Author: eaberndtmorris (page 1 of 7)

“Snowflakes” by Mary Mapes Dodge (not Anonymous)

It’s the season for snow in New England and there is no better time to highlight another new acquisition – a lighthearted song about snowflakes. “Whene’er a Snowflake Leaves the Sky” was composed by Liza Lehmann (1862-1918), a soprano and composer, mostly of vocal works, including many for children. She was the first president of the Society of Women Musicians.

Sheet music cover attributing the words to anonymous.

Lehmann, Liza, and Mary Mapes Dodge. 1918. Whene’er a Snowflake Leaves the Sky: Song. London: J.B. Cramer & Co. Ltd. Merritt Room Mus 735.6.713

The piece, also known as the “Snowflakes Song”, was included in a publication Three Snow Songs in 1914, with music and lyrics credited to Lehmann as indicated in the Catalog of Copyright Entries: Musical Compositions. Part 3. The Harvard Library copy was published in 1918, with the music attributed to Liza Lehmann; however, the lyrics are attributed to Anonymous. The lyrics are not unknown as this printing suggests, and as such the rest of this post will be dedicated to recognizing the poem and its author.

Mary Mapes Dodge (1831-1905), in full Mary Elizabeth Mapes Dodge, was an American author of children’s books and first editor of the children’s publication St. Nicholas Magazine.

Cabinet photograph of Mary Mapes Dodge.

Warren, Warren. 1875. Mary Mapes Dodge. Special Collections, Fine Arts Library, Harvard College Library. Object Number 119.1976.5179

The poem features an individual snowflake as it travels bravely from the sky to its landing place until it melts away in warmer weather. For added entertainment, read the poem below while listening to a performance by soprano Gwen Catley.

Snowflakes

Whenever a snowflake leaves the sky

It turns and turns to say “good-bye;”

“Good-bye, dear cloud, so cool and gray!”

Then lightly travels on its way.

And when a snowflake finds a tree,

“Good-day,” it says —“Good-day to thee!

Thou art so bare and lonely, dear,

I’ll rest and call my comrades here.”

But when a snowflake brave and meek,

Lights on a rosy maiden’s cheek,

It starts— “How warm and soft the day!

‘Tis Summer!”— and it melts away.

 

The poem was published in the 1879 book Along the Way, a publication that included poems published for the first time and several that previously appeared in various magazines. “Snowflakes” was again printed in When Life is Young: A Collection of Verse for Boys and Girls in 1894. The poem also appeared in Mary Mapes Dodge’s final published book of poetry, Poems and Verses in 1904, which includes the following author’s note, “This book is, in the main, a republication of a former volume of verse entitled ‘Along the Way’, which is now out of print.”

The popularity of the poem is indicated by its use in other poetry compilations, including American Anthology, 1787-1899: Selections Illustrating the Editor’s Critical Review of American Poetry in the 19th Century and The World’s Best Poetry Volume 5: The Poetry of Nature.

For additional information about Mary Mapes Dodge see Gannon, Susan R., and Ruth Anne Thompson. Mary Mapes Dodge. Twayne, 1992.

Ethel Smyth’s Sonata for violin and piano, dedicated to a friend

The Loeb Music Library recently acquired a first edition of Ethel Smyth’s Sonata for violin and piano in A minor, Op. 7, composed in 1887. Born in 1858, Smyth is remembered as an independent and strong-willed woman who studied music against her father’s wishes. She was a leading suffragette, and in later life actively authored polemical writings. For a brief introduction to Ethel, see Five facts about Dame Ethel Smyth on the Oxford University Press blog, and for much more, including a discography and list of her manuscripts, check out the work of Drs. Liane Curtis and Amy Zigler, and Chris Trotman at ethelsmyth.org.

Sonata for violin and piano title page

Sonate (A moll) für Violine und Clavier von E.M. Smyth, Merritt Room Mus 810.6.383, Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard University. The stamp on this copy is from the Glasgow Athenaeum, which closed in 1929.

This first edition was published by J. Reiter-Beidermann, a reputable Swiss music publisher. Founded in 1848, the company was later purchased by C.F Peters in 1917. A subsequent edition of Smyth’s Sonata Op. 7 was printed by Universal Edition in 1923, also held in the Loeb Music Library collection. The manuscript of the work is held at the British Library, Add. MS 45950, as well as an additional manuscript, MS Mus. 1781, with an inscription date of 27/5/[18]87 referring to the date this exact manuscript was delivered for printing.

In the same year as publication, 1887, the Sonata premiered at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. Performers included Fanny Davies (piano) and Adolph Bordsky (violin).

Postcard of Konzerhaus in Leipzig

Leipzig, Germany: Konzerthaus (the second “Gewandhaus”, opened 1884, destroyed 1943/1944). Public domain image from wikicommons.

The performance was praised by The Monthly Musical Record in December 1887, which states, “The work was played by Fraulein Fanny Davies, from London, and Herrn Brodsky, to such a way that the composer had every reason to be thankful.” The same review casts an unfavorable posture on Ethel as a female composer, stating “The sonata for violin and piano by E.M. Smyth…proved to be the clever work of a lady who makes no pretensions to originality, but slavishly follows Brahms, and who possesses but little taste.”

Smyth remembers this common characterization in her memoirs, Impressions that Remained, by acknowledging “the critics unanimously said it was devoid of feminine charm and therefore unworthy of a woman – the good old remark I was so often to hear again.” A listen to the piece will prove just how wrong the reviewers were!

Clipping from The Monthly Musical Record, January 1, 1887.

Clipping from The Monthly Musical Record, January 1, 1887.

Both the 1887 and 1923 published editions include the dedication “Frau Lili Wach geb. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in alter Freundschaft gewidmet” “Mrs Lily Wach, née Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, dedicated in old friendship” Elisabeth Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Wach (Lili), was the daughter of composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Cécile Charlotte Sophie Jeanrenaud. Ethel and Lili first met in 1877 at a musical gathering at the house of Frau Livia Frege, a soprano living in Leipzig. Their friendship can be observed through their letters. For example, Lili concludes a June 21st, 1891 letter to Ethel with “So farewell, my dearest, and remember now and again that no one is fonder of thee than – Thy Old Lili.”

Sources:

Smyth, Ethel. Impressions That Remained: Memoirs. 3rd ed. New York: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1923, p. 170, 290.

“Music in Leipzig (From Our Special Correspondent. Leipzig, December 1887)” The Monthly Musical Record XVIII, no. 205 (January 1, 1888): 9–10.

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