6/29/2015, by Jeff Nussbuam
The following conversation took place at the Landress Brass Shop in New York City on November 10, 2014. Views on instrument collecting, collections, performance practice and other aspects of music were expressed by a group of musicians representing a wide range of divergent fields of interest.
Bradley Strauchen-Scherer (left) is a curator at the Musical Instrument Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and performs on early horns. Scott Robinson (second from left) is a noted jazz performer on the entire range of reed instruments as well as many brass instruments and is an avid instrument collector. Frank Hosticka (middle) is a classical trumpet player. He is an Associate Musician with the Metropolitan Opera, a former cornet soloist with the Goldman Band and an active free-lance trumpeter in New York. Frank has a collection of fine cornets and trumpets. Josh Landress (owner of the Landress Brass Shop) and Jeff Nussbuam (interviewer) are pictured at right.
JN: What are some memorable moments you can recall concerning collectors or collecting instruments?
FH: I remember a couple, Lillian Caplan and her husband whose name I don’t recall. They had an apartment full of valuable and old instruments. I went to them because I wanted to try to find out more information about a cornet that I own. There was one immaculate coiled horn of some sort that he said was a presentation horn for the Tsar of Russia. It was enameled and had valuable stones on it. Just fabulous. Well, I show him my Adolph Sax cornet and I see that he immediately knows what it is and probably had a very good idea as to the value. At that point I experienced something about collectors that I never experienced before. It was this special cagey atmosphere that is created when a deal and negotiations are about to begin. Now I’m totally guileless. I have no agenda. I don’t really want to sell or trade or anything. I was just trying to get some more information about my horn. We ended up having this hour-long conversation. He doesn’t really tell me too much but shows me a bunch of other cornets. First he suggests that I have him sell it for me. I’m not interesting in selling it because I had just bought it for a couple of hundred bucks at an antique store on 10th street in the city. He was still not convinced that I wasn’t interested in parting with the cornet. Then he tells me that he’ll trade me anything I see in the room for the Sax cornet. Now remember, he just showed me this fantastic presentation horn that he was asking thousands and thousands of dollars to buy. That’s when I realized, this is how it works. There were a couple of other times when I had similar experiences. I was looking for a 19th century Eb cornet just for my own playing. I went down to the collector in Virginia, a friend of Rick Schwartz. So in the course of talking to this collector he starts picking my brain trying to find out what’s in my collection. I mention a Hall & Quinby cornet, an Allen valve instrument. I see he’s hooked. I had no intention of selling it. I was just looking to buy a nice playable Eb cornet. He asks if I can send him pictures and wanting to be friendly, I say sure. He jumps in saying, “Let me make you an offer.” Well, here we go again. He presses me and I say, no. This makes him think I’m just playing the game and being cagey but I really don’t want to sell my horn just buy one. When I get home he sends me an email saying that he’ll give me four cornets plus the Eb for my horn. When I tell him no, he sends me an email of photos of four better horns. That’s what the whole business is about.
JN: That give and take exchange
FH: Yeah. He was certain that I was fishing for something.
BSS: Let me tell you where it gets ugly and dangerous, strings! Last year I acquired a Jacob Stainer viola for the Met. I felt lucky because I was actually able to interact with the owner who is a musician. He played with the Berlin Philharmonic and came and gave a concert at the museum when they were over here on tour. But it’s very unusual to actually speak to the owner. It’s almost always with a dealer and often involves unknown rival bidders who may or may not exist. The stock characters in any fiddle deal are always the Russians and the Chinese. Seems that’s where the money is these days
JL: So the brass collectors are not on that level?
BSS: No. And they are not paying a million dollars for a cornet. They tend to be players or really passionate collectors. When I ask a collector what is his favorite instrument, the most common answer is, the one I just acquired.
JN: Now with the internet and EBay a collector can get instant gratification for his “fix”. Before you had to shlep out to a flea market or travel somewhere to find a horn. How has this changed the nature of collecting? Has it caused the prices to rise or lower?
JL: Both, raise and lower. Take an old 19th century Conn cornet. Now because of the internet people hear of them all the time. Twenty five years ago a casual collector might have seen four or five pre 1905 Conns over a long period of time. Now they are less expensive. Conn/Dupont instruments are still very valuable. A run of the mill Conn cornet is not.
FH: They made tons of them and people put them away in attics and basements and you wouldn’t know about them. Now, it’s easy to post it on the net.
