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20 posts categorized "Printed music"

21 March 2017

An Amsterdam edition of Lully’s Persée

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This week sees the 330th anniversary of the death of naturalised French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). Born Giovanni Battista Lulli to Tuscan parents, Lully moved to Paris in 1646, marking the beginning of a spectacular rise in his career and fortunes. His accession to the office of Surintendant de la Musique de le Chambre du Roi in 1661 heralded twenty-six years of dominance over music-making at Louis XIV’s court, ended only by his death from a famously self-inflicted wound sustained when conducting his own Te Deum.

This anniversary coincides nicely with a recent development in the British Library’s own Lully collection, relating to his tragédie (or opera) Persée. The premiere of this work in 1682 was promptly followed by two corresponding publications of the same year: the first was a particularly imposing score by Christophe Ballard in Paris, sole music printer to Louis XIV; the second was a curious set of string parts for the overture and airs of Persée, printed by Jean Philip Heus in Amsterdam.

Ballard Title PageTitle-page of Ballard’s score of Persée (Paris, 1682).  British Library Hirsch II.542, folio 1r

As well as holding three copies of Ballard’s score (Music Collections I.302, Hirsch II.542 and R.M.12.a.5), since 1924, the British Library has been in possession of an incomplete set of Heus’s string parts (K.7.c.2.). The only known surviving copy of Heus’s edition, this had lacked a Haute-contre de violon part since its acquisition some ninety-three years earlier. Remarkably, however, a copy of the missing part recently came to light and was acquired by the British Library.

Frontispiece new part Lully K-7-c-2Title-page of the newly-acquired Haute-contre part, British Library K.7.c.2.

The engraved frontispiece shows Persée, armed with the head of Mèduse, rescuing Andromède from the sea monster (Act IV)

In addition to being satisfying from a bibliographic perspective, the completion of this set facilitates comparison with the Ballard score published the same year. Ballard’s edition is the ‘authorised’ text in both senses: it was produced in cooperation with the composer, who provided an extensive letter of dedication to the King, while the title-page declares that it was printed ‘AVEC PRIVELEGE DE SA MAJESTIE’. Heus’s publication, on the other hand, demonstrates a printer freely plundering the tragédie for its instrumental highlights, clearly unperturbed by the ‘privilege’ given to Ballard as the sole printer of Lully’s works.

The two editions also demonstrate quite different practical and economic approaches to music printing. Ballard’s rather grand and lavish offering is unlikely to have been constructed for performance, and was probably aimed at libraries of wealthy individuals or institutions. By contrast, Heus’s publication is very much a performing edition, possibly aimed at a growing middle-class market. Unlike Ballard’s edition, which was printed with movable type, it was produced using the considerably more fashionable technique of engraving. The result is a more florid and seemingly handwritten style, which would have appealed to this customer base.

Ballard edition movable type

Heus edition engraved
Ballard’s large score, printed using movable type (folio 3r) (upper image), and Heus’s  smaller engraved edition (folio 2r) (lower image)

Heus’s edition of the overture and airs of Persée constitutes an interesting example of cultural transfer between France and the Netherlands. In this case, highly-formalised music from the heart of the French royal musical establishment has been translated into a more ‘popular’ and commercialised form for recreation among the Dutch middle classes. To a degree, these different musical and publishing outlooks might even be said to reflect the greater societal ideals and attitudes of the absolutist French state and the commerce-driven Dutch Republic.

James Ritzema, Collaborative PhD student, Royal Holloway, University of London, and British Library

17 March 2017

British Library Music Collections welcomes King's music students

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A highlight of the work of British Library Music Collections this week has been hosting a visit of second and third year music students from King's College London studying sixteenth-century polyphony.

Display of C16 British Library music items

Display of printed items for the visit

Assisted by British Library music staff and her colleague Uri Smilansky, Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow Elisabeth Giselbrecht gave a fascinating insight into a selection of items from the printed music collections. These included the Liber selectarum cantionum (Augsburg: Grimm and Wirsung, 1520), Motetti C (Venice: Petrucci, 1504) and the first edition of Monteverdi's Orfeo (Venice: Amadino, 1615).

King's music students with BL music books

Students and lecturer discussing early music printing

Students were also treated to a special introduction to some highlights from the collection of music manuscripts, including a set of partbooks belonging to Edward Paston (1550-1630) (Additional MS 29388-29392) and a choir book from the workshop of Petrus Alamire (Royal 8 G VII).

