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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Mus 195

Rudolf Kolisch papers


Papers of musician Rudolf Kolisch including correspondence, musical and literary compositions, recordings, performance records, teaching materials, subject files, and biographical materials.


  • Creation: 1886-1978

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


47.5 linear feet (141 boxes, 19 volumes)

The papers came to the Houghton Library in 1986 directly from Kolisch's residence in Watertown, Mass. They reflect in their holdings of correspondence, documents, scores, and recordings the entire range of his personal and professional life on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and his broad-ranging activities and interests as performer, scholar, author, and theorist.

The correspondence includes (among the over one thousand correspondents) extensive exchanges with Adorno, Berg, Eisler, Leibowitz, Korngold, Krenek, Nono, Schoenberg, Steuermann, Stockhausen, and Stuckenschmidt . A large part of this section contains correspondence with concert and broadcasting agencies, as well as universities, colleges, and conservatories (Series I). - The composition series documents Kolisch's extensive literary output, consisting of analytical essays, lectures, broadcasts, and program notes; it is, for the most part, to this date, still waiting to be published (Series II). - The great number of manuscript and printed scores are significant for their performance and analytical markings by Kolisch, often reflecting the collaboration with the composer (Series III). - The performance records include programs and clippings, with scrapbooks preserved of the Kolisch Quartett concert seasons 1928-1933, and also the rehearsal diaries, 1921-1927 (Series V). - The subject files include papers relating to composers or organizations. - (See also Regina Busch, '"Der Nachlass von Rudolf Kolisch," Mitteilungen der Internationalen Schönberg Gesellschaft vol. 2 (1987), p. 7 ff.) (Series VIII). - The large collection of reel-to-reel tapes have been copied to compact disks by Kolisch's assistant David Satz. His commentaries on these recordings contain so many valuable facets and details that they are included, unedited, as an appendix to the printed finding aid (Appendix).

Biographical / Historical

The violinist Rudolf Kolisch was born in Klamm, Austria, in 1896. He studied violin, composition and musicology in Vienna, and was close to the circle around his teacher Schoenberg (who married Kolisch's sister Gertrud in 1924). Kolisch's quartet was founded in 1922; first known as the Wiener Streichquartett, then Kolisch Quartett, it became internationally known as one of the protagonists of the Second Viennese School. Bartok, Berg, Webern, and Schoenberg entrusted them with the first performances of many of their works. In 1939, while touring the USA, the quartet in its original formation disbanded. In 1944, after years of struggle, Kolisch became the primarius of the Pro Arte Quartet, in residence at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and later joined the faculty at the School of Music. In 1967 he left that position for the New England Conservatory, Boston, where he taught until his death in 1978. (For additional biographical information, see Claudia Maurer Zenck, "Was sonst kann ein Mensch denn machen, als Quartett zu spielen? Rudolf Kolisch und seine Quartette. Versuch einer Chronik der Jahre 1921-1944," in Österreichische Musikzeitschrift no. 53 (1998), p. 8ff.).


Arranged into the following series:

  1. I. Correspondence
  2. A. Letters to Rudolf Kolisch
  3. B. Letters from Rudolf Kolisch
  4. C. Other letters
  5. II. Compositions (literary) by Rudolf Kolisch
  6. A. On general subjects
  7. B. On individual composers
  8. III. Compositions (musical) by others (and also by Rudolf Kolisch)
  9. A. Manuscript
  10. B. Printed (with analytical or performance markings)
  11. B1. Full-size scores
  12. B2. Miniature scores
  13. B3. Pasted-up scores
  14. IV. Compositions (literary) by others
  15. A. Manuscript
  16. B. Printed.
  17. V. Performance records
  18. A. Concert programs (in chronological sequence)
  19. A1. Kolisch Quartett
  20. A2. Pro Arte Quartet
  21. A3. Rudolf Kolisch Solo
  22. B. Concert reviews (in chronological sequence)
  23. B1. Kolisch Quartett
  24. B2. Pro Arte Quartet
  25. B3. Rudolf Kolisch Solo
  26. C. Other (business etc.)
  27. C1. Kolisch Quartett
  28. C2. Pro Arte Quartet
  29. C3. Rudolf Kolisch Solo
  30. VI. Teaching materials (by institution and place)
  31. VII. Biographical material
  32. A. Personal documents
  33. B. Miscellaneous
  34. C. Articles, obituaries, and memorials
  35. VIII. Subject files, orgnaized by Rudolf Kolisch
  36. IX. Audio and visual documents
  37. A. Visual materials
  38. B. Audiotapes and CD copies
  39. X. Appendix [available only in print version]
  40. A. David Satz: inventory of recordings
  41. B. Indices
  42. XI. Additions to collection

Please note that item number 717 was inadvertently omitted from this finding aid.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2004KO. Manuscripts presented by and purchased from: Mrs. Lorna Kolisch, 178 Columbine Place, Hercules, California 94547; received: 23 Dec 1986. Purchased with funds raised by the Committee for the Music Collections at the Houghton Library.

96M-39. Item (2211) presented by: Mr. David Satz, 549 First Street, Brooklyn, New York 11215; received: 22-28 Feb 1997.

97M-52. Items (784) and (1692a) presented by: Regina Busch,Trauttmansdorffgasse 27, 1130 Vienna, Austria; received: 20 Mar 1998

Part of item (2174) presented by: Andreas Lehner; received: Jan 2001.

Related Materials

The Houghton Library contains other collections related to Rudolf Kolisch:

  1. 1. The papers of Josefa Rosanska (1906-1986), Kolisch's companion from 1925 and his wife from 1933 to 1942. This collection contains in 78 folders the bulk of their correspondence (bMS Mus 194).
  2. 2. The papers of Eugene Lehner, (1906-1997), violist with the Kolisch Quartett, 1927-1939, contain, among other materials, copies of the lists of performance dates and performed works of the Kolisch Quartett, assembled by violinist Felix Khuner, 1924-1925 and 1936-1937 (*97M-51).
  3. 3. The papers of Kurt Frederick (1907-1997), violist with the Kolisch Quartett for a few months in 1941 (*99M-18), should also be consulted.

Other Kolisch-related materials can be found at Mills Library at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Its series of Kolisch concert programs from 1953-1967 fills in the gap in this collection. The Harvard University Archives and the Wisconsin State Historical Society also hold material (See Susanna Watling, "Rudolf Kolisch in Madison, 1944-1967," in M. Grassl and R. Kapp, Die Lehre von der musikalischen Aufführung in der Wiener Schule. Veröffentlichungen zur Musikgeschichte Bd. 3 (Vienna, in preparation).

Separated Materials

Books and scores without performance markings were transferred to the Houghton Rare Book Collection, accessioned as a group under *86-99. Some items contain inscriptions by composers or authors. A collection of slides of Arnold Schoenberg paintings is now at the Fine Arts Library at Harvard.

Processing Information

Processed by: Barbara M. Wolff

Boxes 122 and 123 were inadvertently skipped during numbering.

Kolisch, Rudolf, 1896-1978. Rudolf Kolisch papers, 1886-1978: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

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