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We have around 100,000 pieces of manuscript music, 1.6 million items of printed music and 2 million music recordings! This blog features news and information about these rich collections. It is written by our music curators, cataloguers and reference staff, with occasional pieces from guest contributors. Read more

27 May 2018

Musgrave at 90

Today (27 May 2018) is the ninetieth birthday of Thea Musgrave, a composer in respect of whom the British Library possesses the largest known institutional collection of archival papers (an acquisition financed in part by the Eccles Centre for American Studies), as well as a substantial collection of sound recordings (both commercial and non-commercial). Some facets of Musgrave's compositional career to date are outlined in last year's anniversary posting, illustrated primarily by some of the concert programmes in the Library's Musgrave archive.

With an official work-list to date numbering over 150 compositions, it is perhaps unsurprising that Musgrave defies straightforward categorisation in terms of genre, a situation which, judging by a 1988 interview with Bruce Duffie, she seems to relish:

“I do chamber works, I do orchestral works, I do opera, I have done ballet, I've done songs, unaccompanied choral pieces — all sorts of things. I like to do different things, so I don't really like to be pigeonholed. There are even some electronic things — mostly with live music, not on its own.”

A 2017 interview with Frank Oteri suggests that Musgrave still has an appetite for such diversity:

“it’s always exciting to work on a slightly less familiar medium, for me that is — makes me consider new ideas. I like to work with everything. You know, just what happens, what comes along.”

As with many published contemporary composers, the vehicle for instigating a new Musgrave composition tends to be the commission. The influence of the commissioning context is manifested particularly in the manifold idiosyncratic instrumentations found in Musgrave's oeuvre. Yet, composing to commission should not be taken to imply a passive response on the part of the composer; in fact, perusal of Musgrave's scores and manuscript material demonstrates a creative praxis that thrives upon customising and stretching the precepts of the genres with which she engages. As she explains in a 2018 interview with Alyssa Kayser-Hirsh, she takes inspiration from a broad range of sources, including the performer for whom she is writing:

“My pieces usually begin as commissions for specific forces and presenting organizations or a particular performer. I frequently get inspired by what I read (poetry and novels) or see (paintings, plays, nature) away from my writing desk, and by what I know and sense about the performer.”

One recurrent Musgrave trait is the animation of instrumentalists with choreographic performance directions, extending their purview to encompass dramatic agency and visual spectacle. Musgrave often animates individuals within the orchestra, obfuscating the delineation between the role of soloist and of tutti (rank-and-file) orchestral player, especially where the animated player is afforded an uncharacteristic degree of virtuosity and of liberty from the conductor's yoke. Such liberty — sometimes characterised as rebellion or defiance — raises notational challenges that may not have an unequivocal solution, as is apparent from the papers relating to Night Music, a work for chamber orchestra in which "the two horn players are featured in a soloistic and dramatic way". It was premiered in 1969, yet the score and parts were revised by Musgrave in 1998, acting in response to feedback from the conductor Nicholas Kraemer.

Night Music is replete with phrases notated so as to afford some temporal liberties: whilst the rhythm is specified, the presence of fermatae and the absence of barlines in these phrases mean that they are not mapped precisely to the prevailing tempo. Various means of co-ordination are employed, ranging from fermatae to repeating cells (sometimes, these invite comparison to Lutosławski's box-notation, whilst at other times, they are little more than regular bars to be repeated “as necessary”, a device which might be described as a vamp, although Musgrave herself never uses the word).

The revisions in 1998 consisted principally of the addition of barlines and of more explicit directions for how the conductor is to signal the various points of co-ordination. The British Library possesses the annotated photocopies on which Musgrave indicated the planned revisions.

Some of these notational revisions can be characterised as clarifications rather than changes. For example, on pages 52–53 of the full score, the addition of a barline and indications as to which hand the conductor should utilise do not compromise the independence of a group comprising 2nd horn, oboes, violoncellos, and double basses. Rather, the conductor indications communicate cues for the events that trigger, or are triggered by, this group's metrically independent entries at a “Tempo di marzia” with its own time signature and barring. As for the added barline, shortly after figure 61, it straddles tied notes. Since the anacrusis is already cued by the first horn, the only potential diminution in independence entailed by the barline is the fixing of the point at which the diminuendo is to commence, aligining it to the violas' arrival on G (at the 2nd bar of figure 61). Instead, the added barline could be construed as serving a practical function, in that it elucidates the syntactical position of the group's entry relative to (circa) figure 61 and to the piccolo's unbarred ad libitum solo — this seems self-evident in the score, but may be harder to navigate in the parts.

 

1_nachtmusik_pp52-53

Annotated photocopy of pp.52–53 of the full score (there were no changes to the pagination of the score), indicating
revisions planned in 1998 (but not implemented).
Copyright © Chester Music Ltd; reproduced with kind permission.

Ultimately, the revisions on these particular pages were not implemented in the revised edition. Perhaps, the additions were deemed self-evident after all. In fact, Musgrave's comment at the top of page 52 — “when Hrn 1º STANDS // easy to give signal” — suggests that it may not be necessary for the conductor to give such explicit signals. Archival papers can often reveal cases of ideas which were entertained but subsequently dismissed.

Elsewhere, however, notational revisions present on these annotated photocopies were not only implemented, but extended. For example, on pages 42–43, barlines were added to the bassoon, horns, and one solo double-bass. In the process, rhythms are regulated to fit into the prevailing time signature, mapped to the other parts. Whilst some of these mappings are to tied notes, thus eschewing audible alignment, the rhythmic and metric complexity has still been somewhat reduced, ossifying a particular solution to the co-ordination of formerly independent layers in the texture. In the annotated photocopies, these lines see a brief return to an unbarred "AD LIB" at the 4th bar of figure 49.

 

2_nachtmusik_pp42-43

Annotated photocopy of pp.42–43 of the full score (there were no changes to the pagination of the score),
indicating revisions planned in 1998. 
Copyright © Chester Music Ltd; reproduced with kind permission.

