Friday, 24 March 2017


Tudor fans in London will be treated this Easter season with a historic performance in English of 16th century composer and Gentleman of the Chapel Royal Thomas Tallis’ “Gaude Gloriosa Dei Mater,” a so-called “prayer for battle” penned by the composer sometime after 1544 whilst in the service of King Henry VIII.

The English-language version of the nearly 5 century’s old composition was first brought to the attention of both musical and monarchial spheres in 1978, when the manuscript was discovered tucked inside of a cavity behind the plastered walls of Oxford’s Corpus Christi College. It has since undergone much scrutiny by scholars in regards to the date the music was written and for which English Monarch – King Henry VIII, or his daughter by Katherine of Aragon, Queen Mary Tudor. Researchers in favor of Mary cite the prevalence of like-Marian votive antiphons made popular during the Queen’s reign (a much frequented source of propaganda for the Monarch which conveniently contrasted both Mary’s - the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the exalted Queen Mary on earth – in the minds of loyal subjects; and a musical format of which composers living in Mary's time would often use to their advantage). Researchers in favor of Henry VIII note the unusual presence of an English text for the music – a practice most uncommon for such a composition – likening it to the newly protestant services mandated by the King’s son and future monarch, Edward VI. Supporters of this theory date the music to the late term of Henry VIII, and believe the work’s lyrics to have been translated from their original Latin into English just prior to the ascension of the royal heir.

Such has been the lyrical controversy for the past four decades – that is until very recently, when one eagle-eyed Cambridge scholar noticed a direct match between the text of Gaude Gloriosa Dei Mater and a particular psalm authored by English Queen Catherine Parr sometime in 1544. Parr’s ninth psalm “Agaynst enemies” was part of a larger work penned by the former Monarch during her marriage to King Henry VIII – a book of "Psalms or Prayers" which the Queen had published (as an English translation of a Latin devotional text penned by Catholic Saint John Fisher) in support of her royal husband’s highly contested campaign against the French.

Henry VIII's sixth (and final) wife, consort Queen of
England and Ireland Catherine Parr.
According to David Skinner, the director of music at Cambridge’s Sidney Sussex College (and the scholar who made the recent royal attribution), the King sought to rally English support and instill zeal, telling reporters

 “Henry wanted the people to rise up and ‘pray’ him into battle, as later that July he was to lead his armies at the Siege of Boulogne…”

But in order to accomplish such a feat, Henry would have to replace the use of traditional Latin litany and prayer – incomprehensible to most outside of the clergy – into a language that could be understood even by the “common man.” For this, it seems Henry would turn to his then-wife – ardent supporter of the King and skilled linguist Catherine Parr. The Queen certainly delivered – Parr’s translation of Fisher’s text is aptly described by Skinner as both “searing and wrathful… very much at odds with the original devotional nature of the Latin.”

He cites an example of Parr’s text:
“[C]ast them down hedlonge, for they are treatours & raybels agaynst me … let the wicked sinners returne in to hell”
Further lending support to Skinner’s conclusion of Royal authorship lay in the books’ penultimate and final prayers, entitled “A prayer for the King” and “A prayer for men to say going into battle,” both of which give credence to the notion that Gaude Gloriosa Dei Mater was indeed composed much prior to Mary's ascension to the throne in 1553 - likely during the latter half of King Henry VIII's reign, when England was embroiled in a bitter war with both Scotland and France.

Indeed, it is easy to imagine the gusto that must have been felt by English troops as they rushed into battle, armed with this fully comprehensible, and supremely aggressive anthem freshly ingrained in their minds.

The Gaude Gloriosa Dei Mater is set to premiere in London, both under its correct authorship, and in the English tongue for next month’s Holy Week (from Palm Sunday on the 9th to Holy Saturday on the 15th). The Alamire choir (of which Skinner is director) is slated to perform.  Click here for more details.

Listen below to Tallis' Gaude Gloriosa Dei Mater, in it's original Latin form:

Did You Know?

