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

Edith’s Choice: 15 years of the Jerwood Library

Display cabinet containing items related to the official opening of the Jerwood Library in 2002 (programme, invitiation, photos and a poem read at the event)

Library display commemorating fifteen years of the Jerwood Library

15 years ago today on 9 January 2002, the official opening of the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts took place, which makes the library officially fifteen years old today. I’ve chosen to highlight this anniversary with a small display in the library this month.

I spoke about the library’s move to Greenwich with Walter Cardew, the only current member of library staff to have worked in both the TCM Library and the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts, and David Butler, who now works in the Jerwood Library but in 2002 was studying for a BMus at Trinity College of Music (now Faculty of Music, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

What was it like moving the whole library to Greenwich?

Walter: When I started here in Nov 2000 we knew the move was coming, and things kicked off in earnest when a new head librarian Rosemary Williamson started in 2001. We visited King Charles Court to see the space the library would be in and got an opportunity to explore the building including the attic spaces and even going out on the roof. Everyone was fascinated by the exposed wooden roof beams. I’ve heard various stories about their origins, including that they were timbers retrieved from sunk Spanish Armada ships, though I’m not sure that holds up to scrutiny…

Rosemary gave me the task of planning how the library stock would be packed and then organised in the new space. I had to plan in great detail and I devised an enormous spreadsheet mapping every single shelf in the old library to a specific shelf in the new library.

How did the new library compare to the old one?

David: Like King Charles Court as a whole, the new library was a lot more accessible for the students than the old one. The old building was a complete rabbit warren and the library was across three floors. The sequence of shelves didn’t feel logical, but the Jerwood Library has the whole collection in one space and all in sequence. I remember the old library having a few computers in the basement which were always busy and not the easiest place to study. I definitely used the library more after the move!

Walter: Because of the three floors staff had to put returned items for shelving in boxes and carry them up and down stairs so we were glad to move to one level. It also made it much easier for students to borrow items and get help from us as we weren’t tucked away on the top floor. The new library had closed stacks for our growing special collections including the Almeida Collection which we’d recently acquired and was a big addition to the library. 

The old buildings in central London were cramped and had been added to piecemeal as the institution grew. There were even some staff offices that could only be accessed from the rest of the site via a rooftop walkway! The move to a single building was unifying and we appreciated having a bit more office space too.

Were you at the official opening?

Walter: Yes, all the library staff were invited. My abiding memory is the actor Timothy West CBE reciting a poem he’d written commemorating Greenwich and the opening, which was very impressive. There was also a commissioned jazz piece performed by Iain Ballamy and others with poetry by Matthew Sweeney.

Representatives from the Jerwood Foundation were there too – the library was renamed the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts when we moved, in honour of the generous grant they made towards setting up the library in Greenwich.

Hawksmoor and Wren, come back
to see your palace now.
Look at its new inside –
this library we are celebrating,
tables where beds were,
the original beams overhead
but with a raised, sunlit ceiling –
all is light now, all light

Excerpt from Black Beams by Matthew Sweeney, commissioned by the Jerwood Foundation for the opening of the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts.

How has the library space changed since 2002?

Walter: The refurbishment was done to a high standard except it turned out no-one had thought about ventilation in the summer months. The library’s skylight windows couldn’t be opened and on a couple of occasions it got so hot we had to close the library completely. Fitting ceiling fans and a remote-controlled mechanism for opening the windows soon fixed that, to everyone’s relief.

David: The computers have shrunk in size and the shelves have filled up quickly! There were lots left empty when the library first opened but now there’s not a lot of free space and we’re squeezing in more shelving wherever we can…

Animated gif showing installation of new shelving in the Jerwood Library, summer 2014

New shelving being installed in the library in summer 2014

Thanks to both Walter and David for sharing their memories of the Jerwood Library’s first year with us.

