Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)

Archival Sources for Letters and Other Documents

This page provides a list (organized alphabetically by country) of libraries and archives where Sorabji-related source documents, mainly letters, can be found. A brief description of the collections’ contents is given; links to items are provided with as much precision as the library catalogues allow, that is, using permanent links whenever possible.

This compilation provides data for collections where relevant items might be included but appear not to, for instance when a major collection of the papers of an acquaintance or dedicatee is located. Furthermore, it does not systematically cover the musical manuscripts located in public collections.

Links to the specific pages where items are located in libraries and archives are given whenever possible, but it should be kept in mind that URLs resulting from searches in library databases are often very long and complex and are subject to change. Permanent links (permalinks) are given whenever possible.

PDF copies of scores by Sorabji: Substantial collections of photocopies of manuscript scores and of editions as well as of recordings will be found in the following research libraries, some of which also have extensive holdings of the scores published under the composer’s supervision. The list gives the number of records found as of 25 February 2015 with Sorabji as author. See also the list of links for Library and Archives Catalogues.

In addition, the legal deposit libraries of the United Kingdom (British Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, Bodleian Libraries, University Library (Cambridge), and the Library of Trinity College (Dublin) are supposed to have PDF copies of the material published by the Sorabji Archive. These items appear not to be listed in their catalogues.

A plea to private collectors: Private collectors who have acquired manuscripts and other valuable documents relating to Sorabji are strongly encouraged to consider the possibility of eventually turning their treasures to research libraries rather than selling them to second-hand dealers, as this will simply move them from one private collection to another and keep them inaccessible to scholars for research purposes. Their heirs, or their representatives, may not be in a position to properly assess the significance of such documents for scholarship and could find it difficult to dispose of them properly.

I am indebted for finding references to various letters in online catalogues to Mikaël Francœur, a doctoral student in musicology at Laval University who performed the first part of Transcription in the Light of Harpsichord Technique for the Modern Piano of the Chromatic Fantasia of J. S. Bach, Followed by a Fugue (1940; 15 pp.) at Laval University on 19 March 2010.

Australia

The University of Adelaide: The Rare Books & Special Collections at the University of Adelaide houses The Leopold Godowsky – Paul Howard Collection under no. MSS 0193 (see Series 4, 4.1, xiii). The collection was donated in 2015 by Paul Howard’s youngest son, Emeritus Professor Peter F. Howard, who taught geology at Macquarie University (Sydney). The collection contains three letters to Sorabji and seven from him as well as what may be a photocopy of the Godowsky chapter in Mi contra fa, biographical notes (not further identified), and the booklet Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji by Clinton Gray-Fisk and Splendour upon Splendour: On hearing Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji play by Frank Holliday (said to have been inscribed to the Howard family by Godowsky, which is impossible since the pianist-composer died in 1938 and the brochure dates from 1960). There is also a copy of Mi contra fa catalogued separately from the Rare Books & Special Collections.

Austria, Germany, and Switzerland

Alban-Berg-Stiftung: The Alban-Berg-Stiftung (Vienna) owns a set of proofs of Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) that came into Alban Berg’s hands.

Laureto Rodoni: This private archive, which operates an extensive site devoted to Ferruccio Busoni, owns a collection of letters of Busoni to Egon Petri and Rosamond Ley (1882-1969, English translator of Busoni’s letters and essays), originally the property of the Burra Moody Archive, in which can be found a letter from Sorabji to Ley (date not specified).

Paul Sacher Stiftung: The Paul Sacher Stiftung (Basel), where a large number of manuscripts of works by Sorabji are now located, has letters to George Richards, the husband of the architect Elisabeth Whitworth Scott, and to Gordon Watson, an Australian pianist who was a pupil of Egon Petri and who played several works by Humphrey Searle.

Arnold Schönberg Center: The Arnold Schönberg Center (Vienna) owns one letter (in French) from Sorabji to Schoenberg, dated 23 December [1921] (ID: 16881).

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz: The Busoni-Nachlass owns two letters to Ferruccio Busoni dated 29 June 1920 and 18 April 1921 (Mus.Nachl. F. Busoni II, 4849 and 4850) as well as the autograph of the copy made by Sorabji’s copyist, A. J. Collins, of Sonata seconda for Piano (1920; 49 pp.) under Mus.ms. Anlage K. Sorabji 1.

