Newly Digitized Manuscript: Peter von Winter, Fratelli Rivali, Act I

September 12th, 2013

Peter von Winter (1754-1825), violinist, conductor, and composer, began writing music for the stage in the early 1780s; his initial foray into opera came at Munich’s Nationaltheater in 1782. Even after his appointment to positions in the electoral court (as assistant Kapellmeister in 1787, and Kapellmeister in 1798), he continued to supply works for Munich’s stages and maintained a second, peripatetic career in the theatre, taking multiple, years-long leaves in the 1790s and 1800s to compose for opera houses around Europe. The products of these journeys included well-reviewed opere seria for London, tepidly-recieved tragédies lyriques for Paris, a Singspiel sequel to Die Zauberflöte (Das Labyrinth oder Der Kampf mit den Elementen, Vienna, 1798), and works fusing multiple styles, like his greatest success, Das unterbrochene Opferfest (Vienna, 1796).1

Peter von Winter, "Qual diletto in sen m'inonda," Fratelli Rivali, seq. 103-104. Merritt Room Mus 867.3.602 (click to enlarge)

Peter von Winter, “Qual diletto in sen m’inonda,” Fratelli Rivali, seq. 103-104. Merritt Room Mus 867.3.602 (click to enlarge)

  • [Fratelli rivali. Act 1]. I fratelli rivali / musica [di?] sigr Pietro Winter. L’autunno 1793. Merritt Mus 867.3.602

Between 1791 and 1794, Winter’s travels took him to Naples and Venice, where he supplied works for performances at San Carlo and San Benedetto. This working manuscript of the first act of Peter von Winter’s I Fratelli Rivali was likely prepared for the opera’s premiere at Venice’s San Benedetto in November, 1793. The score not only shows evidence of extensive revisions to both text and music, but also contains some of the annotations – such as stage directions – necessary for its production.

Peter von Winter, "Amor in questo secolo," Fratelli Rivali, seq. 58. Merritt Room Mus 867.3.602 (click to enlarge)

Peter von Winter, “Amor in questo secolo,” Fratelli Rivali, seq. 58. Merritt Room Mus 867.3.602 (click to enlarge)

The manuscript is written in multiple hands, including that of Winter and at least one copyist. Although their handwriting is fairly similar, it seems likely that the copyist was responsible for transcribing most of the music and text, including clefs, key signatures, and much of the instrumentation. Some of the arias, including Silvio’s cavatina “Qual diletto in sen mi’nonda,” do appear to be primarily in Winter’s hand. This is unquestionably still a working draft of the score: small corrections to the music are visible throughout, while at the close of Dorinda’s aria “Amor in questo secolo,” Winter’s completion of the instrumental parts spills past the copyist’s vocal line and the printed staves, reaching into the margin and nearly to the edge of the page.

Peter von Winter, Scenes 3 and 4, Fratelli Rivali, seq. 49. Merritt Room Mus 867.3.602 (click to enlarge)

Peter von Winter, Scenes 3 and 4, Fratelli Rivali, seq. 49. Merritt Room Mus 867.3.602 (click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, in contrast to the compressed, delicate, even scratchy notation of the vocal numbers – written in several different inks now varying in color from black or brown to a faded grey – the recitatives are uniformly set down in a much looser hand, written with a broader pen nib and the same shade of ink (and on pages much more frequently splattered with water, paint, or ink wash). Whether this implies that they were all added to this draft at close to the same time is a question for further investigation.

With its clear picture of a work still very much in progress, this manuscript offers an intriguing look at the business of creating opera for the late-18th century stage.

-Kerry Masteller

1. Abert, Anna Amalie and Paul Corneilson. “Winter, Peter,” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, Web. 11 Sep. 2013. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.ezp-pro… (Harvard access).

Tyler, Linda. “Winter, Peter,” The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Ed. Stanley Sadie. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 11 Sep. 2013. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.ezp-pro… (Harvard access).


