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Notes 61.2 (2004) 361-400

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The Ricardo Viñes Piano Music Collection at the University of Colorado at Boulder

Ricardo Viñes (1875-1943) was a Catalan pianist who carefully amassed and cared for a substantial library of published and manuscript music. Because he was a leader in premiering new music during the years from 1900 to 1930, his library is rich in works from this period. In addition to being remembered for his remarkable technique, Viñes is recalled today primarily as a champion of the piano works of his French, Spanish, Russian, and South American contemporaries. As noted by John and Anna Gillespie, Ricardo Viñes "would have had a brilliant virtuoso career had he not ardently and actively promoted modern music. . . . Despite an indifferent, sometimes hostile public, Viñes waged a lifelong crusade for contemporary music, repeatedly playing new music which no other pianist would even think of performing."1 His music library reflects the large number of composers, both well-known and forgotten, who sent their music to the pianist in hopes of having it performed.

After Viñes died in 1943, his music collection—including manuscripts, autograph dedications, and inscriptions—was scattered by his family. The bulk of his library, 836 pieces, was purchased by the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) in the mid-1950s. Unfortunately, after the purchase it was divided up as a "seed" collection. The purchase has recently been reconstructed as the Ricardo Viñes Piano Music Collection and is now located in the Howard B. Waltz Music Library. This article provides a brief biographical sketch of Viñes, describes the history and reconstruction of the collection, and highlights its contents. A list of selected holdings in the collection describes some of the most significant pieces individually, including those bearing inscriptions, dedications, and the pianist's markings. Finally, a listing of all the composers represented in the collection is provided. [End Page 361]

Biographical Sketch of Ricardo Viñes

Ricardo Javier Viñes y García Roda was born in Lérida (Lleida), Spain, on 5 February 1875. In 1885, he became a student of Juan Bautista Pujol in Barcelona. At the suggestion of Isaac Albéniz, his mother brought him to Paris to study in 1887, where he enrolled first as an auditor, then as a full-fledged participant in the Paris Conservatory class of Charles-Wilfred Bériot.2 There he met Maurice Ravel. The young composers, who were born the same year, may have first met through their Spanish-speaking mothers.3

Viñes quickly became one of the foremost members of Bériot's class, and was invited to perform his teacher's own works—including a February 1893 performance of a piece he identifies only as "the second movement of de Bériot's concerto," with the composer playing the orchestral reduction.4 This was probably the Second Piano Concerto, op. 46, judging from a heavily fingered copy of an early publication of that work in the University of Colorado collection.5 In March 1895, Viñes also performed Bériot's Sonata for Two Pianos, op. 61, at the Salle Pleyel with Bériot as the other pianist.6

Viñes was an autodidact—probably a consequence of a pedagogical system in which young students were given little other than a musical education at an institution like the Paris Conservatory. He taught himself English (specifically to be able to read Poe in the original), mathematics, astrology, palmistry, and any number of other branches of the "occult sciences." He also read extensively from the literature of the time, ranging [End Page 362] from the symbolists including Maurice Maeterlinck, Georges Rodenbach, and Stéphane Mallarmé; to the decadents Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly, Joris-Karl Huysmans, and Auguste, comte de Villiers de l'Isle-Adam; to Catholic mystics like Ernest Hello; and utterly unclassifiable authors such as the Rosicrucian Catholic Joséphin Péladan. Viñes shared many of his books—notably Aloysius...