Free: Download 500+ Rare Music Manuscripts by Mozart, Bach, Chopin & Other Composers from the Morgan Library

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When my son first start­ed play­ing the piano, I lost sev­er­al evenings chas­ing the holy grail of free online sheet music. Sad­ly, most of what we were inter­est­ed in down­load­ing wasn’t real­ly free… just the first page.

It’s hard to ratio­nal­ize drop­ping five bucks on one song, when the New York Pub­lic Library for the Per­form­ing Arts is a short sub­way ride away. The prob­lem is, I’m not much of a musi­cian, and while there are scores and scores of scores upon their shelves, I rarely under­stood what it was I was check­ing out. Often I’d come home with the sought after piece, only to real­ize that I’d inad­ver­tent­ly checked out a vocal selec­tion, or the chord-rich equiv­a­lent of a cock­tail pianist’s fake book.

With the Mor­gan Library’s Music Man­u­scripts Online project, there’s no guar­an­tee my son or I will be able to play it, but I do know exact­ly what I’m get­ting.

The hand­writ­ten man­u­script of Mozart’s com­ic singspiel, Der Schaus­pieldirek­tor,  above, for instance, auto­graphed by the com­pos­er him­self. 84 pages worth, not count­ing cov­ers and end­pa­pers, all free for the down­load­ing!

Put that on your iPad, Mr. Salieri!

The col­lec­tion cur­rent­ly offers dig­i­tized ver­sions of upwards of 500 musi­cal man­u­scripts, with more to come as the review­ing process con­tin­ues.

It’s search­able by com­pos­er, and big names abound.

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Per­haps you’d like to warm up the Wurl­tiz­er with Bach’s Toc­ca­ta and Fugue for Organ, BWV 538, in D minor


Or let all your opera singing, bal­let danc­ing friends know you’re avail­able to accom­pa­ny them with Puccini’s auto­graphed man­u­script for Le Vil­li


Or cir­cum­nav­i­gate the scrib­bled out boo boos, while attempt­ing Chopin’s Polon­ais­es, Piano, Op. 26. Chopin’s John Han­cock is the reward.

The hits just keep com­ing: Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Fau­ré, Haydn, Liszt, Mahler, Massenet, Mendelssohn, Schu­bert, Schu­mann…


Not sur­pris­ing­ly, female com­posers are gross­ly under­rep­re­sent­ed, but there are a few gems, such as Mendelssohn’s sis­ter Fan­ny Hensel’s auto­graphed man­u­script of the song Sel­mar und Sel­ma, dec­o­rat­ed with a pret­ty pen­cil and wash draw­ing by her hus­band

The Mor­gan has plans to add essays about the man­u­scripts by lead­ing schol­ars. In the mean­time, pick a piece and start prac­tic­ing.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The World Con­cert Hall: Lis­ten To The Best Live Clas­si­cal Music Con­certs for Free

85,000 Clas­si­cal Music Scores (and Free MP3s) on the Web

All of Bach for Free! New Site Will Put Per­for­mances of 1080 Bach Com­po­si­tions Online

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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  • Charles Smith says:

    This is a col­lec­tion for schol­ars, not for begin­ners (who aren’t going to find it easy to play from man­u­scripts). For free scores, go to the IMSLP (aka Petruc­ci), which has stan­dard 19th- and ear­ly-20th cen­tu­ry edi­tions avail­able for just about every­thing not still under copy­right. Great site! Google it…

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