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Posts by Bob Kosovsky

A Spring Break Internship at LPA

Surveying an unprocessed collection

The Music Division is fortunate to have an internship program for several years. This program allows students the unique experience to see what it is like working in a large music research library. Most of our interns are library school students, but occasionally musicology students have been with us. The program is mutually beneficial with particular benefits for the intern: we give them representative projects to work on, and they in turn get to see and understand their efforts in the context of a large library. Interns have the 

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Yakov Kreizberg, 1959-2011

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. 

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African Americans in Early American sheet music

What was the view of African Americans as reflected in early American music? Most histories of American music begin in the mid-19th century with minstrelsy or folk music (the Wikipedia entry is typical, beginning around 1850). It’s rare for studies on African American music to go back earlier, in part because there is so little.

But there is some.

In making more of our collections accessible online, I recently I scanned the card file for our AM1 collection (called 

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Remembering John McGlinn (1953-2009)

It’s been two years since the conductor John McGlinn died (sometime between Feb. 13 and 19, 2009).  McGlinn was known most for his “complete” recording of Show Boat (released 1988).  At the time, recording all of the music written for one of the seminal shows of American musical theatre history seemed like a revolutionary idea. (Some 30 minutes of material has been subsequently found.)

His interests did not begin and end with Show Boat. During the mid-1980s he reconstructed and led performances of musicals by Kern for the short-lived 

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Music Album of the Dickens Family

What better way to honor the 198th birthday of Charles Dickens than with of one of the Music Division's more unusual items: A volume of music owned by Charles Dickens and his family.

The original cataloging for this item (done decades ago) is sketchy, so I've not been able to figure out who or when it was donated to the New York Public Library, although it was probably before World War II.  The last owner 

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Who Do You Think You Are—A Musician? Genealogy in the Music Division

Genealogy is back on prime time with the resumption of the show Who Do You Think You Are?, now beginning its second season on NBC-TV on Friday, February 4th.  Genealogy is my hobby too, so I'm always excited when I can combine it with my professional activities in the Music Division.

According to the American Library Association, "Genealogical research has become one of America's favorite 

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Jacob Wrey Mould: Architect of Central Park and Lyricist

Angel of the Waters Fountain and Bethesda Terrace, Central Park, New York City - photograph by Ahodges7, used under Creative Commons license from Wikipedia

Each week for many years, Christopher Gray has written the Streetscapes column for the Sunday edition of the New York Times, focusing on out-of-the-way stories of curiosity, beauty, 

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New Year's Waltz

New year's wishes to everyone!

Just a few words on the music pictured above.  This anonymous piano work was published around 1827 by Samuel Bromberg of New York City.  The address listed on the music is 395 Broadway, but in the New York City directory of 1829-1830, the publisher is located at 80 Broadway "upstairs."  Bromberg apparently came from Denmark: his petition for naturalization was made on June 9, 1835.  (These immigration and naturalization documents are available online through

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Happy 240th, Beethoven! And thank you, Beethoven Association!

What better way to celebrate Beethoven’s birthday than with a unique portrait of Beethoven.  The impressive oil-painting above usually hangs in The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on the 3rd floor in the Research Division.  (Due to recent reconfiguration of public space, the painting is temporarily taking a rest from public view.)  It measures 57 x 46 inches and has an impressive provenance.  You can see some of its former owners by looking at the

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Puccini's La fanciulla del West 100 years ago

The December 10, 2010 performance of the Metropolitan Opera’s production (which opens tonight) of Giacomo Puccini’s La fanciulla del West will mark the 100th anniversary of the opera, which had its premiere at the Met on the same date in 1910 featuring a stellar cast of Emmy Destinn, Enrico Caruso, and Pasquale Amato with Arturo Toscanini conducting.

