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Music, Theater, Dance: An Illustrated Guide

Special Collections

The information in this guide is based on a 1993 publication and has not been updated.

The special collections of the Music Division constitute a resource for musical scholarship which is unmatched anywhere in the world. These unique bodies of materials are extraordinarily vast and diverse, yet very much interrelated. They include some of the greatest treasures of the Music Division and, indeed, of the Library of Congress. Click on special collections to find a full list of finding aids or catalog records for each collection.

Eileen Darby, photographer. Andre Kostelanetz with Irving Berlin. January 1950. Andre Kostelanetz Collection. Library of Congress Music Division.

Perhaps the most immediately striking feature of these Special Collections is the sheer quantity of items which they contain. The Music Division currently holds more than five hundred named collections which vary in size from fewer than a dozen items to more than a half-million. The Serge Koussevitzky Collection includes manuscript and printed music scores, correspondence, financial records, iconography, and concert programs totaling more than 300,000 items. The Irving Berlin Collection, Berlin's personal papers as well as business records, contains approximately 750,000 items. The archives of Boston music publisher A. P. Schmidt contain nearly one hundred boxes of correspondence and more than three hundred boxes of music scores.

Impressive, too, is the diversity of materials in these collections. They contain quite literally millions of items in an enormous variety of formats: music manuscripts, printed music, correspondence and other literary manuscripts, books, pamphlets, concert programs, posters, playbills, newspaper and magazine clippings, business records, scrapbooks, photographs, drawings, etchings, paintings, bronze and plaster busts, certificates, citations, medals and honors, audio and video recordings, and artifacts which range from the Library's famed Stradivari stringed instruments to a lock of Beethoven's hair, and from George Gershwin's first metronome to Victor Herbert's death mask.

Within the collections one frequently finds music materials that document various stages of the compositional process. Many works are represented by autograph manuscripts--sketches, early drafts, complete scores; for some works there are manuscripts in the hand of copyists and arrangers; in some cases, first edition scores and proof copies are present.

Most of the items in the special collections are unique; others are extremely rare. Present are photographs of which no other copies are known; as well, there are printed scores and textual materials of which very few copies are extant.

The holdings of the Music Division span more than eight hundred years of Western music history and practice. The vast majority of the items in the Special Collections date, however, from the past two and one-half centuries. Particular areas of strength are American music, chamber music, opera, and American musical theater.

Many of the collections consist of personal papers of such figures as composers Sergei Rachmaninoff and Victor Herbert, violinists Fritz Kreisler and Jascha Heifetz, singers Helen Traubel and Geraldine Farrar, pianists Artur Rubinstein and Leopold Godowsky, choreographer Franziska Boas, and musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky. Other collections document the work of two or more individuals such as composer and lyricist George and Ira Gershwin, composer/musicologist and composer/educator Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, choreographer/director and dancer/singer Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, the members of the Budapest String Quartet, and the Damrosch family of musicians. Although most of these archives comprise materials in a variety of formats including music manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, and the like, some collections, such as those of composers Samuel Barber and William Schuman, contain only music manuscripts and libretto materials.

Other collections represent the work of a scholar or collector. The Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection contains not only more than 1,600 flutes, making it one of the world's largest collections devoted to a single musical instrument, but also music scores, books, and a multitude of other materials relating to the flute. The Albert Schatz Collection, purchased by the Library in 1909, contains more than 12,000 opera libretti, principally from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. This significant acquisition helped set the stage for developing the collections in ensuing decades; it is a continuing touchstone for the Library's efforts to acquire important materials for study and research in music. The Moldenhauer Archives at the Library of Congress contain an extraordinary collection of autograph music manuscripts and correspondence dating from medieval times to the present; particularly strong are its holdings of Brahms and Webern, but its greatest interest lies in individual gems such as the autograph scores of Bloch's Schelomo, the coronation scene from Boris Godunov in Rimsky-Korsakov's arrangement, or the sketches for the slow movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata, Op. 28/2. The Charles Jahant Collection consists of more than 2,000 photographs of opera singers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Heineman Foundation Collection in Honor of Edward N. Waters and the Rosenthal Collection are particularly rich in the autograph music and letters of Franz Liszt. Mr. Waters, a member of the staff of the Music Division for more than thirty-five years and its chief from 1972 until 1976, had a lifelong interest in the Hungarian composer, and his scholarship was generously supplemented by the philanthropy of Dannie N. and James H. Heineman and Harry Rosenthal.

