THE NEW YORK TIMES
March 1, 2006
Juilliard Receives Music Manuscript Collection
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
A publicity-shy billionaire and hedge fund manager who secretly amassed a
trove of precious music manuscripts has donated them to the Juilliard
School, Juilliard said yesterday. The gift is one of the largest of its kind
by a private collector to an institution.
The gift consists of 139 items: autograph scores, sketches, composer-emended
proofs and first editions of major works by Brahms, Schumann, Schubert,
Beethoven, Chopin, Stravinsky, Bach, Liszt, Ravel, Copland, Mozart and other
masters of the classical music canon. Many of the manuscripts have been
unavailable for generations and could be a significant source of new insight
for scholars and performers.
Among the items are the printer’s manuscript of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,
Mozart’s autograph of the wind parts of the final scene of “The Marriage of
Figaro,” Schumann’s working draft of his Symphony No. 2 and manuscripts of
Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 2.
“It’s breathtaking,” said Neal Zaslaw, a professor of music at Cornell
University, when shown a partial list. “Any one of these would be a big
deal.” Mr. Zaslaw said it was unusual for the manuscripts to go to a
performance school not known for musicology rather than to a research
university. “But the main thing,” he added, “is that these are in a safe
place and available for scholars to consult.”
The gift is so large that Juilliard is building a special room for the
manuscripts, which were collected in the astonishingly short period of 11
years by the financier Bruce Kovner. Mr. Kovner, who founded and runs Caxton
Associates in New York, is chairman of the conservatory as well as of the
American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group. He is also
vice chairman of Lincoln Center.
An amateur pianist (he is currently working on the Chopin nocturnes) and
Ph.D. dropout in political science at Harvard, Mr. Kovner briefly took
evening music courses at Juilliard in the early 1970’s before founding his
hedge fund family, which had $10.8 billion under management last year,
making it the seventh largest, according to Institutional Investor. The
magazine said his personal take was $550 million last year.
Mr. Kovner said he began collecting after noticing a raft of manuscripts on
the auction market at relatively low prices - low being relative, in that
winning bids often exceeded $1 million.
“Clearly in some sense it was almost a primitive reverence for the thing
that was created by a composer,” he said, in explaining the urge to collect.
“It’s kind of like an icon.”
But, he said, “I realized it was better to make them available to the world
rather than to keep them under the mattress.” He said he hoped the donation
would not only inspire students and aid scholars but also help push more
works hidden in dusty archives toward the light of day.
Explaining that he had not added up the purchase prices, he said he could
not provide the total worth of the gift or say what the tax deduction would
Mr. Kovner bought most of the works anonymously at auction. They include
Beethoven’s arrangement of his monumental “Grosse Fuge” for piano four
hands, which sold at Sotheby’s on Dec. 1 for $1.95 million, and a score of
the Symphony No. 9, which sold for $3.5 million two years ago.
In fact, Mr. Kovner has turned out to be one of the auction house’s main
music manuscript clients, buying at least one item at each of the house’s
twice-yearly sales, said Stephen Roe, a musicologist and Sotheby’s director
of books and manuscripts in Europe.
Mr. Roe called the collection “absolutely world class.” Other private music
manuscript collections are larger, he said, but few are so focused on major
works by major composers. He said he knew of no other equivalent gift. “To
have so many highlights, and to have them collected over a relatively short
period of time,” Mr. Roe said, “that’s the incredible thing.”
Mr. Kovner said he was most interested in collecting pieces by the great
masters, and in manuscripts that showed their creative process. Hence, the
focus on proofs with the corrections and emendations by composers, and with
comments by conductors.
One example on display at Juilliard during a news media briefing was the
score of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, the version that went to the printer
with Beethoven’s emendations and that was used for the first performance in
Vienna in 1824. The finale, originally marked “Presto,” showed the word
“Prestissimo” written above, apparently in the composer’s hand.
“It’s not a collection of trophies,” said Christoph Wolff, a noted Bach and
Mozart scholar from Harvard who was invited to the briefing by Juilliard.
“It’s a working collection. It invites close study. It puts you in touch
with the composer and performer.”
Some of the items include parts used in performance, which often have
last-minute changes that do not show up in the printed edition, he said, a
vital tool for performers. “This is something musicology needs to realize,”
he added, “that the autograph score is not the final word.”
Joseph W. Polisi, Juilliard’s president, said the collection’s presence at
the school would help break down the “artificial wall” between scholarship
Now spread out in storage spaces around the world, the works - some in
fragile condition - will be consolidated in a climate-controlled storage
area and made available by special request to scholars. By September 2009,
when a $160 million expansion of the school is finished, they will have
their own room, available by appointment to researchers and Juilliard
students, with some items occasionally going on exhibit inside the
conservatory and possibly outside. Juilliard also hopes to create digital
images of the manuscripts for a Web site.
Despite his wealth - Forbes has listed it as $2.5 billion - Mr. Kovner has
remained out of the public eye. In a brief interview, he said he was not shy
but declined to discuss his wealth or his political views.
Mr. Kovner, a large man with prominent eyebrows and a finely honed sense of
self-deprecation, attended Harvard College but interrupted his graduate
studies. “I had very stunningly interesting ideas on dissertations,” he
said, “none of which I was able to complete.”
Outside business and cultural circles, Mr. Kovner is known for his financial
support of conservative publications and groups. Along with heading the
American Enterprise Institute - an influential organization marked by its
support of hawkish foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East - Mr.
Kovner is also a trustee of the Manhattan Institute, another major public
policy group. He has also backed The New York Sun.
In 1999, he bought a red-brick Federal-style building at Fifth Avenue and
94th Street, which used to house the International Center of Photography,
for $17.5 million. He has renovated it at a cost estimated at $20 million to
$40 million. He has invited Juilliard students and faculty to play chamber
music there, and he said he recently bought a harpsichord to continue his
He is also a moving force behind the plan to reconfigure and renovate
Lincoln Center, having promised a reported $25 million in support, a figure
he declined to confirm.
In a marked departure from most philanthropy in New York, Mr. Kovner said he
would not attach his name to the trove of documents, which will be called
simply the Juilliard Manuscript Collection.
“I’m happy to participate in ways that promote public discourse and public
institutions,” he said. “I don’t particularly like the cult of names. It’s a