No one really knows with any certainty what Thomas Tallis looked like - the famous engraving of the composer (left) dates from the mid-18th century, and is nothing more than the product of one artists' perception (i.e. imagination). There are no official portraits of the composer that survive.

Learn more: 
  • article (with images of manuscript) at the Telegraph 
  • David Skinner's published findings, Aug 2016 at Oxford Academic (*membership/purchase)


Thursday, 23 March 2017

BLOG UPDATE (MARCH 23, 2017) / ROSE RESPONDS feat. Did You Know?

Due to external obligations that exist outside of this blog, I will be posting at a somewhat slower than usual rate for a brief period. But fear not, dear reader! There exists on my person a veritable bounty of posts already in progress, and, of course, there will be plenty more exciting articles to come!

In the meantime, take a breather with a little Jonas Kaufmann as the German tenor performs a stunning rendition (minor lyrical foibles and all) of Federico's famous lament (È La Solita Storia del Pastore) from late 19th-early 20th century Italian composer Francesco Cilèa's 1897 opera L'arlesiana, which I am dedicating to Unraveling Musical Myths reader Maybelle* who asked:
"Dear Rose,

...what is your favorite Italian aria?"
While the more precise answer is that it is almost impossible for me to choose just one aria from the Italian repertoire, I would have to say 'Federico's Lament' is right up there among my favorites!

Thank you for your question!

Did You Know?

Caruso was only 24
when he took on the role
of Federico in Francesco
Cilea's L'arlesiana.
L'arlesiana's famous second-act lament would serve to catapult the career of a young Enrico Caruso, arguably the most famous tenor of all time (and the original Federico), who performed the aria to substantial acclaim. Caruso's performance is widely believed to have been largely responsible for keeping the memory of the opera alive (even until present day). Although L'arlesiana premiered to much success (on November 27, 1897, at the Teatro Lirico in Milan), this was largely due to Caruso performing the stunning aria. L'arlesiana, which Cilea repeatedly revised in a series of vain attempts at turning the critical tide, would prove to be a failure with critics outside of Italy (although it did experience a brief period of notoriety, thanks to one Benito Mussolini, who was reportedly a fan).

* question submitted vie email. Reader's name used with permission. To see your inquiry published in a future edition of Rose Responds, contact me by using the form located near the end of the sidebar (right).


Saturday, 18 March 2017


Sigismond Thalberg
Some very unsettling news out of Naples this week as descendants of 19th century Swiss composer and celebrated piano virtuoso Sigismond Thalberg revealed to the Italian press the recent desecration of the musician’s tomb, located in the Thalberg family vault at the city’s Poggioreale cemetery.

Giulia Ferrara Pignatelli, the musicians’ 2nd great granddaughter discovered the atrocity earlier this month when she paid a what she believed would be a routine visit to the cemetery in order to assess the present state of the monument and make note of any needed repairs. Much to Ms. Pignatelli’s horror upon arriving at the first of two sets of gates (which were normally kept locked, and which now had quite literally been torn apart - it’s hinges bust open by a wrench), Thalberg’s great-great granddaughter knew this particular visit would be anything but “routine.”

Accompanied by the President of the Neapolitan Thalberg Centre (a piano school named after her distant grandfather) Francesco Nicolosi (who had joined Pignatelli at the cemetery in order to assist in her assessment of the monument), the horrified pair persisted further into the tomb only to discover the vault in a state of appalling disarray. The scene inside depicted a frenzied (and morbidly crude) act of brazen violence and haste: the floor of the tomb itself hacked to pieces by a pickaxe - evidence it’s assailants had attempted (and succeeded) in smashing through to the elaborate tomb contained below; a brass urn belonging to the composer would be confiscated from its resting place. 

The vandals however, weren’t quite done with the composers’ tomb. Sadly, it would seem robbery was not the only goal for the attack on the monument. 

The thieves set sight on the glass case in which Thalberg himself rested in his final repose, and, according to Pignatelli, smashed it to pieces before violently extracting the musicians “mummified corpse”  from it's now destroyed coffin - only to callously “[toss] him into the corner” where Pignatelli presently found him, half-propped up against the one of the walls in the tomb. She would describe the scene to reporters as “gruesome.”

