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.

 

The First Great Virtuoso of the Viola – An exhibition on Lionel Tertis

 

photo of Lionel Tertis

Lionel Tertis, c.1903

Currently on display in the Jerwood Library are highlights from the large collection relating to the renowned viola virtuoso Lionel Tertis (1876-1975), collected by his biographer John White, and now held in the library archives. Throughout his long career Lionel Tertis worked tirelessly towards raising the status of the viola to a solo recital instrument on a par with the violin and cello. To this end he inspired and performed many new works for the instrument, was a prolific arranger of works originally written for other instruments and even produced his own design for the Tertis-model viola, in pursuit of a stronger, more sonorous tone. The Tertis-White collection comprises Tertis’ manuscript arrangements and annotated copies of music he owned, along with photographs, correspondence, concert programmes and other memorabilia. It was the life’s work of the much-respected violist John White whose definitive biography of Tertis was published in 2006: Lionel Tertis: The First Great Virtuoso of the Viola. 

photo of John White

John White, Tertis’ biographer. ©Melanie Strover

 

TERTIS AND TRINITY LABAN

Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music (then Trinity College of Music) played a formative role in the development of Lionel Tertis’ career. He studied piano, harmony and violin at the college on an ad hoc basis between 1892 and 1894. On leaving the school Bradbury Turner, principal at the time, wrote to congratulate Tertis with the words ‘Remember, study is unending’.[1] Much later, at a dinner given in his honour in 1962, Tertis spoke of the ‘benefit and musical enthusiasm’ he had received during his studentship at TCM.[2] In 1966 the college awarded him an Honorary Fellowship and, after his death in 1975 his widow Lillian Tertis donated an important collection of Tertis’ scores to the college library, including many of his manuscript arrangements. Now, with the accession of John White’s archive – generously donated by his widow Carol –Trinity Laban holds the largest collection of Lionel Tertis material publically available anywhere.

Lionel Tertis also has a living connection with Trinity Laban through the professors of viola Roger Chase and Rivka Golani. It was Rivka who made the premiere recording of Tertis’ arrangement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, the CD of which can be found in the Jerwood library here.

roger-chase

Professor Roger Chase playing Tertis’ 1717 Montagnana Viola. ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2010

And it is Roger Chase who can be seen in the photo above playing Tertis’ 1717 Montagnana viola. Moreover, Roger’s teacher Bernard Shore, Tertis’ student and friend, would occasionally take him to Tertis’ house for lessons with Tertis himself. This 17 1/8” viola is the instrument that Tertis used at the height of his career and helped provide the inspiration for his later development of the Tertis-model viola, seeking to find something of the deep sonority of the Montagnana but in a form more manageable for smaller hands.

LIFE

When Tertis began his career he had to work hard in order to overcome public prejudice against the viola as a solo instrument. In his autobiography, Tertis mentions overhearing someone remarking to their neighbour at one of his first solo concerts: ‘I believe a viola is a peculiarly-shaped brass instrument’, such was the lowly status of the instrument at the time. He goes on to implore the ever-increasing number of violinists choosing to take up the viola: ‘strive to enlarge the library of solo viola music, by fair means or foul. Cajole your composer friends to write for it, raid the repertory of the violin, cello or any other instrument, and arrange and transcribe works from their literature suitable for your viola’ – advice that Tertis himself followed throughout his life with the single-minded dedication that was reportedly so characteristic of him.[3] Representing this dedication to enlarging the viola repertoire with arrangements, on display in the exhibition is the original manuscript in Tertis’ hand of his arrangement of Delius’ Violin Sonata no. 2, pictured below.

The original manuscript of Tertis' Viola arrangement of Delius' 2nd Violin Sonata

Excerpt from the original manuscript of Tertis’ Viola arrangement of Delius’ 2nd Violin Sonata

Tertis was a prolific letter writer and on display are a selection of some of the more well-known correspondents from the large collection of letters in the archive. There’s a letter from Edward Elgar discussing and expressing his approval for the viola arrangement Tertis had made of the composer’s much-loved Cello Concerto; a letter from William Walton expressing his thoughts on Tertis’ retirement; an invitation to dinner from British Prime Minister Edward Heath; a note from Ralph Vaughan-Williams apologising for being too old and deaf to conduct a piece for Tertis; a letter from famous pedagogue Nadia Boulanger and a note from Fritz Kreisler, warmly expressing his friendship.

A particular highlight of the collection, and representative of the important role Tertis played in inspiring new repertoire for the instrument, is his copy of the score of Walton’s Viola Concerto, complete with his markings and a note of thanks to Tertis from the composer: ‘[…]for all you’ve done for this work’. The piece was written for Tertis in 1929 at the suggestion of Sir Thomas Beecham, and although Tertis was to become a strong advocate and regular performer of the piece, his initial reception of it was decidedly lukewarm. In fact, it was actually Paul Hindemith who gave the premiere. As Tertis writes in his autobiography:

One work of which I did not give the first performance was Walton’s masterly concerto. With shame and contrition I admit that when the composer offered me the first performance I declined it. I was unwell at the time; but what is also true is that I had not learnt to appreciate Walton’s style. The innovations in his musical language, which now seem so logical and so truly in the main-stream of music, then struck me as far-fetched. It took me time to realise what a tower of strength in the literature of the viola is this concerto.[4]

Many other British composers also wrote pieces especially for Tertis, among them John McEwen, Arnold Bax, Benjamin Dale, York Bowen, Frank Bridge and Harry Farjeon, Vaughan Williams and Arthur Bliss,[5] all of which are represented in the archive.

