Museum open online 24/7. 365 (or 366) days/year

Cold Cases in Music Research

Music Research Cold Cases by Dr. Yuriy Leonovich

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a cold case is

“an unsolved criminal investigation … that has stopped being actively pursued because of a lack of evidence.”

There are cold cases in music research, too, although they typically are not related to criminal activity.

Cold Cases from the Cello Music Collection at UNCG

In January 2016, I offered to help the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Cello Music Collection identify a piece for cello and piano from the Maurice Eisenberg archive. This manuscript lacked a title page and the first page of music. I also offered to help with other mystery manuscripts. The archive curator, Stacey Krim, provided me with three cold cases: two from the Maurice Eisenberg archive and one from the Bernard Greenhouse archive.

A Couple of Weeks Turns into Six Years

When I began my search, I thought it would take a couple of weeks. Instead, after six years of research, I am writing this article to announce that I have finally identified two of the three manuscripts. I have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours using the tools I have, building relationships with performers, scholars, curators, and people who are more knowledgeable and resourceful than I am. This has been a humbling experience, something I have dedicated much prayer to. The research process revealed how little I know about composers and cello repertoire in general.


A typical challenge for a researcher is finding the source’s location. In the case of this project, I did not know what I was looking for, much less where to find “it.” Examples include anonymous baroque and classical era manuscripts that were attributed to a composer of the time. These attributions are often changed based on new evidence. Someone once told me that, unless I am 100% convinced about the attribution, I should refrain from putting a name to the work.

Cold Case Number 1: Solved!

Franz Carl Bornschein

The first work I recently (correctly) attributed is “Appalachian Legend” by Franz Carl Bornschein (10 February 1879 — 8 June 1948). Bornschein was a violinist and composer who was also a professor at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD.

His early published works exemplify late-Romantic salon music and early 20th-Century part songs for various combinations of voices. When I undertook the identification challenge, I found the incomplete manuscript in the UNCG Greenhouse archive:

In late 2018, I typeset the fragment to show to cellists and scholars who could help me in my journey. Then in 2020, I posted it on YouTube:

A Learning Experience – Discovering New (to Me) Repertoire

After dozens of educated guesses, ranging from Delius to Grainger to Bridge, Bantock, and Sowerby, I connected with dozens of amazing people and learned about cello repertoire I would have otherwise overlooked. But I still felt far from the goal.

The Baltimore Sun from Sunday 5 January 1941 page 8 section 1 article on Maurice Eisenberg

I finally found out that the piece was by Bornschein from a January 1941 Baltimore Sun article about Eisenberg performing this work at Peabody. I matched the handwriting to another Bornschein manuscript. Maryland Center for History and Culture has confirmed that this piece is the “Appalachian Legend” by Bornschein. I thank all of the staff at the Maryland Center for helping me in my research.

Cold Case Number 2: Solved!

 Arthur Loeserman, violinist

Digital Collection, Woodstock Public Library District. “Arthur Loeserman, violinist.” New York Heritage Digital Collections. 1927.

I was able to attribute the second work to Arthur Loeserman (4 October 1904 – 2 February 1999). The set of quartet parts is a part of the Bernard Greenhouse archive at UNCG. Each part has the title of “Scherzo divertissement” but lacks the composer’s name.

Stacey Krim displayed these parts at an exhibit with the hopes that someone would be able to help identify them:

Stacey Krim's Display of the Mystery Quartet Parts

Stacey Krim’s 2014 display of the Mystery Quartet Parts at UNCG.

After finding the article about Bornschein, I decided to search for “Scherzo divertissement” in the old papers. The first article that popped up was a concert review from March 1928 in the Star Tribune, a “Scherzo divertissement” for string quartet by a violinist with the last name of Loeserman, who played in the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. I could not imagine many pieces with that title for string quartet. So, I then searched for a violinist named Loeserman, and came across the Arthur Loeserman Fellowship at the Garth Newel Music Center.

I sent the YouTube link of the typesetting I had made to Garth Newel without any expectations:

Within two days, I received a phone call from Amy Loeserman, Arthur Loeserman’s daughter, who was happy to hear that her father’s music was being played. Ms. Loeserman generously shared information about her father along with copies of his manuscripts.

A Brief Biography of Arthur Loeserman from His Daughter

  • 1904 – 4 October, born in Jamaica, NY
  • 1908 – started studying the violin at age four
  • 1921 – 18 September, made his solo debut playing the first movement of the Wieniawski Concerto in d minor with the California Theatre Orchestra at age seventeen
  • 1921-22 – studied with Carl Flesch in Germany
  • 1924-1926 – attended the Institute of Musical Arts (the forerunner of Julliard); awarded a diploma in violin studies
  • 1926-1935 – played first violin in the Minneapolis Symphony
  • performed on radio shows, principally CBS
  • played in many concerts and recordings with the CBS Symphony
  • spent one or two winters in Orlando, Florida, performing with the Florida Symphony (in retirement)
  • 1999 – 2 February, died in Bethesda, MD
  • had a great sense of humor – said he wanted “Fiddler in the Basement” on his tombstone

We hope that this project will increase interest in Arthur Loeserman’s music. I thank the Loeserman family for helping me in my research of this work.

Expect to hear more about Bornschein and Loeserman very soon.

A Live Performance

This piece was recorded live on 11 April 2022 by Eric Probus, violin 1; Megan Westphal, violin 2; Emma Smoker, viola; and Emily Pilgrim, cello.

Cold Case Number 3: As Yet Unsolved – Can you help?

The third cold case I have been working on is to find the composer of another manuscript in the Eisenberg archive at UNCG. Here are the clues I’ve discovered so far:

  • Collection: Maurice Eisenberg (1900-1972) – Box 6-1
  • Work: 3-movement concerto (25-30 minutes in length)
    • I. Maestoso – Allegro non troppo – Presto
    • II. Slowly & reflectively – Piu animato
    • III. With energy – Agitato – Piu allegro – Presto
  • Country of origin: United States
  • Proposed dates: after 1940, before 1965
  • Paper: K-Lith Visionaid, House of Kennedy (Cleveland, OH 1944-1965)
  • Notes: apparent influence from Barber’s Cello Concerto and Eastern melodic patterns (Japanese?). Only fingerings and additional pencil markings are in Eisenberg’s handwriting.

This is my typesetting of the work:

If you have an idea of who wrote it or other clues that might help, please comment below.

Your Turn

Can you help solve the third cold case presented here? If so, please comment below.

Know of any other cello-related musical “cold cases”? Please tell us in the comments.