BSS: We still have that last generation who don’t use the internet and don’t want to sell things on EBay. Those people might still sell an instrument through an antique store or flea market. So what do you think? Five or ten more years before virtually everything will be through the internet?
JN: It’s interesting to think about the generational aspect. People of my or Frank’s vintage had grandparents who might have played those instruments in bands. Ultimately, they come into the hands of the grandkids. So, there’s probably still many old horns floating around. Because of the Historic Brass Society, I get calls all the time or people email me. “My great uncle played in a band and I have this old euphonium. What’s it worth?” This brings me to the best book purchase I ever made which was the Langwill. I get dozens of these queries and I can always site a passage from the Langwill and the people are thrilled to get any information.
JL: I reference that book every day! Just this morning some old guy called and said that he has an old Lafleur trumpet and wants to know about it.
FH: Has the HBS ever done an article on the Langwill? How in the world did they pull it off? All that detailed information?
BSS: You can’t talk to either of the two protagonist there because Lindsay Langwill passed away many years ago. He passed the torch to Bill Waterhouse who was just marvelous. I remember he had one of the first palm pilots. He would take all his notes on these slim sheets of paper that looked like cash register tape. You would ask about a maker and he would whip out one of these little sheets of paper and other sheets would come out of his pocket and flutter to the ground all around him. He had a brilliant mind and was working right up to the time he died. The last issue was published by Tony Bingham in 1993. When I was still talking to Bill about the next iteration of it and still talk to Arnold Myers about it, the most logical reincarnation would be for it to become a Wiki. It wants to be an online publication. When I was working on all the London instruments; Boosey, Besson, Distin, I would find something in the archives and payment books that would be a year or so off from what is listed in Langwill. Then whoever is working on this stuff could update information. I think it would need to be a site attached to a university for quality control and long term stability.
JN: Perhaps it might be run by a consortium of organizations such as CIMCIM, Galpin Society, AMIS, and HBS for the same purpose of quality control. I assume Tony Bingham has control of the copyright and then we’d need to confront the business model issue.
FH: I was witness to a similar situation. I was with Paul Bierly, the tuba player, when he was working on those band encyclopedias. You needed to have a core of these obsessive type guys to get the project going. Then you need a key person to pull it all together.
JN: Frank, I think you mentioned the key term, obsessive I think that is the main quality of collectors. Bradley, do you have a personal collection, or do you just steal things from the Met and play whatever you want? (laughter)
BSS: This is actually an important ethics question
FH: You get the tips.
BSS: Absolutely right. When you are a curator at a place like the Met or the Horniman you become a member of ICOM (International Council of Museums) and the musical instrument component is CIMCIM. They have ethics guidelines. If I am aware of an instrument being sold, my first duty is to offer it to my institution. However, since I’m a horn player there are a handful of instruments that I own as a player, and that’s a legit. But, if I find something at a flea market and think that I could but it and then turn it around for a nice profit, then that’s an issue. Basically, you should not buy or sell personally in the area in which you do curatorial work. Unfortunately, not everyone in my field adheres to that code of ethics.
FH: I would think that if you offered the instrument to your institution then you would have fulfilled your obligation.
JN: I think there is the letter of the law and then there is the matter of perception.
BSS: There is also the frustrating issue of informing people of fair-market value, of which I have a good sense, but I’m legally unable to tell them. Someone comes to me with a 1920s kazoo and wants to know what it’s worth. Even if I know what the market value is, all I can do is just say, “There is a market for it and you should investigate its value."
JN: What is the criteria to become a professional appraiser?
JL: I do appraisals all the time. I go to the internet and based on that extensive data, I determine value. EBay keeps a listing of up to 90 days as to what has been sold. So the data indicates sales not asking prices. There are other archival sites with that information. There are also auction records and based on those records plus photos, so I can determine if an instrument is of similar quality, I determine value. Of course EBay asking prices can be very misleading. Someone may be asking an outrageously unrealistic price. It’s almost like a real-estate bubble situation.
JN: Fortunately, unlike the real real-estate bubble, we don’t have banks shelling out loans to buy Bach cornets at 10 times the true value.
JL: On the other hand, there are instruments that are truly rare and in pristine condition. Those are worth more. Then there is the personal worth of an instrument that prevents me from putting a price on it. That Besson cornopean that I have has personal value to me because of its place in the history of brass music, its unique design and that it pre-dates other similar instruments. Those are things of interest to me. That instrument might be worth more to me personally than the accepted true market value.
