Sonneck, Oscar G(eorge) T(heodore)

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Sonneck, Oscar G(eorge) T(heodore)

Sonneck, Oscar G(eorge) T(heodore), eminent American musicologist; b. Jersey City, N.J., Oct. 6, 1873; d. N.Y, Oct. 30, 1928. He attended the Gelehrten-schule in Kiel (1883–89) and the Kaiser Friedrich Gymnasium in Frankfurt am Main (1889–93), where he also took piano lessons with James Kwast; attended the Univ. of Heidelberg and received instruction in musi-cology from Sandberger at the Univ. of Munich (1893–97); studied composition privately with Melchior and Ernest Sachs in Munich; took courses in composition and orchestration with Iwann Knorr in Frankfurt am Main and in conducting with Carl Schroder at the Sondershausen Cons. (1897–98). After doing research in Italy in 1899, he returned to the U.S. to pursue his interest in early American music. From 1902 to 1917 he was chief of the Music Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. He then became director of the Publishing Dept. of G. Schirmer in N.Y, managing ed. of the Musical Quarterly (of which he had been ed. since its foundation in 1915), and personal representative of the president, Rudolph E. Schirmer; in 1921 he became vice-president of G. Schirmer. He took a leading part in the formation of the Society for the Publication of American Music, and of the Beethoven Assn. in N.Y. Under Sonneck’s administration, the Music Division of the Library of Congress became one of the largest and most important music collections in the world. His writings, exhibiting profound and accurate scholarship and embodying the results of original research, laid a real foundation for the scientific study of music in the U.S.; his elaborate catalogues, issued by the Library of Congress, are among the most valuable contributions to musical bibliography. The Sonneck Soc., an organization designed to encourage the serious study of American music in all its aspects, was established in 1975 and named after Sonneck in recognition of his achievements in this area. He was also a composer and a poet, numbering among his works symphonic pieces, a String Quartet, Rhapsody and Romanze for Violin and Piano, some vocal works, and piano pieces. He publ. 2 vols, of poems: Seufzer (1895) and Eine Totenmesse (1898).


Protest gegen den Symbolismus in der Musik (Frankfurt am Main, 1897); Classification: Class M, Music: Class ML, Literature of Music: Class MT, Musical Instruction: Adopted December, 1902: as in force April, 1904 (Washington, D.C, 1904; second ed., rev, 1917; third ed., 1957); A Bibliography of Early Secular American Music (Washington, D.C, 1905; second ed., rev. and enl., 1945 by W Upton); Francis Hopkinson, the First American Poet-Composer (1737–1791) and James Lyon, Patriot, Preacher, Psalmodist (1735–1794): Two Studies in Early American Music (Washington, D.C, 1905); Early Concert-life in America (1731–1800) (Leipzig, 1907); Dramatic Music: Catalogue of Full Scores in the Collection of the Library of Congress (Washington, D.C, 1908; second ed., 1917); Report on “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Hail Columbia,” “America,” “Yankee Doodle” (Washington, D.C, 1909; second ed., rev. and enl., 1914); Orchestral Music Catalogue: Scores (Washington, D.C, 1912); with J. Gregory, Catalogue of Early Books on Music (before 1800) (Washington, D.C, 1913); Catalogue of Opera Librettos Printed before 1800 (Washington, D.C, 1914); with W. Whittlesey, Catalogue of First Editions of Stephen C. Foster (1826–1864) (Washington, D.C., 1915); Early Opera in America (N.Y., 1915); Suum cuique: Essays in Music (N.Y., 1916); Catalogue of First Editions of Edward MacDowell (1861–1908) (Washington, D.C., 1917); Miscellaneous Studies in the History of Music (N.Y., 1921); Beethoven: Impressions of Contemporaries (N.Y., 1926); Beethoven Letters in America (N.Y., 1927).


H. Wiley Hitchcock, After 100 [!] Years: The Editorial Side of S.(Washington, D.C., 1974; with complete list of writings and compositions compiled by I. Lowens); W. Lichtenwanger, ed., O. S. and American Music (Urbana, 111., 1983).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire