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Series XII: Paul Whiteman Reconstruction of Aeolian Hall Concert 1924 (The Birth of Rhapsody In Blue), 1980s
Series XXVIII: Audio and Video Recordings
At a Glance
Scope and Contents
Maurice Peress (1930-2017) was an American orchestra conductor, arranger, author, and educator. The papers includes audio and video recordings, clippings, contracts, correspondence, diaries, memorabilia, notebooks, photographs, posters, programs, research materials, reviews, scores, scrapbooks, sketches, working files, and other materials.
A large portion of the papers consists of records related to Peress' work as an arranger and conductor, and includes a large collection of scores and parts. These include scores and parts for pieces that Peress orchestrated or conducted himself, as well as those related to his concert reconstructions. The files for the three reconstructions at Carnegie Hall – Clef Club (Series X), Antheil's Ballet Mechanique (Series XI), and the premiere of Rhapsody in Blue (Series XII) – include scores and parts, research files, and working files. The papers also include Peress' annotated score for Bernstein's Mass, as well as rehearsal notes, a schedule, and a scrapbook. The papers also document Peress' work as a conductor and director, and include address books, appointment books, clippings, correspondence, contracts, an index of repertoire, notebooks, photographs, posters, press, programs, research materials, reviews, and working files.
There is also material related to Peress' teaching and writing in the papers. Series I includes published articles and books, as well as files related to book projects, lectures, and other subjects. Series I also includes some files on Peress' work at Queens College, but these are not extensive.
The collection also includes audio recordings and video recordings. These recordings include music related to Peress' work as a conductor and performer, as well as interviews, talks, and other recordings featuring him. Some of the commercial recordings document Peress' contributions to liner notes or other portions of the recordings. Other recordings appear to have been collected by Peress for research and other purposes. These recordings include interviews, musical works, interviews conducted by Peress, and a recording of his father playing oud music. The collection includes both commercial and non-commercial recordings, and includes audiocassettes, audiotapes, CDs, DVDs, phonograph records, and videotapes. A few items have been digitized by the Rare Book & Manuscript Library: these are noted in the container list. The collection also includes both audio recordings and video recordings.
There is a small amount of personal material in the collection. These materials include address books, diaries, family correspondence, and passports.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
If you would like to use audiovisual materials in Series XXVIII, please contact the library in advance of your visit to discuss access options. A few items have been digitized, but most are not readily accessible in their current formats.
The following boxes are located on-site: 71, 120, 123-124. The following boxes are located off-site: 1-70, 72-119, 121-122, 125-140. You will need to request this material from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at least five business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Maurice Peress Collection; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Leonard Bernstein Collection, Library of Congress.
Ambassador Auditorium Collection, Stanford University.
Aaron Copland School of Music Library , Queens College Libraries. Some of Peress' unmarked scores were added to the collections of the Aaron Copland School of Music Library.
No additional material is expected.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
2017.2018.M045; 2017.2018.M120; Gift of Maurice Peress, 2017.
2019.2020.M025: Source of acquisition--Maurice Peress's office in Queens College, Aaron Copland School of Music. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--2019-08-22.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public in summer 2018 as part of the Hidden Collections initiative.
Processed by Jennifer B. Lee, 2023. Finding aid written by Jennifer B. Lee, Yingwen Huang, and Catherine C. Ricciardi, 2023.
2023-07-03 Finding aid revised, and container list added. CCR.
2023-11-13 Placed five oversized scores in permanent book boxes (Boxes 136-140) and updated container list. CCR.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Maurice Peress (born March 18, 1930 in New York City, died December 31, 2017, also in New York City) was an American orchestra conductor, arranger, educator and author. After serving as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein beginning in 1961, Peress went on to be conductor of the orchestra in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1962. In 1970, he also became conductor for two years of the Austin Symphony Orchestra. In 1974, he left Texas to take over the Kansas City Philharmonic, where he remained until 1980.
As a conductor, he was especially proud to have conducted a number of world premieres, including Leonard Bernstein's Mass, that opened the Kennedy Center in 1971, Morton Feldman's Rothko Chapel, and David Amram's Autobiography for Strings.
In 1984, he became a professor at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, teaching conducting and leading the college orchestra to great acclaim, and establishing a Master of Arts degree in conducting there. He remained on the faculty until his death in 2017.
In addition, he conducted orchestras internationally, including the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in 1980, the Vienna State Opera in 1981, the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia of Rome in 1988, the Brno Orkester of the Czech Republic in 1997, the FOK Orkester at the Prague Spring Festival in 1988, the Shanghai Radio and Television Orchestra in 1996-97, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1998, and the Barbican Centre Orchestra in London in 1999. In the 2000s, he toured extensively in China, leading the Shanghai Opera Orchestra, the China National Symphony in Beijing and the Shenzhen Symphony. From 2010 to 2014 he served as the music director and conductor of the New Britain Symphony Orchestra in New Britain, Connecticut.
Peress was the author of Dvorak to Duke Ellington: A Conductor Explores America's Music and Its African American Roots, published in 2004 by Oxford University Press, and a memoir, Maverick Maestro, published in 2015. The archive includes some notes for a third unpublished book on conducting. As he wrote, "All the stories in my book are about the transfer of the center of creative power from Europe to America, Dvorak being the prophet and Ellington its fulfillment."
Maurice Peress worked extensively with Duke Ellington, orchestrating and revising a number of works including "Black, Brown and Beige," "Harlem," "New World A'Comin," and "Queenie Pie," a musical that remained unfinished at Ellington's death in 1974.
In July 1989 for Carnegie Hall's Landmark Jazz Concerts series he recreated the 1943 Carnegie Hall debut concert of Ellington and his orchestra, James Reese Europe's Clef Club Orchestra Carnegie Hall concert from May 2, 1912, the first all-Black concert given in Carnegie Hall, and George Antheil's Carnegie Hall concert from April 10, 1927 that included Antheil's "Ballet Mecanique" for eight pianists, pianola player, and percussion battery. In February 2014, at Town Hall, Peress marked the 90th anniversary of the Aeolian Hall concert which had included the world premiere of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" by restaging it.