A display is in the small cabinet in the library showing the programme from the official opening, Timothy West’s poem Ode to Greenwich and other related materials from the TCM Archive, housed at the Jerwood Library.

We’re delighted to have served the students and staff of the Faculty of Music for the last fifteen years and look forward to many more!

Claire’s Choice: on an autumnal theme!

conkers

As the mornings grow colder and squirrels are to be seen hoarding conkers for the winter, what better for “Claire’s Choice” than to highlight two songs in the Jerwood Library collection celebrating the venerable chestnut tree.

village-blacksmith

 

Written in 1840 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poem The Village Blacksmith was set to music in 1854 by the English composer and celebrated bass singer Willoughby Weiss. It starts “Under a spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands…” and continues to describe the blacksmith’s daily life. Weiss offered the copyright of the work to a firm of publishers for the sum of 5 pounds, but when his offer was turned down, he decided to publish it on his own account. As luck would have it, it went on to become a hugely popular Victorian parlour song, earning him and his family a considerable income!

 

Moving forward into the 20th century, the second song The Chestnut Tree, with words and music by Jimmy Kennedy, Tommie Connor and Hamilton Kennedy, was composed in 1938. This popular novelty song was also inspired by Longfellow’s The Village Blacksmith. However rather than focussing on the virtuous, hard-working, church-going, qualities of the blacksmith, it centres on the blacksmith’s daughter and “the spreading chestnut tree”, the goings-on under which certainly didn’t appear in Longfellow’s poem!

But this was only one aspect of the song. In fact, the writers had been specifically commissioned to come up with something that was going to take dance halls by storm. Indeed the inspiration behind selecting The Village Blacksmith as inspiration came from a photograph of King George VI at a boy scout jamboree in which his, and all the scouts’, hands were held to their heads. Further research unearthed that this was part of a performance in which the scouts recited The Village Blacksmith. With assistance from Adele England (who had choreographed The Lambeth Walk) they devised some steps to go with their song, which are illustrated in the printed edition. It became a huge hit, selling over 10,000 copies per day.

This edition comes from the Jerwood Library’s Rita Williams popular song collection. Rita Williams sang with the Billy Cotton Club, among other groups, and was an avid collector of popular songs. The overall collection comprises some 3000 individual songs dating from Victorian times to the 1970s. It is handlisted here. Do get in touch with us if you’d like to see any other hidden gems in the collection.

Items from the Jerwood library collection:

Weiss, W.H. “The Village Blacksmith”. In The Songs of England, volume 1, edited by J.L. Hatton, 245-249. London: Boosey & Co, 1910

Kennedy, Jimmy, Tommie Connor and Hamilton Kenny, The Chestnut Tree. London: Peter Maurice Music Co, 1938

James’ Choice: Antonio de Almeida’s score of Iannis Xenakis’ Metastasis

a photograph of Antonio de Almeida's copy of Xenakis' Metastasis

Antonio de Almeida’s markings on Xenakis’ Metastasis

This month the library item I’ve decided to highlight is the score for Iannis Xenakis’ (1922-2001) Metastasis from the printed music collection of the conductor Antonio de Almeida (1928-1997), complete with his performance markings. There are a number of reasons for my choice. As well as being a landmark piece of twentieth-century modernism, it’s a visually-striking score on account of its size and intricacy. Moreover, Antonio de Almeida’s pencil markings are a fascinating insight into the practical considerations required for performing a piece like this. It’s also an excellent example of Xenakis’ unique approach to composition, and one with a very explicit connection to his work as an architect.

score

Written in 1953-4, and premiered at the Donaueschingen Festival in 1955, Metastasis is Xenakis’ first major work after the completion of his studies with Olivier Messiaen. In this piece, Xenakis lays down the foundation for many of the approaches and attitudes to music composition that were to occupy him for the rest of his career. The work combines an idiosyncratic system for controlling pitch material and an approach to sound best described when he says ‘the sonorities of the orchestra are building materials, like brick, stone and wood […] The subtle structures of orchestral sound masses represent a reality that promises much’.[1] In this piece, each orchestral player has a separate part, and Xenakis combines, on the one hand, the continuous evolution of enormous glissando structures and, on the other, the discontinuous permutation of pitches.

