Canzonette veneziane

Last October the second hand and antiquarian music dealer Travis & Emery circulated their occasional antiquarian music catalogue Sarum no. 58. One item caught my eye because in the last year or so I had updated the online records for two collections of Venetian popular songs – i.e. songs in the Venetian dialect.

70613 Canzonette Veneziane Canzonette Veneziane, e Canoni.  [Voice and bass accompaniment].   Oblong folio (22 x 29cm).  22 folios.  Sewn in pink carta rustica with gilt paper edgings and decorations, manuscript paper title-label.  Copyist’s manuscript in brown ink on 10-stave paper, with texts (verses) to the works on the opening four folios (unstaved).  Contains: La mia Ninetta; Oh bella Nice; Putte vardeme inciera; Ogni donna; Amor Pettegola; Quel bianco sen de latte; Cento Basetti su quei occhietti.   [Italy: c.1775]. £500

Both collections I had worked on are in manuscript. One is in the University Library (MS.Add.9324.14) and contains 49 songs, and the other is in the Fitzwilliam Museum (MU.MS.130) and contains a collection of 50 ‘Canzonette Composte dal Sigr.e Angelo Collonna’. The second of these is extremely unusual in that very, very few songs in the Venetian dialect are ascribed to any composer even to one as unknown as Angelo Colonna (a spelling found on some minuets by the same composer in the same manuscript, and the usual spelling of this surname). However a search of the RISM database of the first line of the first song in the Travis & Emery manuscript, “La mia Ninetta” (as a phrase in inverted commas) revealed a surprising result:

(Sorry, no hot links to search results, so copy and paste (including the inverted commas) “La mia Ninetta” into the search box and press return –  and have a look at the 16 vocal pieces by Mattia Vento).

Surprise, surprise, six of the titles listed in the Travis & Emery catalogue appear in almost the same order (missing Oh bella Nice, and placing Putte vardeme inciera third instead of at the end) as this manuscript in the British Library ascribed (in RISM) to Mattia Vento:

16 songs for voice and harpsichord
La mia Ninetta / Ogni donna / Amor pettegolo / Quel bianco sen / Cento basetti / Putte vardeme / Se ghe amor / Le donne gha un tesoro / Tutti va in colera / A variar l’e un gusto matto / Venezianella / Cornetti, cornettini / E spagnuoli e Siciliani / Quando sono tenerelli / Me tira a cantuzzarte / Quando vi sara gente

This was intriguing enough to warrant acquiring the manuscript. Continue reading

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The Golden Book of C.U.M.C

The Golden Book of C.U.M.C.

When the Cambridge Libraries Digitisation Competition 2018 was advertised I immediately thought about the C.U.M.C Golden Book, a notebook containing signatures and short musical quotations of famous musicians, composers and musicologists. Many of them came to Cambridge for significant musical events or had other Cambridge links.

The Golden Book fitted the competition criteria quite well; it is a unique, distinctive and quirky item and links to the research collections relating to music and performance.  The Pendlebury Library team was delighted when we came in at joint third place and we are making the most of the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of a digitisation project.  Continue reading

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Song writing for beginners

The inspiration of a Myriorama.

Included in a batch of recent antiquarian additions to the Music Department here at the UL is a fascinating volume entitled The Melographicon (MR574.c.80.15). Published in 1826, The Melographicon claims to be “An entirely new and highly amusing musical work, by which an interminable number of melodies may be produced, and those amateurs who have, a taste for poetry, enabled to set their verses to music, for the voice and piano-forte, without the necessity of a scientific knowledge of the art”.

Inspired by the Myriorama, a sort of do-it-yourself for would-be artists (there is a wonderful modern version on the Laurence Sterne Trust pages); the Melographicon, despite its claims of simplicity, will need a dedicated songster prepared to carefully read the instructions if they’re going to make the most of this volume. Follow the rules however, and you too might sound like Mozart, Haydn, Rossini, or Weber; at the very least you’ll be able to delight your friends. Continue reading

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“…not ‘just’ a great composer…” Hans Keller and Beethoven

Beethoven by Joseph Willibrord Mähler, 1815.

“… here is, not ‘just’ a great composer, but one of the most towering minds in the history of culture and civilization – humanity has not, in demonstrable fact, thrown up anything greater …”  So writes Hans Keller in his ‘Slow Introduction’ to an unfinished and unpublished manuscript dating from about 1971 held here in his archive on Beethoven’s String Quartet in B flat, op.130.  He expresses similar admiration in an article for The Listener of 9 April 1970 on the Beethoven String Quartets, where he writes: “…a mind whose size promises to remain unexceeded in the history of what makes us human…” Continue reading

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Musical maps

Street pianoA conversation with a reader the other day about street pianos led to me stumbling across this.

Mapping the ‘Play me, I’m yours‘ street piano project, the site records the locations of street pianos past and present. It is also somewhere for people to upload their recordings of the pianos being played – this is the page for the piano in the Grand Arcade in Cambridge.

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Hans Keller as composition coach: Elisabetta Brusa reflects

Hans Keller

Coaching and mentoring, whether it was string quartets, individual instrumentalists, analysis students or young composers, was central to Hans Keller’s life. His over-riding aim always was to make himself redundant by helping his students to find and trust their own judgement, their own instinctive musicality – always to ‘think music’ and never, ever, to ‘think about music’. The archive is overflowing with letters to his pupils of whom the Chilingirian Quartet, Alexander Goehr, Hugh WoodJonathan Harvey and Alan Walker are but a few. However, this post accompanies our current Music Department exhibition on women composers and in the archive there is also a substantial file of correspondence between the composer Elisabetta Brusa and Keller. Continue reading

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I opened a box…

What’s in the box?
CC0 Creative Commons

As has previously been mentioned on MusiCB3, my colleague Susi has, until relatively recently, been busy cataloguing some of the many concert programmes that we hold here at the UL. Those catalogued so far can be found on the Concert Programmes database – the go-to site for concert programme archives. Today, I happened to be burrowing among the concert programmes, looking for some information on a forgotten violinist (so forgotten that I have failed to find anything about him), but while rootling through a small clutch of London concert programmes from the 1920s-’30’s, I came across a couple of strange boxes of as yet uncatalogued odds and ends.

Most programmes don’t come to us under the Legal Deposit Act, many come as part of a much larger collection, such as a composer’s archive, a few we have bought, more have been given to us, and as such they are, well, how can I say this? Often a little unexpected. So, I opened a box, and look what jumped out….

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