In the revised edition, however, barlines have been added there as well, with the parenthesised fermatae just before figure 50 (which function much like the curlew symbol used by Britten) removed. Also absent from the revised edition is the conductor's double-handed downbeat indicated at figure 50. Judging by the crossed-out indication at figure 49, it seems that Musgrave vacillated over where to stipulate this downbeat, before opting not to stipulate it at all.

Although it is unusual for Musgrave to revise works decades after the première, Night Music is not the only work to have returned to occupy Musgrave over such a long timespan. Her choral work Voices of Power and Protest was first envisaged in 1977, initially under the title "Voices of Warning and Pity", and the Musgrave archive contains evidence of the early sketches, comprising a series of drawings illustrating the plot and choreography, as well as plans for the libretto, which, initially, had been envisaged as a collection of texts by various authors.

 

3_power-and-protest_tableaux

A series of drawings illustrating the plot and choreography for Voices of Power and Protest,
which Musgrave has dated “circa 1977”. Copyright © Thea Musgrave; reproduced with kind permission.

4_power-and-protest_libretto-plans

Some of the early plans, dating from 1977, for the libretto for and choreography in Voices of Power and Protest
(initially under the title “Voices of Warning and Pity”). Copyright © Thea Musgrave; reproduced with kind permission.

In 2006, Musgrave proceeded in earnest with writing the libretto and setting it to music, deciding to write her own original text. Nonetheless, she has incorporated a few notable quotations, such as the first stanza of the Dies irae plainchant (prolifically quoted in repertoire both sacred and secular) and the first two lines of the nursery rhyme Baa, baa, black sheep (Musgrave changed the subsequent couplet to “I'm here to take it for that is now the rule”, exemplifying the callous greed of the profiteer who sings these lines).

 

5_power-and-protest_score_p20

Fair copy of p.20 of the score of Voices of Power and Protest. The second and third lines of the Dies irae plainchant
can be seen in the basses; the first two lines of Baa, baa, black sheep can be seen in the tenor solo,
starting at the 5th bar of figure 44. Copyright © Novello & Co Ltd; reproduced with kind permission.

In this work, the members of the chorus take on acting roles, and the choreography entailed is indicated through diagrams in the score. Similar diagrams can be found in the composition draft, and even the musical sketches for the work. In a sketch for the ending, the diagrams indicate the splintering of the chorus, as they come to the realisation that ostensible victory in war is illusory: “We have, all of us, lost”.

 

6_power-and-protest_sketch

A leaf from the “rough sketches” of the music for Voices of Power and Protest. Although the material after figure 62
has been struck-out, much of it, and the words above the final system, finds its way into the work. Although the dates
in the top-right do not specify a year, it is almost certainly 2006 (on the basis of the other leaves
that were in the same envelope). Copyright © Novello & Co Ltd; reproduced with kind permission.

These dramatic demands are liminal to the precepts usually associated with choral music, and, once again, seem to complicate categorisation. In the 2017 interview with Oteri, Musgrave outlines the manner in which Voices of Power and Protest combines the demands placed on an opera chorus with those placed on an unaccompanied choir:

“an opera chorus is used to memorizing and being blocked, and is usually accompanied by an orchestra. A [stand alone] chorus is not used to being blocked. They’re usually standing in rows, and they’re on book and are often unaccompanied, or maybe with a piano or organ. I thought it would be great if they could be off book and would become the set themselves.”

Musgrave's choral output has been prolific in recent years, ranging in scope from short, festive works such as Hear the Voice of the Bard and Sing to Celebrate Summer to longer works engaging with texts centred on fundamental questions of existence, such as her anthological oratorio, The Voices of Our Ancestors(which also features choreography, although it does not require the choir to sing from memory). Her latest pair of choral works, Missa Brevis and A Collect for John the Baptist, will be premièred at Wells Cathedral on Sunday 24th June, as part of the cathedral's liturgy that day[20]. Although the main birthday celebrations are taking place in New York, there will be several opportunities for audiences in the UK to hear works from Musgrave's oeuvre.

 

By Sasha Millwood, Doctoral Researcher (Arts & Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Partnership), Music Collections, British Library, and University of Glasgow

17 May 2018

Over There, All Over Again: American Sheet Music, World War 1 and Nostalgic Musicals

It is always a great pleasure when you find your research coinciding with that of your colleagues. There has been a recent spike in discussions around American Music and World War I in the Eccles Centre as Jean Petrovic is currently developing an online exhibition showcasing the British Library's excellent collection of American sheet music, whilst I am research American musicals of the early 1940s which looked back at World War I and vaudeville.

As part of her project, Jean has been focusing on World War I, which saw an explosion in printed music. At the turn of the twentieth century – prior to the rise of radio and the phonograph – pianos were still the main source of home entertainment. Recent innovations in production had bought about a sharp decline in prices and an inevitable rise in demand. Not surprisingly, this was a boom-time for song-writers and music publishers. Print runs of top-selling songs frequently exceeded hundreds of thousands and between 1900 and 1910 more than 100 songs sold over one million copies.

More than 10,000 songs about World War I were published in the United States during 1914-18. In the early days, many of these songs echoed the non-interventionist stance of President Woodrow Wilson and most Americans.

Within days of the US declaration of war in 1917, George M Cohan, already one of the country’s most successful songwriters, penned ‘Over There’. With its patriotic call to arms, its optimism and its references to liberty and the American flag it went on to become the nation’s favourite war song. It was performed and recorded by many artists and eventually sold more than two million copies.

Over There - LOC photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: George Michael Cohan. Over There. New York: Wm Jerome Publishing Corp., c1917.  British Library shelfmark a.318.(5) (other versions, h.3825.z.(52); h.1562; H.1860.i.(8); h.3825.ff.(7)); image courtesy of the Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.100010518

In 1936, President Franklin D Roosevelt presented Cohan with the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his contribution to US morale during World War I.  He was the first person in an artistic field to receive this honour.