Newly Digitized: Massenet’s Werther, for baritone

August 28th, 2013

Jules Massenet completed his opera based on Goethe’s novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthersin 1887; its first performance – sung in German – occurred at Vienna’s Hofoper on February 16, 1892, after Léon Carvalho, director of the Opéra-Comique, rejected the work on grounds that its somber subject matter was unsuitable for his audiences.

Jules Massenet, "Pourquoi me reveiller," Werther, pg. 176-177. Merritt Room Mus 742.14.640.5

Jules Massenet, “Pourquoi me réveiller,” Werther, pg. 176-177. Merritt Room Mus 742.14.640.5 (click to enlarge)

  • [Werther. Vocal score]. Werther: drame lyrique en quatre actes et cinq tableaux d’après Goethe; poème de M.M. Edouard Blau, Paul Milliet et Georges Hartmann; musique de J. Massenet; partition piano et chant. Paris : Heugel & Cie, [1893], c1892. Merritt Room Mus 742.14.640.5
Portrait de M. Vanni-Marcoux de l'Opéra : [photographie de presse] / Agence Mondial
Portrait de M. Vanni-Marcoux de l’Opéra : [photographie de presse] / Agence Mondial
Source: gallica.bnf.fr

The present score belonged to baritone Vanni-Marcoux (Jean Émile Diogène Marcoux, 1877-1962). He was a dominant figure in Parisian musical life following the First World War, celebrated for his performances as Massenet’s Don Quichotte. Vanni-Marcoux’s score presents the role of Werther re-written for baritone, a project that Massenet undertook in 1902 for the Italian baritone Mattia Battistini (1856-1928), who sang the role on various European stages from 1901 to 1911 (most often in Italian, but occasionally in French). Shown here is the scene from Act 3 between Charlotte and Werther leading up to the celebrated aria “Pourquoi me réveiller.”

-Robert Dennis


Newly Digitized: 1805 Mozart Thematic Catalogue

August 15th, 2013

Included in the bulk lot of autograph manuscripts Johan Anton André purchased from Mozart’s widow Constanze in 1799 was Mozart’s Verzeichnüss aller meiner Werke, a thematic catalogue of works composed between February of 1784 and November of 1791 (now held by the British Library, and published online with extensive notes in their Digitised Manuscripts collection).1

Creating a published record of Mozart’s works was a priority for both Constanze and André; and soon after acquiring the manuscripts, André used the Verzeichnüss as the basis for a thematic catalogue published in two editions (1805 and 1828).

Thematisches Verzeichniss sämmtlicher Kompositionen von W.A. Mozart, pg.50-51 (Dec. 1789-June 1790). Merritt Room ML134.M9 A23

Thematisches Verzeichniss sämmtlicher Kompositionen von W.A. Mozart, pg.50-51 (Dec. 1789-June 1790). Merritt Room ML134.M9 A23 (click to enlarge)

This 1805 first edition – the earliest surviving lithographed book – reproduces the format and order of Mozart’s catalogue, while paraphrasing Mozart’s descriptions in German and French. On the verso of each opening, the compositions (usually five per page) are listed by date, title, and instrumentation, while the corresponding musical incipits appear on the recto.

The 1828 second edition, in German, transcribes Mozart’s descriptions of each piece. Both correct a mistake in the manuscript and number the works 1-145.

While the task of compiling a complete thematic catalogue occupied André for over 30 years, it remained unpublished at his death in 1842, although it survives in manuscript. Nonetheless, his work studying and publishing Mozart’s works remains important to later editors and scholars.

-Kerry Masteller

1. Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Verzeichnüss aller meiner Werke vom Monath febrario 1784 bis Monath [November] 1[791]. British Library, Zweig MS 63, http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Zweig_MS_63.

2. André, Johan Anton. W. A. Mozart’s thematischer Catalog: wie er solchen vom 9. Februar 1784 bis zum 15. November 1791 eigenhändig geschrieben hat nebst einem erläuternden Vorbericht (Offenbach: André, 1828), http://reader.digitale-sammlungen.de/en/fs1/object/display/bsb10598863_00001.html.