JN: Frank, what is nature of your collection?
FH: I don’t consider myself to be a collector like Niles. I’m more of a hoarder. (laughter) I have about 15-20 very nice cornets and trumpet which are all in good playable condition. That is what’s most important to me because I’m primarily a player. But I love having those horns. I remember as a little kid a neighbor gave me an old horn. It was a Carl Fischer English Besson trumpet. Even as a kid, I just treasured it. There was information that it was played by a West Point cadet and that seemed magical to me. I still have it. I love playing old trumpets and cornets. I mostly have old Bach’s and Besson’s.
BSS: The historical performance movement in the 19th century first latched onto the keyboard instruments and the string instruments. It was relatively late that brass instruments were seriously looked at. Horace Fitzpatick was one of the first to examine the horn from a historical performance standpoint and Mike Laird started playing natural trumpet in the UK in the 1960s.
JN: Trumpet players were forced behind the eight ball as a result of the use of vent holes.
BSS and FH: Absolutely
JN: (To SR) Do you know how this works? In the early brass of the early music movement, a few instrument makers knew that if vent holes were drilled in the yard of the trumpet it would essentially shift the horn into a different key.
SR: Like a saxophone.
FH: Yes, it would allow you to play stepwise at the critical moments
JN: Of course, that is ahistorical.
JL: I love it when guys come in and say I have a new baroque trumpet. It’s a five hole. Well, there’s no such thing as a 5 hole baroque trumpet!
BSS: When I teach an organology course I know I’m in trouble when I show a fingering chart for the baroque trumpet and no one questions it. Of course, using a proper baroque period mouthpiece is vital.
JL: That’s a very touchy subject. I know that I personally find it difficult to adjust because there are so many aspects of a baroque trumpet mouthpiece that are different from playing a modern one.
BSS: My first degree was in education and musical performance and I remember that we were traumatized at even the thought of playing a different mouthpiece, to saying nothing of playing a period instrument mouthpiece. As I began playing natural horn I came to realize that the mouthpiece was as important if not more important than the actual horn. If you can’t buy into that idea then you’re not going to have a true historically informed musical experience.
JN: Scott you’ve had much experience with this mouthpiece issue since you play a wide range of saxophones as well as many brass instruments. How did you adjust to playing on so many different horns and mouthpieces in terms of chops and general technique?
SR: Chops and technique?? What’s that?! I try not to dwell on it too much. Here’s the reed, here’s the horn, let’s go. Also, I know my limitations. On cornet I’ve been asked to play in the trumpet section of big bands but I wouldn’t do that. I get written up in the press all the time and they say that I’m equally good on reeds as on brass. Well, that’s baloney. I may play a tune on cornet or euphonium or ophicleide but that’s about it.
JN: Well, when I saw you recently at the new club, Mezzrow, with Rossano Sportiello, you did a very impressive job on the euphonium.
FH: Concerning natural instruments without holes, I think players today are like the kids on the internet. They simply have no patience. Centuries ago, if you were a kid apprenticed to a master trumpeter, you’d be forced to play all day just to keep your food coming on the table. Eventually you reached the level of being an accomplished journeyman. Plus you didn’t have the distractions we have today. There was no TV or the internet pulling us away. I think they must have practiced four, six, eight hours a day which is what it would take to develop that sort of facility. Today it takes someone with an obsessive drive like a Don Smithers to practice to such an extent to master the natural trumpet. And he did it.
SR: I don’t think I know his work
JN: Remember the Sunday Morning news show that began with a virtuosic trumpet fanfare. That was a recording of Don Smithers playing the Abblassen by Reiche, Bach’s trumpeter. The music is depicted on a sheet of music from a painting of Reiche that he is holding. He played that on a replica of the coiled trumpet show in the painting. I studies with Don and he told me that he played that countless times and kept recording it and ultimately got that beautiful take.
BSS: It’s like the ten thousand hours rule. If you do something for ten thousand hours, then you’re an expert. I used to worship at the feet of Phil Farkas and he said your practicing only begins after you finally got a hard passage right once.
FH: I’ll give you another version of that. There was an old horn player at the Met named Dick Moore. He played there his whole lifetime. He was the first horn at a time when the Met orchestra only had one first horn. He played seven shows a week. Strauss, Elektra and all those great operas. He said to me, “You never really know the book until you’ve screwed up every note. Then you know the book!”
JL: It’s the same thing with instrument repair. You really don’t know what you’re doing until you mess up a repair job real bad.
