On the pleasures and sorrows of cataloguing 19th century sheet music

One of our on-going projects at the moment is to finish cataloguing the Bridge Memorial Library, the historic library of what was Trinity College of Music. Most of the collection was catalogued as part of a major project several years ago and is searchable online via the Jerwood Library catalogue, but there are a few odds and strays left over.

Here’s a case in point:

Les hirondelles de Félicien David: variations brillantes pour piano, op.5 / par Henri Streich.

Les hirondelles de Félicien David: variations brillantes pour piano, op.5 / par Henri Streich.

On the outside this volume is rather unprepossessing. It’s not in great condition: the front board is missing, the back board is loose, there are some torn pages and it’s rather filthy. And the first item – a little-known piano arrangement by a little-known composer – doesn’t give much away. In fact it’s what we know in library circles as a ‘bound-with’ – lots of different items of sheet music all published separately and then bound together. This particular volume contains 25 items of piano music from the mid-nineteenth century.

Cataloguing these things can be extremely time-consuming. Not only are there a lot of different items to describe but the music tends to be obscure and the title pages not very helpful (no dates of publication for example). Most of the composers in this volume are now long-forgotten and not represented in standard reference works – Jacques Herz, Theodore Oesten, H. W. Goodban, Theodor Döhler, Wenzel Plachy to name just a few.

On the other hand, bound-withs often give great insights into contemporary music making. The market for the material in this volume was amateur and domestic so looking at it is like eavesdropping on a middle-class drawing room around 1850. The preferences of this particular owner are clear: adaptations of Italian opera themes, and dance music by Charles d’Albert (1809-1886). D’Albert was a German-born Frenchman who lived in England for most of his life and was so popular that he was able to issue his music with expensive colour illustrations on the covers. Like this one:

Serenade: valse a deux tems / Charles d'Albert

Serenade: valse a deux tems / Charles d’Albert

We have digitized more covers from this volume over on our Flickr page, and if you get a taste for nineteenth-century music covers, there are hundreds more over at the Spellman Collection of Victorian Music Covers on VADS. As ever, to view this or any other item from the special collections, just drop us an email.


Music, Historical Pageantry, and the Jerwood Library…

The very lovely people over at the Historical Pageants project have kindly hosted a blog post by our special collections librarian Emma Greenwood. It’s all about the music of the 1910 Chester Historical Pageant and includes lots of images from the Jerwood Library’s rare collection of pageant books. There’s also a connection with Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban): the pageant’s ‘master of music’ was the college’s very own Joseph Cox Bridge (not to be confused with his more famous elder brother Frederick). Read all about it here. And if you’d like to see the pageant books for yourself do get in touch.

Official Souvenir of the Chester Historical Pageant (Manchester, 1910).

Official Souvenir of the Chester Historical Pageant (Manchester, 1910).

Conducting the Croydon Phil the Trinity Way: New Exhibition about Alan Kirby, Myers Foggin and James Gaddarn

Programme for Trinity College of Music concert, 17 July 1985

Programme for Trinity College of Music concert, 17 July 1985

What did Alan Kirby, Myers Foggin and James Gaddarn all have in common? Well, apart from a connection with the former Trinity College of Music, they were all at various times the musical director of the Croydon Philharmonic Choir which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary. This exhibition tells the story of these conductors through material housed here in our special collections. Exhibits include Alan Kirby’s score of the Apostles (inscribed by Elgar when he guest-conducted the choir in 1933), Myers Foggin’s personal scrapbook, and the programme for Adrian Boult’s 80th birthday concert in 1969. A full exhibition guide can be found on our website here. The exhibition runs until 19th June.

19th Century Music Manuscript Discovered!

Look what we’ve found! This manuscript collection of vocal music by the composer John Lodge Ellerton (1801-1873) was recently discovered during cataloguing of the Bridge Memorial Library, the historic library of the college.

'Now the Bright Morning Star': setting of Milton by John Lodge Ellerton, MS / MISC 69

‘Now the Bright Morning Star’: setting of Milton by John Lodge Ellerton, MS / MISC 67

The collection contains 39 works, mainly part songs, in one volume and bound with the title ‘glees’ in gold lettering on the spine. Glees were a popular form of part singing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and are well represented elsewhere in the Bridge Memorial Library (see our past exhibition Catches and Glees in the Jerwood Library).

Born in Liverpool, Ellerton was educated at Rugby School and Brasenose College, Oxford, before studying counterpoint with Pietro Terziani in Rome for two years. It seems he had the means to support himself as a composer and published many works at his own expense. His music, whilst not now well known, was generally well received by contemporaries. A critic for the Musical Times described his part-writing as ‘healthy and vigorous’,[1] and the biographer David Baptie described him as ‘an amateur composer of elegant taste and decided ability’.[2] However, it was not always his composing he was remembered for. For Richard Wagner it was Ellerton’s hospitality that was more memorable: in his autobiography Wagner recalled one particularly ‘agreeable’ evening at the end of which Ellerton ‘had to be taken home by two men, one holding each arm, quite as a matter of course, as it was obvious that he would not have got far across the road without this help’.[3]

Ellerton’s manuscript is now on display in the library.