Newly Digitized: Cherubini and von Winter

July 24th, 2013

In this overview of recently digitized materials, we add vocal scores by Luigi Cherubini and Peter von Winter to the works already in our collection of Digital Scores and Libretti. They belong to the Ruth Neils and John M. Ward Collection of Opera Scores, a set of over 8000 scores begun by the conductor Jean-Marie Martin, expanded by collector and book dealer Bernard Peyrotte, and now held at the Music Library and the Harvard Theatre Collection1.

Luigi Cherubini, 1760-1842

Whether the peril is an avalanche (Eliza), an importunate lover-turned-kidnapper (Faniska), a burning castle (Lodoïska AND Faniska), or the smaller spectacles of simple human jealousy and ambition, Cherubini can be relied upon for operas full of high drama. See our earlier digitization posts for links to other editions of these operas (both full and vocal scores), as well as a number of others.

Luigi Cherubini, Overture, Faniska. Merritt Room Mus 637.1.618.5

Luigi Cherubini, Overture, Faniska. Merritt Room Mus 637.1.618.5

  • [Deux journées. Vocal score. German & French]. Les Deux journées = Der Wasserträger: auch unter den namen, Graf Armand, oder Die beiden gefahrvollen Tage: ein Singspiel in drey Aufzügen / von Cherubini; Klavierauszug. Neue Ausgabe. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, [1818?]. Merritt Room Mus 637.1.618.5
  • [Faniska. Vocal score. German & Italian]. Faniska: (italienisch und deutsch): eine Oper in drei Akten / von Cherubini; im Klavierauszug von Bierey. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, [1806?]. RISM A/I, CC 2028,I,234. Merritt Room Mus 637.1.618.5

Peter von Winter, 1754-1825
One of four operas that Peter von Winter, Munich’s Kapellmeister, wrote for the King’s Theatre during his stay in London from 1803-1805. Unlike the tragédies lyriques Winter composed for Paris, these works, all with libretti by Da Ponte, were considered successes. Grotta di Calipso was revived in Munich in 1807, as Calypso, and received a lengthy review in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung.2

Peter von Winter, Title page, Grotta di Calipso. Merritt Room Mus 637.1.618.5

Peter von Winter, Title page, Grotta di Calipso. Merritt Room Mus 637.1.618.5

  • [Grotta di Calipso. Vocal score. German & Italian]. Calipso: dramma per musica in due atti = Calypso / dal Sigr. P. Winter; im Klavierauszuge vom Musikdir. M.G. Fischer. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, [1809?].
    RISM A/I, W 1296. Merritt Room Mus 637.1.618.5

-Kerry Masteller

1. The collection includes scores in both the Loeb Music Library and the Harvard Theatre Collection. HOLLIS search results for catalogued scores in each library: Ruth Neils and John M. Ward Collection of Opera Scores (Loeb Music Library) and John Milton and Ruth Neils Ward Collection (Harvard Theatre Collection). Many thanks to Andrea Cawelti and Christina Linklater, for their help in constructing the correct search for scores from the Harvard Theatre Collection.

2. [Review], Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 9 (1 January 1807): 560-563, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433069052367?urlappend=%3Bseq=299.


Newly Digitized: Girolamo Crescentini, Sei cantate e diciotto ariette

July 10th, 2013

A fixture of operatic and concert stages at the turn of the nineteenth century, the castrato Girolamo Crescentini (1762-1846) was particularly known for his showpiece aria “Ombra adorata aspetta,” which he inserted in Nicola Zingarelli’s Giulietta e Romeo (1796).1

By the time he published the collection Sei cantata e diciotto arietta, Crescentini had been retired from the stage for nearly a decade, after six years (1806-1812) spent at Napoleon’s court as a performer and teacher. When he returned to Bologna in 1813, he took a position at the recently-founded Liceo Filarmonico – today the Conservatorio di Musica G.B. Martini – before moving to a similar position in Naples.2 There, his pupils included Isabella Colbran, and his vocal exercises and treatises remained influential throughout the century with proponents of bel canto. A brief sketch of his career in the Musical World calls him “the Nestor and prince of song.”3

Girolamo Crescentini, Il Sogno. Merritt Room Mus 641.369.601

Girolamo Crescentini, Il Sogno. Merritt Room Mus 641.369.601

  • [Cantatas. Selections]. Sei cantate e diciotto ariette a voce sola con accompagnamento di forte-piano / composte dal Cav: Girolamo Crescentini. 1 ms. score (18 leaves). Merritt Room Mus 641.369.601

This manuscript contains the first two of six cantatas in the set, Il Sogno and Il Primo Amore.

