Month: May 2012

Newly Digitized: Busoni and Schreker

When we began digitizing scores from our collections over a decade ago, one area of focus was works from the operatic repertoire existing in multiple versions. If opera is a genre ripe for reinterpretations – as novels, plays, libretti, and scores themselves are recycled and revisioned – both of this week’s scores are products of the resulting palimpsest of musical influences.

First, a vocal score of Busoni’s two-act number opera, Turandot:


Ferruccio Busoni. Original cover, Turandot. Mus 633.5.605

Ferruccio Busoni. Original cover, Turandot. Mus 633.5.605


[Turandot. Vocal score]. Turandot : eine chinesische Fabel nach Gozzi in zwei Akten / Worte und Musik von Ferruccio Busoni; Klavierauszug mit Text von Philipp Jarnach. Leipzig: Brietkopf & Härtel, [c1918]. Mus 633.5.605.

Although it premiered in 1917 as a double-bill with Arlecchino (link to digitized vocal score), Turandot has its origin in incidental music composed over a decade earlier for Carlo Gozzi’s 1762 play of the same title. Writing in a 1911 issue of Blätter des Deutschen theaters devoted to the play, Busoni describes his composition: “I have employed exclusively original oriental motives and forms and believe I have avoided the conventional theatre exoticism.”1 These themes were themselves taken from examples of Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian music published in August Wilhelm Ambros’ Geschichte der Musik, as well as the English song “Greensleeves”.2

Our second work is a full score of Franz Schreker’s Das Spielwerk:


Franz Schreker. Leise's final lullaby, from Das Spielwerk. Mus 800.42.615

Franz Schreker. Leise's final lullaby, from Das Spielwerk. Mus 800.42.615


[Spielwerk]. Das Spielwerk: Mysterium in einem Aufzug / von Franz Schrecker. Wien: Universal-Edition, c1921. Mus 800.42.615

The simultaneous Frankfurt and Vienna premieres of Das Spielwerk und die Prinzessin (link to digitized vocal score) in 1913 had not been a success, thanks in part to a hostile reception by the Viennese critic Julius Korngold. Schreker condensed and extensively reworked the opera in 1915 and 1916; his revisions include replacing the original overture with the prelude to the second act, and changing the ending from the fiery disaster of the first version to a lullaby sung by Leise to her deceased son. The new, one-act Das Spielwerk premiered in Munich in 1920, conducted by Bruno Walter.

-Kerry Masteller


1. Busoni, Ferruccio, “The Turandot Music,” in The Essence of Music and Other Papers, trans. Rosamond Ley (New York: Dover, 1965), 61, http://hollis.harvard.edu/?itemid=|library/m/aleph|007922884 (HOLLIS record).

Original text: “Ich habe ausschließlich originale orientalische Motive und Wendungen verwandt und glaube den konventionellen Theater-Exotismus umgangen zu haben.” Busoni, Ferruccio, “Zur ‘Turandot’-Musik,” Blätter des Deutschen theaters (Berlin), Jahrg.1 Nr. 6 (27 October 1911): 83-84, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/njp.32101018921104?urlappend=%3Bseq=99 (full text).

2. For an analysis of the sources used in the Turandot Suite, see Antony Beaumont, Busoni the Composer (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c1985), 76-86, http://hollis.harvard.edu/?itemid=|library/m/aleph|000220150 (HOLLIS record).

See also August Wilhelm Ambros, Geschicte der Musik: mit zahlreichen notenbeispielen und musikbeilagen, Vol. 1, Die Musik des griechischen Alterthums und des Orients (Leipzig: F.E.C. Leuckart, 1887-1911), http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.FIG.GITEM:HW2LWX (full text).

Newly digitized: Hésione

Recently added to our collection of Digital Scores and Libretti is this first edition of André Campra’s Hésione:

Hesione: tragédie mise en musique par Monsieur Campra: representée par l’Academie Royale de Musique le vingt-uniéme jour de Decembre 1700. Paris: Ballard, 1700.
Merritt Room Mus 635.582.625

André Campra. Hésione. Merritt Room Mus 635.582.625

André Campra. Hésione. Merritt Room Mus 635.582.625

Le Cerf de la Viéville ranked Campra first among the post-Lully composers of French opera and held up his Tancrède (1702) as deserving of particularly high praise. Campra was second only to Lully in the number of tragédies en musique he composed, with ten such works in his oeuvre. His first tragédie en musique, Hesione, was performed at the Opéra on 21 December 1700. The libretto was by Antoine Danchet.

Viéville cited Hesione as being “full of new and brilliant things” and that it offers proof that “since the death of Lulli there has still been something beautiful in France.”1 Though his tragédies retained the general outlines of the genre as established by Lully, he departed from Lullian convention by employing more contrapuntal textures and vocal coloraturas. To the critics most faithful to Lully this was sign of the encroachment of Italian music in France. Campra acknowledged his tendencies when he set out his personal musical credo in the preface to his first book of cantatas (1708): “to the best of my abilities I have endeavoured to temper the delicacy of French music with the liveliness of Italian music.”2

(With thanks to Dr. Sarah Adams, Acting Richard F. French Librarian, for text slightly modified from her exhibition of French Baroque opera, in which this score appeared.)


1. “Hésione…qui est plein de choses neuves & brillantes[.] Il me suffit de cela pour montrer à Mr. l’Abbé que, depuis la mort de Lulli, on a encore fait quelque chose de beau en France.” Comparaison de la musique italienne et de la musique françoise, 2nd ed. (Bruxelles: F. Foppens, 1705-1706), 1:98.

2. “J’ay taché autant que j’ay pû de méler avec la delicatesse de la Musique Françoise, la vivacité de la Musique Italienne…”. Cantates françoises, melées de symphonies… Livre premier (Paris: C. Ballard, 1708).

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