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Music History: April 2008 Archives

Fiske Museum Collection Sold


A Departure Sadly Noted

Seldom shown for lack of funding, the Claremont Colleges' rare musical instrument collection is sold.

By Larry Gordon
Los Angeles Times

For lovers of rare musical instruments, the Fiske Museum at the Claremont Colleges long has been an astonishing if somewhat mysterious collection.

Its 1,200 instruments from around the world include an 18th-century Italian mandolin, unusual over-the-shoulder military brasses from the Civil War era, a gourd fiddle from Africa and a 9-foot-long temple trumpet from Tibet.

The museum had limited visiting hours at its home in the windowless basement of Bridges Auditorium for three decades, and then it closed altogether 16 months ago, partly because of a lack of upkeep funds. Now, almost the entire batch – harpsichords, pianos, clarinets, banjos and cymbals – will leave its home in Claremont and be sold for an undisclosed price to a music museum under construction in Arizona.

The move is triggering strong protests from some music faculty members, who say Claremont is losing a cultural treasure. But other officials are expressing relief that the collection will have a better-funded steward and a lot more public exposure at the new Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, an ambitious project financially backed by Robert Ulrich, chairman of Target Corp.

Read more about this at the Los Angeles Times website:,0,4155195.story

Prokofieff Behind the Mask

Sergey Prokofiev - Diaries 1915-1923: Behind the Mask

The secret diaries of Sergey Prokofiev

Russia's revolution coincided with a blossoming of musical talent. Sergey Prokofiev's extraordinary diaries, to be published next week, show the composer at the centre of both

The Independent

It's 16 December 1922. Sergey Prokofiev receives a letter informing him that the trunk of precious papers and manuscripts he had packed up for safekeeping in the vaults of a publishing company upon his rushed departure from Russia in May 1918 has been lost. In it were the score of the Second Piano Concerto, a sheaf of childhood compositions, the notebook containing his diary between September 1916 and February 1917, photographs, letters to his father and records of his beloved chess tournaments. "But most of all I mourn the loss of the Diary," writes the composer. "The loss of the Diary is a tragedy, as there was so much of interest in it: it was my last winter in Petrograd which saw the production of The Gambler and a general flowering of my talent." He goes on to recall the professional tribulations, love affairs and squabbles contained in its pages, raging against the "scoundrels" who failed to ensure its safekeeping.

As it turns out, Prokofiev's rage was misplaced and, though he would not discover it until 1927 when he returned to the USSR, the diary had been preserved. And now it is published for the first time in English translation. The diaries were seized by the Soviet government on the composer's death and hidden in the state archives for years until Prokofiev's son Sviatoslav and grandson Serge were granted permission to transcribe them – no easy task, as the thousands of pages were almost all written in the composer's vowel-less shorthand.

Read the complete extract from from Sergey Prokofiev: Diaries 1915-1923: Behind the Mask, edited by Anthony Phillips at The Independent website:

Stradivari Violin Sells for $1.2 Million

1700 'Penny' Stradivarius Violin

Instrument was owned by first woman to play in Royal Philharmonic strings


A Stradivari owned by the first woman to play in the strings section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has sold for $1.2 million.

Christie's auction house said Friday that the 1700s violin, known as The Penny, was purchased for $1,273,000 by a buyer who did not wish to be identified. It had been estimated to sell for up to $1.5 million.

The violin's owner, Barbara Penny, died last year. She was the first woman accepted in the strings section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. She performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe.

Read more about this at the MSNBC website:

Defining Jewish Music

Milken Archive of American Jewish Music

By Anne Midgette
Washington Post

Just what is "Jewish music," anyway? In some cases the answer is clear: liturgical music and Yiddish operetta; klezmer and Israeli pop. But in this realm of classical or art music, you run into all kinds of semantic debates. Is "Jewish music" music written by Jewish composers, including Bernstein's "West Side Story"? What about pieces written by non-Jewish composers, such as Bruch's "Kol Nidrei" or Ravel's "Kaddisch" or Dave Brubeck's oratorio "The Gates of Justice," recorded and released as part of the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music's initial offering of 50 CDs?

Stop asking already and just put it on. Operating on this principle, the new concert series Pro Musica Hebraica is presenting its first performance at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater tomorrow night, with musicians from the Juilliard School and Itzhak Perlman as a special guest. The series's ambitious and loosely defined goal is to present "Jewish music" – until the first concert is over, the organizers are not going to commit definitely to anything more specific than that.

Read more about this at the Washington Post website: