JOHN LA MONTAINE COLLECTION
Ruth T. Watanabe Special Collections
Sibley Music Library
Eastman School of Music
University of Rochester
Prepared by Gail E. Lowther
DESCRIPTION OF COLLECTION
Shelf location: C3B, 18, 1 — 19, 4
Extent: 31.5 linear feet
John Maynard La Montaine (17 March 1920–29 April 2013) – La Montaine (also later LaMontaine), a native of Oak Park, Illinois, received early training in theory and composition in Chicago with Stella Roberts, Muriel Parker, and Margaret Farr Wilson (1935–38). In 1938, he entered the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. There, La Montaine (BM 1942) studied composition with Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson and piano with Max Landow. His first orchestral works were performed by the Eastman-Rochester Symphony under Dr. Hanson, who chose his Music for a Greek Play for a national broadcast in 1938. From 1942–46, La Montaine served with the US Navy, and, for a period of time, studied with Rudolf Ganz at the Chicago Musical College (1945). Following discharge from the Navy, La Montaine continued his studies in composition at the Juilliard School with Bernard Wagenaar and later with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau (1952). Following World War II, La Montaine travelled extensively as a concert pianist, and, in 1950, he became pianist with the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini (1950–54). Later, he taught composition at several major educational institutions: Eastman School of Music (1961, 1964–5), the American Academy in Rome (as Composer-in-Residence, 1962), The University of Utah (1968), North Texas State University, now the University of North Texas (1969); and Whittier College, where he was named Nixon Distinguished Scholar and holder of the Nixon chair in 1977.
In 1959, La Montaine received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 9, In Time of War, which had been commissioned for the National Symphony Orchestra by the Ford Foundation. Shortly after receiving the Pulitzer Prize, La Montaine was commissioned by the Philip M. Stern Fund to write the first piece of music specifically for a presidential inauguration; his Overture: From Sea to Shining Sea, Op. 30, opened John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Other awards and commissions include the Rheta Sosland Prize for Chamber Music (String Quartet, Op. 16); two Guggenheim Fellowships (1959, renewed for 1960); a Serge Koussevitzky Foundation Commission (Flute Concerto, Op. 48); an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1962), which was accompanied by a grant to record his Piano Concerto; an Eastman School Distinguished Alumni Award (1972); and commissions from the William Inglis Morse Trust for Music (Fragments from the Song of Songs, Op. 29), the Repertory Dance Theater of Utah (Incantation for Jazz Band, Op. 39), the National Federation of Music Clubs (Conversations, Op. 42), the Hymn Society of America (Three Hymns and an Anthem), and several orchestras.
The compositions of John La Montaine include symphonic, chamber, ballet, opera, choral and solo works. His works have been performed by several major orchestras including the National Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the San Francisco, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras. He composed five operas, the central core being his trilogy of pageant-operas for Christmas: Novellis, Novellis, Op 31; The Shephardes Playe, Op. 38; and Erode the Greate, Op. 41; all of which were premiered in the Washington Cathedral. The second of the operas, The Shephardes Playe, was televised nationally by ABC (1967), and the telecast was awarded the 1969 Sigma Alpha Iota National Television Award. The Wilderness Journal, Symphony for Bass-Baritone, Organ and Orchestra, Op. 41, was commissioned by Mrs. Jouett Shouse and opened the second season at Kennedy Center to celebrate the dedication of the Filene Organ. In 1973, the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies for the Pennsylvania State University commissioned La Montaine to compose a major work to commemorate the American Bicentennial in 1976. The resulting work, a Bicentennial opera, Be Glad then America, Op. 43, was premiered by Sarah Caldwell with the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Pennsylvania State University Choirs. A documentary on the creation of the opera was televised nationally on PBS in 1977 and rebroadcast in 1978.
In July 1975, together with the composer and pianist Paul J. Sifler (1911-2001), La Montaine founded Fredonia Press for the purpose of publishing exclusively the works of both composers. In 1977, they extended their successful enterprise by establishing Fredonia Discs.
John La Montaine died on April 29, 2014, at the age of 93 in his home in Los Angeles.
The collection was a bequest from the late John La Montaine and was received by the Sibley Music Library in two installments in October 2015 and October 2016. The gift of the collection was facilitated by Mr. Peter Coster, Mr. La Montaine’s nephew and the executor of the John La Montaine Estate. Subsequently, in January 2017, the library received a small additional deposit of materials for the collection from Mr. Coster, consisting of a set of instrumental parts for the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, op. 9 (which now comprise Box 52).
Scope and Content
The collection comprises the personal and professional papers of John La Montaine, including sketchbooks, manuscripts, fair copies, and published scores of his compositions, in addition to correspondence, concert programs, press clippings, photographs, and recordings. Also included in the collection are several items from Mr. La Montaine’s personal library, which features presentation copies of scores and items from his study collection.
There are no restrictions on the use of the materials of the John La Montaine Collection. Reproduction of its contents, however, will be provided to patrons only in accordance with the provisions of the United States Copyright Law (1976) and its revisions.
The Paul J. Sifler Collection contains additional materials produced by John La Montaine throughout his career including sketchbooks, manuscripts, published works, and recordings, as well as source materials from which the librettos of his Christmas Trilogy were constructed.
In addition, the Sibley Music Library houses a number of collections documenting the composition careers of Eastman School of Music alumni. Included among them are the collections of: Wayne Barlow (BM 1934, MM 1935, PhD 1937), William Bergsma (BA 1942, MM 1943), Gordon Binkerd (MM, 1941), Alexander Courage (BM, 1941), Homer Todd Keller (BM 1937, MM 1938), and Gardner Read (BM 1936, MM 1937).
