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Introduction

Clinton F. Nieweg enjoyed a productive and successful career as a performance music librarian and as the founder of ~Proof Purr-fect Research~, a research company created to serve professional musicians and orchestra librarians. Prior to his retirement, he served for many decades as the Principal Librarian of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Now in his 80s, Clinton is still busy proofing orchestra repertoire, while answering e-mailed questions sent by orchestra librarians from all over the world. In the following interview, Clinton talks about his memorable experiences in working with some of the celebrated conductors in the world, as well as the major changes he witnessed in the past four decades – from the daily technical operations to the skills needed for overseeing a professional orchestra library.

Figure 1. Clinton F. Nieweg with score of the Critical Edition of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite (1919/2016).

Could we begin this interview by first introducing yourself, for example, your education background, and professional training?

I am now retired. Before my retirement, I served as Principal Librarian of The Philadelphia Orchestra. I am also the founder of ~ Proof Purr-fect Research ~ a research company that locates music for conductors, librarians, and players worldwide.

I was born in West Chester, PA, and raised in Reading, PA. I studied string bass with professor Wes Fisher and harp with Edna Phillips, former Principal Harp of The Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1959, I graduated from West Chester University with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education with a concentration of String Bass, Harp and Orchestra Library Science. Prior to joining the Orchestra, I worked first as head of the instrumental department for J.W. Pepper & Son Music Publishers and later as rental librarian for Theodore Presser Music Publishers. In the evenings, I volunteered and studied with Jesse Taynton, who was at that time Principal Librarian with The Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1975, I joined The Philadelphia Orchestra as a salaried assistant librarian and in 1979, I met my life-long goal of becoming Principal Librarian. At this time, I became a mentor to students wanting to become orchestra librarians. Creating this career for musicians is a specialty of mine, as no school currently offers a program in orchestra librarianship.

Do you come from a family of professional musicians or librarians?

My family was all schoolteachers. They encouraged classical music, but they were not musicians.

Are you a second-career performance music librarian – meaning that you had other careers before landing a career in performance music librarianship?

In 7th grade I started to study the string bass and was told that if I took care of the school’s orchestra and band music, I could have a closet in the music room as my “office.” (Although I was soon out of that closet.) This sparked my interest in becoming a performance music librarian. My first choice, and the goal I worked toward, was becoming The Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Librarian.

Are there any major differences in the repertoire between the Philadelphia, and other major orchestras in Europe and North America?

Differences in works programmed are often a result of varying copyright laws around the world. Orchestras prefer to perform music they can buy and keep for future use, as works on rental are more expensive. If contemporary composers allowed their music to be purchased rather than rented, they would probably see their compositions performed more often.

Could you describe the overall sound quality of The Philadelphia Orchestra – then versus now – have you observed any major differences?

The Stokowski/Ormandy “Philadelphia Sound” became more focused and precise under Riccardo Muti.

Could you describe the manpower and professional scene in performance music librarianship during the time you first entered this profession?

My predecessor and mentor, Jesse Taynton, was the only professional orchestra librarian at The Philadelphia Orchestra from 1946, with some part-time staff help. In 1975, I became his assistant under the orchestra contract. When he died in 1979, I was promoted to Principal Librarian, and two assistants were hired, who, over time, were also added to the orchestra contract.11 Philadelphia Orchestra – Homepage. Available at: https://www.philorch.org.View all notes

The work load in Philadelphia was extremely intense. We often used the help of the interns I mentored, and also several dedicated volunteers. However, despite the extra sets of hands, the hours were long, and consumed by tasks such as ordering music, proofing scores and parts, bowing the string sections, and creating performance folders a full seven weeks ahead of rehearsals. Completing these tasks accurately takes time.

It is rare that an orchestra administration and even some musicians, realize how much work goes on in the library, but when done correctly, this work saves both rehearsal time and money. A library never seems to have enough people to do all the work that the administrators want. If you are looking for a 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. job, do not become an orchestra librarian.

Forty to fifty years ago versus now – what are the major differences in terms of the daily technical operations and set of skills needed for running a professional orchestra library?

All the basic duties are the same but now there are more resources available and shared among librarians. The use of computers for research has helped that part of the duties. The resources on the computer help librarians find corrected instrumentations, different editions of works, and the source for the score and parts.

When you first started your career as an orchestra librarian, were photocopying machines already available?

