Composition from BMI/Haverlin Gift to Harvard Receives West Coast Debut
Old is often made new again, but in the case of eighteenth-century German composer Antonio Lotti, old never lost its new luster. Lotti’s 1717 Missa a tre cori (“Mass for three choirs”) was unearthed among the treasure trove of manuscripts BMI donated to Harvard University’s Houghton Library in 1996. The work was debuted in the United States that same year, and earlier this month—15 years later—the American Bach Soloists and American Bach Choir at San Francisco’s St. Mark’s Lutheran Church gave Missa a tre cori an acclaimed West Coast premiere.
Lotti’s layered work still resonates, as Stephen Smoliar’s review from the San Francisco Examiner makes clear. Missa a tre cori is one of the 800 musical manuscripts that make up BMI’s gift to Harvard. Named the BMI/ Haverlin Collection in honor Carl Haverlin, BMI’s president from 1947 to 1963 who worked tirelessly to gather and preserve much of the output from the world’s greatest composers, the collection includes priceless first and early editions of scores, as well as breathtaking rarities, by 175 composers, including 10 from Johann Sebastian Bach, 47 from Ludwig van Beethoven, 18 by Johannes Brahms, 79 from Frédéric Chopin, 48 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, 23 by Charles Gounod, 29 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 15 from Franz Schubert, 22 from Johann Strauss, Jr., 10 by Richard Strauss, 10 from Peter Tchaikovsky, 20 from Richard Wagner, and much more. As the collection passed from BMI to Harvard, Harvard’s Dr. Christoph Wolff remarked that it was “probably the single most important gift made on behalf of musical source materials” in the University’s history.
In addition to providing a wealth of historical perspective and opportunities for scholarship, the BMI/Haverlin Collection also points to BMI’s long-standing dedication to the preservation and promotion not only of classical music, but of the work of all creators. By assigning dogmatic value to copyright, BMI helps to ensure that the contributions of heritage artists will always be prized, and tomorrow’s cultural touchstones will always be possible.