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Farrar and Coudert in Loeb

As you enter the second floor from the staircase in the Loeb Library you will notice three photographs, each seemingly independent, yet tied in a very intimate way. Two photos are of Metropolitan Opera soprano Geraldine Farrar, the other of her friend and amateur singer Clarisse Coudert.

Geraldine Farrar

Geraldine Farrar, 1911

 

The first photo reads For Mrs. Nast –  In Cordial Remembrance Geraldine Farrar New York 1911. During this time Mrs. Nast was referring to Mrs. Condé Nast, whose full name was Jeanne Clarisse Coudert Nast. Clarisse was from a high-society family of considerable wealth. She was married to the Condé Nast, the founder of the mass media company and publisher of Vanity Fair, Vogue, and The New Yorker.

Geraldine Farrar

Geraldine Farrar, 1919

The third photo reads To Clarisse her affectionate friend Geraldine Farrar 1919, signed in pencil by the photographer “Alfred Cheney Johnston N.Y.” Johnston was known for his photographs of Ziegfeld Follies, actresses, and showgirls. Compared to many of his other works, this photograph is quite reserved. There is a change in demeanor toward Clarisse Coudert from “cordial remembrance” to “her affectionate friend” between 1911 and 1919.  

Clarisse Coudert Nast

Clarisse Coudert Nast, c. 1915

The middle photo ties the relationship of the photos together with an elegant capture of Clarisse Coudert. This photo is likely from 1915, as a similar photograph (same backdrop and dress) is found on page 9 in the October 23, 1915 issue of Musical America with the headline “Clarisse Coudert Enters Concert Field From Society.” The photographer is listed as Ira L. Hill Studio. In this same article, the final sentence mentions the close friendship of Geraldine Farrar and Coudert.

An initial gift was given in 1990 by Gerald Warburg, long-time friend of the Loeb Library and son-in-law to Condé Nast and Clarisse Coudert Nast. An additional gift of books, scores, and photographs was given by Jeremy Warburg Russo, granddaughter of Jeanne Clarisse Coudert Nast, in 2001. These photos were then framed and hung on our walls for our visitors to enjoy.

Bibliography

Seebohm, Caroline. The Man Who Was Vogue: The Life and Times of Condé Nast. New York: The Viking Press, 1982.

Johnston, Alfred Cheney. Alfred Cheney Johnston: Women of Talent and Beauty 1917-1930. Malvern, PA: Charles Isaacs Photographs, 1987.

“Clarisse Coudert Enters Concert Field From Society.” Musical America, October 23, 1915.

Martha Graham slept here

In May 1947, Harvard’s Department of Music assembled a host of composers, scholars, writers and performers for a three-day symposium on Music and Criticism. Eight hundred attendees listened to opening remarks from E.M. Forster, who began, “Music is the deepest of the arts and deep beneath the arts.” They also heard talks by Roger Sessions, Virgil Thomson and Paul Henry Lang. Olga Samaroff reflected on her career as a pianist, newspaper writer and television broadcaster, touching on themes of music literacy for laypeople, the ethics of music criticism and the future of music in America.

Several compositions were commissioned for the event and thus received their world premières in Cambridge. Bohuslav Martinů was commissioned to write his sixth string quartet for the symposium, correspondence surrounding which commission features prominently in the introduction to the critical edition of Martinů’s string quartets which was published last year by Bärenreiter Praha

A letter from the composer Bohuslav Martinů, expressing concerns with an edition of the score of his sixth string quartet. Date January 29, 1947 and signed B. Martinů.

Merritt Ms. Coll. 100

Harvard professor Walter Piston’s “Done. W.P.” in blue pencil is scattered throughout the collection, as he ticks off to-do list items. Piston also contributed a new string quartet.

The Collegiate Chorale, a vocal ensemble notable for being racially integrated from its inception in 1941, sang a commissioned work by Paul Hindemith, Apparebit Repentina Dies, and pieces by Gian Francesco Malipiero and Aaron Copland. And the Martha Graham Dance Company performed William Schuman’s Night Journey for the first time, and (not a première) Carlos Chávez’s Dark Meadow. In this letter, sent after the symposium to Harvard professor A. Tillman Merritt, Graham reflects poetically on the experience.

A letter from the American dancer Martha Graham, dated June 2nd, 1946. Ms. Graham is accepting an invitation to perform at the Harvard symposium on Music and Criticism the following spring.

Merritt Ms. Coll. 100

Flying in E.M. Forster doesn’t happen without a considerable amount of paperwork. The documents tracking the planning and execution of the symposium are now held at the Isham Memorial Library, 41 folders in all. There is correspondence with the participants in the symposium, the commissioned composers, performers, donors, piano-tuners and chair-loaners. There are press releases, journal and newspaper reviews, and schedules. There are many, many receipts. The conference papers were published in 1948 as Music and Criticism: A Symposium. An attendee’s account of the event as well as some institutional context are to be found in Elliot Forbes’s A History of Music at Harvard to 1972 (Department of Music, Harvard University: 1988), pages 103-110. But these papers tell us of the mechanics, of the logistics, and of the personalities. For instance, it seems Martha Graham and her company were happy enough to be boarded at local homes. Sadly, the names of their hosts do not appear to have been retained.

This collection of correspondence, clippings and ephemera, assembled under the title Records of the Symposium on Music Criticism, held May 1-3, 1947 at Harvard, is available for use on site in the Isham Memorial Library whenever that section of the Music Library is open, generally Monday to Friday, nine to five. Click on the title above, then View Onsite, to set up an appointment to come and see these materials in person. If you are, as E.M. Forster described his usual whereabouts, “in the other Cambridge” or otherwise unable to come visit in person, Isham staff will be pleased to work with you to provide digital surrogates. Click on the collection title, then View Onsite, and then Switch to Photoduplication. 

A last letter: this one from an organizer to Arnold Schoenberg, who also contributed a new work, his String Trio Op. 45, the first work he completed after his near-fatal heart attack of 1946.

A letter to the composer Arnold Schoenberg. Unsigned carbon copy from an organizer of the conference.

Merritt Ms. Coll. 100

 

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