Musical Theatre in America: Papers and Proceedings of the Conference on the Musical Theatre in America

By Glenn Loney | Go to book overview

Wisconsin's Tams-Witmark Holdings

LENORE CORAL

In 1885 Arthur Tams opened his musical library--a rental firm specializing particularly in the supply of cantatas, oratorios, and masses. One year later M. Witmark and Sons began business as music publishers. The Witmark firm's beginnings are recounted by Isidore Witmark, one of the founders, in The Story of the House of Witmark. 1 In 1898 the Witmark brothers moved their firm to larger quarters. The New York Dramatic Mirror advertised their "new department," the Witmark Music Library, which offered a wide variety of music for hire and sale. The firm was able and willing to provide scores and parts, "arranged, transposed, copied, hectographed, lithographed, &c, prompt books, librettos, manuscript compositions, &c, adapted, translated, localized, printed (for copyright purposes), typewritten and bound." 2

Tams and Witmark continued as two separate firms, often fighting legal duels over the rights to particular works until 1925, when Sargent Aborn, himself a figure in the world of musical theatre, brought about their merger for a settlement fee of $2 million. Finally, in 1929 the firm was bought by Warner Brothers.

In 1971 the Tams-Witmark Music Library donated a very substantial collection of its older materials to four music libraries: Westminster Choir College was given a gift of sacred music; the Library of Congress received 139 cartons of full scores (mostly manuscript), piano-vocal scores, and parts; and Princeton University and the University of Wisconsin at Madison each received substantial gifts of musical theatre materials.

The 584 boxes that were accepted as a gift by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin contain materials from the period 1870 to about 1920. The collection is strong in the works of American composers, especially, of course, Victor Herbert, whose music was published by Witmark, and also in the popular European opera and operetta composers of the turn of the century: Gaetano Donizetti, Pietro Mascagni, Richard Wagner, Sir Arthur Sullivan, Jacques Offenbach, Giuseppe Verdi, and Michael Balfe,

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