristóbal Polaxtla.” Among 37 music-related items, an anonymous Italian baroque harpsichord at Casa de la Bola stands out for its rarity and quality. Of unknown provenance, it is the only antique harpsichord in any Mexican museum and although missing most of its keys and jacks and showing some superficial interventions, it is basically unaltered (except for later, painted decoration) and displays distinctive characteristics, such as a unique perforated bridge, that may help identify its maker.
Early in 2018 Fanny Magaña catalogued the instruments in Casa de la Bola. Subsequently, she and Jimena Palacios Uribe organized an ongoing project to study the 2x8’, GG/BB-c3, false inner-outer-case harpsichord to clarify its origin and former musical functions. Also of essential interest are Haghenbeck’s collecting practices, which shed light on where, when, and why he acquired this remarkable instrument and whether it pertains to viceregal or later Mexican music history. In collaboration with Edward Charles Pepe and Laurence Libin, the project’s first phase -- technical documentation of the harpsichord -- was carried out in September 2018. We developed a methodology involving examination of its design and construction, decoration, inscriptions, and archival and bibliographic research that has already yielded promising results, notably concerning certain early-20th-century Mexican dealers who sold imported harpsichords among other antiques, presumably for display rather than use. Based on this study, we evaluate the Casa de la Bola harpsichord’s significance to Haghenbeck’s circle and for Mexico’s rich musical heritage. We also discuss Haghenbeck’s larger purposes and priorities as a music-loving collector.
Exhibiting and Problem-Solving: Combination Keyboards as Expressions of Technological Innovation in Early Modern Europe
Combination keyboards are a species of instrument characterized by the physical combination of two or more instruments, played and controlled from a keyboard interface. Twenty-first-century musicology’s newly-resurrected interest in combination keyboards increasingly entertains the idea that the historical value of these instruments may be attributed to their embodiment of significant developments in technological innovation in early modern Europe. This paper addresses the physical nature of combination keyboards (including claviorgans, vis-à-vis keyboards, and keyboard instruments combining different types of playing action). It seeks to expand the argument beyond the mechanical feats of these instruments through a deeper exploration of their presence in seventeenth-century Wunderkammern (‘cabinets of curiosity’), attempts to exploit and expand the timbral capabilities of keyboard instruments, and concepts of symbolic and cultural capital. Whilst both older and current organological and musicological literature tend to foreground a musical focus when exploring the technological achievements of combination instruments, this paper extends beyond this line of inquiry, to examine the ways in which these instruments also came to be perceived as representations of cultural prestige.
The History of the Smithsonian Keyboard Collection
The Smithsonian’s collection of Western musical instruments includes about 5,000 objects. Despite the high-profile presence of important examples of the work of Antonio Stradivari, Nicolo Amati, and other master luthiers, keyboards have been an integral part of the collection since its foundation. From the mid 1960s through the mid 1980s, the Smithsonian restored a number of its harpsichords and fortepianos, publishing technical drawings for several of the most interesting, which then served makers worldwide in the production of replicas. The formation, in 1976, of the Smithsonian Chamber Players, and the issuing of recordings featuring some of the instruments, helped fulfill the Smithsonian’s charter to work “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge” regarding not only the Institution’s own instruments, but others related to them. (Collaborations of this kind included two with the Westfield Center, the 1995 symposium “Schubert’s Piano Music,” and the 2012 International Harpsichord Academy and Competition.)
More recently, the Archive Center of the Smithsonian has collected materials relating to the pioneering American builders John Challis, William Dowd, and Frank Hubbard. We continue to seek to expand these holdings, and may be able to announce another major addition to these. This paper reviews the history of the Smithsonian keyboard collection, from its origins in the early 20th century through ongoing activities today, and addresses questions such as:
What is the function of public vs. private collections?
How have collecting, and restoration, goals changed over the past 100 years?
How can archival holdings enrich our understanding of the instruments themselves and their histories?
We hope to present in conjunction with this paper a screening of our recent 70-minute documentary Remembering Bill Dowd, in which makers and players closely connected to Dowd and his instruments offer their personal recollections of his impact.
