Gombosi’s Nachlass, 1925-1955

A professor of musicology in Harvard’s Department of Music for not quite three years before his death from a heart attack at 52, Otto Gombosi left with us a small but important legacy of research notes and transcriptions. His papers from 1925 to 1955 are now cataloged and open for research at Isham Memorial Library, the special collections library adjunct to the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library.

In 1956, John Ward memorialized Gombosi for Acta Musicologica.

“With the death of Otto Gombosi, on February 17, 1955, musicology lost one of its most original minds. The loss is all the more tragic for having come so early in his career, before completion of nearly all the books and editions planned during the last years of his life. In their place he left a great quantity of notes and sketches — for a history of the basso ostinato forms of the 16th century and their lively progeny; for a history of renaissance dance and dance music; and for his long awaited study of Bela Bart6k, to mention only three of the subjects that held his interest over the years.

“Though he died with the books unwritten and with an incomplete, rather unsyste- matic exposition of his ideas scattered in a few articles, many book reviews, and an occasional monograph, many of these ideas continue and most certainly will long continue to influence and – such being their vitality – to irritate fellow scholars. Indeed, it is the continuing vigor of his ideas that makes it difficult to realize, a year after the event, that Gombosi is no longer here to defend his theories and to argue with that nimbleness of wit and breadth of knowledge which made him so stimulating a teacher and so formidable a critic.”

The Gombosi collection contains research notes and transcriptions, inventories and incipits. Subjects covered include fifteenth-century basse danse, ground bass patterns and lute sources as well as particular composers, among them Bálint Bakfark and Vincenzo Capirola.

Otto Gombosi was born in Budapest, Hungary and lived in Berlin, Rome and Basle. Some of the materials in the collection date to his earlier life in Europe, and came with Gombosi to the United States when he emigrated in 1939. His transcriptions from libraries in Germany are particularly thorough and include copious transcriptions, among them reproductions of music from two sources which were then lost in the Second World War. These are listed in a special section of RISM B/VII, “1944 verbrannt,” and are preserved here, perhaps only here, in the Gombosi papers.

Ms. Coll. 136. Box 1, folder 3. Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek (Musikabteilung), Ms. Mus. 1/V/8, (olim B 1030).

Ms. Coll. 136. Box 1, folder 3. Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek (Musikabteilung), Ms. Mus. 1/V/8, (olim B 1030).

Ms. Coll. 136. Box 1, folder 3. Königsberg, Stadtbibliothek, Ms. Gen. 2.150 (“Donhna-Lauk Stammbuch”) Gombosi’s transcription from German lute tablature of “Passamezzo von Ungern, “Ich klag den Tag,” and “So wunsch ich ihr.”

Ms. Coll. 136. Box 1, folder 3. Königsberg, Stadtbibliothek, Ms. Gen. 2.150 (“Donhna-Lauk Stammbuch”) Gombosi’s transcription from German lute tablature of “Passamezzo von Ungern, “Ich klag den Tag,” and “So wunsch ich ihr.”

 

Bringing Jazz to Harvard: a personal and institutional history

The Isham Memorial Library is pleased to announce that The Tom Everett Collection of Jazz Scores, 1971-2011 is cataloged and open for research.

The collection contains scores, promotional materials, photographs and correspondence from Tom Everett‘s forty-two years at Harvard University. Director of the Harvard Jazz Band from 1971 to 2013, Everett taught the first jazz courses for academic credit at Harvard, beginning with a course through the Harvard Extension School in 1973; his course “The Jazz Tradition” was cross-listed in the Departments of Music and African and African American Studies beginning in 1978.

Included in the Everett Collection are original scores, many arrangements and ephemera from such luminaries as saxophonist Joshua Redman, class of 1991 (Redman toured the Dominican Republic with the Jazz Band in 1988, performing an unaccompanied solo version of In the Mood), composer and pianist Dave Brubeck (the collection contains a 1983 letter to Everett in which the composer of Jazz Goes to College requests academic advice from Everett on behalf of his college-bound son Darius), pianist Teddy Wilson (who in 1935 was the first musician of color to play in Benny Goodman’s band) and several dozen more.

The materials relating to the 1996 residency of trombonist J.J. Johnson are particularly moving, and representative of both the variety of the items in the collection and of the personal vibrancy of Tom Everett. The following introduction to the Johnson materials in the Everett collection was written by former Assistant Keeper of Isham Memorial Library Douglas Freundlich and jazz scholar Michael Heller for an exhibit they created in 2011.

Ms. Coll. 135, Box 7

Ms. Coll. 135, Box 7

“A trombonist himself, Everett had long idolized the bebop master, faithfully collecting his scores and recordings. The two first met during the 1980s through Everett’s work with the International Trombone Association. When originally invited to do a residency, the shy Johnson was hesitant, and only after five years of coaxing did Everett persuade him to visit. The handwritten excerpt of Johnson’s opening remarks makes reference to Everett’s tenacity in bringing him to the university. The residency solidified their friendship, with Johnson asking Everett to conduct several pieces on his final album, The Brass Orchestra (1997). The two remained close friends until Johnson’s death in 2001.

Ms. Coll. 135, Box 7

Ms. Coll. 135, Box 7

“The photo of Johnson with the band attests to his wry sense of humor. Before the concert, Johnson telephoned Everett with two questions. First, he asked what the band wore during performances, to which Everett responded that the band wore black tuxedos. Next, he asked about the ethnic composition of the band. Here, Everett responded that the band was mostly made up of white musicians, though he regretted that there were not more interested African American students. On the night of the concert, Johnson arrived wearing a ‘reverse’ tuxedo, creating a mirror image of the band members and making a not-so-veiled political statement.

Ms. Coll. 135, Box 6

Ms. Coll. 135, Box 6

“The large handwritten score of his piece Quintergy was not performed at the initial residency, but was donated by  Johnson a year later for Harvard’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Jazz Retrospective. The piece was originally commissioned by the U.S. Air Force’s Airmen of Note. The first page contains extensive instructions stressing the role of the drummer in maintaining the energy of the piece.”

Ms. Coll. 135, Box 6

Ms. Coll. 135, Box 6

While access to the Everett Collection is unrestricted, please note that reproduction and/or publication of materials subject to copyright requires written permission from a) the copyright owner, her or his heirs or assigns and from b) the Loeb Music Library, owner of the original material.

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