And don’t forget to breathe…

Lent term this year has felt like an especially long one, with Easter the latest it’s been since 2014. The fact that it feels even later than usual is probably also because it was relatively early last year, on April 1st, adding a whole three weeks to the 2019 Easter Egg wait.

Lights, camel, action! :
It’s Strictly the Nativity.
A2019.10

Perhaps it’s because of the late Easter, but the Music Department has already started to receive musical nativity plays under the Act (we usually receive our first batch of Christmas music a little later, over the summer holidays). I was particularly taken with Lights, camel, action! which appeared to involve a dancing camel, who was also an Elvis Presley impersonator.

And now, I’ve mentioned the C-word ridiculously early, it’s time to grapple with the E-word too. Not Easter, but Exams, which this year seem closer than ever. Here are some tips courtesy of the MusiCB3 team for a stress-free examination season.

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Poikilographia: a tale of two Writing Masters

It is a rare occurrence, at MusiCB3, to stumble across a volume which has nothing to do with music, so I was interested to find a 1830s handwriting guide lurking in a box at the Pendlebury this week…

On Writing

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Berlioz 150

1845 portrait of Berlioz by August Prinzhofer (public domain)

Now that the Hans Keller centenary is over, my lovely colleagues here at the UL were very concerned that I might be at a loose end. “I know,” they said “SW is a Berlioz fan isn’t she? We’ll ask her to write something to mark Berlioz 150 and to put together a little exhibition as well.” Who am I, a devoted fan of Hector’s, to refuse? So, here goes…

We’ll dispense with any biography, there are many deeply knowledgable people out there who have already done that (Jacques Barzun [M517.c.95.42-3] and David Cairns [M517.c.95.39-40] to name only two). But why Berlioz, you ask? What is it about him that appeals especially? To which I would answer – three things: his wonderful, colourful, imaginative and utterly unique music; his completely OTT personality (life was one long melodrama) and his delightful writing – think Memoiresfeuilletons for the Journal des Débats, etc.

Now, one of my other hats is to take care of the collections of concert programmes we have here and for a reader recently I was looking through those for the Crystal Palace Saturday Concerts and was able to remind myself of Berlioz’s involvement with the Great Exhibition and the performances of his works in August Manns’ Saturday concerts at the Palace. Happily, more years ago than I shall admit, I had written about this in a little post and thought it might be time for a second performance. So here it is. Enjoy…

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Hans Keller 100: the view from Another Place

Hans Keller in the 1950s. Milein Cosman. Published with the kind permission of the Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust.

Hans Keller and Haydn were sitting together in the Ambrosia Café in Another Place enjoying a cup of Viennese coffee and a gossip. “Happy Birthday old man”, said Haydn pushing a roughly-wrapped package across the table, “this is for you”. Hans opened the parcel to find the manuscript of a new string quartet “dedicated to my greatest fan, in bemused gratitude”. It was Haydn’s Op.2019 no.3 “The Keller” in – of course – D minor. “My dear FJ, I am overwhelmed, I’ve not been so emotional since Ben gave me his Third Quartet. When are we going to perform it?” “Well,” mused Haydn, “How about this evening – you and Wolfgang can fight it out over the viola part, but I’ll lead and I’m sure old Bocchi will oblige on the ‘cello, goodness knows he’s written thousands of works for the instrument”. Continue reading

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Sepolcro

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, composer of Le Memorie Dolorose, proudly wearing a gold chain presented to him by the emperor Leopold I
Wikimedia Commons

Last week my colleague, Justin, happened across a musical genre, sepolcro, that no-one in the Music Department here at the UL, had seen before. The timing of this find couldn’t have been more appropriate as it happened to be Shrove Tuesday – “Pancake Day”.

Lent could be a pretty grim time. Not only was it “Farewell to meat” (the literal translation of Carne vale, from which the word carnival is derived), but it was also farewell to theatrical performances, and partying.

It was a particularly tough period for the Viennese court, who, a hundred years before Mozart, already adored opera. Emperor Leopold I was both very devout (he had trained for the priesthood, before the death of elder brother, Ferdinand IV), and musical. It was worth waiting through Lent for the marking of the end of Holy Week with a sepolcro.

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Happy IWD!

Happy International Women’s Day from MusiCB3! There are musical events and projects going on both in Cambridge and further afield to promote the performance of work by female composers, and I thought for today’s post I would explore some of them, as well as looking at some resources devoted to the celebration and re-discovery of women in music.

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Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant Hapus!

Or as they say, east of the border – a happy Saint David’s Day to you. Spring has sprung early, the daffodils are already out, and we (or at least the sole Welsh person working in the Music Department here at the UL) couldn’t let Saint David’s Day pass without having a look at some Welsh treasures in the collections, along with suggestions for Welsh-related listening.

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