Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy Birthday Cello Music Collection!

October 23 marks the fifty-first birthday of the UNCG Cello Music Collection, the single largest holding of cello music-related materials in the world.  This unique archive, presently representing the collections of eleven cellists, was made possible by the generosity of countless donors, but founded through the support of Friends of the Libraries.

UNCG Cello Music Collection
In 1963, when Elizabeth Cowling learned that the estate of Luigi Silva was prepared to sell his library, she immediately contacted University Librarian, Charles Adams. The library is committed in its support of faculty research, but there were several risks to consider in pursuing the Silva Collection. First, the school’s cello program was not particularly strong, as the school was ordered to become coeducational only that same year, and the cello was historically a masculine instrument. Additionally, the Library to that date only held one collection of archival music (the North Carolina Holograph Collection), and the Silva collection was fifteen times the size of that one. There was no music library nor was there a music librarian on campus either. However, the greatest obstacle was the quoted price of $3000 ($1000 for Silva’s manuscripts and $2000 for the remainder of the collection), an intimidating sum for 1963.    

Charles Adams conveyed Elizabeth Cowling’s vision of a centralized repository for cello music research founded upon the renowned library of Luigi Silva before the Friends of the Library (there was only one library at this time). In terms of an investment, it was a gamble, but the Friends of the Library were persuaded by Cowling’s passion and made the purchase. Cowling and Adams brought the collection back from New York in October of 1963. 
Contract for the sale of Silva's
Collection in Cowling's hand, Oct. 23, 1963
The collection was dedicated on April 5, 1964 with a recital featuring several of Silva’s arrangements. Many donations were made in honor of Luigi Silva celebrating this event. Margery Enix, a student of Silva, donated draft notes of Vademecum, Silva’s treatise on the thumb position. Franco Colombo, head of the New York branch of the music publisher Ricordi donated several of Silva’s manuscript drafts, including the 24 Caprices of Paganini transcribed for cello by Silva, Boccherini’s Concerto in D Major No.2, and the cello and piano transcription of Boccherini’s Concerto in D Major, Op. 34. Charles Wendt, a student of Silva's, donated a manuscript of the Paganini Capriccio XIII transcribed for cello and piano and purchased Robert Crome's The Compleat Tutor for the Violoncello (ca. 1765) for the collection. Cellist Rudolf Matz provided the gift of 15 volumes from his work First Years of the Violoncello. Violoncello Society of America president JanosScholz (who was awarded an honorary doctorate from UNCG in 1981) donated a manuscript collection of anonymous 18th century cello sonatas and transcribed opera arias.

The purchasing of the Luigi Silva Collection by the Friends of the Libraries has attracted many researchers and performers to the Libraries (even Leonard Rose in 1980), but it also encouraged other cellists to donate their collections. Ten cello music collections have been donated to the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections & University Archives since that time, inspired by the purchasing of the Luigi Silva Cello Music Collection. Over the past five decades, the centralized repository for cello music research envisioned by Elizabeth Cowling has been realized and made possible by UNCG Friends of the Libraries.
Program from Dedication of the Silva Collection

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Friends of the Libraries’ dedication of the Silva Collection, we have digitized Silva’s manuscripts of Vademecum and La Tecnica Violoncellista so that musicologists and performers worldwide can benefit from this legacy.

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