Special Collections

David S. Shields Collection of Russian Piano Music

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-Administrative Information
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Prof. David S. Shields is presently McClintock Professor of Southern Studies in the Department of English, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. In donating his extensive collection of Russian piano scores in August 2004, Prof. Shields wrote the following: 
"After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, many of the cultural institutions--academies, galleries, dance companies, and archives--were in disarray. Reports of the looting and selling of the contents of provincial libraries began to circulate. I became concerned about the preservation of the heritage of Russian piano music. Holdings of composers aside from Glinka, Tchaikowsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovitch were spotty in the West. The archives of the Belaieff and Jurgenson publishing houses had been destroyed during World War II, the paper on which Russian scores were printed from 1880-1930 was notoriously acidic and prone to decomposition without temperature control. So I determined to secure photocopies of as much of the corpus of endangered piano music as I could, copying on archival paper. I tried to secure copies of the rarest piano compositions--those not available, or that were held by two or fewer libraries in the Western hemisphere. I corresponded with scholars and pianists throughout Europe, including the Ukraine and Russia, obtaining copies of scores. I would dispatch paper to foreign coutnries to have the originals copied on the proper quality stock. (Alas, some of the scores were not copied with proper registration!) From 1990 to 1996 I did this collecting, securing substantial runs of figures scarcely known to western musical historiography (Vladimir Rebikov, Leonid Sabaneiev, Anatolii Aleksandrov) but who loom large in the development of experimentalism. The holdings are particularly thorough of the Scriabinistes. The collection traces the transformation from the melodiousness of the "Silver Age" to the futurist experiments of the "Age of Steel." While the situation in Russia now looks substantially less grim than it did a decade ago, and the anxiety I felt about preserving the heritage of Russian piano composition has dissipated, I still believe that this body of material affords a singular opportunity to study the shifts in the compositional vocabulary of one of the great musical traditions of the 19th and 20th centuries."

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