And this is where I come in. During America’s participation in World War II, a notable body of musical films were produced which reflected on the current crisis through the historical metaphor of America’s role in World War I. By binding these wartime stories with settings concerned with vaudeville and performance, these films conveyed patriotic messages and made entertainment culture central to American values. 

Yankee_Doodle_Dandy_poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: promotional poster for Yankee Doodle Dandy (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1942, Warner Brothers)

In 1942, director Michael Curtiz made Yankee Doodle Dandy, a biopic about Cohan’s life. The narrative is framed by Cohan, in the present day, going to visit President Roosevelt at the White House where he discusses his career and receives the Congressional Gold Medal (despite the award actually being made 6 years previously). In the urgent context of World War II the film places Cohan (but also by extension Hollywood itself) as vital agents in America’s cultural mythmaking: the inclusion of his famous, popular songs (‘Over There’, ‘Give My Regards to Broadway’, ‘The Yankee Doodle Boy’ and ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’) and production numbers involving a lot (and I mean A LOT) of flags, allow the fictional President Roosevelt to comment to Cohan that “your songs were weapons as strong as cannons and rifles in World War I."

Interesting, whilst the film was certainly an important part of Warner Brothers Studio’s commitment to the war effort, aimed partially at legitimizing their own work in the context of the war, the unashamedly patriotic film also served an interesting purpose for its star, James Cagney, who had personally struggled to deny Communist links.

Cagney had initially been opposed to making a Cohan biopic as he’d disliked Cohan since the Actor’s Equity Strike in 1919 when Cohan had sided with the producers. However, during the late 1930s and early 1940s Cagney had run-ins with the Dies Committee (the House Un-American Activities Committee): in 1940 he was named along with 15 other Hollywood figures in the testimony of John R Leech (an LA Communist Party leader) and the New York Times printed the allegation that Cagney was a Communist on its front page (August 15, 1940).

Although Cagney refuted the allegations and Martin Dies made a statement to the press clearing him, his brother, William Cagney, who managed his business affairs is reported to have said that “we’re going to have to make the [most] goddamndest patriotic picture that’s ever been made. I think it’s the Cohan story.”[1] The film certainly achieves this aim: Cagney went on to win an Oscar for the role (and the film was a huge box office success for Warners).

For those interested in learning more about the American sheet music collection at the British Library, Jean’s web exhibition will go live later this summer.  In the meantime, an older incarnation of the project can be found here.

I will be discussing ‘American Film Musicals and the Reimagining of World War I’ as part of the British Library’s Feed the Mind series on Monday 21 May at 12.30 in the Knowledge Centre. I can promise clips of Gene Kelly, which must rate as one of the best ways to pass a lunch break. I hope you’ll be able to join me.

By: Dr Cara Rodway, Deputy Head of the Eccles Centre for American Studies, with thanks to Jean Petrovic, Bibliographical Editor.

[1] Patrick McGilligan, Cagney: The Actor as Auteur (New York & London: Tantivy Press, 1975), pp145-8 [shelfmark: General Reference Collection X.981/20794]

 

 

04 May 2018

The Mozarts in London

It's April 1764 and Leopold Mozart was standing on the French shore of the Channel, waiting for the ferry to England. He was accompanied by his wife Anna Maria and their two children, Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl) and Wolfgang, aged 12 and 8 respectively. They had never seen the sea and any apprehensions they might have had were met with a rough crossing. Leopold reported in a letter that they made “a heavy contribution in vomiting.”1

On the 23 April they finally arrived in London from Paris, lodging above a barber’s shop near Trafalgar Square. They had left Salzburg almost a year before, as Leopold showed the prowess of his two child prodigies across different European courts. Britain wasn’t included in their initial plans, but they had been urged to make the journey by two Englishmen in the French Court: London was at the time the richest, the biggest and most successful city in Europe. It contained a wealthy class of merchants who patroned public performances. This was an important difference from previous countries they had visited, where concert life was mainly confined to the courts. 

The Mozart family spent around fifteen months in the British capital, but their experience was not as successful as they had hope so. Let’s find out more about their story through these three items from our collections

Violin Sonatas, KV 10–15 
R.M.11.f.5. 1b
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Six Sonates Pour Le Clavecin ... Oeuvre III. London: Printed for the Author, 1765. British Library Shelfmark R.M.11.f.5 

The start of the trip was nonetheless auspicious. The letters of introduction from France had been very effective, as within a week the family was summoned to Buckingham House (a more modest predecessor to the current Palace), for the first of their three visits to the court of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Here Wolfgang’s skills were put to royal test:

The King placed before him not only works of Wagensil, but those of Bach, Abel, and Handel,2 and he played off everything prima vista. Then he accompanied the Queen in an aria which she sang, and also a flautist who played a solo. Finally he took the bass part of some airs of Handel and played the most beautiful melody on it and in such a manner that everyone was amazed. In short, what he knew when we left Salzburg is a mere shadow compared with what he knows now. It exceeds all that one can imagine.3

The Queen asked the Mozarts to be the dedicatee of one of Wolfgang's compositions. Leopold obliged, printing at his expense a run of three sonatas. The copy shown above, is the very one which was presented to the Queen.

God is our refuge, K. 20
K.10.a.17.(3)_f001rMozart, Wolfgang Amadeus.: ‘God is our Refuge’, K. 20; 1765 (detail). British Library Shelfmark K.10.a.17.(3) 

Towards the end of their London stay the Mozarts received an invitation to visit the British Museum (from which the British Library was born). It seems now hard to believe, but children weren’t allowed then. Wolfgang and Nannerl were indeed very privileged. Leopold and his daughter kept a travel diary and she recalls to have seen “the library, the antiquities, birds of all kinds, fishes, insects and fruits.” in the Museum 4

They presented the Museum directors with a copy of his first two sonatas (also in our collections); a copy of a print showing Leopold and his two children (in the British Museum); and the manuscript of ‘God us our Refuge’ K. 20 shown above (a digitised version is available here). This motet for four voices was especially composed and presented to the Trustees of the Museum. It was to be his only setting of English words during his life. Little Wolfgang seems to have had trouble fitting the words to their corresponding notes (noticeable in bars 7-9), so his father wrote them in the rest of the piece.

