16 March 2018
Latest Music Manuscripts available online
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 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 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 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:IAMS032-002020026
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
28 July 2017
Digitised Music Manuscripts Summer 2017
Since our post last spring summarising digitised materials from our music manuscripts collection, we’ve been busy adding to this content.
From Byrd to Britten and Monteverdi to Mozart, a wealth of music manuscripts are available to browse, free-of-charge, on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website.
At the time of writing, you can view no fewer than 335 music manuscripts on the site. Additional content is added regularly.
Our last digitised manuscript, published just a few days ago, was Lansdowne MS 763. Dating from the fifteenth century and written on vellum, this is a collection of music treatises by various authors.
For a full list of what is currently available, please see this file: Download PDF of BL digitised music manuscripts summer 2017.
This is also available in the form of a spreadsheet (although this format cannot be downloaded on all web browsers): Download spreadsheet of BL digitised music manuscripts summer 2017.
24 May 2017
Digitised Music Manuscripts Spring 2017
From Byrd to Britten and Monteverdi to Mozart, a wealth of British Library music manuscripts are available to browse, free-of-charge, on the Digitised Manuscripts website.
MS Mus. 1591, My Layde Nevells Booke (1591)
At the time of writing, you can view no fewer than 323 music manuscripts on the site. For a full list of what is currently available in PDF format, please see this file: Download BL Digitised Music Manuscripts Spring 2017.
This is also available in the form of a spreadsheet (although this format cannot be downloaded on all web browsers): Download BL Digitised Music Manuscripts Spring 2017.
Additional content is added regularly. Our last digitised manuscript, published just a few days ago, was Additional MS 29996. Dating from the seventeenth century, this is a collection of motets, madrigals and fancies, by Thomas Tomkins and others, interspersed with political verses, satires, recipes.
Additional MS 29996: a recently-digitised music manuscript, including works by Thomas Tomkins
If you are looking for something more specific, why not consult our blog posts on the material we’ve digitised relating to Handel, Mozart, Purcell and Wagner. For more general advice on using the site, we highly recommend this blog post.
We'll be posting updated versions of these lists quarterly, so be sure to check the blog again in a few months time for an updated edition. In the meantime, to get the latest news about our digitisation projects, acquisitions and events, please follow us on Twitter: @BL_Music_Colls.
16 November 2016
Dragons and greyhounds: a day in the life of a digital music curator
In February 2016, I started a new job at the British Library working as Curator, Digital Music. Friends and family often ask me what this involves. The short answer is an awful lot of things, ranging from collecting digital sheet music as part of the non-print legal deposit regulations, to planning new music content for the web pages and writing blog posts to highlight our work and collections.
But one of the most exciting things I do is assist in managing music digitisation projects. Some of these, such as our recent Handel digitisation project, deal with large bodies of content. Others deal with just one or two manuscripts or printed items.
I recently received a request from the Alamire Foundation in Leuven for copies of a manuscript from our collections for use in their new Integrated Database for Early Music. After dealing with licensing issues and liaising with my colleagues in the Manuscripts department regarding the supply of the images, I actually got a chance to look at the manuscript itself - always a highlight of the job.
The manuscript in question, Royal MS 8 G VII, dates from circa 1513 to 1544 and is a book of 28 motets for four voices. All are apparently anonymous, although later research has since identified works by Jean Mouton and Josquin Desprez, amongst others.
The manuscript was produced in the workshop of Petrus Alamire in the southern Netherlands. Born into the Nuremberg merchant family of Imhof, Petrus settled in the Low Countries in the 1490s and became famous as a music scribe, having made several similar choir books for other European courts.
Browsing through the images, I was struck by the miniature below, which appears on folio 2 verso.
