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Cecil Sharp in America

Among the collections of the Isham Memorial Library, a special library adjunct to the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, may be found Ms. Coll. 131, a huge file of lively correspondence between Richard Aldrich, chief music critic of the New York Times from 1902 to 1923, and his friends, editors and fellow critics. Aldrich graduated from Harvard University and his personal library, donated posthumously by his son in 1955, was an important early gift to the Loeb Music Library.

One particularly thick folder is that of letters to Aldrich from the folk music collector and editor Cecil Sharp. The correspondence chiefly concerned Sharp’s desire to investigate traditional English music as it was performed in the United States and Canada. Sharp’s research would result in the two-volume work English Folk-Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1932). Grove music online credits Sharp with giving “impetus to American efforts, subsequently taken up by American universities, to collect and publish their traditional ballads and songs, both English and indigenous, and to conserve their other traditional arts” (but see also The Imagined Village: Culture, Ideology, and the English Folk Revival, by Georgina Boyes, for a more nuanced interpretation).

In these letters we see Sharp tentatively exploring his relationship to the United States and its traditional music.

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Newly Digitized: Perger’s Signor Formica

Viennese cellist, composer, and conductor Richard von Perger (1854-1911) began his musical career relatively late, studying cello and composition with Schmidtler and Zellner beginning in 1870. This unpublished early opera dates to 1879, shortly before he began lessons with Johannes Brahms (although Peter Clive suggests in Brahms and His World: A Biographical Dictionary that Perger’s study with Brahms may be apocryphal).

A comic opera in three acts, based on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s novella, Signor Formica tells the story of the 17th-century Neapolitan painter Salvator Rosa’s adventures in Rome, and the series of tricks he plays – with the help of an acting troupe led by Signor Formica – in order to fix up his friend Antonio with Marianna, in defiance of her uncle Pasquale Capuzzi, an aesthete with delusions of musical talent. The librettist is unknown, although Perger wrote the text for at least two of his other theatrical works, Der Richter von Granada (1889) and Die 14 Nothhelfer (1891). This may be an autograph manuscript; it’s also a relatively clean copy, with only occasional corrections and scratched-out measures, and stage directions indicated throughout.

Signor Formica, Act I, scene 1, Mus 780.741.605

Signor Formica, Act I, scene 1, Mus 780.741.605

  • Signor Formica. Vocal score
    Signor Formica : komische Oper in drei Aufzügen / von Richard von Perger ; Klavierauszug mit Singstimmen. 1879.
    Mus 780.741.605

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