[1] C. Lonsdale, ‘A Set of Twelve Glees by John Lodge Ellerton’, The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, vol. 14, no. 334, supplement (Dec. 1. 1870), p. 716.

[2] David Baptie, Sketches of the English Glee Composers (London: William Reeves, [n.d.]), p. 130.

[3] Richard Wagner, My Life (London: Constable and Co., 1911), pp. 629-630.

C. F. Baumgarten and the Private World of Eighteenth-Century Music Parties

Carl Friedrich Baumgarten (1740-1824) may not be a household name in England these days but in the eighteenth century he was a well-known presence in the drawing rooms of middle and upper-class musical homes. Here at Trinity Laban we hold a set of parts for Baumgarten’s op. 2 quartets for oboe and strings which were written for and performed at private musical gatherings in the home. They have been out of print since their initial publication in 1781 and there are now only a handful of copies in existence.

2ndparttp - Copy

C. F. Baumgarten, Quartettos, op. 2, (London: William Forster, [1781], title page

Born in Lübeck, Germany, Baumgarten came to London in his late teens as organist of the Lutheren Chapel in the Savoy and remained in England for the rest of his life. In addition to playing the organ he occupied the position of leader of the orchestra at Covent Garden for many years. However, as a violinist and composer Baumgarten was also in demand in the more private sphere of the domestic music party. Private music parties were a common feature of musical life in England during the eighteenth century. They were a means, not only of entertainment, but also of promoting contacts for musicians and furthering links with patrons.[1]

Baumgarten’s most significant patron was Prince Henry, the Duke of Cumberland (one of George III’s younger brothers) who held music parties at his lodge in Windsor Great Park. These parties were described by the oboist William Thomas Parke (1761-1847) who was present during a week-long period of such parties in 1789:

Our mornings were passed ad libitum, and the evenings in executing the fine music of Mr. Baumgarten, which had been composed expressly for the Duke. On one of the evenings the Prince of Wales arrived from Brighton to dinner with his royal uncle. After they had dined we performed some of our usual quartets and quintets; and the Prince being afterwards inclined to sing a part in a glee, he selected the one from the opera of ‘The Flitch of Bacon,’ beginning with the words ‘How shall we mortals spend our hours,’ which was sung by his Royal Highness, Mr. Shield, and me.[2]

Having been published in 1781, Baumgarten’s op. 2 quartets were likely to have been among the ‘usual quartets’ played on this occasion. They were dedicated to the Duke and all contain one part to be played by an oboe or german flute. Given the presence of both the dedicatee and an oboist (William Parke) the quartets would have been an obvious choice.

Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland  © Trustees of the British Museum

Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland © Trustees of the British Museum

A few years previously, in 1779, William Parke had proved himself at one of Baumgarten’s own musical parties. These were held occasionally on Sunday evenings and were attended by his friends, apparently as showcases for his compositions. Parke recalled how he fared when asked to stand in for an indisposed clarinettist on his oboe:

Although I had to play a very difficult part in a sestetto at sight, and to transpose it a note lower, I performed my task to the entire satisfaction of the composer and his visitors, amongst whom were Alderman Kirkman, (an amateur oboe player), Sir Thomas Cave, Bart., Mr. Linley, Mr. Sheridan, &c. After supper the company were very entertaining, both ladies and gentlemen contributing to the hilarity of the party according to their respective abilities.[3]

After this event Parke went on to study composition with Baumgarten and in 1783 joined him in the orchestra of Covent Garden as principal oboe. He may well therefore have been the oboist Baumgarten had in mind when he wrote his op. 2 quartets.

Private music parties had much in common with subscription music societies, such as catch and glee clubs, in the eighteenth century. The Chichester catch club, described by the diarist and composer John Marsh (1752-1828), was planned along the following lines:

to meet together for 12 nights on every other Friday […] & amuse ourselves with instrumental music from half past 6 till half past 8, at w’ch time we were to sit down to a supper, consisting only of oysters & Welch rabbits […] & afterwards sing catches, glees, etc. around the fire, whetting our whistles with punch, wine etc. as agreed by the members present.[4]

This description bears a striking similarity to the format of the Duke of Cumberland’s parties with their combination of instrumental music, eating, and part-singing. However, whereas the inclusion of female company and conversation was an important feature of private musical gatherings, the catch club meetings combined music and sociability in an exclusively male, and probably more alcoholic, environment (see our online exhibition Catches and Glees in the Jerwood Library). Other subscription music societies played orchestral rather than chamber music and would include public as well as private evenings, thereby becoming forerunners of the modern orchestral concert.[5]

Baumgarten’s op. 2 quartets have recently been digitized by us in response to an enquiry and copies are available on request for a fee. The Jerwood Library also holds the op. 3 quartets. Both sets are available to study in the library by appointment.