The choir book is available to browse in full online, and is also featured elsewhere on this blog. Dating from circa 1513 to 1544, it was probably produced for Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. In colours and gold, it includes a miniature depicting the royal arms with dragon and greyhound supporters. Also present are the heraldic emblems of the Tudor rose and pomegranate (the latter being Catherine's emblem).

Royal_ms_8_g_vii_f002v

British Library Royal MS 8 G VII, folio 2 verso

 

14 March 2017

MGG Online

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We're pleased to announce that a free trial to MGG Online is available in our St Pancras and Boston Spa reading rooms until 23 March 2017.

Screenshot of MGG Online

Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG) is a general encyclopedia of music. It offers in-depth articles on every aspect of music as well as many related areas such as literature, philosophy, and visual arts. 

Key benefits of the online version include:

  • Easy access to the complete second edition of Bärenreiter and J.B. Metzler’s Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (published 1994–2008)
  • Access to updated and newly-written articles found only in MGG Online
  • Powerful search and browse capabilities 
  • Option to translate content

To try MGG Online for yourself, go to http://www.mgg-online.com from any British Library reading room terminal. Please email any comments on the resource to music-collections@bl.uk. 

St Pancras reading room

 

28 February 2017

Rossini in London

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“Rossini, the composer, is at present the great object of curiosity and attraction in the fashionable circles.”

Morning Chronicle,  13 January 1824

Rossini in 1865Rossini in 1865. From Wikimedia Commons

Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) – whose 225th birthday falls at the end of this month – made a particularly profitable visit to England between December 1823 and July 1824. As well as conducting and supervising performances of some of his existing operas at the King’s Theatre in London, he was commissioned to write a new work, performed for King George IV at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, and was generally in demand for appearances at the most fashionable and exclusive social events. His fee, it was widely and sensationally reported, was 50 guineas a night. What is more, as the music journal The Harmonicon acerbically put it:

This, it was thought, was not doing enough; some subscription concerts therefore were suggested, for the purpose of more adequately rewarding the gran maestro for the risque he encountered, and the inconvenience he endured, in crossing the abominable Straits of Dover. 

The Harmonicon,  11 June 1824

The commissioned opera, Ugo, re d’Italia, may or may not have been finished [i], but was certainly never performed. At least one piece was written and performed during his visit though – a lament on the death of Lord Byron, who had died in April 1824. This exists in a manuscript in the composer’s hand here at the British Library (Additional MS 30246). 

Rossini_Additional_MS_30246_f007rRossini, Il pianto delle Muse in morte di Lord Byron. British Library Additional MS 30246, f. 7 recto

Originally described in our catalogue as a cantata for tenor solo called ‘Apollo’ (the manuscript gives no title for the piece, and that name appears next to the vocal line in the score), this is the work published and known as Il pianto delle Muse in morte di Lord Byron – based in part on a chorus from Rossini’s 1820 opera Maometto II.

Rossini sang the solo tenor part himself in the second of two benefit concerts at Almack’s Assembly Rooms on 11 June 1824. Claws still out, The Harmonicon informs us that he “certainly did not spare his lungs on the occasion”.

The British Library's printed music collections also include a piano reduction of the work dating from 1824 and signed by none other than the composer himself. This seems to have been used as the basis for a further printed edition produced for the composer by publisher Thomas Boosey that same year (and whose archive features elsewhere in this blog).  

Rossini_Byron_H_400_41Printed score of Il pianto delle Muse in morte di Lord Byron. British Library, H.400.(41.)

The manuscript (Additional MS 30246) shows plenty of tangible evidence of links with printed editions, with various light pencil annotations contrasting with Rossini’s heavily-inked notation. It appears to have been ‘marked up’ for, or by, the engraver, for layout, and to point out ‘hazards’, such as where the vocal line needed to be moved from the tenor to the treble clef. It is particularly interesting to see how the markings for system and page breaks match up with the printed end result.

Three other complete pieces by Rossini are also included in Additional MS 30246, all for a combination of solo voices and piano: Dall’ oriente, for piano and four voices; In giorno si bello, titled ‘Noturno a tre voci’; and O giorno sereno. Each of these, along with the Byron-inspired piece, were separately published a few years later in Paris by Antonio Pacini . The handwritten plate numbers on these manuscripts suggests that they were used as the basis of those publications as well.