 

TERTIS-MODEL VIOLA

Tertis also spent much of his life thinking about the ideal shape and size of the viola. If it were built in proportion to the violin or cello it would be too large to play under the chin, yet this smaller size means a compromise in sonority. Tertis’ tone was big, beautiful and powerful and he insisted on playing an especially large viola to help achieve this. In particular it helped produce his desired rich and resonant C-string sound, bordering on the quality of a cello. He had no time for small, nasal sounds from small violas. Seeking to solve this problem for the viola in general, Tertis began a collaboration with the violin and viola maker Arthur Richardson, aiming to develop an instrument large enough to produce a strong, sonorous tone, yet not so unwieldy that it was too difficult to handle. He entered this quest for the perfect size and sound with the kind of single-minded enthusiasm that characterised much of his life, sending plans to makers all over the world and leading to the production of hundreds of instruments built to the specifications he originally developed with Richardson.[6] On display in the exhibition are a selection of plans, diagrams, photographs and correspondence all relating to his famous Tertis-Model Viola.

Although some violas made to the Tertis pattern are still in professional use, in many ways the Tertis-Model has been relegated to an interesting historical development. Many of today’s players get a great sound from violas of various shapes and sizes, giving the player a degree of choice unthinkable in Tertis’ time. Nevertheless, the effort Tertis put into his model has created a huge amount of interest in the whole question of viola size and shape, and has led to the opening up of many new paths of development for the instrument.[7] It is just one of the many ways that Lionel Tertis has left a deep and lasting legacy in the history and development of the modern viola.

 


 

[1] White, John. Lionel Tertis: The First Great Virtuoso of the Viola. (Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2006), 3

[2] Quoted in: White. Lionel Tertis, 264

[3] Tertis, Lionel. My Viola and I. (London: Kahn & Averill, 1991), 161

[4] Ibid., 36

[5] Watson Forbes, ‘Tertis, Lionel’ in Grove Music OnlineOxford Music Online, <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/27716&gt; (accessed January 23, 2017)

[6]  White. Lionel Tertis, 160

[7] Ibid., 169

Exhibition: Experimental Scores from 1950s New York

cabinet-2One of the things that strikes me about the music of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff and Earle Brown in the 1950s is how uneasily it might sit in the library of a conservatoire of music. It represents attitudes to sound, composition and value-judgements like skill, quality, or success and failure which seem to me to be at odds with those of the mainstream of western classical music history. And this seemed to me a good reason to drag it out and examine it under the lights of the library display cabinets.

But first things first – why does this music tend to be grouped together and described as ‘experimental’? Attempts at naming and defining a musical movement seem to me to be doomed to exceptions and over-simplifications, intended as they are to take in the work done by a range of different personalities over a vaguely-defined period of time. Yet, they have their uses. Something new really did seem to happen in the way people were creating and thinking about music in New York City, beginning in the 1950s, and calling this new music ‘experimental’ seems reasonable. At least, John Cage seemed to think so:

“The word ‘experimental’ is apt, providing it is understood not as descriptive of an act to be later judged in terms of success and failure, but simply as of an act the outcome of which is unknown.”  [written in 1955][1]

Cage is the composer most associated with the inception of this new music, but the work of all four men has a further attitude in common; they were all writing music which was at one remove from the person who made it, and thus somewhat distanced from their own tastes and prejudices in favour of a more objective approach to sound. Michael Nyman, in his book on experimental music, also adds that it is music which is somehow distinct from the ‘well-trodden but sanctified path of the post-Renaissance tradition’ of avant-garde composers such as Boulez, Xenakis, Kagel, Berio, Stockhausen, Birtwistle, Bussotti.[2] I’ll come back to that.

John Cage’s famous ‘silent’ piece 4’33’’ was composed and premiered in 1952 and is often the place to start off any discussion about experimental music. Consequently, I almost cringe talking about this piece. It seems to have been picked over again and again, endlessly. However, one of the reasons this is the case is that it’s just such a good example in the way in encapsulates many aspects of the new attitude towards music that began to emerge in the work of a number of composers around the same time in the same place.

cage

John Cage at a drinks reception at the Cage/Cunningham Residency at the Laban Centre, July 1980.  Photo by Peter Sayers (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Cage’s piece grew directly out of his realisation that sounds surround us always, even in the quietest of places, and if we attend to them, and accept both intended and unintended sounds into composition, a new attitude to making and listening to music is born – ‘Happy new ears!’, as he put it.[3] His move was to simply provide a time-frame (the duration of which was generated by chance) in which an audience could attend to all the sounds that surround them. And although 4’33’’ is the idea taken to its logical extreme, the emphasis in this new attitude was not the traditional one of prescribing a defined time-object, the materials and structuring of which were calculated and specified in advance. Instead, these composers were more interested in outlining a certain situation in which sounds then occur. It was an attitude of acceptance rather than craftsmanship; an effort to distance one’s self from the composition; and an attempt to bring art and life closer together:[4]

“When a composer feels a responsibility to make, rather than accept, he eliminates from the area of possibility all those events that do not suggest at that point in time vogue of profundity. For he takes himself seriously, wishes to be considered great, and he thereby diminishes his love and increases his fear and concern about what people will think.

