Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Opera Preview

(image from the San Francisco Opera website)

Each Thursday at noon throughout the month of August the Art, Music and Recreation Center with the Audiovisual Center will present a series of large screen video presentations of operas. These are abridged screenings of works that will be performed during the upcoming San Francisco Opera Season.

August 7, 2008 - Simon Boccanegra by Giuseppe Verdi. A 2002 production from Wiener Staatsoper, with Thomas Hampson as Simon Boccanegra, Cristina Gallardo-Domas as Maria Grimaldi and Ferruccio Furlanetto as Fiesco. Daniele Gatti conducts.

August 14, 2008 - Die Tote Stadt by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. A 2001 production from the Opera National Du Rhin, with Torsten Kerl as Paul, Angela Doneke as Marietta/Marie. Jan Latham-Koenig conducts.

August 21, 2008 - Idomeneo by Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart. A 2006 production from the Salzburger Festspiele, with Ramon Vargas as Idomeneo, Magda Kozena as Idamante, Ekaterina Siurina as Ilia and Anja Harteros as Electra. Sir Roger Norrington conducts.

August 28, 2008 - Boris Godunov by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky. A Royal Opera House production from the Mariinsky Theatre, with Robert Lloyd as Boris Godunov, Alexei Steblianko as Dimitri and Olga Borodina as Marina. Valery Gergiev conducts.

The videos will be shown at the Koret Auditorium in the Lower Level of the Library. All programs at the Library are free.

These programs are supported by the Friends of the Public Library.

Monday, July 21, 2008

SFSU Flute Choir

On Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 2:00 PM the San Francisico State University Flute Choir will present "Flavors of Flute," a concert featuring piccolos, bass, alto & Eb flutes, and our old friend the "C" flute. Come meet members of the flute family and enjoy their beautiful sounds in this fun and informative setting.

This concert will be performed at the Koret Auditorium in the lower level of the Main Library. All events at the San Francisco Public Library are free and open to the public.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

History of Music in San Francisco by the WPA

Sisters Yasuko and Akiko Takakuwa from Fifty Local Prodigies (vol. 5)

One of the Works Progress Administration’s significant contributions to San Francisco was the seven volume History of Music in San Francisco. This work, edited by Cornel Adam Lengyel and sponsored by the City and County of San Francisco, is the first and only sizable work describing the early musical life of our City. The following are the contents of this series:

Vol. 1 Music of the Gold Rush era [1939] – a sketch of early San Francisco music history starting from the Mission and Alta California days and the Gold Rush and Barbary Coast era through the City’s earliest choral, orchestral and operatic groups. This book also includes chapters about instrument makers and minstrelsy in the City.

Vol. 2 A San Francisco Songster, 1849-1939
[1939] – a collection of song lyrics on California topics to well-known songs from the time. Includes songs about the ‘49ers, songs relating to early City life as well as songs of working people.

Vol. 3 The Letters of Miska Hauser, 1853 [1939] – Hauser was an Austrian violinist and composer who during an American tour spent time performing in Gold Rush era San Francisco. This volume excerpts and translates letters he regularly sent to a German newpaper describing his impressions of San Francisco’s musical life.

Vol. 4 Celebrities in El Dorado : 1850-1906 [1939] – details notable musicians who performed in San Francisco between 1850-1906. Appendices include a chronological record and alphabetical listing of visiting musicians as well a listing of visiting chamber ensembles, orchestras, bands, and operatic companies.

Vol. 5 Fifty Local Prodigies [1940] – an innovative study of San Francisco musical child prodigies active between the years 1900-1940. This volume includes over 40 biographical sketches including famed musicians like Leon Fleischer, brother and sister Yehudi and Hephzibah Menuhin, Ruggiero Ricci, Ruth Slenczynski, and Isaac Stern.

Vol. 6 Early Master Teachers [1940] – includes biographical sketches of Ernst von Hartmann, Henry Heyman, Hugo Mansfeldt, Henry Bickford Pasmore, Oscar Weil, Eugenio Bianchi, Gustav Hinrichs, Louis Lisser, John P. Morgan, John Haradan Pratt, Julian Rehn Waybur, Margaret Alverson, Emil Barth, John B. Beutler, Giovana Bianchi, Inez Fabbri, and Louisa Marriner-Campbell.