Susan Euphemia Douglas-Hamilton (née Beckford), Duchess of Hamilton by Henry Cousins, after Willis (Willes) Maddox. NPG D35287
Susan Euphemia Douglas-Hamilton (née Beckford), Duchess of Hamilton.
Mezzotint, ca. 1850, by Henry Cousins, after Willis (Willes) Maddox.
NPG D35287, Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Like the published edition, the title page (written in a different hand, on different paper) includes a dedication to the Duchess of Hamilton and Brandon, Susan Euphemia Beckford, who had assumed the title in 1819. A well-known and wealthy patroness, she had been made an honorary member of Bologna’s Accademia Filarmonica, most likely in 1821. Her personal effects, now in the collections at Lennoxlove, include her honorary diploma, as well as a Pleyel piano given to her by her father in 1828 (possibly used during Chopin’s visit to Hamilton Palace in 1848).4

Find a number of other manuscript scores, treatises and early editions, and images of Crescentini in Europeana. And don’t forget, you can browse many other scores in our special collection of Digital Scores and Libretti.

-Kerry Masteller

1. A vocal score of the aria, digitized by Houghton Library: Ombra adorato aspetta : scena in the opera of Giulietta e Romeo : expressly composed for Sigr. Chevalier Crescentini / by Sigr. Zingarelli. London : Published by Monro & May, 11 Holborn Bars (near Middle Row), [183-?]. Theatre Collection M1508.Z77 G5 1830. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FHCL.HOUGH:5360910.

2. Sartori, Claudio. Il Regio Conservatorio di Musica “G. B. Martini” de Bologna (Firenze: Felice le Monnier, 1942), 118-119. http://hollis.harvard.edu/?itemid=|library/m/aleph|000438640 (HOLLIS record).

3. “The Great Singing-Masters of Italy,” The Musical World 7 (1 December, 1837): 177, http://books.google.com/books?id=EgkVAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA177#v=onepage.

See also “Biographische Notizen ausgezeichnetster italienischer Gesanglehrer der neuern und neuesten Zeit,” Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 39 (20 September 1837): 613-617, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.l0067816280?urlappend=%3Bseq=353.

4. Virtual Hamilton Palace Trust, “Hamilton Palace: Treasures of the Palace,” http://hamilton.rcahms.gov.uk/treasures57.html.

The collection also contains Willes Maddox’s 1852 portrait of the duchess at her piano: Susan Euphemia Beckford, Duchess of Hamilton, Wife of Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton.


Newly Digitized: George Onslow, quartets

June 26th, 2013

Despite popularity and public acclaim during his lifetime, the wealthy Anglo-French composer George Onslow (1784-1853) may be best known today – when he’s remembered at all – either as the “French Beethoven,” or for the event commemorated by his string quintet op. 38, “De la balle” (“The Bullet”), completed in 1829 during his recovery from a hunting accident.

Georges Onslow / H. Grévedon
Georges Onslow / H. Grévedon
Source: gallica.bnf.fr

To an extent, his sobriquet is clever advertising: an 1830 notice for the quartets and quintets by his publisher Pleyel proclaims Onslow “notre Beethoven français” in the same sentence that it points out to prospective buyers the quality of the paper and engraving, the portrait frontispiece by the artist and lithographer Grévedon, and the published list of subscribers.1 Whoever first coined the phrase, it stuck, despite Onslow’s uneasy engagement with Beethoven’s late style in print and in the chamber music he composed in the 1830s and early 1840s.2

