THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Music blog

3 posts from July 2018

31 July 2018

More music materials on our manuscripts website

The summer holidays are upon us, but we are as always hard at work. We have a few more Music Manuscripts from our collection which have been digitised by The British Library's Imaging Studio so we could upload them to our website and make them accessible to all. 

  

Egerton MS 2795 - Ludwig van Beethoven, Portion of a musical sketch-book (c 1825)
This is a small pocket sketchbook of the kind that Beethoven carried around on his sorties into the countryside and taverns around Vienna. Egerton dates from the summer of 1825 and transmits studies for the Quartet in B flat, Op 130.
    Digital Version: https://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Egerton_MS_2795

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 Add MS 38068 -  Johann Sebastian Bach, Prelude and Fugue in G : no. 15 from "Das Wohltemperirte Clavier," part ii (c.1744)
    Digital Version: https://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_38068 
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R.M.18.a.1 - Sir George Job Elvey, The Rolling Year (1850)
Birthday cantata for Queen Victoria for solo voices, chorus and full orchestra, in score. With a separate extra copy of the words on a leaflet.
    Digital Version: https://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=R.M.18.a.1

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Add MS 41866 - Johannes Brahms, Rhapsody in E♭ major op. 119, no. 4 (1893)
Written at Bad Ischl at the end of June 1893. This manuscript differs in a few places from the first published edition by Simrock also in 1893.
    Digital Version: https://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_41866 

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Egerton MS 2335 - Joseph Haydn, Symphonies nos. 47 and 48 (c.1784)
    Digital Version: https://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Egerton_MS_2335 

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 Add MS 53777 - Sir Arthur Sullivan, Patience (1881)
After opening at the Opera Comique in April 1881, Patience moved in October to the brand-new Savoy Theater, just off the Strand, and inaugurated the first theater with electric lighting.
    Digital Version: https://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_53777 
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Add MS 38069 - Miscellaneous
George Frideric Handel, Italian cantata,: 18th cent.
Joseph Haydn, 6 English Canzonettas, Hob.XXVIa:25-30 Title page signed 1791.
Charles-Simon Catel, "Quatuor énigmatique": 1811.
Ludwig van Beethoven, Canon: 1825
Wilhelm Richard Wagner,  1st violin part of overture "Polonia" 1833
George William Chard, Hymn: 19th cent. 
    Digital Version: https://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS 38069

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 Add MS 41631 - Ludwig van Beethoven, Three Early Piano Sonatas, WoO 47 (1783)
   Beethoven's own copy of his three early pianoforte sonatas in Eb, F minor and D, with annotations by the young composer.
     Digital Version: https://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_41631 

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21 July 2018

Tracing Mozart's London influences at the British Library

Ian Page, conductor and artistic director of Classical Opera and The Mozartists, recalls his exploration of dozens of scores in the British Library as part of his research for the recently released 2-CD recording, ‘Mozart in London’

Ian Page (c) Sheila Rock detailIan Page (Photo: Sheila Rock)

For a London-based company devoted to performing the music of Mozart and his contemporaries, it is a tidy and convenient coincidence that Mozart began his composing career in earnest here in the English capital.

In August 1764, four months after Mozart and his family had arrived in London, Wolfgang’s father Leopold had fallen ill and been advised to withdraw with his family to the purer air and rolling countryside of Chelsea (!). Leopold remained bed-ridden for a few weeks, and to facilitate his recovery both Wolfgang and his sister were forbidden from playing music or making any other noise. I like to think that it was as a direct result of this stipulation that the then eight-year-old Mozart sat down in silence to pen his first symphony.

Mozart composed a handful of works during his 15-month stay in London. Three symphonies and his first concert aria, “Va dal furor portata”, all feature on our new recording, and he also wrote a set of six sonatas dedicated to Queen Charlotte and a miniature motet, “God is our refuge”, which he presented as a gift to the British Museum following his visit there in July 1765.

3.Z GOD IS OUR REFUGEMozart, Wolfgang Amadeus.: ‘God is our Refuge’, K. 20; 1765 (detail). British Library Shelfmark K.10.a.17.(3) 

These works have all been recorded before, and are familiar to the more ardent and inquisitive of Mozart-lovers. Our ‘Mozart in London’ festival, however, which was one of the flagship projects in the first year of our ongoing MOZART 250 series, sought to explore the music that the young Mozart might have heard during his extended visit to London, and our 2-CD set features live recordings originally taken from the concerts which comprised this festival. All the information that I needed in order to put this programme together proved to be readily available at the British Library, and I was amazed that nobody had previously explored this wealth of forgotten music, much of which would have had a formative influence on the young Mozart. The recording includes over a dozen pieces that had never been recorded before.

We are lucky that people of the 18th century were such fastidious chroniclers, and we know exactly which operas were performed at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket (in Italian) and at the Theatres Royal at Covent Garden and Drury Lane (in English) during Mozart’s stay. Furthermore, although Johann Christian Bach’s Adriano in Siria (premièred at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket on 26 January 1765, the day before Mozart’s ninth birthday) is the only score to have survived complete, many of these operas had selections of ‘Favourite Airs’ published, and copies of these can be found in the British library collection.

BL_Scan_0002_1Bach, Johann Christian (1765). The Favourite Songs in the Opera Adriano in Siria. British Library Shelfmark R.M.13.c.19.(8.)

 I spent many hours ploughing through these volumes, and ended up with over 250 arias or duets to choose from. Less than half of these, perhaps, were deserving of resurrection, but I was astonished by how good much of this music was, and how clearly it paved the way for Mozart’s own musical language. On one level a figure of Mozart’s magnitude is best regarded as a unique and timeless genius, but he was also very much a product of his own age and experiences. Mozart’s father is frustratingly reticent in his letters about what music they heard in London – he is more concerned with complaining about the weather and the beer – but the deeper I delved the more apparent it felt that Mozart must have been familiar with a lot of this surviving music. During this process I discovered charming and beautiful music by composers I had previously not even heard of – the likes of Giovanni Pescetti, Davide Perez, George Rush and William Bates – and it only added to the excitement that much of this repertoire had not been performed since time of its composition. I have never been more grateful for my British Library Reader’s Card.

Mozart in London was released on Signum Classics on 4 May 2018, and has been selected as Recording of the Month and Editor’s Choice for Gramophone magazine, Record of the Month for Limelight magazine, Disc of the Week for Classic FM Holland and Editor’s Choice for Presto Classical.

10 July 2018

Chopin First Editions available online

Chopin par Delacroix Eugène Delacroix (ca 1838)  Portrait de Frédéric Chopin, compositeur. Louvre Museum R.F1717

 As part to our commitment to bring our collections to everyone, we have digitised over sixty first editions of piano music by Frédéric Chopin, which are now available online.

As is the case with most composers, first editions of Chopin’s music are important to study the text of a given piece. Chopin would often add expression marks to the printing proofs, marks which weren't in the manuscripts provided to the publisher. Sometimes these additions were so numerous that a second proof had to be prepared for Chopin to approve for publication. In these cases they reveal a more advanced compositional state than the autograph manuscripts.

You may download a spreadsheet with the complete list by clicking here. The links on the right hand side will take you to the corresponding catalogue record. To view the score click on the "I want this" tab, and then on the red “GO” button next to "Digital Content, Collection Item". This newly digitised set will no doubt be a welcomed complement to the Chopin Online Resources, which includes other first editions from our collections.