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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.

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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.

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The secret garden of Pierre Bergé

The Loeb Music Library has just acquired three items previously owned by the French industrialist, arts patron and AIDS activist Pierre Bergé (1930-2017). A co-founder of the fashion house Yves Saint Laurent, Bergé cultivated a “jardin secret” all his life, accumulating important rare books and scores as well as Impressionist paintings, Old Master drawings and decorative ceramics.

There is a very rare first issue of the first edition of Mozart’s six Opus 3 trio sonatas, published in 1764. These were “Printed for the author and sold at his lodgings,” the house in Soho where eight-year-old Wolfgang Mozart, his sister Nannerl and their father Leopold resided during the London period of their  European tour.

The title page of a newly acquired Mozart score.

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Bound in are several items accumulated by owners prior to Bergé, including a note detailing the purchase history by the original owner, Thomas Jones (“It was of the little musician himself I purchased this book”), several newspaper items, and a portrait of the Mozart family.

This note was pasted into the score by its first owner, Thomas Jones.

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A newspaper clipping tells of a concert and an open house by eight-year-old Mozart.

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Mozart family portrait, pasted to a blank page preceding the score.

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This item was acquired by the Schafer Mozart Book Fund. Images of the entire score will soon be available online.

And there are two collections of early trio sonatas by Arcangelo Corelli, printed in Bologna in 1688 and in Venice in 1691.

The title page of a 1691 collection of trio sonatas by Arcangelo Corelli, published in Venice by Giuseppe Sala.

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Two collections of late-seventeenth-century trio sonatas by Corelli, bound by the Paris firm Boichot.

Merritt Mus 640.2.383.15 and Merritt Mus 640.2.373.5

Like the rest of Pierre Bergé’s library, all three of these scores are exquisitely housed. The Mozart sonatas were bound in rich green morocco leather with gilt edges by the Victorian bookbinding company Blunson & Company, of whose work Harvard Library possesses two other equally magnificent examples. The Corelli scores were recently given pale lilac portfolios which slide into matching slipcases, an enclosure designed by Atelier de Libraire, a family firm in Paris. And all three of these items contain Bergé’s simple, elegant bookplate.

The bookplate of industrialist and collector Pierre Bergé.

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Merritt Room collections are available for use on site by anyone with a Special Collections Request Account. Please place your request by clicking View Onsite in HOLLIS, then wait to hear from Isham Memorial Library staff before planning your visit.

 

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