Manuscript and Printed Music
The world's musical culture is represented in the Manuscript Department through a large quantity of very valuable material. This collection reflects the most important advances from the beginning of musical notation to the present day.
The different stages in the development of musical notation connected with Christian worship can be traced in Western European, Greek and early Russian manuscript codices. The earliest systems -ecphonetic, indicating how passages of text were to be chanted in church; neumes, special symbols (in the Russian tradition, signs or hooks) used to record plain-song; and various combinations of notes and staffs - can be found in the Latin manuscript books from the fifth century (for example, Un Manuscrit de Saint Augustiri), in Greek works from the ninth century (The Gospel of Trebizond), and in Early Russian ones from the eleventh century (the Ostromir Gospel of 1057). These texts and others like them contain passages of the Gospel recited during services or hymns to Christ, the Virgin or the saints, but there are also theoretical works explaining the basics of one system or another, or the meaning of particular musical symbols.
The musical manuscripts of a liturgical nature span a period of many centuries and by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they already exist side by side with secular examples. The music of the eighteenth century is represented in the library collection chiefly by handwritten copies of works by Western European composers. It was a common practice at that time to duplicate sheet music in this way for the musical theatre or for use in the home and this facilitated the survival, sometimes in a single copy, of compositions by such prominent masters as Giovanni Paisiello, François Boieldieu, Giuseppe Sarti and Nicola Piccini. Of even greater value are the few autograph scores by composers of the period: Dmitry Bortniansky, Stepan Davydov, J.S. Bach, Haydn and Mozart.
The musical treasures from the nineteenth century are considerably more numerous. Autograph manuscripts by Chopin, Berlioz, Wagner, Liszt, Rossini, Bellini, Weber, Schumann and Beethoven make the collection very wealthy. Here too one can find letters from Western European musicians, the largest number of which were written to Russian correspondents (Alexei Lvov, Anatoly Liadov, Vladimir Stasov, and others) by composers who had themselves spent time in Russia -Liszt, Schumann, Berlioz and Wagner.
The numerous sets of papers connected with different figures in nineteenth-century Russian music give the best possible picture of that "Golden Age" in Russian musical life. In most cases the library owed their acquisition to the activities of Vladimir Stasov who actively advocated the formation of the New Russian School. Through his agency it obtained a collection of autograph manuscripts by Glinka, scores and letters by Alexander Dargomyzhsky, the collections of Mussorgsky and Mily Balakirev. In addition, the library possesses collections of manuscripts by Rimsky-Korsakov, his librettist Vladimir Belsky and his pupil and friend Vasily Yastrebtsev, which add to our understanding of the musicians belonging to Balakirev's circle, as well as manuscripts by Sergei Taneev, Eduard Napravnik, Anton Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky.
One important figure in musical circles at that time was Nikolai Findeisen, a musical historian and teacher, editor and publisher of the Russian Musical Gazette. His editorial archive, letters to and from correspondents, his own memoirs and his fundamental work Essays on the History of Music in Russia, are also now in the library.
The work of turn-of-the-century composers is represented in the form of autograph scores by Sergei Rachmamnov and Alexander Skriabin.
The material connected with twentieth-century musicians is extremely varied in both form and content: Prokofiev's opera Betrothal in a Monastery and ballet Cinderella, both written in the last decade of the composer's life, Shostakovich's letters, the archives of the pianist Vladimir Sofronitsky and the Akhron brothers, prominent emigre musicians, as well as original scores by the song composers Vasily Solovyev-Sedoi and Isaak Dunaevsky. The document legacy of Mikhail Klimov, the chief conductor and artistic director of the Leningrad Kapella, provides a picture of the Kapella' s activities in Soviet times, while in the archives of the musical scholars Maxim Brazhnikov and Vsevolod Prokofiev one can discover unpublished research work on Early Russian vocal music and the musical life of the eighteenth century.