Musical Instrument Museum in Berlin

Right next door to the Berlin Philharmonie, in fact in the same complex of buildings and built in the same style, is the Musical Instrument Museum (Musikinstrumenten-Museum).

This museum belongs to the State Institute for Music Research, which has a collection of 3500 musical instruments from the 16th century to the present. About 800 of these instruments are on display in the museum at any one time. In many cases, visitors can hear recordings of these instruments from the “CD-towers” that are placed throughout the building.

Harpsicords and other historic keyboard instruments

Among the instruments in the collection are a portable harpsichord once owned by the Prussian Queen Sophie Charlotte (after whom Charlottenburg Palace was named), flutes from the collection of Frederick the Great, and a glass armonica like the one invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1762. (I later saw one of these glass armonicas at the Händel House and Music Museum in Halle, Germany.)

Harps on display

The museum also presents special expositions from time to time. One that I really wish I had seen was called “Friedrichs Montezuma, Power and Splendor in the Prussian Court Opera”. This exposition, from the year 2012, was devoted to the opera Montezuma by Carl Heinrich Graun (1704-1759), an opera which had its premiere at the Court Opera in Berlin in 1755. The really unusual thing about this opera was that the libretto was by the reigning king of Prussia, Friedrich II, later known as Friedrich the Great. A video introduction to the exposition, in English, is still accessible online.

I’m not sure I would have found this exposition so fascinating when it was shown in 2012, but I certainly would now, because in the meantime I have seen a performance of Montezuma and have learned a bit about its intention and history. The performance I saw was in Lübeck, Germany, in January 2020. It was one of the last operas I attended before the coronavirus pandemic closed everything down.

Showcase outside the Musical Instrument Museum in Berlin

My photos in this post are from 2005. I revised the text in 2020.

See also: Montezuma in Lübeck.

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