 

There are many serious problems confronting such an individual. He must do it better, more impressively, more beautifully, etc. than anybody else. And what, precisely, does this, this beautiful profound object, this masterpiece, have to do with Life? It has this to do with Life: that it is separate from it. Now we see it and now we don’t. When we see it we feel better, and when we are away from it, we don’t feel so good. Life seems shabby and chaotic and disordered, ugly in contrast.”[5]

Describing pieces like the graph pieces of Morton Feldman, in which only the number and relative placement of pitches (high, middle, low) are specified within a time-grid, Cage said that ‘the composer resembles the maker of a camera who allows someone else to take the picture.’[6]

“What is, or seems to be, new in this music? One finds a concern for a kind of objectivity, almost anonymity – sound come into its own. The ‘music’ is resultant existing simply in the sounds we hear, given no impulse by expression of self or personality” [7]

It should already seem quite clear how this attitude is very different from that of the European-classical canon, including the work of the avant-garde at the time. In that tradition the responsibility for managing and calculating all of the musical parameters is laid squarely at the feet of the composer. The emphasis there is on integration, organisation and control as opposed to the impersonal techniques used for merely ‘setting sounds in motion’, in which any possibility of drawing events into some kind of pre-calculated image is impossible because so much is left open until the moment of performance. And indeed, it was the uniqueness of the moment, rather than the uniqueness of something preserved, that interested the experimental composers.

So this brings me to the place experimental music might occupy in a conservatoire of music. After all, it’s here that performance students come to hone an extraordinarily refined skill-set over a period of at least 4 years, with the emphasis being on replicating certain unique and preserved master-pieces. It’s hard-work, and success and failure are very real categories. So it seems understandable that the presence of this different attitude to music-making might sit a little uneasily here – who needs a degree when all you’re doing is ‘projecting sounds in time’? How do you accurately rate the performance of a piece that sounds completely different every time it’s performed?

However, my feeling, for what it’s worth, is that music is not just one thing, and students should be able, if so inclined, to take advantage of their time here to explore it in all its variety. Surely, this is one of the main things the library is here to facilitate. Whether this music seems exciting to one person or empty to another depends ultimately on their temperament, but either way, having it in the collection increases its scope. After all, let’s not forget that this music is hardly ‘new’. In fact, it’s now just about old enough to qualify for a free bus pass.

It’s refreshing that people tend to find the arch-modernist style-police amusing for the vitriol with which they denounced anyone who didn’t plow their particular furrow in the mid-twentieth-century, and this opening-up and moving away from an unhealthy obsession with style can only be a good thing. I know that when I learnt about what was happening in 1950s New York for the first time it opened my ears to new ways of thinking about and listening to music. It didn’t stop me practicing my scales, but it did give me a different take on listening to all the sounds that we normally do our best to ignore; or wondering whether we can, or why we might want to, remove our tastes and prejudices from the things we make. Being exposed to a diversity of values and approaches to music only enriches things.

However, as a final thought, I’ll leave Morton Feldman to muddy the waters. For all this talk of a diversity of approaches, perhaps this supposedly brand-new attitude wasn’t really all that separate from the mainstream avant-garde after all? It seems a good example of how parts of a culture that seem unconnected at the time, when seen in perspective can shed light on each other in interesting ways. All the more reason to welcome this kind of music into the conservatoire library, I’d say.

“What rhapsodizes in today’s ‘cool’ language is its own construction. The fact that men like Boulez and Cage represent opposite extremes of modern mythology is not what is interesting. What is interesting is their similarity. In the music of both men, things are exactly what they are  – no more, no less. In the music of both men, what is heard is indistinguishable from its process. In fact, process itself might be called the zeitgeist of our age.”[8]

 


 

[1] John Cage, Silence (London: Marion Boyars, 1978), 13

[2] Michael Nyman, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 1

[3] John Cage, A Year From Monday: Lectures and Writings (Marion Boyars: London, 1968), 30

[4] Michael Nyman, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 4

[5] John Cage, Silence (London: Marion Boyars, 1978), 130

[6] John Cage, Silence (London: Marion Boyars, 1978), 11

[7] Christian Wolff, quoted in Michael Nyman, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 30

[8] Morton Feldman, Give my Regards to Eighth Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman ed. B.H.Friedman (Cambridge, MA: Exact Change, 2000), 109

Without Any Apologies for Their Sex: A Celebration of Women at Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music

We are pleased to announce the launch of our latest exhibition which celebrates the contribution of women to Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music since its inception in 1872. The display runs from 15 January – 24 March 2016 and can be found just inside the entrance to the library. External visitors: please contact the library in advance to arrange access. This blog post summarizes the exhibition for those unable to visit in person.