JL: Niles Eldridge has a wonderful collection. He’s drowning in a room with 741 cornets. That’s the size of his collection. Bradley, I know you have access to the London Besson stock books. I’d like to compare notes because I have what I believe is the oldest English Besson cornet.
JN: Right now Bradley is feeling very unusual because she’s examining your Besson cornet without wearing her white gloves.
BSS: I have a favorite white glove story. I was invited to examine the brass instruments from a collection of a very prestigious institution which is not in the state of New York. Everyone has his or her own ideas about how to handle instruments and when I got there I asked if he should wear gloves or just wash my hands. Then the head of the collection, wanting to do things properly, proudly proclaimed that they bought gloves for me and took a pair of gardening gloves out of the desk drawer! I asked if the ones with the heavy duty leather palms were for handling low brass.
JN: Any other thoughts about collections and instrument collecting in general?
BSS: At the most recent CIMCIM meeting there was much discussion about the relationship between museum and institution collections and private collections. There really is a symbiotic relationship. There are some things that a museum can do in terms of placing things in a broader context and providing stability from generation to generation that would be harder to do for private collectors. Private collectors, on the other hand, have much more flexibility. As a museum curator, if I have an example of a particular type of instrument and then a finer example of the same type comes along, I would have a hard time trying to obtain that new instrument for the collection. Private collectors trade and swap instruments all the time. It’s the nature of their game. There’s also the issue of refinement and obsessions. It’s wonderful being able to work with a collector who may be totally focused with all his energy and all his financial resources on one small area.
JL: There’s the murkier topic of mouthpieces. I have a number in my collection. I have perhaps the oldest Bach mouthpiece. It’s from 1917. I can date that because it’s on a Holton blank. Lorenzo Greenwich is a great source of mouthpiece information. He’s the mouthpiece guy.
JN: Scott, what brought you, as a saxophonist, to collect and play brass instruments?
SR: I love sound. Different instruments bring their own individual sound to what I’m trying to do. I do play brass instruments, in addition to the reeds, on a gig but I play the brass on a limited basis. I’ll play a few tunes on the cornet or euphonium or some other brass instruments and that’s about it. Then I go back to the tenor sax.
FH: Well there are physical limitations
SR. Yeah but it’s different for me also. With brass instruments I don’t need to worry about reeds or anything like that. I just pick up the cornet and there it is. What are we going to do together? I get asked to play 4th trumpet in big band gigs but I never do that. I won’t pretend. I see press write ups all the time saying that I’m equally adept at brass as I am on reeds and that’s just baloney. On a good night I can get out two or three tunes and that’s about it.
JN: I thought you did great on the euphonium when I recently saw you at Mezzrow’s with Rossano Sportiello. You also have a collection including an ophicleide. How did that come about?
SR: I studied at Berklee in Boston and also did some teaching there for about two years. At that time I had a gig at a jazz club in the suburbs of Boston and took all my crazy instruments with me. I had various saxophones including the bass sax, double-bell euphonium, cornet and some other stuff. After the set an old guy in a wheelchair came up to me and says, “I bet you I have an instrument that you don’t have and never even heard of.” He went on to describe a large brass instrument with a trombone type mouthpiece and saxophone keys. Of course I knew exactly what he was describing. The he tells me, “It’s an orphankleed!” I nearly broke up by the way he pronounced it. He actually rescued the instrument from being taken to the town dump by the historical society of his small town in Massachusetts. They told him that if he wanted it to just take it. Turns out this fellow was a valve trombonist but had a horn that was completely torn apart. He wanted it fixed and asked me if I could find a new bell for his horn. He told me that if I could fix up his trombone, he would give me the “orphankleed.” Of course I was very interested. At that time I was doing some repair work and, if fact, was teaching a class in instrument repair at Berklee. I worked on that trombone and really did a thorough job. The guy couldn’t believe that I brought him back his horn with the original bell but it was. So he gave me the ophicleide. I took it back to the shop at Berklee and spent an entire day with it, figuring out how the finger system worked and in a short time, mastered it. I started taking it to gigs and really feel in love with it. That’s the story of the orphankleed!
JN: I think two aspects of collecting instruments for a performer has developed. In early music, collecting and the subsequent performance on those old instruments or reproductions of old instruments is to try to unlock the sound-world of a particular repertoire. Another view, as Scott has, is to obtain a larger sound pallet.
BSS: In either case you’re collecting sound. You’re either trying to capture historic sound or trying to find new soundscapes. It’s still sound that’s drawing you toward those objects.
