THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Music blog

25 posts categorized "Printed music"

27 May 2017

Musgrave at 89

Add comment

Today (27 May 2017) is the eighty-ninth birthday of the Scottish-American composer Thea Musgrave, born in Barnton, Midlothian, but, since the mid-1970s, resident in the USA. Following a major purchase in 2009, with assistance from the Eccles Centre for American Studies, the British Library has the world’s largest institutional collection of Musgrave archival papers, which include music manuscripts, programmes, correspondence, and photographs.

Musgrave studied at the University of Edinburgh, enrolling initially as a medical student, before switching to study music, under Hans G√°l and Mary Grierson. An important influence during that time was the legacy of one of Edinburgh‚Äôs former Reid Professors of Music, Donald Francis Tovey: Musgrave says she ‚Äúread absolutely every word of Donald Francis Tovey‚ÄĚ. After graduating from Edinburgh in 1950, having won its Tovey Memorial Prize, Musgrave moved to Paris to study with the celebrated pedagogue Nadia Boulanger.

It is from these Paris years (1950‚Äď1954) that the earliest material in the collection originates: the manuscript for a set of five songs to poetry by Ezra Pound and Louis Macneice, premi√®red at the Cercle de l‚ÄôUnion Interalli√© in Paris, on 16 May 1951, with Musgrave herself as the pianist and Doda Conrad as the baritone. Although Musgrave does not use opus-numbers (with the exception of her Divertimento for string orchestra, op.15), she refers to this set informally as her opus one.

01_paris1Front cover of the programme for a concert at the Cercle de l’Union Interallié on 16 May 1951

02_paris2Inside of the programme for a concert at the Cercle de l'Union Interalli√© on 16 May 1951. The Musgrave songs are listed as the sixth item (the items are demarcated by Roman numerals). In this programme, the make of the pianoforte (in this case, a Pleyel) is specified.

03_5-songs_contents-pContents-page of the autograph manuscript for the set of five songs to poems by Pound and Macneice (misspelt as "Macniece"). Copyright (c) Thea Musgrave and Novello & Co Ltd; reproduced by kind permission of the same.

The programme has some evident typographical errors, misspelling Macneice (as ‚ÄúMacniece‚ÄĚ) and ‚ÄėAn Immorality‚Äô (as ‚ÄúAn Immortality‚ÄĚ). More interesting, however, is a discrepancy in the syntax: when compared with the manuscript, ‚ÄėAn Immorality‚Äô and ‚ÄėThe return‚Äô have been swapped. Meanwhile, the title of the concert, ‚Äújeunes compositeurs et vieux ma√ģtres anglais‚ÄĚ, characterises Musgrave as an English composer ‚ÄĒ this is probably an erroneous conflation of English and British, rather than a belief that Musgrave were English.

Among the other performers in the concert was the pianist Luise Vosgerchian, who, although not involved in performing Musgrave on this occasion, was the dedicatee of a subsequent Musgrave composition, the first pianoforte sonata, completed in January 1952. The British Library has the fair copy for this work, which is withdrawn.

04_withdrawn-sonataTitle and dedication from the fair copy of the first pianoforte sonata (withdrawn). Copyright (c) Thea Musgrave, Chester Music Ltd, and Novello & Co Ltd; reproduced by kind permission of the same.

Musgrave also withdrew three of the five songs in the aforementioned set, resulting in a pair of songs, both settings of Ezra Pound.

05_2-songs_title-pTitle-page of the fair copy of the two songs, both to texts by Pound, not withdrawn from the set of five songs. Copyright (c) Thea Musgrave and Novello & Co Ltd; reproduced by kind permission of the same.

Whatever Musgrave‚Äôs reasons for this partial withdrawal, the manuscript is a fascinating record of an early case of Musgrave‚Äôs wont for collecting texts from more than one author in a single song-cycle ‚ÄĒ this approach of text-setting as anthology becomes more pronounced in several of her later vocal and choral works, the most recent of which is The Voices of Our Ancestors, which was premi√®red, in London, on 9 July 2015.