Student Edith Bird with her piano teacher Gordon Saunders, ca.1907-1912. In the early days of the college women overwhelmingly studied either piano or singing. TCM 15/4.

When Harold Rutland wrote his 1972 centenary history of Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music), he filled its pages with the names and faces of men. At that time, women were absent from senior management roles and their impact in other areas was marginalized. However, take a closer look at the archives held here in the Jerwood Library and a different story emerges. As students, teachers and examiners, women contributed in innovative and pioneering ways to the success of the institution. This exhibition recovers their voices from the obscurity of the historical record. It is the story of how women made Trinity Laban the institution it is today.

Students

Trinity College of Music was initially set up in 1872 as a training college for church music. As such, it focused on choral singing and organ playing, both areas then dominated by men. But the college soon expanded to cover other aspects of music education, and a programme of local examinations was initiated. These were extremely popular with young ladies around the country and led to growing numbers entering the college as students. In 1900, just over half of matriculated students were women. Yet women students were not fully integrated into the life of the college: they were taught in special ‘ladies’ classes’ and successful women diploma candidates were listed separately from their male counterparts. Women’s musical studies were also overwhelmingly limited to theory classes, piano and singing. Violin was studied only by a handful of women, in keeping with contemporary norms.[1]

TCM prog 4 Dec 1924

TCM concert in 1924 shows an even gender balance among string-playing students. TCM 6/6.

The taboo associated with women instrumentalists was, however, about to break. A concert programme from 1924 is striking in its gender balance across all string instruments, including Jessie Mason on double bass. Women also began to study wind instruments. In the 1950s scholarships were awarded to Michelle Croll, Anne Boyce, Mary Brenchley, Jane Alderson, and Beatrice Hussey on flute, Barbara Graham and Jean Titcombe on oboe, and Sylvia Thomas on clarinet.

In spite of this growth in accomplished female instrumentalists, opportunities in professional orchestras were limited. Henry Wood recruited six female string players to his Queen’s Hall orchestra in 1913 but other UK orchestras were slow to appoint women to permanent posts. The LSO remained resolutely all male until the late 1970s.[2]

By the 1980s women students were on an entirely equal footing with their male counterparts at Trinity. Scholarships, prizes and performance opportunities were all split equally between genders. Women were also represented across all instruments, including on brass and percussion, two areas which had previously been little studied by women.

Staff

In common with other conservatoires, women were largely excluded from teaching positions at Trinity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, although they were prominent as local music teachers. In 1880, only two women professors were employed by the college: Alma Sanders on piano and Kate Steel for singing. Sanders was also a composer and in 1884 won the college’s chamber music prize competition and ten guineas for her piano quartet. By 1900, the numbers had expanded slightly and Doris Dalton had been appointed to teach violin, in spite of the continuing prejudice towards women violinists. In 1897 a reviewer had described Dalton, rather patronizingly, as a ‘clever young violinist’ after a recital at St. James’ Hall, a large and grand concert hall then in Piccadilly.[3]

Finzi Bagatelles cover

Gerald Finzi’s Five Bagatelles was written for Pauline Juler, professor of clarinet at TCM. 781.3 FIN.

During the first half of the twentieth century, numbers of women professors steadily increased. One of these was Pauline Juler, a clarinettist who had studied at TCM and was now making a name for herself, against all odds, as a chamber musician and recitalist. As The Musical Times noted, she was undoubtedly a good clarinettist ‘without any apologies for her sex’.[4] In 1943 Juler recorded Harold Ferguson’s Octet with leading musicians of the day including horn player Denis Brain, and the year later Gerald Finzi wrote his Five Bagatelles for her. Finzi also had Juler in mind for his clarinet concerto but Juler’s performing career had meanwhile come to an abrupt end on her marriage (though she did continue to teach into the 1960s).

By 1980 the college had begun to resemble the modern institution it is today. The corporation included two women members and the teaching staff were represented on the college board by Lettice Stuart, a long-standing teacher in the junior department. Administrative staff included a female librarian and welfare officer. As professors, women were still not represented evenly across all instruments (they were notably absent from the brass department) but were particularly prominent as singing teachers, as indeed they had always been. Valerie Cardnell, for instance, taught singing at the college for around twenty years from 1965. She was also an active member of the Society of Women Musicians, an institution founded in 1911 in reaction to the (then) male-only Society of British Composers.

Valerie Cardnell 1972

A stately-looking Valerie Cardnell leaving Westminster Abbey after a service of thanksgiving to mark TCM’s centenary in 1972. Note how she is surrounded by men in this picture: women were still in the minority among professors and senior management at this time. VC 6.

Examiners

With growing numbers of women achieving music qualifications, and with limited professional outlets for them as musicians, some Trinity women were recruited by the college as examiners. At first the numbers were small; between 1874 and 1900 only three out of 144 public examiners were women. But the numbers grew and women examiners came to play a crucial role in cementing the global reputation of the college. Examining was not, however, an easy option. The rapidly expanding network of examination centres meant that examiners had to travel extensively across the globe for long periods of time. As Jay Thomas reported after her first examining tour of India in 1967, ‘I have lived seven years of experience in seven weeks’.[5]

Women travelled all over the world examining for the college. Data compiled from TCM Bulletins, 1965-1969.