 ‘I was interested in two things in those years. One: I wanted to write a kind of dodecaphonic music with the help of computation – a music whose macroform emerges from a few basic principles. In Metastasis I made computations based on the permutations of intervals, with the help of the axiomatic approach known in mathematics.

Two: I was interested in the continuous changes of chords. […] How to make that change a continuous one? So long as one remains in the same scale, the only solution is a glissando. […] That was the basic idea.’[2]

 

Metastasis is also the first work in which Xenakis’ compositional planning for the piece involved using a two-dimensional projection. Here, time is on the x-axis and pitch on the y-axis, and ruled straight-line paths are bent into curved surfaces.

Composition sketch for Xenakis metastasis showing the basis for the hyperbolic paraboloids of the Philips Pavillion

Image scanned from Bálint András Varga, Conversations with Iannis Xenakis, (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), 74

Xenakis also employed this technique in later compositions (such as Stratégie and Syrmos), but it’s particularly fascinating how it was also translated directly into his work as an architect. The connection is immediately obvious with how these curves built from multiple straight-line paths (hyperbolic paraboloids) were incorporated into the distinctive shape of his design for the Philips Pavilion for the 1958 Brussels Exposition Universelle, built during his time working in the office of Le Corbusier. Incidentally, the pavillion had another connection to musical modernism in that it formed the setting for performances of Edgard Varèse’s Poème électronique.[3]

expo again

Image by Wouter Hagens, accessed from http://www.archdaily.com/157658/ad-classics-expo-58-philips-pavilion-le-corbusier-and-iannis-xenakis, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

The score on display was plucked from the personal printed music library of Antonio de Almeida, housed in the Jerwood Library’s special collections. Consisting of 5,456 volumes, including scores acquired by him from the collections of Charles Munch and Pierre Monteux, it’s a wide-ranging collection, reflecting his own diverse musical interests. Alongside the Xenakis score, the collection ranges from other leading lights of twentieth-century modernism, via more mainstream orchestral repertoire of the 19th and 18th century, to composers such as Carlos Chavez, André Grétry, Howard Hanson, Hans Pfitzner and Henri Serpette. Not to mention works by Offenbach and Boccherini, in whom de Almeida had a particular interest. Described by Grove as ‘a conductor of elegance and fastidious detail’, he was also awarded the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Légion d’Honneur.[4]

 


 

[1] Iannis Xenakis quoted in Peter Hoffmann, ‘Xenakis, Iannis’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/30654&gt; (Accessed August 25th, 2016)

[2] Iannis Xenakis quoted in Bálint András Varga, Conversations with Iannis Xenakis, (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), 72.

[3] Peter Hoffmann, ‘Xenakis, Iannis’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/30654&gt; (Accessed August 25th, 2016)

[4] Noël Goodwin, ‘Almeida, Antonio (Jacques) de’ in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/00643&gt; (Accessed August 23rd, 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trinity College of Music Archive Online

Following many months of dust, sweat, and toil, we are pleased to announce that the archive of the former Trinity College of Music (TCM) has been catalogued online and is now fully accessible to researchers for the first time. Thanks to special funding from Trinity Laban and former principal Derek Aviss, we had six months to sort out a lot of boxes…

20150724_16082820150724_16081020150724_16081920150724_160832

These boxes were all held in storage, unlisted, and were therefore inaccessible to researchers. We appraised and arranged all the records in a sensible order before describing them on the Archives Hub. Finally, everything was moved into the library’s closed-access storage area, and re-housed in nice new boxes…

20160825_112727_resized20160825_112745_resized

The archive covers the period from the foundation of the college in 1872 to 2005 (when TCM merged with the Laban Dance Centre). Records relating to the administration of local examinations and diplomas are included up until 1992 when Trinity College London was established as a separate company. Materials include minutes of meetings, student records, calendars and prospectuses, photographs, concert programmes, and much more…

20160825_16234620160825_15374820160825_162459 (2)Concert programmes re-housed in archival-standard enclosures

Anyone is welcome to view material from the archive, but please bear in mind that some records are closed in accordance with legal requirements. Please contact us in advance of your visit to make an appointment.