The three sets of parts digitized here, however, date from over a decade earlier in his career, in the mid-1810s and early 1820s, during his first flurry of compositions for string quartet: nos. 1-12 were composed between 1807-1816, and nos. 13-15 in 1822-1823. Note the metronome indications in nos. 12 and 15; Johann Nepomuk Maelzel had patented his version of the device in 1815, and assiduously promoted its use, going so far as to send samples to composers around Europe.3

George Onslow, String quartet no. 12 (op. 10, no. 3), Merritt Room Mus 767.795.323.7

George Onslow, String quartet no. 12 (op. 10, no. 3). Merritt Room Mus 767.795.323.7

With one exception (the quartets nos. 16-18, composed in 1828), Onslow did not return to the form until the 1830s – after his encounter with Beethoven’s late style – when he composed a second sequence of quartets, nos. 19-36. These and others can be viewed in the collections of the Danish National Digital Sheet Music Archive: Georges Onslow (1784-1853): String quartets, quintets and other chamber music.

-Kerry Masteller

1. “Souscription A la Collection complète des Quintetti et Quatuors de George Onslow,” Revue musicale 8 (1830): 282-283, http://archive.org/stream/revuemusicale18308pari#page/282/mode/2up.

2. On Onslow and Beethoven, see Viviane Niaux, “George Onslow: le ‘Beethoven français’?” Les sources du romantisme français : à la croisée des influences italiennes et germaniques (1780-1830) (Venise: Italie, 2009), 1-18, http://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00510733.

3. Maetzel, Johann Nepomuk, letter to Breitkopf & Härtel, 8 April 1817. Quoted in Günther Haupt, “J. R. Mälzels Briefe an Breitkopf & Härtel,” Der Bär: Jahrbuch von Breitkopf & Härtel auf das jahr 1927: 130. http://hollis.harvard.edu/?itemid=|library/m/aleph|006744519 (HOLLIS record).


Your voices tune, and raise them high…

June 11th, 2013

While it is a cliché of blogging to apologize for one’s long absence while quietly rejoining the online conversation, nevertheless: apologies! We’re back, with quite a backlog of recently (and not-so-recently) digitized items to tell you about. Let’s begin with some Handel by way of Mozart, shall we?

Title page, Timotheus, oder, die Gewalt der Musik. Merritt Room ML54.H36 A4 1791

Title page, Timotheus, oder, die Gewalt der Musik. Merritt Room ML54.H36 A4 1791

Handel, George Frideric, 1685-1759. [Alexander’s feast. Libretto. German]
Timotheus, oder, die Gewalt der Musik : eine grosse Cantate / aus dem Englischen des Dryden übersetzt von Carl Wilhelm Ramler ; in Musik gesetzt von G.F. Händel ; instrumentirt von W.A. Mozart.
Merritt Room ML54.H36 A4 1791

A very rare libretto for Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, arranged by Mozart in the summer of 1790, for a probable performance in 1791. This arrangement (K. 591) was one of four – with Acis and Galatea, Messiah, and Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day – commissioned by Mozart’s patron Baron von Swieten for the concerts at the Gesellschaft der Associierten.

Find a critical edition of Mozart’s score in the NMA Online (Neue Mozart Ausgabe: Digitized Version). Handel’s manuscript is part of the Ricasoli Collection at the University of Louisville, and is available in the IMSLP, with a 19th century Peters edition of the Mozart arrangement.

-Kerry Masteller


When Love Goes Wrong….Composers and Librettists Go “Yay!”

February 14th, 2013

We would like to remind those who will be alone on Valentine’s Day that the Music Library will be open from 9 am to 10 pm, and our audiovisual stacks offer a wide array of reminders that the course of true love does not run particularly smoothly. For the Taylor Swiftian who just knows that if you’re nice and helpful enough, your beloved is bound to leave hir current stormy relationship and start dating you, La Gioconda offers a warning (also a reminder that Les Miserables is far from the only bizarre Victor Hugo plot rendered into popular musical entertainment.)  Take it from Lucia di Lammermoor‘s Arturo: if she doesn’t want to be with you, she really doesn’t want to be with you!

