Early Music Feature



The G. Norman Eddy Instrument Collection: Please Touch!

February 22, 2002 - Durham, NC:


]About 40 people crowded into the ground floor lobby of the Mary Duke Biddle Building and another 40 grouped around the oval opening in the main lobby to hear the inaugural concert featuring instruments from the G. Norman Eddy Rare Musical Instrument Collection. Showcased for this concert were a grand piano from the workshop of Muzio Clementi and a square piano built by Casper Katholnik. Both instruments date from the first decade of the nineteenth century.

Randall Love at the Clementi grand c. 1805-1810

Norman Eddy and his wife Ruth bought and restored a collection of period instruments that reads like Leporello's "Catalogue Aria" of Don Giovanni's mistresses. The collection of over 400 instruments includes 260 woodwinds, 140 brass, 12 pianos and six accordions and concertinas but no string instruments. And almost all of these instruments are either in or can be restored to playing condition. Designated according to the bequest explicitly to be studied and played by students and professional musicians, the entire collection is the largest in the Southeast. And while most of the instruments are still in their packing crates, curator Brenda Neece is working feverishly to raise enough money to restore and house them all. At the moment, several of the instruments and some of Eddy's 90 original paintings of his restorations are displayed in a glass enclosure in the lower lobby of the Mary Duke Biddle Building; surrounding the rotunda in the upper lobby are a series of panels and posters explaining and illustrating the history of the collection.

Part of current Eddy Collection display. (Center) cabinet grand by William Stodart: c. 1810. (Upper right) painting of a Church serpent:: c. 1780. (Lower right) Vorsetzer [player] piano early 20th century.

Diagram by Norman Eddy of restored interior of cabinet grand by William Stodart

What makes this collection so important is precisely the fact that most of the instruments are not so rare that they need to reside behind glass in a museum. In fact, the sheer quantity of examples of every category makes it possible to envision someday a "period" brass band or a typical 18th century wind band (for which Mozart wrote some gorgeous music).

Slide trumpet: first quarter 20th century
(Right) Tenor Horn: c. 1866 Gilmore and Co. Boston 3 rotary valves

For the inaugural recital, Duke's resident fortepiano specialist Randall Love, accompanied by cellist Stephanie Vial and violinist Elizabeth Field, played a potpourri program of Hausmusik . In the days before SurroundSound entertainment centers, accomplished amateurs frequently gathered around the parlor piano for an evening's entertainment. Perhaps the most interesting pieces of the evening were two arrangements for fortepiano and strings by Johann Peter Salomon of the finale of Haydn's Symphony 104 and the andante from Symphony 94 ("Surprise"). Salomon, the impresario responsible for Haydn's two wildly successful sojourns in London, was contributing to what had become a lucrative music publishing venture of converting symphonic music, and even opera, into arrangements for home performance.

Double-bell euphonium: c.1917. (Above left) Diagram of the inside of the euphonium. (Above right) various wooden flutes

xcept for a flashy violin sonata by Jean-Marie Leclair, played by Field as masterfully as possible on the flat-bridged baroque violin, most of the music was quite easy to play and in keeping with the Hausmusik tradition.For those talented amateurs who wanted a technical workout, Love demonstrated two Esercizi by Clementi. He joined Vial in the andante from a seldom-played youthful Cello Sonata in B-flat major, Op. 45 by Mendelssohn, which gave an insight into what the talented Mendelssohn family might have performed during a musical soirée.

witching between the Clementi grand and the Katholnik, Love showed off what these instruments can do with informed tender loving care. But even a grand fortepiano had only a modest tone and sustaining power at the beginning of the 19th century, and Haydn's "surprise" would have hardly alarmed a deer. The Katholnik, although it is a true "home" instrument and was not meant for large halls, carried well in the Biddle lobby.

Neece has just leaked the news that some of the brass instruments will be used for the concert of the Duke Wind Orchestra (see our Calendar). Later this fall, there will be a formal dedication of the Eddy Collection which we hope will involve performances on more of these wonderful instruments,

For further information about the Eddy Collection and how you can play a part in preserving and displaying these period instruments, contact curator Brenda Neece at bneece@duke.edu .