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Introduction

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

02 September 2020

Digitised Music Manuscripts

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During the last few months we have been actively publishing music manuscripts on Digitised Manuscripts. Approximately 60 digitised manuscripts are listed below grouped in rough chronological order. Highlights include: The ‘Cosyn’ and ‘Forster’ virginal books and autographs by Purcell; Henry Lawes; Haydn; Thomas Arne; Rossini; Mendelssohn; Verdi; Arthur Sullivan; Berlioz; Gounod; Liszt; Offenbach; Mahler; and Elgar.

16th-century music manuscripts

A collection of motets, masses, Te Deum, and Kyrie, in four volumes, by English composers (Add MS 17802; Add MS 17803; Add MS 17804; Add MS 17805); A collection of services, anthems, and a few part-songs, for five voices, by English composers (Add MS 30480; Add MS 30481; Add MS 30482; Add MS 30483; Add MS 30484); A collection of sacred compositions in parts (Add MS 32377); A collection of parts of masses, motets, and services (Add MS 34191); A miscellany of Middle English verse, including ballads by Chaucer and Lydgate; 'The Flyting of Montgomerie and Polwart' by Alexander Montgomerie; 'Nebuchadnezzar's Fierie Furnace'; the 'Annals of Oskell'; grammatical exercises in Latin and Greek; and Old songs of Durham (Harley MS 7578); Masses and motets, in parts, by Nicolas Ludford (Royal Appendix MS 45; Royal Appendix MS 46; Royal Appendix MS 47; Royal Appendix MS 48); A collection of largely sacred music of English origin, composed for instruments and voice (Royal Appendix MS 74; Royal Appendix MS 75; Royal Appendix MS 76); A collection of French and Italian compositions by anonymous authors (Royal Appendix MS 55); A collection of frottole, strambotti, and odes, with music for four voices, by Italian composers of the 15th and early 16th century (Egerton MS 3051).

Opening page from a Te deum from the Cantus part-book.
A Te deum from the Cantus part-book, Add MS 30480, f. 4r.

17th-century music manuscripts

A volume with miscellaneous writings, ornamented with initials, portraits of saints, royal arms, etc. including songs with lute accompaniment in tablature (Add MS 4900); A volume with keyboard and lyra viol music (Add MS 63852); The Cosyn Virginal Book (R.M.23.l.4); The Forster Virginal Book (R.M.24.d.3); The autograph of Henry Purcell’s The Yorkshire Feast Song (Egerton MS 2956); The Henry Lawes Music Manuscript (Add MS 53723); Canons for 4 voices to the first lines of the Psalms (Vulgate version), by Sydrach Rahel, with a dedication, in French , to James I (Royal Appendix MS 64).

Image from The Cosyn Virginal Book
The Cosyn Virginal Book. R.M.23.l.4, f. 2r
Opening page from Purcell's The Yorkshire Feast Song
Henry Purcell’s The Yorkshire Feast Song. Egerton MS 2956, f.1r

18th-century music manuscripts

Original letters of Joseph Haydn (Egerton MS 2380); Sonatas, suites and other works for keyboard instrument by G. F. Handel and other composers (MS Mus. 1587); A collection of anthems, in score, by G.F. Handel (Add MS 30309); The Chandos Music Manuscripts (Add MS 62099; Add MS 62100; Add MS 62101; Add MS 62102; Add MS 62103); A collection of songs, excerpts from operas, and an anthem, by Thomas Arne (Add MS 29370); Autograph cantatas by Antonio Caldara (Add MS 31549); Sonatas for the viola-da-gamba by Carl Friedrich Abel (Add MS 31697); 19th century letters and papers relating to the ownership of the Mozart string quartets in Add MS 37763-37765 (Add MS 37766).