At the British Library we can boast that our collection of Mozart manuscripts is certainly the first to have been started by the composer himself!

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser
NGDA - 01.06.1764
Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 17 May 64 . British Library Shelfmark Burney 529.b.

The British Library has an important collection of Newspapers gathered by the Reverend Charles Burney (b.1757, d.1817), mostly published in London between 1604 and 1804. The collection has been digitised and can be viewed on any of our Reading Room terminals.

Leopold Mozart was no doubt an astute marketer, paying for several adverts on London papers where he announced performances by his children. They were often described as “prodigies of nature” and Leopold was more than ready to bend the truth slightly, purporting his children to be one or two years younger. The adverts here shown appeared on the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, where Leopold published more frequently.

Their first few months of their London stay saw them play in the most fashionable gardens of London. However their luck changed in early July when Leopold fell gravely ill, developing from what he described as “a kind of native complaint, which is called a cold5. Without his guidance and promotion, performances stopped for a few months and by the spring of 1765 public interest in the child prodigies began to wane. Wolfgang in the meantime, occupied himself composing -among other works- his first symphony, which premiered in February at the Little Theatre in Haymarket.

Their bad fortunes may have also been influenced by external forces, as there are indications that malicious rumours were being spread about the family. One of the most outrageous no doubt, said that Wolfgang wasn’t a child but a small adult with a growth deficiency. His father Leopold was forced to deny this in an open letter

Understandably, by mid-1765 the Mozarts started to arrange their long return to Salzburg. Private concerts were being offered at reduced fees. By July 1765 the young Mozarts, who had started performing for the Royals, were now playing during lunchtime at the Swan and Hoop pub near Moorgate in the City... 

 

  

Special thanks to Maddy Smith, curator of printed heritage collections 1601-1900, for her assistance with this article.

 

Notes:

  1. Letter from Leopold Mozart to his merchant and friend, Johann Lorenz von Hagenauer. London, 25 April May 1764 (extract)
  2. Composers Georg Christoph Wagenseil, Johann Christian Bach, Karl Friedrich Abel and the King’s favourite composer, George Frideric Handel
  3. ibid 1. London, 28 May 1764 (extract)
  4. Mozart. Briefe und Aufzeichnungen. Gesamtausgabe. (Kassel 1962) Vol I. pp196, 198-9. British Library Shelfmark 07902.e.4.
  5. ibid 1, "Chelsea near London", 13 September 1764.

30 March 2018

Latest Music Manuscripts available on our website

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 In addition to the previous batch announced here, we are pleased to share with you a few more Music Manuscripts freshly uploaded onto our website. 

One of the principal reasons that compel us to make these images available, is to preserve our collections for future generations. Every reading room request will involve at least eight pairs of hands that will handle the item from the shelf, to the reading desk and back. Naturally, this means that considerable stress is placed upon collection items which may be -as in the case of Music Collection materials- over 500 years old. Therefore, having high resolution images available on our website greatly minimizes threats to the longevity of our collection.

Please note that all of the below are Autograph Manuscripts, unless noted.

Add MS 31707 - Franz Joseph Haydn, Symphony no.103 in E-flat major "The Drumroll(1795)
This manuscript was presented by Haydn to Luigi Cherubini, who is said to have provided the missing folios 23r, 23v, and 26r by his own hand. From the collection of Julian Marshall.
Digital Version: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_31707
Catalogue Record: http://searcharchives.bl.uk/IAMS_VU2:IAMS040-002023864
Add_ms_31707_f002v

Add MS 32173 - Franz Joseph Haydn, Johann Michael Haydn - A collection of songs, duets, choruses, cantatas, and a divertimento (18th-19th century)
Digital Version: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_32173
Catalogue Record: http://searcharchives.bl.uk/IAMS_VU2:IAMS040-002025922 Add_ms_32173_f039r
Add MS 47851, Ludwig van Beethoven,  Concerto, op. 61, for violin or piano (1808) 
 Manuscript copy made for the first printed version of the concerto, with autograph corrections. This document is the main textual source for both the violin solo part and its piano arrangement. More information elsewhere on this blog.
Catalogue Records: http://searcharchives.bl.uk/IAMS_VU2:IAMS040-002104251
Digital Version: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_47851
Add_ms_47851_f010r 

Add MS 35272, 35273 - Franz Joseph Haydn, Collection of Scottish airs for one or two voices (c. 1803)
 Manuscript Copies, mainly in the hand in the hand of his amanuensis J. Radnitzky, with autograph additions.
Digital Versions: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_35272
                               http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_35273
Catalogue Record: http://searcharchives.bl.uk/IAMS_VU2:IAMS036-002088745
Add_ms_35272_f001v

 Add MS 35274 - 35275 Franz Joseph Haydn, Collection of Welsh airs for one or two voices (c.1804)
Manuscript copy, with an autograph note by the composer at the beginning,
Digital Versions: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_35274
                               http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_35275
Catalogue Records: http://searcharchives.bl.uk/IAMS_VU2:IAMS040-002088748
                                    http://searcharchives.bl.uk/IAMS_VU2:IAMS040-002088749
Add_ms_35274_f002v 

21 March 2018

Carry On to the Finland Station: The Russian Revolution in Music Hall Comedy

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Sid James and Kenneth Williams never got to play Lenin and Trotsky unfortunately, despite the latter often acting like the lead in a ‘Carry On’ film (see a previous post from our European Collections blog). However, the Russian Revolution did provide topical material for the kind of kitsch music hall performers who helped to inspire the series, leading to songs like ‘Bolsheviki-Trotski’, ‘The Bolshie Blues’ and ‘Let’s Knock the Bull out of the Bolsheviks’. Even George Formby senior, the father of the famous ukulele-playing troubadour, got in on the act with a song called ‘Bert the Bad Bolshevik’.

