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42 posts categorized "Printed music"

26 January 2024

Restoring access to the British Library’s Music Collections (January 2024)

Following the recent cyber-attack on the British Library, the Library has now implemented an interim service which will enable existing Registered Readers to access most of our printed music, music manuscripts, and paper-based archival collections relating to music. This service will be expanded further in the coming weeks so please see the British Library's temporary website for the most up to date information. 

We understand how frustrating this recent period has been for everyone wishing to access our printed music, and music manuscripts and archives, and we would like to thank you for your patience. We are continuing to work to restore our services, and you can read more about these activities on our Knowledge Matters blog

The Using the Library page on our temporary website provides general information on current Library services, and advice for those without an existing Reader Pass. Please read on for information about the availability of specific music collections.

Printed music

You can now search for printed music using a searchable online version of our main catalogue of books and other printed material. Online and advance ordering is unavailable, so Registered Readers will need to collect a paper order form from staff in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room and fill in the required details. Please write the shelfmark exactly as it appears in the online catalogue.

Printed music with shelfmarks that start with the following letters should be available: a-i, A-H, Hirsch, I, N, P, R.M.5-R.M.17., RPS, Tyson. Unfortunately we cannot guarantee availability, as an item may, for instance, be in use by another Reader. If you wish to gain greater assurance on the availability of a particular item before you visit us, please contact our Reference Services Team by emailing https://bl.libanswers.com/form?queue_id=2304.

For other material, including printed music shelfmarks beginning K.,M., Mad. Soc., R.M.18.-R.M.27., VOC and INS we would also advise checking before you visit as some material is not yet available. The lending collection of modern printed scores held at our Boston Spa site is also currently unavailable.

Music manuscripts and music-related archival documents

Although the Library’s online catalogue of archives and manuscripts is not currently available, the Reference Services Team can assist with queries about these collections, checking paper catalogues and other sources. Please speak to the team in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room or email https://bl.libanswers.com/form?queue_id=2304.

In addition, the following digitised copies of older catalogues give details of music manuscripts acquired before about 1900: Hughes-Hughes, Augustus, Catalogue of Manuscript Music in the British Museum, 3 vols (London: British Museum, 1906-1909).

Most music manuscripts and archives can now be made available to existing Registered Readers, including restricted category material, although some material may need approval to see first. This includes manuscripts with the following prefixes:

  • Soc. (Madrigal Society Loan Collection)
  • Music Loan
  • M. manuscripts
  • RPS MS (RPS printed music is available, but not RPS manuscripts)
  • Zweig MS

As well as some music manuscripts from the following collections: Add MS, Egerton, Royal Appendix, Royal, King’s, MS Mus. The Reference Services Team can advise on whether a particular item is likely to be available. Please speak to the team in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room or email https://bl.libanswers.com/form?queue_id=2304.

To place a request to see a music manuscript or archival document relating to music, Registered Readers need to collect a paper order form from staff in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room and fill in the required details, including the shelfmark (manuscript number).

For restricted items, both printed and manuscript, readers are encouraged to contact Reference Services via LibAnswers who can advise about applying for access to this material category. Please note that applications can take up to 3 working days to process.

Microfilms

The Reference Services Team in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room has a full list of microfilms of printed and manuscript music.

Digital resources

You can search for most of our digitised printed music on Google Books.

Early Music Online contains images of 16th-century anthologies of printed music in the British Library.

We regret that our digitised music manuscripts and electronic research resources are not currently available.

We thank you, once again, for your patience as we continue to work to restore our services. Please do check this blog and the temporary British Library website for further updates.

Sandra Tuppen, Head of Music Collections

January 2024 (last updated 5 June 2024)

07 March 2022

New Music E-resources

We are pleased to announce a number of new additions to our Music e-resources offer this year:

Medici.TV

Medici.TV is a world-leading classical music channel, offering access to live performances and classical music programmes to viewers worldwide. More than 150 live events are broadcast each year, in partnership with the world's most prestigious venues, opera houses, festivals and competitions. Their platform also features over 3,000 programmes, including: concerts and archived historical concerts; operas; ballets; documentaries, artist portraits; educational programmes and masterclasses, which are available to stream in HD.

Medici.TV is currently available in our reading rooms and can be accessed via the Find Electronic Resources webpage.