Following her studies with Boulanger, during which she was awarded the Lili Boulanger Memorial Prize, Musgrave returned to the UK, where she was in demand not only as a composer, but also as a pianist, lecturer, and, in due course, conductor of her own work. From the late-1950s, Chester Music was her publisher, until she moved to Novello in the mid-1970s.

Yet, a number of her subsequent works remain unpublished. Of the unpublished works represented in the collection, a suitably festive example is her contribution to a set of variations on Happy Birthday.

06_walton-festschrift_title-pageTitle-page of the fair copy of Musgrave's variation on Happy Birthday, written as part of a set to celebrate the seventieth birthday of William Walton. Copyright (c) Thea Musgrave, Chester Music Ltd, and Novello & Co Ltd; reproduced by kind permission of the same.

07_walton-festschrift_p1First page of music in the fair copy of Musgrave's variation on Happy Birthday, written as part of a set to celebrate the seventieth birthday of William Walton. Copyright (c) Thea Musgrave, Chester Music Ltd, and Novello & Co Ltd; reproduced by kind permission of the same.

Musgrave‚Äôs ‚Äúvariation in one minute‚ÄĚ is third in the set, with the other composers being Richard Rodney Bennett, Malcolm Arnold, Nicholas Maw, Robert Simpson, and Peter Maxwell Davies (the latter's contribution now housed in the British Library as Add MS 71323). The set was premi√®red by the London Symphony Orchestra on 28 March 1972, the day before William Walton‚Äôs seventieth birthday, in the Royal Festival Hall. A recording is available in the British Library‚Äôs Sound Archive, at shelfmark C1398/0775.

Although the Musgrave collection does not include the programme for this concert, there are hundreds of other programmes relating to Musgrave ‚ÄĒ some were collected by her, and many more were sent to her by performers, promoters, and friends. These document the significant influence and reach of Musgrave‚Äôs oeuvre in various continents, and not just in the English-speaking world.

For example, in 1988, Musgrave and her husband, Peter Mark, visited Jerusalem for a tour in which each of them conducted the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. Musgrave’s concert comprised four of her own compositions from various points in her career to date, cumulatively spanning a period of twenty-three years. Conveniently, the programme is bilingual:

08_jerusalem1A page, in Hebrew, from a programme for a concert of Musgrave orchestral works in the Henry Crown Symphony Hall, Jerusalem on 27 March 1988, performed by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Musgrave.

09_jerusalem2The corresponding page in English from the same programme.

Not all programmes have a translation into English so readily available. In respect of the world première of Orfeo III, which took place in Moscow on 9 October 1993, Musgrave annotated the programme with a translation of the key information.

10_moscowProgramme for a concert in the Rachmaninoff Hall, Moscow State Conservatoire on 9 October 1993, featuring the world première of Musgrave's /Orfeo III/, performed by Orchestra 2001, conducted by James Freeman. Musgrave was not present at the concert, but has annotated the programme with an outline translation. Annotations copyright (c) Thea Musgrave and Novello & Co Ltd; reproduced by kind permission of the same.

As the numeral suggests, Orfeo III, scored for flute and string quintet, is a transcription based on two earlier compositions. This transcription was written for Orchestra 2001, conducted by James Freeman. Here, Musgrave is presented as an American composer, sharing the programme with Thomas Whitman, Gerald Levinson, and Richard Wernick. By 1993, Musgrave had been permanently resident in the USA for almost two decades.

This performance in Russia is by no means the only case of Musgrave’s compositions touring continental Europe. Indeed, some of her works have received greater attention on the continent than in the UK, her country of birth. Indeed, Musgrave’s opera Simón Bolívar, completed in 1992, received its European première in Regensburg on 7 April 1995, and has yet to be performed in full in the UK.

11_regensburgFront cover of programme for the first European production of Musgrave's opera Sim√≥n Bol√≠var, at the St√§dtische B√ľhnen Regensburg in April 1995.

