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Alexander Borisoff Papers

Identifier: MANUSCRIPT-M00025
The Alexander Borisoff Papers have been organized into two series: 1) Compositions, and 2) Working Papers. When possible, series, subseries, and file names have been derived from the original labels within the unprocessed materials. In many cases, however, no clear order was evident and the papers have been rearranged into groupings by composition title or implied topic.

This collection contains scores from throughout Borisoff’s composing career, including many original manuscripts as well as handwritten scores produced by copyists for performance use and photocopies used for reference. Some original manuscripts and conductor scores are bound, but most scores are loose, taped together, or in performance folders. Full performance sets of orchestral scores containing multiple copies of some parts were not retained in the collection; instead, representative samples were selected during processing.

The Working Papers series contains background material on Borisoff’s career and pedagogical activities, as well as documentation of performances of his work: clippings, program notes, and concert programs for “Impressions of Hawaii,” “Poeme Ancien,” and “America,” and information on the genesis of the “Liliu” project and the fraught events surrounding its composition and promotion.

Several of the bindings are weak and much of the paper is brittle, but the collection is in stable condition overall. Rusted paperclips and staples have been removed, but the tape holding together many of the scores could not be removed without significant conservation intervention, so these items have been left in their original state.

Duplicate bound scores for “Liliu” were transferred to the UHM Library’s Music Collection, where they can be viewed and checked out. Two published books were part of Borisoff’s working papers for “Liliu”: Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen and King’s Book of Hawaiian Melodies. Borisoff may have used these books for reference or inspiration while composing “Liliu” and “Impressions of Hawaii.” Because neither item contained any unique markings or annotations, they were transferred to the University of Hawaii’s Hawaiian Collection; they can be viewed in the Hawaiian & Pacific Collection Reading Room.


  • 1940 - 1983

Condition Description

Most items in fair condition, although brittle newsprint, acid transfer, rust from paperclips and staples, moisture damage, and tape are found throughout. Tattered edges on some oversize items and weak or damaged bindings on bound volumes.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in this collection, their descendants, or the repository if copyright has been signed over, as stipulated by United States copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user to determine any copyright restrictions, obtain written permission, and pay any fees necessary for the reproduction or proposed use of the materials.

All requests for permission to reproduce manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the University of Hawaii Library as the owner of the physical items.


9.67 Linear Feet (14 boxes (7 6-inch boxes, 3 11x17 flat boxes, 2 13x15 flat boxes, 4 16x20 flat boxes) )


Professional papers of musician and composer Alexander Borisoff and his wife and frequent collaborator, June Starr Borisoff. Borisoff spent the latter years of his life in Honolulu, where he played with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and was involved in the local classical music community. Most of the papers in this collection are manuscript scores for Borisoff's major compositions, including his two works of Hawaiiana: “Liliu,” an opera, and “Impressions of Hawaii,” a work for symphony and chorus. Other items include news clippings, correspondence, program notes, concert programs and advertisements, and pedagogical materials.

Biographical / Historical

Alexander Borisoff (known to some as Sasha) was born in 1898 or 1902 in Odessa, Russia (now in Ukraine). A cellist, pianist, and composer, Borisoff attended the Russian Conservatory of Music and completed a doctorate in music with highest honors.

Beginning in 1929, Borisoff played as a concert cellist in Europe and the United States and eventually become the principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He worked as a film composer and musician throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Much of his movie work was uncredited, although he was sometimes acknowledged with the pseudonym Alex Alexander. After moving to Hawaii, he played in the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Robert LaMarchina, a former cello student of his.

Borisoff completed high-profile commissions during his career, such as the tone poem “America,” commissioned by NBC in 1953, and “Impressions of Hawaii,” commissioned and premiered by the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra in 1975 and performed again in 1976. His “String Quartet” was named an outstanding work of the year by the Ford Foundation in 1971, and his “Variations on a Theme of Paganini” was recorded by the American Chamber Virtuosi in 1973.

The last years of Borisoff’s life were largely occupied with his work on the opera “Liliu” with collaborator Sammy Amalu. He died in March 1983 in Honolulu, Hawaii, leaving the orchestration for “Liliu” incomplete.

The work of June Starr Borisoff, Alexander Borisoff’s wife and frequent collaborator, also appears throughout this collection. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1903 and died in California in 1984. The Borisoffs were married from 1958 until Alexander’s death, although they were acquainted and collaborated on compositions for many years before their marriage.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

After Borisoff’s death in 1983, the materials were likely maintained by his wife, June Starr Borisoff. The papers were acquired for the University of Hawaii Music Collection in Sinclair Library at an unknown date, then found and transferred to Archives in 2015.

Condition Description

Most items in fair condition, although brittle newsprint, acid transfer, rust from paperclips and staples, moisture damage, and tape are found throughout. Tattered edges on some oversize items and weak or damaged bindings on bound volumes.

Processing Information

Katherine Fisher, volunteer. Completed June 2015.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Libraries Repository