Blog topic: Music

The Queen of the Night, detail from Mozart's Zauberflöte

Opern-Typen: opera meets the comics

January 12, 2016
by Ray Heigemeir

Opern-Tÿpen. Berlin : G. Kölle, [ca. 1882]

Opern-Tÿpen consists of six volumes of chromolithographic plates depicting scenes from 54 operas popular in 19th century Germany. Each opera plot has been distilled into a mere six frames, with liberally adapted accompanying text. The visual charms of Opern-Typen are evident. The plates reveal a sophisticated understanding of the effective use of line, gesture, and composition to convey drama and comedy in a tight narrative sequence. Future research may determine if these drawings captured or were informed by real-life performances, as is suggested by the inclusion of staging and scenic elements.

Playasax and rolls

Playasax acquired by the ARS

In November 2014, I posted a blog detailing a very small roll (4.5" wide) that staff at the Archive of Recorded Sound had uncovered among the reproducing piano rolls in the Denis Condon Collection of Reproducing Pianos and Rolls. It was discovered that the roll was designed to be used with a toy, a type of player saxophone called the Playasax, produced by Q.R.S. I am very pleased to announce that the Archive, just yesterday, acquired an actual Playasax along with four additional rolls, thanks to a generous donation by Kristine Sturgill. This donation will make up the Otto M. Slater Playasax Collection, named in honor of Mrs Sturgill's father, who passed away earlier this year. 

Jubilee Hall, Fisk University

Piston's Salute, Fisk, and Stanford

June 18, 2015
by Ray Heigemeir

A recent score arrival highlights an interesting musical connection between Stanford and Fisk Universities. Salute, a fanfare for four b-flat trumpets and optional percussion by the American composer Walter Piston (1894-1976), was written for the Thirteenth Festival of Music and Fine Art at Fisk University in Nashville, held in 1942. The piece was commissioned by Harold C. Schmidt, Director of Choirs and Chair of the Music Department.

Ravel's Bolero (detail)

Songs of survival: vocal music by women POWs

May 20, 2015
by Ray Heigemeir

Helen Colijn (1920-2006) was held captive in a Japanese prison camp on the island of Sumatra for three and one half years during World War II.  One remarkable survival mechanism for some of the prisoners at the Women’s Barracks Camp in Palembang was making music, and a series of concerts was prepared and given in which the women sang a cappella arrangements of great works of Western Art music.  The music was arranged by Margaret Dryburgh and Norah Chambers. Programs included Dvorak’s Largo from the New World Symphony, the Pastoral from Handel’s Messiah, Chopin’s ‘Raindrop’ Prelude, and Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile, among many other works. 

Rachmaninoff complete works on 32 CDs

April 22, 2015
by Ray Heigemeir

Piano music. Concertos. Songs. Orchestral and chamber works. Operas. The complete recorded works of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) are now available for borrowing from the Music Library.  This limited-edition, 32-disc set from the Decca Classics label features some of the greatest performers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Martha Argerich, Mikhail Pletnev, Jorge Bolet, Elisabeth Söderström, Olga Borodina, Alexander Ghindon, Sviatislav Richter, and Zoltán Kocsis, among many others. Orchestras include the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and more.

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