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Primary Sources for the Study of Teresa CarreƱo

Sarah R. Canino, Music Librarian
Ronald D. Patkus, Head, Archives and Special Collections

The current exhibit on Teresa Carreño in the Vassar College Library draws from collections held in the Department of Archives & Special Collections and the George Sherman Dickinson Music Library. It is fitting that this material should make its way to Vassar College. The 1941 acquisition was facilitated by Marta Milinowski '07, a student of Carreño and later, a Professor of Music at Vassar.

The holdings document the achievement and influence of a remarkable 19th and early 20th century woman. Meticulously-kept scrapbooks and numerous programs detail Carreño's life as a piano prodigy and later as a seasoned and influential performer. The many music manuscripts document Carreño's compositional achievements, while literary manuscripts reflect her activities as piano pedagogue. Letters to and from important musical figures and members of her family allow us to peer into 19th century musical life and show us Carreño's influence as both musician and mother. Other music manuscripts in the collection by such notable American composers as Edward MacDowell and Amy Beach help to further illustrate Carreño's position as friend and champion of younger composers. Recently these unpublished materials have been moved to the Vassar Libraries' Department of Archives & Special Collections.

Teresa Carreño's extensive library of published musical scores, including early editions of her works, remains in the Dickinson Music Library. Scores and orchestral parts of the concertos which she played on her concert tours are delightfully annotated by the orchestral musicians in numerous cities who played these works with her. Their marginalia serve as an unexpected source of dates and locations for Carreño's performances.

Carreño researchers are challenged today by the many locations of related materials. While Vassar may have the richest single collection, it is only a part of the documentation of Carreño's life. The collection at the Teatro Teresa Carreño, Caracas, Venezuela, given by Vassar in the mid-1950's, contains ephemeral material such as concert gowns, but also diaries, concert programs and reviews which are essential to a full understanding of Carreño's concertizing activities.

Still other academic and research libraries in the United States house correspondence and other materials relating to Carreño. These include Brown, Cornell, Yale and the Library of Congress. The Carreño materials at these institutions are small and not part of Carreño collections per se, but rather are part of other collections. Viewed together, it is clear that a wealth of primary source material is available for the study of Teresa Carreño and the musical world she inhabited. We encourage students, faculty and others to inquire further about these valuable holdings.