The Petrucci music library

May 14, 2009

A few years ago I became aware of the Choral Public Domain Library, an online project to collect public domain scores of choral music.  This is a great resource for amateur choirs, and also for music lovers who like to examine a score while they are listening.  The CPDL has now grown to nearly 9000 scores by over 150 composers, which is quite respectable.

Now I discover a similar project called the Petrucci Music Library.  Named for Ottaviano Petrucci, the sixteenth century Venetian printer who was the first to print musical scores using movable type, the Petrucci Library is collecting public domain scores covering the whole breadth of our musical history.  The project currently has nearly 30000 scores of about 15000 distinct works.  Amazing.

I have spent only a short time exploring the library, but I can already see that it is an impressive resource.  Their coverage of medieval music is disappointingly paltry (though, to their credit, they do have all 800 pages of the Liber Usualis), but things begin to pick up in the Renaissance period.  You can find Palestrina’s gorgeous motet Sicut cervus, Tallis’ stupendous 40-part Spem in Alium, Clement Janequin’s delightful romp Le chant des oiseaux, and am impressive collection of Masses by Victoria, among many other works.

This is all choral music, of course, and most of it can also be found at the Choral Public Domain Library. It is when we move into the Baroque period and beyond that the Petrucci Library really opens up.  I found the entire manuscript score of Bach’s St.Matthew Passion (!), the complete score of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and, as near as I can tell, the entire core repertoire of the classical, romantic, and early modern periods: Bruckner’s symphonies, Mahler’s symphonies, Haydn’s string quartets, Schubert’s piano sonatas, Wagner’s operas — just about everything!

There are some curious omissions.  I find nothing by Shostakovich, nothing by Britten, and nothing by Messiaen, for instance.  This cannot be an accident, and must be related to the copyright status of their work.  Nonetheless, the Petrucci Library seems to be a wonderful site with many delights in store for music lovers.

Incidentally, Ottaviano Petrucci’s first printed collection of polyphonic music has been recorded by the fine viol consort Fretwork.  The disc is called Harmonice Musices Odhecaton, available on the Harmonia Mundi label.

3 Responses to “The Petrucci music library”

  1. s towers Says:

    nice Julian of Norwich quote on the header and thanks for the tip about the Petrucci ML…i hadn’t seen that before!

  2. Yagan Kiely Says:

    Indeed, Shostakovich, Messiaen and Britten are still (sadly) copyright worldwide.

    Yagan Kiely (Petrucci Music Library Administrator)

  3. Adam Hincks Says:

    Thanks for the tip on this Craig: it looks like a great resource!

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