Opening the Vault – Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives at the Banff Centre

Thanks to Archivist Jane Parkinson of the Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives for this post.

Here at the Paul D. Fleck Library & Archives at The Banff Centre, there’s a treasure hunt underway. That is, if you regard little chicken-scratch-like markings to be treasure, the way we do.

Annotated score, Zoltán Székely fonds, Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives, The Banff Centre

The hunt is part of an Archives Society of Alberta-funded grant project to arrange and describe the records of Hungarian musician and composer Zoltán Székely, who came to The Banff Centre as artist-in-residence in the 1970’s and stayed through his retirement, passing away here in 2001 at the age of 97.

In Hungary, Székely was a friend and collaborator of one of the most significant composers of the twentieth century, Béla Bartók. He was also lead violinist of the famed Hungarian String Quartet.

The records in the archives include a few boxes of archival manuscripts and photographs. He also left 63 boxes of published scores and books, which may be added to the library’s collection.

But in each box a few of the items have markings that make them unique and therefore archival: inscriptions to Székely by the composer or author, or little annotations that represent his notes to himself on how to play a piece of music – known as fingerings. While a score lays out the outline of the work, musicians have a key role in interpreting it. Székely’s interpretations, especially of Bartók’s music, are highly significant, since he worked with Bartók himself.

The Archives is fortunate to have Buffy Knill, a librarian and former musician, to work on this project. She understands the little chicken-scratches and is very good at spotting the significant ones. Because of her expertise, she has the privilege of working in our basement storage room, spending a week or so going through the 63 boxes looking for treasure.

Buffy Knill examining scores in the Zoltán Székely fonds.

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