Letter from Joseph Haydn to the music printer William Forster
Letter from Joseph Haydn to the music printer William Forster. Egerton MS 2380, f. 3r

19th-century music manuscripts

Selected autograph vocal pieces by Gioacchino Rossini (Add MS 30246); Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s autograph of his String Quartet in E flat (Add MS 30900); The Scherzo, Notturno, and Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night's Dream arranged by the composer for piano (Egerton MS 2955); Giuseppe Verdi’s autograph of his opera Attila (Add MS 35156); The autograph of Robert Schumann's piano sonata in F minor (Add MS 37056); Charles François Gounod’s Messe Solennelle (Add MS 37639); The autograph score of Arthur Sullivan’s operetta The Gondoliers (Add MS 53779); Letters from Hector Berlioz to members of his family (Add MS 56237); Songs by Thomas Moore arranged by Henry Bishop and others (Add MS 19569); Songs with piano accompaniment by Hortense Bonaparte, wife of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland (Add MS 30148); 19th-century copy of The ‘Lamentabatur Jacob' by Cristobal Morales, and a setting of ‘Incipit Lamentatio Hieremiæ’ by Thomas Tallis (Add MS 34070); Autograph compositions by Franz Liszt (Add MS 34182); The musical autograph album of Eliza Wesley, containing short pieces, inscriptions and signatures of numerous composers, musicians, and singers (Add MS 35026); Miscellaneous autograph compositions by various composers (Add MS 38070); Music by Michael Haydn and Carl Maria von Weber (Add MS 41634); Airs from the cantatas and other works of J.S. Bach, arranged by Robert Franz for alto and tenor voices with pianoforte accompaniment (Add MS 41635); Jacques Offenbach’s autograph score of his comic opera Fantasio (Add MS 42064); Miscellaneous music, partly autograph, by various 18th- and 19th-century composers (Add MS 47860).

Opening page from Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E flat.
Autograph of Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E flat. Add MS 30900.

 

Musical quotation from ‘Amami Alfredo’ from Verdi’s opera La traviata in the composer’s autograph
Musical quotation from ‘Amami Alfredo’ from Verdi’s opera La traviata in the composer’s autograph. Add MS 35026, f. 69r

Early 20th-century music manuscripts

Cancelled folio from the draft orchestral full score of the third movement, ‘Rondo-Burleske’, of Gustav Mahler's Symphony no.9 in D major (MS Mus. 97); Sketches and drafts by Edward Elgar (Add MS 49973 B).

Cancelled folio from Mahler’s draft orchestral full score of his Symphony no.9 in D major
Cancelled folio from Mahler’s draft orchestral full score of his Symphony no.9 in D major. Third movement, ‘Rondo-Burleske’. MS Mus. 97.

 

11 August 2020

Sir Henry Wood and the Concert Programme Exchange Scheme

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With the activities of concert and opera organisations abruptly curtailed owing to the coronavirus crisis, it seems a good time to explore an unusual set of concert programmes held by the British Library.  The Konzert-Programm-Austausch – or Concert Programme Exchange – collection stands out in the Library’s extensive holdings of programmes for its size, geographical diversity, and unusual configuration.  Bound in 60 volumes, the collection consists of some 15,000 programmes and flyers dating from between 1900 and 1914 and encompassing concerts given in Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, the USA, South America and Japan.

Title page of the 1909-1910 Konzert-Programm-Austausch series
Title page of the 1909-1910 Konzert-Programm-Austausch series (British Library, shelfmark P.P.1946.ad.)

This material forms part of a unique scheme initiated in 1893 by the Leipzig-based publisher Breitkopf & Hartel to distribute programmes on a subscription basis.   

Subscribers would receive 36 instalments per year, each typically containing between 50 and 100 programmes arranged alphabetically by location.  Annual subscriptions were offered to organisations such as music societies, orchestras, and chamber groups, each of which was obliged to contribute multiple copies of its programmes for distribution within the series.  Over time, subscribers could therefore build up runs of original programmes from each organisation.  The arrangement of the collection into separate parts, each enclosed in a wrapper with a decorative title page, reflects the way in which Breitkopf collected and then distributed the programmes to subscribers.

