fonds MP - Music Preserved Archive

Identity area

Reference code



Music Preserved Archive


  • 1898-2009 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

13881 tapes

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

Music Preserved is a charity dedicated to preserving and making available private recordings of classical music, made either off air or at performances, and for which no other source exists. It was formed after Jon Tolansky, a percussionist with the Royal Opera House Orchestra, contacted Basil ‘Nick’ Tschaikov of the National Centre for Orchestral Studies to enquire about depositing his large collection of off-air recordings of public performances, some of which dated back to the 1930s.

Tolansky and Tschaikov subsequently set about finding a permanent home for the collection and laying the groundwork for adding new on-site recordings of musical performances to it in the future. Following protracted negotiations with the Musicians’ Union (MU), the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS), Equity (the actors’ union), and performers, composers, broadcasters and performance venues, Music Preserved was founded in June 1987 as the Music Performance Research Centre, or MPRC.

The MPRC made its first new on-site recording in October 1987 at a performance of the London Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Royal Festival Hall, followed by their first recording at the Royal Opera House a week later. Recordings could only be made with the consent of all members of the orchestra and chorus, as well as the conductor and any soloists and notices of recordings would be posted a week in advance.

In 1988 the MPRC was recognised as a Designated Archive following a change in the law governing off-air recordings. As a result the MPRC were able to receive further donations of off-air recordings from members of the public, adding valuable new material to the archive. In 1989 the MPRC created a listening studio in the library of the Barbican Arts Centre in London, with listening booths and equipment donated by Sony.

Having a permanent home for the archive significantly raised the organisation’s profile. In 1990 the MPRC launched their annual journal ‘Musical Life’ and c.1992 Basil Tschaikov successfully applied for a Leverhulme Trust research grant to carry out a two year research project into ‘Performance Practice and Audience Expectations, 1900-2000,’ using the MPRC archives.

In the late 1990s the MPRC received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabling them to transfer their archive recordings to DAT and later to CD. Although the recordings continued to be housed at the Barbican, the MPRC launched their National Access and Education Programme to enable selected recordings to be played to the public at music colleges and festivals. At the 1997 Edinburgh International Festival the MPRC played a different archive recording from past festivals every day. Some 1000 people gathered inn Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall to hear the recording of the complete opera ‘La Sonnambula’ by Maria Callas, Fiorenzai and the La Scala opera company.

In 2001 the MPRC was renamed Music Preserved. In 2005 the archive was transferred from the Barbican Centre to the Borthwick Institute at the University of York. Today the University of York is one of three Music Preserved Listening Centres, together with the Barbican Centre and Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts at Trinity College of Music in Greenwich, London.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was deposited at the Borthwick Institute in 2005. Further additions were made to the archive in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2018.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Administrative archive of Music Preserved, 1987-2006.

Audio recordings, comprising the Saul Archive,1900-1996; Tolansky/Tchaikov Archive, 1898-2003; Harewood Collection, 1926-1985; Kenny Archive, 1951-1974; Kirkwood Archive, 20th century; Lewis Archive, 1947-1974; Mackerras Archive, 1935-2009; P. Wade Archive, 20th century; S. Wade Archive, 20th century; Music Preserved original recordings, 20th-21st century; Hendra Archive, 20th century; Hardwicke Griffiths Archive, 1935-1999; Kettley Archive, 20th century; Lehane Archive, 1957-1993; and McCann Archive, c.1948-1999.


Further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

The archive comprises a mix of vinyl records, acetate discs, open reel tapes, audio cassette tapes, audio compact discs and other recording formats. While some recordings have been digitised, access to others is restricted due to technical requirements. Please contact the Borthwick Institute if you would like to access a recording that is not currently available through the University of York Digital Library or the Music Preserved website.

Finding aids

The full archive has not yet been catalogued. However a searchable index of a portion of the recordings is available on the Music Preserved website: and some of the archives can be browsed via the University of York Digital Library:

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

In partnership with Music Preserved, the Borthwick and York Digital Library are making these recordings available, through a free audio streaming service which can be accessed through the Digital Library:

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

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Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier


Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created by S. A. Shearn, 14.12.16.




Accession area