Item of the Month: Stanley Black’s film music for “The Young Ones” starring Cliff Richard

20160805_114218This summer’s Item of the Month features items from our Stanley Black archive relating to his music for the Cliff Richard film The Young Ones for which he wrote the music.

A pianist, conductor, composer and arranger, Stanley Black was known primarily for his many film music scores, his jazz and popular music arrangements and his work for the BBC as conductor and presenter of light music programmes. This collection comprises hundreds of autograph manuscript scores as well as ephemeral material including concert programmes, correspondence, contracts and photographs. The majority of the scores are listed separately on the library’s online catalogue – to browse a list of them, choose Stanley Black collection from the source option.

His filmography includes:

It Always Rains on Sunday (1948)
Too Many Crooks (1958)
Make Mine a Million (1959)
Jack the Ripper (1959)
The Battle of the Sexes (1959)
Hand in Hand (1960)
The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)
Sands of the Desert (1960)
The Siege of Sidney Street (1960)
House of Mystery (1961)
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
Valentino (1977)

The image above shows a close up of part of the score for reel “5M1” of The Young Ones. The scores give a fascinating glimpse of the working practices involved in producing film music: notice the penciled-in remark concerning the violin solo – possibly made by an arranger or sound engineer.

Wind, Brass and Percussion Music in Special Collections

Today we have a post aimed at encouraging wind, brass and percussion players to make more of our special collections. Whilst it’s true that much of the collections comprise voice and string-based repertoire, this is by no means exclusively the case. So, here are some choice picks to help you explore further (NB non-WBP players may also find something of interest here!).

Printed music

The Bridge Memorial Library (the historic library of the former Trinity College of Music) is full of rare and unusual printed music from the classical and romantic periods.

Reissiger

Carl Reissiger’s Vier Gesänge for soprano, horn and piano 780.3 REI

Of relevance here, there are several out-of-print works of chamber music involving wind or brass instruments. For instance, we have a set of quartets by C. F. Baumgarten for oboe and strings – we featured them a few years ago in this blog post here. Then there is Henri Brod’s Cinquième Fantaisie for piano, oboe and bassoon. Or how about Reissiger’s Vier Gesänge for soprano, horn and piano.

bound volume

Nineteenth-century volume of clarinet trios including Heinrich Lannoy, Grosses Trio für Pianoforte, Clarinett und Violoncello 782.7029 LAN

Clarinettists may want to delve into this volume of trios, originally for various different instrument combinations but bound together clearly with the intention of being played by a clarinet trio. It even includes some manuscript arrangements for the clarinet part – a great insight into nineteenth-century performance practice.

We also hold first or early editions of better-known works, useful for comparing with performance directions in later editions. For instance, see this 1820s edition of Spohr’s Octet.

Manuscript music

As well as rare printed music we also hold many unique manuscript scores of works written for wind, brass or percussion instruments.

Several of these can be found in our Carey Blyton collection which came to us in 2006. Blyton was a former TL student and professor, and a prolific composer. Relevant items include a brass quintet, woodwind trio and song cycle for voice, clarinet, horn and piano.

Another manuscript by one of our former composition professors is Arnold Cooke’s autograph score of Divertimento for flute, oboe, violin, cello and piano (or harpsichord). Cooke taught at the conservatoire between 1947 and 1978.

