Magazine article Insight on the News

Curators Who Keep Scores

Magazine article Insight on the News

Curators Who Keep Scores

Article excerpt

At the International Piano Archives at the University of Maryland, visitors can peruse rare Rubinsteins and vintage Paderewskis.

For all the music housed inside these walls, it is remarkably quiet at the International Piano Archives, know as the IPAM. But then, shrines usually are.

This third-floor sanctum inside the Hornbake Library on the campus of the University of Maryland contains documents recording the nearly 300-year history of the piano. It's the only such collection in the world that concentrates solely on this instrument, and contains more material on it than any other exhibit -- recordings, scores, piano rolls and memorabilia that range from century-old performance reviews to the correspondence of early pianists.

"In the larger sense, it's a personal history, not just a part of music history," says curator Donald Manildi as he places a large red-leather-bound notebook on a table. Gold letters stamped on the book spell out "Variations on Yankee Doodle." Inside is the sheet music Russian virtuoso Anton Rubinstein used during his 215-stop concert tour of the United States in 1872 and '73. Tucked under the sheet music is the original contract Rubinstein signed with the Steinway piano company, in which he stipulated that he receive his $200 fee for each performance in gold, and that he would not play in "beer gardens"

"The relationship between the pianist himself and the cultural history is really intertwined" Manildi says. "There was a day when no house was complete without a piano in it. The piano used to be the center of the house"

The collection includes 90 percent of all commercial piano recordings ever issued and taped copies of the remaining 10 percent. The majority of this music is on 25,000 vinyl long-play records. There also are 8,500 78-rpm shellac records made at the turn of the century, 2,400 reel-to-reel tapes of live concerts and radio broadcasts and almost 9,000 compact discs of contemporary music. Every recording is available for listening.

"At the IPAM, we have a very special role to play, and that's not just making sure these things last but making sure there's access to them" says Charles Lowry, dean of libraries at the University of Maryland.

Also in the archives: 8,000 piano rolls, including the master rolls of turn-of-the-century musicians Josef Hofmann and Ignacy Jan Paderewski. …

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