SR: However, there are many collectors who just keep the instruments under glass you never hear the sound.
BSS: This is interesting because I was talking to a flute collector who is very compulsive. When you really compulsively collect it’s almost like a disease. I asked him how be began collecting flutes. His answer was interesting. Flutes in the woodwind world and cornets in the brass world are the two instruments that have the widest range of permutations of valve and key combinations and various subtleties of design. So this flute collector friend of mine explained to me that he first began collecting stamps. When you collect stamps, you have these sheets that 100 stamps will fit on. When you are serious about stamp collecting, you want a stamp from each position on the sheet. When he began collecting flutes he had the same attitude but this time he focused on Boehm system instruments. He wanted an open G# key, closed G# key and every conceivable variation.
JL: My collecting approach is to have something older or a different example of what I already have whether it’s playable or not. It may be older or newer but it must be different in some way. That’s why my slim family of French instruments that I’m collecting are unique or special in some way. If they are playable, that’s great but that’s not my main focus. If no one has an example like the one I have or doesn’t even know of it’s existence, that’s what really gets me going.
JN: We’ve mentioned the desire for old instruments to play and the purely obsessive desire to collect for its own sake. There is also the organological aspect of collecting to study the changes in design and how those changes affected the sound of the instrument and how those sounds influenced players and composers.
BSS: Sure, there’s a didactic aspect of it. Establishing a taxonomy and developing a historical sequence of changes and how they actually work.
JN: Frank you’re a player but you’ve educated yourself to the intricacies of variations of instrument design and how they may affect sound and playing.
FH: I was probably horn a hundred years too late. I would have been happy at the end of 19th and beginning of the 20th century. I love the cornet. In the Goldman band we really played the cornet. I had a list of cornet players who really played the instrument but if I needed someone and I couldn’t get one of those guys I’d call a trumpet player who would say, “Yeah, I have a cornet.” Often when those guys would come down, they didn’t know how to play the instrument. They could play the notes but they had no idea how to play it because the cornet is a different animal. I appreciate the differences only to that extent. I’ve played very old ones and appreciate the improvements that followed. Volume is the main quality that caused design to change. Now it’s going backwards. Trumpet players are less concerned about how the instrument sounds because everyone is playing into microphones. The concept of overall tone and projection is not valued because of technology. Modern instruments just don’t play the way the ones even 40 or 50 years ago played. With all these modern instruments made by Yamaha and these boutique makers, they play like dreams but the sound quality is not like the older horns. Some of my colleagues at the Met play less than old instruments and it’s a different sound. Thirty or forty years ago guys like Izzy Blank or Mel Broils would play a note and bang, it would bounce off the walls. That’s gone. No one plays like that and the conductors don’t want to hear it either. They are used to listening to a perfectly balanced record when they are practicing their scores and that’s what they want.
JN: Scott do you find that in the jazz world?
SR: Most definitely. Microphones have killed everything. It’s killed the individual sound.
JN: This is how the instrument itself informs the performance practice.
BSS: This is interesting. You look at these taxonomically or developmentally based collections demonstrating technological change from the 18th century onward to bigger sound and larger range and ultimately homogeneity throughout the range of the instrument. As someone who plays a lot of 19th century horns, I think today horn players live in a sort of two dimensional world. We lack the subtle shadings of sound that different crooks and hand stopping gives you. One of the exciting things today concerning performance practice and having these resources such as historic collections and research at our disposal is that we can start to get away from this teleology that says one thing is better than the next. We can now think about modern instruments and historic instruments as apples and oranges. They produce different results. A hand horn and modern horn are both wonderful things, different from each other, but one is not better than the other.
FH: I remember guys talking about how synthesizers are going to put us all out of work, and it’s true. But I think players must have had the same type of conversations 170 years ago. “Those chromatic instruments are going to put hand-horn players out of work!”
JL: Absolutely true. In the 1820s and 1830s, particularly among horn players, when the first rotary valve patents were coming out, people hated those innovations.
BSS: It was very emotional. There was a second wave of it in Britain. The transition from the narrow bore French piston horn of Dennis Brain’s early career to the larger German instrument brought about outrage. You can read reviews from the 1930s in the London Times where they describe the new German horn as a “cow horn.” This was in a generalist newspaper not a specialist music trade rag. People were enthralled and I’m amazed that there was such wide public interest.