Franz Liszt
Although the victim of this heinous crime, “Sigismond Thalberg” may not exist in the present era as a household name, the musician was lauded across in Europe in the mid-late 19th century as one of the top contenders in the arena of piano virtuosi. In fact, so celebrated was the pianist, he would be declared “the premiere pianist in the world,” second only to Franz Liszt, a composer and fellow virtuoso with whom Thalberg famously ‘dueled’ in a piano competition held at the home of Countess Cristine Belgiojoso of Lombardy in 1837. The Countess would declare Thalberg the victor of the musical battle, claiming only of Liszt: “[he] is unique” (this was no small praise for Thalberg, considering the fact that the Countess could count herself among Herr Liszt's string of lovers). The press hailed the contest between the dueling maestri as being as thrilling as the "battle between Rome and Carthage," whilst fellow noted contemporaries Frédéric Chopin, Felix Mendelssohn and even female pianist Clara Schumann later proclaimed of Thalberg an expertise on the instrument (Clara would famously remark in her diary:
"An even more accomplished mechanism than his does not exist...many of his piano effects must ravish the connoisseurs. He does not fail a single note, his passages can be compared to rows of pearls, and his octaves are the most beautiful ones I ever heard." 
Thalberg even had a nickname: "The Old Arpeggio," named after a frequently occurring feature of his compositions for the piano. Musical Paris itself divided into two sects during this period: Thalbergian and Lisztian.

Considering the high praise lauded upon Thelberg in the mid-late 19th century, it is somewhat astonishing (in spite of the fact that his is a fate all too common) that the musician is not a frequent mention even in classical music circles, let alone in the private homes of Romantic-era fanatics.

Thalberg’s legacy fares somewhat better in present day Italy: the villa in which he died in Posillipo (a residential quarter of Naples) currently bears his name (Villa Thalberg), in addition to the aforementioned Sigismund Thalberg International Study Centre, founded by the musicians’ first great granddaughter, Donna Francesca Ferrara Pignatelli, Princess of Strongoli in her grandfather’s name for the study of the piano, also located in Naples.

The act of disturbing the graves of the artful dead unfortunately
goes back many centuries. The motive behind such acts of
vandalism, however, have not always been solely for the pursuit
of theft of relics. Sometimes exhumation would be for a noble
venture, such as for further research in the medical sector
(however even then, body parts - mostly skulls - would suddenly
go "missing" - stolen by and for collectors and phrenologists.
Often, corpses would be stolen under the cloak of night by paid
criminals - known as "resurrectionists," for use as cadavers by
shady-operating anatomists.
Unfortunately, Thalberg’s newfound status as a member of esteemed victims of grave robbers and tomb desecrations is neither a new occurrence nor a poorly inhabited club. Many a late practitioner of the fine arts (composers included) in eras past have been the unwitting victims of grave disturbance: be it through legal (or illegal) exhumation (in which some of Western Classical Music’s most famous names quite literally ‘lost their heads’) for purposes of 'science', to the present era: the reader may recall my post on the case of the “missing teeth" of Herrs Brahms and Johann Strauss II, whose graves were ransacked in Vienna (believed to have occurred in sometime in 2002), solely for the purposes of theft and bragging rights. In both cases, YouTuber Ondrej Jajcaj of Slovakia claimed responsibility for the heist as he brazenly showcased the stolen relics on the popular video sharing hub, telling his viewers
 “Now, we come to the major pedestal. On the top are the teeth of Johann Strauss Jr. ... to the left there are dentures of his wife Adele Strauss…to the right, we have rubber prosthesis of Johannes Brahms. Here, I, as an amateur have managed to build illegal historical collection of dental works.” 
Because Jajcaj (who styled himself the “Freedom Undertaker”) uploaded his ‘finds’ to the website in 2002, Austrian authorities, who only became aware of the robberies 10 years later in July of 2012 following exhumations of both composers (and who had not previously been made aware of the incriminating video) frustratingly declared the crimes “too old to prosecute.” 