DESCRIPTION OF SERIES
The John La Montaine Collection has been organized into seven major series: manuscripts and sketches, personal papers, correspondence, publicity and press materials, recordings, and oversized items. Further subdivisions of the series are indicated below.
The original organization of the items in the collection has been preserved as much as possible. La Montaine’s personal papers, correspondence, and press materials were received by the Sibley Music Library grouped in envelopes containing mixed formats under the following three headings: (1) notes regarding specific compositions, organized by opus number; (2) correspondence; and (3) programs, articles, and reviews, grouped by opus number. The original organization of the papers and their given headings have been preserved in the Collection’s series, sub-series, and/or folder headings. It is important to note that, as a result of preserving this organization, correspondence relating to specific compositions, commissions, and/or performances may be found in multiple locations, namely Series 2, sub-series B (Notes on composition projects), Series 3 (Correspondence), and Series 4, sub-series C (Programs, articles, and reviews).
Series 1: Manuscripts and sketches
This series contains sketches, drafts, fair and final copies, manuscript reproductions, and publishers’ imprints of works composed by John La Montaine throughout the scope of his compositional career. The series is subdivided into four sub-series:
Sub-series A: Student works and sketches
This sub-series is comprised of manuscripts and sketches dating from La Montaine’s undergraduate studies at the Eastman School of Music. Having no discernible chronology, the items in this sub-series have been organized alphabetically by title.
Sub-series B: Mature works
Compositions within this sub-series are organized sequentially by opus number.
Sub-series C: Works with no opus number
This sub-series contains La Montaine’s mature compositions that lack opus numbers. The bulk of this sub-series consists of pieces for voice and piano as well as instrumental chamber works.
Sub-series D: Sketches
This sub-series consists of La Montaine’s sketchbooks as well as assorted loose sketches and unidentified partial manuscripts and Ozalid masters.
N.B. The music manuscripts in Series 1 are housed in storage containers appropriate to their respective dimensions. The varying dimensions of the scores, parts, and sketches throughout this series resulted in an inevitable discrepancy between the alphabetical or numerical (by opus number) organization of each sub-series and the numeric box order.
Series 2: Personal papers
Sub-series A: Original writings
This sub-series contains hymn texts and poems, lectures, articles, and other writings by La Montaine.
Sub-series B: Notes on composition projects
This sub-series is comprised of materials relating to the composition and production of specific La Montaine compositions. The items in this sub-series are in a variety of formats, including composer’s notes, program notes, correspondence, libretti and texts. The material is organized sequentially by opus number, followed by unfinished compositions, which are arranged alphabetically by title.
Sub-series C: Pedagogical material
In this sub-series are assorted lecture notes and course materials from La Montaine’s personal papers.
Sub-series D: Ephemera
Items in this sub-series include: photographs; student documents; poems, hymns, and other texts by various authors; biographies, introductions, and notes about other musicians and colleagues; as well as other personal documents and items.
Series 3: Correspondence
This series of correspondence contains letters and documents of both a personal and professional nature. Within each sub-series, correspondence is foldered alphabetically by correspondent’s surname.
Sub-series C: Other correspondents
Included among John La Montaine’s archived correspondence are several letters to and from correspondents other than Mr. La Montaine and Mr. Sifler. These items are primarily related to La Montaine’s professional activities, such as the production and performance of his works. Lucile Ward’s correspondence makes up a substantial portion of this sub-series.
Series 4: Publicity and press materials (organized by opus number)
This series is comprised of a variety of documents that chronicle Mr. La Montaine’s professional and personal activities. Prominent among papers are publicity items (including press clippings), concert and recital programs, and professional correspondence.
Sub-series C: Programs, articles, and reviews
This sub-series contains concert programs, newspaper articles, reviews, and other publicity materials and documents associated with John La Montaine, his compositions and professional activities, and performances of his works. The bulk of items in this sub-series were received by the RTWSC department in envelopes organized by opus number, and this arrangement has been preserved within the collection. Additional press materials and programs relating to La Montaine’s other professional activities are held in separate folders within the sub-series, and the original headings have been preserved in the folder headings. Within each folder, items are organized chronologically.
Sub-series D: Additional publicity materials
This sub-series incudes serial publications from La Montaine’s personal archives that reference his compositions and professional activities as well as advertising materials and newsletters from publishing companies.
Series 5: Library
This series contains a portion of La Montaine’s collection of scores and books. Within each sub-series, the items are arranged alphabetically by author.
Series 6: Audio-visual material
This sub-series comprises John La Montaine’s library of sound recordings and audio-visual recordings of his own compositions, interviews, and other material. Reel-to-reel tape is the predominant format, although VHS cassettes are included as well. Each format has been assigned to its own sub-series. Within each sub-series, the recordings are arranged sequentially as follows: (1) recordings of a single composition by John La Montaine, arranged alphabetically by title; (2) recordings of multiple compositions by La Montaine, arranged alphabetically by the first title listed or title of album; (3) recordings containing compositions by other composers, often in addition to compositions by La Montaine, arranged alphabetically by the first title listed or title of album; (4) additional recordings, consisting of indeterminate material and spoken word recordings (such as interviews).
Series 7: Oversized materials
This series has been created for the ease of filing and is comprised of documents that require special housing consideration on grounds of their oversized dimensions. The individual items and folder entries are annotated with respect to the series and sub-series numbers from which the given documents were separated.