October 27, 2000 Library of Congress Acquires Nicolas Slonimsky Collection

Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

The Library of Congress has acquired a large archives of the works of the important American conductor, composer, musicologist and lexicographer Nicolas Slonimsky (1894-1995). The papers, which comprise both printed and manuscript music, programs, writings, correspondence, a large musicians' biographical file, recordings and other formats were given to the Library in 1999 by Electra Yourke, Mr. Slonimsky's daughter. They join a significant number of materials that Slonimsky himself had given to the Library in 1969. The collection includes materials collected by Mr. Slonimsky throughout his lifetime that document various facets of his illustrious career.

Nicolas Slonimsky, a self-described "failed wunderkind," was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 27, 1894, into a notable family of Russian intellectuals. His earliest piano teacher was his aunt Isabelle Vengerova. Later he studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with Vasili Kalafati and Maximilian Steinberg, both of whom were pupils of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov. After the Russian Revolution, Slonimsky took some composition lessons with Reinhold Gli&eagrave;re in Kiev and later, in Paris, became secretary and assistant to Serge Koussevitzky.

In 1923 Nicolas Slonimsky came to the United States, where he studied composition with Selim Palmgren and Albert Coates at the Eastman School of Music. He wrote articles about music for various publications and, in Boston, conducted the Pierian Sodality at Harvard University (1927-29) and the Apollo Chorus (1928-30). In 1927 he organized the Chamber Orchestra of Boston and gave the first performances of works by Charles Ives, Edgar Var&eagrave;se, Henry Cowell and others. In 1945-47 he became lecturer in Slavonic languages and literature at Harvard University. He later moved to Los Angeles where he taught at UCLA in 1964-67.

Among his musical compositions are Studies in Black and White for piano (1928); a song cycle, Gravestones, set to texts from tombstones in an old cemetery in Hancock, New Hampshire (1945); and Minitudes, a collection of piano pieces (1971-77). His only orchestral work is My Toy Balloon (1942), a set of variations on a Brazilian song, which calls for the explosion of 100 colored balloons at the climax.

In 1947 he published Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns (1947), an inventory of tonal combinations, and Music Since 1900, a chronology of musical events (1937; 4th edition 1971; supplement 1986). He became editor of Thompson's International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians (4th to 8th editions; 1946-48) and of Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (1958, 1978, 1984, 1991). In 1988 both Perfect Pitch, his autobiography, and Lectionary of Music, a compendium of articles on music, appeared. Among his other writings are Music in Latin America (1945), The Road to Music (1948), Lexicon of Musical Invective (1952) and numerous encyclopedia articles.

The Nicolas Slonimsky Collection, some 354 containers and nearly 118,600 items, contains both manuscript and printed music by Slonimsky and others, programs, reviews, photographs, some Soviet materials, and a large collection of research materials for his lexicographical work and assorted writings. In addition, there is a valuable archive of correspondence from many of the 20th century's musical luminaries, such as Milton Babbitt, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, John Cage, Aaron Copland, George Gershwin and Charles Ives.

The collection is available for use by researchers in the Performing Arts Reading Room located in the Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E.


PR 00-139
ISSN 0731-3527