A Well-Tempered Collection
Collections can gather disparate items in one physical space, confronting performers and historians with fascinating juxtapositions. For keyboardists, an especially interesting example of these juxtapositions is housed in the Riemenschneider Bach Institute (RBI) at Baldwin Wallace University. A vault just over 200 square feet houses almost fifty editions of The Well-Tempered Clavier. These range from a manuscript copy in the hand of Bach’s student Heinrich Nikolaus Gerber and another manuscript copy that Mozart probably consulted to several shelves of early nineteenth-century editions, some with manuscript annotations. Yo Tomita has called this “the finest collection of editions of The Well-Tempered Clavier in the world.”
Our lecture recital will explore what such a collection can offer researchers and performers. An examination of the provenance of these editions emphasizes the varied sources, collectors, and donors necessary to build such a collection. Some editions contain analyses, either as an introduction or written into the scores, which detail how The Well-Tempered Clavier has been understood and valued since its creation. What the collection excludes is also interesting. Only complete publications of books one, two, or both are valued, while the excerpts and arrangements that helped make these pieces popular are not a focus. Even such an extensive collection can therefore give us only a partial view of a work. Finally, many of these editions change the original, whether by reordering the pieces, adding dynamics, articulation markings, or fingerings, or by rewriting some passages. Although The Well-Tempered Clavier is a keyboardist’s staple, this lecture recital aims to broaden our hearing of this work by exploring how it is preserved, altered, and reinterpreted through the lens of the RBI’s collection.
Italian Chromaticists and Alkan
One of the great potential values of keyboard collections is the perfect fit a visitor can experience between a particular instrument and a body of repertoire. I first experienced the phenomenon – as did many early keyboard enthusiasts – through the splendid qualities of Mozart on a 5-octave Viennese piano, Schubert on a Graf-style piano, Couperin and Rameau on a French harpsichord, and C.P.E. Bach on a clavichord. Through encounters with various keyboard collections, I have experienced other, much less mainstream repertoires coming to life through the sound and the touch of ideally suited instruments. It is a pity that composers whose writing exploited the unique timbral possibilities in such daring ways would only come to find their music underappreciated, unknown, or misunderstood by subsequent generations. In later keyboard instruments, many of those special qualities may have disappeared.
My lecture-recital explores two possibilities of a fit between a rare repertoire and a rare instrument in Oberlin’s collection. The first involves the Daly chromatic harpsichord. The bold modulations and startling dissonances (stravaganze) in the music of 16th century Neapolitan composers Ascanio Mayone and Giovanni Maria Trabaci would be unthinkable without such an instrument. The music relies on chromatic tuning possibilities for its life-blood. The second part of the lecture-recital features Etudes by the neglected French composer Charles-Valentin Alkan, on the Broadwood parlor grand. Although Alkan was in one sense a Classicist, who valued a Mendelssohnian clarity of form and strictness of pulse, he was highly daring as an explorer of effects at the keyboard. On a 19th century grand piano, however, Alkan’s virtuosity flows well on the lighter 19th century action, his heavy use of the lower bass is powerful, yet transparent, and his daring bell-like timbres shimmer in the high registers.
with Penelope Crawford, Paul Irwin, Robert Murphy, and Allan Winkler
Panel Discussion: Builder/Restorer/Technician and Performer/Player Roundtable
Although coming from different viewpoints, the lives and work of those who build or work on keyboard instruments and those who play them are necessarily intertwined and though rare, sometimes, overlapping. This panel will be a moderated discussion on topics related to the current and future state of antique and replicas of historic keyboards, their use, and their place in the greater music world. Performers (and performance practice) and builders have historically had a chicken and egg relationship. How does this relate to today and the future? Do practical considerations outweigh historical accuracy? Are we prepared to foster continued interest and skill in the creation and maintenance of these instruments and their performance? Questions such as these will be addressed by noted builders, technicians, owners and players, provoked and moderated by Anne Acker.