The venture as a whole operated from 1893 until 1944, a period of significant change in the technology of music dissemination.  In London, the conductor Sir Henry Wood (1869-1944) – founder of the long-running Promenade Concerts – subscribed to the series and contributed a selection of programmes for his concerts at the Queen’s Hall and elsewhere.  Indeed, the first few volumes in the British Library collection once formed part of Wood’s personal library and each are bound with his name embossed in gold lettering on the front cover. 

Image of Sir Henry Wood holding a baton
Sir Henry Wood (1869-1944). © National Portrait Gallery, London. NPG D45376

Wood was especially interested in new and unusual repertory – he called such works ‘novelties’ – and information gleaned from the Concert Programme Exchange series could, in theory, have influenced the programming of his concerts, or at least given him an indication of musical trends in other parts of Europe.  The series might also have acted to promote awareness of the activities and schedules of soloists and conductors, which will have given an inquisitive conductor like Wood ideas for future performances.  In this respect it helped to bridge the gap between the pre-audio era and the advent of commercial recording and broadcasting. 

Concert programme title page from a 1910 concert held in Barmen

Concert programme title page from a 1910 concert held in Darmstadt

Concert programme title page from a 1909 concert by the Czech Philharmonic orchestra

The portion of the series held at the British Library contains a rich variety of material, reflecting not only the musical repertories performed at the time but also the visual aesthetics for marketing performances at the time.  Represented within the collection are programmes not only for some of the world’s most important concert venues – such as the Queen’s Hall in London, the Musikverein in Vienna, and Carnegie Hall in New York – but also a wide range of concert-giving organisations in countless smaller towns and cities.  A typical issue dating from January 1900 consists of 41 flyers and programmes, beginning with a concert given in Altona by the Altonaer Kirchenchor at the St. Johanniskirche on 4 January.  The remaining items are from venues in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Switzerland. 

Concert programme title page from a 1909 Singakademie concert

Concert programme title page from a 1910 concert held in Antwerp

Concert programme title page from a 1910 concert programme held in Berlin

They include a performance of Verdi’s Requiem conducted by Oskar Fried in Vienna on 2 January with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as subscription concerts of orchestral music presented by the Berlin Hofkapelle (under Felix Weingartner), the Leipzig Gewandhaus, and the Tonhalle in Zurich. The repertory ranged from performances of baroque choral music, to a performance of Bruch’s ‘Das Feuerkreuz’ in Cologne, to piano recitals by Ernst von Dohnanyi in Berlin and Wilhelm Backhaus in Darmstadt. Through the collection researchers can therefore investigate repertories and reconstruct concert programming with a detail and a geographic breadth impossible in any single collection of programmes elsewhere. 

The collection has been digitised in full and is currently available via the Nineteenth-Century Collections Online portal, a subscription service which can be accessed in the Library’s reading rooms (https://www.gale.com/intl/c/ncco-british-theatre-music-and-literature-high-and-popular-culture).

Rupert Ridgewell, Lead Curator, Printed Music

27 July 2020

From Music to Meme (2): Postage Stamps Commemorating Japanese Music Education, 1979-1981

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Commodore Matthew Perry’s gunboat diplomacy opened up feudal Japan to western trade paving the way for the 1868 Meiji Restoration. To avoid the risk of colonisation, the restored Imperial government initiated a period of sustained modernisation and industrialisation, adopting western fashions and ideas. Japan embraced western music, adapting it to create a new musical genre called Yōgaku. Music being a potent form of cultural expression, Yōgaku was first introduced into the school curriculum by the Japanese Empire to help forge a modern national identity, and elements of it have remained in such use to the present day. The Japanese Postal Authority released a series of nine stamp issues between 24 August 1979 and 10 March 1981 to commemorate the national music curriculum.

