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E. Robert Schmitz Papers

Call Number: MSS 54

Scope and Contents

The E. Robert Schmitz Papers contain letters to and from Schmitz and family members, performers, composers, music publishers, and critics. The Papers also hold manuscript scores of music by Schmitz and other twentieth-century composers. The activities of Schmitz and his Pro Musica Society are further documented by: photographs; scrapbooks and clippings; programs and publicity materials; financial records; and information relating to the Schmitz School of Piano.


  • 1909-1991 (inclusive)


Language of Materials

Materials chiefly in English and French.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers by appointment. There are no restricted materials in the collection. Please contact the Special Collections staff to schedule an appointment. Some of the materials may be stored at the Library's off-campus shelving facility, so researchers should allow at least two business days to have the appropriate boxes paged.

Conditions Governing Use

The E. Robert Schmitz Papers are the physical property of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. Copyrights belong to the composers and authors, or their legal heirs and assigns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The E. Robert Schmitz Papers were established in the Music Library of Yale University by Schmitz's daughter, Monique Leduc, in 1990.


In 9 series as follows: I. Correspondence. II. Music. III. Photographs. IV. Clippings. V. Programs and Publicity Material. VI. Writings by E. Robert Schmitz and Others. VII. Schmitz School of Piano and Other Music Schools. VIII. Financial and Legal Maters. IX. Scrapbooks.


12 Linear Feet (29 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Music, correspondence and other papers, photographs, and additional materials by and about the Franco-American pianist and composer E. Robert Schmitz (1889-1949)

Biographical / Historical

Elie Robert Schmitz was born in Paris on February 8, 1889. As a boy he sang in a choir at the Church of the Assumption. When he was seventeen, he went on to the Paris Conservatory, where he studied violin, solfège, and ensemble music. His studies were interrupted in 1909, when he toured the United States as an accompanist and coach to the celebrated singers Emma Eames, Maggie Teyte, and Leo Slezak. Schmitz returned to the Conservatory in 1910 and received first prize in piano.

From 1911 to 1914 Schmitz and his wife, Germaine, whom he married on July 1, 1912, directed the Association Musicale Moderne et Artistique. This organization, which included an orchestra, chorus, vocal octet, woodwind ensemble, and string quartet, drew the attention of Camille Saint-Saëns and Vincent D'Indy, among others. In 1914 the Association changed its name to the Association de Concerts Schmitz and grew to include a full orchestra and a 150-member chorus. The Association was responsible for many first performances, including Debussy's Première rhapsodie for clarinet and orchestra, Roussel's Evocations, Le Flem's Crépuscules d'amour, and Milhaud's Suite Symphonique. Schmitz also introduced a series of lecture-recitals entitled "The Musical Geography." These programs concentrated on the music of a particular country, from its folk origins to contemporary composers, with a chamber group performing the music.

Schmitz's concert career flourished; in 1912 he toured Holland and Belgium for three months. He knew all of Debussy's piano works and performed them often. He also coached and accompanied David Devries and Maggie Teyte (who sang the title roles in Pelléas and Mélisande ) for Debussy in their performances of the composer's works.

World War I brought a sudden halt to Schmitz's career. He spent three years at the front, served at the Battle of Verdun, received a shrapnel wound in his left hand, and had eight months of hospitalization for gassing and fatigue. Schmitz's understanding and theory of piano technique originated from his war experience: discussions he had with comrades who were scientists and from his observations of ballistics, mechanics, and acoustics. After the war he went on to study physiology. Schmitz put forth his ideas about piano technique in his book The Capture of Inspiration (1935), which was voted one of the "fifty books of the year" for 1936.

Schmitz reestablished his musical career in the United States after his arrival in New York in 1918. He performed works by the contemporary composers Carpenter, Schoenberg, Ravel, Prokofiev, Milhaud, Honegger, and de Falla. In 1920, Schmitz and Thomas Edison collaborated in making recordings at Edison's New Jersey laboratories. These recordings are now treasured by collectors.

It was also in 1920 that Robert and Germaine Schmitz founded the Franco-American Society, which in 1923 was renamed Pro-Musica, Incorporated. Seeking to promote new music, the Society offered concerts, lecture-recitals, and publications through its forty international chapters. Thanks to the Schmitzes' entrepreneurship, fund-raising, research, and wide musical contacts, the Society was able to sponsor the first American appearances of Ravel, Bartók, and Respighi, as well as concerts and lectures by Hindemith, Schoenberg, Honegger, Milhaud, Roussel, Tansman, Prokofiev and his wife, Lina Llubera, Casella, Bliss, Tailleferre, Schmitt, Kodály, Stravinsky, Webern, Tcherepnin, Toch, Boulanger, Salzedo, Barrère, Eichheim, and the Pro Arte Quartet. Pro-Musica also sent the American composers Marion Bauer, Charles Tomlinson Griffes, and Louis Gruenberg to their Paris chapter and the tenor Roland Hayes to Moscow and Leningrad. They established an International Advisory Board, which included Alban Berg and Egon Wellesz, and in 1923 began a series of International Referendum Concerts. Schmitz toured Europe and the United States performing, lecturing, teaching, and taking care of chapter business. On these tours, Robert and Germaine Schmitz would research local concert history, trying to bring a good balance of old and new in each location.

After Pro-Musica's dissolution in 1936, Schmitz continued to promote new music. He performed, recorded, wrote, edited music, and taught. The E. Robert Schmitz School was established in San Francisco in 1945, and offered a Debussy Prize for pianists. Schmitz died in San Francisco on September 5, 1949.

Register to The E. Robert Schmitz Papers
Edited Full Draft
Compiled by Adrienne ScholtzMay 1993
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Music Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Gilmore Music Library Repository

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