The Czech Museum of Music
The National Museum in Prague has made accessible to visitors to the Czech Museum of Music a new permanent exhibition called Man -Instrument- Music The museum is housed in the onetime baroque church of St Mary Magdalen on Mala Strana, built in the 17th century (to the design of architect Francesco Carrati), but after the abolition of the Dominican monasteries in 1783 it was constantly redesigned to suit the prevailing political climate, finally being put to use for other purposes.
It served as a post office, army barracks, and finally in the second half of the 20th century as a depository for archives. Today, the combination of baroque architecture with some of the later classical design changes and the present adaptation of the interior for a museum of music is a most effective combination of monumentality and detail.
For many years the Czech Museum of Music was housed in the Velkoprevorsky palac behind closed doors, accessible only for research. Now the National Museum is taking the unique opportunity to restore back to life the great spaces of this church long ago embellished with works of baroque masters and resounding with the sound of probably one of the largest organs in Prague at the end of the 17th century.
On entry one is overwhelmed by the magnificence and fluidity of space which in spite of the changes over the years has remained. The main thought behind this exhibition ( with over 200 exhibits) prepared by a team of experts, was to present a valuable collection of music instruments in both historical and social context.
The introduction is by way of the many faceted musical life of the 20th century, the epoch of great change in musical style, genre, instruments, electronic and reproduced music with unsuspected possibilities. (Milan Cais in collaboration with Ales Opekar), animation and new compositions with microinterval music using unique instruments (composer Alois Haba XIV. String Quartet in Quarter Tone System).
Keyboard instruments showing the changes of development from the 17th to the 19th century.
In areas with restored wall paintings of string instruments we find showcases with unique collections of such instruments - so called ´Rozmberk Consortium´ and others bearing the names of famous Italian and French violinists. There is a collection of lutes and guitars, the graceful curves of harps, wind and brass instruments, percussion instruments and beautiful glass harmonicas.
A small collection of folk instruments of various makes. You will, for instance be fascinated by the Neon piano.
The visit is enhanced by the accompaniment of both light and music - and the availability of headphones, which enable one to hear music, played by individual instruments. Detailed information is found in the accompanying guide, children are entertained by partaking in a quiz.
Cultural and concert programmes are being planned. The library and a music studio are available for all interested in more detailed information and recordings.
The Czech Museum of Music in Karmelitska is accessible daily except Tuesday.
It demonstrates both traditional and new paths of our cultural heritage.Olga Szymanská Translated by Milena Grenfell-Baines
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