The Czech Museum of Music will be open for free on Friday, November 22, to mark 15 years since it opened in its current location on Karmelitská 2/4 in Prague’s Malá Strana district.
People will be able to visit normally inaccessible areas in the museum, housed in the former Church of St Mary Magdelane. The gendarmerie lounge will also be open throughout the day, offering a view of Malá Strana and Hradčany. A guided tour at 4 pm will show more normally closed parts. People interested in the tour should book online at firstname.lastname@example.org due to limited capacity.
In addition to the permanent exhibition of musical instruments, there is a temporary exhibition called Import Export Rock ’n’ Roll, which traces the history of that genre in the communist era. People can see what sorts of albums were available through official shops, and listen to clips of music from that era. Western songs, for example, were often re-recorded by Czechoslovak stars but with different lyrics.
The state did make some efforts to attract Western acts, but could seldom afford to pay for them. The Beach Boys came in 1969, but efforts to bring other top acts in the 1970s and ’80s were not successful.
One of the most bizarre tales in the museum’s rock exhibit is of a female pop group called Satanic Girls, which left Czechoslovakia in 1968 to become famous briefly in Latin America.
People can also try their hands at an original Moog synthesizer, the instrument that gave many rock songs a distinctive sound.
During the 15 years of its existence, much has happened in the Czech Museum of Music. There have been acquisitions for the entire music collections such as the original letters and family correspondence of Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák, items from the family of the composer Josef Suk, and photographs and recordings of Ema Destinnová.
Musical instruments that have enriched the collection include, for example, the pearl piano or the cello by the Italian manufacturer Marconcini.
There is a piano that was played by Mozart. In 2016, a short piece of music co-written by Mozart and Antonio Salieri, the rivals from the film Amadeus, was found in the collection of music and performed there for the first time in over 200 years. It had long been considered lost.
The museum is also expanding its research and restoration departments and is active in documenting the current music scene.
The museum building has not been a church since in 1782, when Austro-Hungarian Emperor Joseph II abolished hundreds of convents and monasteries not involved in teaching. The Baroque church and cloister was built in the 17th century and designed by Francesco Caratti. At one point, it housed Dominican monks, and after deconsecration was a post office, a barracks, and part of the State Archives before becoming the Czech Museum of Music.