About Oliver Witkin

Librarian (Enquiries and Printed Music Acquisitions) at the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts, Trinity Laban.

New Music for Violin

We have recently added over 200 new items to the Jerwood Library’s collection of violin music; works by composers such as James Dillion, Philip Glass, Christian Wolff, Iannis Xenakis, Morton Feldman, Elliot Carter, Lou Harrison, Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono, Oliver Knussen, David Matthews, Isang Yun, and Eugene Ysaye. There are also new additions from the classical and romantic repertoire, and a variety of anthologies, methods, studies, exercises and workbooks.

Some of the new additions to our violin section. Covers reproduced with permission from the publisher.

A regularly updated list of our most recent acquisitions can be found here (this page is regularly updated). Please also keep an eye out for new items displayed on the recent acquisitions shelves in the library.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me on 020 8330 3950 e-mail: o.witkin@trinitylaban.ac.uk.

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Oliver’s Choice: Cosi Fan Tutte

Librarian Oliver Witkin has chosen to display in the library small exhibition cabinet a facsimile reproduction of Mozart’s original manuscript score for Cosi fan Tutte, one of a number of facsimiles of Mozart’s late operas which are held in the Jerwood Library’s reference collection. These facsimiles offer a unique insight into Mozart’s working methods [REFERENCE FACSIMILE COLLECTION: MOZ]


Conventional wisdom in respect of this opera has been kinder to Mozart than it has to his librettist, Da Ponte. Cosi fan Tutte, the third and final collaboration between the two and the only one which is not based on a singular literary source, has historically been perceived as an opera of sublime music that is, to a greater or lesser extent, spoiled by its libretto.photo of library exhibition case

While not much is known about the earliest performances of Cosi fan Tutte following its premiere in 1790, the notion that its libretto is frivolous and even immoral was widespread throughout the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th. A number of eminent figures such as Beethoven and Wagner joined the chorus of disapproval. Performances were heavily revised and edited to appease the sensibilities of the times and it was only towards the middle of the 20th century that the opera found a much surer footing in the concert repertoire in its original and unexpurgated form.

While few people today would object to the play on moral grounds, even for a modern audience the relationship between the music and libretto seems puzzling. Mozart’s joyful but occasionally dark and melancholy music appears as the backdrop to a seemingly trivial comedy. This raises certain questions as to the intent of both composer and librettist. If there is a mystery here, it is not one which we can resolve by looking back at contemporaneous accounts of the opera – which might offer some clues as to how the work was conceived – they simply don’t exist.

The theme of the opera concerns the lovers’ expectations of sexual fidelity. The experiment, set up as a play within a play. is designed to test the truth value of this moral order and to reveal the true character of human nature. Behind it, one can sense the growing insecurity of the moral order in the modern world. This is perhaps reflected in some of the sadness that can be discerned in Mozart’s music. What appears, then, to be a trivial story, at odds with the music, is in fact a much more significant drama which is illuminated by it. Irony runs throughout the whole of this work. People are not what they appear to be in the eyes of others.

There is yet another aspect of the play; this concerns the relationship between men and women. It could be argued that there is something peculiarly modern about this, too. Women are shown to have passions and desires which are comparable with men, undermining the prevalent attitudes towards relations between the sexes in the society of Mozart and Da Ponte’s time. The audience is led, through a gentle comedy, to consider these aspects of a changing world.

It’s possible to see this opera as existing on more than one level. You can take it at face value and appreciate it as a light-hearted comedy, or you can look beneath the surface at the way in which it subtly challenges and undermines the moral certainties of the traditional order.

 

New music for singers

The third phase of the library’s printed music strategy got underway this year. Having built up our collection of jazz, full scores, and opera, it was time to focus our attention on solo songs and collections. Look out for new works by contemporary composers such as Michael Finnissy, Giacinto Scelsi, Robin Holloway, Thomas Ades, Piers Hellawell, Tansy Davies, Roxanna Panufnik, Joanna Lee, Lynne Plowman, and Sally Beamish, as well as new additions from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and modern repertoires.

This year we are looking to develop our collection of music for violinists (solo music and accompanied), so if you have any recommendations please let us know. Requests for specific pieces – in any category – can be made by completing a purchase request form, available at the enquiry desk or on Moodle.