Lastly, so as not to neglect our percussionists, there are the three autograph manuscript scores by Simon Bainbridge, David Bedford, and John Woolrich which together comprise Songs, Sketches and Tall Stories, a work for narrator, clarinet, piano and percussion. This was composed for a schools music theatre project at Blackheath Concert Halls (now owned by Trinity Laban) in March 1989.

Accessing the collections

If you’d like to discover more, all our special collections are described here on our website. And many collections are catalogued at item level on our catalogue.

When you’ve found something you’d like to see, please contact us to make an appointment so we can have the material ready for you. Our special collections are available to all researchers, whether members of Trinity Laban or not. Please note that copies can only be made in compliance with copyright law – we can advise on specific items.

Vivian Joseph Centenary

Today we celebrate the centenary of Vivian Joseph (1916-2005), cellist and former professor at Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music).

TCM 12.7.1 Vivian Joseph 1934

Vivian Joseph in 1934. TCM Archive.

Born in Wales, Vivian Joseph took up the cello aged seven after hearing Lauri Kennedy play. He was soon hailed as a child prodigy, winning numerous awards at competitive festivals. A prize-winning studentship at the Royal Academy of Music followed, and in the late 1930s Joseph gave several critically-acclaimed recitals at the Wigmore Hall.

Master Joseph [12], not only carried off the prize for ‘cello playing in his own class … but also in the class for competitors under seventeen, and the senior class. [1]

During the Second World War Joseph enlisted in the army. He rose to become 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Ulster Rifles before being wounded in action in North Africa in 1944.

1944 on crutches

Vivian Joseph in uniform and on crutches after being wounded in action [1944]. TCM Archive.

After a lengthy rehabilitation, Joseph resumed his performing career, becoming a noted chamber musician. Among other groups, he was a member of the London Piano Quartet, the Park Lane Ensemble, and the Dumka Piano Trio. With the London String Trio he gave the European première of Schoenberg’s String Trio (the first performance was at Harvard, Massachusetts).

From 1953 Joseph taught cello and chamber music at Trinity College of Music and was awarded an honorary fellowship in 1965. In 1997 he generously funded a series of prizes to be awarded to college string students.[2] He also taught at the Royal Academy of Music. Joseph died in 2005 and his obituary was published in the Guardian.

In the archives we hold a file relating to Vivian Joseph which includes photographs, a scrapbook and concert programmes. Please get in touch if you would like to see the material.

[1] ‘Boy Prodigies’, Nottingham Evening Post, 11 April 1929.

[2] Trinity College of Music, Magazine, Autumn 1997, p. 8 and supplement.

Item of the month: Autograph Manuscript of ‘Fragment for Harold Rutland’ by Sorabji

IMG_0539March’s item of the month is the autograph manuscripts of Fragment for Harold Rutland by Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988). Sorabji was a composer, pianist and music critic best known for his enormously long and complex piano works such as Opus Clavicembalisticum (1929-30), which lasts over four hours. The Fragment for Harold Rutland, however, is his shortest piano work and exists in three versions – 1926, 1928 & 1937. On display now are the autograph manuscripts for the 1926 & 1928 versions of the piece.

Sorabji was, in many ways, an outsider. Being born in England in 1892, his homosexuality and Parsi-heritage made him so, as did his self-described ‘mania for privacy’, his many anti-establishment views, and his private musical training. His financial independence also meant that he could ignore any requirements for his music or writing to provide him with an income.

It was in the 1920s that he began to distance his music from ordinary listeners and performers and many of the qualities that are instantly apparent in the Fragment came to the fore. In his piano music he used three or four staves, and sometimes up to seven. His compositions became much more intricately detailed, more fluid in rhythm and a-symmetrical in phrasing, used highly complex counterpoint and harmony, and made great demands of virtuosity and stamina as his works extended to often extraordinary lengths.[1]

Sorabji has written on the cover ‘Harold’s copy – bless his heart and fingers!’

