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Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Friday, October 24, 2008

Jacobs School of Music given “treasure trove” of rare music

Oct. 24, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A collection of rare scores for ensemble and orchestra has been donated to the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music by Arthur Weisberg, a bassoon legend, composer, author and Jacobs faculty member from 2005 to 2008.

Arthur Weisberg

Arthur Weisberg

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"I am thrilled that Arthur has presented the Jacobs School with music scores dating from his tenure as conductor and music director of the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, which he founded in 1961," said David Dzubay, chair of the Department of Composition and director of the IU New Music Ensemble. "This important group premiered and recorded many significant works over the years."

The Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (CCE) was the first of its kind and was composed of the finest players in New York City, according to Weisberg. Many composers sent him scores over the years because they knew that if Weisberg liked the work, there was a good chance CCE would perform it.

"There were very few outlets for composers in the early 1960s, and the CCE was probably the most important during its 25-year history," Weisberg said. "We jump-started the careers of many composers, such as Jacob Druckman, John Harbison, Roger Reynolds, Joseph Schwantner and many others. We were the first to perform European composers Pierre Boulez, Karlheintz Stockhausen and Luigi Nono."

"Contemporary music presents many challenges for libraries. Much of the music is often simply unavailable for purchase," said Phil Ponella, director of the William and Gayle Cook Music Library and director of Music Information Technology Services at the Jacobs School. "A greater challenge is to stay current and know which composers are being performed frequently. This collection is like a 'Who's Who' in composition from the period the ensemble was active. Our students and faculty are lucky to have it at their fingertips."

Philip Ponella

Director of the William and Gayle Cook Music Library, Philip Ponella, looks through the rare collection of music scores recently received from Arthur Weisberg.

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Just a few of the composers represented on CCE recordings currently available on the Nonesuch label include Elliott Carter, Edgard Varèse, Stefan Wolpe, Milton Babbitt, George Rochberg and George Crumb.

"Many of the scores were quite rare, and the composers and publishers often let me keep them. European publishers would often send me scores," said Weisberg. "It is all of these scores, both for ensemble and orchestra, that make up the collection I donated to IU."

"Having perused this collection of scores, I can attest that the Jacobs School is the beneficiary of a treasure trove of 20th-century music scores, many of which are not available commercially," said Dzubay. "I look forward to our students and faculty being able to use these scores and will be ever grateful to Arthur Weisberg for the generous donation."

About Arthur Weisberg

Arthur Weisberg attended the High School of Music and Art and the Juilliard School of Music, majoring in bassoon with Simon Kovar. He played first bassoon with the Houston and Baltimore Symphonies and second bassoon with the Cleveland Orchestra before returning to New York City to study conducting with Jean Morel. At that time, Weisberg was first bassoon with the Symphony of the Air (formerly the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini).

He was bassoonist with the New York Woodwind Quintet for 14 years and has taught at Juilliard, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and Yale University. Weisberg recorded George Crumb's "A Haunted Landscape" with the New York Philharmonic. He has conducted the Milwaukee Symphony and the Sjaellands and Aalborg Symphonies of Denmark.

Weisberg created the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble in 1961, which was active until 1988. While he was conductor and music director, the CCE toured throughout the United States and the world, giving over 100 world premieres, including a number of renowned works. The ensemble completed 22 recordings, several of them award winning, and made 12 consecutive appearances at the Library of Congress.

Weisberg is the author of two books, The Art of Wind Playing, published by G. Schirmer and considered a classic, and Performing 20th-Century Music -- a Handbook for Conductors and Instrumentalists, published by Yale University Press. He has composed numerous works and has created several editions for bassoon, including a transcription of the Bach Cello Suites and a set of 15 Etudes for Bassoon in 20th-century music style.