Meet… James Luff

A headshot photograph of James Luff

What has your road to librarianship been?

After finishing a music degree at Goldsmiths, my initial route into library work was by shelving my way around the libraries at UCL and Senate House in central London, where I also did quite a long stint sticking spine labels on books. It was a pleasant and peaceful road, which was exactly why I found it so appealing in the first place. That and all the books, of course.

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Aesthetic and poetic : Patience 140

Gilbert and Sullivan’s sixth comic opera, Patience, opened on 23rd April 1881 at London’s Opera Comique. Later the same year, on the 10th October, it was the first production to be shown at the newly opened Savoy Theatre.

1881 Programme for Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience. Clement-Smith & Co. (London), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Slow moments with SW: Elgar (…..)

Edward Elgar

Only one slow moment this time dear readers – and I think you will agree that it is more than enough for the soul: the slow movement of Elgar’s violin concerto. What, you may reasonably ask, has prompted this little post? Well, the recent release of a new recording by Renaud Capuçon on and the LSO conducted by Simon Rattle which has received a less than rapturous reception amongst its reviewers. This from the Guardian: “The carefully primped orchestral detail sometimes draws attention away from the subtlety of Capuçon’s playing. Despite its sheer beauty, its phrasing and shading immaculate, there’s something too detached about the results for what is perhaps the most personal and private of Elgar’s orchestral works, so that the performance is never quite as involving as the best Elgar interpretations should be.” I am a huge fan of both Capuçon and the LSO, but I’ve not yet heard the recording, so can’t offer my own thoughts but perhaps you have and might like to share your reactions. 

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Preserving electronic music

Can you name ten famous Belgians? When first moving to the UK this joke quite often  came up. Finding an answer to the question was easy enough and no, Hercule Poirot is fictional and not on the list. Although several musicians and composers have made it to the spotlight and can make a claim on international fame, others have remained in the background, despite significant achievements in their field.

One of these is Karel Goeyvaerts (1923-1993), pioneer of integral serialism and electronic music. He was a very influential figure in the 1950s during the Darmstadt summer courses and beyond. The Goeyvaerts archive at Leuven University contains not only his manuscripts but other documentary sources, such as correspondence, that illustrate his key role. Throughout his career Goeyvaerts showed a particular interest in the structure of music and he was one of the avant-garde composers that used electronic music as a means towards total control of tone production. Although Goeyvaerts subsequently followed various developments in music, structure remained a key component of his musical style throughout.

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Slow moments with SW: Bartók

Bartók in 1927

The contrast between the musical language of Rachmaninov and that of his contemporary Bartók is striking. The one firmly in the full “romantic” sonata-form-based mode, the other pushing those formal boundaries forward and absorbing the influences of the folk music he collected and studied so intently. Indeed, he himself said: “The study of all this peasant music…opened the door to the former tyranny of the major and minor systems” and “The right type of peasant music is most varied and perfect in its forms…and a composer in search of new ways cannot be led by a better master.”  There is an excellent outline of the importance of folk music to Bartók on the Library of Congress blog But I digress…where to start?

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Hair-raising times : what to wear to the opera

Jenner performing his first vaccination. Painting by Ernest Board

What links Marie Antoinette, vaccinations, Gluck, a famous naval battle, and Parisian opera houses? A man named Léonard Autié. 

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My favourite music

Justin in the Anderson Room office in 2013. Photographed by Sarah Chapman.

Last summer, staff at the Pendlebury library and the UL Music Department were asked to do a sort of Desert Island Discs (one disc not eight, luxury item and book of course allowed). I was about to pick Ennio Morricone’s Chi Mai composed in 1971. It was made famous for the television series The Life & Times of David Lloyd George and reached number 2 on the UK singles chart in 1981. I remember hearing it coming from the radio in the UL’s printing department which used to be near the back door. There should be more music at the back door.

However I still prefer Cesar Franck’s Chorale no. 2. which is on a record I bought in Ely Cathedral in the 1970s played by the organist at the time Arthur Wills (who sadly passed away last October).

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What’s been happening at the Pendlebury Library?

Searching, finding, organising, checking, explaining, informing, scanning, uploading, buying,…. just a few of the things we’ve been doing at the Pendlebury Library. 

Working at the Pendlebury Library since Christmas has been a very different experience. Due to the 3rd lockdown restrictions, we have been single-staffed at the Library, usually with just one of the building custodians and one member of the Concert Hall staff in the building to keep us company! 

Services have been continuing to library users, but limited this term to zero-contact ones, under the COVID restrictions.  All the  services we can currently offer are publicised on the Music LibGuide.  

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Don’t read the reviews

An unexpected costume for Violetta at the premiere of La Traviata.

March 6th is the anniversary of the premiere of Verdi’s La Traviata. The most popular of all his operas, Traviata had an unfortunate beginning. Based on the popular novel, La dame aux camelias, by Alexandre Dumas, fils, Verdi had attended a performance of the play in Paris, and came out of the performance with ideas for an opera whirling around his head. It wasn’t perhaps the best time to be contemplating a new work. Verdi had only just finished Rigoletto, and was currently working with two librettists with multiple plans for operatic projects, La Fenice in Venice was eager for a new Verdi work, but Verdi was worried following his experiences with Rigoletto, that the Venetian censors might not be happy with the storyline of Traviata, the tale of a high class courtesan and her young lover.

He was right to be concerned…

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Cristofori 290

Last month saw 290 years since the death of Bartolomeo Cristofori (4th May 1655 – 27th January 1731), the instrument maker who developed the gravicembalo col piano e forte, or “harpsichord with soft and loud” generally thought of as being the first ‘piano’. As a belated tribute to Cristofori, let us see what relevant things we can find at MusiCB3 and further afield…

Photo of a portrait of Bartolomeo Cristofori. Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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