Music collectors: Hedli Anderson

Shelf Lives exhibition (18 January – 16 June 2012)

This is another instalment in our mini-series of posts about ‘Music collectors‘ which ties in with the ‘Shelf lives‘ exhibition (until 16 June). Where this post differs slightly is that the previous posts in this series focused on collectors who were not professional musicians or composers: one post was devoted to Frederic Booth, one to Richard Pendlebury and one to Franck Thomas Arnold.

You maybe haven’t heard of Hedli Anderson (1907–1990), but you might have come across a subtle connection to her via a song and a poem titled Funeral Blues (words by W. H. Auden, set to music by Benjamin Britten, and part of the Cabaret Songs). This text has become famous, also under the title Stop all the clocks, not least through the film Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), and the reading of the poem by the Scottish actor John Hanna. To listen to Britten’s song have your pick on YouTube.

Anderson, a singer of cabaret and political songs primarily but not only in the 1930s and 1940s, was not only chosen by Britten and Auden, but also by other poets and composers, such as Louis MacNeice, Elisabeth Lutyens and William Alwyn, to premier some of their works. The collection we hold somewhat reflects this. Anderson seems to have collected the songs which were either written for her, or were part of a library of a professional singer: i.e. songs which she performed. Anderson does not seem to have gone out of her way to collect music by certain composers or from specific countries or eras if they were outside her repertoire as a singer. So her building up of her collection was more “organic” and more “natural” than the collectors previously discussed on this blog, in as much as the items in her collection are the fruit of her artistic and personal relationships, as opposed to a (maybe) slightly more removed approach of the ‘collector as hunter’. (I should add here that both of these origins and methods of collecting and collectors are, of course, equally important: both have their strengths and limitations.)

To give you an idea of what this mostly-hidden collection here at Cambridge University Library entails, please have a look at Handlist of printed music in the Hedli Anderson Collection.

Oh, one last thought and to clarify things: the Anderson Room is not named after Hedli Anderson, but after Sir Hugh Anderson.

About cg474

Since August 2010 I have been working as a librarian at the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK). Since October 2015 I am the librarian at the Faculty of Divinity Library. Between August 2010 and November 2013 I was the Deputy Head of Music at Cambridge University Library and at the Pendlebury Library of Music. Between December 2013 and September 2015 I was the Librarian at the Marshall Library of Economics. Since October 2015 I have been the Librarian at the Divinity Library.
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3 Responses to Music collectors: Hedli Anderson

  1. Piers Croke says:

    I’m looking for a recording of Hedli Andrrson, preferably of her singing Benjamin Britten’ cabaret songs
    I really don’t like the Jill Gomez recording which is often played on Radio 3 and don’t believe that that very arch performance was what Britten had in mind; it certainly doesn’t sound like synthetic cabaret singing of the period
    Can any one help?


    • mj263 says:

      Hello Piers, We’ve got a large amount of Hedli Anderson’s music here including annotated performance scores. I’m pretty sure though that we never received any recordings. I will investigate and see if I can find out anything further, Margaret


  2. Pingback: The Rising Tide in music | MusiCB3 Blog

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