01/06/2016 19:49 EST | Updated 01/06/2017 00:12 EST

Violin concerto lost for more than a century found in U of T archives

The unearthing of a violin concerto believed lost for over a century is music to the ears of classical music lovers.

James Mason, who works at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music Library, discovered Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen's composition while digitizing the library's thousands of pieces of sheet music.

Mason says he was "spot-checking for anomalies in the library's database and Kathleen Parlow's name showed up." 

Parlow was a world-renowned violin prodigy, born in Calgary. Halvorsen had dedicated the concerto to Parlow, who first performed it on August 14, 1909 in Scheveningen, Holland. She played it two more times that year, and it's believed that there have been no performances of the concerto since.

Mason said a couple of pieces he came across were scores Parlow had donated to the library, "but then I came across this one which we thought was lost," he told CBC News. "I brought it to my colleagues and was like, 'Is this what I think it is?'

"They immediately got excited and I was like, 'OK, I can get excited, too.'"

Suzanne Meyers Sawa, the library's acting head, shares Mason's excitement about the find.

'Major find for musical life of Norway'

"It's going to be a major contribution to the violin repertoire," she told CBC News. "It's a major find for our library and the musical life of Norway."

The discovery is even more interesting considering Halvorsen had a reputation for destroying some of the works he composed that he didn't like.

"The legend is that he wasn't happy with the review of (Parlow's) concerts so he destroyed the scores," Mason said. "We didn't know he made a copy for Parlow."

Mason explained how the box containing the piece of music might have flown under the library's radar.

"When we have a lot of work to do and we don't see some immediate value to [a particular donation] we'll put it on a shelf to be dealt with later," he said.

"When those scores were looked through, they weren't being looked through for archival value. We just assumed these were scores that we got from a publisher."

Mason suspects the person in charge of the file "wasn't looking for anything other than doing the job he or she was doing as quickly as they could."

The entire composition will be kept secret until it's performed as part of the International Musicological Society's annual conference in Norway this summer.