Player piano roll on a spool (Inv. No. 179.622)
Paper, wood, Leipzig 1922, Hupfeld Company
Length 310 mm, diameter 68 mm
One of the museum's recent acquisitions is a roll for a player piano with a recording of Kol Nidrei, Op. 47 by the German composer Max Bruch. An interesting curio from today's perspective, this item was still in use for a long time after the emergence of more modern methods of recording music. A piano roll is a long roll of paper with perforations punched in it. The position and length of the perforation determines which note is played and how long the note is sustained. The roll is wound on a spool and moves over the music reading bar (the "tracker bar"), resulting in notes being played.
The conductor and composer Max Bruch (1838-1920) wrote music in the style of German Romanticism. He composed more than 200 works; Kol Nidrei, Op. 47 is among his most well-known and is often performed to this day. A Protestant without any Jewish roots, Bruch was introduced to the Jewish musical tradition by the principal cantor of Berlin, Abraham Liechtenstein, who was in close contact with a number of composers. One of the main motifs used in this composition is the melody to which the prayer Kol Nidre (“All Vows”) is sung on the eve of Yom Kippur. Bruch, however, did not interpret this motif as part of a religious ritual but as one of many folk songs whose melodies, he felt, should be revived and altered to suit the needs of the day.