Medici.tv opera banner

RIPM Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals (Full text) and RIPM Preservation Series: European & North American Music Periodicals (Full text)

RIPM (Répertoire international de la presse musicale) offers online access to thousands of European and North American music periodicals from the mid-18th to the mid-20th century. This includes articles in music journals, daily newspapers, literary periodicals, theatrical journals, and magazines, constituting a remarkable documentary resource to music historians.

We now subscribe to the full-text versions of both RIPM Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals and RIPM Preservation Series: European & North American Music Periodicals, which can both be accessed in our reading rooms via the Find Electronic Resources webpage.

An example of RIPM content on the EBSCO platform

Music Online: Classical Scores Library Volumes I-IV

This multivolume series contains more than 53,000 titles of the most important scores in classical music, ranging from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. More than 4,600 composers are included, from traditionally studied composers such as Mozart and Tchaikovsky to contemporary artists including Kaija Saariaho, Peter Maxwell-Davies, and John Tavener.

Music Online Classical Scores Library Home page

Music Online: The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music

Music Online: The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music is the first comprehensive online resource devoted to music research of all the world's peoples. More than 9,000 pages of material and 300 audio recordings, combined with entries by more than 700 expert contributors from all over the world, make this the most complete body of work focused on world music.

 

Music Online The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Home page

 

Music Online: Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries

Music Online: Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries is the largest and most comprehensive streaming audio collection of world music. With nearly 3,000 albums and more than 40,000 individual tracks of music, spoken word, and natural and human made sounds, this collection includes the published recordings owned by the non profit Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label together with the archival audio collections of the legendary Folkways Records, Cook, Dyer-Bennet, Fast Folk, Monitor, Paredon and other labels.

Music Online Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries Home page

You can browse the full range of Music e-resources available in our reading rooms and/or remotely via the Find Electronic Resources webpage:

Find Electronic Resources web page

For any enquiries on how to access and use our e-resources please contact our Music or Sound & Vision Reference Teams.

06 October 2021

Lithography and the satirical song sheet

Alongside the religious and art music published during the 19th century, there was a substantial market for printed popular songs. The music of the London theatres and pleasure gardens had cultivated a steady demand for engraved song sheets throughout the 18th century, but the invention of lithography by Alois Senefelder (c.1797) injected a new graphic vitality into the genre. In a flurry of editorial experimentation brought about by lithography, printers played with the combination of music and image through the production of satirical song sheets. These were typically musical scores which featured a title page image as well as humorous caricatures that surrounded the notation adding a visual accompaniment to the musical narrative.

Title page of Robert Southey’s Quadrilling: A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘Rejected Addresses' A page from Robert Southey’s Quadrilling: A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘Rejected Addresses  A page from Robert Southey’s Quadrilling: A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘Rejected Addresses' A page from Robert Southey’s Quadrilling: A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘Rejected Addresses'

Figures 1-4: Robert Southey’s Quadrilling: A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘Rejected Addresses’. British Library H.1652.bb.(1.)

Lithography offered a number of benefits over the engraving and etching that dominated music printing in the 18th and 19th centuries. Instead of engraving images onto metal plates with punches and burins, artists could use familiar materials such as crayons and pencils. It was even possible for the artist to work directly onto paper (with a special greasy ink) and for the printer to then transfer the image onto the absorbent stone used for making impressions. Drawing on a stone could be done ‘in the same way as one would execute a drawing on paper with ink or common chalk.’[1] This made it easier to reproduce maps, topographical plans, landscape drawings, portraits, and other works and, as Senefelder put it, ‘it has been generally observed that drawings of the less excellent artists, appear to greater advantage on stone, than on copper.’[2]

The precision of etching and engraving meant that it remained the dominant method for printing music in the 19th century, but the graphic flexibility and accessibility of lithography encouraged non-musical printers to experiment with music notation. Printers who specialised in graphic prints, keen to show off the capabilities of the new technology, jumped at the chance to apply lithographic techniques to printed music. One such publisher was William Hawkes Smith (1786-1840) of Birmingham. Smith was primarily an author and draughtsman who notably produced a set of illustrations for Robert Southey’s Thalaba the Destroyer.[3] In 1821 he published QUADRILLING; A favourite Song, ascribed to the Authors of ‘REJECTED ADDRESSES.’ [Figures 1-4] The edition was designed to show off Smith’s lithographic skills as the title page boasts, ‘Decorations designed and executed by WILLIAM HAWKES SMITH,’ and explicitly advertises the work as ‘printed by the Lithographic process.’

