WHAT WE DO

Cornell Center for Historical Keyboards is dedicated to the music and culture of keyboard instruments across their long history. With its world-class collection of historical instruments, the Center harnesses the collective creative and intellectual energies of an international roster of performers, scholars, instrument makers, and music lovers. Growing out of a longstanding collaboration with the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies, the CCHK’s events and programs include concerts, festival-conferences, workshops, and masterclasses both at Cornell and with partner institutions across the world. The Center’s goal is to foster original and imaginative approaches to the performance and study of keyboard instruments, their technological underpinnings, their intersections with other arts, and their participation in the global currents of cultural and social history from the distant past to the present day.

The Collection

At the heart of the Center and its activities is Cornell’s collection of historical keyboard instruments. The collection is distinguished by an unusual combination of quality, pedigree, and usability: all instruments are maintained at concert/recording-ready condition. Our goal is for these sumptuous tools to be used regularly for study and performance, playing an active role in today’s musical and intellectual culture. Vehicles for the exploration of the repertoires, performance traditions, and sound worlds of the past, these instruments are of the here and now, inspiring new ideas, new approaches, and new music while fostering imaginative collaborations and thought-provoking confrontations.

Instruments in the collection encompass both originals and replicas. While pianos and organs of the 18th and 19th centuries are particularly well represented, the collection extends to diverse and distinctive early 20th-century pianos and contemporary keyed technologies. Collection highlights include a Baroque organ modeled after the Charlottenburg organ by Arp Schnitger in Berlin, original Broadwood, Graf, and Pleyel pianos, early 20th-century Steinway, Blüthner, Bechstein, and Mason & Hamlin pianos, and the Moog synthesizer. The collection is the permanent home of the personal fortepianos of professor emeritus Malcolm Bilson.

Pianos, harpsichords, and clavichords are housed in two climate-controlled spaces on the Cornell campus at 726 University Avenue and the historic Barnes Hall. Organs and other instruments are located in landmark buildings around the campus.

Performance & Research

At the heart of the Center’s mission is a dedication to the intersection of performance and scholarship. The Center promotes the integration of historical, technological, cross-cultural, and analytical approaches to the keyboard and its repertories. It regularly produces and sponsors concert performances, festival-conferences, seminars, masterclasses, and other events that aim to bridge boundaries of time, geography, and culture. Situated on the campus of a leading research university, the Center, with its set of open and experimental spaces, fosters dialogue between performers, scholars, instrument (re)builders, composers, pedagogues, and other practitioners of the keyboard.

The Center supports the DMA program in Keyboard Studies at Cornell, making available instruments from the early 18th to the 20th centuries for performative and historical research. The DMA program also affords outstanding opportunities for cutting-edge research in earlier periods, as well as in contemporary keyboard music and technologies.

In addition to hosting events and programs, the Center offers opportunities for performers and scholars wishing to explore its instruments and engage with its affiliated faculty on the Cornell campus through its Visiting Fellows program. In addition, grants are available to Cornell students and faculty who wish to develop innovative projects related to the keyboard and the Center’s collection. Every year, the Center supports the publication of the Westfield Center’s Keyboard Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal that offers a rich and lively forum for scholars, performers, instrument-builders, and amateurs of the keyboard.

Teaching

In conjunction with Cornell’s Sidney Cox Library of Music and Dance, the Center is the physical and intellectual home for Cornell’s DMA program in Keyboard Studies and is regular host to the program’s seminar meetings. It sponsors innovative festivals curated by faculty, graduate students, and leading figures in the field while offering workshops and masterclasses led by guest artists, scholars, and Center-affiliated faculty. The facilities of the Center create a welcoming space for experimentation where scholarly reflection and practice can freely intersect in a research-led teaching environment. To that end, the Center serves to complement Cornell’s vibrant undergraduate piano and chamber music curriculum. In addition, we are committed to reaching out to schools and members of the local community.