Here’s hoping for a more fruitful outcome of justice for Ms. Pignatelli.

Listen below to Thalberg’s Canzonette Italienne (Op. 36 no. V):

Further Reading (external links):

  • on the desecration of Thalberg's grave (press release, in Italiano) at Il
  • on Jajcaj and his stolen 'relics' / exceeded Statute of Limitations at the dailymail
  • on the famous Liszt-Thalberg "duel" (including varied hypotheses of music played) at pianostreet


Tuesday, 7 March 2017


Herr Liszt in 1849 at Weimar
Exciting news out of England today as David Trippet, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Music at University of Cambridge announced a date for the 21st century premiere of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt’s nearly two centuries old ‘forgotten’ Italian opera. Titled Sardanapalo, the rare abandoned work is said to be based on the tale of “peace-loving monarch” Sardanapalus (the last Assyrian king) – it’s libretto influenced by Lord Byron’s 1821 tragic play Sardanapalus.

According to Trippet’s extensive research (spanning some two years, during which time the music scholar spent poring over the surviving fragmented manuscript), the opera's music was recorded by the composer in shorthand; the score only half complete. The nearly 170 year-old leaves never saw the light of day – at least not on the operatic stage: Liszt would apparently abandon the project mid-way through its completion in 1849, only for the music to ultimately find itself quietly relegated to the Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv' (Goethe and Schiller Archives) at Weimar in Germany. Why Liszt abandoned the work remains unclear, although there is mention of the opera by Franz in a private exchange with German composer (and future son-in-law) Richard Wagner in which Liszt claims the work would be ready for a Paris or London premiere in 1852. According to musicologist Kenneth Hamilton, Liszt may have been become disenchanted with the ‘dated’ subject matter of the libretto after reading a copy of Wagner’s essay "Oper und Drama" (Opera and Drama) in which the German composer focuses on the role of epic poetry as an essential element of what he considered to be ‘idealized, all encompassing music drama,’ or, "Gesamtkunstwerk."

Certainly, Wagner's vision was a progressive one, and Liszt was known to have been enamored by his German counterpart during this early stage in their friendship.[1]

From Trippet:
“The music that survives is breath-taking – a unique blend of Italianate lyricism and harmonic innovation. There is nothing else quite like it in the operatic world. It is suffused with Liszt’s characteristically mellifluous musical language, but was written at a time that he was first discovering Wagner’s operas…

The only source for this opera is a single manuscript containing 111 pages of music for piano and voices. It was always assumed to be impossible to piece together, but after examining the notation in detail, it became clear Liszt had notated all the cardinal elements for act 1. You have to think through the artistic decisions traceable in the manuscript and try to reconstruct the creative process, to see how Liszt’s mind went this way and that…

Fortunately, Liszt left just enough information to retrieve what was evidently the continuous musical conception he had at the time. We will never know exactly why he abandoned his work.”
A portion of the recently deciphered work is set to premiere in the form of a ten-minute scene from the opera at the renowned BBC Cardiff Singer of the World contest (final), which takes place this June in Wales. Armenian soprano Anush Hovhannisyan is slated to perform.

The scene, which the University is calling a “preview” will be preceded one month prior by an introductory documentary on the work. A critical edition of the music is planned for publication some time in 2018 by Hungarian publisher Editio Musica Budapest (Universal Music Publishing in the West). The schools’ Faculty of Music has generously offered a rare treat to those suffering from a renewed case of "Lisztomania"  - in the form of a musical teaser:

listen to Hovhannisyan perform an aria from the work below, accompanied by tenor Samuel Sakker and bass-baritone Arshak Kuzikyan:

To learn more about this exciting news, watch the ‘trailer’ below; and, to read a summary of the opera’s libretto, read the official press release by visiting the University of Cambridge website.

Did You Know?