The song satirises the quadrille, a popular contemporary square dance for four couples. The title page features images of four respectable-looking couples standing in formation preparing to dance, setting up for the cacophony of humorous imagery on the following pages. The score contains just three lines of music overwhelmed by images that visualise the musical comedy: surrounding the stave and song text are depictions of different social classes attempting the dance.  Courtiers and citizens dance together, a man is pickpocketed as he falls over, Terpsichore (Greek muse) dances amongst men holding her lyre, and baronets, moneylenders, brokers, lawyers, and scullery maids are all made fun of in the commotion.

Although the combined novelty of a song sheet and a satirical cartoon must have impressed contemporary print- and music-buying audiences, this edition reveals a technology in its infancy. The smudging, inconsistent thickness of the text and the almost illegible publisher information at the foot of the title page [Figure 1] suggest that Smith had not yet mastered the new printing technique. Teething issues like these slowed down the uptake of lithography in the early 19th century, but technical treatises were published outlining solutions to the problems faced by those new to lithography.

Raucourt's A Manual of Lithography (1832) addressed some of the issues Smith faced. It explained in some detail what the printer should do if ‘the impressions are pale’, ‘The impressions are uneven’, ‘A part of the impression is wanting’ with over 100 other pieces of advice on mixing ink, cleaning and polishing the stones, etching drawings, imitating woodblocks etc. To fix the uneven impressions in this edition (most noticeable on the third line of notation (figure 2 and at the top of figure 3), for example, Smith would have had to ‘Increase the pressure of the scraper until it [took] up all the ink.’

Part of the image is missing at the top of the second page [Figure 3]. The manual suggested that this meant 'The stone, or the scraper, is not level: if this accident proceeds from the stone, some paper must be pasted on the leather of the box.' A later copy of Quadrilling (held at the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection) suggests that these problems persisted throughout the process with faded and incomplete sections appearing in different parts of the score as the publisher worked to correct the mistakes. In the later copy Smith has also omitted the illegible text from the title page of the previous edition.

Manuals like this one helped to improve the quality of lithography in Britain and by the mid-1820s Smith seems to have perfected the process. In 1825, Smith published Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather [Figures 5-8]. The song was a popular ballad that made fun of a wife’s temperament on washing days. Clearly more confident in his abilities Smith was now trading as ‘the Lithographic Press.’ The title page of Washing Day attests to his technical improvement: the precise lines and contrasting textures of the text and image show a fluency not apparent in the comparatively clumsy printing of Quadrilling.

Title page of W. Hawkes Smith’s Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather A page from W. Hawkes Smith’s Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather

A page from W. Hawkes Smith’s Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather A page from W. Hawkes Smith’s Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather

Figures 5-8: W. Hawkes Smith’s Washing Day: a proper new Ballad for wet weather. British Library H.1652.n.(21.).

Inside the score, we also see a printer more confident in his experiments. Rather than the images following the stave, the music physically bends around Smith’s cartoons and the lines of the stave become part of the graphic comedy. The notation yields to the windy weather depicted on the title page as it is literally blown out of shape by cherubs (top right of figure 6) and as the husband is told ‘with a frowning look, To get out of [his wife’s] way,’ the staves also move to avoid her. Women were often satirised in 19th-century popular songs and here the visual and musical comedy combine to reinforce the sharply defined gender roles of Victorian society.

The printed music collections at the British Library are particularly rich in this kind of visual material but satirical song sheets are currently difficult to find. They are usually catalogued as ordinary song sheets (with the first line of the song used for the catalogue title) and the graphic elements of the scores are seldom included in catalogue record. Satirical song sheets have thus received little scholarly attention, but each of these editions provides a unique insight into the creative responses of publishers to new printing technologies and help us to understand the interplay between the print and music trades during the 19th-century.

References

[1] Colonel Raucourt, A manual of lithography, or memoir on the lithographical experiments made in Paris, at the Royal School of the Roads and Bridges ... Translated from the French, by C. Hullmandel., ed. Charles Joseph Hullmandel, Third edition corrected. ed. (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green and Longman, 1832), 86-7.

[2] Johann Nepomuk Franz Aloys Senefelder, A complete course of lithography ... accompanied by illustrative specimens of drawings. To which is prefixed a History of Lithography ... With a preface by F. von Schlichtegroll. Translated from the German by A. S[chlichtegroll] (London : Printed for R. Ackermann, 1819. (W. Clowes [printer]). 1819).

