Friday, December 26, 2008

Music at Hungary's National Library

Over the Thanksgiving break, the Polley music librarian was fortunate to be able to visit libraries during her vacation in Budapest. The National Szechenyi Library has it's music collection in a combined music and theater department, the reading room of which is at the right.
My hostess for the visit was the sound archivist at the National Library. She first tempted me with some manuscripts from their collections. The have a fine collection of Haydn because of the Esterhazy connection -- Haydn worked for the Esterhazy's for nearly 30 years. Some of the Haydn materials will be traveling for the 200th anniversary of Haydn's death in May 2009.
I enjoyed looking at the Dohnanyi manuscript, but the one of most interest to me as a musician was the Bartok piano sonata. Bartok had performed from that manuscript and there were performance notations, scribbled measures to facilitate page turns and measures of music inserted in "bubbles".
The National Szechenyi Library has an active digitization program for their sound materials, including historic wax cylinders and other outdated formats. In the reading room, they have extensive playback facilities, making their sound collections accessible to their users.
I truly appreciated the opportunity to visit the National Library. Hungary has a long musical tradition and the library documents it well.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy birthday, Giacomo

Today is the 150th anniversary of Giacomo Puccini's birth. Of course, the Polley Music Library has a special display to celebrate. We have biographies about Puccini, books about his operas, opera vocal scores and libretti, DVDs, and CDs. A few of the books on display include:

  • The Unknown Puccini
  • Puccini Without Excuses
  • Puccini and the Girl
  • The Puccini Companion
  • Monsieur Butterfly
  • The Operas of Puccini
  • Puccini: a Biography

For listening or viewing, check out the following operas:

  • La Boheme
  • Madama Butterfly
  • Tosca
  • Turandot
  • La Fanciulla del West (Girl of the Golden West)
  • Manon Lescaut
  • Gianni Schicchi
  • La Rondine
  • Suor Angelica
  • Il Tabarro
  • Edgar
  • Le Villi

Happy birthday, Giacomo!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Polley visits Budapest Music Scene

While the Polley Music Library was closed for an extended Thanksgiving holiday, the Polley music librarian was vacationing in Budapest. Wow! Budapest is a city of music.

The new Palace of Arts in the Millennium City Centre is quite spectacular. It houses the Ludwig Museum of contemporary art as well as two concert halls. The smaller hall, the Festival Theatre, is home to the National Dance Theatre, while the larger hall, the Bartok National Concert Hall, is home to the National Philharmonic. The Concert Hall seats up to 1,800 and has a state of the art acoustical system that provides almost unlimited acoustical adjustability for a wide variety of music performances. Opened in 2005, the Palace of Arts also holds smaller concerts and performances on landings outside the halls. I was fortunate to tour the Palace of Arts.

The very ornate State Opera House opened in 1884. It was designed by the Hungarian architect Miklos Ybl. I attended a wonderful performance of Minkus' ballet, La Bayadere, performed by the Hungarian National Ballet. The dancing was great, including the corps de ballet. And the orchestra down in the pit played beautifully. The music of Leopold Minkus and the choreography fit together very well. La Bayadere is one of Leopold Minkus' most renowned ballets. And there is an operetta theater close by the opera house.

I toured the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. The Academy has two concert halls, the larger one seating 1,200, and the smaller one seating about 400. These halls are part of the Budapest music scene. A quirky note: while I was there, a student orchestra was on stage rehearsing; the orchestra first tuned to A, and then the oboe gave a B flat for the brass to tune a second time.

Music is performed elsewhere in Budapest, too -- churches, museums and libraries all host concerts. And then there is an active club scene.

Lincoln, too, has an active music scene. No spectacular 19th century opera houses, but a history of music performance back to the early days of the community. Especially this time of year, there are many musical events to enjoy.