Rare and never-before-published recordings of the late, great contralto Marian Anderson, have been released on a compact disc, the Library announced Oct. 14.
Recordings from the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library's Marian Anderson Archives, as well as a group of previously unissued RCA test pressings, are included on the 26-track disc. The juxtaposition of previously issued material with unpublished versions shows the variety of interpretations Anderson brought to the music she performed.
A Philadelphia native, Anderson was hailed by the late conductor Arturo Toscanani as "a voice which comes once in a hundred years."
She also became a symbolic figure in the struggle for civil rights when, in 1939, after being denied access to Washington, D.C.'s Constitution Hall for being "a singer of color," she performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a venue arranged by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1954, Anderson became the first African American engaged by the Metropolitan Opera Company.
VAI Audio, a label specializing in archival vocal recordings, produced and is distributing the CD, which was a collaboration between VAI, BMG Classics, EMI Recordings and scholar-librarians at the Library. A 16-page booklet that accompanies the CD contains photographs from the archive and features an essay by Brandeis University musicologist Allan Keiler.
Penn's partnership with VAI is a first effort at unlocking tbe treasures of the Anderson archive, which holds the letters, music, scores, programs, photographs and sound recordings that Anderson donated to Penn in 1993, before her death.
The CD, available at standard classical music outlets, including the Penn Bookstore, for between $15 and $20, is also a premium for joining the Friends of the Library. For information on membership, call 800-390-1829 or e-mail the Friends of the Library.
Originally published on October 29, 1998