Musical Boxes from Prague and Vienna
For those who have an academic interest in musical boxes, Silvertone’s review (below) was published recently in the journal of the MBSI.
With huge thanks to the foresight of committee of the MBSI, and their kind offer of financial assistance in getting this historically important work translated, and in print, it’s now a available for all to enjoy.
Additional thanks to the rank & file members of the MBSGB who overwhelmingly voted to fund the project also. . .
A review of ‘ Musical Boxes from Prague and Vienna’
By Helmut Kowar.
Printed by: Austrian Academy of Science Press.
Musical Boxes from Prague and Vienna: By Helmut Kowar, is the result of a dedicated and fastidious lifetime of study carried out by one man*, covering a subject that many of us know little about, bringing forth a wealth of interesting, and well documented information in one definitive scholarly masterwork.
Whilst Swiss manufacturers dominated the Western market, the author demonstrates quite clearly that the makers of Prague and Vienna, were active during the same period, dominating the Austro-Hungarian market right from the early days. Not only were they building instruments with their own unique designs, but delivering a consistently high quality of both musical arrangements and tonal quality (Hence the collector’s qappeal )
The chapter on the musical arrangements is, I believe, a first, and you don’t have to be a musician to get the gist from the text. It answers a few questions, helping us understand and appreciate a little more about this previously undocumented aspect of the industry.
All is covered within it’s pages, from basics of history, the makers themselves, brought to design and development, culminating in an extensive catalogue of examples examined by the author.
The whole complemented by no less than 80 full colour high definition images. The quality of this book is no accident, it’s the result of intelligent effort, a superior publication that delivers 30 years of hard earned knowledge to your fingertips with ease. It should appeal to all levels of collectors and scholars alike. An asset to your reference library.
* I personally asked the author, Helmut Kowar, what first stimulated his interest in musical boxes? . . . Basically During the course of research for his musicological dissertation in 1976, the author commenced investigations into the history of the early pianos, held within the collection of the Viennese Technical Museum.
Next to the pianos and other instruments within the permanent exhibition of this museum, a small collection of mechanical instruments (musical boxes, flute clocks, a orchestrion, a polyphon, a violina, a Welte vorsetzer etc.) were on display. This special collection attracted his attention for the very reason that these instruments were virtually neglected in musicological literature and their music – with the exeption of the original compositions by Händel, Mozart, Haydn etc. – was seemingly not worth mentioning. Several years later when he became staff member at the Phonogrammarchiv of the Austrian Academy of Sciences he was offered the opportunity to conceptualise an innovative research project.
His suggestion to develop a project devoted to mechanical musical instruments was accepted, and in 1980 he began to document musical boxes and automata in Viennese collections as a basis for further research into the music and of course, the history of these instruments.
John Ruskin once wrote: Books are divided into two categories: books for now and books forever!
I feel this book belongs in the latter.
Silvertone Music boxes.
The book is available directly from the publisher, – Austrian Academy of sciences Press https://verlag.oeaw.ac.at