A mimeograph machine was used, which produced a distinctive unpleasant odor: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimeograph]

How did orchestra librarians perform their jobs when before the time of photocopying machines?

Parts were copied by hand manuscript. Now a librarian is expected to be able to computer engrave music for emergencies, page turns, and transpositions. In Philadelphia, we did not perform from copies unless we owned or rented the original material. High-quality copies were made when a corrected set had to be created due to the original published material containing too many mistakes to be used for performance. Uncorrected copies were used only for individual practice parts.

Could you name a set of skills and knowledge that would never become obsolete or outdated, regardless of how rapidly technology continues to change?

“How to do research to find the source of a work” will always be needed. Just because a conductor has heard of a composition or arrangement does not mean that it is available to the orchestra to perform. Also, a librarian should learn the style of bowing used by their orchestra and be able to create bowings. There is not always time to ask the principal players to bow the master string parts.

Riccardo Muti was the Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra from 1980 to 1992; and Wolfgang Sawallisch, from 1993 to 2003. Can you describe these working styles of these two conductors, and their working relations with you as the Orchestra Librarian of The Philadelphia Orchestra?

Maestro Muti is a perfectionist with an exceptional ear. He was the first conductor to ask me to proof the score and parts to be sure all the notes, dynamics, and articulations matched each other and were accurate. Maestro Sawallisch was pleased that we continued this work, as it saved him rehearsal time, so he could use his wonderful skills to interpret the orchestra repertoire.

The Philadelphia Orchestra has produced many legendary recordings in the past. Could you name a few of the legendary recordings that you were directly involved in making, and your experiences in taking part in making them?

All works that were to be recorded were given priority in proofing. This was to be sure the material would reflect what the composer wrote, and that the session would not have to stop to correct wrong notes.

Mentorship is such an important theme in profession of performance music librarianship (both mentoring and being mentored) – because much of the knowledge and technical skills must be acquired via practical experience in the workplace, and not from academic studies. Thus, could you please tell us about your experiences about both? Who has been your greatest mentor since the day you entered the field of performance music librarianship?

In high school, college, and during my early career (while waiting for the PO position to open), I was mentored by some fine musicians in the music publishing field, and tried to pass that along to another generation.

Since currently no school awards a degree in orchestra music librarianship, practical experience in a music library is one way future orchestra librarians can learn their craft. I have always had several promising interns each year who were educated in how to accurately do this job, stressing the importance of preciseness in every detail and learning how to perform the expected duties.

The Philadelphia Orchestra Library has always encouraged young musicians to explore librarianship. Many of the librarians who studied with us for a year or two are now professional librarians in major orchestras.

Maestro Muti was the one influence who showed me what a dedicated orchestra librarian can do for an orchestra. In 1989 I received The Philadelphia Orchestra’s C. Hartman Kuhn Award from him. It was the first time a non-playing member of The Philadelphia Orchestra was awarded that honor.

What is the worst nightmare that could happen to an orchestra librarian?

Having the wrong composition on the stands happened during our summer residency in Saratoga Springs, NY. Correspondence between the soloist and his management included a single typo regarding the opus number of the concerto he wished to play. This misinformation was passed along to the library, and created a situation in which the wrong work was put on the stage — a situation which was not discovered until the rehearsal started. After a few measures, the soloist said to the conductor, “I do not play that composition.” The Philadelphia Orchestra was not at home, so the correct parts had to be flown to Albany, NY and picked up by a librarian. The wonderful orchestra then sight-read an exciting performance that night.

Were there any emergency situations in the past where you had to rely on your skills or experiences to resolve them in order to keep the show running?

By having proofed, bowed parts in the rehearsal folders seven weeks in advance of the performance we were usually able to avoid any crisis.

However, one unavoidable problem occurred when the orchestra was rehearsing the Nieweg 2000 corrected edition of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The sprinkler system went off by mistake, soaking both the musicians and the only set of parts available in the world at that time for that edition.

The parts had to be hung on improvised clotheslines and ironed out, to dry in time for the performance.

Could you tell me about the staff size and staffing structure of the Philadelphia Orchestra – 40/50 years ago versus now?

From 1900 to 1935 the orchestra archives list six different player/librarians.

In 1936 there was a stage crew member/librarian who handed out the music. Preparation of the music was done on stage during rehearsals.