 

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

22 May 2017

Bringing a forgotten opera to life

Add comment

Following the revival of Handel‚Äôs music that took place in the mid-20th century, there are probably no more ‚Äėauthentic‚Äô Handel operas to be rediscovered. This is not the case with his pasticcio operas, however.  In these ‚Äėconcoctions‚Äô (or pasticcii), Handel put together a show by taking an existing libretto and recycling popular Italian arias written by other composers. English audiences of the time were no more proficient in Italian than today‚Äôs, but they enjoyed hearing a good tune and seeing a favourite diva perform.

Opera Settecento is a London-based company that brings to life forgotten 18th-century opera seria (that is, Italian operas on heroic or tragic subjects). Fittingly, the company takes its name from the Italian for ‚Äú18th century‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúSettecento‚ÄĚ. Recently, musical director Leo Duarte created a new performing edition of Handel‚Äôs pasticcio opera Ormisda drawing on several sources from the British Library‚Äôs extensive music collections.

Ormisda is the second of three pasticcii resurrected by the company, starting with Elpidia (1725) in 2016 and concluding with Venceslao (1731) in 2018. It is a tale of power, love and unhappy families. A wicked stepmother, Palmira, is determined to elevate her own son to the throne of Persia. She displaces his elder half-brother and disregards the feelings of the Queen of Armenia who is in love with the younger brother but destined to marry whoever becomes King of Persia.

Ormisda was first performed in 1730 at the King‚Äôs Theatre Haymarket under the direction of the composer himself. Although it has been assigned an HWV number, meaning it is officially part of the catalogue of Handel‚Äôs works, the piece contains hardly any of Handel‚Äôs original music. The busy and entrepreneurial composer wrote the work as a ‚Äúquick win‚ÄĚ to keep up his profile, whilst at the same time giving himself time to concentrate on two new operas, Partenope and Lotario.  Interestingly, neither had the box-office success of the crowd-pleasing Ormisda.

Inspired by musicologist Reinhard Strohm’s work on Handel’s pasticcio operas, Duarte came to the British Library to assess whether neglected pieces such as Ormisda were worth performing and had something to say to today’s audiences. At the centre of his research was Additional MS 31551, a manuscript score of Ormisda dating from the 18th century. He converted this into a digital form which he could use to create a performing score and orchestral parts.

Handel-Ormisda-BL-Add-MS-31551Handel’s Ormisda (18th century). British Library Additional MS 31551, folio 1 recto

Duarte also made use of the word-book (or libretto) dating from 1730 (11714.aa.20.(1)).

Word-book-Handel-Ormisda-title-pageWord-book for Handel’s Ormisda (1730). British Library 11714.aa.20.(1.), title-page

Digitised as part of the British Library‚Äôs partnership with Google Books, the word-book is likely to have been sold as a souvenir. Theatre lighting of the time would have made it unreadable in situ, and opera plots of the period are notoriously difficult to navigate. The extra help provided by the word-book suggests audiences then had attention spans ‚Äď and linguistic skills ‚Äď about the same as now. The Italian text was rendered into English by an uncredited translator; the translation is quite poetic, especially the arias, with rhymes and in metre.

The libretto is by the Venetian Apostolo Zeno (1669-1750) and the musical material has been identified as coming from Leonardo Leo, Orlandini, Hasse, Conti and others, with five arias as yet unidentified. ‚ÄúThere is hardly a note of Handel‚Äôs in there ‚Äď maybe the odd recit,‚ÄĚ says Duarte. Handel‚Äôs contribution was to delete sections that were superfluous to requirements. He understood how to import Italian repertoire and make it attractive to London audiences.

Although it is a beautiful copy and easy to read,  the manuscript contains some crossings-out and sections that have been covered over.

