I came across the phrase "repertoire politics" while reading the latest online copy of ON Magazine. The section that I was reading was called Philharmoniana (page 6). The article highlights a digital preservation effort that is currently happening at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Library in Russia.
The library itself has been part of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Hall since 1882, and it contains over 150,000 items, such as musical scores, and concert programs.
One of the rooms in the library has a card catalog made up of 155 drawers which contain roughly a quarter of a million index cards. These cards contain detailed notes and information about every concert that has been held in the hall since 1921! These details include:
- works that were performed
- name of the composer
- name of the conductor
- names of any soloists
- time it took to perform a piece
- name of the musicologist (who often gave a pre-concert lecture)
The card catalogue section of the library is known as Philharmoniana. Digital curators at the library are choosing to digitally preserve the Philharmoniana first. Allowing these notecards to be viewed online opens the door for more researchers to understand St. Petersburg history through the lens of the performances that occurred at its great hall. This brings me back to the introduction of the term "repertoire politics", which is defined in the article as follows:
'the concert information scrupulously entered into the catalogs will allow scholars to analyze the shifts in musical preferences, trends, and tendencies -- known as "repertoire politics" in the world of classical concerts -- from season to season and over the course of nearly a century.
This unique knowledge base will also satisfy the curiosity of music lovers who seek to know who was conducting what and when, who were the famous soloists invited to Russia, and what music was performed during the 900-day siege of Leningrad in World War II.'
Currently 10,000 cards from 17 drawers have been digitized onto a CLARiiON AX4 as part of a grant made available from the EMC Heritage Trust Project, a project that provides funds to safeguard cultural resources around the world.
One more note of interest: the author of the article, Dr. Ludmilla Leibman, is the Executive Director of the Educational Bridge Project. The EBP's goal is to provide educational and artistic exchanges between Russia and America. This group has arranged for seven representatives from the leading educational and cultural organization in St. Petersburg to visit Boston area cultural sites during November of 2009.
Many of my co-workers are in St. Petersburg and in fact I visited the city in 2007 on business for EMC. One thing that I learned is that the city of St. Petersburg (founded in 1703) is actually younger than the city of Boston! I hope to learn more about St. Petersburg come November.