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Russia's Bolshoi Theatre Houses World's Oldest Musical Archives

7 years ago93 views

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Russia's Bolshoi Theatre archive contains a wealth of musical and social material, documenting its history as one of the world's most renowned theatres as it charted its way through the country's turbulent past.

Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre houses a library which is one of the oldest and most extensive music archives in the world.

Housed in an annex while the main theatre building is being refurbished, the archive contains documents of musical importance dating back to medieval times.

Hundreds of old orchestral scores, composers' manuscripts, theatre programs and posters line the shelves of store rooms and an office in a top floor corridor at the Bolshoi.

Archive administrator, Boris Mukosey, shows one of the oldest and most treasured documents in his charge—an early Italian musical songbook score from the 15th century, with hand-written words inscribed in Latin—its notes large and square.

[Boris Mukosey, Bolshoi Theatre Archive Administrator]:
"Most of the oldest and most valuable things of course originate from the Italian composers Guiseppe Sarto, Giovanni Paisiello, Carlo Cannobio, and several French and German composers who worked in Russia. Many of them were the best-known musicians in Europe, earning quite big money. It must be said that the Russian monarchs (tsars) had quite elevated taste and invited first-class musicians here."

The Bolshoi Theatre suffered 3 fires during the 19th century and much of the early archive collection has been destroyed.

The early documents which survived the fires in 1805, 1812 and 1853 are counted amongst its most treasured pieces.

But the collection also offers a rich resource for those interested in the Bolshoi's more recent history.

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