Women travelled all over the world examining for the college. Data compiled from TCM Bulletins, 1965-1969.

Mary Tweedie was one of the earliest women to gain recognition for her examining work. She toured the world many times over during fifteen years as an examiner in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, at one point taking charge of an administrative crisis at the Johannesburg centre. The local secretary in New Zealand deemed her to be ‘the finest ambassador Britain ever had’.[6] She also represented the college at prize givings in her native Scotland, distributing awards and giving the address on at least two occasions. After her death in 1963 a correspondent to The Times wrote:

She had a mind steeped in music, literature and poetry, and an exceptionally retentive memory with an imaginative skill as a story-teller which enchanted old and young alike … A host of friends throughout the world will mourn the loss of a warm-hearted, endearing and unique personality.[7]

In the 1960s, perhaps owing in part to the success of Mary Tweedie, the proportion of women examiners rose quite dramatically from around eight per cent in 1960 to twenty-five per cent in 1970. One of these was Marjorie Jaco, an organist, choirmaster and conductor who claimed to be the first woman to conduct at the Royal Festival Hall. Over the course of her examining career she travelled three times around the world, lecturing in Canada, Sri Lanka, India and the Antipodes, and broadcasting programmes in Canada and New Zealand, alongside her examining commitments.

Women examiners 1968

The proportion of women examiners rose considerably in the 1960s. Marjorie Jaco, Sonia Melville and Mavis Walker all joined the ranks in 1968. TCM Bulletin May 1968.

Junior Department

Trinity’s junior department, the first of its kind in the UK, began in 1906 with a partnership between the college and London County Council. It was initially run by John Warriner but after his death in 1934 Gladys Puttick was appointed to lead the department. She was already director of music at Queen’s College, Harley Street and had a private teaching practice in Wigmore Street teaching musicianship and piano. Puttick had an innovative approach to creative musicianship, something she had developed from her mentor Dr Yorke Trotter at the London Academy of Music. She remained head of the junior department for forty-two years and her influence was deep and long-lasting. Jane Daniels recalled ‘without Gladys Puttick, I probably would never have become a professional musician’. Similarly impressed was the conductor Barry Wordsworth who has said,

‘She was quite simply extraordinary … without her I cannot imagine how things would have gone’.[8]

In 1976 Puttick was succeeded by Lettice Stuart who maintained the ethos of Puttick’s teaching. Musicianship classes remain a core strength of the department to this day.

Gladys Puttick TCM 16.2.3

Gladys Puttick teaching a musicianship class to junior students in 1963. Note the roughly even gender balance among her pupils. Photograph © Michael Ward. TCM 16/2/3.

Current Situation

Today, there is a good gender balance across Trinity Laban. The latest equality statistics reported a roughly equal split among staff overall, as well as among senior post holders. There is also an even gender balance among music students. At Trinity College London (the exam board which separated from TCM in 1992), 103 out of 240 music examiners are now women (as of November 2015), a respectable legacy for the likes of Mary Tweedie and Marjorie Jaco .

Individual music faculty women also continue to blaze a trail for gender equality. In 2013, composition teacher Errollyn Wallen became the first ever female recipient of the Ivor Novello Award for Classical Music. Dr Sophie Fuller, programme leader for the MMus and MFA courses, researches gender and sexuality in music and is the author of the Pandora Guide to Women Composers. And as part of last year’s International Women’s Day, two female jazz students, Rosie Turton and Nubya Garcia, were featured in London Jazz News.

But gender imbalances still prevail in the wider music profession. In the 2015 BBC Proms season women accounted for only 30% of instrumental soloists, 36% of living composers, and just 4% of conductors. Meanwhile, the majority of UK music teachers are female — a recent Making Music report put the figure at 71% of all teachers preparing students for ABRSM or TCL examinations. Women, therefore, continue to occupy the lowest paid, lowest profile jobs in the music profession, while men dominate on the public stage.

References

[1] Cyril Ehrlich, The Music Profession in Britain since the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), p. 157. On the broader history of women in music see also Lucy Green, Music, Gender, Education (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997) and Tick, Judith, et al. “Women in music.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online (Oxford University Press) <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/52554pg2> [date accessed: 18 September 2015].

[2] Richard Morrison, Orchestra: the LSO. A Century of Triumph and Turbulence (London: Faber, 2004), p. 187.

[3] ‘Concerts and Recitals’, The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 38, 651 (1897), p. 316.

[4] ‘London Concerts’, The Musical Times, 78, 1137 (1937), p. 991.

[5] ‘News and Views of our Examinations Overseas’, TCM Bulletin, 7 (1968), 11-16 (p. 16.).

[6] Harold Rutland, Trinity College of Music: the First Hundred Years (London: Trinity College of Music, 1972), p. 38.

[7] ‘Miss Mary Tweedie’, The Times, 4 October 1963.