Vol. 7 An Anthology of Music Criticism [1942] – collects examples of music criticism from San Francisco newspapers and magazines from 1850 to 1940 to trace the history, development, and scope of music in the City. This volume also includes a Calendar of Musical Events (1849-1940), as well as short biographies of prominent music critics.

A woodcut from Music of the Gold Rush Era (vol. 1)

The exhibit, WPA Years A New Deal Explosion of Art, Public Works and Labor on the Main Library's 4th floor has been extended through August 10, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon, pt. 2

The Supplemental Register

All encyclopedias built along alphabetical principles have one limitation: they require key terms. In the case of the Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon it is the artist’s name. Geographical or chronological connections, stylistic or historical ties can only be discovered through research in the individual biographical texts. Questions about any particular country and the artists it produced or sponsored cannot be answered without much time consuming research and, conversely, neither could questions about artists, painters, architects, sculptors, and the countries they worked in.

To make this kind of cross country, cross cultural research easier the publisher and the editors decided after publication of the encyclopedia’s 10th volume to compile a register that complements and enhances the Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon. This register consists of two parts:
1. Teil, Länder (Part 1, Countries) and
2. Teil, Künstler Berufe (Part 2, Artists’ Professions.)

The entries in Part 1 begin with individual countries, in alphabetical order, with Ägypten (Egypt) and end with Zaire. Last is a list of artists without country affiliation. Within each country the professions are listed, i.e. architects, painters, sculptors. Under each profession the artists’ names are given in chronological order with the volume and page number where they may be found in the Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon.

In Part 2 the first level is the artists’ professions, with countries as the second grouping and artists’ names following. Thus all architects, painters, sculptors, etc…, are grouped together and subdivided by their professions.

For every ten volumes of the Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon one volume each of Part 1 and Part 2 are published.

Bio-Bibliographical Index

By the time twenty some volumes of the Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon, up to the letter D, had been published, covering more than 110,000 biographies, it became obvious to the editors that a means had to be found for researchers to quickly and easily obtain basic information. More than half the enquiries continuously coming into editorial offices have to do with a few precise items of biographical information: date and place of birth or death, verification of artists’ names, which over the centuries had been dealt with in sometimes arbitrary ways. And so the red, 10-volume, Bio-Bibliographical Index (Bio-Bibliographischer Index) came into being.

The entries in this index consists of the artist’s verified name, profession, birth and date information (when available), and an abbreviation for the countries where the artist worked. This is followed by an open book symbol that contains abbreviated citations to other encyclopedic works where information on the artist may be found. There are frequent cross-references that are particularly helpful in navigating the variety of transliteration and transcription possibilities for many names.


The Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon is a unique work. Even in its incomplete form it is a singular achievement. It brings together all that is known of artists of the visual arts of all regions and all periods and presents that enormous body of knowledge in a system of precise, accurate, inclusive, authenticated biographies. This has never been available before and its value in time, effort, and trust to historians and art professionals is incalculable.

The value to the layman is different, of course (the German reading layman, that is). But it is fair to say that anyone who has browsed through some of the Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon biographies will look at a work of art in new way and see the man, or the woman, behind it.

He may look at Dürer’s Praying Hands or his Young Hare and admire the elegance of line and delicacy of brushstrokes, and he will think of the great artist, the theoretician on geometry and human proportion, the humanist who wrote his books in the in vernacular German rather than in Latin, and he will probably chuckle remembering Dürer, the clever business man. Dürer, godson of a printer, was the first artist to have representatives throughout Europe to sell impressions of his copper engravings. He died wealthy.

Visiting Florence and gazing up at Brunelleschi’s dome he must marvel at the mind who conceived a dome made of bricks reaching 83m to the sky. Brunelleschi was an “inventore,” a goldsmith, a sculptor, an architect, a mathematician, a builder, an inventor, the quintessential Renaissance man.

And looking at one of Canaletto’s sparkling cityscape of Venice, of the Grand Canal with the hump of the Rialto and Saint Mark in the background, each palazzo distinct and recognizable, he cannot help but muse wryly that Canaletto’s paintings were the postcards of this time, bought by visiting princes and wealthy merchants to take home. (Aah, but to get such a postcard.)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon, pt. 1 - A Work of 630 Authors

The name of this reference work is Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon: die Bildenden Kuenstler aller Zeiten und Voelker, which means Universal Encyclopedia of Artists: the Visual Artists of all Times and Peoples. The title is no exaggeration. It is the most extensive, up-to-date, authoritative tool for research in the history of art and is acknowledged by scholars, art historians, museum curators, gallery owners, collectors, etc. as the definitive work in the field of visual arts.

