New York Philharmonic Archives

The New York Philharmonic Archives is one of the oldest orchestral research collections in the world. It traces the entire history of the Philharmonic and is an important record of cultural history in New York City.  The Archives contain material dating back to the Philharmonic’s first concert in 1842, but the first phase of digitizing the entire collection begins in the middle, 1943-1970, when the United States became a world power and New York City its cultural capital. It was also the time of Leonard Bernstein’s leadership.  By 2012 all archival material from the International Era will be available in the Digital Archives – 1.3 million pages.

Internship Spring 2012

Jackie Rider: Working with Digital Archivist Mitch Brodsky to learn all aspects of the digitization process, focusing on records from the Education Department.

Most of my time is spent working with Education Department records, but I have also proofed digitized musicians’ parts, comparing the physical copy to its digital image. Parts are photographed as a two-page spread so they can be studied as they would appear on the musician’s stand. I make sure each page has been captured and pagination is correct.  I also look for legibility and consistent color quality.

All parts have notations by a music librarian, with directions from the conductor. Musicians also make their own notations, which are pretty consistent from one stand to the next.  If one violinist writes “cresc” (for crescendo) or draws a pair of glasses as a reminder to watch the conductor, the other violinists usually do likewise.  Leonard Bernstein’s copies of the musical parts for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, however, had some surprises.

Bernstein’s copies of parts are stamped with a red L.B. on the inside title page.  A double bass musician, 2nd chair, added to the initials in pencil so they read, “I Love Berny.”   Another wrote, “Lenny Bruce,” referring to the comedian and social critic from the mid 20th century.  Occasionally the music librarian added a date to Bernstein’s initials, in one case November 1964. The first violinist (violinists seem to editorialize more than other instrumentalists) added to the date & initials so it read, “L.B.J. November 3, 1964.”  Recalling Bernstein’s outspokenness on social and political issues of the day, I’m pretty sure he did not vote for Goldwater, but I doubt he was a huge L.B.J. fan, either.

On another part the musician had written on the inside front cover, “To whom it may concern – this music was used in the 8/25/83 concert in celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s birthday.”

Parts for Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet contained numerous little amusing comments and some drawings. The concertmaster, first violin, wrote in 1983 on the cover of Romeo and Juliet under Fete chez Capulet “Feta cheese?” A co-worker me told me he had proofed a Shostakovich symphony filled with four-letter words.  I wonder whether the notations, being so different from one work to the next, reflect musicians’ feelings toward the music or a particularly difficult rehearsal.  The last page of one part offered a great sketch of the Maestro himself.


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