Otto Albrecht papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Otto Edwin Albrecht (1899-1984) was an internationally known music bibliographer and professor of romance languages and musicology at the University of Pennsylvania. He was born in Philadelphia on July 8, 1899, to Antonius Carl Albrecht and Mary Ann Parker Albrecht and had four older siblings, Ethel, H. Carl, Emil, and Gilbert. Otto Albrecht enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania in 1917 and graduated in 1921 with an A.B. in romance languages. His graduate degrees were also in romance languages from Penn and included an M.A. in French in 1925 and a Ph.D. in French literature in 1931. While researching his dissertation, Albrecht collaborated with medieval musicologist Jean Beck; but otherwise, Albrecht was self-taught in the field of musicology.
In addition to his studies, the bulk of Albrecht's professional career was spent at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught in one capacity or another from 1923 until 1970. From 1922 to 1923, Albrecht served as visiting lecturer in French at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1936, he held a fellowship from the Oberländer Trust to study the musical settings of Goethe's poetry at the Prussian State Library in Berlin. At the University of Pennsylvania, he served as Instructor and later Assistant Professor of French before also joining the Music Department in 1938. He was made Associate Professor of Music in 1962, and Emeritus Professor upon his retirement in 1970. Among the courses he taught at Penn was his specialty "Bibliography of Music," as well as topics in Baroque and Romantic music, and American music to 1860. His research interests in many ways paralleled his teaching areas. He studied Medieval (12th century) liturgical drama, art song, Brahms, American music, musicology in Germany, and, of course, music bibliography. He was considered by many to be the foremost expert on the history of music in Philadelphia.
Albrecht's achievements in the field of music bibliography include A Census of Autograph Music Manuscripts of European Composers in American Libraries from 1953, a monumental publication which he was in the process of revising at the time of his death. He was involved in the establishment of the Music Microfilm Archive, which provided access for the first time to a large number of music manuscripts by subscription. Serving from 1974 to 1981 as the chair of the AML-MLA Joint Committee for Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM), he was co-editor of Series A I, Einzeldrucke vor 1800 (comprehensive listing of music manuscript before 1800 with an individual composer), for volumes 8 and 9. With University of Pennsylvania curator of rare books Neda Westlake, he jointly edited the catalog of the collection of singer Marian Anderson, and he made significant contributions to the catalog of the Mary Flager Cary collection at the Morgan Library.
His biggest impact at the University of Pennsylvania was probably his systematic building of the collections of the Music Library over a span of at least 40 years. According to Albrecht in a 1971 letter to Dr. Glenn R. Morrow, "in the thirty-seven years that [he] held the position of curator …, the Library [grew] from less than a hundred volumes to 30,000 books and scores, 19,000 phonograph records, and a growing collection of tapes and microfilms ... [and was] called by competent observers the best music reference library between New York and Washington and regularly serve[d] not only scholars [at the University of Pennsylvania], but also readers from many institutions within a wide range of Philadelphia," (box 3, folder 21). In 1937, he was appointed Curator of the Music Library by the president of the University and took on the title officially in 1953. When the first Music Librarian, Kostas Ostraukas, was hired in 1957, Albrecht officially relinquished the title of curator, but served unofficially as such for the remainder of his life. In 1970, upon his retirement from the Music Department, the Music Library was named for him.
In addition to building the Music Library's general research collections Albrecht brought a significant number of rare material into the library. He was gifted at cultivating donors, and a few of his most important acquisitions include the music manuscripts of colonial forefather Francis Hopkinson, the music collection of the Art Alliance, the collection of renowned musicologist Alfred Einstein, and a cabinet reputed to have belonged to Ludwig van Beethoven. He established the Friends of the Music Library (which many said was more aptly called the Friends of Otto E. Albrecht) raising significant amounts of money which was used for music purchases.
