An interesting collection of 34 typed letters signed to American composer Lee Hoiby (1926-2011) written over an 11-year span, with dates ranging from January 10, 1946 to June 24, 1957, many quite detailed, some with autograph additions. Egon PETRI.
An interesting collection of 34 typed letters signed to American composer Lee Hoiby (1926-2011) written over an 11-year span, with dates ranging from January 10, 1946 to June 24, 1957, many quite detailed, some with autograph additions.

An interesting collection of 34 typed letters signed to American composer Lee Hoiby (1926-2011) written over an 11-year span, with dates ranging from January 10, 1946 to June 24, 1957, many quite detailed, some with autograph additions.

Most one page in length unless otherwise noted, folio or large octavo, the earliest two written from Ithaca, New York, later from Oakland, California and Rome. All in original envelopes addressed to Hoiby. With two contemporary newspaper reviews of Petri's concerts and two additional typed envelopes (without letters).

A warm, detailed, sometimes witty, and often quite personal correspondence in which Petri touches on many topics including Hoiby's compositions and the development of his career; Hoiby's work at the Contrappuntistica with Stanley Hollingsworth and his studies with Menotti; his recommendation that Hoiby study the works of Alkan, Liszt, and Wagner; his lessons with Sokoloff and playing for Serkin; and Hoiby's expressed interested in studying with Petri.

Petri also discusses his own concertizing; his views on piano technique and interpretation; his recording contract with Columbia; and his teaching at Mills College in some detail.

Mention is made of a number of contemporary composers including Ferruccio Busoni, Virgil Thomson, Darius Milhaud, and Samuel Barber and Kleiber, Gordon Watson, and John Moriarty; recitals by Menahem, Gunnar, and Zenia in New York; Horowitz in San Francisco; and conductors Mitropoulos and Toscanini.

Petri also discusses a number of pieces he is playing and/or recording including lesser-known works by Liszt including the Malédiction, the Legend of St. Elizabeth, the Messe de Gran, St. Stanislas, the Dante Symphony, and the Faust Symphony; Alkan's Symphony; Busoni's Fantasia Contrappuntistica; the Paganini Caprices; Beethoven's Trio 121a; Prokofiev's Overture on Hebrew Themes; the Schumann, Brahms, and Bloch Quintets; the Bach-Busoni Chaconne for the Piano in D minor; and Mendelssohn's Piano Quartet op. 1 in C Minor.

With occasional commentary regarding personal matters including various health issues, his and his wife's application for American citizenship, etc.

- February 27, 1945. "Your idea of playing the Bach Forty-Eight is a splendid one... Your change in the end of the Spanish Rhapsody seems to me very good... I was very glad to see that you wrote on Busoni... About Partch, I know very little except by hearsay. It would be interesting to listen to the results, though I doubt very much that an old man like me would be very much drawn to this kind of innovation. I am off on a new tour..."

- September 19, 1945. Regarding tickets to Petri's recital in Chicago. "Oh, thoughtless of youth! Listen to the wisdom of old age!... It might interest you to hear about several Russian students who were very poor and wanted to hear me. Some of them went without their dinner for a couple days and others pawned their coats... I have been asked to teach at Mills College again..." With photocopy of Hoiby's typed reply.

- October 2, 1945. Petri apologizes for the misunderstanding regarding tickets for Hoiby to his recital in Chicago, etc. Together with copy of associated typed letter from Petri to the Adult Education Council of Chicago and their reply.

- January 10, 1946. "I have decided to give up teaching for the present and to practice..."

- January 14, 1946. Copy of letter from Hoiby to Petri relative to Petri's concert in Chicago.

- May 17, 1947. "I am very happy that it is your wish to study with me again..."

- June 16, 1948. With autograph postscript. "Of course you are very welcome to sit in at my private lessons as often as you like."

- December 9, 1948. 1-1/2 pp. With autograph postscript. "I am very glad you like Mr. Menotti... Your description of Mr. Sokoloff and his lessons is fascinating... I hope that eventually you will get around to playing for Serkin and that he will let you work with him.... If you can get hold of any works of Alkan, I certainly would get them..."

- January 10, 1949. "Congratulations on your good fortune in having a grant by the Curtis Institute... I hope both your piano and composition studies will get more engrossing and prolific as time goes on. I shall be very anxious to watch your development..."

- February 10, 1949. 2 pp. "I don't know of any other pianist who would be interested in producing the less known works of Liszt... Most people don't realize how much Wagner is indebted to Liszt... How much Liszt was indebted to Alkan... Congratulations on your Opera and the Contrapuntal pieces. I hope that Menotti will keep his promise and have your compositions performed publicly in the near future."