Performers drew on a specific range of themes – mocking the deposed Tsar and Tsarina for their perceived German sympathies (‘stuffing their faces with sauerkraut’), constant references to the rumours surrounding Rasputin, forced puns on Russian names (‘locked them up and threw away the Kerens-key’…), and above all the caricatured villainy of the Bolsheviks.

1fbc75380af9084636f250cc43624a41The ‘Lion Comique’ (1887) by Walter Sickert, from Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings (London, 2006) British Library Shelfmark LC.31.b.2771

Music Hall KickNicholasThe cover of the score for Cliff Hess, Sam M. Lewis & Joe Young, Everybody Took a Kick at Nicholas (New York, c.1917) British Library Shelfmark H.3993.rr.(24.)

R.P Weston and Bert Lee, the duo credited with composing the cockney national anthem ‘Knees up Mother Brown’, contributed to this genre with ‘The Bolshevik’ (1919):

I am a bold bad Bolshevik, to “bolsh” is my delight.
I’m busy “bolsh-ing” all the day, and then I “bolsh” at night.
I’m awfully good at murdering, and as I’m unemployed,
I’ve made a little list of those who’ve got to be destroyed.
… I’m going to kill our barber, I’d not much hair he said.
To make it grow he rubbed a lot of goose grease on my head.
Next day I’d grown some feathers, and I cackled and I cluck’d.
I never have my hair cut now, I have my feathers pluck’d!

Music Hall CoversLeft: R. P. Weston & Bert Lee, The Bolshevik (London, 1919). British Library Shelfmark H.3992.a.(8.) 
Right: Wynn Stanley & Andrew Allen, When I Get My Bolshevik Blood Up (London, c.1919). British Library Shelfmark H.3996.n.(64.)

Similarly, in Wynn Stanley and Andrew Allen’s ‘When I Get My Bolshevik Blood Up’ (c.1919), the performer describes his dreams of being a revolutionary, a creature of pure id, leading to various violent deeds and bawdy misadventures while sleepwalking:

I’ve joined the Bolsheviks, I’m thirsting for blood,
I’ll just tell you how it occurred.
They wanted a Trotsky to lead them in crime,
And my wild cowboy spirit was stirred,
The gang call me “Deathshead the Terrible Turk,”
‘Cos I’m such a devil-may care;
I’ve taken the vow,
There’ll be dirty work now,
And England had better beware
For when I get my Bolshevik blood up, there’s no crime too awful for me;
When I’m in a temper it’s true, I’d bite a banana in two;
They say I’m a born agitator
I’m stirring the whole neighbourhood up;
Of all deepdyed villains I’m really the worst,
For heartless destruction I’ve got such a thirst,
I’d blow up a baby’s balloon till it burst,
When I’ve got my Bolshevik blood up.
No woman is safe when I’ve had a small port,
They tremble whenever I’m near;
They say that my eyes are like Henry the Eighth’s,
I’ve ruined some homes without doubt,
I’m cruel I know,
But it just goes to show,
If it’s in you, it’s bound to come out.
And when I get my Bolshevik blood up,
Rasputin’s not in it with me;
When I use my mesmeric glance,
The women just fall in a trance;
Last night I’d to murder a Barmaid,
But her screams woke the whole neighbourhood up,
She fainted away as she sat on my knee,
Then my wife came up and she shouted with glee,
“If you call that murder come home and kill me
When you’ve got your Bolshevik blood up.”

The songs and ‘patter’ scripts are not exactly hilarious, at least outside of the context of a packed early 20th-century music hall. They do help to build an atmosphere of the popular culture of the time that we may miss when we focus on the ‘Ten Days that Shook the World’, and imagine foreign observers either inspired or afraid.

Music Hall OldBedfordSickert’s ‘Gallery of the Old Bailey’ (1894-5) from Baron, Sickert

 By Mike Carey, Collaborative PhD student, University of Nottingham and British Library

  

References
The journal Music Hall Studies is available online at http://www.musichallstudies.co.uk
Richard Anthony Baker, British Music Hall: An Illustrated History (Stroud, 2005). British Library Shelfmark YC.2006.a.2290
Roy Busby, British Music Hall: An Illustrated Who’s Who from 1850 to the Present Day (London, 1976). British Library Shelfmark X.431/10288

16 March 2018

Latest Music Manuscripts available online

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 At the core of what we do at the British Library is our mission to make our collections available to the public. In line with these values there are over 300 Music Manuscripts from our collections available in high resolution on our Digitised Manuscripts Portal: bl.uk/manuscripts
 In the past weeks we have uploaded some more, which we are proud to share here. All the manuscripts are Autograph.

Add MS 29801 - Ludwig van Beethoven, The Kafka Sketchbook (c1786-99)
 One of the most complete earlier repositories of Beethoven's Sketches, partly assembled by the composer himself. It takes its name from the Johanm Nepomuk Kafka, from whom the manuscript was purchased by the British Museum in 1875.
 Digital Version: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_29801
 Catalogue Record: http://searcharchives.bl.uk/IAMS_VU2:IAMS032-002021357
Add_ms_29801_f064r

Add MS 29997 - Ludwig Van Beethoven, Sketches (early 19th century)
 Sketches of musical compositions, including C sharp minor quartet, Op. 131, 
 Digital Version: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_29997 
 Catalogue record: http://searcharchives.bl.uk/IAMS_VU2:IAMS032-002021580
Add_ms_29997_f019r

Add MS 29802 -  Franz Schubert, Die Verschworenen (1823)
 Singspiel in one act with libretto by Ignaz Franz Castelli. The manuscript includes its printed pianoforte score at the end. The work was commissioned by Vienna's Hofoper in 1823, but it wouldn't be premiered until 1861 
 Digital Version: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_29802 
 Catalogue Record: http://searcharchives.bl.uk/IAMS_VU2:IAMS032-002021358
Add_ms_29802_f018r

Add MS 28613 - Francis Joseph Haydn, Collection of songs  (18th-19th century).
Songs, with symphonies and accompaniments for violin, violoncello, and pianoforte, in score.
Digital Version: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_28613 
Catalogue Record:  http://searcharchives.bl.uk/IAMS_VU2:IAMS032-002020026Add_ms_28613_f004v

Add MS 29803 - Cadenza by Beethoven & Canzonetta by Rossini (19th century)
Catalogue Record: http://searcharchives.bl.uk/IAMS_VU2:IAMS032-002021359
Digital Version: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_29803 
Add_ms_29803_f001r

 

08 March 2018

International Women's Day 2018

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Women’s day is of course, every single day and not just today. However let’s take this opportunity to briefly mention only a few of the many many great women composers represented in our Music Collections. 