Canada

Library and Archives Canada: Library and Archives Canada (Ottawa, Ontario), formerly known as the National Library of Canada, owns various Sorabji-related documents.

McMaster University: The Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) houses an extensive collection of consisting of three accruals. The numbers given below are the result of a compilation made from the numbers for each folder in the finding aids:

University of Toronto: The Edward Johnson Music Library at the University of Toronto two items:

France

Médiathèque Musicale Mahler: The Médiathèque Musicale Mahler, 11 bis, rue Vézelay, F-75008 Paris, owns some correspondence between Sorabji and Alfred Cortot. See the document Lettres et correspondances dans les fonds d’archives (K à Z).

Great Britain

British Library: The British Library (London), in addition to the manuscripts of Concerto [no. 1] pour piano et grand orchestre (1915-16; 177 pp.) and Music to “The Rider by Night” (1919; 54 pp.), filed under Add. 65183 and Add. 57966 ff. 29-45v, owns various letters by Sorabji. The text for Music to “The Rider by Night” can be found in an as yet uncatalogued collection of Robert Malise Bowyer Nichols’s works filed under Dep. 10190.

Cambridge University Library, Deryck Cooke Archive: The Deryck Cooke Archive, currently being processed, appears to contain correspondence between Sorabji and the British musicologist and broadcaster (1919-76).

Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives

Edinburgh University Library

Erik Chisholm Trust: The website Erik Chisholm: The Forgotten Man of 20th Century Music, managed by the Erik Chisholm Trust (Binstead, Isle of Wight; founded in 2001), was established in 2008 and redesigned in 2013. It offers a number of Sorabji-related documents or links thereto. See also the page Trust Members.

National Library of Scotland: The National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh) owns the papers of the composer and pianist Ronald Stevenson. The collection, filed under Acc.11567 Ronald Stevenson Musicological correspondence (section 24), consists of the following items (selective list).

Royal Academy of Music: The Royal Academy of Music (London) owns two Sorabji-related items in its York Gate Collections. Both items were given in 1999 by the concert agent Norman McCann, who studied singing at the Royal Academy of Music from 1948 to 1952.

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Archives & Collections (Glasgow), in January 2016, received from Dr. Morag Chisholm the papers of her father, Erik Chisholm, GB 2607 EC/1-12 (16 boxes, representing 158 items of correspondence). The letters from Sorabji (originals and typewritten transcriptions by Phyllis Brodie, Chisholm’s sister-in-law and Secretary of the South African Music College) are filed under EC/2 (Sorabji Correspondence). See Stuart A. Harris-Logan, “Scotland’s Forgotten Composer: The Archive of Erik Chisholm”, Archives Hub at the Centre of Great Research, 1 September 2016. See also the entry for the University of Cape Town, where a few other letters are housed.

Royal Northern College of Music: The Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester) owns the papers of the pianist John Ogdon, which contain the following items.

St Andrews University Library: The Library at St Andrews University owns three letters from Sorabji written between 7 and 23 November 1967 in addition to a set of proofs for Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.). These items are found in the papers of Cedric Thorpe Davie (MSS 37754-37758) and are listed in Cedric Thorpe Davie (1913-1983): Catalogue of Works and Index to Correspondence (University Library, St Andrews, 1988), 111.

Sorabji Archive (Sorabji Music Archive until January 1993): The Sorabji Archive (Easton Dene, Bailbrook Lane, Bath BA1 7AA {Google Maps} from its foundation in September 1988 up to 2008; now Warlow Farm House, Eaton Bishop, Hereford, HR2 9QF {Google Maps}) houses the largest collection of letters to Sorabji as well as copies of letters by him.

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, The Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts: The Library at the former Trinity College of Music owns several valuable items, including three manuscripts given by Miss Anne Cassal:

University of Bradford, Special Collections, J. B. Priestley Library: The papers of the Serbian philosopher, social critic, and activist Dimitrije Mitrinović (1887-1953), who fled to England in 1914 and contributed to The New Age, contain a number of items of correspondence involving Sorabji. His name is mentioned under five headings in the finding aid by Emma Burgham published as New Atlantis Foundation Dimitrije Mitrinović Archive: Catalogue:

University of Sheffield, Sir Thomas Beecham Music Library: The papers of Sir Thomas Beecham contain a copy of the published score of Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [no. 5] (1920; 144 pp.); BEECHAM Q314; 200471314.

