Top Five Classical Online Image Galleries

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

(Courtesy of Nikolaj Lund, photographer)

Watching music being made is as much a delight for the ears as one for the eyes. Here are our favorite collections of photographs featuring classical music performers, performances, and venues from across the web.

1. David Leventi

David Leventi, a New York-based photographer with an appreciation for opera’s past, captured the gilded grandeur of empty houses in his series Bjoerling’s Larnyx. The project is a tribute to Leventi’s grandfather, an operatic tenor whose dreams of singing on the world’s great stages ended when he was interned in one of the Soviet Union’s POW camps during WWII. Leventi writes in his artist’s statement: “Though at first glance these photographs appear to be scientific and categorical, it is the details included in these images that make them more than sterile architectural interiors— they become portraits of spaces with remarkable depth and history.” 

2. Nikolaj Lund

Nikolaj Lund is breaking down the conventions of the musician’s portrait. Rather than a take a staid headshot, he photographs cellists flinging instruments across desert dunes, violinists playing upside down, and accordionists falling backwards on cobbled streets. These fanciful but arresting images capture the intensity, artistry, and often humor in Lund’s musician subjects. Lund, a cellist himself, doesn’t manipulate the photos, but uses less expensive instruments—rather than the performers’ valuable ones—as props for his shoots.

3. The New York Philharmonic

Among the approximately 1.3 million documents that the New York Philharmonic has digitized and made available online are more than 16,000 images of musicians. There are images of them performing, traveling, meeting dignitaries, and prepping for concerts. The database can be a little difficult to browse, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for (check out the Library of Congress if you’re searching for photographs of Leonard Bernstein). However, the Phil frequently digs up gems to feature on its Digital Archives blog.

4. London Symphony Orchestra

Symphonic music and Star Wars fans will get a kick out of the London Symphony Orchestra’s well-curated gallery of photographs from its archives. The collection of images of the ensemble’s distinguished leaders is particularly fascinating, capturing portraits of the first principal conductor, Hans Richter, Pierre Monteux, André Previn, Michael Tilson Thomas and even the gold-plated android C-3PO on the podium.

5. Lebrecht Photo Library

With archival images of Enrico Caruso posing as Pagliacci to a disheveled Valery Gergiev conducting at the Proms, the Lebrecht Photo Library was founded as an archive for images of classical music. Since then it’s expanded its scope to include images from across the humanities, including a large collection of author portraits.   Though the site charges to license the images, anyone can click through the thumbnails of opera productions and composers at work.

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