At the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia, I played in a room lined with books on English history and law, with an exhibit of illustrations by Robert Lawson. I was interested to learn about his excellent art. I noticed a work with a connection to Debussy: Lawson’s 1931 drawings for The House of Usher. Debussy began composing an opera on the same Poe story, but left it unfinished.
Lawson also illustrated the charming children’s book The Story of Ferdinand.
I met a group of Assyriologists who were creating digital images of cuneiform tablets from the department’s extensive collection. I was very lucky to have them show me some tablets up close and explain what they were about.
Today I played Syrinx in the Elkins Library at the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia. This Georgian library was a bequest of McIntire Elkins, with its important collections of Charles Dickens and early American texts and maps.
A major repository of cuneiform tablets, medieval manuscripts, Americana, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Beatrix Potter, and much more, the Rare Book Department is as attractive as it is impressive.
Charles Dickens’s desk and lamp in the Elkins Library
With Katherine Chandler and Paul Artrip, the librarians who graciously welcomed me into their department, and “Grip,” Dickens’s raven who inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven.”
I visited The Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia for a performance of Syrinx among the rows of scores. Housed in an elegant room in the main library building, it is a major repository of all the standard repertoire and many lesser known treasures. With 21,000 works, it is the largest lending library of orchestra music in the world. Some of its most esoteric holdings are featured by the collection’s former curator Kile Smith in his program Discoveries from the Fleisher, with Jack Moore, on WRTI Radio Philadelphia.
Stu Serio, Administrative Assistant of the Fleisher Collection, has been very helpful over the years, and even provided scores and parts which saved the day in an emergency last summer! I enjoy visiting with him and Kile (before he left the Fleisher) whenever I come in.
A nice thing about older buildings is that the materials provide lovely acoustics.
I had a nice time visiting my friends at the Free Library of Philadelphia Music Department today. It is an excellent collection presided over by Steve Landstreet, who graciously welcomed me to play Syrinx at the library. Later I went to the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music for more Debussy. Here I am with Steve Landstreet (left) and Stu Serio (right), curator at the Fleisher.