British Library Royal MS 8 G VII, folio 2 verso
This manuscript was probably produced for Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. In colours and gold, the miniature depicts the royal arms with dragon and greyhound supporters. Also included are the heraldic emblems of the Tudor rose and pomegranate (the latter being Catherine's emblem). The striking borders depicting flowers, insects and birds is in a distinctly Flemish style. Meanwhile, the portcullis badge appears on folio 3.
British Library Royal MS 8 G VII, folio 3 recto
Presented to the British Museum by George II in 1757 as part of the Old Royal Library, this beautiful manuscript can be browsed in full on our Digitised Manuscripts website.
02 September 2016
Setting Shakespeare to Music
The British Library's popular exhibition Shakespeare in Ten Acts closes on 6 September 2016. Over the years, the Bard has had a profound influence on music. Our holdings reflect this, with music contemporary to Shakespeare, new music composed for Shakespeare and music inspired by Shakespeare all to be found in our extensive music collections.
One particular gem is our manuscript of Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (Egerton MS 2955). Composed in 1843 as a result of a royal commission from Friedrich Wilhelm IV, it comprises the music for the famous Scherzo, Notturno and Wedding March movements (pictured below). The manuscript itself dates from around 1844 and is a piano arrangement of these well-known excerpts in Mendelssohn's own hand.
Felix Mendelssohn's 'Wedding March' for A Midsummer Night's Dream (Egerton MS 2955, folio 12 verso)
We're also in possession of the sketches and libretto for Richard Wagner's Das Liebesverbot, an opera based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Both form part of the extensive Zweig Collection (Zweig MSS 104 and 119).
Sketch for Richard Wagner's Das Liebesverbot (Zweig MS 104, folio 1 recto)
From September 1839 to April 1842, Wagner spent a rather miserable two-and-a-half years in Paris. He was forced to earn a living by making arrangements of operatic selections and by musical journalism. This unhappy period also saw the composition of his opera Das Liebesverbot, which was accepted by the Théâtre de la Renaissance in March 1840. However, the work was a resounding flop, with the second performance cancelled because of backstage fisticuffs. Two months later, the theatre was forced into bankruptcy and the work was never again performed in Wagner's lifetime.
Full digital versions of the sketches and libretto of Wagner's Das Lieberverbot are available, and Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream is on our wishlist for digitisation. In addition, if you don't think you'll be able to get to the British Library to catch the Shakespeare exhibition before it closes, fear not - a wealth of Shakespeare-related material can be found on our Shakespeare web pages.
03 June 2016
Peter Kennedy Archive
As part of an AHRC Cultural Engagement project grant awarded to City University and partially funded by the National Folk Music Fund, ethnomusicologist Andrew Pace, has engaged in a project to catalogue thousands of paper and photographic files from Peter Kennedy’s collection of British and Irish folk music held at the British Library.
This month we have launched a unique website - www.peterkennedyarchive.org - in which listeners can retrace the chronology and geographical routes of Kennedy's extensive field recording activity. In the text below, Andrew describes the project and walks us through the website's main features.
Peter Kennedy was one of the most prolific collectors of British and Irish folk music and customs from the 1950s up until his death in 2006. Working closely with other collectors of his generation, such as Alan Lomax, Sean O’Boyle and Hamish Henderson, he recorded hundreds of traditional performers ‘in the field’, including Margaret Barry, Fred Jordan, Paddy Tunney, Harry Cox, Frank and Francis McPeake and Jack Armstrong. In 2008 his collection came under the care of the World and Traditional Music section of the British Library.
I’ve been working on Peter’s sizeable collection periodically since 2010, cataloguing thousands of audio tapes and photographs of traditional performers and uploading some of this material to Sounds. In fact, just this month an additional 500 photographs and 70 audio recordings from Peter’s collection have been added to the existing collection available online.
However, Peter’s paper files, comprising song texts, scores, contracts, draft manuscripts and a large amount of correspondence between himself and performers, collectors, institutions and enquirers, hadn’t been catalogued. This is the task that I’ve been undertaking since January. All of these papers will be uploaded to the Library’s catalogue in due course.
