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The Frederick and Rose Plaut Papers

Call Number: MSS 52

Scope and Contents

The Frederick and Rose Plaut Papers consist mainly of negatives, contact sheets, and enlargements of photographs taken by Frederick Plaut during his years as a recording engineer for Columbia Records. Over 35,000 negatives and 3,600 enlargements portray musicians, writers, actors, artists, and diplomats, both in candid studio shots and posed publicity photos. An additional 23,000 negatives and 2,000 enlargements depict travel and miscellaneous subjects. The Papers contain books, magazines, posters, and record jackets which reproduce Plaut's photographs. The Papers also house correspondence between the Plauts and various composers, including Francis Poulenc, Virgil Thomson, Ned Rorem, and Henri Sauguet. The Plauts' life and work are documented further by exhibit announcements, recital programs of Rose Plaut, and personal papers.


  • 1907-1986 (inclusive)


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 Frederick and Rose Plaut Papers are the physical property of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. Copyrights belong to the photographers and authors, or their legal heirs and assigns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Frederick and Rose Plaut Papers were established in the Music Library of Yale University by Rose Plaut in 1986.


In 9 series as follows: I. Negatives and contact sheets. II. Enlargements. III. Slides. IV. Reproductions of Plaut photographs. V. Correspondence. VI. Travel and miscellaneous negatives and contact sheets. VII. Travel and miscellaneous enlargements. VIII. Travel and miscellaneous slides. IX. Miscellaneous materials.


28 Linear Feet (69 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The Frederick and Rose Plaut Papers consist mainly of photographs taken by the German-American recording engineer and photographer Frederick Plaut (1907-1985). Correspondence and other papers relating to Plaut and his wife are also included.

Biographical / Historical

Frederick ("Fred") Plaut was born in Munich, Germany, on May 12, 1907. He graduated from the Technische Hochschule of the University of Munich with a degree in electrical engineering. From 1933 to 1940 Plaut lived in Paris, where he founded and operated his own recording studio. At the same time he worked as a consulting engineer for Polydor Records, where he designed and built a complete recording installation.

In Paris, Fred Plaut met his future wife, Rose Kanter, a Polish-American soprano pursuing vocal studies in France. They were married on September 24, 1938. She performed in France, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy, returning to the United States in June 1940, just as Paris was falling into Nazi hands. She continued her singing career in the United States under the name Rose Dercourt, making her American debut at Town Hall in April 1944. She was a close friend of Francis Poulenc, who dedicated some of his songs to her and maintained a steady correspondence with her until his death in 1963.

Fred Plaut came to the United States in January 1940 and in April of that same year began his career as a recording engineer with Columbia Records. He recorded the majority of the Columbia Masterworks series and many sessions of the Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis, Louisville, and New York orchestras. He recorded almost all of the cast albums of Broadway shows, operas, and dramatic plays for Columbia and other labels. Plaut also recorded many chamber music and solo performances, as well as popular and jazz sessions. His work took place in the Columbia recording studios and on location at such events as the Newport Jazz and Marlboro Festivals. He received five Grammy Awards and six nominations for engineering.

While still with Columbia Records, Plaut gave several extension courses in The Art of Recording for the Manhattan School of Music. After his retirement from Columbia in 1972, Plaut joined the staff of the Yale School of Music as consultant and Senior Recording Engineer and in 1977 began teaching classes in The Art of Recording. In 1975 Plaut taught Music in Modern Media at Columbia University.

Plaut's second career was as a photographer. His work as a recording engineer for Columbia Records allowed him many opportunities to photograph recording artists in the studios and on location while they were relaxing, performing, or listening to playback of recording sessions. The result is thousands of candid portraits of the great conductors, orchestras, soloists, chamber players, popular and jazz musicians, actors, and writers. Some of these artists include Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, the Budapest String Quartet, Pablo Casals, Aaron Copland, Zino Francescatti, Glenn Gould, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, the Juilliard String Quartet, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Eugene Ormandy, Richard Rodgers, Alexander Schneider, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Igor Stravinsky, George Szell, Joseph Szigeti, Edgard Varèse, and Bruno Walter.

Fred and Rose Plaut were in the mainstream of New York City's musical life. They frequently attended or hosted dinner parties. The Plaut penthouse received such guests as Ned Rorem, Virgil Thomson, Henri Sauguet, Carlos Surinach, Igor Stravinsky, George Balanchine, Edgard Varèse, and Vittorio Rieti. These social occasions also allowed Plaut to take many candid photographs.

Fred Plaut also took many candid photographs on his frequent vacations with Rose to such countries as France, Italy, Spain, India, Mexico, and Israel. These photos included not only typical tourist's pictures, but also the famous personalities they encountered. The travel photos include candid portraits of Francis Poulenc, Pierre Bernac, Alberto Moravia, Pablo Picasso, Eugene Berman, and Janet Flanner.

Plaut also had opportunities to take posed portraits of artists for publicity purposes. His photos have been used for brochures, flyers, posters, and concert programs by the Juilliard String Quartet, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, the Albaneri Trio, Bethany Beardslee, Lehman Engel, and Ettore Stratta.

Plaut's photographs have been exhibited at several museums, including seven exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and have appeared in numerous major American and foreign magazines. Many book illustrations, book covers, and some eighty record album covers are to his credit. A selection of Plaut photographs was published as The Unguarded Moment: A Photographic Interpretation (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, c1964). This contains over one hundred of his finest portraits, as well as short biographical sketches of the subjects.

Register to The Frederick and Rose Plaut Papers
Edited Full Draft
Compiled by Donna Fournier
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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