Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, Tchaikovsky, Wagner — the names alone are enough to quicken the pulse of any classical music lover.
Those greats and many more — Haydn, Britten, Rossini, Verdi, Debussy, even Gershwin — are represented in a recent gift of 720 rare classical music scores, mostly first editions or first printings, to the University of Washington Music Library.
Appraised at about $1.3 million, the donation comes from the estate of William Crawford III, a New York arts manager and lifelong music collector who thoughtfully acquired and catalogued the items over four decades.
The works span about three centuries, from the very late 17th century to the end of the 20th century. The gift will nearly double the UW’s collection of printed rare music scores, said Judy Tsou, head of the Music Library and an affiliate assistant professor in the School of Music.
“It is certainly a prestigious collection, but more importantly, this is a great collection for research in vocal music,” Tsou said. “Many important composers are represented here and major operas are included in the collection as well.”
The William Crawford III Rare Music Collection, as it will be called at the UW, concentrates on vocal music scores, and many are signed or annotated by the author. Dating back to the work of Henry Purcell in 1697, the collection also includes:
- First editions of Johann Sebastian Bach’s passions and Mass in B-minor, and oratorios by Ludwig van Beethoven.
- Operas by Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky, among others.
- Vocal works by Samuel Barber, Arnold Schoenberg, Gian Carlo Menotti and others.
- Six original vocal compositions by Joseph Haydn, signed by the author.
Crawford, who died in October 2013, spent his working career in the arts. In the 1950s and 1960s he managed the Festival of the Two Worlds; and later the Joffrey Ballet. He was also the longtime manager of Peter Schickele, known to a generation as P.D.Q. Bach, the music satirist who humorously pretended to be the forgotten son of the famous composing family.
A lifelong opera lover, Crawford grew up attending performances at the Metropolitan Opera and had season tickets as an adult. He also had many close friends in music, including composers Barber and Menotti. He chose the UW because he loved the Pacific Northwest and because there are no other collections like this in the region.
“The collection was very important to Bill,” said Tsou, who consulted with Crawford as he gathered materials for this end-of-life donation, sometimes worrying he would not live to complete the task. “Knowing that his collection was coming to a good institution in an area with no other collection like it, and with good curatorship, set his mind at ease.”
Tsou said the scores, when digitized, will become “an invaluable tool” for students in music history and voice, allowing them to scan multiple editions to find the most authentic, and to quickly learn whether an aria or opera is right for their vocal range.
Most of the first editions, Tsou said, were published during each composer’s life, indicating his blessing. A few are “corrected proofs,” she noted, “which can indicate the composer’s change of mind in certain passages or notes” and will be of special interest to vocal music scholars.
Crawford created a detailed catalog of his collection but did not live to finish the work; the Music Library plans to complete and publish an authoritative catalog of the Crawford Collection later this year.
The gift from Crawford’s estate includes funds for processing and cataloguing the collection. The Music Library expects to raise money to expand and improve access to the scores.
“The collection’s breadth and depth make it important and useful, especially for our graduate students,” Tsou said. “I feel a sense of accomplishment, to have the UW chosen over other prestigious institutions to be the recipient of this gift.”