About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Poking Around in the New York Phil's Archives

Thursday's New York Times arts section included a short feature about a bass part to Dvorak's New World Symphony, which the New York Philharmonic will be performing this week. The bass part can be seen online in the Philharmonic's Leon Levy Digital Archives, and is interesting because it was used at the premiere of the New World in 1893. It is even more interesting because of a drawing of a face on the part, a face that resembles Antonin Dvorak, who attended rehearsals for that premiere. You can see the doodle here, along with a slide show of other pages.

The Archives are full of interesting material. Being a horn player, I did a search for horn parts. Once I chose horn, I had a choice of composers and pieces and also of marked parts. I browsed several marked parts and was interested to see that the New York Phil horn players markings are much like the markings that all horn players everywhere make. Horn parts are often in a variety of transpositions and often change transpositions during the piece. While the key is marked, horn players everywhere write it in larger or circle the key since there is nothing more embarrassing than playing the wrong transposition. (For non horn players, this is a carry-over from the hand horn, before valves were invented. The horn player would change tubing to change key. Now we transpose - play different note than are written.)

Then I selected a second horn part to "Harold in Italy" by Hector Berlioz marked by horn player Robert Schulze. He seems to have had difficulty remembering the transposition change for the 4th movement, as it is marked with a circle, arrows, and a skull and crossbones. Schulze was a member of the horn section in the early 20th century.

Besides parts, you can search scores, programs, images, and business documents. I'm sure this is useful to music students, but also very interesting to music lovers in general.

Photo of Antonin Dvorak