[3] Robert Southey, Essays in design drawn and etched by W. H. Smith, ... illustrative of the poem of Thalaba the Destroyer, by R. Southey, ed. William Hawkes Smith (Birmingham, 1818).

Dominic Bridge, Collaborative PhD student, University of Liverpool and British Library

11 March 2021

Publishing Patriotism: the Napoleonic wars in musical print

At the turn of the 19th century, British perceptions of revolutionary France and the Napoleonic wars were tied to myriad graphic, literary, and musical expressions. Between soldiers returning home, parading volunteer regiments, and theatrical renditions of war, the multiplicity of these imaginings were transformed and transported through print at a remarkable speed. After appearing in the London gazette, official news from the continent would go on a multimedia journey: passing through detailed (though often inaccurate) accounts in national and provincial newspapers; enduring the scrutiny of pamphlets and journals; being subjected to judgement in sermons; and set in public memory through the mockery of satirical cartoons.

Printed music was better placed than other media to incorporate military images because the large format of music publications meant that there was ample space on the title page for additional decoration. Taking advantage of the fashion for all things military, music publishers rushed to produce commemorative editions of battle music. In the months following The Battle of Camperdown (11 October 1797) Music publishers Joseph Dale, Longman & Broderip, and Corri, Dussek & Co. produced commemorative works celebrating the victory. They used the textual and graphic elements of the score to shape them into military souvenirs.

The cheaper editions (selling for between 1s 6d and 2s 6d), such as Joseph Dale’s, featured a standard unadorned title page. As was the practice with most editions of battle music, Dale fashioned the score into a commemorative object by including a date on the title page. This set these editions apart from other printed music of the period as publication dates were usually omitted to prevent later reprints seeming old or out of fashion. This shows that publishers considered the publication date to be part of the commercial appeal of these editions, so they were not concerned by the ephemerality this imposed on the printed object.

Unadorned title page of Joseph Dale’s publication commemorating The Battle of Camperdown
British Library g.138.(11.)

Longman & Broderip’s edition of Britannia by Daniel Steibelt (1765 - 1823) dresses the title in British imperial iconography, with a laurel wreath crossed with flags of the British empire. The naval scene at the foot of the title page captures the moment when the British flagship Venerable inflicts the final blow on the Dutch flagship Vryhied. Camperdown saw Duncan celebrated for his bravery and leadership, having taken his flagship into the heart of the action and in difficult waters. By using this moment at the battle’s climax, the score immortalises Duncan’s bravery and Britain’s naval dominance.

Title page of Longman & Broderip's edition of Daniel Steibelt's Britannia depicting a naval scene inspired by the Battle of Camperdown
British Library g.138.(3.)

The celebration of Duncan was not only due to his perceived courage but also the sheer extent of his victory. Within three hours of the start of the battle, Duncan was not only able to report a British victory but also the capture of eleven Dutch ships. Music publishers Corri, Dussek & Co. chose to show this side of the battle in their commemoration, avoiding the engagement itself and focusing on the outcome. Their chosen image emphasised the ‘Total Defeat’ of the Dutch fleet by showing their captured ships in tatters, being towed back to Britain, the punctured sails and post victory setting reminiscent of Thomas Whitcombe’s painting of the battle (1797).

Title page of Corri, Dussek & Co.'s edition commemorating the The Battle of Camperdown depicting the defeat of the Dutch fleet
British Library g.138.(13.)

The commercial opportunities that arose around the Napoleonic wars were not limited to events happening abroad, but also covered celebrations at home. In 1798 Corri, Dussek & Co. published the descriptive piece A Complete & exact delineation Of the Ceremony from St. James’s to St. Pauls: … to return thanks for the several Naval Victories obtained by the British Fleet over those of France, Spain, & Holland. The naval thanksgiving (1797) enlisted the full theatricality of public spectacle, involving the monarchy, government, members of the army and navy, and ordinary Britons lining the streets accompanied by bespoke music written by J. L. Dussek (1760-1812). The score provided an audio-visual reproduction of the event: it contained music written for the procession and church service and captured the visuality of the occasion through an ‘elegant Frontispiece’, which is unfortunately now lost. 