- April 6, 1949. 1-1/4 pp. with a 1-1/2 page postscript dated April 13, 1949. "Thank you very much for reporting about Menahem [Pressler, German-born Israeli-American pianist, b. 1923]. I can get a very clear picture of his playing by your description of it... That he is fond of me surprises and pleases me. I always thought that deep down in his heart he considered me rather a cold and intellectual person... I have only a few hours between lessons to learn the C Minor Opus One by the 'son of Mendel.' I am disgusted to have to sweat to learn the immature conception of a thirteen year old Jewish boy who is dead for the last hundred years! I wonder why the Griller's unearthed this very unpleasing and boring work... I was glad to read about Mr. Menotti's interest and promises... I am very happy to have your program and know that you have performed your own composition and that you are busy writing... Last Sunday I played the Mendessohn and Brahms's A Major Quartette with the Grillers. Although the first work is slightly immature, drawn out and full of secondhand ideas, I was really impressed by the wonderful skill with which that precocious boy has treated the instruments and handled the form. It is full of life and fire and certainly sounds excellent."

- June 15, 1949. 2 pp. "My playing [of the Chaconne] is not so bad, except I wish I had taken broader tempi in spots, but the recording is dull, dry and fuzzy. I wish it had not been released..."

- June 29, 1949. "... we have to appear before the judge next Wednesday, to become citizens of the U.S.A... Yesterday, two of my old friends, and pupils, both female and not very young, came to dinner and I was unwise enough to play the Alkan and the Busoni F.C. - and Lord! I played like a demented pig."

- August 1, 1949. "... there was no recital because I was so overworked and nervous and practicing made my playing worse instead of better, so I decided to cancel it... I was told that I could not be admitted to citizenship, because having been born in Germany, I was an enemy alien, and no peace treaty had yet been concluded with that country..."

- September 12, 1949. "This is just a short note to thank you for your letter and the "Toccata." It was very kind of you to have it bound so beautifully, and dedicate it to me."

- November 9, 1949. "I was very interested in what you said about Solomon. Judging from his records, I quite agree with you and can see a certain affinity regarding tone and natural simplicity of playing (I nearly said interpretation, but I strongly dislike that much abused word)." With short autograph postscript.

- January 25, 1950. "I was very glad to hear from you again and know about the fate of the "resurrected" Toccata. Congratulations on the performance in Carnegie Hall. What a shame that the critics had already left and could not review it, but they will when V[ladimir] H[orowitz] plays it, which I sincerely hope he will do... You asked me two questions... Why are the Ballades of Brahms (and you might have added the Opus 118) not released: I don't know, but the Beethoven Sonata has been on a long playing record, together with the 'Chaconne,' and is rather good I think. Secondly, will I ever complete the Opus 106 recording?.. I am pretty well convinced that I shall never do it." With minor autograph addition.

- April 26, 1950. 1-1/3 pp. "Congratulations on all your activities, accomplishments and success. I am so glad you are associating with so many interesting people and I very much hope that Horowitz will play your Toccata... You said something in your letter about Horowitz being only half Jewish. That reminds me of Kleiber's visit to Busoni's house while I was there. After Kleiber had left people began to talk about him and one man said that Kleiber was only half Jewish - whereupon Busoni said 'Well, the half which I have seen certainly was Jewish!'... My class at Mills is extremely good this year..."

- June 9, 1950. 1-1/3 pp. "... I did not want to send off a letter without going through the new version of your Toccata... The Bach-Busoni Concerto in Portland, went very well and I gave the Chaconne as an encore. Virgil Thomson, whom I had known personally for some time and who has heard me play on several occaisons, had never said anything to me about his impression... but after the Chaconne, he came back stage visibly impressed, and said to me: 'Wonderful! Wonderful! I have not heard such piano tone since I heard Busoni play.'... I have gone carefully through both versions of the Toccata, and I am delighted with the changes you made..."

- October 18, 1950. "Both new developments in your career were very exciting, and I congratulate you on them. We are looking forward to hearing your ballet performed in San Francisco... Next Wednesday I open the Mills College series with a recital at which I shall play the following: Variations on Weinen, Klagen (Liszt); Hammerclavier[!] Sonata (Beethoven) and Chopin's Barcarolle, Etude E Flat Minor Opus 10; Nocturne C Minor, and Ballad F Minor... Perhaps sometime, I shall make a tape recording of the Opus 106..."

- October 25, 1950. "Just a hurried note... to say that I have just given you the most wonderful recommendation you could possibly ask for..."

- November 15, 1950. "The story about the conversion of your friend to Liszt's transcriptions was very interesting and valuable... Sorry that the ballet premiere is so indefinite as yet..."

- January 24, 1951. "... I am most thankful for your lovely gift which is a delightful addition to the library of a bibliophile, both as contents and as printing and binding... I shall never forget that you were the one who introduced me to Cabell... I have been asked to play the Brahms Quintet with the San Francisco Quartet..."

- May 16, 1951. 1-1/2 pp. "As to the Opus 106, I actually forced myself into recording it in Los Angeles... What a strange person Menotti is to leave his post and not even send a word of explanation. It is lucky indeed that Samuel Barber offers to take care of his pupils... I am settling down into a kind of senile indolence and inactivity, which is partly enjoyable, but also aggravating for somebody who has been active all his life..." With minor autograph additions.

- November 2, 1951. 2-2/3 pp. "I still would like to play the 'Fantasia Contrappuntistica' once... but don't know whether I dare... I was very happy to hear that you have started your lessons with Menotti again... I am still angry with myself for letting you make the recordings the last time we met here at the house because I made an awful fool of myself, especially as I had not practiced and had just had a few drinks... There are times when I really enjoy still being among the living, and nature, friends, music and books always hold great charm for me. So this letter ends on a pleasant major chord..."

