Collection ID: Mus. Arc. 1.7

Collection context


Mikhashoff, Yvar, 1941-1993
The collection contains approximately 1300 scores, half of which bear markings entered by Mikhashoff or his colleagues in preparation for performance. The collection includes manuscripts and print publications, both originals and reproductions.
57 boxes and (1353 folders)
Collection contains material, including song texts, in multiple languages, including English , German , French , Italian , and Latin .


Scope and Content:

The collection contains approximately 1200 scores, chiefly for solo piano but also including other vocal and instrumental combinations. More than half the collection consists of photocopied scores, and there are more than 550 manuscripts and holographs (original and photocopy).

The collection was initially processed and described by Matthew Sheehy in 1997. The current description is expanded both in terms of the level of detail provided, the range of dates represented in the collection (thus the disparity between the earliest date (1762) now stated in the collection versus the date of 1828 in the title of the collection), and also by the inclusion of additional works identified after the initial inventory was prepared. Also, some works in the series of unmarked scores are individually noted as having markings due to later examination. The major portion of the additions consists of works that Mikhashoff grouped together. They reflect some of his research interests and themes associated with concert programs he presented. These groupings include folders of material related to composers, including Lukas Foss's Solo for piano, composed for Mikhashoff, Charles Ives's Second piano sonata (Concord sonata), Sylvano Bussotti's Racine, pianobar pour Phèdre, a collection of works by Percy Grainger, and Virgil Thomson's series of musical portraits. Thematic programs include the concerts titled The Golden Clavier, Hollywood elegies, Miss Jane's parlor, Opera matinee, and From Vienna to New York. There are also groupings for the works Mikhashoff collected for his Melodeclamation concerts and for the Buffalo Piano Collection that he compiled.

The range of repertoire, chiefly from the 19th and 20th centuries, is impressively broad. While Mikhashoff was best known for his performances of contemporary music, his research uncovered many works of the piano repertoire from many lesser-known composers, some of whom are now forgotten or rarely performed. The list of composers included in the collection is indicative of Mikhashoff's involvement in contemporary music in America and internationally.

More than half of the scores contain annotations made by Mikhashoff in preparation for performance. The markings represent Mikhashoff's entire career: from markings on piano exercises such as Czerny's School of velocity, marked for Mikhashoff's piano lessons at age fourteen in 1955, through works composed for him during his last year of life. Many scores bear only incidental markings but there are also scores that are extensively marked. Mikhashoff sometimes re-notated works or passages from works, usually to make them more legible. Mikhashoff's versions of Foss's Solo for piano and Virgil Thomson's Nineteen portraits for piano were used for the published versions of those works.

Biographical / Historical:

Yvar-Emilian Mikhashoff was born Ronald MacKay in Troy near Albany, New York in 1941. He began piano studies with Betty Weir and Stanley Hummel in Albany. At the Eastman School of Music in 1959, he first took a major in composition and cello, then changed to piano studies with Armand Basile. In the 1961 academic year, he studied piano at the Juilliard School in New York City. He also had a career as a ballroom dancer from 1962-1965.

In 1964 Mikhashoff entered the University of Houston for studies in piano with Albert Hirsh. He earned a B.M. in 1967 and continued with graduate study in composition with Elmer Schoettle and obtained his M.M. in 1968. It was during this period that MacKay adopted his grandfather's name, Mikhashoff.

Receiving a Fulbright scholarship in 1968, he studied the music of the French Impressionists with Nadia Boulanger. After his return to the United States, Mikhashoff entered the University of Texas at Austin as a doctoral candidate in composition and studied with Hunter Johnson, Kent Kennan, Janet McGaughey and Karl Korte. He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree with a major in composition and a minor in literature in August 1973 and founded the Cambiata Soloists ensemble. In the fall of 1973 Mikhashoff was appointed Assistant Professor in the Music Department at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Based in Buffalo until his death in 1993, Mikhashoff had an international performing career which led him to promote new music and American music around the world.

Mikhashoff had a genius for programming, a talent he utilized extensively while organizing many festivals and broadcasts of new music throughout the world, including his work at the Almedia Festival in London and the Holland Festival. Mikhashoff co-founded the North American New Music Festival in 1983 with Jan Williams and remained a co-director until his death. He commissioned works from such notable composers as John Cage, Lukas Foss, Otto Luening, Poul Ruders, James Sellars, Christian Wolff, and many others. One of his most notable commissioning projects occurred in 1982 when he commissioned or solicited new tangos for solo piano from an international array of more than 80 composers. Mikhashoff also edited publications of music, including works by Henry Cowell, Lejaren Hiller, Conlon Nancarrow, and Virgil Thomson. He recorded on the New Albion, Mode, RCA Victor, CRI, and Spectrum record labels. Yvar Mikhashoff's support of contemporary music continues today through the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music which was created by his estate to support composers and performers of new music.

Acquisition information:
Gift of the estate of Yvar Mikhashoff, 1993. Additions in 2016 from Amy Williams.

The collection is arranged into seven series:

  • I. Annotated scores
  • II. Unmarked scores
  • III. Oversized
  • IV. Additional annotated scores
  • V. Additional unmarked scores
  • VI. Composer groupings
  • VII. Program and thematic groupings
  • VIII. Additional annotated scores received 2016
  • IX. Additional unmarked scores received 2016
Rules or conventions:
Finding aid prepared using DACS ( Describing Archives: A Content Standard ).


112 Baird Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260, United States