Handel-Ormisda-BL-Add-MS-31551-f-23-versoHandel’s Ormisda, with passages covered over. British Library Additional MS 31551, folio 23 verso

The word-book provides clues as to why that might be, since it contains crossings-out that match the score. These are complemented by manuscript annotations in an unknown hand such as ‚Äúin score‚ÄĚ, ‚Äúnot in score, but instead is the additional song‚Ķ [sung by] Siga Merighi (Co) [contralto]‚ÄĚ.

Annotations-word-book-Handel-OrmisdaManuscript annotations in the word-book for Handel’s Ormisda. British Library 11714.aa.20.(1.), page 15

Having access to the British Library’s score and word-book side-by-side enabled Duarte to recreate a work that is not Handel’s, but has his stamp on it. This in turn provides a fascinating insight into Handel the showman and his understanding of what his audiences wanted.

 

Ruth Hansford

Grants Portfolio Manager, Endangered Archives Programme, British Library, and freelance opera surtitler

15 May 2017

Monteverdi 450

Add comment

This year sees the 450th anniversary of the birth of Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi. This milestone is currently being commemorated, among a wide range of celebrations, with a series of performances by the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists under the direction of Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Although we do not know the exact date of Monteverdi‚Äôs birth, his baptism was recorded at the Church of SS. Nazaro e Celso in Cremona on this day (15 May) in 1567.

The British Library’s printed music collections contain extensive Monteverdi holdings, with many editions of the composer’s works which were published in his own lifetime: these include various parts of first or early editions of his madrigal books (B.252.a, Hirsch III.942, D.195.a, D.195.b), as well as an early edition of his opera Orfeo (R.M.15.c.6).

Perhaps the Library‚Äôs greatest Monteverdi treasure is a letter written by the composer in 1627 (MS Mus.1707). This was acquired from the private collection of the late Albi Rosenthal in 2009. Monteverdi wrote the letter to Ferrarese nobleman Enzo Bentivoglio, who was in the process of organising the celebrations for the wedding of Odoardo Farnese and Margherita de‚Äô Medici, and had commissioned Monteverdi to write a set of five intermedi for the marital celebrations in Parma.

Ms_mus._1707_f001r_top

Ms_mus._1707_f002v_signatureMonteverdi letter, 1627: opening and signature (British Library MS Mus. 1707)

Sadly, the five intermedi are not known to have survived; however, the letter remains a useful indicator of the commission, as well as an interesting testament to Monteverdi‚Äôs characteristically adventurous musical practices. In the letter, he discusses possibilities for musical representations in the intermedi of the Greek goddess Discord. He suggests that Discord‚Äôs part should be recited in an inharmonious voice (‚Äėrecitar in voce et non in armonia‚Äô) and not be built on instrumental harmony (‚Äėappoggiato sopra ad armonia alcuna di ustrimenti per√≤‚Äô): these suggestions could variously be interpreted to mean that the voice be in some way tuneless and dissonant, not accompanied by instruments, or even performed in some sort of half-spoken manner.

Monteverdi was, of course, well-versed in the use of dissonance for dramatic or textually-symbolic purposes. After attracting criticism for supposedly improper use of dissonance, he famously began a defence of the composer‚Äôs right to harmonic discretion in his fifth book of madrigals. The text is preserved, among other places, in an extremely rare first edition of the Quinto Libro in the British Library's music collections (D.195.a.), dating from 1605.

D_195_a_frontispiece

D_195_a_Al_LettoreMonteverdi's Quinto Libro (Venice, 1605): frontispiece and Al Lettore (British Library D.195.a)

The British Library‚Äôs Monteverdi letter also has indications of a more personal discord in the composer‚Äôs own life; indeed, he mentions an accident or misfortune (‚Äėacidente‚Äô) which had recently interrupted his compositional activity. Musicologist Denis Stevens interpreted this as a reference to the imprisonment of Monteverdi‚Äôs younger son, Massimiliano, who had been arrested by the Roman Inquisition for reading a forbidden book. While we don‚Äôt know which text got Massimiliano into trouble, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum lists what was forbidden at the time; Massimilano, who is known to have had interests in astrology, might well have been reading the particularly controversial books about helio-centrism by authors such as Giordano Bruno and Galileo Galilei, and he was clearly a source of grave concern for his father at this time.