Found your perfect mate? Sure nothing can go wrong? Otello and his bride might have something to say about that. Elsa from Lohengrin would probably advise you to be happy with what you have and not ask too many questions, while Judith from Bluebeard’s Castle might modify that recommendation and suggest you ask the questions before you and your intended are isolated together in a gloomy stronghold. Does s/he have controlling, overbearing relatives? Does s/he have a problem with drinking, drugs, gambling or infidelity?  Does s/he just have problems, full stop?  And if you doubt the need for a pre-nup, consider the fate of Elisabetta in Don Carlo: don’t let your prospective father-in-law substitute himself for your bridegroom at the last minute.

If you and your Ms. or Mr. Right are thinking of having kids, Peter and Gertrud from Hänsel und Gretel would urge you to find competent and reliable child care.  Asking Kostelnička Buryjovka or Azucena from Il Trovatore, for example, would be a bad idea. Make sure your babysitter clearly understands and follows all instructionsBandits, pirates, enemy soldiers and other wanderers are everywhere, just waiting to seize your precious little bundle and raise him or her as one of their own.  (And if you must split up, you’ll probably want a better custody plan than the one in Medea.)

If, on the other hand, your beloved just wants somebody who isn’t you (and you don’t feel comfortable stabbing, betraying or poisoning them) why not be like two of the greatest characters in all opera and graciously let them go?  The beautiful music you get to sing, and the respect from other characters in the opera, might make the whole thing worth it!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sarah Barton


Newly Digitized: Cherubini’s Eliza

July 31st, 2012

Yes, even New England has heat waves. The mercury here in Cambridge has dropped to more typical (and bearable) summer temperatures, but I still can’t resist defying the season by showcasing these two recently-digitized scores of Luigi Cherubini’s opera Eliza, ou, Le voyage aux glaciers du Mont St. Bernard.

Composed in 1793, Eliza received its first performance – after revisions by government censors – at the Théâtre Feydeau in Paris on December 13, 1794. The theatre’s productions were known for their scenery and stage effects, such as the castle destroyed in the third act of Cherubini’s hit Lodoïska. While the opera’s Alpine setting has obvious potential for spectacle, Eliza‘s plot is distinguished by librettist Jacques Antoine Révéroni Saint-Cyr’s use of the landscape itself, rather than the human dangers posed by violent conflict, as the final peril triumphantly overcome by the lovers Eliza and Florindo (with the assistance, naturally, of the friars of the hospice of Saint Bernard).1

Luigi Cherubini. Eliza, p. 107. Merritt Room Mus 637.1.618.5 Luigi Cherubini. Eliza, p. 108. Merritt Room Mus 637.1.618.5
The avalanche descends: Luigi Cherubini, Eliza, p. 107-108. Merritt Room Mus 637.1.618.5 (click images to enlarge)

  • [Eliza]. Eliza, ou, Le voyage aux glaciers du Mont St. Bernard: opera en deux actes / par Saint Cyr; mis en musique par Cherubini et representé au Théatre de la rue Faydeau le 13. décembre 1794. A Paris: A l’Imprimerie du Conservatoire, Faux-bourg [sic] Poissonnière, au coin de la rue Bergere, [1795?].
    RISM A/I, CC 2028 I,201
    Merritt Mus 637.1.618

    A full score with French words, including the dialogue.

  • [Eliza. Vocal score. German & French]. Elise oder Die Reise auf den S. Bernardsberg. ein Singspiel in drey Akten in Musik gesezt [sic] / von Cherubini; im Klavierauszuge von G.B. Bierey. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, [1795?].
    Merritt Mus 637.1.618.5

    A vocal score with German and French words.

As always, find these and other scores in our collection of Digital Scores and Libretti.

-Kerry Masteller

1. On Cherubini’s musical representation of the Alps, see Michael Fend, “Literary Motifs, Musical Form and the Quest for the ‘Sublime': Cherubini’s ‘Eliza ou le Voyage aux glaciers du Mont St Bernard’,” Cambridge Opera Journal, vol. 5, no. 1 (Mar., 1993): 17-38. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/823748.

