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Seymour Lipkin collection (MSS 67)

Identifier: MSS 67

Scope and Contents

The collection is comprised of education, teaching, and concert materials, correspondence, recording information, photographs, and a collection of batons. It covers various aspects of Lipkin's life and career from about the age of 8 until his death in November 2015.


  • c. 1938 - 2015


Conditions Governing Access

Some materials in the collection are restricted due to the inclusion of sensitive personal information.

Biographical / Historical

Seymour Austin Lipkin was born on 27 May 1927 in Detroit, Michigan. By the age of 3 he demonstrated a propensity for music and soon showed an interest in the violin. His parents however, feeling he was too small, chose the piano for him instead. In 1938 Lipkin was accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music where he studied under both Rudolf Serkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski. In 1944, while still at Curtis, a 17 year old Lipkin was recommended to and chosen by violinist Jascha Heifetz as an accompanist for a 60 concert European tour to entertain Allied troops. Returning to the United States in the fall of 1944, Lipkin received his degree from Curtis in 1947. The following year saw him win the prestigious Rachmaninoff Piano Competition, opening the door to a professional career that led to his performing with all of the major US orchestras under such conductors as Munch, Reiner, Steinberg, Dohnanyi, Ormandy, and Bernstein.

However, despite Lipkin’s success as a pianist, his first love was, and remained, conducting. He studied at Tanglewood with Serge Koussevitzky and, after graduation, served as apprentice conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell. He then spent a period from the late 1950s-1970s conducting at the New York City Opera, New York Philharmonic (assistant conductor under Bernstein), Joffrey Ballet, and Long Island Symphony.

Lipkin then revisited his piano career in the late 1970s, performing with Oscar Shumsky, Uto Ughi, Arnold Steinhardt, William Primrose, David Soyer, and Lawrence Lesser, touring the United States, Europe, and South America. He earned particular acclaim for his Schubert and Beethoven performances, the latter encompassing virtually all of the composer's works involving piano, including cycles of the thirty-two sonatas, five concertos, ten violin sonatas, five cello sonatas, and the major piano variations. Also active in chamber music, Lipkin frequently performed at the Marlboro Music Festival (founded by his Curtis teacher and later close friend Rudolf Serkin), the Spoleto festivals in both Italy and the United States), and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

In addition to, and simultaneous with, his career as a conductor and pianist, Lipkin was also a highly respected faculty member at Curtis, Juilliard, New York University, and the Manhattan School of Music.

Seymour Lipkin passed away on 16 November 2015 in Blue Hill, Me.


5.71 Linear feet

Language of Materials



Materials were kept in original order whenever possible; otherwise the collection was rearranged to better facilitate the user experience. The collection is divided into (7) series.

Supplemental finding aid - Seymour Lipkin audio-visual materials

Prepared by Peter A. Williams, Curtis Library Intern, 2018

General notes: This collection compiles over 1200 recordings on various audio and video formats of Seymour Lipkin performing and conducting throughout his lifetime. The collection is divided by decade. Each decade contains recordings of Lipkin both performing and conducting, with the majority of the conducting recordings found in the 1960s and 1970s. Some recordings are Lipkin’s own transfers among various media types—record, reel, cassette, CD. These are grouped together in the same series by decade. Most recordings have not been audited for quality or accuracy.

1930s: No performances by Lipkin, rather several versions of recordings from his collection including Bartok cylinder and field recordings dubbed onto cassette; Webern conducting Berg; and a cassette of the Josef Hofmann Casimir Hall recital.

1940s: Includes two Lipkin performances of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody, one with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy and one with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Charles Münch. It also includes three performances of Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto—one with the Boston Symphony conducted by Koussevitsky, one with the NBC Symphony conducted by Reiner, and one with the Los Angeles Symphony conducted by Wallenstein. Two recordings of young Lipkin conducting can also be found here, as well as performances by Eleanor Lipkin. In addition, the series includes a number of radio recordings of Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony.

1950s: Lipkin performing Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, and Mozart on radio programs, with the Cleveland Symphony, and at the Berkshire Festival. It also includes Lipkin conducting Beethoven’s sixth symphony with the Tanglewood Student Orchestra, as well as recitals by Eleanor Lipkin.

