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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

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)

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.
Caroline Cooper
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.
The iron-gall ink Bach used to compose the cantata has eroded the paper.
Caroline Cooper
The iron-gall ink Bach used to compose the cantata has eroded the paper.
Lehman Collection curator Frances Barulich shows off a page of cantata 171. The nearly 300-year-old manuscript is kept under glass.
Caroline Cooper
Lehman Collection curator Frances Barulich shows off a page of cantata 171. The nearly 300-year-old manuscript is kept under glass.
Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune is one of the composer's best known works.
Caroline Cooper
Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune is one of the composer's best known works.
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
Alfred Cortot, an earlier collector of Debussy's original Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune manuscript, marked the work with his initials.
Mahler's celebrated 3rd Symphony is also part of the Lehman Collection.
Caroline Cooper
Mahler's celebrated 3rd Symphony is also part of the Lehman Collection.
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
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.
Another close look at Mahler's 3rd.
Caroline Cooper
Another close look at Mahler's 3rd.
Mahler signed off on his 3rd Symphony with the date and location.
Caroline Cooper
Mahler signed off on his 3rd Symphony with the date and location.
Ravel's Bolero manuscript is, in places, surprisingly spare.
Caroline Cooper
Ravel's Bolero manuscript is, in places, surprisingly spare.
A closer look at Bolero, one the most iconic works of 20th century classical music.
Caroline Cooper
A closer look at Bolero, one the most iconic works of 20th century classical music.

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Comments [2]

kenlane@RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com from BOONTIN, NJ

It is so unfortunate that moneys are spent on junk that might have simply belonged to some iconic personality, but REAL TREASURES may be lost to scholars and an interested public because there is no foundation or governmental authority to cover the asking price. When I was studying at Juilliard we had facsimiles for the Literature and Materials course to study the composers actual notations and revisions. Mozart learned from Haydn, Beethoven learned from Mozart, Wagner from Beethoven and his shared birthplace hero Bach and also Bellini. They learned from published works and hearing actual performances. These original documents penned by the composers in the heat of inspiration deserve the widest possible
viewing.
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Wagnerian heldentenor & opera composer; "Shakespeare" & "The Political Shakespeare" & director, the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute where professional actors are trained for the entire Shakespeare oeuvre and big-voiced singers are prepared for the Wagner opera roles. www.WagnerOpera.com, where at "Recorded Selections" one may download, free, 37 complete selections of my four "LIVE from Carnegie Hall" solo concerts in the main hall of Carnegie Hall, the Isaac Stern Auditorium.

May. 25 2011 05:04 PM
charles Ghisalberti from NYC

the caption to the Bach manuscript is incorrect; it should read iron-gall ink!

May. 25 2011 11:40 AM

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