Rossini_In_giorno_si_bello_f014rRossini, In giorno si bello, Noturno a 3 voci. British Library, Additional MS 30246, folio 14 recto

Working out how and why a particular manuscript came to be in the British Library's collections can sometimes be a bit of puzzle. While we usually have some kind of record of who it was purchased from, the trail often runs cold before that. In this case, a very brief note in the acquisitions records states that the bundle of manuscripts (which were only bound together later) was purchased from a ‘Mdme. Paul Gayard’ in January 1877. It seems likely that this was Paule Gayrard-Pacini, who received several notices in The Times and the Morning Post of piano recitals in London that year. Neatly, she was also the granddaughter of Rossini’s French publisher, the aforementioned Antonio Pacini.

And the Pacini connection deepens. Additional MS 30246 also contains some short passages by Rossini intended for a pasticcio opera on Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, which Pacini had compiled and adapted from Rossini’s existing operas (seemingly under the composer’s supervision). Ivanhoé was performed in Paris in 1826, and it is known that a few small sections of music were especially written for it - most notably an early version of the famous tune from William Tell, which appears as a brief fanfare between spoken dialogue. Additional MS 30246 includes some accompanied recitative and a short orchestral passage marked ‘sinfonia’, which was possibly originally intended to open the opera. However, in the end, the tried-and-tested overture for Semiramide was used instead.

Rossini_Ivanhoe_Additional_MS_30246_f026rMusic for Ivanhoé. Additional MS 30246, folio 26 recto

Chris Scobie
Rare Books & Music Reference Service

Continue reading "Rossini in London" »

22 February 2017

Introducing British Library Music Collections

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Earlier this month, British Library staff held a special open day aimed at doctoral music students

The programme included presentations on printed music, music manuscripts and sound recordings. There was also a chance to chat to curators and to see items from the British Library's collections.

Music Doctoral Open Day 2017 manuscripts show and tell

Attendees at the 2017 music open day browsing music manuscripts with Head of Music Collections, Richard Chesser

If you're a doctoral music student and missed the open day, or if you are new to music research at the British Library, help is still at hand. Our presentations on digital research support at the British Library and on digital musicology can be accessed below.

In addition, there's a wealth of information on the various music sources available at the British Library on our music subject page. You can also ask the music enquiries team or browse the library experts page for further advice.

 

13 February 2017

British Library Music Cataloguing Vacancy

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A vacancy has arisen for a Music Cataloguer in the Content and Metadata Processing Team at the British Library, St Pancras.  Please visit www.bl.uk/careers for further information and to apply. The closing date is midnight on 26 February 2017.

The post holder will join a small team responsible for cataloguing printed and manuscript music materials. Tasks will include creating and deriving catalogue records for printed music using RDA and MARC21, supporting Legal Deposit claiming, and interpreting and implementing professional cataloguing standards.

The post holder will be an experienced cataloguer with excellent communication skills and an analytical and flexible approach to problem solving. You will have the ability to concentrate on abstract concepts and make sound and timely cataloguing decisions. You will be able to work successfully in a team environment.

The role gives scope for the post holder to help to strengthen C&MP South as a centre of excellence for cataloguing, to contribute to the formulation and development of British Library cataloguing policy, and to develop personal professional expertise and knowledge in relation to changes in bibliographic standards, in particular RDA development. You will work with the BL's important music collections, with the opportunity to contribute to the music outreach and events programme within your own specialism as required.

21 December 2016

It's pantomime time!

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Come Santa Claus!

The children wait for thee.

Now's the season of the year,

Held by children very dear.

Santa Claus,

Now at your call,

Comes to gladden one and all.

Horace Lennard's lyrics for the opening number of the 'fairy pantomime' Santa Claus, staged at London's Lyceum Theatre from December 1894, are quaintly (or perhaps cloyingly, depending on your taste) late Victorian. Oscar Bennett's music perhaps even more so.

Oscar Barrett Santa Claus coverSelected numbers from Oscar Barrett’s 'fairy pantomime' Santa Claus (Metzler & Co., 1895). British Library F.688.(3.), title-page

I found myself looking at it recently having recently visited the British Library's Victorian Entertainments: There will be fun exhibition (open until March 2017). A connection formed between pantomime (represented in the exhibition particularly by Dan Leno, music hall star and famous Victorian pantomime dame), and a large collection of manuscript music from the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (where Leno regularly appeared).

Amongst that collection, now here at the British Library, are six boxes of music for the Santa Claus pantomime. Although the music that came from the Drury Lane theatre isn’t necessarily all from productions there, it includes a lot of material associated with the composer and theatrical producer Oscar Barrett (1847-1941). Barrett worked at the theatre as musical director for some time in the 1880s, but soon mounted rival pantomimes at the Lyceum. 