There could be yet another reason for Liszt’s abrupt departure from completing his opera of 1849:

Richard Wagner held Herr Liszt by the proverbial tail during this period.
It would be a hectic time for the conductor and composer and for his newfound friendship in Herr Wagner. Having only met once before (nine years earlier, when Liszt was busy mesmerizing Europe as a virtuoso pianist - and when Wagner was virtually unknown to the musical sphere), the duo would reconnect in 1844 at a performance of Wagner’s Rienzi. So overcome with the “genius” of the megalomanic German composers’ mind, Liszt would readily take on the role of conductor for Wagner’s Tannhäuser (first for the opera’s Overture in 1848, and later for the complete production in February of 1849). Liszt had also recently earned the distinction of ‘Kapellmeister’ (“in extraordinary service” to boot) to the Weimar court during this period (he would serve under Grand Duke Karl Friedrich, and later, under his son Karl Alexander). All of this, while the master pianist attempted (in vain, as we have previously learned at Unraveling Musical Myths) to secure a private home life with Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein. The adulterous pair (the princess was still legally married when she shacked up with Liszt) would host many a student and honored guest at their villa during this period - the family home all but serving as a private salon with constant comings-and-goings. It was the intention of the couple, and of the ducal family, to place Weimar on the world's cultural map as the hub of progressive music. By all accounts, their collective goal seemed well on it's way to succeeding. Indeed, 37 year old Franz had his hands full.

"Steckbrief," (Warrant of arrest) for
Richard Wagner, issued 16 May 1849
at Dresden.[2]
It wasn’t all roses for Herr Liszt – even less for Wagner – during this period, however. Three months after conducting Tannhäuser, Liszt would take on the role of criminal harborer and would aid and abet the fleeing of a fugitive Wagner, who was presently sought under warrant by Officials in Saxony who had charged the composer with participating in the revolutionary furore of the Dresden insurrection (specifically, for ‘supporting’ those revolutionaries involved in the May Uprising of 1849). Together, the two composers would concoct a scheme to get Wagner safely out of Germany and into exile (for Zürich via Paris) – but not before symbolically 'sticking it to the man' first: in a brazen show of ego known only to the likes of Richard Wagner, the two would dally in Weimar to attend a rehearsal of Tannhäuser – with Liszt at the helm and Wagner in the audience!

Learn more about Wagner’s dramatic escape here at Unraveling Musical Myths:


*UPDATE: 27 NOVEMBER, 2018:  A date of launch for a CD recording of the world première performance of Sardanapalo has been announced on the website. It will be released on 8 February, 2019 through the Audite label.


[1] There is much evidence of Liszt's adulation for Wagner preserved in the duo's surviving correspondence. For instance, following the production of Tannhauser at the Weimar Court Theatre (which Liszt conducted), a giddy Franz would inform Wagner in a letter: "[I] say it once and for all; from now on please count me among your most zealous and devoted admirers — from near or far you can rely on me and consider me at your service."

[2] Wagner’s “Steckbrief” reads, in English (loosely translated):


See below for details. Royal
Kapellmeister Richard Wagner, of this place,
is wanted for examination on account of his
substantial participation in the seditious
movement which took place here in the city,
but as yet he has not been found. The police are
therefore instructed to look out for him, and, if
he is found, to arrest him and communicate at
once with me.

Dresden, the 16th may, 1849.
Von Oppell,
Deputy town police.

Wagner is 37-38 years old, of middle
stature, has brown hair and wears


Monday, 6 March 2017


Today's Quote of the Day comes to us from 19th century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi in honor of the 164th anniversary of the premiere of La Traviata, which held its debut at La Fenice opera house in Venice this 6th day of March, in 1853:

"I adore art... when I am alone with my notes, my heart pounds and the tears stream from my eyes, and my emotion and my joys are too much to bear."

Listen below to the heart-wrenching "Ah! Dite alla giovine" (Oh tell your daughter) from the second act of La Traviata. Renata Scotto and Renato Bruson perform:

Did You Know?