Harold Rutland joined Trinity College of Music in 1957 as a lecturer and examiner, and is also author of the book Trinity College of Music: The First Hundred Years. (783.07 RUT). He was a staunch champion of Sorabji’s music, describing him as ‘one of the very few I would unhesitatingly describe as a genius[…] I will only add that I have always felt honoured by your friendship, and not a little unworthy of it; indeterminate dabbler that I am.’[2]

It was Rutland that gave the first performance of the work at Aeolian Hall in London on 12 October 1927. The occasion was later described by Eric Blom from the Manchester Guardian as…

received with a mixture of derision, indignation, and bewilderment that was perfectly understandable and probably flattering to the composer. It is music that simply will not fit in with any European standards, but neither does it belong to the Orient, which hugs its artistic conventions much more closely than the West. Exotic it certainly is, but its outlandishness is of the spirit and has nothing to do with any terrestrial homesickness. The composer is simply a seeker after an idiom of his own, and one knows from rare hearings of one or two of his works that he is passionately sincere in his quest. It is due to this absolute earnestness that at the second hearing the ‘fragment’ already seemed much clearer than at the first. Even those who intensely dislike this music should thus in the end come at least to respect its fearless attitude.[3]

In addition to the fragment, Sorabji dedicated to Rutland two other piano works: Un nido di scatole (1954) and the Fourth Symphony for Piano Alone (1962-64). The Jerwood Library also has the handwritten dedication to the latter from Sorabji to Rutland saying:

To Harold Rutland, whose independence of mind, admirable freedom from spiritual and moral besotment by contemporary fashions of musical haberdashery, deserves all the affection and respect of his friends among whom I rejoice to subscribe myself. K.S.S


[1] Paul Rapoport and Marc-André Roberge. “Sorabji, Kaikhosru Shapurji.” Grove Music Online.Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed February 29, 2016,http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/26247.

[2] Letter from Harold Rutland to Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, dated London, 24 January 1954.

[3] Blom, Eric, ‘London Recitals’, The Manchester Guardian, 13 October 1927: 6

Performing Special Collections: Jerwood Library Catch and Glee Club

Last Friday, after closing up, we transformed the library from a quiet research space into a lively performance venue. This was the culmination of our first ever CoLab venture where we devised, led and hosted a project based on music in our special collections.

CoLab

Jerwood Library Catch and Glee Club: (L-R) Anna Chan, Bryony Purdue, Hannah Lee, Emily Harwood, Andrew Woodmansey, Peter Knapp

The idea for the project came about a few years ago when special collections librarian Emma Greenwood curated an exhibition about our unusual and extensive collection of catches and glees. Hoping to generate more interest in the repertoire through the CoLab festival, she then approached vocal professor Peter Knapp who kindly agreed to act as co-mentor. Together, they created a project which would not only see some of these little-known works performed but also encourage students to research and present the material themselves – all vital skills for the 21st-century musician. Sessions would be split between research in the library mentored by Emma and rehearsals mentored by Peter.

Basildon Catch for three ladies - Copy

One of the works performed by the Jerwood Library Catch and Glee Club: John Basildon’s Catch for Three Ladies from The Ladies Collection of Catches, Glees, Canzonets, Madrigals, &c. [c.1800]

The six singers who signed up for the project now had a real challenge on their hands: in just two weeks they had to go from having barely heard of catches and glees to choosing repertoire, researching its context, learning the music, and presenting the final performance. And all this while reading from out-of-print early editions with their unfamiliar notation, clefs and typography. Needless to say, everyone rose to the challenge and the end result was a fantastic success. Our audience clearly enjoyed the performance and the students agreed it had been a valuable experience. So, we’d like to say a huge thank you to all involved: singers Andrew Woodmansey, Bryony Purdue, Dominic Eatwell, Emily Harwood, Hannah Lee and Anna Chan, and mentors Peter Knapp and Emma Greenwood.

Now, what about CoLab 2017? If there are any Trinity Laban professors out there interested in working with library staff and collections on a similar project, do get in touch. We’d love to hear your ideas!