Category: New Acquisitions (page 1 of 9)

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.

Meet the Problem Solvers: Sandi-Jo Malmon, Librarian for Collection Development and Interim Director

What does a Library Director/Collection Development Librarian do?

My job is both Collection Development and the management of the Music library, as Interim Director. As Collection Development librarian, I look at our collection through a creative lens. I search for opportunities to not only collect music by composers whose works are widely recorded and performed, but also those who are lesser known. To shine the spotlight on new contemporary composers from around the world is a great privilege.

As Interim Director, I manage overall responsibilities for the library including budget, collections, and programs that support research and teaching activities. I encourage and support the staff to be the best contributors they can be. We have a great team and I am really proud of the work we are doing together.

What’s your favorite thing about the Music Library?

There are so many things I love about the Music Library but what first comes to mind are the collections. Music represents a deep form of communication and to see the gathering of our diverse history is mind-boggling in its rich complexity.

Sandi-Jo Malmon stands in front of a table holding an oblong manuscript score. She is wearing glasses and a red sweater.

Sandi-Jo receiving antiquarian purchase of Gioachino Rossini’s original manuscripts of one of his most enduring operas, “William Tell.” Strangely, the manuscript is missing the most famous part of this opera: the overture, familiar from its ubiquitous borrowings, for example the opening theme of the Lone Ranger and in the 1948 Looney Tunes classic, “Bugs Bunny Rides Again.” Merritt Mus 795.1.667.2. Reproduced by permission of the Harvard Crimson. Photographer: Steve S. Li.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the Music Library?

One day years ago in the first floor work room, many of the staff members gathered to dance the Macarena! It was hilarious because we were all so different, but we had a total blast learning the dance together. I still laugh when I think about that memory!

Who are you when you aren’t at the Music Library? 

When I am not working in the Library I work as a cellist. I particularly enjoy studying and performing chamber music, especially string quartets. I’ve been really lucky to play in a professional quartet called Aryaloka String Quartet and in the Kaleidoscope Trio, as well as the Kaleidoscope Chamber Ensemble, for many years, which had its debut in Lincoln Center in the early 90’s.

Where do you find comfort and strength in a scary and unknown time?

I am finding tremendous comfort in how connected my extended family is. I have four sisters and, believe it or not, I am the quietest of the bunch. We laugh a lot. My sisters, along with my many nieces and nephews, have made managing this difficult time easier. I am also fortunate to be in a long and loving marriage.

What do you love most about your work?

What I love most about my work is doing the research to discover the depth of diversity within our discipline. It will be a great challenge to make these works freely accessible. I also love the great synergy at the Music Library. We are greater than the sum of our parts!

Four musicians are smiling and holding their instruments: two violins, a viola and a cello.

The Aryaloka String Quartet, featuring Sandi-Jo Malmon on cello. Photograph by Susan Wilson.

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