10 Eureka Moments from the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives

For the tenth anniversary of the Digital Archives, we look back on ten exciting discoveries made possible by our online collections.

New York Philharmonic

Marian Anderson (1925)Original Source: New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives

1. Marian Anderson

A rare photo of a young Marian Anderson – a winner of the New York Philharmonic’s summer Lewisohn Stadium Concerts audition contest in 1925. The performance would help launch the great contralto’s career.

Page from Symphony No. 9, “From the New World” (1894) by Antonín DvořákOriginal Source: New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives

2. Mahler's Markings

Even though Mahler never conducted Dvořák's New World Symphony, his markings were recently identified in this score of the work (his notes are in blue). Why? It was programmed for the latter half of his second season as Music Director, 1911. While he didn’t live to perform it, he had studied it before his untimely death that spring.

Letter from New York Musicians to Toscanini (1936)Original Source: New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives

3. Letter to Toscanini

A copy of a signed document from New York musicians to Arturo Toscanini, thanking him for standing up to Hitler in 1936, was found in the home of a former Philharmonic musician’s daughter and added to the Digital Archives. The original has yet to be located.

Letter to Harry Glantz (1940-10-03) by Sergei RachmaninoffOriginal Source: New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives

4. Rachmaninoff Asks Advice

The composer Sergei Rachmaninoff sent this letter to Philharmonic Principal Trumpet Harry Glantz as he was putting the finishing touches on his Symphonic Dances in 1940. The letter hung in the home of Glantz’s daughter, who recently donated it to the Philharmonic.

Page from "The Etude" magazine (April 1918)Original Source: New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives

5. Composers' "Ancestry"

The confluence of World War I and the "Spanish" Flu made the spring of 1918 a time of unprecedented crisis in the United States. In addition to great financial strain, the New York Philharmonic was confronted by a cultural war on all things German, including music. This article in the music magazine The Etude sought to trace the racial origins of Western music composers, distancing as many as possible from Germany. Beethoven was found to be Belgian; Schubert, Silesian; Haydn, Croatian.

"Song of the Machine" (circa 1941-1942) by Philippa SchuylerOriginal Source: New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives

6. Philippa Schuyler

Child prodigy pianist and composer Philippa Schuyler’s composition “Song of the Machine” was uncovered in her Young People’s Concert notebook. Written at the age of nine, it was her response to visiting a machine gun factory during World War II. The beginnings of Schuyler’s remarkable career are documented in these scrapbooks. She went on to perform with the Philharmonic in 1946 and 1955 before pivoting to journalism in the 1960s until she died in a 1967 helicopter crash while covering the war in Vietnam.

Season planning memo (1958-02-04) by Leonard BernsteinOriginal Source: New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives

7. Bernstein's Vision

In 1958 Leonard Bernstein outlined the repertoire for his first season as Music Director in less than a page, submitting it to the Philharmonic’s Music Policy Committee for review. American music is a central theme, fitting for the Philharmonic’s first American-born Music Director.

Page from bass part from "And God Created Great Whales" (circa 1970) by Alan HovhanessOriginal Source: New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives

8. Musicians' Markings

Orchestral parts marked with the fingerings, breath marks, accidentals, and dynamics by Philharmonic musicians are some of the most-visited items in the Digital Archives. Some, such as these parts to Hovhaness’s And God Created Great Whales, offer much more than just musical commentary. These illustrations were discovered in 2020 by @MusicologyDuck.

Arturo Toscanini conducting (circa 1940s)New York Philharmonic

9. World Premiere of Boléro

In 2018, while preparing a critical edition of Ravel’s Boléro, French musicologists established that Arturo Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic performed the world premiere of the concert version on November 14, 1929. Until then the performance was assumed to be the US premiere, as listed in the program.

Bass clarinet part from "La Valse" (1927) by Maurice Ravel and Henry BoewigOriginal Source: New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives

10. From the Orchestra Library

Included in the set of parts to Ravel’s La Valse is librarian Henry Boewig’s 1927 transposition of the bass clarinet part from German notation to French notation. This part is still used today. Philharmonic member from 1888 to 1930, Boewig copied the manuscript parts used at the world premiere of Dvořák’s New World Symphony in 1893. His distinctive hand can be found throughout the collection.

Credits: Story

Curated by the researchers, performers, and music lovers that shared their discoveries with the Philharmonic Archives, 2011-2021.

Created by the New York Philharmonic Archives
Gabryel Smith, Director, Archives & Exhibitions; Bill Levay, Digital Archivist.

Digitization by Ardon Bar-Hama.

Generous support for the Digital Archives provided by the Leon Levy Foundation.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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