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Rare Music Materials at Stanford

In the spotlight

Highlighted here are select items from the Stanford University Libraries' collections, available for viewing and download.


Breaking the canon: Padre Martini’s vision for the canonic genre

By the mid-18th century, canons—compositions for several instruments or voices in which all the musical material is derived from a single written line of music—had acquired a reputation for abstruseness. They were often deliberately presented as puzzles, utilizing arcane devices like imitation in retrograde, augmentation, diminution, or at a given interval, and leaving it up to the performer to divine the intended manner of performance. Their brevity, complexity, and self-contained nature also made them apt emblems of musical craftsmanship, and they often appeared in artistic depictions of composers. Read more...

Jenny Lind paper doll set and box

The Jenny Lind paper doll set

The Jenny Lind paper doll set is a somewhat unusual and most charming recent acquisition by the Stanford Libraries. The doll, measuring just 10 cm in height, comes with costumes from eight of Lind’s notable opera roles, a “concert-toilette” (recital) gown, and five hair pieces. The chromolithographed opera costumes may reference actual outfits worn by Lind, or, more likely, originate from the designer’s imagination. We do know that the designer took liberties with the doll’s hair color—Lind was decidedly a brunette. Read more...

Lieder und Gesänge mit Begleitung des Pianoforte

Weber’s vocal works: More than just Der Freischütz

Carl Maria von Weber is remembered today primarily for his opera Der Freischütz, almost to the exclusion of all else. Yet Weber was, in fact, a prolific, and widely respected composer—even Chopin, a notoriously cantankerous critic of other composers, admired Weber’s work. His compositional output includes several symphonies, chamber music, piano music, and dozens of art songs. While a few of the examples of this latter category are still performed today, many of Weber’s songs are almost completely unknown to contemporary audiences.

One such set of almost-forgotten songs is Weber’s 6 Lieder und Gesänge, op.66, the manuscript of which resides in Stanford’s Memorial Library of Music. This manuscript, in Weber’s own hand, is a very clean copy—ready, if you will, to be played or sung. At some point, this copy probably came into the possession of Friedrich Jähns, Weber’s cataloguer, as the title page contains a brief cataloging note by Jähns. The manuscript is characterized by clarity of presentation and handwriting, and the high-quality, durable paper on which it is printed. It is most probably the very score Weber assembled to send to his publisher, Schlesinger, which we can ascertain by the fact that the publisher plate number for the first printing of these songs was 1026, which has been written in a hand (and ink) other than either Weber’s of Jähns’ at the bottom of the title page. Read more...

Te Deum and Jubilate : for voices and instruments : for St. Cecilia's Day

Purcell remembered

While not much is known about the early St. Cecilia’s Day celebrations circa 1683, England’s premier composer, Henry Purcell (1659-1695), wrote many pieces for the festivities. In 1694, he wrote one such piece, titled Te Deum & Jubilate for Voices and Instruments made for St. Cecilia’s Day 1694. The landmark work sets an English translation of the St. Ambrose Hymn and revolutionized church music with its scoring for violins, viola, basso continuo, and two trumpets, with soloists and choir.

Purcell originally wrote the piece not for St. Cecilia’s Day, but for a Thanksgiving service to celebrate the return of King William III after a string of military successes. However, the use of instruments in the Royal Chapel was forbidden, and Purcell, not wanting to upset the Court, chose not to premiere the piece for this occasion.[1] As a result, the St. Cecilia’s Day celebration of 1694 marked the first time that instruments were used in English church music. Read more...

Tout gai!

Ravel's lively Greek songs

Maurice Ravel was known as France’s premier living composer in the 1920s and ‘30s, but his early career was not without challenges. By 1900, Ravel had flunked out of his courses at the Conservatoire de Paris not once, but twice. By 1905, he had failed to win the Prix de Rome no less than five times. However, in the wake of these career hardships, Ravel orchestrated several Greek songs that would become some of his most beloved recital pieces. Read more...


Mysterious attributions: Reception of Die Zauberharfe

Die Zauberharfe, or “The Magic Harp,” was a melodrama premiered on August 19, 1820 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna. The original cast included Ferdinand Schimon (Palmerin, tenor), Karl Erdmann Rüger (Arnulf), Josefa Gottdank (Melinda), Frl. Botta (Ida), and Nikolaus Heurteur (Folko). There were seven repeat performances through October 12, before the work was subsequently withdrawn from the repertory. The majority of Hofmann’s text and some of the musical numbers were lost, and thus, no further staged performances were able to occur. The manuscript of the Act III Overture now resides in Stanford’s Memorial Library of Music. Read more...

[Piosnka litewska (sketch)]

Chopin comes of age

A song and piano sketches by Chopin share two sides of a single leaf, once belonging to Polish ethnologist and composer Oskar Kolberg (1814- 1890), and now residing in Stanford's Memorial Library of Music. The Kolberg and Chopin families were neighbors, and Oskar followed Chopin at the Warsaw Lyceum, studying piano with one of Chopin’s teachers. Kolberg was a lifelong collector of music manuscripts, specifically Polish folk and national music, which he used in his scholarly endeavors. Read more...

Opern-Tÿpen. Heft 1

Opern-Tÿpen: opera meets the comics

Opern-Tÿpen consists of six volumes of chromolithographic plates depicting scenes from 54 operas popular in 19th century Germany. Each opera plot has been distilled into a mere six frames, with liberally adapted accompanying text. The visual charms of Opern-Typen are evident. The plates reveal a sophisticated understanding of the effective use of line, gesture, and composition to convey drama and comedy in a tight narrative sequence. Future research may determine if these drawings captured or were informed by real-life performances, as is suggested by the inclusion of staging and scenic elements. Read more...

Cavalleria rusticana

Cavalleria rusticana: Mascagni's smash hit

Cavalleria rusticana premiered on May 17, 1890 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, one of three winners of a one-act opera competition sponsored by the publisher Sonzogno (the other two winners were Labilia by Nicola Spinelli and Rudello by Vincenzo Ferroni). The young Mascagni was hesitant to enter; his wife Lina ended up sending the manuscript without his knowledge. This manuscript now resides in Stanford's Memorial Library of Music. Read more...