Collage

Ethel Smyth (b. 1858, d.1944) was an English composer and one of the leading figures of the Suffragette Movement. Against the wishes of her father, she went to study at the Leipzig Conservatory. Smyth composed in a wide range of formats: symphonies, operas, choral and chamber works. Her second opera Der Wald (1899–1901), whose manuscript is shown below, was premiered in 1902 in Berlin. The following year it was performed at the New York’s Met, remaining until 2016 the only opera by a woman to be staged there.

In 1910 Ethel Smyth put her music career aside to concentrate fully on the Suffragette Movement, spending two months in prison in 1912 for breaking the window of a politician that opposed women’s suffrage. Her composition The March of the Women became the anthem of women's suffrage movement.

Add MS 45938 aSmyth, Ethel (1902), Der Wald. Autograph Manuscript. British Library Add MS 45938 

Francesca Caccini (b. 1587 ,d. 1641) was an Italian composer, singer, music teacher and poet. Her opera La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall'Isola d'Alcina (c. 1625) was not only the first opera to be written by a woman, but it is also thought to have been the first opera to be staged outside of Italy. Pictured is the first edition, printed in Florence in 1625.

K.8.g.17. bCaccini, Francesca(1625). La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall'Isola d'Alcina Firenze: Pietro Cecconcelli. British Library K.8.g.17.

Thea Musgrave (b.1928) is a Scottish-American composer whose career spans seventy years. She has written both vocal music (especially operas) and instrumental pieces. Her works are performed in major concert halls, festivals, and broadcast on the radio both in Europe and America.

Thea Musgrave studied composition with Hans Gal and Nadia Boulangier, among others. In 1970 she became a guest professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara and has resided in the United States ever since. In 2008 the British Library acquired her archive and continues to acquire subsequent papers as they are completed.


MusgraveThea Musgrave Archive at the British Library.

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (b.1665, d.1729) was French harpsichordist and composer. She was a child prodigy and played for Louis XIV at the age of five. Then she was accepted into the French court where she continued her musical studies before becoming a well known composer.

The item below is a 1644 edition of Céphale et Procris, an opera in five acts taken from the myth which appears in in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It was staged  in 1694 at the Académie Royale de Musique, a first for a French woman composer.


I.298.a. 3Jacquet de La Guerre, Elisabeth-Claude. (1644). Cephale et Procris, tragedie mise en musique. Paris: Christophe Ballard. British Library I.298.a.

British composer and violinist Ethel Barns (b. 1874 d.1948) studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Emile Sauret. In 1911 the Society of Women Musicians was conformed and she served on its first council.

Among her compositions is included her Violin Concerto, for which the manuscript of a piano and violin arrangement is at the British Library. The full orchestra concerto was performed in 1907 at a Promenade Concert with herself as the soloist.


Add MS 63058 aBarns, Ethel (1904) Violin Concerto, reduction for piano and violin Manuscript. British Library Add MS 65038

The Benedictine abbess, writer, philosopher, composer (and of course, Saint) Hildegard de Bingen (b.1098, d.1179) was one of the most fascinating and multifaceted personalities of the High Middle Ages.

One of her musical compositions, the Ordo Virtutum (c.1511) is a 'morality play' which eschews biblical stories for the allegorical struggle of the human soul. This 1487 manuscript in our collection is a copy of this work, said to have been taken directly from a Manuscript in the hand of St Hildegard.

Add MS 15102 207pSaint Hildegard (1487), Liber Epistolarum Manuscript Copy. British Library Add MS 15102 

Rebecca Clarke (b. 1886, d. 1979) was a British composer and violist best known for her chamber music works. She is considered one of the most important interwar female composers. Her setting of the motet Ave Maria, for unaccompanied women’s voices, was her first published choral work and its manuscript is in our music collections.


MS Mus.1694A 2Clarke, Rebecca (1937?) ‘Ave Maria’, for unaccompanied women’s voices. Autograph Manuscript. British Library MS Mus. 1694 A 

Germaine Tailleferre (b. 1892, d. 1983) was born Germaine Tailefesse although she changed her name as a young woman in defiance of her father, who was against her musical studies. She was a pupil of Ravel and became part of the denominated Group des six French modernist composers along Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger, Louis Durey, Darius Milhaud and Georges Auric.

The Royal Philharmonic Society Archive includes a manuscript copy with annotations by Tailleffere of the soprano vocal part of the The Cantate du Narcisse (1938), for soprano and baritone soloists, women’s chorus and orchestra. Unlike the Greek myth this work shows Narcissus insensitive to the charm of nymphs and lovers of his only reflection. The nymphs end up putting him to death.

RPS MS 236 aTailleferre, Germaine. Cantate du Narcisse. Manuscript copy with autograph annotations. British Library RPS MS 236 

English composer Elisabeth Lutyens (b. 1906, d.1983) began her musical studies in 1922 at the École Normale de Musique in Paris, before accompanying her mother to India in 1923. Upon returning she studied with John Foulds and later continued her musical education from 1926 to 1930 at the Royal College of Music. Lutyens is credited to have brought the serial technique of Schoenberg the UK , although through a very particular personal interpretation.

The extensive catalogue of his work includes compositions in various fields: pieces for solo instrument, chamber music (including thirteen string quartets), works for orchestra and for the stage. She also wrote the music of twenty-two films, many of which for the Hammer Production Company. The British Library holds an important collection of her manuscripts, among which is the soundtrack for the horror film The Skull (1965).


