Courtesy Of Collection Of Musical Instruments

Musette, Mayuri, Double Virginal. Yale students may have never heard of these instruments, but they reside only a step away at 15 Hillhouse Ave.

The Romanesque building — which holds Yale’s Collection of Musical Instruments has been under renovation since May 2019 — will resume public hours starting the last week of February.

Last May Yale authorities decided to renovate the building in order to secure its exterior. This included replacing windows, repairing roofs and constructing scaffolding.

The collection originated nearly 100 years ago when piano merchant Morris Steiner donated his keyboard collection to the university. Curator Susan Thompson explained that several women have contributed to the museum, including Belle Skinner, who donated her collection, and Siybl Marcuse, who petitioned to turn the building into a museum. Currently, the collection also houses items loaned by the Yale University Art Gallery, the Peabody Museum and other private collections.

Throughout the past year, the collection’s Associate Curator Christina Linsenmeyer has been working to revise the collection’s database. Yale’s collection will also be included in the European online database Musical Instrument Museums Online. Linsenmeyer said that joining MIMO will be useful for the Collection’s website, which staff has also been enhancing.

The collection is additionally expanding its online catalogue of instruments. Timothy Feil, who currently works at the collection, noted that the catalogue will provide information for visitors who want to know more about the showcased instruments.

“It’s partly going to just be documentation for what the exhibition was, partly a guide-book for people to use as they’re looking at everything, and maybe a resource for some researchers to look at,” Feil said.

The collection will feature a new brass exhibit titled “Resounding Brass: From Conch Shell to Silver Trumpet.” This exhibit, which showcases the evolution of brass instruments, is anticipated to run until the end of the year.

Visitors can expect to see these instruments inhabit over 50 percent of the first floor. Feil said that the exhibit is not specifically about brass instruments and modern brass playing, but proposes a new model for exhibiting instruments.

“Some of the earliest instruments we have are conch shells, from our collection and also the Peabody’s collection. They’re kind of the precursor to brass instruments in some ways,” Feil said.

Each instrument in the collection is unique and intriguing. Thompson said she is fascinated by a 1770 two-manual harpsichord built by Pascal Taskin in Paris. Taskin devised knee levers for the harpsichord that facilitated the player’s ability to change registers.

“These innovations were intended to expand the dynamic range of the harpsichord during the late 1760s and early 1770s, when the fortepiano — whose dynamic range could be regulated by the player’s touch — was becoming increasingly popular in Austria and Germany,” Thompson said.

Many instruments delight the visual as well as auditory senses. A 1591 double virginal, displayed within the collection’s keyboard exhibit, is beautifully decorated with a depiction of the Greek myth of Apollo and Pan.

Yale students are very involved with the museum. Several music classes visit the collection to explore how musical instruments inform studies about heritage, ideologies, design and craftsmanship. Engineering classes have visited the collection to discuss how sound is produced and how shape affects it.

The collection will present a concert series, beginning with a concert this Sunday, Feb. 2 called “Inspired by Song.” At 3 P.M., Stefan Temmingh, Dorothee Mields and The GentleMan’s Band will perform a program of English folk songs and Baroque pieces. All concerts take place in the collection’s large gallery of keyboard instruments, a room with acoustics perfect for music in a chamber setting.

The Collection first opened in 1900.

 

Marisol Carty | marisol.carty@yale.edu