The library’s most recent printed music acquisitions are listed here, please keep checking for updates!

Cover images are reproduced with the kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes and Hal Leonard.

Item of the Month: May 2016

Though it may seem surprising to us now, Richard Strauss’s symphonic poem Also Sprach Zarathustra op.30 caused a great deal of controversy when it premiered in 1896. Based on Nietzsche’s novel, in which the title character, Zarathustra, descends from the mountains after ten years of solitude to enlighten his fellow man, this philosophical allegory (itself the subject of some controversy) was thought inappropriate by many concert goers. A number of critics went as far as to accuse Strauss of musical philosophising. However, the composer said that his intention had not been to translate Nietzsche’s philosophical ideas into music. Rather, the inspiration was derived from Nietzsche’s overarching concept; the progress of mankind from its earliest origins through to what Zarathustra presents as humanity’s ultimate goal, a perfect being or “superman”.

There are certainly parallels between Strauss’s claims for his project in Zarathustra and Wagner’s similar claim for Der Ring des Nibelungen. Notwithstanding the difference in scale, both claim to represent the movement of human history from its origins to the critical point that divides the old world from the new; the watershed being the end of the 19th century and the ushering in of the 20th. The arresting motif which opens Also Sprach Zarathustra, announcing the dawn of this new age, is perhaps one of the most striking in all music. It was used to great effect in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001 A Space Odyssey, extending the appeal of Strauss’s music beyond concert audiences.

We have a number of recordings in the library and on our online streaming services. However, if you would prefer the excitement of seeing a live performance, Also Sprach Zarathustra is being performed by the Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra at Cadogan Hall on 16th June.

A display about Also Sprach Zarathustra is in the small display case next to the library enquiries desk until the end of May.

Jerwood Library Who’s Who: Oliver Witkin

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role in the Jerwood Library

My name is Oliver, I’m the librarian responsible for ordering all of the printed music for the library. I also work at the help desk assisting students and staff with their queries. I am from Exeter originally, a small city in the South West of England. I made my theatrical debut in a musical at the Northcott Theatre when I was young but there is no truth in the rumour that I had to leave Exeter for London as a result, nor that I did so to escape Exeter’s ‘brutalism’.

I studied music at Dartington College of Arts where I majored in composition and after graduating was set to embark on a further course in writing music for film and television. It was around this time that I changed my mind and my direction. I began to think seriously for the first time about a career in librarianship. I had always enjoyed using libraries and the library service was clearly entering a new era with all the challenges of the digital information age. I undertook my initial library training at the University of Surrey and obtained my MA in Librarianship from the University of Sheffield. I took up my present post at Trinity Laban in 2004 and this has enabled me to join together my love of music and of libraries. In January 2015 I became a chartered librarian.

What is a typical day like for you?

I order printed music both to meet the course requirements of the conservatoire and to improve the diversity of our holdings within the many instrumental and vocal areas of the collection. I also receive numerous requests from students and staff for particular pieces needed for their recitals, competitions and classes, so prioritisation is an important aspect to my acquisitions work.

I am based at the enquiries desk in the library and, on a typical day, I spend much of my time helping people with their queries and work related problems. The kinds of queries I receive are extremely diverse, I couldn’t possibly mention them all here, but typically they range from the very ordinary day-to-day library stuff (helping people find a book or piece of music on the shelves for example), through to much more detailed research-based queries. A few years ago a student arrived at the help desk with a bird in his hands and asked me “Where does this go?” This kind of query is rather less typical, perhaps, but it is as valid as any other, and as an Enquiries Librarian you learn to expect the unexpected…

Are there any hidden or little-known aspects of your work you’d like to share?

Some of the music requested can be obscure and print editions rare, so a bit of detective work is sometimes necessary. I am often in communication with publishers, suppliers, music associations, arrangers and composers in my efforts to track down a particular piece. Occasionally this turns out to be a wild goose chase and the music is simply out of print or never even existed in the first place, but it is always rewarding when you find that a piece of music you had practically given up hope on just happens to be lurking in the basement of some old warehouse in another part of the world.