Add MS 64762 bLutyens, Elisabeth (1965). The Skull. Autograph Manuscript. British Library Add MS 64762-64764

02 March 2018

A few steps (and mis-steps) in the early years of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

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Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D op 61 is regarded as one of the greatest achievements of the violin repertoire: a rite of passage for all violinists against which they measure their maturity as musicians. But the early life of the work was rather chequered, both before and after its premiere. Let’s have a brief overview to understand more:

Beethoven 1808 detailJoseph Willibrord Mähler (1804-1805), Portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven (detail). Beethoven Pasqualatihaus, Vienna

 In early 19th century Vienna, public performances of music looked very different. They were usually considerably longer than what we are used to today, often with more than one session featuring many works in each. For instance, on 22 December 1808 Beethoven premiered his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, his Fourth Piano Concerto and the Choral Fantasy… and that was just half of the programme! 

Untitled+These types of performances were mostly single events like charity or benefit concerts organised by a musician to raise funds for his upkeep. A Great Musical Academy was then announced for 23 December 1806 for the benefit of the virtuoso violinist Franz Clement. This was the occasion on which Beethoven’s Violin Concerto was premiered.

The Violin Concerto shares that particular characteristic with other chef d’oeuvres in the sense that it was not appreciated as a masterpiece during the composer’s lifetime. A few weeks after the performance, the critic Johann Nepomuk Möse wrote on the Wiener Zeitung:

“With regard to Beethofen’s [sic] concerto, the opinion of all connoisseurs is the same: while they acknowledge that it contains some fine things, they agree that the continuity often seems to be completely disrupted, and that the endless repetitions of a few commonplace passages could easily lead to weariness. It is being said that Beethofen ought to make better use of his admittedly great talents....”1 

One of the reasons that could explain this kind of reception lies in the process of composition, whose circumstances were far from ideal. This was perhaps reflected in the performance. Carl Czerny, a friend of the composer and celebrated musician himself, recounts that Beethoven finished the work barely two days before its premiere2. If this was the case the musicians wouldn’t have had enough time to prepare.

The myth tells us that Franz Clement, as the soloist, had to sight read his part during the premiere. Although this could have been partially true, particularly in the later passages of the concerto, in reality Clement would have seen much of the violin part before the concert, acting perhaps as an advisor to Beethoven. Another doubtful detail of the story says that Clement interrupted the performance of the Concerto between movements to show off his virtuoso skills. His motivation for this would have been to prove what he was capable of when able to rehearse a piece. As we can see above in the poster for the premiere this had been previously included in the programme, albeit with the same intention, as a ‘Sonata on a single string played with the violin upside down’.

A  f1Beethoven, L. (1806) Violin Concerto op 61 Autograph Manuscript.. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Mus.Hs.17538

Only in November 1806, a few weeks before the premiere, did Beethoven start the first full scale writing down of the work in his autograph manuscript, which is part of the Music Collections of the Austrian National Library. There is a digital version which can be seen in full on their website.

The dedication to Clement contains a humorous pun pleading the violinist to show his clemency to the composer. Particularly in the last movement, we find signs of how hurried the creation of this masterpiece was.

A f104vBeethoven, L. (1806) Violin Concerto op 61. Autograph Manuscript, f 104v. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Mus.Hs.17538

The violin part was written six staves from the bottom, under which we have the cellos (when they are not playing ‘col bassi’) and the double basses. The last three staves are left blank but interestingly in several passages they show alternative melodies for the violin. The variants in darker ink in seem to have been added after the premiere.

A 122 with notesBeethoven, L. (1806) Violin Concerto op 61. Autograph Manuscript, f.122. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Mus.Hs.17538

What was the immediate cause for these revisions? At least in part they were carried out because of a music publisher from London, eager to publish some of Beethoven works, took a somewhat tangential interest in the Violin Concerto.

Muzio Clementi g.323  frontispieceClementi, M. (1830). Gradus ad Parnassum Op. 44. Frontispiece.  British Library g.323. 

The Italian-born English composer, pianist and music publisher Muzio Clementi met Beethoven in 1807 as a partner of the firm Clementi, Banger, Collard, Davis & Collard.  He managed to obtain the English publishing rights of six works, among which was the Violin Concerto. Clementi was probably aware of its frosty reception the previous year and wanting to reap its commercial potential asked Beethoven to create a piano version. The composer obliged and an agreement was signed in April 1807.

Autograph manuscripts are often too messy for engravers to use as a reference against which to prepare the plates that produce a printed score. For that matter a copyist is employed to transcribe the work by hand from the original to a more legible document. We call this a manuscript copy. One such manuscript was prepared in mid-July 1807 for the first printed edition. The resulting document is held in the British Library, coming into our Music Collections almost 65 years ago as part of the Meyerstein Bequest. For the sake of clarity we’ll adopt Alan Tyson’s terminology and call this manuscript the ‘Meyerstein Copy’ from now on.

 A f104 barsRondo, bars 77-82. Beethoven, L. (1806) Violin Concerto op 61. Autograph Manuscript, f 104. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Mus.Hs.17538

Add_ms_47851_f086v barsBeethoven, L. (1807) Violin Concerto in D op. 61. Manuscript Copy. f86v British Library Add MS 47851

After it was completed, the Meyerstein Copy was returned to Beethoven who added corrections, mainly in pencil which were subsequently inked over by the engraver. There are several additions by Beethoven in characteristically Red Rottel, however not all of these are in the composer’s hand.  Almost exclusively these rectifications concern expression, dynamics, phrasing and accidentals. No notes are modified by Beethoven. This makes evident that between both manuscripts there was at least one more document where both the solo violin (especially for the first and third movements) and its piano transcription took their final form. Since this document hasn’t survived the Meyerstein copy has the significant value of being the primary source for the solo parts of one of the most highly regarded Violin Concertos.

