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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000435.txt from 2004/10

From: "dnleeson" <>
Subj: [kl] Grainger letters
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2004 16:25:49 -0400

I've gotten a number of private letters about the Grainger
material I am considering disposing of and several of them have
offered exceptional suggestions including a really great one from
Forest Aten.

I have seen at first hand what happens to great collections when
the owner passes away without having taken care about how the
collection might be dispersed prior to his/her death (and I have
no intentions of dying, thankyou). But when it happens, that
stuff just disappears, sometimes permanently. There was a great
actor whose father was a well known Wagnerian singer and the
actor collected Mozart manuscripts. I have been searching for
some years to find out what happened to his collection after he
died and if anyone knows where they are, they're not speaking
about it.

A technical report was issued around 1946 that was an attempt to
document ownership of a lot of precious music manuscripts in the
US and today, not only is that document's references to private
ownership a fantasy, hardly anyone knows where the stuff went.
And if it went to libraries, it has, on occasion, been stolen or
mislaid or misplaced. Once a book all written in mirror code by
Da Vinci wound up on the public stacks of a major library in
Spain and it has not been seen since, I believe.

Private ownership of manuscript material generally means that it
goes out of public display because the owners do not want anyone
to know what they have because it could be stolen. And if the
document was itself stolen in the first place (like a piece of
the Mozart Requiem), it will never be seen again. It's expensive
to own treasures, too, because there are large safe deposit
facilities that have to be rented, etc. In Alan Tyson's book of
watermarks of Mozart manuscripts, there are at least 50
manuscripts that he documents as "in private hands," and he was
damn lucky that anyone would show them to him.

I knew and liked Percy Grainger and Ella, too. I don't want
these letters to disappear, but I want them to serve some useful
purpose. There have no meaning other than Percy writing to me.
One says, "If you come this Sunday, we'll have pancakes." Well I
remember the pancakes, it was at the Mayflower coffee and donut
shop, but I'm not so sure that anyone else would find that
statement particularly meaningful. Mostly what is wanted is a
sample of the man's handwriting and his signature.

I have a check for $456 and change made out to and signed by
Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart's librettist in 1826 but not until I did
the research that explained the purpose of the check did it
really have any value for me. It established that Da Ponte was
the architect and father of the Italian collection at the Library
of Congress and I have official documents from the U.S. Senate to
prove it. The check was used to buy Italian books for the
Library of Congress. But most of them burned in a fire in 1850.
Of course, the research increased the value of the check by 10
fold, and got me a number of important publications both in the
U.S. and in Italy. That didn't hurt. That check will probably go
to my daughter.

One thing for sure: with well documented provenance, you never
die. I know the name of every owner of the manuscript of the
Gran Partitta from 1784 until this moment, about 7 or 8 people
and one library. We are practically buddies. Their names appear
in scholarly papers about who owned that precious document.

It has some value in life.

Dan Leeson

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