Election Section

Music Library Opens Its Doors

By JANOS GEREBEN Special to the Planet
Friday July 30, 2004

Up to 1,000 Sicilian opera libretti! That’s just one category of surprises in the “Case X” inner sanctum of UC Berkeley’s new Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library. How can there be so many operas from Sicily? John H. Roberts has a simple answer: “Naples, in the old days.” Aha! 

Next to that stack in Case X (the letter X, not 10): 4,403 libretti for Italian (other than Sicilian, see?) operas, from the year 1600 on.  

Created in 1947, the music library finally has a building of its own. Located just across fro m Hertz Hall, the library is part of a new “arts quadrangle,” along with Wurster, Kroeber, and Morrison halls. A $4 million gift in 1997 from Jean Gray Hargrove—a concert pianist and 1935 music department alumna—was the major contribution that made the $1 3 million building project possible. 

Roberts is visibly exhausted—small wonder after running the library since 1987, heading the huge effort to build the new facility, and supervising a month of physically moving a good portion of the library’s 190,000 v olumes in time to meet the July 6 opening goal—but showing off Case X, he is now fully energized, brimming with enthusiasm as we walk through the restricted section.  

“Look,” says Roberts, handing over an ancient score, “what do you think it is?” There i s no title page, no information of any kind, the music doesn’t look remotely familiar. Well?  

“We got it this way, without any hint about what it may be, and it turned out to be Scarlatti’s ‘missing’ 1683 L’Aldimiro.” Finding the score in the music libra ry’s huge collection of opera led directly—with George Thomson, Michelle Dulak, and graduate students translating the libretto and making a performing edition of the score, Roberts says—to its first performance in at least three centuries, at the 1996 Ber keley Festival and Exhibition. Score one for the librarian. 

Case X contains much more than opera—for example, a 1,000-volume collection of Tartini scores—but the next item Roberts picks up is an operatic delight: the tenor part for Wagner’s Tristan und I solde, copied for and used by the original Tristan, Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld. “He was a very large man,” Roberts muses, “and died shortly after the premiere, in 1865, the strain of the role perhaps contributing...” 

The autograph score for Igor Strav insky’s Orpheus is amazingly clean, no corrections to be seen anywhere; Ernest Bloch—with significant local history—is represented by a large collection of his manuscripts; there are dozens of exquisitely bound old opera scores from Alfred Cortot’s collec tion; the library also owns the 11th century Gregorian chant manuscript called the Wolffheim Antiphoner, and Beethoven’s sketches for one of the string quartets.  

Everything in the new shiny, wood-warm, three-story building is available to faculty, students—and everybody else. There 128 listening stations/study places (complete with CD and DVD players, computers, and wireless connection), miles of open shelves of books and scores, some 50,000 recordings, a huge magazine collection (new copies resting on a flip cover under which you’ll find recent issues of the same publication), and even most of the Case X treasures are available to visitors—although not to be removed from the library, of course. There is also a comfortable seminar room with a baby Bösendorfer, from the estate of Edgar Sparks, the late, distinguished Berkeley musicologist.