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Karol Rathaus Papers

Identifier: SCA-0044

Scope and Contents

The Karol Rathaus Papers consist of correspondence, scores, sketches, and manuscripts, as well as recordings of many concerts and performances of Dr. Rathaus’s works. The bulk of the collection is related to Rathaus’s compositions, and performances, often containing the manuscript, printed score performance and reviews of certain pieces. This collection also contains files from the Karol Rathaus Memorial Association, and correspondence between Rathaus and other artists, and recording companies.


  • 1929-1984
  • Majority of material found within 1938 - 1954



Collection is open to research, contact Special Collections for access. Staff may restrict access at its discretion on the basis on physical condition.


The Karol Rathaus Papers are physically owned by the Queens College Libraries. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assignees. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. Queens College assumes no responsibility for the infringement of copyrights held by the original authors, creators, or producers of materials.

Biographical Note

Karol Rathaus was born on September 16, 1895 in Tarnopol, at the time part of Austria. He began to write music by age 7, and composed for orchestra by age 14. After graduation from the Gymnasium, he went to Vienna in 1913 to university and the Academy of Music, where he was a mentee of Franz Schreker. In 1915, at the outbreak of World War I, Rathaus was drafted into the Austrian Army. He returned to his studies with Shreker in 1919, and remained at the university for another year before following Schreker to the Hochschule Fur Musik in Berlin. Rathaus was still a student when his music was first played publicly and his Opus 2; the First Piano Sonata earned him a ten-year publication contract with Universal Editions. In 1922, he returned to Vienna, where he graduated from university with a Ph. D. in History. Rathaus resided in Berlin from 1922 to 1932, a city that aspired to be Europe’s music capitol. His first major success was in 1924 at the Music Festival in Frankfurt, with Second Symphony. Rathaus went on to write incidental music for plays and film, including Uriel Acosta (1930), a worldwide success presented by the Habimah Players with an orchestral suite, and The Brothers Karamazov (1931), now a classic film. Rathaus was one of the first serious composers to do sound for film. The year before Hitler came to power Rathaus left Germany for Paris, where he lived from 1932 to 1934. He then moved to London, where he wrote Third String Quartet, Second Violin Sonata, and Le Lion Amoureux (1937) for the Ballet Russe. Rathaus left London hand in 1938 crossed the Atlantic for the United States. Rathaus left behind many belongings, including the only existing copies of compositions in manuscript - all of which were destroyed during the London "blitz." Rathaus was 43 when he arrived in the U.S. in 1938. He first stayed in Hollywood to write a film score, but felt out of place, isolated from music and repelled by commercial pressures. He moved to New York, where he wrote eight more film scores. In 1940, he was appointed to the faculty of Queens College of the City of New York. He occupied the post of Professor of Composition for fourteen years. While at Queens College, Rathaus received notable commissions and performances: Polonaise symphonique (1943), commissioned by Artur Rodzinski and the New York Philharmonic-Symphony, Vision Dramatique (1945), under Dimitri Mitropoulos in NY, Salisbury Cove Overture (1949), written for Vladimir Golschmann and the St. Louis Symphony for its 70th anniversary, and Prelude for Orchestra (1953), commissioned and first performed by the Louisville Orchestra under Robert Whitney. His large-scale choral work, Diapason (1950-51), was commissioned by the Queens College Choral Society, and is based on texts by Dryden and Milton. In 1952, he was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera to restore the original version of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. During the last years of his life, Rathaus was fighting fatigue and recurrent illness. The String Quartet No. 5 was finished in July 1954, a few months before his death; it was to be his last completed work.

References Schwarz, B. (1955). Karol Rathaus. The Musical Quarterly,41(4), 481-495.


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Language of Materials



Karol Rathaus established himself as an exceptional compositional talent in European musical circles before immigrating to the United States in 1938. In 1940, he became the first composition professor in the music department of Queens College, a position he held until his untimely death in 1954. His papers include correspondence, manuscripts, sketches, printed materials, performance programs, press clippings, and audio recordings in various formats. Also included are papers related to Rathaus' edition of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera.


The Karol Rathaus Papers are organized in the following series and subseries:

Series I. Correspondence Subseries A: Individuals Sub-subseries i: Recommendation Letters Subseries B: Organizations

Series II. Queens College Subseries A: Graded test booklets

Series III. Creative Works Subseries A: Manuscripts and Sketches Subseries B: Printed Scores Subseries C: Film Music Subseries D: Programs and reviews of Performances

Series IV. Recordings Subseries A: Magnetic Tape Subseries B: Vinyl LPs

Series V. Miscellaneous

Series VI. Karol Rathaus Memorial Association


Donated in stages by Gerta Rathaus and Gabriel Frontier from the time of his death in 1954 until 1984.

Special Formats

Newspaper clippings, vinyl LPs, and magnetic tape.

Karol Rathaus Papers
Processed by Dean F. Smith, Spring 2010, Alinda Borell, Spring 2012, edited by Alexandra Dolan-Mescal, Spring 2014. Machine readable finding aid created by Dan Brenner, Fall 2014. Revised by Dan Brenner, Autumn, 2018.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Queens College (New York, N.Y.) Special Collections and Archives Repository

Queens College Library, CUNY
Benjamin Rosenthal Library RO317
65-30 Kissena Boulevard
Flushing 11367 USA us