Manuscript acquisition provides unmatched insight

Jillian Sandler

The Northwestern Music Library has acquired the original manuscript of a well-known 20th-century symphony.

The original manuscript of John Corigliano’s “Symphony No. 1 (Of Rage and Remembrance)”, considered by many to be the first response of classical music to the AIDS epidemic, was obtained in early December, said D.J. Hoek, head of NU’s music library.

Hoek said the acquisition of the manuscript was important to the music department and the University because of the history behind it.

“It isn’t just a well-composed musical work. It comes from a time when a very creative person is responding to social events going on at the time,” Hoek said. “It’s kind of a landmark in that it captures this incredibly unfortunate, horrible development in the 20th century.”

Hoek did not disclose the manuscript’s exact cost, but said it was “a very significant purchase for the University.”

The manuscript’s acquisition was made possible by a bequest from the estate of Jeffrey Wasson. Wasson, who passed away in 2010, earned his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the Bienen School of Music and worked as a member of its faculty. The Library Board of Governors Annual Fund also aided the University in obtaining the manuscript.

The manuscript will serve as an educational tool for music students because the original markings Corigliano left are still visible, Hoek added. The pattern of written marks gives students who study the manuscript clues about Corigliano’s thought process throughout the piece’s composition.

“It’s those little clues that are especially important because there’s just so much that goes into composing a piece of music like that,” Hoek said. “It’s a mystery, and the manuscript gives us little hints.”

Weinberg and Bienen sophomore Lauren Keating said although she is not familiar with the piece itself, she would be interested in studying the manuscript to learn more about the composition process.

“I would love to look at it,” she said. “Especially for people who are composers in the School of Music, to get to pick the brain of a composer, that’s just an invaluable look into the approach to writing music.”

Although the manuscript cannot be checked out of the library, anyone is welcome to view it upon request as long as it is not photocopied or damaged, Hoek said.

Corigliano’s works have been performed by prominent musicians around the world. The Metropolitan Opera commissioned his opera, “The Ghost of Versailles,” for its 100th anniversary. He also earned an Academy Award for his music featured in the 1998 film “The Red Violin.”

Corigliano visited Bienen last year for the John Corigliano Music Festival, where he performed some of his compositions with students. Bienen Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery said his visit gave the manuscript’s acquisition an added significance.

“I feel that it’s a great benefit to our school and I’m very pleased to collaborate with the music library, which is a wonderful resource to our music students and our music faculty,” Montgomery said.

Symphony No. 1 is one of the thousands of music manuscripts the library holds in possession. Although Hoek said each of these manuscripts tells its own story, Symphony No. 1, which is 75 pages in length, is especially distinctive.

“They’re all entirely unique and different, but this one, because it is such a large and extensive manuscript, it really stands out in that respect,” he said. “It is certainly among the most important manuscripts we have.”

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