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

28 April 2017

Nicola LeFanu at 70

Add comment

To celebrate her 70th birthday on 28 April 2017, we are taking a closer look at the career and influences of composer Nicola LeFanu, and highlighting two of her works held within the music manuscript collections at the British Library.

Nicola LeFanu ©MichaelLynch1

Photograph ©Michael Lynch

Nicola LeFanu was born in England in 1947 to librarian William LeFanu and composer Elizabeth Maconchy. She studied composition with Jeremy Dale Roberts, Alexander Goehr, Goffredo Petrassi, Humphrey Searle and Thea Musgrave. She has been most strongly influenced by her mother, her husband David Lumsdaine (also a composer), her first tutor Jeremy Dale Roberts and by Korean-American composer Earl Kim.

Her first large orchestral work, ‚ÄėThe Hidden Landscape‚Äô, was commissioned by the BBC for the 1973 Proms. In an article for The Guardian, LeFanu describes the absorption required when composing for orchestra and the thrill of the first rehearsal when she heard the piece come to life exactly as she had imagined it in her head.

The British Library holds a dyeline copy of the composer’s manuscript score of this work, annotated by Norman Del Mar, who conducted the first performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra on 7 August 1973. With the score is a letter from LeFanu to Del Mar dated 10 December 1975 along with a list of her alterations. These were produced in preparation for a recording of the work in January 1976.

LeFanu Hidden Landscape page 31

Nicola LeFanu: ‚ÄėThe Hidden Landscape‚Äô. British Library MS Mus. 1820

One of LeFanu‚Äôs particular strengths is in writing dramatically for voice. Among the many works she has written for soprano is the 1981 monodrama ‚ÄėThe Old Woman of Beare‚Äô, which is among her personal favourites. The libretto is based on a 9th- or 10th-century Irish poem about a courtesan woman who has entered a convent in her old age. Here she reflects on her life, her sexuality and her aging body.

The work is notable for its passion, the integration of sea and sexuality, the wide range of the vocal part and the instrumentation, which is like an orchestra in miniature. LeFanu deepens the passion of the poem by mixing the singing with spoken passages and by integrating imagery of the sea.

LeFanu The Old Woman of Beare page 31 camera

Nicola LeFanu, ‚ÄėThe Old Woman of Beare‚Äô for soprano and thirteen players
© 1984 Novello & Co.
Reproduced by permission of Novello & Company Limited
British Library E.1500.r.(3.)

After studying at Oxford and the Royal College of Music, LeFanu won the Mendelssohn Scholarship in 1972 and was a Harkness Fellow at Harvard from 1973 to 1974. She was then Director of Music at St Paul‚Äôs Girls‚Äô School from 1975 to 1977, followed by almost twenty years teaching at King‚Äôs College London. LeFanu became Professor of Music at the University of York in 1994, a post she held until 2008.

Nicola LeFanu is featured as ‚ÄėComposer of the Week‚Äô on Radio 3 from 24 to 28 April 2017. Information about her works and recordings can be found on her website. Many of her scores and recordings are available at the British Library and some of her works can be heard on SoundCloud.

Nicola LeFanu ©MichaelLynch

Photograph © Michael Lynch


Andra Patterson
Head of Content and Metadata Processing South (and former Curator of Music Manuscripts)

11 April 2017

New folk-dance arrangements discovered

Add comment

Imogen Holst, who was born on 12 April 1907, is well-known, among her many accomplishments, for her folk-song and folk-dance arrangements. Many of these published volumes, written for a variety of educational and recreational purposes, are available in the printed music collections here at the British Library.

 

 

Recently, however, we have come across a collection of Imogen Holst's folk-dance arrangements in her own hand which never made it into print. The manuscript, along with related correspondence, is contained within our recently-acquired Boosey & Hawkes archive, and gives further insight into Imogen Holst‚Äôs editorial approach to folk-song and dance, as well as her tireless commitment to the promotion of British music.

