Month: October 2010 (page 2 of 2)

La Belle, La Perfectly Swell Romance

The generosity of the Women’s Task Force Fund has enabled the Loeb Music Library to acquire a wide variety of rare works by women composers: some, like Carrie Jacobs Bond or Liza Lehmann, top of the charts in their lifetimes but less known today, some, like Miss Mellish, composer of My Phillida, adieu love, hauntingly obscure: we don’t even know her first name. None of them pique this writer’s curiosity more than the one-woman hit machine known as Loïsa Puget.

Cover engraving from "À la grâce de Dieu" (1836) Even then, the old "let's make her look as if she's smoking" routine was irresistible, apparently.

Puget (1810-1889) was one of the most popular and playable French songwriters of the 1830’s.  Her romances, or simple, pretty, easy-to-sing ballads of peasant and bourgeois life, were as much a part of life as the poke bonnet.  Her mother had been an singer, and made music a large part of her daughter’s education, which included some time at the same boarding school as the young George Sand (then known as Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin.)  Quick to spot the one other pupil interested in the arts, Sand remarked on the younger girl’s talent, vivacity, roguery and beauty.  These served Puget well as she began to make a name for herself as a songwriter, singing and accompanying her own ballads in the salons of the well-to-do. Her facility and charm won over such diverse people as Hector Berlioz, who ruefully remarked that to the people of Paris all the symphonies in the world are not worth a romance by Loïsa Puget sung by their favorite prima donna, and the dialect poet Jacques Jasmin, who wrote a poem praising her melodies, at which “la terro tout s’amayzo, tout se tayzo.”  Together, Puget and Gustave Lemoine, her lyricist, dominated family music racks, school songbooks, popular concerts and after-dinner piano singalongs from 1830 to 1845, when composer and lyricist married, fashions in song began to change, and Puget’s prolific production rate slowed down.

Puget enjoyed herself thoroughly giving her public exactly what they wanted, even, in 1836, an opera, Le mauvais œil, but her greatest hit was “À la grâce de Dieu.”  If cell phones had been available in 1836, Puget’s ballad would have been the most popular ringtone in France.  A mother’s song of farewell as she watches her daughter leave her village to seek her fortune in Paris, this romance was the “Single Ladies” of its day: church organs played it, dance bands played it, accomplished young women beguiled the long evenings with it.  It was so successful that in 1841 Lemoine and Adolphe Philippe D’Ennery elaborated the basic idea into a melodrama, La Grâce de Dieu, which in turn became the basis for Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix.

Loeb Music Library owns seventy-two pamphlet scores of Puget’s romances. The earliest dates to 1830.  In addition, a score of Le mauvais œil is available for study in the Merritt Room.

– Sarah Barton

New in the Digital Collections: Bach and Schubert

As we all emerge from the first busy weeks of the semester and go looking for music to play, perhaps it’s a good time to showcase some of the latest additions to our collection of Digital Scores and Libretti.

Johann Sebastian Bach. Detail of BWV 234. Merritt Room Mus 627.1.536

Johann Sebastian Bach. Detail of BWV 234. Merritt Room Mus 627.1.536

First, two early editions of works by Johann Sebastian Bach:

Piano music and songs by Franz Schubert:

Franz Schubert. Title page, Die Schöne Müllerin. Merritt Room Mus 800.1.715.10 PHI

Franz Schubert. Title page, Die Schöne Müllerin. Merritt Room Mus 800.1.715.10 PHI

The Packard Humanities Institute Music Collection, on deposit at the Music Library, includes the world’s largest collection of Schubert first editions outside of Vienna. To date, we’ve digitized 150 early Schubert editions from the Packard Collection and the library’s other holdings; this month we offer a selection of piano music and songs: walzes and dance music, a piano reduction of the overture to Die Zauberharfe, and settings of Müller, Goethe, Schiller, and others.

Piano Music


  • Die schöne Müllerin: ein Cyclus von Liedern Gedichte von Wilhelm Müller; in Musik gesetzt für eine Singstimme mit Pianoforte begleitung dem Carl Freyherrn von Schönstein gewidmet von Franz Schubert; 25 Werk (Wien: Sauer & Leidesdorf, [1824]).
  • Willkommen und Abschied Gedicht von Goethe; An die Leyer: (nach Anacreon); Im Haine Gedichte von Bruchmann: in Musik gesetzt für eine Singstimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte und gewidmet Herrn Carl Pinterics von seinem Freunde Franz Schubert; 56tes Werk (Wien: bey A. Pennauer, [1826]).
  • Alinde; An die Laute; Zur guten Nacht: für eine Singstimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte: 81tes werk. In Musik gesetzt von Franz Schubert; Gedichte von Fried. Rochlitz (Wien: T. Haslinger, [1827]).
  • Der Zwerg und Wehmuth: zwey Gedichte in Musik gesetzt für eine Singstimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte, 22. Werk (Wien, Diabelli [1830?]).
  • Ein Fräulein schaut vom hohen Thurm: 126tes Werk. Ballade von J. Kenner; in Musik gesetzt für eine Singstimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte von Franz Schubert (Wien: J. Czerny, [1830]).
  • Schäfers Klagelied; Heidenröslein; Jägers Abendlied; Meeres Stille: für eine Singstimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte von Goethe; [Musik] von Franz Schubert (Wien: Cappi und Diabelli, [1821]).
  • Der Unglückliche Gedicht von Caroline Pichler, geb. v. Greiner. Die Hoffnung; Der Jüngling am Bache Gedichte von Fried. v. Schiller; in Musick gesetzt für eine Singstimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte, op. 87; von Franz Schubert (Wien: A. Pennauer, [1827]).

Incidentally, the staff of Harvard College Library Imaging Services are responsible for the fantastic photography and presentation of these scores. The Digital Imaging Lab recently celebrated its 10th anniversary; read more about its history – and its future – in this HCL News article.

– Kerry Masteller

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