The first series issued on 24 August 1979 includes this 50-yen stamp designed by J. Takidaira (Figure 1) depicting a man standing in front of a ruined castle under moonlight with excerpts of the lyrics and score for Kōjō no tsuki (Moon Over Castle Ruins) by Bansui Doi and Rentarō Taki respectively.

Stamp depicting a man standing in front of a ruined castle under moonlight with excerpts of the lyrics and score for the song Kōjō no tsuki
Figure 1

The second stamp (Figure 2) designed by R. Taniuchi illustrates a sunset scene with a boy holding a toy aeroplane beside a girl throwing a ball in the air along with an extract from the score and lyrics for Yūyake Koyake (Evening Glow) produced by the composers Ukō Nakamura and Shin Kusakawa in July 1923.

Stamp depicting a sunset scene with a boy holding a toy aeroplane beside a girl throwing a ball in the air along with an extract from the score and lyrics for the song Yūyake Koyake
Figure 2

The second series issued on 26 November 1979 both commemorate music by Tatsuyuki Takano and Teiichi Okano.

Hori’s design for the first 50-yen stamp depicts yellowish-red maple leaves being blown off a tree branch beneath the music and lyrics of Momiji (Maple Leaves) written in 1911 for 2nd grade elementary school text books (Figure 3). The second designed by T. Murakami reveals a man holding a parcel walking through a village scene beneath the last four bars and lyrics to Furusato (Birthplace) produced in 1914 for 6th grade elementary school (Figure 4).

Stamp depicting yellowish-red maple leaves being blown off a tree branch beneath the music and lyrics of the song Momiji
Figure 3
Stamp depicting a man holding a parcel walking through a village scene beneath the last four bars and lyrics to the song Furusato
Figure 4

The third series released on 28 January 1980 includes a 50-yen stamp (Figure 5) incorporating artwork by Shigehiko Ishikawa of boats mooring in a watery landscape accompanied by the score and lyrics of Fuyugeshiki (Wintry Scene), composed in 1913 as teaching material for 5th Grade Elementary School. The second one (Figure 6), designed by S. Watanabe depicts Mount Fuji with the music and lyrics to Fujisan (Mount Fuji), composed and published for use by elementary schools in 1910.

Stamp depicting boats mooring in a watery landscape accompanied by the score and lyrics of the song Fuyugeshiki
Figure 5
Stamp depicting Mount Fuji with the music and lyrics to the song Fujisan
Figure 6

These were followed by the fourth series issued on 21 March 1980. M. Anno’s stamp design (Figure 7) comprises a rural scene accompanying part of the score and lyrics of Haru no ogawa (Spring Brook) composed in 1912 by Takano and Okano for 4th Grade Students. The other stamp by K. Morita (Figure 8) illustrates a young Japanese girl reaching out towards cherry blossom with score and lyrics from the Edo Period song Sakura (Cherry Blossoms). Their inclusion in a publication by the Tōkyō School of Music in 1888 compiled by the Director of Music to the Ministry of Education indicates it has long been in use in the national music curriculum.

Stamp depicting a rural scene accompanying part of the score and lyrics of the song Haru no ogawa
Figure 7
Stamp depicting a young Japanese girl reaching out towards cherry blossom with score and lyrics from the Edo Period song Sakura
Figure 8



The fifth series issued on 28 April 1980 includes a stamp designed by R. Taniuchi (Figure 9) comprising a young Japanese boy and girl looking out to sea with a boat in the background and with music and lyrics from Umi (The Sea). Created by Ryūha Hayashi and Takeshi Inoue it was first published in ‘First Grade Elementary School Songbook No. 1’ in 1941 to teach 1st Grade students. F. Hori’s design for the second stamp (Figure 10) of flowers and a moon accompany the music and lyrics to Takano and Okano’s work Oborozukiyo (Night of the Hazy Moon), created in 1914 for 6th Grade Elementary School students.

