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The Paul Bekker Papers

Call Number: MSS 50

Scope and Contents

The Yale Paul Bekker Papers were given by Sarah Bekker in memory of her husband, Konrad Bekker (1911-1981), Paul Bekker's eldest child. Konrad Bekker had left Germany in August 1933 to join his father in Italy and thereafter in France before moving to Switzerland to complete his doctorate in economics at the University of Basel. He joined his father in the United States in November 1936 at which time he was able to bring with him most of Bekker's papers and much of his library. In 1939 in order to finance the publication of his doctoral dissertation (a requirement for receiving his degree) Konrad Bekker was forced to sell selected items of Bekker's papers (principally letters from prominent musical personalities and a few manuscript scores) to the Library of Congress, while other libraries acquired a number of books and scores. Nevertheless, what remained, preserved in several dozen boxes, represented the bulk of Bekker's papers, including virtually all his family and business correspondence, as well as several hundred letters and additional items by correspondents represented in the Library of Congress collection. Unfortunately virtually all letters and documents relating to Bekker's life after 1933, including his years in Paris and New York have not survived, presumably destroyed by his widow, Margit Bekker Robert.

Bekker was fastidious about his personal files and was in the habit at the end of every calendar year of putting his papers in order, segregating between personal, family, and strictly professional correspondence. The present catalogue preserves the principal categories established by Bekker, though with additional subdivision within his professional correspondence. However, a system of cross-references facilitates ready access to those inevitable overlapping relationships between the private and professional spheres. Every effort has been made to identify as many correspondents as possible, although additional research with European sources and greater familiarity with the contents of the collection will no doubt yield additional information. Many dates have been ascertained through postmarks (indicated by square brackets: [date]) and through context (indicated by an asterisk within square brackets: [date*]). All further additions, corrections, and suggestions are welcome.

Bekker's voluminous personal correspondence in I.A is a testimony not only to his dedication to letter writing, but to his gift for maintaining friendships and professional contacts. Indeed, one is struck by the number of professional friends and acquaintances from his early days in Berlin, Aschaffenburg, and Görlitz with whom he remains in touch until well into the 1920s. It is only after 1925, when his administrative activities in Kassel and Wiesbaden begin to make increasing demands on his time, that there is any noticeable decline in his private correspondence. However, after 1925, when Bekker had access to a secretarial staff, far more of his own letters survive.

There is a small collection of historic correspondence (I.B) whose provenance is uncertain. Several letters are addressed to or were apparently collected by Ludwig Rottenberg, whereas other items are attributable to Bekker's years of research for an unfinished book on Hans von Bülow.

Bekker's family correspondence (I.C), which includes many letters by Bekker, is extensive and ranges from correspondence between Bekker and his grandmother, mother and step-father, his three wives, and four children, to letters from various aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws. Bekker's somewhat complicated marital affairs require elucidation. His first wife, Dorothea (Dora) Marie Zelle (1876-1974), was the daughter of the renowned musicologist Friedrich Zelle (1845-1927), who had been Paul Bekker's tutor. Six years his senior, she was a talented and intellectually active woman who had known Bekker since at least 1900. They were married in 1909 and their only child, Konrad, was born in 1911. Their divorce in 1920 was amicable and they remained close in later years; indeed, Dora Bekker frequently visited Bekker in his Hofheim, Kassel, and

Wiesbaden homes and on more than one occasion during his travels she looked after the children of his second marriage. That second marriage, to Hanna vom Rath, was stormy. Johanna Emmy vom Rath (1893-1983), the daughter of Walther vom Rath, the director of I.G. Farben, one of Germany's leading chemical concerns, was a gifted artist and in her later years one of the principal collectors and art dealers in Germany. Bekker met her in 1918 and against the vehement objections of her family they were married in 1920. That same year the couple moved to Hofheim, where Hanna was to remain until the end of her life. Bekker and Hanna Bekker vom Rath had three children, Barbara, born in 1921, Kilian, born in 1923 (he died on the Russian front in 1943), and Maximiliane, born in 1927. By the time Bekker became Intendant in Kassel strains in the marriage were showing. The separation and divorce (granted in 1930) were protracted and traumatic, and were complicated by a relationship Bekker had begun with Margit (Grete) Reinhard, a soprano who had been engaged at Kassel in 1925 and who followed Bekker to Wiesbaden in 1927. After Bekker left Wiesbaden in 1932 he returned to Berlin with Margit Reinhard. When he moved to Paris, Reinhard sang for a season in Italy before joining Bekker in New York, where they were married in 1935.

The family correspondence begins with an itemization of surviving letters by Bekker. Because of the sheer volume of surviving items by other family members, their letters are generally catalogued by year rather than itemized singly. Material relating to the children of the first and second marriages immediately follows the entries for their mother; otherwise the entries are alphabetical.

Bekker's professional correspondence with organizations (I.D) is divided according to the principal areas of his activity. His extensive correspondence with newspapers, periodicals, and publishing houses (much of which is directed to editors and publishers with whom he was personally acquainted) gives insight into the complexities of the German publishing world. His dealings with a range of cultural organizations (especially in Frankfurt and Berlin) span his entire career and are a particularly fertile source of cultural politics. Bekker's correspondence with concert agents, on the other hand, is predominantly a product of his early years when he was seeking employment as a violinist and conductor.

When the date of a letter has been determined by the postmark rather than the letter itself, it is given in brackets. When the date has been determined by context, it is given in brackets with an asterisk.

The documents and receipts in Series II present a cross-section of miscellany, some of which could be of great value in any biographical study of Bekker. Of greater historical significance is the body of official documents, particularly from his years of military service.

Series III includes two categories of photographs: documents of family and friends, and a rich collection of production stills from Kassel and Wiesbaden; the value of these pictures is enhanced because of the severe bombing losses suffered by the archives of both theaters during the Second World War.

In Series IV we are fortunate in having a number of Bekker's handwritten manuscripts for books, lectures, and articles. There is what promises to be a fairly complete collection of his published work, although much research remains to be done to establish a comprehensive bibliography of Bekker's writings. Finally, there is a small selection from Bekker's private library, including several books with author inscriptions.

Among the music in Series V are a handful of printed scores (some with inscriptions) and a number of manuscripts, the most important of which are no doubt songs and the only opera by Ludwig Rottenberg. Notable among the manuscripts is Bekker's own handwritten copy of Wagner's Das Rheingold, which he prepared in 1900 at the age of eighteen.


  • Majority of material found within 1883-1937


Language of Materials

Materials chiefly in German.

Conditions Governing Access

The Papers are open to researchers by appointment. There are no restricted materials in the collection. Please contact the Special Collections staff to schedule an appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

The Paul Bekker 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 Paul Bekker Papers were established in the Music Library of Yale University by Sara Bekker in 1983.


In 5 series as follows: I. Correspondence. II. Documents and receipts. III. Photographs. IV. Written works. V. Music.


27 Linear Feet (61 boxes)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Correspondence and other writings, photographs, music, and additional materials by and about the German music critic Paul Bekker (1882-1937)

Other Descriptive Information

Throughout this register, ä, ö, and ü are alphabetized as ae, oe, and ue, respectively.

Register to The Paul Bekker Papers
Edited Full Draft
Compiled by Christopher Hailey
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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