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Collection Roman Totenberg Papers

An Introduction to Papers of Violinists at the Library of Congress

Totenberg playing violin / Ilka Kolsky

The Music Division has amassed some 600 archival collections containing music, correspondence, programs, photographs, publicity materials, and business papers from a wide variety of individuals and organizations in music, theater, and dance. These usually contain whatever was retained by the individual or organization up to the time a collection is acquired by the Library of Congress. In addition, the Music Division often builds on its strengths by acquiring individual items, both published and unpublished, that allow researchers to develop a deeper understanding of a wider variety of topics. 

Prominent among these archival collections are materials documenting the lives and careers of many noteworthy violinists, including Jascha Heifetz, Louis Kaufman, Rudolf Kolisch, Fritz Kreisler, Boris Koutzen,  Leonora Jackson (McKim), Maud Powell, Isaac Stern, Henryk Szeryng, Roman Totenberg, and the members of the Budapest String Quartet. These collections allow opportunity to consider the manner in which individual performers approached music, worked with colleagues, and navigated the demands of their careers. The annotated music found in many of our collections provides some sense of how a violinist approached particular compositions or passages within compositions. Changes in bowings and other phrasing, modifications of dynamics, and inserted fingerings all give some sense of how a performer negotiated the challenge of communicating a compelling interpretation of the music.

Violinists, violins, and music for the violin represent one of the great strengths of the Music Division’s holdings, but the papers of composers rank among the Division’s most distinguished. This creates an important convergence, as most of the best performing artists collaborated with composers in bringing new music to life. Kreisler premiered Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto, Op. 61; Heifetz commissioned and premiered violin concertos by William Walton, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Erich Korngold; Roman Totenberg premiered music by Darius Milhaud and William Schuman, among others. These violinists’ collections all contain music manuscripts or correspondence that document the role of the performer in presenting and championing new music. Moreover, the Music Division holds collections of music manuscripts and papers of Korngold, Milhaud, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and William Schuman, which, with performers’ collections, offer up multiple perspectives to researchers studying their compositions.

Roman Totenberg and Darius Milhaud

The collaborative process is documented in other segments of the Music Division collections as well, most notably in materials documenting the genesis of Brahms’s Violin Concerto, Op. 77, including Brahms’s extensively revised autograph manuscript score (donated to the Library of Congress by Fritz Kreisler), a manuscript solo violin part with revisions and suggestions by the violinist and the concerto’s dedicatee Joseph Joachim, (as well as correspondence between Brahms and the engraver of the first edition. These materials are complemented by annotated performing materials for the concerto in the papers of Leonora Jackson (McKim), a student of Joachim’s, and manuscripts of a cadenza by Heifetz in his papers. Similarly, the Library of Congress holds the autograph manuscript scores of Mozart’s Violin Concerto in A Major, K. 219, Ernst Chausson’s Poème, and Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto. Researchers have the opportunity to find cadenzas and annotated performing materials for each of these compositions in the papers of Fritz Kreisler, Henryk Szeryng, Josef Gingold, and Roman Totenberg.