[8] Cassal, Anne, Junior Trinity: 100 Years, 1906-2006 (Ann Cassal, 2006), p. 30.

 

New Exhibition: Facsimile Scores in the Jerwood Library

Brand new for the start of the autumn term is our latest exhibition Facsimile Scores in the Jerwood Library, running from 10 September until 11 December. This display has been curated by library assistant James Luff, and is based on his popular blog post ‘The delights of handwritten scores‘.

The exhibition showcases facsimiles of manuscript scores held by the Jerwood Library. One cabinet displays a selection of beautiful and distinctive handwritten scores from twentieth-century composers, showing a range of particularly striking and individual approaches to the calligraphy of more-or-less conventionally notated music. The other cabinet highlights the writing styles and working methods of many of the old masters.

When not working in the library, James composes music himself so brings an insider’s perpective to the subject of composers’ manuscript scores. You will be able to read more about James when he appears later this month in our Who’s Who series.

The exhibition space is located just inside the Jerwood Library, opposite the issue desk. For any visitors who may wish to view the exhibition, please contact us in advance to arrange access. Everyone is welcome!

Singers of the Golden Age

One of the strengths of the large sound recordings collection we have at the Jerwood Library is the large number of CD reissues of historic recordings of singers from the early days of recording. We have been lucky to receive several significant donations of these CDs and are proud to have finally finished cataloguing and making them available on the shelves for staff and students to browse through and borrow. So it was with some excitement that we heard that the Vocal Department planned to invite Martin Lindsay, singer and voice teacher from the State Music Conservatory in Cologne to give a presentation on just these kinds of historic recordings. Here was a perfect opportunity for us to promote this aspect of our collection, to hit, as it were, a few high Cs of our own. In the course of one of his preparatory visits for this session, Martin visited the library to discuss the contents of our planned supporting display Singers of the Golden Age and while he was with us we quizzed him a little about his enthusiasm for these historic recordings.

Q.  Martin, you’ve been singing and teaching professionally for 25 years, what is your main musical area of activity?

ML I work primarily in the field of contemporary music – it’s a great passion. But my other great passion is the human voice in all of its facets.

Q. Who would you choose as your Top 5 favourites among the Golden Age singers?

ML …My favourite 5 singers… (a very difficult choice!)… if pushed, they would be:

  1. Rosa Ponselle
  2. Ebe Stignani
  3. Toti dal Monte
  4. Giuseppe Anselmi
  5. Conchita Supervia

Q.  Which Golden Age singer would you say has been your greatest influence?

ML  Rosa Ponselle – for the absolute mastery and seamlessness of technique, combined with a sure interpretative and emotional instinct.

Q.  How did you get into listening to these great singers of the past?

ML I started listening to the old recordings on the instigation of my then singing teacher, Peter Harrison, who was of the opinion that the most perfect and technically pure singing was to be heard in the singers of this period. After the first examples I was hooked, fascinated by the voices and vocal personalities, and the insights the old recordings gave me into the workings of the voices I was hearing.

Q.  How have these insights influenced your professional work?

ML Those years were crucial in the forming of ideas I was later to develop in my own teaching, and these singers played an integral part in that process. I am looking forward to introducing these recordings to the young singers at Trinity Laban!

Singers of the Golden Age

For our Singers of the Golden Age ‘lending’ display[1], Martin has selected recordings made in the first couple of decades of the last century. These demonstrate all the voice ranges and, as he suggests, offer insights into the technical aspects of singing – phrasing, breath control, choice of tempi and other expressive techniques – employed by singers of that ‘Golden Age’.

Glimpses into the past….

Listening to and comparing performances is always a fascinating activity – BBC Radio 3, after all, devotes a good chunk of its Saturday mornings to just that activity in its CD Review programme – and using recordings of other musicians in this way is now common practice for student performers. Among the rewards of listening to very early recordings are the tantalising glimpses of how performances might have sounded in the late 19th century, although, as Steane points out (1974, p. 4-12) these glimpses must be treated with caution. How many of us have longed to time-travel back to the premières of the great works of the Bachs, Mozarts and Beethovens of yesteryear to hear how the music really sounded and what the concert-going experience was really like? These historic recordings are able to provide some tiny pointers as they preserve, often imperfectly, the voices of many of the singers who sang in the premières and worked with the composers of the major operatic works of the late 19th century. An example: Puccini’s choice for the ‘coveted’ role of Cavaradossi in Tosca was not Caruso, but the older and more experienced singer Emilio De Marchi (1861-1917) and his voice is preserved in two scratchy cylinder recordings[2] of excerpts from that opera (Trinity Laban staff and students can listen to those here[3]) and reissued as Creator Records, vol. 1: Puccini and Mascagni (1891-1926) by Symposium Records (SYMP1379).

What about vibrato?

