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Yakov Kreizberg, 1959-2011


 Yakov Kreizberg's signature (prior to changing his surname) on a homework assignment from 1980Yakov Kreizberg's signature (prior to changing his surname) on a homework assignment from 1980

It can be a strange thing when professional life intersects with the personal in the form of archival documents.

For the past week, the music world has been mourning the death of conductor Yakov Kreizberg, age 51, who had been a rising star, especially in Europe. Though he performed infrequently in the United States, I had a close connection to him:  We were best friends during our college years at Mannes College The New School for Music, 1976-1979. 

One of our classes was Dr. Felix Salzer's Advanced Analysis, a class that used Schenkerian Analysis to investigate musical works.  I took the class in 1979, Yakov in 1980.  Yakov's class the was last that Salzer taught, and he retired that year.  After his wife passed away, Salzer's papers came to the Music Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, where they were processed in 2007.  They have already been a valuable resource for scholars.

When I first looked over the finding aid, I was surprised to see homework assignments from former schoolmates.  Evidently Salzer neglected to return this particular assignment (dealing with Beethoven's piano sonata, Op. 14, no. 2 in G major).  Among the papers was an analytic leaf by my friend Yakov who signed his assignment (seen above): Yakov Bychkov.  (This was before he changed his surname from Bychkov to Kreizberg, to avoid confusion and competition with his brother Semyon Bychkov—one of today's leading conductors).

We hadn't been in touch for a while, so when I heard that he had died, I pulled out this leaf to look, remember, and reflect on our times together some 30 years ago.

Archival collections usually contain a lot of personal documents, most notably correspondence.  Those of teachers and professors often tend to contain a lot of homework assignments (a former coworker was surprised to see her master's thesis in one of our collections).

Remembering this aspect of an archival collection—that it's not just informational documents, but rather the documentation of humans, their work, and their relationships—can make archival research all the more rewarding and meaningful.

Yakov Kreizberg (on the left), age 20, and the author in 1980


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