Top Five Digital Archive Projects in Classical Music

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

There’s been a recent surfeit of projects to expand the number of musical artifacts online. In January Carnegie Hall received $2 million to digitize its collections, and this month the New York Public Library will debut a online archive called John Cage Unbound—A Living Archive. However, a few organizations have been at the forefront in establishing enviable collections of freely-available manuscripts on the Web. Here are five standouts.

1. Morgan Library and Museum

In 2010, the Morgan Library and Museum began uploading its world-class Lehman Collection of scores onto its Web site. Starting with 40 manuscripts, the organization has now now has 250 works uploaded out of more than 1,000 manuscripts, including an autographed manuscript of Schubert’s Winterreise and a copyist’s manuscript of Handel’s Messiah from the 1740s. The Morgan also holds on deposit a renowned collection of music manuscripts owned by Robert Owen Lehman. Last year, the entire collection was put up for sale, as was reported on WQXR.org. But it came with the stipulation that the entire collection remain intact, and must remain within a public institution. No buyer has been reported since.

2. New York Philharmonic

Music fans lauded the New York Philharmonic when it posted a chunk of its considerable archive last year. The Leon Levy Foundation gave the institution more than $2 million for the project, with which the orchestra started uploading material from Leonard Bernstein’s storied tenure. The ongoing project hopes to eventually upload more than 8 million pages of paper and 7,000 hours of audio and video. Last week, the orchestra unveiled a new batch of documents, particularly many relating to the orchestra's travels during the 1960s.

3. The Juilliard School

Across 65th Street from the New York Philharmonic, Juilliard has been collecting its letters and scores by composers and musicians in one of the most user friendly Web sites. The school has posted its most famous works, including pages from a copy of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the composer’s annotations and Stravinsky’s drafts of his ballet Petrushka.

4. Bach Digital

The German site, Bach Digital, has accumulated a seemingly complete library of all of Johann Sebastian’s works. Using resources from the Bach Archive in Leipzig, the University of Leipzig, and national libraries in Berlin and Dresden, the digital repository of also contains vast materials associated with the monumental figure. You can peruse Bachalia, such as handwriting samples of composer and his copyists, and a work-in-progress database of scores by other members of the Bach family.

5. Harvard University

With over 560 digitized items from its Loeb Music Library, Harvard University has given free access to its early editions of scores and libretti from Bach’s era through Stravinsky’s later periods. The web site makes it easy to flip through entire works, such as a late 18th-century edition of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutti (you can even see the eroding cover).

Honorable Mention:

The International Music Score Library Project, founded in 2006 and based in Delaware, contains 172,421 scores and nearly 11,000 recordings.

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Comments [1]

Loeb Music Library

Thanks very much for the mention and compliments!

Apr. 11 2012 10:13 AM

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