The ancestry of the encyclopedia goes back to the end of the 19th century when it was first published and consisted of three volumes. This small edition formed the foundation upon which three famous scholar-editors, Ulrich Thieme, Felix Becker and Hans Vollmer, built to bring out their venerable editions, familiarly referred to as “Thieme-Becker, published between 1907 and 1950, and “Vollmer, between 1953 and 1962.

The present edition is published under the aegis of the Comité Internationale d’Histoire de l’Art, who appealed to its members around the world to contribute and share knowledge and expertise. It continues the impeccable scholarship and scientific integrity of its predecessors and will be the largest, most authoritative, international publishing enterprise in art history. The first volume, with an authorship of 630 scholar-editors, came out in 1991.

At this point 56 volumes, covering letters A to Go, have been published. They include artists active in every imaginable arena of the visual arts: architects, engravers, painter, sculptors, restorers, calligraphers, goldsmiths, jewelers, set and scenery designers, artists in mosaic and enamel, photographers and many others. “Inventore,” is used as a label for some artists, primarily of the Italian Renaissance, who worked in many areas and whose genius transcends any classification. The editors admit that there is at times a fine line between artist and artisan, but reserve the right of selection.

They are also aware that the Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon is eurocentric, that the artists of central and western Europe predominate. The explanation offered is that simply more information exists on European artists, more original data and more documentation about their works. Every effort is being made now correct this imbalance and scholars all over the world are asked to contribute their knowledge and insight and truly make the Allgemeines Kuenstler-Lexikon an encyclopedia of all peoples and all times.

How to Read Individual Biographies

The arrangement, as with most encyclopedic works, is alphabetical. Written in German, the German “Umlaute”—Ää, Öö, Üü—are placed in the alphabet as ae, oe, ue, i.e. the vowel followed by e. Dürer, therefore, is listed as if his name were spelled Duerer. Diacritical marks of other languages are ignored for the purpose of alphabetization. For documents written in languages that do not use the Roman alphabet commonly accepted transliterations are used. For Russian and Bulgarian, for example, those of the ISO (Intenational Organization for Standards) are employed, for Arabic the guidelines of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, a respected society for the study of the Orient, are used.

To condense the monumental volume of information and make it manageable, pages upon pages of intimidating abbreviations were necessary, made twice as forbidding because they are in German. After some perusal and a little practice, though, many reveal themselves as self-evident and are easily recognized. By way of example, Chersiphron, the architect and builder of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the seven wonders of antiquity, was active during “l.H.6.Jh.v.Chr.” which translates to “1st half, 6th century, BC.”

The entries for each artist follow a uniform pattern. They begin with the artist’s name, in bold print, with all its variant forms and with sufficient detail to differentiate him from others bearing the same name, followed by pseudonyms, maiden names and the names of previous false attributions, then nationality, if applicable, and the profession or professions in which he was active. This is followed birth date and place, denoted by an * and death date and place indicated by † symbol. For Russian artists birth and death dates are given in the Julian as well as the Gregorian calendar.

The biographical detail, needless to say, varies. For artists from the ancient world or non-European regions it can be sparse, information simply does not exist or is difficult to come by. On the other hand, European artists have been studied, discussed and written about and the knowledge about them can be extensive. The entries cover the writings of contemporaries, family chronicles, letters, the artist’s diary, centuries of analysis and deductions by art historians. In some cases the editors have unearthed new, previously unpublished information.

After the personal information a series of small symbols aid in an easy, clear overview of the various sections of the rest of the article.

A symbol that must be a museum , is followed by the locations of the institutions and museums that own works of the artist. Original titles are given, if in a major language, and listed in alphabetic order. Where appropriate, a chronological order is used or works may be collected into distinct groups.

Another symbol , a small envelope, denotes the artist’s own writings or other personal testimony.

The next section is identified by an almond like shape, a mandorla, with a dot in its center. It announces exhibitions. Mandorlas with an “E” indicate one-man exhibitions, with a “G” they identify group exhibitions or a participations in exhibitions.

Finally, a symbol of a tiny open book introduces the bibliography along with references to unpublished sources. Articles without attribution have been written by the editors under the direction of specialists listed in each volume.