1960s: Lipkin performing the Stravinsky Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein, the Shapero Partita for Piano and Orchestra with the Detroit Symphony conducted by Paul Paray, and the Bach D minor concerto with the Boston Symphony conducted by Charles Münch. Among recordings of Lipkin conducting: The World of Paul Klee with the New York Philharmonic, Haydn’s Symphony 101, Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, and excerpts from Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, all with the Huntington Symphony. There are also recordings of Eleanor Lipkin’s recitals, including pieces by Elizabeth Gould and J.S. Bach.

1970s: primarily recordings of Lipkin’s conducting, especially of the Huntington Symphony, with open reel tape performances of Mozart’s Symphony No. 5, Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration, and Copland’s Tender Land Suite, among others. Lipkin also conducts the National Orchestra Association at Carnegie Hall and the Temple University Orchestra as a guest conductor, among other cassettes in this series.

1980s: Lipkin performing Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Long Island Symphony and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 457, with the New York Philharmonic—among the symphonic music. It also includes chamber music performances of the Beethoven Archduke trio with Sidney Harth and Luis Garcia, Mozart’s Woodwind Quintet at the Norfolk Music Festival, and Mendelssohn’s Trio in D minor. It also includes Lipkin’s piano recitals at Juilliard, Interlochen, New England Conservatory, Kneisel Hall, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, and a performance at the Kennedy Center. There are also recordings of Lipkin conducting the Beethoven Choral Fantasy with Rudolf Serkin on piano, as well as operas Madame Butterfly and The Elixir of Love. Formats include CD, cassette, and open reel audio.

1990s: Nearly 200 items, including audio cassettes of Lipkin’s studio recordings of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas in 1999 and his concerts of the sonatas at Hunter College on both cassette and CD. There is also chamber music by Ravel, Fauré, and Mozart, the Bartok violin concerto with Ronald Copes, and outtakes from Lipkin’s Audiofon recordings from this period. Symphonic recordings include two different performances of the Beethoven piano concerto op. 58, one with the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra and one with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra, with David Effron conducting. Recitals at Curtis, Juilliard, and Kneisel Hall can also be found here, as well as Lipkin performances in Korea, Italy, Spain, and Carnegie Hall in New York.

2000-2015: large number of compact discs with outtakes and edits from Lipkin recording sessions, including his recordings of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas and Schubert piano works. Also included are audio and video of performances with Lawrence Lesser, Ronald Copes, The Friday Morning Music Club Orchestra, and the Jupiter Symphony. In addition to performances in Taiwan, Guangzhou, China, Houston, Cape Cod, MA, the University of Georgia, and Virginia Tech, there are also recitals at the Mannes Bach Institute, New England Conservatory, Gardner Museum, and The Juilliard School. Recordings of several radio interviews and performances are also among the compact discs. Other formats include audio cassettes, DATs, VHS cassettes, and DVDs.

No date: audio and video recordings including Lipkin performing Beethoven’s piano, violin, and cello sonatas; Rachmaninoff songs and Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini; Weber violin sonatas; and the Bach F minor piano concerto. He performs with the Sea Cliff Chamber Players, Jennie Tourel, Lawrence Lesser, and Dawn Upshaw, among others. Some recordings include piano performances recorded at the Manhattan School of Music and New York’s Kennedy Center and recitals at The Juilliard School and University of Maryland. This group also includes recordings of Eleanor Lipkin and Rudolf Serkin. Formats include mostly open reel audio and compact cassettes, but also DATs, CDs, VHS cassettes, and DVDs.

The full Lipkin AV catalog can be found here:

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Lipkin's widow Ellen Werner in 2017

Related Materials

Eleanor Lipkin papers (MSS 69); Eleanor was Seymour's sister and a fellow Curtis graduate (Piano '51)

Separated Materials

The photographs are housed separately as no. 916

Separated Materials

Scores and books can be found in Curtis Special Collections; recordings (78s, LPs, reel-to-reels, cassette tapes, and CDs) are stored off-site.

Separated Materials

Oversized items are housed in box Lipkin OZ 1 and flat file drawer 1/10

Seymour Lipkin collection (MSS 67)
Kristina Wilson
16 February 2018
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Archives Repository

1720 Locust St
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States