Through the 1870s, the productions of Sir Augustus Harris (both senior and junior), began a trend in pantomime towards scenic spectacle, rowdy audience participation, and star turns by music hall performers of the day such as Dan Leno and Marie Lloyd (who would often bring their own songs and routines with them). Under Barrett, the music at least seems to have become more tightly controlled and 'tasteful' (a term that crops up in a lot of the newspaper reports of these performances).

Barrett had a critical hit in 1893-4 with Cinderella, his first production at the Lyceum, which was seen by some as returning to earlier models of pantomime. Interestingly, this in turns seems to have influenced subsequent productions at Drury Lane. (Jeffrey Richards, The Golden Age of Pantomime, 2010, details the various rival productions, their mutual influences, and context in broader changing fashions for pantomime through the 19th century.)

1894-5 was the season for Santa Claus. The plot mixed Maid Marion, Robin Hood, the story of the Babes in the Wood, a dog called Tatters (a collie specifically, played by a Mr Charles Lauri), Queen Mab, and Santa Claus himself. The Bury & Norwich Post, 22 January 1895, tells us that William Rignold, who played him, was "admirably cheery" and delivered his speeches suitably "ore rotundo". Musically, it looks as though it was a similar hotchpotch, albeit one with a noticeable tendency towards certain ‘respectable’ styles (a kind of Arthur Sullivan-lite operetta one in particular). 

MS Mus 1716-65-1-sample-partSample orchestral part from MS Mus. 1716/65/1, orchestral packet 3

The manuscripts from the archive are fascinating for many reasons, but especially as testaments to a pragmatic and ephemeral world of music making – and a glimpse at the characters of the pit musicians themselves. (The most I could find about them was a brief mention of the "competent orchestra" in the Globe, 27 December 1894.)

Parts were clearly reused across different pantomimes, with various passages sometimes cut, sometimes reinstated; there are pieces of printed music by other composers (Mendelssohn at one point) that have been inserted and similarly reshaped as required.

There are also several doodles. The viola player in 'no.50 D', for example, has written 'sausage roll' and then a cryptic musical cipher!

Orchestral part for Queen of the Night MS Mus 1716-65-1Viola part for the song ‘Queen of the Night’, MS Mus. 1716/65/1,

The euphonium player for 'no.18' fancies himself a latter day van Dyck, and references the popular music hall song of the time "Where did you get that hat?"

Euphonium part Mus 1716-65-1 orchestral packet 2Euphonium part, MS Mus 1716/65/1, orchestral packet 2 

And then there is one of the second violins in 'no.21', who has left us a pencil sketch of some kind of bird. (I'd like to think it might be a turkey, but a colleague suggested it could be a goose in a bonnet ... !)

Second violin part MS Mus 1716-65-orchestral packet 2Second violin part part, MS Mus 1716/65/1, orchestral packet 2 

The ephemeral nature of this music and the kinds of productions it was used for has often left us with a sketchy and selective record of music for pantomime (and theatre productions more generally). In some cases this may not matter, but the insight into life and working practices that the surviving sources provide is fascinating. A case in point is a letter from Oscar Barrett detailing his vision for the choreography for a particular dance. A telling amendment to the score doubles the number of dancing robins for that scene from 12 to 24.

Chris Scobie - Rare Books & Music Reference Service

Notes on resources:

  • Newspaper content in this article was found via The British Newspaper Archive - also subscription based, but freely available in the British Library Reading Rooms
  • The Lord Chamberlain's Plays  contain scripts (although not music) for plays submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for licensing between 1824 and 1968 
  • A useful overview of 19th century pantomime can be found in Jeffrey Richards, The Golden Age of Pantomime: slapstick, subversion and spectacle in Victorian England, (London, 2010). British Library YC.2015.a.3620. ; and a collection of critical essays on the subject in Jim Davis (ed.), Victorian Pantomime, (Basingstoke, 2010). YC.2012.a.4426. 

28 November 2016

Youth's Delight on the Flagelet: Samuel Pepys and his lessons with Thomas Greeting

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Nearly 350 years ago, the English diarist Samuel Pepys wrote in his entry for Thursday 28th February 1667 that he had employed a man named Thomas Greeting to teach the flageolet to his wife.  According to the entry, this was something of an impulsive arrangement: Greeting had gone with the flageolet-maker Drumbleby to deliver a new instrument to the diarist, who appears to have leaped upon the opportunity to arrange instruction for Mrs. Pepys.