In 1946 the first professional musician was hired as a full-time non-playing orchestra contract member librarian. He had some part-time staff assistants.

In 1975 a full-time assistant under the orchestra contact was hired.

In 1980 two assistants where hired, both of whom became part of the orchestra musician agreement.

I was fortunate to have been able to hire Nancy M. Bradburd as an assistant. Nancy and I met while in high school district/regional band festivals and then we both attended West Chester University.22 West Chester University – Homepage. Available at: http://www.wcupa.ed.View all notes As a hard worker and meticulous proofer, she was exactly the right person for the position. With her secretarial and organizational skills, my vision of an association for performance librarians became a reality.

Please give some background on founding the Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association (MOLA).

MOLA was founded in 1983. MOLA’s mission is to facilitate communication between professional performance librarians, educate and assist them in providing service to their organizations, provide support and resources to the performing arts, and work with publishers to achieve the highest standards in music performance materials.

The first meeting was held in Philadelphia as several of the professional orchestra librarians I had talked with, but never met, were to speak at the Conductor Guild Conference held that year in Philadelphia. Nancy and I called the librarians whose names we knew and asked them to invite other librarians to meet for the day.

A librarian I mentor, Jennifer Johnson, assistant librarian at The Metropolitan Opera33 The Metropolitan Opera – Homepage. Available at: https://www.metopera.View all notes has written “The 1983 gathering of 25 librarians in Philadelphia has, almost a quarter century later, reached near-mythic proportions. The day-long meeting in The Philadelphia Orchestra library, the caravan of cars to Clinton Nieweg’s 18th-century farmhouse for a Pennsylvania Dutch meal, the first officers’ gathering in Clint’s laundry room – veteran hotshots pass the story down to neophytes just out of school, who in turn singsong the tales amongst themselves like bouncy kindergartners reciting the history of Washington crossing the Delaware.”44 MOLA – Homepage. Available at: http://mola-inc.org/m/articles/view/History-of-MOLA.View all notes

In July 1984, the first issue of the quarterly newsletter Marcato was published, which addresses many issues of common interest such as feature stories, errata lists, and updates from the special committees within MOLA.

Currently MOLA is an international, not-for-profit corporation spanning the globe with a membership of over 500 institutions,55 MOLA (Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association) – Homepage. Available at:www.mola-inc.org.View all notes including libraries from symphony orchestras, opera and ballet companies, educational institutions, music festivals, professional bands, and other ensembles.

Members stay in contact with each other by Q&A forum and in other various ways. An annual conference is hosted by a member orchestra which features presentations, workshops, round-table discussions, networking opportunities, and numerous other valuable resources.

How would you describe your typical day at work (40/50 years ago) at The Philadelphia Orchestra Library?

The three librarians were in the office at 9:00 a.m., an hour before the start of rehearsal. The music folders were put on stage and then we worked on future programs while the rehearsals were taking place. Rehearsals finished at 1:00 p.m. and per contract we were not required to be there in the afternoon. Nonetheless, many afternoons were spent working. A librarian was back in the office by 7:00 p.m., one hour before the concert, to answer questions or solve problems. At 7:45 p.m. the conductor’s score was put on the podium. During a concert, a musician would change the conductor’s scores for the other concert pieces. This gave us more time to do the librarian duties for upcoming performances. The concert ended by 10:30 p.m. The library was closed, and a long day was over.

Throughout your career as an orchestra librarian, did you ever have any regrets or second thoughts?

No regrets, as many say that the musical world has been helped by my creation of high and consistent standards in the field of orchestra librarianship:

  1. The organizer/founder, first host, and Past President of Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association (MOLA).

  2. Created the Orchestra Library Information (OLI) Yahoo Internet group.66 OLI (Orchestra Library Information) – Homepage. Available at: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/OrchLibIn.View all notes

  3. A pioneer in proofing scores and parts of standard orchestra repertoire.

  4. Created errata lists for public domain works – lists which which are shared with all conductors and librarians through the Orchestra Music Errata Catalog. Hosted on the MOLA website.

  5. Consultant: League of American Orchestras; Librarian Discussion group, Conductors Discussion group and the Conductors Guild. In 2009, I was the first performance librarian to be honored by the Conductors Guild.

