New Digital Collections from the Music Division

At the end of September, the Music Division launched three tremendous digital collections connecting researchers with a wealth of music scores, all highlighting significant holdings in 18th-century opera, early musical theater, and concert/art music published ca. 1869-1958. Each digital collection presents a bevy of manuscripts and published scores that will delight scholars and performers alike.

Cimarosa, Domenico. [title page, f.1r:] Chi dell’altrui si veste presto si spoglia | Aria | Sai chi son marmotta | Musica. Call number M1505.A1 Case (vol. 16), Library of Congress Music Division.

In 1910, the Music Division purchased an extensive collection of copyist music manuscripts, referred to as the Martorell Collection, that we believe were once owned by the family of Alonso Tomás Álvarez de Toledo y Silva (1835-1895), X Marqués de Martorell and his wife Genoveva Samaniego y Pando, VII Marquesa de Casa Pontejos.  Upon arrival, it was clear that provenance information for the collection was extremely limited:  the “Marquise de Martorell” was mentioned as a former owner and the collection had reportedly been on exhibit at the Paris International Exposition in 1900 where it was honored by the jurors who described it as sui generis.  Today, besides knowing the name of a former owner, we still have very little information about this “one of a kind” collection. The largest subset of the Martorell collection includes 253 uniformly bound volumes comprising well over 1,100 full scores of excerpts predominantly from 18th-century operas.  Contributions from close to ninety individual composers are included with Domenico Cimarosa being the most represented (130 works); and, while the majority of selections are by Italian composers, excerpts by Spanish (e.g., Manuel Espinosa de los Monteros), Portuguese (e.g., Marcos Antonio Portugal), and German (e.g., Johann Adolph Hasse) composers are interspersed throughout.  Many of the arias found in these 253 volumes are of considerable value since the obscure operas from which they were extracted are otherwise not represented in our collections.

Music manuscript for Amy Beach’s “Bal Masque,” 1894. A.P. Schmidt Company Archives, Library of Congress Music Division.

The second new digital collection highlights music manuscripts from the A.P. Schmidt Company Archives. Arthur Paul Schmidt (1846-1921) was a German-born music publisher who pioneered the development and dissemination of American music. The A.P. Schmidt Company Archives documents his firm’s publishing activities in Boston, Leipzig and New York, beginning with his tenure, through his successors, and until the firm was absorbed by Summy-Birchard in 1960. The Archive consists of the original manuscripts from which the music was printed, printed music, personal and corporate correspondence, photographs (primarily composers/arrangers), business records, plate books, publication books, stock and cash books. The online presentation includes only music manuscripts, if you have questions about other items in the collection, browse the finding aid, visit the Performing Arts Reading Room at the Library of Congress, or contact us through Ask a Librarian. The collection is particularly rich in music manuscripts by women, including works by Florence Newell Barbour, Marion Bauer, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (identified as Mrs. H.H.A. Beach in the collection), Gena Branscombe, Mable Daniels, Helen Francis Hood, Cora W. Jenkins, Margaret Ruthven Lang, Marion Osgood (composer, violinist, and director of Marion Osgood’s Ladies, the first professional women’s orchestra in the United States), Edna Rosalind Park, Anna Priscilla Risher, Clara Kathleen Rogers, Mary Turner Salter, Mabel Madison Watson, and Mildred Weston, among others.

“The Edinboro Wriggles” from La Belle Paree by Jerome Kern and M.E. Rourke, 1911. Call number M1508, Library of Congress Music Division.

Last, but not least, Sheet Music of the Musical Theater is a collection of more than 16,000 pieces of sheet music published between 1880 and 1922. These songs, specified as “M1508” items in the Library’s classification system, were taken from musicals, revues and operettas primarily of the American and British stage. They are arranged for piano and voice, sometimes simultaneously in arrangements for lower and higher voice. Sheet music was the primary method by which the public learned about the latest songs, only much later supplanted by recordings and radio. Composers and lyricists from the famous to the obscure can be found in this collection, and the songs portray the culture and history of more than 100 years ago in unique and valuable ways.

All of the scores provided in these digital collections are fully downloadable, awaiting study and performance. As always, contact the Music Division’s reference librarians with questions about the material via our Ask a Librarian email service. We can’t wait to see what research comes from these digital collections!

Music in Time of Pestilence, Part Two

The concluding part of this two-part survey of music and disease looks at examples that arose from pandemics in the 19th and 20th centuries, including: works by Stephen Foster and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel written in the wake of a series of cholera outbreaks, and the sometimes curiously lighthearted musical response to the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Spring-Themed Online Music Challenge

An undeniable musical trend during social distancing right now is the wealth of online music making. In the spirit of music keeping us together while we’re apart, I propose a Spring-Themed Online Music Challenge! Use the sheet music I recommend in this blog post about spring and flowers from the Music Division’s digital collections, make videos, and tag us on social media.

The Curious Case of Henry Creamer, or A Mammy, a Mule, and a Moon

The following is a guest post from Ben West, writer, director, producer, performer, and musical theatre historian. He is currently a curator for the forthcoming Museum of Broadway in Times Square, New York City. He is also currently writing and developing several stage projects including The Show Time! Trilogy, three new documentary musicals about the evolution […]

It’s Snow Time!

Oh give me the snow, the white wing’d snow That falls from the wint’ry sky That robes the earth in a vest of white, And sparkles and shines as the sun’s rich light, Like a starry arch on high. I love the snow! I love the snow! I love the snow! - John Brown, “I Love […]

Sheet Music Spotlight: Zouaves

The following is a guest post from Retired Music Cataloger Sharon McKinley. My fascination with the Library of Congress collections is unbounded. I’m always running across interesting items, seemingly at random. My latest sheet music find: Zouaves. In a search for something else entirely, I found the “Zouave mazourka.” On the cover was a handsome […]