The figure of a woman: Fanny
Salvini-Donatelli wasn't quite
convincing as a damsel in distress,
much less a sexpot to 19th century
The premiere of La Traviata created a minor tempest in the Venetian teapot when, during the opera's first act, it's star soprano fell victim to a jeering audience who felt the chanteuse "too fat" for the role of one dying from consumption, and "too old" to illicit any form of empathy for her woefully maligned character, Violetta, who is later accused of being a whore. Apparently, at a full-figured 38, soprano Fanny Salvini-Donatelli wasn't quite convincing as a damsel in distress-cum-lady of the evening.

The opera's second act fared little better following the inept vocal stylings of baritone Felice Varesi and tenor Lodovico Graziani, which sent the audience into yet another vitriolic tizzy - prompting a frustrated Verdi to pen his infamous letter of doubt to confidante (and fellow composer) Emanuele Muzio, in which the composer poses the question:

"La traviata last night a failure. Was the fault mine or the singers'? Time will tell."

Maria Spezia-Aldighieri
The fault, it seems, did indeed lay in the casting for the premiere of La Traviata. Verdi undoubtedly would have breathed a hefty sigh of relief at a subsequent staging of the opera on the 6th May 1854 at Venice's Teatro San Benedetto with Italian soprano Maria Spezia-Aldighieri in the role of Violetta (who, oddly, wasn't much lighter in frame than her predecessor) which proved to be such a rousing success, Verdi himself referred to the overwhelming praise received for the opera as "a furore!..." and referenced the poor reception at Teatro La Fenice the previous year as a write-off - the work a victim of an uncultured audience - proclaiming with gusto "draw your own conclusions!"

La Traviata exists today as one of the most performed operas at theaters across the globe, with many of it's many catchy arias (such as the ever-popular Brindisi (drinking song) Libiamo ne` lieti calici) infiltrating pop culture. The success of the opera itself can arguably be considered as the catalyst for making "Verdi" a household name.



Fanny Mendelssohn (Hensel)
A live performance of ‘Ostersonate,’ penned by early 19th century composer and pianist Fanny Mendelssohn (sister of Felix) some 189 years ago in Berlin, is set to take place this Wednesday, March 8 at the Royal College of Music in London in celebration of International Women’s Day.

UPDATE: MARCH 8 2017: listen to the program on BBC3 RADIO now - available for the next 29 days:

The previously long ‘lost’ work – an Easter Sonata - first mentioned by Fanny in a private diary entry in 1829 (in which Fanny states she had performed it “at home” in April of that year), has only ‘resurfaced’ once before – in 1970 in France, when it was erroneously recorded under the authorship of the more famous of the siblings - in brother Felix, only to quietly disappear once more from the romantic era repertoire.

The sonata would be tracked down in 2010 by Duke University Graduate Student Dr. Angela Regina Mace in the possession of a private collector.[1] Mace immediately recognized the handwriting on the manuscript to have belonged to Fanny. She would go on to cite the appearance of multiple corrections to the score by the same hand as being indicative of live, on-the-fly edits by an original composer, rather than by the hand of one taking dictation.[2] Mace would also make note of the recurrence of several stylistic elements unique to the sister Mendelssohn scattered throughout the manuscript.

Armed with Mace’s recent discovery, Sheila Hayman, third great granddaughter to the Mendelssohn’s, urged London’s BBC3 Radio to be the first to première the Ostersonate – accredited with it’s original author – to Britain and the greater musical sphere – a request the radio station gladly took on to help celebrate Western Classical Music’s previously ‘unsung’ female composers. It is scheduled for a lunchtime performance, around 1 PM, and can be streamed live online for those listeners residing outside of Britain.

Watch the video below to hear a preview of Ostersonate, and a brief summary of the works’ history/authorship (Duke University):

Did You Know?

