Three Hundred Years of Composers' Instruments

August 2014
200 colour, 20 black and white illustrations
160 pages
21x20 cm
ISBN: 9781843839576
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press

Three Hundred Years of Composers' Instruments

The Cobbe Collection

Alec Cobbe, Christopher Nobbs

A lavishly-illustrated and meticulously-documented catalogue of the Cobbe Collection, which includes over forty keyboard instruments around half of which were owned and played by composers such as Purcell, Mahler, Chopin and Elgar.
The keyboard repertoire comprises one third of the whole of Western music. The very instruments chosen by composers themselves form the heart of the Cobbe Collection at Hatchlands. The eighteen owned or played by Purcell, Johann Christian Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin, Mahler and Elgar, to name a few, are the largest group assembled anywhere of these tangible and audible relics connecting with the musical minds of the past. The collection otherwise comprises a further twenty or so instruments that were chosen to represent instrument-makers who were highly regarded or patronised by composers, all maintained in playing order.

Each entry in this lavishly-illustrated catalogue includes a history of the piece, its provenance, technical data and colour photographs of the instrument and notable details. Here, for example, is the piano on which Chopin played his final public concert; we learn of the strips of lead that Mahler had fixed to the hammers in the bass register and that Elgar's Broadwood was delivered to Worcester by river.

More than simply a catalogue of a collection, this volume will fascinate anyone with an interest in keyboard music, as well as music historians, instrument makers and restorers, and those concerned with issues of 'authentic' performance.

ALEC COBBE has collected musical instruments owned by composers for many years. He is also a distinguished designer, and specialises in the decor and hanging of pictures in stately homes; in early 2014 an exhibition of his work was shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Keywords: Music


[This] volume is remarkably well-prepared and written, offers a wide and interesting variety of stories and instruments, and is one of the most enjoyable readings in the area of musical instrument collection catalogues. BRIO

Organologists and amateur music enthusiasts alike can benefit from this volume [and] its specific information on individual instruments and its clear explanations of technical terms. . . . [T]he combination of such a beautiful presentation, clear and often elegant prose, and interesting historical anecdotes and interpretations makes this book ideal for both coffee tables in music lovers' homes or reference sections of well stocked music libraries. MUSIC RESEARCH FORUM

Short, eminently readable essays furnish a bit of history about each instrument, along with tabulations of the provenance and technical specifications (sometimes illustrated with additional close-up photographs). The volume is handsomely produced and thoroughly fascinating. AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE

Photographs are high quality reproductions. . . . This book will appeal to musicians, cultural geographers, and historians. Recommended. CHOICE

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