Bodleian Libraries announces the endowment of the Alfred Brendel Curatorship of Music

29 November 2010

Alfred BrendelThe Bodleian Libraries will announce tonight, Monday 29 November, 2010, the endowment of the Alfred Brendel Curatorship of Music named in honour of renowned pianist Alfred Brendel. The announcement will be made at a celebration concert in the 15th-century Divinity School at which Alfred Brendel will read his own poetry and his son, Adrian Brendel, will give a cello recital.

Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian, said, “We are enormously grateful to the Library’s friends and to the friends of Alfred Brendel, especially Carol Hogel and The Dunard Fund, for their vision in funding this important post. The Bodleian is a magnet for musicologists and musicians, for theorists and performers from all over the world. It is this nexus between teaching, research and performance that is at the heart of Oxford’s musical prowess. In these economically-challenging times, this endowment ensures a strong foundation for academic study and stewardship of its world-class collection.”

Eric Clarke, Heather Professor of Music, said ,"The Music Faculty is delighted by the news of this endowment - made in the name of one of the world's outstanding musicians, and ensuring for the future the specialist curatorship that the Bodleian's exceptional music collection requires. Oxford is a world-leading centre for the study, creation, and performance of music, and this Curatorship helps to maintain that position, and to strengthen the hugely beneficial relationship between the Faculty's teaching and research and the outstanding resources of the Bodleian."

Alfred Brendel said, "A 'Curator of Music' - ? That is what I have been trying to be in my own way. And dealing with primary sources, with autographs and first editions has always been part of the pleasure. I am delighted and honoured that the Bodleian library is about to receive such a curator thanks to the generosity of distinguished patrons, and that it should be connected with my name.” 

The University of Oxford’s Faculty of Music came top of the ‘research power’ rankings in the most recent (2008) Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) with the largest number of research active staff submitted by any Higher Education Institution in the UK.

The Bodleian’s music collection holds over half a million printed scores and 5,000 volumes of manuscripts and is one of the greatest and most important collections in the world containing music manuscripts from medieval times to the present day. Among the earliest books to fill the shelves of Duke Humfrey’s Library were an 11th-century Winchester Troper and the Agincourt Carol from the 15th century, while one of the Library’s oldest manuscripts of musical importance is the 9th century Leofric Missal from Exeter. The collection also contains important sources for 15th-century continental music by Dufay and his contemporaries. Other highlights include the 16th-century Forrest-Heyther part books and Handel’s conducting score of Messiah,used by the composer for all his own performances and containing many of his additions and annotations. Gustav Holst’s suite The Planets, given by Imogen Holst in gratitude for the Bodleian having provided safe refuge for her father’s scores during the Second World War, is one of the Library’s great treasures from the 20th century. The Library also houses a large collection of material relating to Felix Mendelssohn, including the final autograph score of the Hebrides overture, and is one of two main centres for Mendelssohn research in the world.

The first curator to hold this newly-endowed position will be the present incumbent, Martin Holmes. Mr Holmes read music at Worcester College, Oxford and has worked at the Bodleian for twenty-five years, in the Music and Rare Books departments and latterly as Head of Catalogue Support Services, before taking up his present post in the autumn of 2008. A practising musician, Mr Holmes plays the organ and piano and has contributed to a variety of publications.

Image of Alfred Brendel above copyright of Benjamin Ealovega, 2005.

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