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David Saperton papers

Identifier: MP-0010-01


David Saperton was an American pianist, composer, and teacher who notably performed and recorded much of the music of his father-in-law, renowned pianist and composer Leopold Godowsky. The papers include Saperton’s music manuscripts, correspondence, and several photographs he collected.


  • 1918-1960



1.6 Cubic Feet (2 boxes and 4 folders)

Language of Materials



Scope and Content of Collection

This collection contains the personal papers of David Saperton, the pianist, composer, and teacher who was a proponent of the music of his father-in-law, Leopold Godowsky. The papers include handwritten manuscripts of Saperton’s compositions, and correspondence with family, friends, and students, including Jorge Bolet, Abbey Simon, and Sidney Foster, as well as pianist Josef Hofmann and composer Randall Thompson.

The collection also includes black and white photographs, several of which were sent to Saperton from Paul Howard, the founder of the International Godowsky Society. It is possible that the Saperton papers came to the Mannes College of Music library through Leopold Godowsky, Jr., Saperton's brother-in-law and a good friend of Leopold Mannes, the son of the school’s founders, David and Clara Mannes.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical Note

David Saperton (born 1889, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – died July 5 1970, Baltimore, Maryland) was an American concert pianist known especially for being the first pianist to play the entire original compositions as well as the complete transcriptions of his father-in-law, Leopold Godowsky. Saperton received his earliest training in music from his father and grandfather, both of whom were trained singers, and later received piano lessons from German-American pianist and composer August Spanuth (1857-1920). At the age of ten, Saperton made his debut in Pittsburgh performing a Felix Mendelssohn piano concerto, and at fifteen, he debuted in New York at the Metropolitan Opera House with Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor.

In 1908, Saperton made his European debut in Berlin in a recital with American soprano Geraldine Farrar (1882-1967) and a year later he toured Europe and Russia as a soloist. During this time, he became associated with the circle of musicians in Berlin that included the noted Italian pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924), whose piano transcriptions Saperton began performing in concerts. Saperton gave several piano recitals in New York City from 1914 to 1915 and in 1917 embarked on an extensive tour of the United States.

In 1924, Saperton married Vanita Godowsky, the eldest daughter of renowned pianist and composer Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938). Leopold Godowsky introduced Saperton to pianist Josef Hofmann, the head of the piano department and later the director of The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and Saperton became Hofmann’s assistant and a member of The Curtis Institute piano faculty in 1924. In the subsequent decades after becoming Godowsky’s son-in-law, Saperton specialized in performing and recording Godowsky’s piano works, particularly his notoriously difficult Studies on Chopin’s Études, a series of fifty-four transcriptions composed from 1893 to 1914.

Saperton taught at The Curtis Institute for seventeen years, during which time he taught many students who went on to become prominent concert pianists, including: Jorge Bolet, Abbey Simon, Jacques Abram and Sidney Foster. After Saperton left Curtis, he taught privately in New York, and his notable students included Julius Katchen and William Masselos. Saperton also composed several virtuoso works for piano, his most popular being Zephyr, published in 1936. Saperton died in New York in 1970 at the age of 80.

Paul Howard (1875 - 1953) was an Irish-Australian amateur pianist and devotee of Leopold Godowsky's music who carried on a correspondence with Godowsky from 1932 until Godowsky's death in 1938. Howard established the International Godowsky Society for the promotion of Godowsky's work in 1936, which lasted until Howard's death in 1953.


Cockburn, Andrew. "Paul Howard." The New International Godowsky Society, Accessed October 17, 2023.

“David Saperton Collection.” International Piano Archives at Maryland, University of Maryland. Last modified March 7, 2018. Accessed March 17, 2021.

“David Saperton, Concert Pianist.” New York Times, July 6, 1970.

Hopkins, Charles. “Saperton [Saperstein], David.” In Grove Music Online. Accessed March 17, 2021.

Library of Congress Copyright Office. “Zephyr: by David Saperton.” Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3: Musical Compositions. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1938).

Slonimsky, Nicolas, ed. Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 5th Edition. New York: G. Schirmer, 1958.

Organization and Arrangement

Files are arranged alphabetically by subject.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the Harry Scherman Library of Mannes School of Music to the New School Archives and Special Collections, 2015.

Related Materials

The New School Archives holds the Leopold Godowsky score collection (MP.0016.01), which includes manuscript scores and print proofs of scores composed by Godowsky; and The University of Adelaide holds the Leopold Godowsky-Paul Howard Collection (MSS 0193), which includes the correspondence and photographs of Paul Howard.

Processing Information

Manuscript scores and print proofs by Leopold Godowsky which were transferred to the New School Archives with this collection were moved to the Leopold Godowsky score collection (MP.0016.01).

Guide to the David Saperton papers collection
Jason Adamo and The New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
November 28, 2023
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