- December 7, 1951. "When the times comes, of course I shall be delighted to write letters of recommendation for you - not that I am especially fond of doing that, but that I am fond of you and know it is part of my duty as a teacher and friend." With autograph postscript. Some loss to blank right margin.

- February 23, 1952. "... last Monday evening I went to Jim's house and recorded the Busoni, the Alkan, the Medtner, and the Carnival."

- May 9, 1952. "A week from tomorrow I shall play the new Milhaud Quintet with the Hungarians at Mills. He wrote it especially for the Mills Centennial..."

- August 23, 1952. 2-1/2 pp. "... I played a lot of Alkan... We repeated the Milhaud quintet and also made a tape recording of it. It went very well and Milhaud told me that the performances were marvelous... You don't know how happy I am that you have received the Fulbright at last. My sincere congratulations on your success with Schirmer's and Erich Leinsdorf... I was quite bowled over by the news of the operas you and Stanley have been commissioned to write... You want to know my own private and confidential opinion of the Milhaud Quintet... My impression is a mixture of admiration for his cleverness and a strong dislike for the character and sound of the music... " With program for a concert at Mills College on July 9, 1952 with Petri at the piano. Forwarded to Hoiby at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

- November 7, 1952. "First I want to tell you that we heard the broadcast of your orchestra piece, and that Mitta, Ulla and I were very much impressed with it... I am enclosing a program of the recital I gave at Mills last week. There was a very large and appreciative audience and I heard many favorable comments, especially about the Beethoven..." With autograph additions. Addressed to Hoiby in Rome.

- January 23, 1953. "On Saturday, January 10, we went to the Opera House in San Francisco to hear your, or should I say my, orchestral suite. I am not very good at criticizing and analyzing my impressions - all I can say is that we enjoyed it hugely. It is vital, brilliant, clear, and masterfully orchestrated. I felt very proud when I read the program notes mentioning the fact that it was dedicated to me..." Addressed to Hoiby in Rome.

- May 29, 1953. 2-1/3 pp. "I am very pleased that you heard Busoni's 'Turandot'... Busoni had a way of rummaging through Ambros' History of Music and taking his themes from there. You will find a gregorian chant in the Concerto, besides a Neopolitan[!] folk song and a popular Army tune. That an English melody has nothing to do with the Chinese Princess did not seem to strike him as incongruous. There were strange traits in Busoni's makeup..." Addressed to Hoiby in Rome.

- December 1, 1953. 2 pp. "The only playing I have done is my usual winter recital at Mills... at the end of February I shall play the Mozart D minor with the Monterey Symphony Orchestra... So far nothing has materialized about Capitol Records... Love and all best wishes, especially for the forthcoming opera."

- February 6, 1954. 2 pp. "I was most happy to have a copy of the 'Toccata'... What you say about the lack of creativity and mediocrity of college professors interested me very much. Milhaud is a remarkable exception... I have just re-read everything you say about modern music, and your own feelings. It is such a pleasure and such a delight to hear an intelligent and talented young man talking so frankly about himself, and I want you to know that I am entirely with you in everything you feel and say..." With minor autograph additions.

- June 24, 1957. "The Conservatory at Basle, Switzerland, has offered me a Master Class for the next academic year... What you say about the influence I had on your life has touched me deeply... I need not say that you were one of my most talented, promising and accomplished students, and I know that there is a fine future for you as a composer." Forwarded to Hoiby at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Most envelopes torn at right or upper edge where opened, with minor paper loss.

A German-born American pianist and teacher, Petri was a pupil of both Teresa Carreño in Berlin and later of Busoni in Weimar; he also studied composition and theory with Kretschmar and Draeseke. "Busoni took a deep interest in his development and later described him as being his ‘most genuine pupil’. Petri corrected the manuscripts of Busoni's operas and piano works, and also collaborated with him in editing Bach's keyboard works." John Methuen-Campbell in Grove Music Online. He became a professor at the Royal Manchester College of Music in 1905, returning to Berlin in 1911 to become Busoni's assistant in addition to concertizing and teaching.

Petri became a naturalized American following his American debut in 1932 and went on to teach at Cornell University, Mills College, and the San Francisco Conservatory.

"As a composer Hoiby was a modern Romantic from the lineage of Barber and Menotti. The influence of the former is evident in his warm lyricism, while that of the latter is found in a propensity for light, genial humour. Though much of his music is characterized by a disarming diatonic simplicity, his ambitious works tend towards greater harmonic and textural complexity. Interest in his music has centred chiefly around his operatic, choral and vocal works, which seem to stimulate his most deeply felt efforts. Some of these works… achieve an eloquence comparable to the later works of Barber. With greater critical acceptance of more conservative musical styles from the early 1980s onwards, Hoiby’s music has been performed and recorded with increasing frequency." Richard Jackson and Walter G. Simmons in Grove Music Online. Item #31279

Price: $2,750.00  other currencies

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