I try to keep an eye on that pending orders box as well because some of those pieces are needed for recitals and the suppliers don’t always necessarily share our sense of urgency.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I am surrounded by interesting and engaging people. My day to day interactions with the students, staff, and my own library colleagues, is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.

I enjoy the satisfaction of seeing the collection grow. This satisfaction comes in all areas of my acquisitions role, not only music I am ordering with a view to collection development but also music which is requested by students and staff at the conservatoire, even the replacements for lost and damaged items. I like seeing a new piece of music appear on the shelves and knowing that the collection has improved in some respect however small.

Tell us something people may not know about you

There aren’t that many people who can say they have played chess with the former Ukrainian Women’s Chess Champion! I’ve suffered eighteen crushing defeats so far but I’m ever hopeful that a victory is on the horizon (or at least a draw perhaps…)

New sheet music in the library – more jazz, more full scores and more opera!

South LibraryYou may recall that last year we endeavoured to strengthen our holdings of contemporary music; over 100 contemporary works were added to the collection.This year we’ve turned our attention to jazz, opera and full scores.

Our jazz section has been enhanced with new music by composers such as Oliver Nelson, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Bob Brookmeyer, Kenny Wheeler and Herbie Hancock, as well as a host of anthologies, instruction manuals and transcription books.

Over 100 full scores, study scores & miniature scores have been added to the collection. Look out for new music by composers such as Toru Takemitsu, Nicholas Maw, Rodion Shchedrin, Harrison Birtwistle, Harry Partch, Steve Reich, Iannis Xenakis, and Bernd Alois Zimmermann, as well as newly published editions of standard repertoire.

We hope our singing students will benefit from the many new vocal scores in the library. These range from 19th and early 20th century operas – composers such as Massenet (“Sapho”), Rouselle, (“La Testement de la tante Caroline”), Ibert (“Angelique”) and Verdi (“Oberto”) – through to contemporary works by Peter Eotvos (“Love & Other Demons”), John Adams (“Doctor Atomic”) and Dominick Argento (“Christopher Sly” & “Postcard from Morocco”).

We will be furthering the development of our vocal section in the coming year. This time the focus will shift to smaller scale works, in particular the library’s collection of solo songs & collections.

Keep checking the Library Info section of the catalogue for our most recently added titles

As always, we welcome your comments and feedback.

New printers and online credit payment facility

New printers

These new machines (‘Ricoh MFDs’) are multi-purpose and will print, photocopy, scan, and convert your documents into A4 and A5 booklets and they are quicker, easier to use, and a lot quieter than our old ones! Trinity Laban has also recently set up an online payment facility so that you can top up your balance with a credit or debit card wherever you are.

Instructions can be found next to the printers and on IT’s FAQs and Guides page on Moodle and help is always available at the desk. You might also like to check out the Jerwood Library’s own Moodle pages, where you will find guides on a range of topics such as writing programme notes for concerts and clearing copyright for assessed recitals and competitions in the Recitals and Competitions section.

We hope you enjoy using the new facilities. If you have any questions, comments, complaints, or suggestions, please feel free to contact us at any time, we are always interested to know what you think.

Building the library’s sheet music collection

Photo of Janacek scores in the Jerwood Library

The library has established a new acquisitions policy on the basis of research recently undertaken in which we compared our collection with the holdings of four other conservatoire libraries in the UK, including the Royal Academy of Music. This showed us clearly where we were well provided and also where we were less well provided. We supplemented this research with feedback from the teaching staff at the Faculty of Music concerning their ideas about deficiencies in our provision.

Our findings have been published in the library’s printed music strategy on Moodle. This year we have been building our collection of vocal music and contemporary music, as the findings of our research indicate that these are two areas to prioritise. Works by Julian Anderson, Frank Zappa, György Kurtág, Harrison Birtwistle, Heinz Holliger, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Elliot Carter, and Jonathan Dove have been added to the collection and there is much more to come. Please see the library info section on the catalogue for the most recent acquisitions.

We are always interested in staff and student feedback so please let us know if there is anything else you would like to see. Should you have a specific piece in mind, purchase recommendation forms are kept at the library enquiry desk and on Moodle. If you’re a student, please get your teacher or another member of Trinity Laban staff to sign the form.