Albrecht belonged to several professional organizations over the course of his career. He was a member of the American Musicological Society (AMS), serving on the board of directors in 1939 and 1945, as treasurer from 1954 to 1970, as business manager of the Society's journal from 1958 to 1980, and as advertising manager of the journal from 1980 to 1984. He was a member of the Music Library Association (MLA), and served twice as vice president, from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1950 to 1952. He was also a member of the Pennsylvania chapter of the MLA, as well as the International Association of Music Libraries (IAML), and the Sonneck Society (today known as the Society for American Music). He served as treasurer of the 1961 Congress of the International Musicological Society and was named an honorary fellow of the Morgan Library in 1971. A festschrift was written in his honor in 1974 for his 70th birthday and he received the MLA Citation, the Association's tribute for lifetime achievement, in 1979.
Albrecht was inducted into the army in 1918 and served honorably at the rank of private for seven months in the Student Army Training Company located at the University of Pennsylvania. During World War II, Albrecht served as Resident Representative of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees for Bavaria helping to resettle displaced German immigrants. Following WWII, Albrecht served as Chief of Publications for the US Military Government in Hesse where he put his talents to use in fostering the rebirth of the music publishing business in post-war Germany. In 1961, Albrecht traveled to the Soviet Union where he served with fellow musicologists Gustav Reese, Golen Haydon, and William Mitchell as music specialists on behalf of the United States Department of State.
Albrecht was married at age 27 to Miriam Josephine Sensinig. They had three sons Anthony C., John R., and H. Carl and the family lived in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. Listed in his college yearbook as Lutheran, Albrecht was later a member of Germantown Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends (Orthodox). His wife preceded him in death; and in 1982, Albrecht moved into the Quaker retirement community at Pennswood Village in Newtown, Pennsylvania.
Albrecht died on July 4, 1984, just two days before his 85th birthday. At the time of his death, the Music Department at the University of Pennsylvania was preparing for a concert in honor of his birthday. It was to have been at Holy Trinity Church, with the Concerto Soloists conducted by the legendary conductor Max Rudolf. Instead, a memorial was held at the Friends Meeting House at George School. As a bequest to the University, he left his personal collection and the Otto E. Albrecht Memorial Fund was established for the purchase of rare music materials.
This collection documents the professional career and research interests of Otto Albrecht who worked as a music bibliographer and professor of romance languages and musicology at the University of Pennsylvania for almost the whole of his career, from the 1930s to the 1980s. While Albrecht's family and personal life is only marginally documented; the collection contains extensive information on his research relating to the history of music in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, the location of European music manuscripts in the United States, and his work identifying sources for Répertoire International des Sources Musicales; his work with music organizations including the American Musicological Society and the Music Library Association; and his work at and for the University of Pennsylvania's Music Library. The collection also provides a glimpse into Albrecht's appreciation of music, containing programs and lists of many, if not all, performances which he attended. These programs indicate not only Albrecht's personal preferences, but also document more than a century of music performances, as some programs precede Albrecht's birth.
The collection is organized in ten series: I. Personal materials, II. Correspondence, III. Courses taught; IV. Research; V. Writings; VI. American Musicological Society; VII. Music Library Association; VIII. University of Pennsylvania; IX. Programs; and X. Objects. Additional information regarding the content within each series is provided at the series level.
This collection will be especially valuable to researchers interested in the history and development of the University of Pennsylvania Music Library; the history of music in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia; and the dispersal of composers' musical manuscripts across the globe, particularly European composers' manuscripts to the United States.
The correspondence series (Series II) was processed at an unknown date by an unknown processor prior to the 2018 processing of the collection as a whole.
Series IV, Subseries C was processed by Marissa Hendricks.
- American Musicological Society
- Music Library Association
- RISM (Organization)
- University of Pennsylvania. Department of Music
- University of Pennsylvania. Department of Romance Languages
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Pennsylvania. Otto E. Albrecht Music Library. Friends
- University of Pennsylvania. Otto E. Albrecht Music Library
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- John Anderies
- Finding Aid Date
- 2018 March 22
- Access Restrictions
The bulk of this collection is open for research use, however, a few folders contained in Series III. "Courses taught" include student records and are therefore restricted. Researchers interested in obtaining access to portions of the folders must contact email@example.com to consult with a curator.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.