Top of page

Collection Library of Congress Concerts

About this Collection

The Library of Congress Music Division has presented one of the world's most distinguished concert series for nearly ninety years. The concert webcasts featured on this site provide an introduction to the extraordinary history of more than 3,000 events presented since the founding of the series by philanthropist Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge in 1925.

Captions for the images: (left) The Coolidge Auditorium; (right, top to bottom) Elizabeth Coolidge with Martha Graham, Performers on the Coolidge stage; Janos Starker, cellist, rehearsing on the Coolidge stage.

Creating a groundbreaking public-private partnership with the Library, Mrs. Coolidge funded the construction of an intimate, acoustically superb 500-seat concert hall designed especially for chamber music, and established a vibrant presenting and commissioning tradition that is still flourishing today. Represented here are samples drawn from a range of events offered each season, free of charge—concerts, lectures, film screenings, exhibits, interviews, panels and conversations, master classes and educational programs. The Music Division's series, Concerts from the Library of Congress, has earned an international reputation for chamber music, while expanding to embrace a broad range of genres: jazz, folk, pop, country, American musical theater, rock, bluegrass, hip hop, and more. 

Three unique assets have made the Library enviable as a presenter: the Coolidge Auditorium; a museum-caliber instrument collection, built on the Stradivari instruments donated by Gertrude Clarket Whittall in 1935; and the treasures of the Library's vast music collections, numbering more than 20 million items.  A list of the now-legendary classical performers who have appeared on the Coolidge stage would include such names as Igor Stravinsky, Gregor Piatigorsky, Wanda Landowska, Serge Koussevitzky, Paul Hindemith, George Szell, Leonard Bernstein, Adolf Busch and Rudolf Serkin, Leontyne Price, and the Budapest Quartet. Strong support for contemporary classical music has always been an important element in the Music Division's mandate, and the roster of commissions today is close to six hundred. An illustrious body of commissioned works by renowned composers from the past—Maurice Ravel, Béla Bartók, Olivier Messiaen, and Samuel Barber, to name just a few---grows each season with the premieres of new commissions. Elliott Carter, Milton Babbitt, Sofia Gubaidulina, Roberto Sierra, Chaya Czernowin, Anthony Braxton, Bright Sheng and György Kurtág are among the composers who have written works for the Library over the past thirty years. Several landmark commissions can be said to be milestones in music history: for example, the 1944 Martha Graham—Aaron Copland ballet, Appalachian Spring, now an American icon; Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs; and George Crumb's Ancient Voices of Children.

Concert Night at the Library, by Helen Dalrymple (published in the Library of Congress Information Bulletin, December 1998)