Music exhibit about Mario Paci in Shanghai
On October 14, the exhibit, “Mario Paci and Music Culture in Shanghai: A Special Exhibition in Commemoration of Mario Paci,” opened at Shanghai Symphony Hall to commemorate 70 years since the death of the Symphony’s revered founding conductor. The exhibit is a collaborative project between the Stanford University Libraries, the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.
Mario Paci arrived in Shanghai in 1919 on an Asian concert tour and remained several months due to a severe illness. He was approached to form an orchestra to perform European works for the large community of Western businessmen and government officials living in Shanghai at the time and remained its conductor for 23 years. He reorganized the orchestra as the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra in 1920 and augmented it with players recruited primarily from Italy with the support of the Shanghai Municipal Council. Paci taught music and gradually opened up membership in the orchestra to Chinese people. Despite considerable opposition of Shanghai authorities and officials, he also eventually admitted native Chinese to the audience. He is credited with raising the level of musical performance to a high degree in Asia, where Western music had little tradition.
The foundation of the exhibit is the Mario Paci Papers, a collection of documents, photographs, and musical scores donated to Stanford Libraries Special Collections in 2013 by the daughter and grandson of the conductor, Floria and Alexander Zaharoff with the assistance of Stanford professor, Jindong Cai, an expert on the history of Western classical music in China. Prior to the exhibit, nearly the entire Paci collection was digitized by Stanford Libraries. The digitized items were sent to the Shanghai Conservatory where the Head Subject Librarian and former visiting scholar at Stanford Libraries, Jihong Zhang, fashioned the materials into an exhibit with assistance of Prof. Cai and myself.
Additional materials from the Shanghai Symphony Archives supplemented the materials from Stanford, which also included his Steinway piano and a few of the instruments Paci purchased for the orchestra in the 1920s. The opening ceremony of the exhibit consisted of celebratory speeches from each of the sponsoring institutions and also from the Consul General of Italy in Shanghai. The festivities concluded with a performance of Paci’s composition, Alla menuetto, played by a string quintet from the Shanghai Conservatory.
A conference was held in conjunction with the exhibit the following day where Prof. Cai spoke about Paci and the development of classical music in Shanghai, and I introduced the scholars in attendance to the online exhibit that Stanford will be hosting about Paci beginning in January. These talks were followed by nine academic presentations by researchers from throughout China. The last event was a full morning workshop for music librarians that I conducted on the storage, handling, and preservation of sound recordings. The workshop was attended by nearly 40 music librarians, several from quite distant parts of China. Following the presentation there was a lively discussion and exchange of ideas that pointed out sharp contrasts between common practices in the United States around digitization and distribution of sound recordings and those in China.
The exhibit will travel to the Stanford East Asia Library and will open on January 23, 2017. The opening will include a performance of eight songs composed by Paci in the early 1900s by soprano, Christine Abraham, and pianist, Laura Dahl.
There were many contributors who made the exhibit a reality. The cooperation of our partners at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, especially Dr. Jihong Zhang, provided the initial idea and inspiration for the exhibit. The Mario Paci Papers were processed by archivist Franz Kunst in the Special Collections Manuscript Processing Unit. Without the work of Kristen St. John and the staff of Conservation Services, it would not have even been possible to digitize some of the documents. The entire collection was meticulously cataloged and described by Greta de Groat and Arcadia Falcone of the Metadata Unit. The digitization of the collection was done by Astrid Smith and the staff of the scanning lab of Digital Library Systems and Services, and the entire digital project was coordinated by Cathy Aster. To each and every one, a great debt of thanks is owed for bringing this exhibit into existence.