Juilliard receives rare collection
Nearly 140 manuscripts date as far back as late 17th century
From Cheryl Bronson
Seen here is an autograph working manuscript of some of Brahms' "Deutsche Volkslieder."
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A donor has given Juilliard his collection of 139 handwritten manuscripts, including works by Mozart, Debussy, Beethoven, Brahms, Copland, Schubert and Sibelius.
To be known as the Juilliard Manuscript Collection, it covers more than 300 years of music with manuscripts dating back as far as the late 17th century.
The gift was made by the school's board chairman, Bruce Kovner, who had purchased autograph and working manuscripts, sketches, engravers' proofs and other artifacts over the past 10 years.
They include the lost manuscript of a transposed continuo part for J.S. Bach's "Cantata BWV 176," an autograph sketchbook for Stravinsky's "Petrushka," and one of the earliest surviving manuscripts of Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas."
"I truly feel like I'm in the presence of divinity," said Joseph Polisi, president of Juilliard, at a news conference announcing the gift Tuesday. "No other conservatory has a collection like this."
Described as a "priceless collection," many of the manuscripts contain corrections and notations made by the composers' own hands, clearly demonstrating the creative process they went through to produce a masterpiece.
In addition to notes from the composers, many of the manuscripts contain performance information with markings from both obscure and famed conductors, like Arturo Toscanini's heavily annotated score for Wagner's "Die Walküre."
"It has been great fun to find these manuscripts and pull them together into this collection," Kovner said. "I trust that what we are doing at the school will make it possible for Juilliard students and scholars to delve into the compositional processes of these great composers and share them with the rest of the world."
Kovner acquired many of the manuscripts anonymously at auction houses in New York, London and Paris. "I thought it would be a pleasure to own some of the great icons," he said.
He said he spent time studying the manuscripts, listening to performances of the music represented, and sharing them with his friends, but he realized such treasures would be put to better use at Juilliard.
"The great thing about sharing it with Juilliard is it opens it up to people with an intense interest," Kovner explained. "Now a piece can be played and performed in a new way."
Scholars and performers will have to wait until 2009 to access the collection, which will be housed in the newly built Scholar's Reading Room, as part of Juilliard's expansion and renovation project.
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