New York Philharmonic Pours More of Its Archives Onto the Web

Sheet music on music stands provide the road map for an orchestra’s performance, but scribbled annotations by the players impose a conductor’s ideas and serve as simple reminders to make an entrance or count correctly. Now, with more than half-million new digitized pages poured into the New York Philharmonic’s electronic archives, that world is open to inspection. It may prove interesting to concertgoers, and fascinating to musicians who may have to play those parts themselves.

The Philharmonic on Thursday said it had completed the first phase of an effort to put its vast archive on the Internet. Lasting three years so far, the project has made available public programs, scores and internal documents from 1943, when Leonard Bernstein made his debut with the orchestra, to 1970, the year after he left as music director.

The last chunk of Phase 1 focused on the individual parts that entered the Philharmonic’s library in mainly that period and even before, encompassing nearly 1,200 works by a few more than 300 composers. The orchestra said many of the markings reflect the directions of conductors like Bernstein and Andre Kostelanetz. A few reflect those of Toscanini.

The archives, led by Barbara Haws, will now move to digitizing materials from the period between the orchestra’s founding in 1842 to 1908. Phase 3 will cover 1908 to 1943.

The recent images show sometimes worn and browned parts held together by bits of tape. The universal symbol to Watch! — a sketch of eyeglasses — abounds, along with added dynamic markings and reminders at the top left of a page of how many measures rest were noted at the bottom of a previous page, a sign of how the human brain needs to be reminded to concentrate over the time it takes to turn a leaf.

Many of the parts are signed by the principal players, with the dates of performances. It is quaint to see small lines marking out the beats of the oboe cadenza that interrupts the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, probably marked by the orchestra’s principal oboist, Harold Gomberg.

“It’s going to be the most used part of the collection right now,” Ms. Haws said of the scanned sheet music. “Musicians are always looking for how other musicians dealt with challenges in a part.”

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