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Performing Arts Archival Collections in USC Special Collections: Music collections

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Miklos Rosza collection

The 123-piece collection of rare letters, documents, photographs and manuscripts spanning three centuries of musical history was collected by Miklos Rozsa. Most of the correspondence relates to the composition, performance and business of music, including a Claude Debussy 1899 missive about re-arranging a meeting with his publisher, and Liszt's 1880 letter about going to Budapest to teach. Other writings deal with the mundane realities of daily life. Recurrent themes include the payment of debts (Liszt, 1853: "accept the repayment of my small debt, 8 Thaler, 18 gr."), the climate (Puccini, 1913: "My dear chap...Milan is terrible in winter and impossible in summer") and social amenities (Sergei Rachmaninov, 1906: "Birthday greettings to Nina Kushetz." Most of the letters in the collection were handwritten, though some of the more recent ones were typed. In a 1949 letter, which Rozsa said was his favorite, Richard Strauss attempts - in German - to explain to actor Lionel Barrymore the nature of his relationship with the Nazi party. Other items range from Tchaikovsky's apology, dated 1889, for being a tardy correspondent, which bears his large inked signature, to a faded typed message from Marc-Antoine Charpentier, dated Paris, 1932, regarding the broadcast of his "Poemes chantes" over Radio Paris. In addition to writings by musicians, the collection contains letters from several heads of state who were musical patrons. Included are a 1666 message from Leopold I of Hungary and a 1670 letter from France's Louis XIV. Also in the collection is a simple pencil drawing by Liszt - a rear view of a tousle-haired conductor. Rosza collected these notes and letters over the course of a lifetime. Some he bought at auctions; others he received as gifts. But all are special: Brahms' calling card with a brief note about a cantata, a few hastily scribbled bars of music in Richard Wagner's hand, a sentimental inscription to Rozsa from conductor Bruno Walter.

Igor Stravinsky letters on The Rake's Progress

The Igor Stravinsky correspondence on The Rake's Progress consists of correspondence, dated May 1950 to May 1951, between Stravinsky and his lawyer in New York, L. Arnold Weissberger, concerning the mounting of his opera, The Rake's Progress.  Also included are copies of letters to F. H. Ricketson of the Central Civic Opera House Association, Denver, Colorado; Lincoln Kirstein; Howard Taubmann of the New York Times; and Betty Bean and Dr. E. Roth of Stravinsky's publishers, Boosey & Hawkes, London.  The letters discuss business matters pertaining to the production of the opera, financial support for the work, where to stage the premier (including discussions about a possible staging at USC), locations for the opera's American debut, problems associated with Italian singers performing in English, and various other financial and administrative matters pertaining to the completion and production of the work. Stravinsky's letters to Weissberger are on his personal letterhead with his Los Angeles address, "1260 N. Wetherly Drive, Hollywood 46, California."

Stravinsky's opera The Rake's Progress, set to the libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, was inspired by William Hogarth's series of paintings.  Stravinsky had wanted to write an English-language opera since arriving in the United States in 1939, and was inspired to do so by seeing the paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago on May 2, 1947.  The opera premiered in Venice on September 11, 1951.