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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

News broke this past week that the Juilliard School had come into an extraordinary collection of music manuscripts. Scores of first editions, printers' proofs and musical sketches, including Toscanini's personal score for this opera, Wagner's The Valkyrie.

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INSKEEP: Renee has been talking to one Juilliard graduate who was delighted to hear of the gift.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

That would be our own Miles Hoffman, author of the NPR Classical Music Companion. Good morning, Miles.

Mr. MILES HOFFMAN (Author): Hello, Renee.

MONTAGNE: You know, Miles, I'm looking at this list of composers, and it's breathtaking.

Mr. HOFFMAN: It is. I was hoping you were going to ask me who is represented, and I was going to say, well, the better question is who is not represented. You know, if you read the names, it's really all the biggies. It's Bach, and Offenbach, actually, and Mozart and Beethoven and Schubert and Schuman and Brahms and Sebelius and Mahler and Wagner and Revell and Copelandand on and on and on and on.

It's just all the great names you can think of. It is an extraordinary collection of manuscripts.

MONTAGNE: Let's just take an example, because in any other collection, any one of a number of these would be the crown jewel of that collection. I mean, tell us one that you found particularly astonishing.

Mr. HOFFMAN: As a performer, one of the ones that I find wonderful is Rachmaninov, Sergei Rachmaninov's score to his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. And what you have in this score, it's the score that was used in the performance when Stukovsky(ph) conducted the first performance and Bruno Valter(ph) conducted it with the New York Philharmonic and Rachmaninov played it. And you have markings in Rachmaninov's hand. You have markings in Stukovsky's hand and you have markings in Bruno Valter's hand, right here in this score. So from a performer's standpoint, that's really fascinating. Rachmaninov wrote this piece in the 30s, Renee, and we actually have a recording of Rachmaninov playing the piece.

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MONTAGNE: You know, Miles, one of the loveliest things that the very wealthy donor, Bruce Kovner, said was that he was looking to collect not just the great masters, but specifically manuscripts that revealed their creative process.

Mr. HOFFMAN: Right, he called them dirty copies. He was looking for dirty copies, copies, manuscripts that had markings, corrections, indications of performance ideas; and that's what this collection is. And that's one of the reasons that it's so interesting, because we do get a look into the creative process of many of these composers. And in some cases, we learn things.

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Mr. HOFFMAN: There is a Bach manuscript where there's an organ part for one of his cantatas. The part is not in Bach's hand, but there are indications in Bach's hand of tempo ideas and dynamic markings, when to get louder and softer. So that's fascinating. That's from the, I hate to say from the horse's mouth, but that's from the horse's mouth.

MONTAGNE: Well, that would be, for musicians and scholars, for the collector, or a collector with a couple of billion dollars, it must be a thrill to be able to just touch a manuscript that had the signature of Beethoven.

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Mr. HOFFMAN: And don't forget they're also, they're going to be at the Juilliard School, which is a school for performers. And so the idea of performers and composers learning something from the compositional process and from the primary materials and being inspired by being in their presence is very interesting.

Jane Gottlieb, the Juilliard librarian, told me that when a few of these materials were displayed, the Juilliard students lined up with their cell phone cameras to take pictures of them. You know, they were very excited about it, and that excitement is important.

MONTAGNE: Miles, thank you.

Mr. HOFFMAN: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Miles Hoffman is violist and artistic director of the American Chamber Players. And Miles, can you offer us a finale?

Mr. HOFFMAN: A finale. Well, why don't we use the finale from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, because a partial manuscript of that finale is one of the great treasures in this collection.

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INSKEEP: You can see two manuscripts in Juilliard's collections and hear samples of the work shown by going to NPR.org.

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