Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015...3:20 pm

Historical Sheet Music Collections: a glimpse of paradise

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Stepping briefly outside the Ward Collection, I have been working recently with Dana Gee on our “Historical Sheet Music Collections of Houghton Library and the Harvard Theatre Collection.” As Dana has reported, she has begun our survey and already we have found amazing treasures of music and printing. On a gloomy, rainy day such as today, it might have been easy to pass over a work with a cover like this one.

Sheet Music 133 Cover

Sheet Music 133 Cover



But imagine my delight when, on opening the cover, this luxuriously lithographed title page of Ecos de México appeared. The gilded sky just makes the green cactus appear all the more sumptuous, and the statuary peeking out from below on the lower left side makes it clear where this cactus grows. And all the more intriguing, the lithographer is C.G. Röder, in Leipzig. Now how did that happen? Unfortunately the illustrator didn’t sign his work, so I can’t tell whether this image was designed in Mexico City, or Leipzig. Those vines do make me wonder, as I’ve spent a lot of time in Arizona without ever seeing any ivy like that: could this have been designed by someone in Leipzig, attempting to create an “antique” atmosphere with the ivy, while working from pictures to create the cactus?

Sheet Music 133 Title page

Sheet Music 133 Title page

Does it matter? The overall effect is lovely. The music itself is mostly what you might expect from a European composer of this time period, with a few regional accents. A recording on YouTube includes the beginning of the music (though what is shown on the video is not from this imprint). All in all, a nice little break from December. And speaking of which, may we take this opportunity to wish all of our readers a happy holiday season? May your days be merry and bright.

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

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