The Sweelinck Collection: A Call for International Collaboration

tafelpiano-Brwd. 1803 Chin. kr square piano, Broadwood, 1803, Sweelinck Coll.
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A call for international collaboration on the fortepiano

Awakening a sleeping beauty by taking historic fortepianos from the museum’s depot back to their ‘natural habitat’ and –within limits– by using these for musical performances and for educational purposes. This is the new aim, which Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis in Amsterdam formulated for the fortepianos and other keyboard instruments, formerly known as the Sweelinck Museum. To be able to execute this task in line with the international standards set by the museum community and by the conservatoires, Museum Geelvinck requests the support of experts in these fields worldwide.

Sweelinck Collection

The Sweelinck Collection includes Netherlandish keyboard instruments from the early square pianos (c.1770s) to the late 19th century grand piano models. It also includes a range of foreign (forte)pianos. The collection of about 80 keyboard instruments, gives an overview of the development of the early piano(forte) from a Dutch perspective. About half of the instruments are square pianos; the others ranging the whole spectrum. The main part of the collection is nominated for national heritage protection. The collection was founded by the music teacher and restorer, the late mr. Rien Hasselaar, and, until 2007, it was on view at the Sweelinck Conservatorium (hence, the collection’s name), today the Conservatorium of Amsterdam. When the music academy moved to a new building, it was not able to sustain the Sweelinck Museum due to financial budget constrains.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis, located in a grand, late 17th century mansion in the heart of the Amsterdam Canal District (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with 18th and early 19th century interiors (its key historical period), shows the various aspects of social life style in such Amsterdam canal houses, including chamber music, fashion, food, garden, chamber theater and cultural dialogue. Since the museum took the Sweelinck Collection under its wings, we have developed an innovative plan for unlocking the collection.

Today, the majority of the instruments is placed in depot and need either full restoration, or at least tender care. A handful of the fortepianos is used for educational purposes by the Amsterdam conservatory. A few fortepianos are already restored; these are on display at the museum and are frequently used for chamber concerts. However, Museum Geelvinck has no gallery capacity for showing more instruments than it does already.

MIMO

To bring the collection to the public attention, we will develop a website showing each of the instruments, including, as far as possible, sound. Preferably, this will be done in line with MIMO. The website will be actively used as an agenda for (chamber) concerts on fortepianos and early pianos, as well as for other activities in this field (e.g. guided tours, re-enactments etc.); not only for the Sweelinck Collection, but in a wide sense, including concerts, festivals, concourses and other events in the Netherlands and abroad. It is intended, that the website will include an (international) platform for exchanging practical knowledge on these historical instruments, thus becoming an expertise hub for crowd sourcing.

Network

To make historic (forte)pianos not only visible, but also audible to the general public, we started an initiative for a network of monumental locations (historic mansions, castles, country estates), where the instruments will be on public display in their natural habitat (music room) and, even more important, will be used for performances by professional musicians, if and in so far the current conditions of the instrument allows such.

Instruments from the collection will be given on a long-term loan to the monumental location’s museum or heritage institution. Museum Geelvinck will keep control on the use of the instruments for performances, including tuning, and for educational purposes. We will also provide the specific expertise for correct conservational management by the lenders. For this purpose, we are in the process of developing a knowledge center, including a library.

Call to colleagues

We call for the help of our colleagues worldwide to investigate the present status of the instruments in the Sweelinck Collection, to assess their museological and musicological qualities in a national, as well as international sense, and to advise on various aspects of the preservation and the sustainable use of historic instruments for performance and educational purposes. We invite you to visit our museum and the depot in which we have made the collection available for expert reviewing. We hope to welcome you and we can also provide you with key information by internet, in case you have no opportunity to visit us. Please contact Dr. Jurn Buisman at buisman@geelvinck.nl