George III conceived the event to rival the civic ceremonies of revolutionary France in an attempt to promote a sense of national unity in Britain. This impact, however, was limited to those who lived near enough to London to attend the ceremony. The success of the occasion relied heavily on newspapers and periodicals circulating accounts to other parts of the country, but Corri, Dussek & Co.’s musical edition was unique in its capacity to deliver both the visual and audial spectacle to those who had not witnessed the event. This edition gave people who did not live in London the opportunity to experience and take part in the patriotic symbolism of the ceremony from afar.

The hype surrounding military victories provided a market for commemorative print in the short term, capitalising on spikes in patriotic sentiment and the celebrations linked to the events. In this context music scores became collectable objects alongside commemorative pottery, porcelain, and medals, together projecting idealised images of war and victory. They helped to facilitate celebration by reminding purchasers of important dates in the national calendar and providing the music with which to celebrate them. The graphic and textual additions to printed music meant that scores had commercial value beyond their musical content and appealed to the conspicuous consumption of print buying audiences, the visually idealised militarism of the title pages allowing Britons to fulfil their patriotic duty through purchasing the score.

Dominic Bridge, Collaborative PhD student, University of Liverpool and British Library

08 December 2020

Celebrating Beethoven: a new online exhibition on Discovering Music

We are pleased to announce a new Discovering Music space on 19th-century music, which launches now with an exhibition celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

Discovering Music 19th century

The exhibition features 27 collection items, including several manuscripts in Beethoven’s own hand, as well as articles written by experts in the field, and much related content!

Find out more about the composition history and context of some of Beethoven’s most celebrated works, including his ‘Pastoral’ and Ninth symphonies, his violin concerto, and several of his piano and chamber music works.

The opening of Beethoven’s Symphony no.9 in D minor op.125
The opening of Beethoven’s Symphony no.9 in D minor op.125. RPS MS 5

The space also offers insights into Beethoven’s compositional processes that formed his music, for which evidence may be found in his intricate and notoriously difficult to decipher sketchbooks.

Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony sketchbook. At the bottom of the page Beethoven has written: 'Sinfonia caracteristica oder Erinnerungen an das Landleben' (‘Characteristic symphony, or memories of country life’).
Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony sketchbook. At the bottom of the page Beethoven has written: 'Sinfonia caracteristica oder Erinnerungen an das Landleben' (‘Characteristic symphony, or memories of country life’). Add MS 31766.
Folio 87r from the ‘Kafka’ sketch miscellany showing the opening of a sonata for mandolin and keyboard WoO 47.
Folio 87r from the ‘Kafka’ sketch miscellany showing the opening of a sonata for mandolin and keyboard WoO 47. Add MS 29801.

The space also features collection items reflecting Beethoven’s career as a keyboard performer, personal items such as his tuning fork; as well as collection items reflecting both the inspiration and consolation he found in nature and the mental and physical struggles arising from his debilitating loss of hearing.

Beethoven’s cadenza for the last movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor (K. 466).
Beethoven’s cadenza for the last movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor (K. 466). Beethoven is known to have admired Mozart’s D minor concerto, and it is possible that he performed it in a benefit concert for Mozart’s widow, Constanze, in 1795. Add MS 29803

Also featured on the space are People pages for musicians that Beethoven collaborated with as well as famous literary figures who inspired his music, such as Goethe and Schiller.

This single leaf of sketches contains Beethoven’s initial musical ideas for the song ‘Die Trommel gerühret’ from his incidental music to Goethe’s play Egmont.
This single leaf of sketches contains Beethoven’s initial musical ideas for the song ‘Die Trommel gerühret’ from his incidental music to Goethe’s play Egmont. Zweig MS 8.

You can explore our Beethoven holdings further by visiting our Digitised Manuscripts and Explore catalogues of printed, audio and manuscript music.

11 August 2020

Sir Henry Wood and the Concert Programme Exchange Scheme

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 May 2020

Lockdown piano: the pedagogical works of Muzio Clementi

A piano-playing theme is emerging from the Coronavirus lockdown, with several famous names playing online, or mentioning that they are learning to play, including actor Anthony Hopkins, footballer Nathan Aké, and rugby union player Tom Curry. For anyone with time for a little extra practice, this seems a good time to visit the pedagogical works of the pianist and composer Muzio Clementi.