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Follow An Archive Day in the Music Division

Friday November 12, 2010 was a special day for users of Twitter and users of archives.  The day was designated as “Follow An Archive Day” or, to use the Twitter hashtag, #followanarchiveday

All over the world, archives were encouraging users to visit an archive and tweet about it.  These archives could send out tweets reminding the world of its existence. (Twitter hashtags, i.e. the word preceded by a # sign, allow for posts from different users to be searched and retrieved by 

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Music manuscripts from the composer of the Star-Spangled Banner

It’s been a while since my last post, but the genesis of this post began with July 4th, 2010.  I was thinking:  What better way to observe the anniversary of the United States of America than with the national anthem. (The image above ‑ seen through mylar protection ‑ is of the first edition of the Star-Spangled Banner owned by the Music Division – one of 

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Orphans within the storm

(If you think this blog entry is about the 1922 film Orphans of the Storm by D. W. Griffith, you're not entirely wrong; wait until the end.)

With digitization of books being a hot topic, some of you may have heard of the term "orphan works." In brief, an orphan work is a work where the copyright holder cannot be found. For musical works, many assume that "the copyright holder" is simply the composer, but this is not always true. The copyright holder can be the composer's descendents, relatives, lawyers, or anyone that the creator designates as a legal successor after the 

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The scores of Beverly Sills come to the Music Division

Beverly Sills musical scores have arrived at Lincoln Center in a venue in which she never sang: The Music Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. We take pride in announcing that we received the collection of her scores from her estate auction at Doyle's New York on October 7, 2009. (We also obtained two costume designs by Thierry Bosquet, a frequent designer for the New York City Opera, which I'll discuss in another post.)

The auction was filled with people seeking interesting 

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Student Reception at the NYP Library for the Performing Arts, Sept. 16, 2009

I've been on the planning committee for this year's student reception at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. It's a great opportunity to meet students who will be exploring the use of the library. Students get to meet each other from diverse schools who would not ordinarily encounter one another.

I enjoy showing off some of our unique items to students who never realized the Library had such things in its collections. It can be a great opportunity to inspire learning knowledge, while fostering a sense of community. Last year we had Thomas Kail 

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For the Haydn Bicentennial

This year has seen many concerts marking the bicentennial of composer Joseph Haydn's death on May 31, 1809. As part of these events, the publisher, G. Henle Verlag of Munich has issued a facsimile of one of the Music Division's prized manuscripts, Haydn's Variations in F Minor, Hob. XVII:6. Composed in 1793, this work contains (in the words of noted musicologist James Webster): "arguably Haydn’s most original and concentrated double-variation movement, with a coda (added in revision) of Beethovenian power."

It is not known who owned this manuscript after its 

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Unexpected Wittgensteiniana in an archival collection

Sometimes you can find unusual items in unusual places. Alexander Waugh's new book "The House of Wittgenstein" brings the Wittgenstein family and their legacy to the forefront of attention. Apart from this publication, scholars can now investigate a little-known source in the Music Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

A few years ago we received a gift of the working and personal papers of the eminent music theorist and professor, Felix Salzer. Salzer (1904-1986) was a student of the noted music theorist Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935). The papers 

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Before there was Facebook: autograph albums as social networks

On Facebook, the popular social networking website, people can view each other's friends and social connections as well as their activities, such what movies one has seen and what music one has heard. One can scribble messages to each other, send virtual flowers and gifts, and generally interact with a wide variety of people, some of whom you may not even know very well. What did people do before Facebook? They had an equivalent: autograph albums. Although not as technologically complex as today's web applications, 

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James G. Speaight, the forgotten child prodigy remembered - and his brother Joseph Speaight, the composer

Many warm greetings and thanks to Sebastian Pryke who, in a reponse to one of my previous posts, revealed himself to be the great-great grandnephew of child prodigy James G. Speaight. Sebastian and his brother Jonathan Pryke are apparently the great-great grandsons of James's brother Joseph Speaight (1868-1947) who was a British pianist, composer, and taught at Trinity College. According to Baker's biographical dictionary of musicians (7th edition), Joseph composed three symphonies, a piano concerto, and 

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Oliver J. Dragon, baritone

If serendipity is a useful thing when browsing through the holdings of The New York Public Library, it's all the more true for The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, whose extensive collection contain an enormous amount of ephemera (most of which does not appear in the catalog). Some years ago, in going through some of our extensive program files, a coworker found an intriguing flyer for the Town 

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