Students of ‘historically informed performance’ have started to mine early recordings for evidence in the argument over the now ubiquitous use of vibrato in both vocal and instrumental performance, suggesting that, as recordings in the first decade of the 20th century appear to demonstrate a more restricted use of vibrato, this must have been normal performance practice in earlier times (Day, 2000, 184-5). Discussions have been heated on this topic, and Katz (2004, 85-98), for example, offers a convincing argument in relation to the violin for what he terms the ‘phonograph effect’ on the rapid development of violin vibrato during the early years of recording. He suggests that violinists used vibrato to counteract on the one hand the technical insensitivity of the recording machines to their instruments and on the other the loss of the visual element in performances. Vibrato also provided a means for players to differentiate their own violin sound from that of other players. All very interesting ideas, which may be tested by careful listening and comparison of recordings.

Divas on record

Alongside the Singers of the Golden Age display, we have also pulled out some dozen of our CD recordings featuring a single aria – Bellini’s Casta diva (from Norma) to form a ‘Divas on record’ display (pun intended!). The selected CD tracks range in date from Celestina Boninsegna’s 1904 recording through to Reneé Fleming’s of 1999, and include four Callas recordings (1937, 1949, 1957, 1961). Listeners can therefore not only compare different performances of the aria, but, in the case of the Callas recordings, study a single performer’s development in a role. So why not come up to the Jerwood library and have a look at (and listen to) the displays? To paraphrase the advertising cliché, hearing a recording is worth a thousand words!

(Very) Select bibliography

Day, T. 2000. A century of recorded music: listening to musical history. New Haven: Yale University Press

Katz, M. 2004. Capturing sound: how technology has changed music. Berkeley & London: University of California Press

Steane, J. B. 1974. The grand tradition : seventy years of singing on record. London : Duckworth

[1] ‘lending display’ – that’s a display of library materials you can borrow, not just look at!

[2] Opera Arias – PUCCINI, G. / MASCAGNI, P. (Creator Records, Vol. 1) (1891-1926)

[3] available to TL staff and students via: http://www.naxosmusiclibrary.com/catalogue/item.asp?cid=SYMP1379

Music in Wartime: New Exhibition

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day (8 May 1945), the library today launches a new exhibition: Music in Wartime. With material related to both the First and Second World Wars, the exhibition highlights resources unique to Trinity Laban – extracts from Trinity College of Music’s board minutes of the time (held in the Trinity College of Music Archive), and items from the Charles Kennedy Scott Archive – as well as providing a broader picture of wartime life through passages from The Musical Times and books from the library’s loanable collection.

Trinity College of Music board minutes, 1933-44

Trinity College of Music board minutes, 1933-44

The idea for the exhibition first came to me while I was conducting a stocktake of the library’s holdings of The Musical Times. This involved leafing through every bound volume of that journal (our holdings span from 1878 to the present day), checking for missing issues so that the information on the Jerwood Library’s catalogue is as accurate as possible. But as I looked through issue after issue – with the years moving from 1913 to 1914 and beyond – I couldn’t help but become enthralled by the inevitably stark effect of war on musical activity and thought: evident not just in articles and shorter notes (‘The European War and Its Influence on the Evolution of Musical Tendencies in France’ (1916), ‘Should Teutonic Music be Boycotted?’ (1915), and ‘Music in Ruhleben [internment] Camp’ (1919) are just a few examples), but also in the concert listings, advertisements and letters included in the journal. It provided a reminder of the effect of war on the (musical) lives of those at home, and of the role of music for those either at war or held in prisoner of war camps. And the sheer act of looking through each month’s journal issue brought home the reality of the length of time – season after season, year after year – for which both wars endured.

Material from The Musical Times at the outbreak of World War I presents a complex picture of attitudes towards musicians, music-making and concert-going. Wartime economies meant that budgets all-round were hit, and the general population too experienced a decrease in incomes. One article from late 1914 begins by noting that:

… the outlook for British musicians, although far from being normal, is improving. Many important musical enterprises that were threatened with extinction are being carried on bravely, and influential forces have been mobilized for the purpose of striving for the cause of the British executant. Ultimately the issue depends upon the attitude of concert-goers, who, in common with other classes of the community, have been hard hit financially, and who may not unnaturally have qualms of conscience as to whether musical recreation should be sought during a time when there is so much around us that is stern and grim.
‘The Outlook for British Musicians’. The Musical Times, no 861 (vol 55), December 1, 1914, p. 644.

The moral question posed by engaging in musical activities at the time was conveyed even more keenly in an article the following month, which reported on a paper titled ‘Music in War-Time’ given by Mr H.C. Colles at the first meeting of the Musical Association:

He said that musicians had been conscious lately that they had become less interesting to their fellows than they normally were, and many found, though perhaps ashamed to confess it, that music itself interested them less than it used to do. Yet music remained and musicians remained, and the question was ‘What were we going to do with them?’

‘Music in War-Time’. The Musical Times, no 862 (vol 55), December 1, 1914, p.707.

In contrast was the view that music could serve a valuable cathartic purpose, and that musicians – and their talents and activities – should be celebrated and made use of on those grounds:

Viewed in retrospect, the first half of the current season has revealed the undoubted fact that the War has made us all feel our music with greater keenness – not perhaps with greater zest, because one cannot get away from the fact that music seems an almost culpable joy in face of the European turmoil and desolation – but the message of great music is coming home to the average man or woman as never before, and where heroic feeling is the dominant note, conductor, players and audience have been swept up to heights not before reached in our generation.