Clementi was born in Rome in 1752. Moving to England at the age of 14, he spent the rest of his life either in London or travelling extensively in France, Germany and Russia. A simple list of his professional activities does not convey the significance of his achievement in each area. As a publisher, he was the first to publish the works of Beethoven in England, including some first editions; as a teacher, he influenced many important pianists of the next generation; his piano manufacturing firm introduced technical innovations, and his compositions, although overshadowed by those of more famous composers, are still played and admired 200 years on.

Engraved portrait of Muzio Clementi holding a score
Muzio Clementi by Henry Richard Cook, after James Lonsdale stipple engraving, published 1833 NPG D9341 © National Portrait Gallery, London

As a composer, Clementi had most success with his keyboard music, writing sonatas, variations, suites, preludes and fugues and technical piano studies, and his best known publication Gradus ad Parnassum (1817, 1819, 1826) is a large compilation of these works.

His periods of travel were spent in promoting the Clementi firm’s pianos, making contacts with composers for his publishing business, and teaching. Both in England and abroad, he had professional pupils like J.B. Cramer, John Field, Ludwig Berger (later Mendelssohn’s teacher), Carl Zeuner and Frédéric Kalkbrenner (later briefly a teacher of Chopin). He also taught amateur players, and it was for this market that his educational works were written. In London he was in great demand as a piano teacher in the early 1790s, despite the lapse in his performing career caused by the great popularity of the music of the new arrival, Haydn.

His 1801 piano method, Introduction to the art of playing on the piano forte (British Library g.303.(3.), is one of the first instruction books specifically for the piano, which, as a relatively new instrument, was just beginning to supersede the harpsichord. It contains extracts from the works of other composers such as Handel, Corelli, Mozart and Beethoven, graded in difficulty, as well as instructional text. It begins with the basics (with a hint to the note-learning beginner to ignore the ‘short notes’ of the keyboard except as guides to the eye) and moves on to detailed information about theory, technique, style and expression for the more difficult pieces. The instructions are addressed directly to the pupil, with a serious and uncompromising assumption of a high level of understanding and application. For example, at the foot of one fingering study is the comment ‘Most of the passages fingered for the right hand, may, by the ingenuity and industry of the pupil, become models for the left.’ There is certainly no ‘dumbing down’ here!

Introduction to the art of playing on the piano forte quickly appeared in French and German translations. Publications aimed at intermediate and advanced students followed, and Clementi’s educational music became well known.

Among these pedagogical works are the easy Six progressive sonatinas op. 36, first published in 1797, which are still in use as teaching pieces, with a new edition appearing as recently as 2017.

TItle page of Clementi's Six progressive sonatinas op.36 for piano
Title page of Muzio Clementi’s Six Progressive Sonatinas op.36. Shelfmark: g.132.(4.)
Opening page of Clementi's Six progressive sonatinas op.36 for piano
Page 1 of Muzio Clementi’s Six Progressive Sonatinas op.36. Shelfmark: g.132.(4.)

The respectful attitude to the learner observable in the Introduction to the art of playing on the piano forte is also in evidence in the quality of the musical construction of these mini-sonatas; they are pieces which are not just possible but also satisfying for elementary pianists to play. Recommended for lockdown pianists everywhere!

Caroline Shaw

Printed & Manuscript Music Processing & Cataloguing Team Manager

References:

Leon Plantinga: ‘Clementi, Muzio’. Grove Music Online. https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.40033, accessed 14 May 2020.

Margaret Cranmer and Peter Ward Jones: ‘Clementi’. Grove Music Online. https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.05937, accessed 14 May 2020

Clementi Society: http://www.clementisociety.com/, accessed 15 May 2020.

24 October 2018

Music Doctoral Open Day - 4 December 2018

Have you just started a PhD in Music or are you a Masters student considering studying at doctoral level?

If your answer to either of these questions is "yes", then the British Library Music Doctoral Open Day on Tuesday 4 December 2018 is for you!

The day will explain the practicalities of using the library and its services, and help you to navigate physical and online music collections. You will also have the opportunity to meet our expert and friendly staff together with other researchers in your field.

Music Doctoral Open Day 2017 manuscripts show and tell

A packed programme of events is available for the bargain price of £10 per attendee, including lunch and other refreshments.

What is more, this year's event is generously sponsored by the Royal Musical Association. This means that RMA student members are eligible to claim back the registration fee directly from the RMA.

Please book your place via the British Library website and email [email protected] for further information on claiming back the cost.

 

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