Star Music Manuscript Collection Faces Sale -- and Possible Departure From New York

The Lehman Collection at the Morgan Library, a deposit of nearly 200 original music manuscripts that contains some of the greatest classical works of the 20th Century, is up for sale.

Owner Robert Owen Lehman is seeking $135 million for his collection, which has been on deposit at the Morgan since 1972. Lehman plans to open a foundation for music education and performance.

Antiquarian manuscript dealer John Lubrano is handling the sale, pursuing both individuals and institutions as prospective buyers. The sale has two conditions: that the collection stays together, and that it be immediately gifted to a public institution for ongoing view and study.

A major trove of music manuscripts on the auction block can mean the collection winds up anywhere in the world, a prospect that has shaken up East Coast musicologists.

"I think it would be quite a loss to the cultural nimbus of the city," said Harvard music history professor Christoph Wolff. "It would really make a big difference in the world of music if it were to leave New York."

In 1983, the Morgan bid — and lost — the Stravinsky archive when the Sacher Foundation in Switzerland acquired the archive for $5.25 million.

The Lehman Collection contains some of the most iconic works in classical music. Here’s a short list of some of the greats:

  • Bach's Cantata 171 (Gott, wie dein Name, so ist auch dein Ruhm)
  • The short score of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
  • Mahler's Symphonies No. 3 and No. 9
  • Ravel's Bolero
  • Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire
  • Stravinsky's Petrushka (1911 version)
Johann Sebastian Bach's cantata 171, a church cantata, had its premiere in 1729. It is part of the Lehman Collection currently held at the Morgan Library.
Johann Sebastian Bach's cantata 171, a church cantata, had its premiere in 1729. It is part of the Lehman Collection currently held at the Morgan Library. ( Caroline Cooper )
The iron-gall ink Bach used to compose the cantata has eroded the paper.
The iron-gall ink Bach used to compose the cantata has eroded the paper. ( Caroline Cooper )
Lehman Collection curator Frances Barulich shows off a page of cantata 171. The nearly 300-year-old manuscript is kept under glass.
Lehman Collection curator Frances Barulich shows off a page of cantata 171. The nearly 300-year-old manuscript is kept under glass. ( Caroline Cooper )
Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune is one of the composer's best known works.
Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune is one of the composer's best known works. ( Caroline Cooper )
Alfred Cortot, an earlier collector of Debussy's original Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune manuscript, marked the work with his initials.
Alfred Cortot, an earlier collector of Debussy's original Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune manuscript, marked the work with his initials. ( Caroline Cooper )
Mahler's celebrated 3rd Symphony is also part of the Lehman Collection.
Mahler's celebrated 3rd Symphony is also part of the Lehman Collection. ( Caroline Cooper )
Scholars prize the opportunity to examine a composer's edits and notations. This page of Mahler's 3rd reveals changes and notes in the composer's hand.
Scholars prize the opportunity to examine a composer's edits and notations. This page of Mahler's 3rd reveals changes and notes in the composer's hand. ( Caroline Cooper )
Another close look at Mahler's 3rd.
Another close look at Mahler's 3rd. ( Caroline Cooper )
Mahler signed off on his 3rd Symphony with the date and location.
Mahler signed off on his 3rd Symphony with the date and location. ( Caroline Cooper )
Ravel's Bolero manuscript is, in places, surprisingly spare.
Ravel's Bolero manuscript is, in places, surprisingly spare. ( Caroline Cooper )
A closer look at Bolero, one the most iconic works of 20th century classical music.
A closer look at Bolero, one the most iconic works of 20th century classical music. ( Caroline Cooper )
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