It was not uncommon for the era in which Fanny lived (early 19th century) for female composers and musicians of note to be suppressed by musical society and/or overshadowed by their immediate male kin. Whilst a woman of lower class was expected to be well read and well versed in the arts, literature, and particularly in music (all of which served as great boons to a potential husband), female musicians were routinely shunned from seeking public recognition or fame (the Mendelssohn’s father, Abraham, would famously inform his daughter in a private written exchange 
“Music will perhaps become (Felix's) profession, whilst for you it can and must only be an ornament…”
Muse-ical kin: Fanny would famously provide counsel for Felix on his
upcoming projects, and even published her own compositions under his name.
Many a female composer/musician would serve as ‘ghostwriter’ – even as a private consultant – to her male peer throughout his esteemed career, a historically un-thankful task for women in possession of such talents (examples of this can be found in Felix Mendelssohn’s 8th Opus (12 Gesänge, no.’s II, III & XII) and 9th Opus (12 Lieder, no.’s VII, X, XII), all of which were attributed to the composer, but in reality penned by Fanny, who had the works published under her brother’s name as a means to see her music in print - albeit vicariously -  though Felix.

Wish to learn more about the discovery of the Ostersonate, and the highly complex, allegedly quasi-incestuous relationship between Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn[3]?

Read Dr. Angela Mace’s Dissertation on the siblings Mendelssohn below (eternal link):
...and take a gander at UCLA Professor David Warren Sabean’s 1993 article in The Musical Quarterly (*subscription, external link):

BONUS CONTENT: More from Ms. Mendelssohn!  

Enjoy below Fanny's exquisite Notturno in G Minor, one of my favorite pieces by the composer.

This brief Nocturne would have likely served as a staple-piece at the private salon of Fanny and husband Wilhelm Hensel (a painter at the Prussian court). Together, they would host intimate musical gatherings each Sunday, attended by some of Europe's most well respected and accomplished composers. Such notable figures included Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt, and wife to composer Robert Schumann, Clara - successful in her own right as a musician and composer - and whose middle class status allowed her to rise within the upper echelon of high musical society:

[1]The "private collector" would find the manuscript in a Paris bookshop back in 1970 - it had been considered lost for some 140 years prior to his purchase of the music. Fanny had mentioned completing an Easter Sonata in a letter to Felix in 1829 - this, in addition to a mention in her private diary of having performed the piece "at home" that same year.

[2]Apparently, the private collector of the Ostersonate was not at all convinced with Dr. Mace's findings, telling the grad student: "It can't be by's a masterpiece - very masculine, very violent."

[3] an assumption routinely made by music scholars due to the highly romanticized nature of the language employed by Fanny to her brother, which have been preserved in a slew of the pairs’ surviving written exchanges. Although not quite as sexual in tone as can be found in the private exchanges of 18th century Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to his 'cozz buzz' (the maestro's nickname for his beloved first cousin) Maria Anna, Fanny's overzealous display of adulation for her brother and despair over her own wedding to Hensel has certainly raised the collective eyebrows of musical scholars studying the siblings Mendelssohn. 


Friday, 3 March 2017


The Robertsbridge Codex
Listen below to an exciting performance of the ‘estampie’ (named after a dance made popular in the middle ages) from the 1360 manuscript entitled “Robertsbridge Codex.”

The 14th century manuscript is the earliest known surviving piece of music composed specifically for the keyboard. It is comprised of six pieces of anonymously authored musical sections: three in the ‘estampie’ form (made up of a series of repeating melodies known as punctua), one in the Italian “Trecento” dance form, in addition to three arrangements of motets (two of which are from the satirical “French allegorical verse romance” known as the “Roman de Fauvel”).

The Robertsbridge Codex (named after the village of the same name in East Sussex, England in which the manuscript originated) can be found in the British Library (additional manuscript 28550).

Sicilian pianist Alberto Chines performs:



above: a 17-year old Mozart
Boston-based RR Auction is presently offering to one lucky bidder a fragment from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s c. 1773 Serenade in D Major ("Antretter," Köchel no. 185) – in particular from the works’ third movement (allegro).

The double-sided leaf, page-marked “34” (believed to be in the hand of the senior Mozart, Leopold, who was a near-constant presence/force of influence in Wolfgang’s life during this period), is part of a now much-disembodied larger manuscript, originally containing 58 leaves, many of which are now presumed to be lost – a result of the score having been split up subsequent to the sale of the complete manuscript by Berlin-based autograph trader J. A. Stargardt in 1975. The remaining leaves have since been preserved at the Mozart Foundation in Salzburg.