Stamp depicting a young Japanese boy and girl looking out to sea with a boat in the background and music and lyrics from the song Umi
Figure 9
Stamp depicting flowers and a moon accompanied by the music and lyrics to the song Oborozukiyo
Figure 10

The sixth series issued on 16 June 1980, includes S. Watanabe’s stamp design (Figure 11), a photographic image of the Japanese national flag and a rooftop with the score and lyrics of Takano and Okano’s song Hinomaru (The Rising Sun) used in 1st Grade Elementary classes since 1941. The second by M. Anno (Figure 12) presents a marshland scene with score and lyrics to Shoko Ema and Yoshinao Nakata’s song Natsu no omoide (Memories of Summer). First broadcast in 1949 on NHK Radio it is used to teach 2nd year Junior High School.

Stamp depicting a photographic image of the Japanese national flag and a rooftop with the score and lyrics of the song Hinomaru
Figure 11
Stamp depicting a marshland scene with score and lyrics to the song Natsu no omoide
Figure 12

The first stamp (Figure 13) of 7th series issued on 18 September 1980 carries K. Negishi’s image of a woman outdoors holding out her hand to a red dragonfly with music for Aka Tonbo (Red Dragonfly), a song created by Rofū Miki and Kōsaku Yamada in 1927. Included in a collection of children’s stories called ‘The Acorn’ by 1980 it was included in Japan’s national music curriculum to teach 1st Grade Junior High Schools. The second by S. Hayashi (Figure 14) depicts a Japanese woman seated under a night sky with music for Hamabe no uta (Song by the Sea) created by Kokei Hayashi and Tamezō Narita in 1916 as teaching material for 2nd Grade Junior High School.

Stamp depicting a woman outdoors holding out her hand to a red dragonfly with music for Aka Tonbo
Figure 13
Stamp depicting a Japanese woman seated under a night sky with music for Hamabe no uta
Figure 14

Issued on 9 February 1891, the 8th series includes k. Morita’s design (Figure 15) revealing a mother holding a baby whilst playing a Japanese drum called a den-den daiko. Above this image, is the music for Komoriuta (Lullaby), a traditional nursery rhyme included in a 1941 songbook to teach 3rd Grade students. The second by M. Yonekura (Figure 16) shows a young girl day-dreaming with an island and palm tree in the background accompanied by music to Yashi no mi (Coconut) produced by Tōson Shimazaki and Toraji Ōhaka in 1936 for an NHK Radio series of people’s songs. It was subsequently adopted as teaching material for 3rd Grade Junior High School.

Stamp depicting a mother holding a baby whilst playing a Japanese drum called a den-den daiko with music to the song Komoriuta above it
Figure 15
Stamp depicting a young girl day-dreaming with an island and palm tree in the background accompanied by music to Yashi no mi
Figure 16

The 9th series sold on 10 March 1981 includes a stamp by T. Murakami (Figure 17) depicting a child playing amongst birds, butterflies and flora with music to Haru ga kita (Spring Has Come) by Takano and Okano, a song written in 1910 for use in 2nd Grade Elementary School. The Final stamp by S. Hayashi (Figure 18) illustrates a woman smelling blossom upon a branch with music to Hana (Flowers), composed by Hogoromo Takeshima and Rentarō Taki for 3rd Grade Junior High School.

Stamp depicting a child playing amongst birds, butterflies and flora with music to Haru ga kita
Figure 17
Stamp depicting a woman smelling blossom upon a branch with music to Hana
Figure 18

In total 28,000,000 sets of the first six series and 26,000,000 sets of the last two series were photogravure printed in Tōkyō, revealing how stamps comprise a form of mass media. Used postally and collected, stamps transmit multiple memes or units of cultural expression nationally and globally. These nine stamp issues offer more examples of how the British Library’s Philatelic Collections provide an invaluable research resource for musicologists.

Richard Scott Morel, Curator, Philatelic Collections