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Rudolph Ganz Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Ganz

Scope and Content of the Collection

Works, correspondence to and from prominent musical figures, family correspondence, clippings, photographs, programs, artifacts, and a couple of recordings of this world-renowned concert pianist, composer, conductor, and educator.

Ganz kept regular diaries and itineraries of his travels and performances, as well as press clippings and reviews. Correspondence files include letters to and from many prominent classical composers, conductors, and musical performers. Ganz's guestbook, which has been transcribed and annotated, show even more relationships with important performing artists of the 20th century. He was close to his family and corresponded often with them, as they remained in Switzerland while he was in Chicago and elsewhere for most of his life. Family correspondence includes many love-letters between himself and his fiancee, then wife, Mary Forrest Ganz. He collected many family photographs and his photograph series also include many portraits taken professionally. Another important part of the collection is his Works: both text in terms of speeches, essays, and lectures; and musical compositions of all genres.


  • Creation: 1864-2013



Materials are in English, French, and German.


The Rudolph Ganz Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have not been digitized and are unavailable for use at this time.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Rudolph Ganz Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Rudolph Ganz

Swiss-American pianist, conductor, composer, and educator.

A pupil of Ferruccio Busoni in Berlin, Rudolph Ganz (Feb. 24, 1877 - August 2, 1972) made his piano debut as soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1899. In the fall of 1900 he came to Chicago and joined the piano department of the Chicago Musical College where he succeeded Arthur Friedheim. He remained in Chicago for the next 5 years. In 1903 he made his American orchestral debut as soloist with the Chicago Orchestra under Theodore Thomas in a first Chicago performance of d’Indy’s Symphony No. 1. On March 5, 1905, Ganz became the first pianist to perform Ravel’s music in America, playing Ravel’s Jeux d’eau in a Chicago recital at the Music Hall, Fine Arts Building. He continued his first American performances of Ravel’s music in a New York City recital in Mendelssohn Hall on November 8, 1907, playing Oiseaux tristes and Barque sur l’océan. In 1908 Ravel dedicated Scarbo from Gaspard de la nuit to Ganz. In 1923 Ganz was awarded the French Legion of Honor for introducing Ravel and Debussy to American audiences.

From fall 1905 to spring 1908 Ganz lived in New York City and began concert tours throughout North America, Europe, and Cuba. In 1908 he moved to Berlin to teach and concertize. In 1913 Ganz began recording piano rolls for Welte-Mignon and Duo-Art, and in 1916 for Pathé. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Ganz returned to New York City and taught at the Institute of Musical Art (later The Juilliard School). In 1920 in Carnegie Hall, he conducted the New York Philharmonic in his own performance of Liszt’s E-flat Major Piano Concerto, using the Aeolian Company’s Duo-Art reproducing Weber grand piano and becoming the first pianist to conduct an orchestra for the concerto in which he played by piano roll.

In 1921 Ganz became the fourth music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. From 1921 to 1927 during his six seasons with the orchestra, Ganz never retreated from introducing diverse repertoire. His symphonic programs attracted national attention and were widely discussed in professional magazines. In 1928 Ganz returned to Chicago and rejoined the Chicago Musical College, serving as artistic director from 1930 to 1933 and then as president from 1934 to 1954. Ganz persisted in his efforts to educate audiences to new music. In 1931 he founded and conducted the National Chamber Symphony, sponsored by NBC, which was especially known for performing contemporary music. He conducted first performances with orchestras in the Chicago area. He appeared on a number of popular national radio programs. And he became permanent conductor of the Young People’s Concerts in New York and San Francisco from 1939 to 1948, and in Chicago from 1944 to 1946. An Associated Press release in 1938 called Ganz “a one-man force in American music” and “one of the most successful musicians with children.”

In 1954 Chicago Musical College merged with Roosevelt University and Ganz became president emeritus of the college. From 1954 until 1966 he continued teaching, gave lectures and interviews for educational radio and television, performed in joint recitals of contemporary music with mezzo-soprano Esther LaBerge including a world premiere of early Webern songs at the First International Webern Festival in Seattle in 1962, and authored a number of publications among which was Rudolph Ganz Evaluates Modern Music (1968).

In 1957 Louis Sullivan’s handsomely restored Banquet Room in Chicago’s Auditorium Building (since 1947 Roosevelt University) was renamed the Rudolph Ganz Memorial Recital Hall and Frank Lloyd Wright came to Chicago to raise funds for the restored recital hall. Mayor Richard J. Daley named Rudolph Ganz “Honorary Ambassador of Music from Chicago to the World” in 1964 and Governor Otto Kerner in 1967 officially designated February 24 “Rudolph Ganz Day in Illinois.” In 1968 Andre Malraux, French minister of cultural affairs, awarded Ganz Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.

Rudolph Ganz married American soprano Mary Forrest in Berlin in 1900. They had one son, Anton Roy, who served as Swiss ambassador to the Soviet Union, among other countries. Ganz became an American citizen in 1925. After Mary died in 1956, Ganz married Esther LaBerge, concert singer and associate professor of voice at Chicago Musical College, in 1959. She had one daughter, Jeanne Colette Collester, a professor of art history.

Ganz died at the age of ninety-five, in Chicago. A newspaper headline read: “A Last link with Liszt passes on.” -- This biography was excerpted from a longer biography written by Jeanne Colette Collester, and included as a preface to her transcription of Ganz's guestbook.


18.3 Linear Feet (37 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Works, correspondence to and from prominent musical figures, family correspondence, clippings, photographs, programs, artifacts, and a couple of recordings of this world-renowned concert pianist, composer, conductor, and educator.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Biographical, 1877-1981
Boxes 1-6
Series 2: Correspondence, 1864-1977, bulk 1895-1966
Boxes 7-12
Series 3: Family, 1886-1993
Boxes 13-17
Series 4: Guestbook, 1896-2013, bulk 1896-1952
Box 18
Series 5: Programs, 1895-1986
Boxes 19-22
Series 6: Subject Files, ca. 1916-1967
Boxes 22-24
Series 7: Photographs, 1878-1983
Boxes 24-26
Series 8: Realia and Mementos, n.d.
Box 26
Series 9: Scrapbooks, 1889-1951
Boxes 27-28
Series 10: Works, 1894-1968
Boxes 29-37
Series 11: Audio, undated, 1923
Box 37
Oversize materials
Box + 1

Collection Stack Location

1 19 1-2; 1 20 1; 1 16 7


Gift, Esther LaBerge Ganz, 1972-1993; Jeanne Colette Collester, 2013.

Processed by

Alison Hinderliter, 2014.

Inventory of the Rudolph Ganz Papers, 1864-2013Midwest.MS.Ganz
Finding aid prepared by Alison Hinderliter
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States