with David Breitman
and Thomas Meglioranza
The Betty Oser Collection of Robert Schumann's Songs at the University of Notre Dame In November 2017, the Music Library of the University of Notre Dame acquired a large set of 210 songs by Robert Schumann in first or early editions published between 1843 and 1856. The splendidly-bound and ornate collection in four large volumes includes first editions of the Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister, Spanisches Liederspiel, Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart, and Dichterliebe: a major acquisition by anyone's reckoning. These scores were collected and bound together by Betty Oser (1837-1922), a piano student of Clara Schumann's who became close friends with the Schumanns and with Brahms. Betty Oser’s sister-in-law was Josefine Wittgenstein, a member of one of Vienna’s most important families, a singer with a beautiful voice, and the wife of a specialist in organic chemistry named Johann Nepomuk Oser, whose florid mustache one can admire in a photograph from 1895 (with Joseph Joachim also in the picture). The Brahms scholar Styra Avins has delved into Brahms’s and Clara’s relationships with several generations of Wittgensteins, and I will be drawing gratefully from her research for my discussion of Josefine’s and Betty Oser’s lives, bound up with music as they were. In this triple presentation, I hope to bring to life the human backdrop of this collection and to summarize its contents, including its rarities: Schumann's own arrangements of selections from his choral works as lieder for solo voice and piano. Thomas Meglioranza and David Breitman can give us all insights into what experience with a first edition does for performers, capped off with a partial performance of Dichterliebe, one of the most important song cycles in the repertoire.
“Most Excellently Choice and most Eminently Rare”: Three Perspectives on the Caldwell Collection of Viols
The Caldwell Collection of Viols, located in Oberlin, OH, is one of the preeminent private collections of historical stringed instruments in the world. Comprising primarily violas da gamba from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (the oldest instrument in the collection dates to 1584), all restored to playing condition and in active use, the collection includes an Amati cello and houses a copy (owned by the Oberlin Conservatory) of the ex-Hunstanton organ. Our lecture recital, on instruments from this fascinating collection, will explore various connections between viol and keyboard playing and collecting.
Cat Slowik will discuss how transnational modifications (both ancient and modern) to viol family instruments have shaped collecting and performance practices in the seventeenth and twentieth centuries. In particular, she will consider how keyboard-based narratives about conversion and restoration, including “ravalement,” the French practice of reworking and imitating Flemish keyboard instruments, might be leveraged to direct and refine the manner in which we understand the viol’s various roles in the many local histories in which it plays a part. Her presentation will be illustrated by duets on pairs of Caldwell viols that exemplify different national styles of instrument design. Zoe Weiss will contrast strategies of collection in the assembly of viol and keyboard manuscripts. Encyclopedic keyboard collections such as the Tregian manuscript and the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book differ from “choice collections” like My Ladye Nevells Booke, while the anthology of In Nomines collected in a set of Bodleian partbooks (Mus.Sch.d.212-216) illustrates yet another approach to music collecting—one that seeks to balance the use and preservation of repertory in much the same way the Caldwell collection does with instruments. Her comments will be accompanied by the performance of two related In Nomines that were widely anthologized in their day, each “stars” of the historical manuscript collections in which they appear.
Musicologist and viol player Loren Ludwig will discuss the stranger in the room: the organ, an enigmatic yet persistent member of the consort. The organ’s role in viol consort music is both omniscient (the organ part typically doubles all the polyphonic parts while contributing minimal music “of its own”) and subservient (the organ was typically played by a professional musician, a servant, whose job was to keep the aristocratic viol players together and in tune). The organ’s role as essential outsider to the consort is echoed by the complicated history of organs in collections of viols, both historically and today. We will illustrate the organ's role in the consort with a performance of a fantasia à5 by William Lawes and a fantasia suite—the first idiom for accompanied keyboard—by John Jenkins. Performers will include Catharina Meints Caldwell, Cat Slowik, Zoe Weiss, Loren Ludwig, and Rebecca Landell Reed.
[from Karen Flint] My husband, Peter, and I first purchased an antique harpsichord in 1997, although some other instruments were purchased as early as 1955. I never intended to start collecting antique instruments, until the day that my friend Sheridan Germann told me that I had to buy the 1635 Ioannes Ruckers harpsichord. Experts thought that it was a fake, but Sheridan recognized the hand of the soundboard painter as an authentic Ruckers painter. That was the beginning of my collection. Knowing that in the United States there are not many antique harpsichords available for musicians to play and audiences to hear, I felt it was important to purchase any instruments I could, that were able to be restored to playing condition. Of my 19 antique harpsichords, 13 are restored to playing condition, with two others currently in restoration.