Imogen Holst folk dances

Newly-discovered Imogen Holst folk-dance arrangements in the British Library Boosey & Hawkes Archive. Reproduced with permission of the Holst Foundation

In June 1944, while she was busy running the music course at Dartington Hall, Imogen Holst received an invitation from the music publisher Boosey & Hawkes to edit and arrange two volumes of British folk-songs and dances for piano. She accepted with enthusiasm - ‚ÄėI cannot tell you what pleasure your suggestion gave me‚Äô - and within 6 weeks had completed the manuscripts for both volumes.

The intention of Boosey & Hawkes was to promote the works internationally, capitalizing on pro-British sentiments in countries ‚Äėwhere everything British will be much more appreciated after the war‚Äô. Imogen Holst replied that this was ‚Äėa practical piece of internationalism that appeals to me very strongly‚Äô. Proofs for the first volume of folk-songs, complete with French and Spanish (but notably, not German) translations, were ready by January 1945, and publication followed in 1947.

However, the second volume of folk-dances remained in manuscript form. Languishing in the Boosey & Hawkes archive ever since, it contains piano arrangements for around 35 folk-dances from around the British Isles, along with handwritten introductions to both volumes. Imogen Holst had clear ideas about how folk-song and dance should be presented and was assertive about these in her correspondence with the company: ‚ÄėI feel very strongly indeed that most editions of traditional tunes are cluttered up with a lot of ‚Äúexpression‚ÄĚ marks which might be all right in elaborate ‚Äúcomposed‚ÄĚ music of the 19th and 20th centuries but which are hopelessly out of place in simple tunes that sing themselves‚Äô.

Her keen stylistic sense, along with her understanding of traditional dance forms, also comes across in the introduction to the folk dances: ‚ÄėIn the following piano arrangements the left hand has to supply the light, rhythmical accompaniment of the missing drum. Instead of providing solid harmonies it must let in the air between each rise and fall of the phrase, lifting the imaginary dancers off their feet‚Äô.

The related correspondence in the Boosey & Hawkes archive does not indicate why this second volume was never published. In 1951 Imogen Holst returned the volumes of folk-songs loaned to her by the publisher for the purposes of the project and a rather formal reply from Dr Rosen denied all knowledge of the current state of play regarding her work. By then Imogen Holst was set to leave Dartington and, after a period of travel in India, would soon become assistant to Benjamin Britten. Her subsequent dealings with Boosey & Hawkes were mostly concerned with this new creative partnership.

Emma Greenwood, Music Manuscript and Archival Cataloguer, British Library

 

Note

Imogen Holst, composer, conductor, writer, and administrator, was born on 12 April 1907 and died at Aldeburgh on 9 March 1984. Her archive is held at the Britten-Pears Library and has recently been catalogued as part of the Holst Archive Project. Please note that cataloguing of the Boosey & Hawkes archive at the British Library is ongoing and that access to the archive is limited until the project is complete.

 

 

21 March 2017

An Amsterdam edition of Lully’s Persée

Add comment

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‚Äôs score of Pers√©e (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‚Äôs edition is the ‚Äėauthorised‚Äô 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 ‚ÄėAVEC PRIVELEGE DE SA MAJESTIE‚Äô. Heus‚Äôs publication, on the other hand, demonstrates a printer freely plundering the trag√©die for its instrumental highlights, clearly unperturbed by the ‚Äėprivilege‚Äô given to Ballard as the sole printer of Lully‚Äôs 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‚Äôs large score, printed using movable type (folio 3r) (upper image), and Heus‚Äôs  smaller engraved edition (folio 2r) (lower image)

Heus‚Äôs edition of the overture and airs of Pers√©e 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 ‚Äėpopular‚Äô 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

Add comment

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

Add comment

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 B√§renreiter and J.B. Metzler‚Äôs Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (published 1994‚Äď2008)
  • 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