  6. Have corrected many different editions published for the use of orchestras worldwide.

  7. Supervising Editor: Nieweg et al. Performing Editions 77 Edwin F. Kalmus Nieweg Editions. http://www.kalmus-music.com/poe.php.View all notes “All Nieweg editions are created Pro Bono and the editors do not collect any type of royalty. The language of music is so complicated that there are no perfect editions. However, we strive for as much accuracy as possible in order to make rehearsals more efficient.”

  8. Continuing to correct these editions as new sources become available. Example: Ravel, Daphnis et Chloe Suite 2 third edition edited by Nieweg and Carol A. Westfall.

  9. Mentor to conductors worldwide. Example: Les Siècles de François-Xavier Roth magnificent Ravel “Concert La Scène” ResMusica. From page 7 of the published program: “La partition de Daphnis et Chloéinterprétée lors de ce concert e été revue et corrigée par le musicologue et éditeur américain Clinton F. Nieweg.”88 Les Siècles. http://www.resmusica.com/2016/05/31/les-siecles-de-francois-xavier-roth-magnifient-ravel/.View all notes

  10. Editing critical editions of orchestra scores and parts, which are available from The Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia.99 Fleisher Collection. http://www.freelibrary.org.View all notes

  11. Being active in training the next generation of orchestra librarians, some examples: Principal Librarian Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Assistant Librarian Metropolitan Opera; Principal Librarian National Symphony Orchestra (DC); Principal Librarian New World Symphony (FL); Assistant Librarian, Toledo Symphony (OH); Librarian Allentown Symphony (PA); Principal Librarian Florida Symphony, (Tampa, FL); Assistant Curator of the Fleisher Collection of Orchestra Music; Two former librarians for the Naples Symphony (FL).

  12. Proofing the orchestra repertoire books used by performance librarians: Daniels, David. “Orchestral Music: Fourth Edition” ©2005. Fifth Edition 2015. Girsberger, Russ. A Manual for the Performance Library (©2006). Manning, Lucy. Orchestral “Pops” Music: A Handbook. (©2009/©2013).

  13. Creating and sharing lists of unusual works to make it easier for orchestra librarians to locate this material. These Nieweg Charts are posted on SOLC – Symphony Orchestra Library Center, created and managed by Steven Sherrill. 1010 http://www.orchestralibrary.com.View all notes

  14. One of these lists in book form has been well received by librarians, music directors and bass trombone performers.

Nieweg - Music for Bass Trombone - A Reference Book of Works for Solo Bass Trombone with Orchestra, Band & Chamber Ensemble, compiled by C. F. Nieweg. Its 282 pages includes detailed publisher sources, instrumentation, recording information, timings, links to performances online, composer dates, and reference sources for 600 compositions from 400 composers. Second revised printing. Pub. Cherry Classics Music. 1111 https://cherryclassics.com/collections/method-books/products/nieweg-music-for-bass-trombone-a-reference-book-of-works-for-solo-bass-trombone-with-orchestra-band-chamber-music.View all notes

How are you spending your time in retirement? Do you miss your work as an orchestra librarian?

I spend time proofing standard orchestra repertoire, answering librarians’ questions via email, and doing research on “where can I find that composition?.” Without having to commute, I can help musicians worldwide each day and still have time for fine dining nightly!

Notes

1 Philadelphia Orchestra – Homepage. Available at: https://www.philorch.org.

2 West Chester University – Homepage. Available at: http://www.wcupa.ed.

3 The Metropolitan Opera – Homepage. Available at: https://www.metopera.

4 MOLA – Homepage. Available at: http://mola-inc.org/m/articles/view/History-of-MOLA.

5 MOLA (Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association) – Homepage. Available at:www.mola-inc.org.

6 OLI (Orchestra Library Information) – Homepage. Available at: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/OrchLibIn.

7 Edwin F. Kalmus Nieweg Editions. http://www.kalmus-music.com/poe.php.

8 Les Siècles. http://www.resmusica.com/2016/05/31/les-siecles-de-francois-xavier-roth-magnifient-ravel/.

9 Fleisher Collection. http://www.freelibrary.org.

10 http://www.orchestralibrary.com.

11 https://cherryclassics.com/collections/method-books/products/nieweg-music-for-bass-trombone-a-reference-book-of-works-for-solo-bass-trombone-with-orchestra-band-chamber-music.

356 days ago
 
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