George Crumb, composer. Ancient Voices of Children. 1970. Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation Collection. Library of Congress Music Division.

Fewer in number but of great importance are the collections that derive from musical organizations and foundations. Particularly significant is the archive of the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation, which, since the 1920s, has produced an unequalled legacy of commissions and performances. The Coolidge Collection contains not only the autograph manuscripts for many of the most important chamber works of this century, including Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, George Crumb's Ancient Voices of Children, Paul Hindemith's Hérodiade, Sergei Prokofiev's String Quartet, Op. 50, and Igor Stravinsky's Apollon- Musagète, but also correspondence and other materials relating to their composition and performance. Also among the numerous extraordinary manuscripts in this collection are Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs, Bartók's Fifth String Quartet, Ravel's Chansons madécasses, Webern's String Quartet, Op. 28, and Schoenberg's Third and Fourth String Quartet. As well, Mrs. Coolidge's own life as musical philanthropist and impresario is richly documented, especially through her extensive correspondence with friends and colleagues, performers and composers.

Similarly, the archives of the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation contain scores and related materials which document an extraordinary commissioning program, begun in the 1940s and responsible for such masterworks as Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra and Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes; and among the American composers: Copland, Third Symphony; and David Diamond, Fourth Symphony; Roger Sessions, Third Symphony; and William Schuman, Symphony for Strings. In addition, the collection contains the personal papers of Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and founder of the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Massachusetts. More recently established, the McKim Fund, underwriting the composition and performance of works for violin and piano, has generated a strong collection of late-twentieth-century manuscripts in the McKim Fund Collection, including works by William Bolcom, Elliott Carter, and Gunther Schuller.

The Gertrude Clarke Whittall Collection contains the five Stradivari instruments that Mrs. Whittall gave to the Library in 1935-1936 as well as materials which relate to the concert activities of the Whittall Foundation. In addition, the collection contains an extraordinary group of autograph music manuscripts and letters of such preeminent composers as Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Schoenberg, purchased for the Library by Mrs. Whittall.

Interrelations Between Collections

Photographer unknown. Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Koussevitzky at Tanglewood. No date. Leonard Bernstein Collection. Library of Congress Music Division.

Not surprising, but impressive nonetheless, are the remarkable ways in which the Special Collections in Music are interrelated: the web of personal and professional relationships in the world of music is intricate, widespread, and finely cast, and the Library's collections clearly represent that world. For example, although the greater part of the Aaron Copland materials is found in the Copland Collection, manuscripts of works commissioned by the Coolidge and Koussevitzky Foundations are in those collections, and the manuscript of a work written for Vernon Duke is in the Duke Collection. Likewise, while most of the George and Ira Gershwin materials are in the Gershwin Collection, two manuscripts of the Rhapsody in Blue are in the Ferde Grofé Collection (Grofé made the original orchestrations of that work), and lyric sheets for five songs written by Ira Gershwin and Vernon Duke are found in the Duke Collection.

Comparable is the interrelation of correspondence of musical figures. Letters of Carl Engel, musicologist and chief of the Music Division from 1922 until 1934, are found in twenty-six special collections; letters of composer Henry Cowell are found in twenty-three; and letters of Marian Nevins MacDowell, wife of composer Edward MacDowell and founder of the MacDowell Colony, are found in seventeen.

Perhaps more intricate are the links that may be found between the collections assembled by scholars and collectors. For example, the Music Division holds the world's largest aggregation of autograph manuscripts of Johannes Brahms, although there is no single special collection known as the "Brahms Collection." The largest numbers of Brahms manuscripts are to be found in the Whittall Collection and the Moldenhauer Archives, with additional manuscripts in the Damrosch-Blaine, Selden-Goth, and Heineman Foundation Collections. Similarly, autograph manuscripts of Franz Liszt are housed in the Rosenthal, Seldon-Goth, Batchelder, Adler, Menter, Morgan, and Heineman Foundation Collections and in the Moldenhauer Archives.

If the art of music can be described as continuous and evolutionary, so, too, can we consider the Special Collections in the Music Division. Even as this guide is being written, musicians across the country and around the world continue to compose, perform, and study music, and the Music Division pursues its initiatives to acquire, organize, and preserve new materials. Thus, these Special Collections, which are at once subjects of and resources for musical scholarship, become not only monuments to the music of the past but integral parts of the music of the future.