Amongst these papers I discovered 31 reports written by Peter for the BBC’s ‘Folk Music and Dialect Recording Scheme’, a project on which he was working during the 1950s. Across 180 typewritten pages, Peter describes his daily itinerary recording traditional performers around the UK and Ireland between 1952 and 1962. Full of anecdotes and insightful information about the musicians he recorded - including confirmation of when and where he recorded them - these documents reveal a great deal about Peter’s fieldwork during this period.
I decided to use these reports as the basis for a new website which brings these narratives together with all of the audio recordings and photographs from Peter’s collection that have been digitised so far: www.peterkennedyarchive.org.
These reports feature ‘hotspots’ placed over the names of the more than 650 musicians that Peter recorded during these trips. Clicking on the name of a performer reveals any sound recordings or photographs taken of them by Peter on that particular day that are available to view and listen to on Sounds. Additionally, links to entries in the British Library’s catalogue are provided for any related material that hasn’t yet been digitised, such as Peter’s tapes or BBC transcription discs.
What makes this website unique is the way it contextualises recordings and photographs of performers with Peter’s own notes about them. Whilst the British Library’s catalogue is useful as a search tool, it doesn’t reveal how a collection was formed and developed – and it doesn’t tell us very much about who created it. This new website gives us a better idea of what’s in this collection by refocusing attention on Peter as a recordist and reconstituting his material into a form that better resembles how he created it.
I hope www.peterkennedyarchive.org will prove useful to researchers and musicians alike and encourage more people to explore Peter’s collection at the British Library. As more of his field recordings are digitised and attached to the site, it should become an increasingly valuable resource
- Andrew Pace
Find out more about the work of the British Libary's Sound Archive and the new Save our Sounds programme online.
Follow the British Library Sound Archive @soundarchive and the British Library's World and Traditional Music activities @BL_WorldTrad on Twitter.
27 October 2015
Curatorial vacancy in the Music Collections
We recently advertised details of a vacancy that has arisen in the British Library’s music department. The post will have a particular focus for exploring digital opportunities with music materials, but will also involve working with the Library’s rich heritage music collections in manuscript and print format. The post will require a mix of musicological and professional library-based skills and experience, as well as technical knowledge relevant to digital humanities in the field of music. The closing date is 1 November, and interviews are scheduled for 16 November in London. For further details please see the Vacancies section of the Library’s website: http://www.bl.uk/.
23 September 2014
A Donizetti Discovery
The British Library's Stefan Zweig Collection of musical, literary and historical autograph manuscripts includes many well-known treasures, but there are other pieces which have proved more difficult to identify. When Stefan Zweig bought a manuscript of Gaetano Donizetti from a dealer in Milan in 1938, he thought that he had acquired a piece for string quartet. He did not pursue the matter further, and the manuscript remained unknown until it was presented, with the rest of his collection, to the British Library in 1986 by his heirs.
In an article just published in the Electronic British Library Journal, Christopher Scobie has identified the music in this manuscript for the first time. A look at the clefs at the opening of the piece makes it clear that contrary to Zweig's initial assumption, the piece is not for string quartet but for piano duet.
At first the music appears to be a conflation of two pieces: the opening 'Larghetto' section is known from Anna Bolena, the opera that made Donizetti's name on its premiere in December 1830, while the following 'Allegro' is part of the overture to his much less successful opera Il diluvio universale, which was first performed earlier in the same year. In fact, as the article shows, both sections were originally used for Il diluvio universale, but after Donizetti had recycled the 'Larghetto' in Anna Bolena, he composed a new opening for the first overture, which was used in its revival in 1834 and ever since.
Some questions remain about exactly when and for what purpose this manuscript was written, and various proposals are made in Christopher Scobie's article. The complete manuscript is available on our Digitised Manuscripts website, and see our earlier blog post for a list of other music-related articles in the British Library Journal.
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