Friday, February 27, 2009

Budapest Library Music Displays

This lovely sheet music display is from the National Library. While the sheet music is visually attractive, this display is also informational, with a paragraph about the Hungarian operetta composer, Franz Lehar. Sheet music is of interest to collectors because of the cover art, to cultural historians as artifacts of a period, and to musicians for the musical content.

The Central Library of the Metropolitan Ervin Szabo Library is the main library of Budapest's public library system. Located within the historic Wenckheim Palace (and additions), the public library has beautiful spaces for its various reading rooms and function rooms. And the display spaces are beautiful, too.

The Arts Reading Room of the Central Library is located in the former formal dining room, and by the former large ballroom, currently used as a function room. In this case, the sideboards house the reference collection for this reading room. The ballet and other dance reference books are in the case in the picture. Note the piano. The music library department of the main library is located in another palace across the street.

At the Polley Music Library, we display our materials, too, but not in such beautiful surroundings. As we create our March displays, we'll be taking inspiration from these beautiful displays from libraries in Budapest.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Influence of African American Music

February is African American History Month, and Lincoln City Libraries celebrates it with an African American read-in, as well as displays throughout the library system. In the Polley Music Library, we have had a display of books on the history of African American music. Just thumbing through those books provides a wealth of information about the influence of the musical activities of Black Americans on music.

In the area of popular 20th century music, African Americans transformed it. Ragtime, jazz, the blues, soul, R&B, boogie-woogie, Funk, doo wop, rap and hip-hop are all essentially African American music forms that have gone on to world-wide popularity. Rock music, too, is considered to have "black" roots.

Historically, the "Ethiopian" minstrelsy influenced vaudeville, which in turn influenced the musical stage.

As for religious music, spirituals to gospel music, the African American influence is evident.

And African American performers have participated in all types of music -- singers Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson, composer William Grant Still, and country musician Charley Pride immediately come to mind.

African American music is American music.

You can find information about all of this...and much more in the Polley Music Library. And try listening to the recordings available in the African American Song database from the Polley webpage. (You'll need your library card number to log in).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Felix Mendelssohn at 200

Today, February 3rd is the 200th anniversary of Felix Mendelssohn's birth. Mendelssohn had a short life, only living to the age of 38. However, he was a prolific composer and is well-respected to this day.
Mendelssohn was somewhat of a musical prodigy as a pianist and composer. His adolescent works had an unusual maturity, including the overture to Midsummer Night's Dream (composed at age 17) which showed an equal mastery as the remaining pieces of the incidental music composed 15 years later. About half of his chamber music output was composed before the age of 20, as were about half of his solo piano works.
At the age of 20, Mendelssohn conducted the performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion in Berlin that started a Bach revival. He beame conductor of Leipzig's famous Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1835 -- at the age of 26 -- and influenced German musical culture greatly through the musicians he engaged and the repertoire he conducted. In 1842, he organized the Leipzig Conservatory, with a star-studded faculty, including himself, Schumann, Hauptmann (music theory), David (violin), Becker (organ), Plaidy and Wenzel (piano). He toured throughout his musical career, allowing people all over Europe to become familiar with his works, his conducting, and his playing. This German was particularly favored in England.
Felix Mendelssohn died in 1847, not long after the death of his favorite sister, Fanny (also a composer, but some of whose works were originally published under the name of Felix).
In the 20th century, Nazi Germany censored the works of Felix Mendelssohn, as being of Jewish, even though the family had converted to Protestantism. It is now believed that this censorship created a greater appreciation for the work of Felix Mendelssohn afterwards.
My favorites from the works of Mendelssohn just happen to be some his most popular pieces: the oratorio Elijah, the violin concerto, Songs without Words for piano, Fingal's Cave (Hebrides) overture, and the Italian symphony (Symphony no. 4).
The library has lots of Mendelssohn in our collection -- scores and CDs. Or, you can find plenty of Mendelssohn on the Classical Music Library database from the website. We also have several biographies if you would like to learn more about Felix Mendelssohn's life.
Happy birthday, Felix!