FH: I came upon this first hand. We were doing some crazy revival of an early Donizetti opera at the Met. The big deal was that they had discovered the original parts in the basement of La Scala that were lost since 1830. There was a stage band which called for eight trumpets. There was trumpet in E, Eb, D and all these different keyed trumpets. We began rehearsals with great difficulty. The guy had gone to great trouble transcribing the old notation into modern parts. No one could figure out what was going on because this guy had a note and then another guy had a note and it was this weird pointillistic thing going on. It was impossible. The management lost patience and they threw the guy in charge out. T hey threw the parts out. The librarian rewrote the parts and it ended up with three guys playing the whole thing. They really tried to get it to work but we were essentially playing natural trumpet parts. I finally figured out what these 1830s parts meant. No one could play every note of the entire line so, it was like the bell-ringers, each guy got his own note to play.
BSS: You know, the collecting thing affects everything. You asked me before if I personally collect instruments. I personally collect what I play. Professionally, I am lucky because I do get to collect many different types of instruments that go to the museum.
JN: So do you feel personally insulted when you buy something for the museum and they decide to put it in storage in the basement?
BSS: Of course I do. That said, we have fantastic collections and limited space, so not all of our treasures are on display at the same time and we have a program of gallery rotations and special exhibitions. Curators put lots of thought into drawing up an acquisition proposal any time they want to buy something. You have to justify why this is an instrument that would make an important addition to the museum collection. So you do feel committed and personally invested in it. You need to balance your personal interest in collecting an instrument against the interests of the institution. At the Horniman we had a very taxonomically oriented collection, for want of a better word. I was following in the footsteps of Adam Carse who put together a wonderful collection of about 350 wind instruments that showed the systematic development of western European winds. Then you have a real reason to get every permutation of a particular type of instrument that you can get your hands on. That fulfills the goal. The Met has a very different collection. First of all, we’re a musical instrument collection within an art museum. I can go on for hours about the disadvantages of that. But this is all outweighed by what that position does enable you to do, which is to connect the dots across the Met's collections. We can collaborate with colleagues in different disciplines. You can study a lute from the collection alongside a Caravaggio painting that depicts a similar instrument. Also, when we make a big purchase, I need to justify to our director why a particular instrument belongs in an art museum. I can make the case that it would go brilliantly with our Strads and shows an important development in string instrument design. But then he will look at me and ask, “But is it art?” Then we have the discussion about what is art. What is mastery in any given medium? What is the development and art of a form? How does this instrument express that? If one is concerned about getting a broader audience interested in a musical instrument collection then we need to think about the idea of why any given instrument is in a museum and how it fits into the bigger picture of music and culture. Part of my responsibility is to try to educate people about connoisseurship, what makes an instrument important or great. At a place like the Met we can learn that the silver kettle drums were made for George III by Franz Peter Bunsen. Bunsen was also the silversmith who made George III’s tableware. The Ehe family not only made trumpets but they also made chandeliers. So, at a place like the Met you can learn about the allied skills of these instrument makers, see the range of their varied output and get a glimpse of the broader cultural context in which they existed.
JN: What is the dynamic of having a collection that embraces both Western and non-Western instruments? Any conflicts?
BSS: I don’t have any conflict at all. I think one of the really exciting things about pulling in instruments from around the world is that it allows you to look across all musical genres. It reminds you that there is no one master genre or master instrument. There are master genres and masterpieces everywhere. Look at our gorgeous koto where all the decorative metal work was done by one of the most famous Japanese families of sword makers. It was made for one of the great poet warriors of Japan during the period that Stradivarius was working. You look at both instrument and you realize that each are masterpieces of their individual type. They are both brilliant pieces, the koto and the Strad. I think about why, compared to other instruments, the brass collection is weak. It goes back to the perennial low status of winds. You go back to Apollo the lyre player and Marsyas the pipe player, who challenged Apollo to a musical duel. Apollo won and left Marsyas laying in the dust waiting to be flayed. String instruments represented rational, scientific thinking; winds were associated with irrational emotions and base passions. The founder of the Met collection Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown had great connoisseurship and real knowledge when it came to collecting keyboard instruments. She spent years going after the Cristofori piano that we have and is the world’s earliest example of a piano. She walked away from Neuremburg trumpets! But at that time in history, very few people were collecting brass instruments.
FH: It might be because string and keyboard instruments are associated with music that is thought of more highly and more lasting.
JN: I want to thank everyone for joining in on this conversation. I think we’ve covered much ground and look forward to continued discussion.