My collection to date includes 25 antique keyboard instruments: 19 harpsichords, 3 pianos, and 3 clavichords, plus the following modern instruments: 8 harpsichords, 2 clavichords, 2 organs and 1 piano. A collection of other instruments includes: 4 antique baroque string instruments (violin, viola, viola d’amore, cello) and 4 modern string instruments (2 violins, viola & viola da gamba), plus 2 antique barrel organs and a miscellaneous modern collection of 2 baroque flutes, 10 recorders, 6 Navajo Indian drums, and an Appalachian dulcimer. There are 38 keyboard instruments, 8 stringed instruments, 2 barrel-organs, plus 19 miscellaneous instruments for a total of 67 musical instruments.
[from Tilman Skowroneck] In 1968, when Martin Skowroneck for the first time in writing defended his choice to build harpsichords in the historical way, he wrought his assessment of the state of instrument collections into a narrative of a historically-minded harpsichord maker’s survival in a basically hostile environment: “The majority of all historical harpsichords has vanished in the storage areas of the collections and museums; only a fraction is being exhibited, and again only few of these are playable.” The argument goes on that a number of harpsichordists of the time “never had heard or played an original instrument” and that, under these circumstances, “modern harpsichord building has, almost unnoticed, been able to develop an entirely new instrument, that, apart from the name, has not much more in common with the old one other than that its strings are being plucked.” (M. Skowroneck, "Probleme des Cembalobaus aus historischer Sicht,” Hifi Stereophonie 9, 1968.)
The German-centric and somewhat dated way of stating things aside, Skowroneck’s central statement here is clear: ‘you need to listen to and play historical harpsichords, in order to know what a harpsichord can be like.’ The silent assumption is, of course, that a sympathetic restorer first has given the instrument its voice back. Having been an active restorer himself, Skowroneck was deeply aware of the conundrum that even the most sympathetic restoration by nature is invasive. To be able to listen, play, and lean from historical harpsichords comes at a price. John Watson has called this, “the paradox of restoration,” and I understand that his presentation will discuss it in detail. In preparation of that discussion, I will address the idea of “knowing what a harpsichord can be like,” or rather, of investigating the nature of an historical instrument’s voice in conjunction with our emotional response to it. Understanding what makes a historical keyboard instrument sound like it does is an exercise in balancing expectations, ideals, technical understanding, interpretation and experimentation. Such a balanced exercise has the important task of keeping sentimentality at bay, while simultaneously providing a set of tools to value and weigh the documentary character an instrument’s voice can have, and thus, in prolongation, help us better understand the musical task that instrument collections still are supposed to fulfil.
[from John Watson] For musicians, historic instruments are gateways across time to the music of a past moment. For some keyboard historians, however, old instruments have by their age, rarity, and significance, graduated to inviolable historical documents upon which ever more accurate reproductions can be based. Both views serve musical goals, yet each demand radically different approaches to preservation. This is because restoration is inescapably interpretive. A musicologist would never prepare a new performing edition by marking clarifications and interpretations directly on the composer’s original manuscript, yet that is precisely what keyboard restorers do every day. Judgements must be made: which is more important, the voice or the document? This paradox of restoration melts away when the musical voice of an instrument is simply sacrificed for preservation of the material evidence or vice versa. Fundamentalism aside, the question of voice versus document is multi-logical and can be approached with a much higher level of critical thinking.
Two recent case studies serve to illustrate navigating through these ethical stumbling blocks. An exceptionally rare 1799 organized upright grand piano by Longman, Clementi & Co had not functioned for nearly two centuries. Most of the parts survived but were too damaged for assembly much less for musical use. The instrument had escaped any restorations making it a pristine and completely unaltered historical document while musically it was nothing more than a room full of meaningless and unrecognizable components. Conservation and organ building specialists collaborated on its renewal using restorative conservation methods. A second case study is the 1794 Longman & Broderip harpsichord first owned by George Washington and still at Mount Vernon. It too had never been musically restored, retaining such valuable ephemera as original plectra, dampers, and strings. Last year it received a “virtual restoration” through the making of a copy. That project illustrates the preservation and detailed interpretation of voluminous physical evidence resulting in a playing instrument now in use at Mount Vernon.