  MakrsBeethoven, L. (1807) Violin Concerto op 61. Meyerstein Copy, ff.43,16v. Add MS 47851

Beethoven’s skills at the piano are beyond dispute, but whether he was skilled at the violin is not well documented. As proposed above, it is plausible that a violinist would have advised him during the composition of the Violin Concerto. In the Meyerstein Copy there are signs of a similar collaboration. Franz Clement is, of course, a possible candidate. However, at the end of the Meyerstein Copy we find the message in French (not in Beethoven’s hand) “Pössinger Pressant [Urgent]”, perhaps a clue that the violinist and personal friend Franz Alexander Pössinger was also involved in these revisions.

Add_ms_47851_f120v possinger pressant +Beethoven, L. (1807) Violin Concerto op 61. Meyerstein Copy, f.120v. Add MS 47851

A clear instance of a violinist’s advice in the final form of the solo part is evident on several long slurs –seemingly unplayable- which appear in the autograph manuscript. In the Meyerstein Copy these have been split into bar-long segments.

  A f11 slursBeethoven, L. (1806) Violin Concerto op 61. Autograph Manuscript, ff. 11,11v. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Mus.Hs.17538

Add_ms_47851_f033v slurs aBeethoven, L. (1807) Violin Concerto op 61. Meyerstein Copy, f.33. Add MS 47851

It is through the composer’s association with another violinist, George Bridgetower, that the British Library Music Collections holds one of its most fascinating items: Beethoven’s tuning fork. You can read more about it in another post of this blog.

G70094-31Beethoven’s tuning fork, Add MS 71148 A

The business relationship with Clementi’s firm wasn’t the best: Beethoven didn’t receive payment for almost two years. War in Europe was partly to blame. The Violin Concerto and its piano arrangement were instead printed first by the Viennese publisher Bureau des Arts et de l'Industrie in about August 1807.

One of the signs that the Meyerstein copy was used as the Stichvorlage (engraver’s copy) are the brackets in red crayon (not by Beethoven) that appear throughout the score. These mark the page ends of the printed parts of the first edition:

Add_ms_47851_f081v detailThe Pianoforte staves with a number 23 bracket. Beethoven, L. (1807) Violin Concerto op 61. Meyerstein Copy, f.81v. Add MS 47851

23+Viennese first edition (piano arrangement). Beethoven, L, (1807) Violin Concerto in D op. 61. Piano part, p.23 Hirsch IV.301

A few mistakes that survived from the Meyerstein Copy through to the first edition provide evidence of the direct relationship between these documents. They also show that Beethoven and his collaborators weren’t the most diligent proof readers.

In bar 301 of the allegro, Beethoven adds the marking “Espressivo”. However the writing is not clear and the engraver understood sempre fortissimo, which is what was published in the first printed editions

Add_ms_47851_f035r espressivo+The Pianoforte and Violin staves with the expression mark espressivo. Beethoven, L. (1807) Violin Concerto op 61. Meyerstein Copy, f.35. Add MS 47851

IMG_0007+Viennese first edition (piano arrangement). Beethoven, L, (1807) Violin Concerto in D op. 61. Piano part, p.11. Hirsch IV.301

 A 1822 reprint of the Vienna first edition shows the mistake corrected. The image featured below is taken from a rather special score that belonged to Ferdinand David. He was a violinist who worked with Felix Mendelssohn in the composition of his Violin Concerto. There are numerous bowing and fingering indications annotated in his handwriting throughout the score, reflecting performance practice of the mid-nineteenth century.

CEspressivo mark on the 8th staff. Beethoven, L. (1827) Violin Concerto in D op. 61. First Violin part, p 6. British Library Tyson P.M.46.(1.)

Another instance of not-so-careful proofreading appears in the second violin part of the first edition. If we look closely there is a 5/4 bar! Can you find it?

IMG_0002+Viennese first edition (piano arrangement). Beethoven, L, (1807) Violin Concerto in D op. 61. Second Violin part, p.2. Hirsch IV.301

The Violin Concerto remained in relative obscurity until a crucial performance took place during the Philharmonic Society Concert on the 27 May 1844 in the Hanover Square Rooms in London, with the 13-year-old virtuoso Joseph Joachim making his debut as the soloist. The orchestra was conducted by no other than Felix Mendelssohn himself, who composed his own Violin Concerto in E minor op.64 shortly after his return from London.

23jun43Illustrated London News, 23 June 1843. British Library P.P.7611.

By 1844, musical tastes had changed and audiences were more receptive to the scale and melodic qualities of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. The tremendous success of Joachim’s performance steered the piece into the musical repertoire, helping it to be recognised as the masterpiece we consider it to be today.

   

 

Many thanks to Andrea Harrandt  and Peter Prokop from the Austrian National Library for kindly granting us permission to feature images from the autograph manuscript on this blog post.

 

  Notes
       
1. Wiener Theater-Zeitung, 8 January 1807
       2. Carl Czerny, Pianoforte-Schule op.500, Part IV, p117

 Sources:
       1. Autograph Manuscript: Musiksammlung, Austrian National Library (Vienna) Shelfmark Hs.17538
                Available online: http://data.onb.ac.at/rec/AL00222371
       2. Meyerstein Copy: British Library Shelfmark Add MS 47851
                Available online: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_47851 

  1. Viennese first edition (Piano arrangement): British Library Shelfmark Hirsch IV.301
  2. London first edition (Orchestral parts only): British Library Shelfmark 383.a.(1.)

Bibliography:
    Tyson, A. (1962). The Text of Beethoven's Op. 61. Music & Letters, 43(2), 104-114. London : Oxford University Press British Library Shelfmark P.P.1946.bd.
    Beethoven, L.; Clarke, R (ed) (2007). Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major = D-Dur : Op. 61 / London: Eulenburg. British Library Shelfmark:  D.856.j./30
    Beethoven, L, & Del Mar, J (ed). (2010). Konzert in D für Klavier und Orchester : Nach dem op. 61. Kassel: Bärenreiter. British Library Shelfmark h.383.vv./1-3
    Stowell, R. (1998). Beethoven: Violin concerto (Cambridge music handbooks). Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press. British Library Shelfmark YC.1999.a.2995