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Library Acquires Manuscript of Landmark Symphony

John Corigliano’s “Symphony No. 1” inspired by AIDS Memorial Quilt

December 22, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold
Corigliano manuscript

The original manuscript of John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1 

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The original manuscript of John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1 (Of Rage and Remembrance) -- a landmark work widely considered classical music’s first significant response to the AIDS crisis -- is now part of Northwestern University Music Library collections.

One of the most important contemporary composers, Corigliano has won a Pulitizer Prize, an Academy Award, four Grammys and many other honors. “Symphony No. 1 was inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt and is arguably his most important work for social and cultural as well as musical reasons,” said D.J. Hoek, head of Northwestern’s Music Library.

The Chicago Symphony under Daniel Barenboim first performed the composition in 1990. It went on to win the Grawemeyer Award (1990), the Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance (1991), the Grammy for Best New Composition (1991) and the Grammy for Best Classical Album (1996).

“One of the reasons we collect music manuscripts is that they can give us hints of what the composer was thinking about, how small ideas became larger ideas that define the work,” says Hoek. “These aren’t apparent in the published version of the score, and they help students and scholars understand how the music was created.”

In this case, unusual elements of the manuscript visually suggest the quilt that inspired it. “For example, you can see where Corigliano quotes another composer’s music by literally taping in a paper segment of the other score, like a piece of patchwork, as a way of honoring a friend lost to AIDS,” Hoek adds. “In the published score, you don’t see just how literal and direct Corigliano was being.”

Last year, Corigliano visited Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music for the “John Corigliano Festival.” “The festival was an exciting way to bring the work of this leading composer to life for students and faculty,” said Bienen School Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery. “The manuscript gives us an opportunity to work with the Music Library on engaging artists and scholars in further performance and discussion of Corigliano’s work.”

His works have been performed and recorded by many of the world’s most prominent orchestras, soloists and chamber musicians. His opera, The Ghosts of Versailles, was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera for its 100th anniversary. His original musical scores for the films “The Red Violin” and “Altered States” earned him an Academy Award and Academy Award nomination, respectively.

The manuscript’s acquisition was made possible by a generous bequest from the estate of Jeffrey Wasson with additional support from the Library Board of Governors Annual Fund. Wasson, an Evanston native who died in 2010, earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees from the Bienen School of Music and also served on its faculty.

Topics: University News