University of York, Borthwick Institute for Archives: The MacCarthy Foulds Archive contains a list entitled “List of People Interested in Puppets” mentioning Sorabji’s name in connection with the Puppet Festival Theatre of Maud MacCarthy (1882-1967) at Grove End, Chiswick. Mentioned in Nalini Ghuman,“‘Persian Composer-Pianist Baffles’: Kaikhosru Sorabji”, in Resonances of the Raj: India in the English Musical Imagination, 1897-1947 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 250n31.

Westminster City Archives: A number of Sorabji-related items housed until 2008 at the Central Music Library come from the collection of the music critic Edwin Evans (1871-1945) as “Collection of autographed correspondence: 1903-1969” (LETTERS 1903-69). See details in the Collection Browser by clicking on each of the entries for Sorabji; information on the contents of the letters from the citations are given between quotation marks.

See the two entries returned by the Library Catalogue of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Brian David Williams: This resident of Glastonbury, who retired from the ministry in 2001, has posted his diaries as All the Days of My Life. The entry for 9 December 1978 reproduces the text of a letter from Sorabji dated 4 December 1978.

South Africa

University of Cape Town, UCT Libraries: The Special Collections (Manuscripts and Archives) of the UCT Libraries own the papers of Erik Chisholm under number BC129. Sorabji-related documents will be found in the finding aid in the following locations:

The collection also features the following manuscripts, referred to in Stellenbosch University, Directory of South African Music Collections: University of Cape Town (UCT): Manuscripts:

The Guide to the Manuscripts in the University of Cape Town Libraries (2020), p. 297, lists under BC1396 (Erik Chisholm Papers) six archive boxes donated by Morag Chisholm that are “additional to the main collection (BC129)”.

The Sorabji-Chisholm correspondence is now at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. See also Michael Tuffin’s Catalogue raisonné on the website of the Erik Chisholm Trust.

See also some archival documents on the website Erik Chisholm: Snapshots of a remarkable life (University of Cape Town) divided as Newspaper clippings, Photographs, Documents, and Miscellaneous (includes a snippet of Chisholm’s handwriting dealing with Sorabji and a letter by Sorabji of 4 March 1956).

The papers of Colin Taylor, under number BC76, include correspondence with Philip Heseltine, and could yield interesting bits of information.

United States

George Eastman Musuem: The papers of the photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn at the George Eastman Museum (Rochester, NY) do not appear to contain any documents about Sorabji, at least based on the finding aid (RRML.SC0032).

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Indiana University: The papers (call number LMC 1954) of the Dublin-born English music critic Desmond Shawe-Taylor (1907-95) contain letter(s) by Sorabji in box 2.

International Piano Archives: The International Piano Archives at the University of Maryland (College Park, Md.), house the papers of one of Sorabji’s American admirers, Donald Garvelmann. In addition to the manuscripts of Three Pastiches for Piano (1922; 17 pp.) and Frammenti aforistici (Sutras) (104) (1962-64; 37 pp.), it contains Sorabji’s letters to Garvelmann.

Library of Congress: The Performing Arts Reading Room at the Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.) has five collections featuring Sorabji-related material.

Peabody Archives: The Peabody Archives at Johns Hopkins Libraries received a gift (2016 at the latest) of the pianist Michael Habermann filed under Collection of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji published writings and reproduced scores, PIMS-0038. It consists of “1 full-size letter box, 1 half-size letter box, and 5 large flat boxes” and “four volumes of collected published writings of Sorabji, in addition to many photocopies of his manuscript and published scores for piano, chamber ensembles, orchestras, organ, and voice”.

Syracuse University Libraries: The Special Collections Research Center has a finding aid entitled An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University listing the four manuscripts given by Norman Gentieu in 1982.

Yale University

Last modified: 2021-06-08
© Marc-André Roberge 2021
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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