‘Manchester and District’ (Music in the Provinces: by our own correspondents). The Musical Times, no 863 (vol 56), January 1, 1915, p. 46.

However, as budgets were hit, and festivals and concert series were drastically down-scaled or cancelled, musicians and their incomes also suffered. Along with a widespread movement against the performance of Austro-German music (for example, the 1915 Proms series contained ‘no German masterpieces’), a rise of protectionistic instincts is clearly visible: for example, the Music in War-time Committee was formed with the aim ‘simply to create or find engagements for the native performer, and to encourage performances’.

The desire to protect against the ‘enemy alien’ was also a prominent theme in Trinity College of Music’s board minutes of the time, which document in October 1914 the resolution that

…  it is undesirable to employ Germans and Austro-Hungarians in positions to fill which competent members of the British Empire can be obtained.

A short time later, in early 1915, two Hungarian students ‘being alien enemies and of military age’ are admitted to the college, only for this offer to be rescinded the next month, after further discussion by the board. Perhaps most striking – and difficult to imagine today – is the removal of contemporary compositions from a Trinity syllabus, on the basis that they had been published in Germany, and therefore that profit received from the printing and sale of these pieces would directly benefit ‘enemy alien firms’.

Entrance Hall to Mandeville Place, showing the War Memorial

Entrance hall to Mandeville Place, showing Trinity College of Music’s war memorial. Nine students and one member of staff lost their lives during World War One.

Trinity College of Music War Memorial, now located in the Hawksmoor entrance of King Charles Court

Trinity College of Music’s war memorial, now located in the Hawksmoor entrance of King Charles Court

While the possible consequences of war for Trinity College of Music were perhaps initially  underestimated by the board during World War I (for instance, they rejected the idea of insurance against aerial bombardment in October 1914, to later take out a policy in mid-1915), the College’s preparations for the implications of World War II seem impressively planned. In May 1939 plans are already under consideration ‘for transferring a portion of the College Staff, together with important documents and records, in the event of a National Emergency’, and among the numerous plans noted at an emergency meeting held on 1 September 1939 (the day war was declared), the Principal reports that ‘in order to provide for his complete general supervision of College administration during the period of hostilities, he has taken up residence at the College.’ A bomb-proof basement shelter was built, an air raid warden appointed, a rota of night-time fire watchers put in place, wartime economies were continually considered and salaries reduced… but teaching, examinations, rehearsals and performances continued between 1939 and 1945.

To end this post, a first-hand account of life at Junior Trinity during the Second World War highlights how the spirit of the college was able to prevail, even under the most challenging circumstances:

Common chords are never really common when learnt in our beautiful Lecture Hall with its panelled walls, organ, pianos, and blackboard and Miss Puttick’s magical teaching; but when learnt in a basement shelter, tightly packed on backless forms, with your neighbour’s gas-mask container digging into your ribs, there is something heroic about them, an echo of the Song of Roland (Norman-French Ballade) under the drone of planes and roar of anti-aircraft guns.

*

There were, of course, a few instances of homework not being done. Manuscript books have a way of getting lost when one’s home is bombed; and being flung across the room by blast – which happened to two of our small boys.

*

On September 17th 1940 a heavy bomb demolished property adjacent to the College. Dust, plaster, and broken glass filled the building and it was obvious that the new term could not begin on the fixed date. But here again, very little time was lost. All members of the clerical staff valiantly got down on their hands and knees and scrubbed; in a week the College re-opened. It was rather subdued and deserted, but nonetheless Trinity College carried on.

[extracts taken from ‘The War Years (1940-1942)’ (author unknown – found amongst Miss Puttick’s papers). In Junior Trinity 100 Years: 1906 ­– 2006, written and compiled by Anne Cassal. Anne Cassal: 2006, pp. 6-7.]

The Music in Wartime exhibition also contains items usually available for loan from the Jerwood Library, including the following books, CDs and DVDs:

Books
Proof through the night: Music and the Great War, by Glenn Watkins
788.08 WAT

War Letters, by Ivor Gurney
789 GUR

Inherit the truth: 1939-1945: the documented experiences of a survivor of Auschwitz and Belsen, by Anita Lasker-Wallfisch  
789 LAS

CDs
War’s embers: songs by composers who perished or suffered in World War I, sung by Michael George (bass)
SONGS/COLLECTIONS : WAR

Great songs of World War II : classic songs from the World War 2 era, featuring Vera Lynn, Glenn Miller, Flanagan and Allen and George Formby
POP : GRE

DVDs
You must remember this, directed by Sue Mallinson
DVD / FILM : BRI

Oh! What a lovely war, directed by Richard Attenborough
DVD / FILM : OHW

The Reichsorchester: the Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich, a film by Enrique Sánchez Lansch
DVD / FILM : BER

Music in Wartime will be on display from 8 May to 2 July and can be found in the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts at the music faculty of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (directions here). If you are coming from outside the institution, please sign in at the main reception desk and a member of library staff will come to meet you.