Pepys’s musical enthusiasms feature prominently in the diary, particularly his passion for playing the flageolet and recorder.  He seems to have been well-connected within the world of professional musicians, so this association with Thomas Greeting, who was perhaps the most renowned flageolet tutor book author of the period, is not surprising.

Two copies of Greeting’s tutor books are held within the British Library’s collection of English 17th-century printed music: an enlarged third edition of his first tutor book, The Pleasant Companion (shelfmark K.11.e.8.) and a copy of his second tutor book, published in 1682/3 (shelfmark K.4.a.20). Both consist of 13 pages of instruction for the flageolet, followed by (different) sets of tunes, with fingerings supplied for each note.

The Pleasant Companion title pageTitle-page from the third edition of The Pleasant Companion, British Library K.11.e.8

A closer look at the copy of the second tutor book, The Second Part of Youth's Delight on the Flagelet, reveals two significant imperfections: the insertion of two manuscript pages which have been erroneously supplied from a 1675 edition of The Pleasant Companion – a title-page, and the final page of the ‘Directions for Playing on the Flagelet’.

There is also another, entirely different addition which is far more noteworthy: two monograms of Samuel Pepys in his autograph, which have been inscribed on the blank verso of the last page of music.

Samuel Pepys initials

The two monograms of Samuel Pepys, in his hand, which appear in British Library K.4.a.20

But does the fact that this volume once belonged to Samuel Pepys shed any new light on his music-making activities? It is already well-known that Pepys was a keen musician, although there is little evidence in his diary that Elisabeth Pepys shared his passion. Her flageolet studies seem to have been rather sporadic, probably indicating that the lessons arranged by her husband were his enthusiasm rather than hers. A month after her instruction had commenced, Pepys still seemed optimistic about Elisabeth’s progress:

Being returned home, I find Greeting, the flageolet-master, come, and teaching my wife; and I do think my wife will take pleasure in it, and it will be easy for her, and pleasant.

Entry for 1st March, 1667

But by 17th May he was complaining that she was not doing enough practice and feared that her lessons would seem a ‘bad bargain’ to Greeting.  ‘I did think that the man did deserved some more consideration,’ wrote Pepys, ‘and so will give him an opportunity of 20s. a month more, and he shall teach me, and this afternoon I begun, and I think it will be a few shillings well spent.’

On 9th September, he admits that she has been exceeding his expectations, and three days later he noted that her sight-reading had improved:

[…] and mightily pleased with my wife’s playing on the flageolet, she taking out any tune almost at first sight, and keeping time to it, which pleases me mightily.

Entry for 12th September, 1667

It seems that after this point the lessons may have ceased for a while, but a year later Pepys wrote that Greeting had called round to play some Matthew Locke duets with him, and that he had booked his wife in for lessons again, ‘for I have a great mind for her to be able to play a part with me’.

This entry probably holds the key to the real reason behind Elisabeth’s flageolet lessons with Thomas Greeting: namely, that her husband considered that playing duets with him was a logical and entirely reasonable extension of her wifely duties. But where does the British Library copy of The Second Part of Youth's Delight on the Flagelet fit into the picture? The date of the publication is certainly significant. Despite the lack of this copy’s original title-page, the term catalogues reveal that this publication was only printed in the years 1682 and 1683 – well after Elisabeth’s death in 1669, which indicates that Pepys continued playing the flageolet himself after this date. Although this might seem unsurprising on the face of things, it is actually the only real evidence we have to suggest this, since Pepys had also stopped writing the diary in 1669 because of his deteriorating eyesight.

Since the copy bears no annotations besides the two monograms, it is impossible to ascertain whether Pepys would have actually used this tutor book for instruction. Since he would have been far from a beginner by this point, he may have bought it simply to supply himself with a new set of tunes to play, since the songs and dances in this publication are entirely different to those contained within The Pleasant Companion. It is also worth noting that the book includes several pieces by John Banister  – another musical acquaintance of Pepys.

John Banister Jigg

No. 9 from The Second Part of Youth’s Delight on the Flagelet, ‘A jigg by Mr. Io Ban:’, British Library K.4.a.20

Equally though, the book may have been merely a casual or symbolic purchase – perhaps a gesture of support to his friend, Thomas Greeting, or even a memento of his late wife’s less-than-enthusiastic studies. Nevertheless, the existence of this copy does provide a telling indication that Samuel Pepys’s interest, and presumably his enjoyment of the flageolet, continued until long after its last mention in his diaries.

 

Isobel Clarke

Doctoral student, Royal College of Music, and PhD placement student, British Library Music Collections