For children

“Having a bad day? How about some more Schumann?”
Cover of the Ricordi edition of unpublished pieces from Schumann’s Album for the young, op. 68.
Item no. 5 in M340.a.95.312.

A surprising number of composers have composed works aimed at a juvenile audience. In some cases this has complemented their work as a music teacher, in others they have wanted to introduce their music to younger members of the family. Some have wanted to pass on their passion for a particular style of music, and for some composers it’s an unusual Christmas present (“Just look at what Uncle Felix gave me!”). Others see composing for youngsters as the first step on the path to compositional greatness; and they’re not afraid to blow their own trumpet either: “Performed with the greatest success at the Promenade concerts, Covent Garden,” or (same work) “Performed with unprecedented success at the Promenade concerts, Covent Garden, and re-demanded nightly”.

What was this fantastically successful work? Who were happy to be compositional Father Christmases? And whose piano teaching influenced Liszt? For more, read on, and come and see our latest pop-up exhibition in the Anderson Room at the UL from 18th January-1st February.

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2019: Looking forward…

Following on from Margaret’s post last week looking back over 2018, this week MusiCB3 looks ahead to some of the musical anniversaries and events of the coming year!

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2018: That was the year that was…

A very Happy New Year to all MusiCB3 readers.

Over the course of 2018 the MusiCB3 team has written 49 posts on items musical ranging from Roald Dahl inspirations to changing attitudes towards female composers. Victorian music continued to entertain, providing some of the most amusing posts. We learned to compose courtesy of the Melographicon, chortled at some rather alarming adverts in C19th concert programmes, and gasped at “Impossible ships in impractical positions“.

A post on a neglected box of parts led to an unexpected fondness for John Marsh, and an invitation to a blue plaque unveiling in Salisbury; there were reports from music library conferences in Leipzig and Edinburgh (we are already looking forward to Krakow 2019). Hans Keller and the Black Bear Music club made regular appearances, as did new arrivals at the Pendlebury.

Next week Kate will be looking forward to the year ahead, but for now, this is the year that was…

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The song of Tiny Tim

What do you usually buy for Christmas? High on my list of presents for friends is the gift that I most like to receive myself – books. The Christmas period is one of the busiest times of the year for book sales. In 2016 over £83 million was spent on books in the United Kingdom in the run-up to Christmas. 

Dancing the Roger de Coverley at the Fezziwig’s Christmas Ball.
Illustration from A Christmas Carol. S727.d.84.2

Book of the year for Christmas 1843 was undoubtedly Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Written in just six weeks in November-December 1843, this was the novel that is sometimes credited with the re-invention of Christmas. The book itself may be 175 years old this week, but the Christmas that Dickens rejoiced in is still with us today. From less-than-festive Scrooges to holidaying Cratchits, food and drink and charitable giving, carolling and partying, time for family and friends, remembrance of Christmases past, and hopes for a better future; Dickens’ novel was instrumental in the re-creation of the way we celebrate Christmas in the United Kingdom.

The original manuscript, beautifully bound, is now in the Morgan library. If you’re lucky enough to be in New York before January 7th, the manuscript is on display there. Failing that, the Morgan library has digitised the volume in stunning detail; and it can be seen here.

As you might expect of a book with such a name, music plays a role in the novel; but A Christmas Carol holds a festive mystery…

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Polka-ing round the Christmas tree

Thought it was all comic songs and sentimental ballads in the UL’s Victorian sheet music collection? Think again! These nineteenth century composers and their illustrators also favoured us with dances galore – perfect for dancing around one’s drawing room to pianoforte accompaniment of an evening. Read on to admire a selection of seasonal polkas, galops, and quadrilles…

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Christmas Carols at MusiCB3

MusiCB3 is looking very festive lately. The much-admired Pendlebury Christmas decorations are up, and the exhibition cases in the Anderson Room are showing off some of the Music Department’s Christmas-related items. One of the Anderson Room cases is devoted to the King’s College Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.


John Sutton / King’s College Chapel in the snow – 1 / CC BY-SA 2.0 (Wikimedia Commons).

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The Keller Bradshaw letters: a new way of communicating?

Hans Keller by Milein Cosman

I can’t remember when I have enjoyed reading a series of letters quite so much as those between Hans Keller and Susan Bradshaw (although perhaps those between Keller and Robbins Landon in the 1950s run a close second). The meeting of minds is immediately evident and their back-and-forth full of energy, insight and honesty. Naturally the focus is on music, and predominantly contemporary music, but the topics range far and wide from reorganisation at the BBC, to the Falklands War, music education and the current preoccupations professionally of each. Continue reading

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