Wednesday, January 11th, 2017...5:13 pm

Climbing that career ladder

Jump to Comments

Ah, patronage.  That special arrangement, in which a composer or author contacts someone in High Places, and asks them to lend their name (and/or their money) to a publication. No less a luminary then Blackadder has struggled with its complexities. Scholars today are particularly interested in those little dedications often found at the head of title pages, as researchers can follow the rise and fall of careers based on the social standing of their patrons (among other interesting details of cultural history). Today I’ve been cataloging some of the music found during our recent Pforzheimer project, and one particular volume caught my eye. At first glance, it appeared to be five separate pieces of music, each printed on different-colored paper, bound together with some random lithograph portraits. Years of experience with our Aladdin’s cave of wonders however, has taught me to be highly suspicious of first glances.

Abelinde Rae

Abelinde Rae


More careful examination showed this to be a volume of five pieces, printed privately, and issued together with lithographs of the composer Abelinde Rae and four of her powerful female dedicatees. And all from different countries. Early multiculturalism? But just have a look at who these patronesses are!

Melle. Maria de Maiorca [fille de Mr. le Vicomte de Maiorca, de Portugal]

Melle. Maria de Maiorca [fille de Mr. le Vicomte de Maiorca, de Portugal]

Composers must ask permission for these dedications, and the fact that Miss Rae was able to get the attention of four such powerful women is a statement in and of itself. What was her aim? Did she move in their circles? And if not, what was it about Miss Rae that caught the attention of such women? Investigating her patronage might help answer these and any number of other questions about this little-known composer.

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

Comments are closed.