Keyboard Pedagogy as Curated Collection: The Curious Case of the Augsburg Wegweiser
Contained within the special collections of the Bach Riemenschneider Institute in Berea, Ohio, is an exemplar of the Kurtzer jedoch gründlicher Wegweiser…die Orgel recht zu Schlagen (‘Short yet thorough guide to playing the organ’), a late seventeenth-century music instruction book specifically designed for keyboard students. Published anonymously in the South German city of Augsburg, the work provides elementary instruction in music fundamentals, modal theory, keyboard technique, and thoroughbass; it concludes with a collection of 71 short didactic versets for keyboard.
Remarkably, the Wegweiser remained in print for more than 60 years over the course of at least a dozen printings, making it the most widely disseminated (and arguably the most influential) published work of keyboard pedagogy in Germany during the turn-of-the-eighteenth-century period. The work is of particular interest today given its prominence and relevance during J. S. Bach’s formative years. While Johannes Speth, Daniel Speer, and Johann Caspar Kerll all have been suggested as possible authors, the fact that the Wegweiser not only lacks an authorial attribution but actively disavows such a thing is noteworthy. As the introduction states, “no one assumes authorship of this work…it remains to be known only that this work was compiled by several good friends and lovers of music.” Adding to the intrigue, later editions of the Wegweiser include a German translation of Giacomo Carissimi’s music primer Ars Cantandi in its entirety. This paper will explore the substance and influence of this fascinating little treatise, the ways in which it represents a curated collection of didactic material, and will address lingering questions of authorship and associated notions of ‘common’ or ‘standard’ playing technique as a collective and socially mediated construct.
Curating a Repertoire of Congregational Song: Some Keyboard Accompaniments to the Genevan Psalter
Between 1730 and 1777, the Netherlands saw the publication of at least seven books of keyboard accompaniments to the Genevan Psalter, all by different composers. We can think of these books’ relation to collections and curation in three ways: as a series or collection of accompaniment books; each of the books as a collection of its contents; and — perhaps most fruitful — the effort each book makes toward the curation of a grander collection, that of the Psalter repertoire itself, along with ways in which it was sung and played.
Especially influential was the 1746 book by Conrad Friedrich Hurlebusch, organist at Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk (and sometime acquaintance of J. S. Bach, according to The New Bach Reader by Mendel and Wolff, eds.) He bears witness to a corrective curatorial function in his preface: “See [in this publication], after so many defective publications of others, the 150 Psalms of David with some spiritual songs [New Testament canticles, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and two additional hymns, according to Dutch convention], much corrected in the melodies…and completed in utmost accuracy…” (trans. by the author).
Curatorial acts are undertaken with an audience in mind. Borrowing a concept from C. P. E. Bach, whose Kenner und Liebhaber sonatas were published between 1779 and 1787, we can recognize in several of the Psalm books from the 1770s a clear intention to provide material for both experts and amateurs, and for both liturgical and domestic use. One very specific audience for any such book consists of the authors of future books — and indeed, several later composers cite their predecessors as influences. The variety of ways in which composers balance their goals while adhering to absolutely constant source material (the Psalter), provides an opportunity for fruitful study.
Alexandre Guilmant, William C. Carl and the Beginnings of an Early Music Movement in America
A study of the sixty-two concert programs presented at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago demonstrates there was very little interest in pre-18th century composers on the part of performers (and by extension, their audiences). In the following two decades, American audiences became more familiar with composers such as Buxtehude, Frescobaldi, and de Grigny, in large part to the tireless efforts of Parisian organist Alexandre Guilmant and his American protégé, William C. Carl. In an era defined by an unwavering belief in progress, Guilmant stands out in his efforts to unearth and publish forgotten music of an earlier time. From 1898 until his death, Guilmant collected and edited dozens of volumes of early keyboard music and published them with Durand under the title Archives des maîtres des 16e, 17e, 18e siècles. William Carl followed his teacher’s model in publishing a special curated collection for American audiences titled The Historical Organ Collection (1919, Boston Music Company) that was based on Guilmant’s work.
Guilmant and Carl’s efforts helped instigate an interest in early music in America and their publications were reinforced by their concert programming (Guilmant embarked on American concert tours in 1893, 1898, and 1904). However, their approach to editing raises questions about how best to present collections of old music to a modern audience. One hundred years later, the Guilmant and Carl editions are not as useful from a performance practice standpoint due to the value judgements and editorial choices, but they did provide an important foundation for early music appreciation in America, and they offer a fascinating window into the approach towards collecting, disseminating, and advocating for early music at the very beginning of the twentieth century.