Noteworthy trove

Special to UM News, 04-26-2019

Trustee Alfred Camner and his family make a second donation of rare musical scores to the University.
Materials from the recently donated Camner Family Music Collection include: A 1956 facsimile of The Earliest Compositions of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (left), and a portrait of Mozart as an adult from L’oca del Cairo (The Goose of Cairo), 1867 (right). Photo: Jose M. Cabrera, University of Miami Libraries
Materials from the recently donated Camner Family Music Collection include: A 1956 facsimile of "The Earliest Compositions of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart" (left), and a portrait of Mozart as an adult from L’oca del Cairo ("The Goose of Cairo"), 1867 (right). Photo: Jose M. Cabrera/University of Miami Libraries


The University of Miami’s Camner Family Music Collection of rare first, early, and limited editions of musical masterworks has nearly doubled in size, thanks to a recent gift from the Camner family of more than 100 new items, many featuring multiple components.

The collection—a valuable resource for musicians and musical scholars—was created by a generous previous gift in kind from University of Miami trustee Alfred Camner and his family.

University of Miami Board of Trustees member Alfred Camner (left) with wife Anne Camner. Photo courtesy: Camner family

University of Miami Board of Trustees member Alfred Camner (left) with wife Anne Camner. Photo courtesy Camner family

In 2016 Alfred and his wife, Anne, along with their children Danielle Camner Lindholm, Errin Camner, Lauren Camner Winter, and Andrew Camner — all alumni of the University — donated several hundred scores to the Marta and Austin Weeks Music Library and Technology Center at the Frost School of Music.

“It is our family’s desire that this collection form the start of an extraordinary musicological resource,” Alfred Camner said at the time. He and Anne Camner also endowed the University’s Camner Center for Academic Resources.

Held in the Weeks Music Library under the auspices and guidance of University of Miami Libraries’ distinctive collections and preservation programs, the Camner Family Music Collection comprises historical works spanning three centuries and many parts of the world.

The family’s second gift to the collection is a dazzling array of compositions penned by musical giants—from Bach and Beethoven to Gershwin and Berlin, Mozart to Mussorgsky, Schubert to Stravinsky—many of them printed and performed during the composers’ lives. It includes opera scores by Puccini and Verdi; an 1820 edition of Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier;” an 1824 American printing of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus;” a first edition of Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe;” and Jerome Kern’s score for the 1933 musical “Roberta.”

Bringing musical history to life

“The Camner Family has demonstrated an inspirational philanthropic gesture in expanding the scope of their gift to the University of Miami,” said Dean of Libraries Charles Eckman. “Not only does this gift double the size of the Camner Family Music Collection, it includes several extraordinary items that will increase the reputation of the Music Library’s distinctive holdings, thereby attracting the best students and researchers to UM.”

“Especially for students of performance, musicology, and composition,” said Dean Shelton Berg of the Frost School of Music, “this is an amazing resource that puts us on par with some of the most important such collections at other universities.

“The items in the new gift are just as exciting as those in the first,” Berg added. “The Frost faculty are thrilled. There is something about seeing the music from its own time—in some cases, the composers themselves oversaw the printing of the piece—that is so different from a modern edition. It really connects you to a composer and his work.”

Some of the pieces resonate strongly for Berg on a personal as well as professional level. “I just recorded Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’” he said, “and seeing a copy of an edition that Gershwin himself probably saw is so meaningful.”

Protecting a unique legacy

According to Amy Strickland, music librarian and interim head of the Weeks Music Library, many of the scores are in surprisingly good shape. This is due in large part to the type of paper used in bygone centuries, made from cloth fibers that are more stable than the more acid-heavy tree paper used today.

“The scores are fascinating as artifacts in their own right as well as all they represent,” Strickland said. “You can see differences in the level of detail and ornamentation, the type of lithography used. You can sometimes see where the plate left an impression on the paper.”

Nevertheless, the items are, understandably, somewhat fragile. Fortunately, UML has robust resources in preservation, including in-house binding and restoration capabilities and expertise.

Alfred Camner clearly trusts the University to protect what is, in many ways, a family legacy. His father was a musician, and both of his parents were fond of opera; Alfred and Anne are also opera devotees.

About 25 years ago, Alfred Camner’s brother, James Camner, a prominent musical archivist, suggested that Alfred and Anne begin collecting early editions of musical manuscripts, and he helped to guide the selection and acquisition process over the years.

When the family decided to divest a portion of the collection, the choice of the University of Miami as a recipient was a natural one for this family of loyal ’Canes.

“The Frost School does a fantastic job,” said Alfred Camner. “We’re delighted that performance students will be able to see original manuscripts as well as first and early printings by Beethoven, Mozart, and other composers, and then see the notations and variations between various editions. It builds enthusiasm and understanding of the work in a unique way.” 

“We really want members of the University community and the musical community to know of the collection’s existence and availability.” 

Mainly Mozart and beyond

Toward that end, a variety of activities and events will help build awareness of the Camner Collection in the months to come. The Mainly Mozart festival will be held at the University of Miami Libraries’ Kislak Center this year, providing a remarkable opportunity for festival patrons to see some of the items in the collection, which now features first editions of several Mozart compositions.

Strickland and the Weeks Music Library team are collaborating with colleagues in University of Miami Special Collections and Preservation Strategies departments to develop an exhibit for display during Mainly Mozart.

Strickland will create a record in the University of Miami Libraries catalog for each item in the collection. The records will be shared via the WorldCat library catalog database, enabling music students and researchers from around the world to discover the collection.

Notations or stamps found in many of the scores will be incorporated into the records, helping scholars understand how the compositions evolved over time as well as shedding light on the lives and careers of those involved in their histories.

“The signatures, stamps, and notes of people who wrote, owned, conducted, or performed the works remind you that these legendary figures of music weren’t just famous names—they were real people,” said Strickland.

“It is just a wonderful collection, and working with the Camners to share and preserve it is a privilege.”

Other plans slated to raise the collection’s profile include a reception in fall 2019 to celebrate the collection and the donors as well as classroom outreach and community engagement activities. 

For everyone involved in the effort to preserve, display, and share the treasures of the Camner Family Music Collection, it is a true labor of love. “We are just so grateful to the Camners for their generosity and their love of music,” said Berg. “We can never express it enough.”