Friday, June 19, 2009

Scores! All the Scores You Could Want! Free!

Last year I moved to Burlington, ON from Toronto. It was a small move but resulted in, among other things, an interesting inconvenience: There's not an opera score to be found in the city library, nor those of the surrounding cities of Hamilton or Oakville. By contrast, I was used to a public library system with a monstrous number of scores spanning the entire vocal repertoire. Can I order scores online, or go into Toronto to buy them (there's no real music store to speak of here either)? Sure. But when I'm just doing some research, listening to a new (to me) work, or figuring out if a role I've been offered is right for me, the cash outlay is just not always viable. Luckily for me, there's an incredible (really, there's no other word for it) wealth of free opera and vocal scores available online.

One of the most popular is the Indiana University database. Available in quick scan versions or in larger copies that one can work from, their list is amongst the best for commonly performed opera. They're not easily downloadable as the images are all in .gif format but when I need to take a look at Massenet's Don Quichotte at 3am, there's no better place. In the same database, there's also a huge listing of scores for art song, choral, piano and more.

IMSLP's database has lists of hundreds of composers with thousands (more than 30,000 to date) of works, a huge number of them operas, with (typically) PDF formats of scores. One ofmy favorites simply because of the PDF format allowing easy download and portability. A list of composers is here.

The yummiest colletion around is the Mozarteum's complete works of, well, Mozart. The treat here is that they are all scans of the notoriously beautiful and highly accurate Baerenreiter scores. If you just click on "view" then youget jpg versions but if youfirst go to the scores' Tables of Contents, the downloadable PDF versions become available.

There's the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek online ,which has it's English site here. It can be tricky to navigate as parts of the site haven't yet been translated but if you can get through the site your rewarded with nice scans of some beautiful scores. For an example of what I mean, here's a complete list of Handel works. Click on the links to see the scores.

If that's still not enough there's the Eastman Music Library's online collection, also in PDFs.

Finally, UCLA hosts the Sheet Music Consortium (sounds kind of sinister to me....) but has a searchable database of not only the above mentioned IU database but also of UCLA's, Johns Hopkins', and Duke's digital holdings.

That's a pretty good list to get you started. UCLA also has a list of other, smaller, resources thatis a fantastic treasure trove if you can find what you're looking for above. Happy hunting!


eusebius said...

Hi Gerrit,

Nice to find your blog. I'm a pianist here in Hamilton. This is a great list of online resources.

ITA that it's much harder to find scores here than in Toronto, but there are definitely some scores in the HPL system. There are also quite a few at McMaster's library.


Gerrit Theule said...

Hi Erika,

Thanks for stopping by. I'll have to check McMaster out!

Elizabeth McDonald said...

Thanks for this great post - have blogged about it on my own at