[1] Simon McVeigh, Concert Life in London from Mozart to Haydn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 44-48.

[2] W.T. Parke, Musical Memoirs (London, 1830), pp. 121-122.

[3] Ibid., p. 13.

[4] John Marsh, The Life and Times of a Gentleman Composer, vol. I, rev. ed. (Hillsdale, N.Y.: Pendragon Press, 2011), p. 419.

[5] Stanley Sadie, ‘Concert Life in the Eighteenth Century’, Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 85th Sess., (1958 – 1959), pp. 17-30, (p. 85).

Last Chance to See Catches and Glees Exhibition!

Our current exhibition about catch and glee culture in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries will be running for just ONE MORE WEEK (until March 14th). Do come and have a look if you can. But don’t worry if you can’t make it, the exhibition guide will remain available on our website here.

Highlights include a naughty catch by Purcell (Once, Twice, Thrice I Julia Try’d…) and Thomas Arne’s drinking song Which is the Properest Day to Drink (hmm, let’s think about that, oh yes, ‘each is the properest day I think’).


Thomas Arne, ‘Which is the Properest Day to Drink’ in Apollonian Harmony, vol. II
London : S.A. & P. Thompson, [1795?]

Handel, Suites de Pièces, and a practical test in dating early printed music


It’s not every day that we come across rare early printed music in amongst donations here at Trinity. So when my colleague told me that he’d found an eighteenth century edition of the first volume of Handel’s Suites de Pièces pour le Clavecin, I confess I was a little sceptical. But it was true! In amongst a donation of sheet music from the pianist Alfred Kitchin, there it was (see image). However, as is often the case with early material, dating the edition precisely was quite a challenge.

My first port of call was RISM (vol. A/I/4) which lists something similar: ‘Suites de pieces pour le clavecin … premier volume. – Wright & Co.’ (H 1434). There are only five copies of this, but still, it wasn’t quite right. Our copy has ‘printed by … H. Wright’ in the imprint rather than ‘Wright & Co.’. Not only that but comparison with the University of Michigan’s copy (dated 1786) revealed that there was also a discrepancy in page numbers – 94 pages as against the 67 pages in our copy (and the copy is clearly complete). A quick search on COPAC revealed that the British Library has a copy with the same imprint as ours but with the higher number of pages. They have dated theirs, tentatively, to 1795.

At this point I decided to find out something about the printer H. Wright. Charles Humphries and William Smith’s Music Publishing in the British Isles (1970) gives the following information:

Wright (Hermond) or (Harman). Music printer, music seller and publisher, London; 13 Catherine (or Catharine) Steet, Strand, February, 1785-1801; 386 Strand, 1801-03. Succeeded Wright and Co.; advertised as “Successor to Mr. Walsh”; some time after Wright ceased publishing his entire stock of plates was purchased by Thomas Preston, 97 Strand, London.

So it seems our copy was certainly printed between 1785 and 1801 (when Wright was at Catherine Street) but more probably after 1795 when the British Library copy was produced.

The connection with ‘Mr. Walsh’ in Humphries and Smith’s description is important. This was John Walsh, the publisher of many of Handel’s first editions.  The number 490 in the bottom right hand corner of our copy is the plate number for Walsh’s 1735 edition of the Suites de Pièces. So Wright had reused the title page to make our copy (replacing Walsh’s name with his own), but had he reused the rest of the plates? Happily a copy of the first volume of Walsh’s 1735 edition has been scanned into IMSLP. This has 94 pages, as with the Wright & Co. edition, and the music is printed on four staves per page. Our copy, however, is printed on five staves per page, which accounts for it being shorter, at 67 pages. This means that the music would have had to have been newly engraved, an expensive process at the time, and thus constitutes a new edition.

One final clue to dating our copy was to check for watermarks. Holding it carefully up to the light revealed a date of 1796, which is consistent with what I had already surmised. Of course this date is only a lower boundary as the paper may have been stored for some time before being used for printing. Therefore, we are left with a publication date of between 1796 and 1801.

So far as we have been able to discover, only one other copy of this edition has survived in UK libraries. This is held by the Gerald Coke Handel Collection at the Foundling Museum, where they also have almost every other edition of Handel’s music you could possibly imagine. We have added our copy to the Bridge Memorial Library where we also hold a number of other eighteenth century items, including several other Handel editions printed by John Walsh and his successors. The library is kept in special storage in a closed access area but can be searched via the online catalogue and items are available for research by appointment.