The Serenade in D major is believed to have been composed by a 17-year old Wolfgang to honor one Thadda Simon Antretter (hence the work’s alternate title) – a friend to the Mozart family who had recently graduated from the University of Salzburg with a degree in logic (the Serenade, complete with it's introductory 'Processional March' (K.189) is believed to have been performed as 'finalmusik' for the graduation ceremony itself). The “Antretter” Serenade is notable as the first serenade to employ a solo violin. Mozart, who learned the instrument as a young child from Leopold, presently served as a concert violinist in the Austrian city, and, in an effort to showcase his virtuosity – not only on performing on the instrument, but also, as a skilled composer for the violin – would include three of them in the Serenade.

The fragment (Lot #492 at RR Auction) is expected to fetch upwards of $200,000 at auction, which ends Wednesday.

To follow this item, or to place your bid, visit RR Auction: Mozart, Lot 492 

UPDATE - MARCH 8, 2017, 7:32pm EST: Mozart Serenade in D Major (Allegro) final bid: US $147,000 (no sale); RRAuction Lot 492

Listen below to the allegro from Mozart's Serenade in D Major (begins at 19:16 and ends at 22:38):

Paganini performing at the
Paris Opera March 9 1831 by
Also presently up for grabs by RR Auction is a “rare, triple-signed letter” from the pen of late 18th/early 19th century virtuosic violinist and composer (and, according to some contemporary admirers of the musician, il diavolo himself), Niccolò Paganini. The double-sided page, written in French by Paganini to administrators of the Hospices Civils in Lyon, reads (translation):

“Mr. Paganini asks the Administrators of the Hospices to take account of the twenty-two concerts to be given according to his subscription: Sunday, 13 March—Opera. Sunday, 20 March—Opera. Sunday, 27 March—Opera. Sunday, 3 April—Opera. Sunday, 10 April—Theatre Italien. To that effect, he wants to get the earnings of the 13th of March to finish his accounts with the Opera. The other…six concerts are in charge of the Opera. The concert of the 17th is not included. It is in benefit of poor people, from which you will receive a large sum.”

It is signed by the musician twice: once as "Mr. Paganini," and once as “Nicolo Paganini,”

The letter – Lot #493 at RR Auction – includes an additional leaf, bearing the words “Return as soon as possible, Mr. Paganini has to leave Thursday morning.”

The letter, marked 26 April, 1831, dates from a particularly exciting time in Paganini’s musical career. It is doubly notable: it is penned shortly after the musician’s first concert in Paris (held 9th of March, 1831); the concert was part of a series that would amass significant crowds for Paganini – this, in spite of public vitriol over the skyrocketed ticket prices at the Paris Opera, which had recently doubled in fare.

The letter (and accompanying leaf) is expected to fetch upwards of $4,200. Bidding ends Wednesday.

To follow this item, or to place your bid, visit RR Auction: Paganini Letter

UPDATE - MARCH 8, 2017, 7:59pm EST: Rare "triple-signed letter" by Niccolò Paganini final bid: US $2,700 (no sale); RRAuction Lot 493
Listen below to the adagio from Paganini's Violin Concerto no. 4 in D minor. The concerto  premiered to mixed critical review at Paris in March of 1831. Paganini’s 4th, much like Mozart’s Serenade in D major, also once held the title of a 'disembodied' work – disseminated by the hands of time. Its composer would carry it's pages close to the vest, even carrying it upon his own person during his many travels. It would remain in the Paganini family until 1936, when descendants of the musician sold the orchestral score to paper dealer Natale Gallini. Gallini would soon discover a portion of the score – the part for solo violin – was missing from his purchase; after a thorough search the fragment was located in the collection of Giovanni Bottesini, a double-bass player. Upon retrieval of the music for the violin solo, Gallani would pass the completed score onto his son – conductor Franco Gallini – who would honor the memory of Paganini with a "Second World Premiere" at Paris in November 1954.