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Oedipe à Colone, Napoli, Cambridge

A recent discovery at the Loeb Music Library came about as a result of the domino effect of space issues.

Last year we accessioned a series of Chinese music which was best housed in the music library,  Mus 549.601. Beautifully cataloged by our own Lingwei Qiu, the series was entirely in Chinese, and therefore needed the added discoverability of storage within the library. Finding space, however, required a larger weeding project. Sandi-Jo Malmon, our collections development librarian, worked with fellow librarian Bob Dennis to target librettos which could be moved to offsite storage, thus freeing up space for the Chinese collection.

In preparing the librettos for offsite storage, a number were targeted for revised cataloging and placement within the Merritt collection, as they were much older, rare editions, or had an interesting provenance.  One work, originally targeted for inclusion in Merritt as a first edition Italian language libretto of Sacchini’s Oedipe à Colone, presented some surprises.

This Italian translation of the libretto for Antonio Sacchini's Edippo a Colono was published in Naples, Italy in 1817.

Merritt Mus 575.156. Nicola François Guillard, Oedipe à Colone.

The work was donated by Col. Charles W. Folsom (1826-1904) of Cambridge in 1874 (he was an 1845 Harvard College alumnus). Charles W. Folsom’s father Charles Folsom (1794-1872) was an alumnus of the Harvard Divinity School, and is the central figure of this story.

After earning his divinity degree from Harvard, the elder Folsom served as a chaplain in the Navy, stationed on the Washington, then in the Mediterranean. His duties also serving as tutor to the Washington midshipmen, a group that included a teenager named David G. Farragut (1801-1870). Farragut would go on to become the first admiral of the United States Navy, perhaps best known for his service in the Civil War as a flag officer, particularly in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. In the fall of 1817, after Folsom had been appointed American consul in Tunis, Farragut left the Washington to continue his studies with his tutor for an additional nine months.

Returning to our libretto, however, we learn that Farragut spent some time in the early part of 1817 in Italy. On the title page verso, we find Farragut’s signature, along with the place and date of the performance, Naples, Jan. 5th, 1817.

The libretto features the signature of the former owner.

Merritt Mus 575.156. Nicola François Guillard, Oedipe à Colone.

This libretto clearly found its way into the collection of the elder Folsom, with whom Farragut developed a lifelong friendship.

Folsom also served as a librarian at Harvard from 1823-1826, and taught Italian. Harvard would later receive donations of his work from his son and, later, a larger donation from his grandson in the 1920s, the Charles Folsom Papers, 1829-1855, now at Houghton Library.

Anne Adams, Music Cataloger, Loeb Music Library

Bibliography

Schneller, Robert J., Jr. Farragut: America’s First Admiral. Potomac Books, 2002.

Sears, John Randolph. David G. Farragut. George W. Jacobs & Company, 1905.

“Sweetly ululate”: the Lou Harrison collection

The coincidence of the anniversary, in June, of the events leading to the gay liberation movement in the United States, and the centennial of the birth of the composer, activist and gay icon Lou Harrison, in 2017, affords us the opportunity to highlight some important Harrison materials at the Loeb Music Library.

Lou Harrison was born in Portland, Oregon in 1917. His family moved to northern California in 1926 and most of Harrison’s career would be spend there, studying with Henry Cowell at San Francisco State College and with Arnold Schoenberg at UCLA, and teaching at Mills College, UCLA and other institutions. Travels in Asia and study of Asian instruments (Korean double-reed p’iri, Chinese psaltery, Indonesian gamelan) inspired a compositional style which incorporated Asian and Western styles and instruments. Harrison’s contributions to gay culture include several works for gay choruses, the best known of which is Three Songs, commissioned by the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus in 1985. Another commission from the same group in 1988 was a reworking of Harrison’s opera Young Caesar, to which he added several choruses.

The Music Library’s collection of Lou Harrison materials covers the years 1945 to 1991, with most items dating from the 1970s and 1980s. There are musical manuscripts and drafts, poems and drawings, and correspondence with Virgil Thomson and Alan Hovhaness.

There are several drafts of the Young Caesar revision.

A draft of Scene 4 of Young Caesar, Lou Harrison's opera adapted for the Portland Gay Men's Chorus.

Ms. Coll. 132, Merritt Room

And many items in the collection show Harrison’s distinctive music and text handwriting. This draft of the Introitus from the Mass for St. Cecilia’s Day, for example, includes three unrelated poems: “The Lady Tamma lived in Palmyra”, “Rain in New Zealand, ” “Love is made of lust.”

This draft, for the Introitus of Lou Harrison's Mass for St. Cecilia, also includes three poems and some notes, all in Harrison's distinctive hand.

Ms. Coll. 132, Merritt Room

Links to this archival collection and to other collections of Lou Harrison materials may be found in his Wikipedia article, here. We regularly add links to Isham’s archival collections in Wikipedia, and hope you will feel free to add links yourself or to suggest that we do so, so that others may easily discover Isham’s collections. 

Isham Memorial Library is the special collections unit within the Loeb Music Library. Many of its materials are in open stacks, with rare and unique items held in the locked Merritt Room. To view Merritt Room materials, use your Special Collections Request Account. As Isham is not always fully staffed it is advisable to wait for a confirmation message from a staff member before you plan your visit.

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