Friday, December 20th, 2013...1:25 pm

What’s New: annotated Lully score

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The Harvard Theatre Collection has recently acquired a sensational annotated Jean Baptiste Lully score of Proserpine. Printed in 1680, this score was the second partition générale (full orchestra score) printed by Christophe Ballard (1641-1715), following Bellérophon, which was printed in 1679. These luxurious large folio scores broke out of the previous French printing tradition of reduced, oblong scores, and presented “full” scores of operas for the first time in a format that musicians today would recognize as orchestra scores.

2013T-30 title page

This particular score is additionally exciting due to the extensive annotations, some of which may belong to François Fossard, violinist and member of Lully’s group of Petits Violons (as well as music librarian to King Louis XIV). You can see the name “Fossard” signed quite clearly on the title page above.

*2013T-30 Caption

There are performance annotations and corrections in a similar ink throughout, including a French text added to the prologue on pages 1-6, part of which you can see on the first page of music, above. The stamp you see by the title, which also appears on the title page and occasionally throughout the score, is that of another former owner, the Société Chorale des Amateurs de Versailles, dated 22 Mai 1868. The interlaced stamp at the foot of the page is Lully’s own: the Ballards were contractually obligated to allow Lully (or an agent or relative of his) to inspect every printed score which was to be sold, after which it received this stamp of approval.

*2013T-30 Page 6, preliminaries

On page 6 of the prologue above, you catch a flavor of the performance annotations: turns and appoggiaturas that one so rarely sees in opera scores from this time period. Elsewhere, dance “genres” are identified, which would give the performer an idea of the tempo of the piece. Etc. etc. Most of the Lully scores in the French portion of the Ward Collection (for instance) are pristine, and while to a certain extent this reflects the preference of earlier generations of collectors for clean scores, in my experience these full scores simply don’t seem to have been annotated as much as other printed or manuscript scores of the time. I have wondered who was actually buying (or receiving) these scores: were they even used by professional musicians, or were they printed for the Court, to learn the works and sing at home? To glorify Louis’ Court performances, and reinforce their cultural (and therefore political) importance around the world? Were the scores treated as treasured belongings, and never defaced? Or were musicians’ memories better at the time, not requiring annotations to remember changes, additions, or corrections?

*2013T-30 Page 116

But these traces on page 116 certainly suggest performance: musicians in Lully’s era played from music on wooden stands, often with candlesticks set on either side. There is a later example on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boson, which will give you an idea of the set-up. Wax spillage was common, as can be seen on page 116. There are wax spills of this nature throughout the score.

*2013T-30 Pages 184-185

In addition to the ink annotations, there are some later pencil annotations, as well as extensive annotations in rust-red crayon as seen above on pages 184-185. While I have never seen crayon like this used before the later 18th century, the dealer cites correspondence with Lully specialist Herbert Schneider: “It is very difficult to estimate the date of the red pencil [sic] since it was used … at about 1700 and in all of the scores by Rameau used in the Académie royal de musique …” Examining this score has been such a learning experience.

*2013T-30 Page 235

*2013T-30 Page 236

Pages 235-236 provide the juicy addition of three bars of full score in act IV, scene ii, which appears to be more than just a facilitation of the page turn.

*2013T-30 Page 279

And as always, this score provides a glimpse of the printing processes which we at Houghton strive to document. The Ballards employed the diamond-shaped movable type music notes designed and cast in the 1550s by Guillame Le Bé (approximately 1565-1645) right into the 18th century, and throughout this score we have a chance to see quite clearly how movable type functioned in music. These empty bars are all quite obviously individually set, but can you see how the clefs, accidentals, and notes are individually set as well? While the Ballards are justly criticized for resisting the engraving techniques which were flourishing in Italy and other countries throughout the 17th century, their four-century printing firm must still be considered one of the most important music publishers in history. And this score, with its rare annotations, provides us with valuable evidence why.

[Thanks to Andrea Cawelti, Ward Music Cataloger, for contributing this post.]

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