For transcriptions of Cherubini’s correspondence regarding the composition of Eliza, see Stephen Charles Willis, “Luigi Cherubini: a study of his life and dramatic music, 1795-1815″ (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1975), http://hollis.harvard.edu/?itemid=|library/m/aleph|008015816 (HOLLIS record).


Newly Digitized: Busoni and Schreker

May 30th, 2012

When we began digitizing scores from our collections over a decade ago, one area of focus was works from the operatic repertoire existing in multiple versions. If opera is a genre ripe for reinterpretations – as novels, plays, libretti, and scores themselves are recycled and revisioned – both of this week’s scores are products of the resulting palimpsest of musical influences.

First, a vocal score of Busoni’s two-act number opera, Turandot:

Ferruccio Busoni. Original cover, Turandot. Mus 633.5.605

Ferruccio Busoni. Original cover, Turandot. Mus 633.5.605

[Turandot. Vocal score]. Turandot : eine chinesische Fabel nach Gozzi in zwei Akten / Worte und Musik von Ferruccio Busoni; Klavierauszug mit Text von Philipp Jarnach. Leipzig: Brietkopf & Härtel, [c1918]. Mus 633.5.605.

Although it premiered in 1917 as a double-bill with Arlecchino (link to digitized vocal score), Turandot has its origin in incidental music composed over a decade earlier for Carlo Gozzi’s 1762 play of the same title. Writing in a 1911 issue of Blätter des Deutschen theaters devoted to the play, Busoni describes his composition: “I have employed exclusively original oriental motives and forms and believe I have avoided the conventional theatre exoticism.”1 These themes were themselves taken from examples of Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian music published in August Wilhelm Ambros’ Geschichte der Musik, as well as the English song “Greensleeves”.2

Our second work is a full score of Franz Schreker’s Das Spielwerk:

Franz Schreker. Leise's final lullaby, from Das Spielwerk. Mus 800.42.615

Franz Schreker. Leise's final lullaby, from Das Spielwerk. Mus 800.42.615

[Spielwerk]. Das Spielwerk: Mysterium in einem Aufzug / von Franz Schrecker. Wien: Universal-Edition, c1921. Mus 800.42.615

The simultaneous Frankfurt and Vienna premieres of Das Spielwerk und die Prinzessin (link to digitized vocal score) in 1913 had not been a success, thanks in part to a hostile reception by the Viennese critic Julius Korngold. Schreker condensed and extensively reworked the opera in 1915 and 1916; his revisions include replacing the original overture with the prelude to the second act, and changing the ending from the fiery disaster of the first version to a lullaby sung by Leise to her deceased son. The new, one-act Das Spielwerk premiered in Munich in 1920, conducted by Bruno Walter.

-Kerry Masteller

1. Busoni, Ferruccio, “The Turandot Music,” in The Essence of Music and Other Papers, trans. Rosamond Ley (New York: Dover, 1965), 61, http://hollis.harvard.edu/?itemid=|library/m/aleph|007922884 (HOLLIS record).

Original text: “Ich habe ausschließlich originale orientalische Motive und Wendungen verwandt und glaube den konventionellen Theater-Exotismus umgangen zu haben.” Busoni, Ferruccio, “Zur ‘Turandot’-Musik,” Blätter des Deutschen theaters (Berlin), Jahrg.1 Nr. 6 (27 October 1911): 83-84, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/njp.32101018921104?urlappend=%3Bseq=99 (full text).

2. For an analysis of the sources used in the Turandot Suite, see Antony Beaumont, Busoni the Composer (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c1985), 76-86, http://hollis.harvard.edu/?itemid=|library/m/aleph|000220150 (HOLLIS record).

See also August Wilhelm Ambros, Geschicte der Musik: mit zahlreichen notenbeispielen und musikbeilagen, Vol. 1, Die Musik des griechischen Alterthums und des Orients (Leipzig: F.E.C. Leuckart, 1887-1911), http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.FIG.GITEM:HW2LWX (full text).