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Columbia University Orchestra/Composers String Quartet tapes, 1949-1987

Summary Information

At a Glance

Title:Columbia University Orchestra/Composers String Quartet tapes, 1949-1987
Physical description:13.75 linear ft. (11 record cartons)
Language(s):In English


Arranged by date of performance.


Scope and Content

323 reel-to-reel tapes of performances by the Columbia University Orchestra and Composeres String Quartet. Nearly all of the reels are 7" 1.5 mil acetate (1200 feet).

Using the Collection

Access Restrictions

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This tapes in this collection cannot be used.

Restrictions on Use

For digital reporcuction and permission to publish material from the collection contact the University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Columbia University Orchestra/Composers String Quartet Tapes; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Archives; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed, 07/16/2012 PTL.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion July 17, 2012

Finding aid written in English

    2012-07-17 File created.
    2012-08-01 Finding aid published by PTL

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


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CUL Collections:
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HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
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Columbia University OrchestraPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Shanet, Howard.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Historical Note

Founder Edward MacDowell's influence was far reaching, both at Columbia University and beyond. His vision for the arts at Columbia would finally be recognized, with mandatory arts requirements and a wide range of performance ensembles. Perhaps the most noteworthy is the Columbia University Orchestra. Originally founded in 1896 as the Columbia University Philharmonic Society, MacDowell started the 25-member group. It was not until April 21, 1899, however, that the orchestra would debut under the direction of Gustav Hinnichs, in the Mendelssohn Theatre (now demolished in midtown Manhattan). The group would go on to participate in a "Grand Concert" at the Barnard Theatre in the 1900-01 season with other student ensembles. There were 4 concerts in 1902, and 6 in 1903, including one at the Installation of Nicholas Murray Butler as President of Columbia University. The CUO's first out-of-town performance occurred at Odd Fellows Hall in Hoboken, New Jersey that year. The number of performances remained at a consistent number for the next few years.

There seem to have been a few bumps in the Orchestra's history between 1909 and 1913. An article in the Columbia Spectator on November 25, 1909 discussed the rivalry between the Philharmonic Society and Frank E. Ward, the Chapel Organist. Apparently disgusted with the procedures of the Philharmonic Society, Ward had called for the formation of a new, additional orchestra. This would not have been serious except for the fact that the Philharmonic Society was on the brink of losing many of its members to the radical ensemble. In the end, however, all ended in peace and Ward returned to his organ. It also seems that there were no performances between 1911 and 1913. This was most likely due to disinterest or lack of student leadership. Of the few records found in the Columbia Archives, it is hard to discern what happened exactly. We do know, however, that the CUO returned in full force in 1913 under the direction of H.H. Fuchs. In 1916, the name was changed to the Columbia University Orchestra, only to be changed to the Students' Orchestra in 1917. (Today, it is back to the Columbia University Orchestra.) Also in 1917, women were allowed to join the ensemble. It is unclear just how many women joined at that time, but we do know that in 1934-35, there were just 5 women members out of a total of 51.

The CUO has traditionally brought new compositions and composers out to the public. Composers who have had their works debuted by the CUO inlude Bulent Arel, Maurice Wright, Jack Beeson, Otto Luening, Charles Wuorinen, and Henry Brandt. One of the more interesting pieces performed by the orchestra was "Rhapsodic Variations for Tape Recorder and Orchestra" by Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky, Professors of Music at Columbia in the 1950's. More recently, the CUO has toured cities and colleges throughout the United States. Under the current direction of Jeffrey Milarsky, the CUO has continued to be one of the most prominent university orchestras in the country.