Tag Archives: music

Have I Got A Hymn For You

‘A Hympne of Thanksgiving, composed by John Roe’ (MS. Eng. c. 7963, fol. 71) has recently been catalogued as part of the current project to incorporate the Bodleian’s music-related manuscripts into the online catalogue. The item contains the text of a previously unknown seventeenth-century hymn. It is in the hand of the herald and antiquary, Sir William Dugdale (1608-1686), many of whose other papers are held by the Library. Dugdale held the title of Chester Herald of Arms in Ordinary from 1644 to 1660. As part of the role, heralds would travel across England to deliver messages on behalf of the monarchy.

An early form of social media!

The hymn celebrates the Battle of Preston (1648), which ended with a victory of the Parliamentarians under the command of Oliver Cromwell over the Royalists and Scots led by the Duke of Hamilton during the English Civil War. John Roe is credited by Dugdale as the ‘composer’; however, his identity cannot be confirmed.

As an Assistant Archivist, I had the opportunity to take part in a Digital Editions Course at the Taylor Institutions Library. This course entailed for the digitisation of a chosen text, and creation of an XML file consisting of a transcription.

In order digitise the text, I had taken the photos using a digital camera and employed the software programme GIMP to ensure high-resolution and quality images. I then used Oxygen Editor to write the XML coding. The image and XML files were uploaded onto ORA data for future use and to provide access for researchers and students without the need to have the physical copy, which after about four hundred years is, unsurprisingly, showing some wear and tear. You can find these at the ORA deposit site here.

Following the convention of diplomatic transcription, I kept the spellings the same as they appear in the text; some of the writing though is illegible. For example, in stanza 6 (shown in the image above) I was unable to transcribe the last word in line 2: ‘‘Ye kings give ease, ye people […] / I even I will sing / And sweetly raise my voice in praise / To England’s God and king.’

Can you read the missing word? Heaze, wave, haze, or something else?

This catalogue is now online.

The Natasha Spender archive is now available

Programme for a piano recital by Natasha Litvin (later Spender) in 1944, from MS. 6647/54The archive of Natasha Spender, concert pianist, academic, and wife of the poet Stephen Spender, is now available.

Natasha Spender, Lady Spender, née Litvin (or Evans), was born on 18 April 1919, the illegitimate daughter of Ray Litvin and Edwin Evans, who was a well-respected (but married) Times music critic.

Ray Litvin (d. 1977) was from a family of Lithuanian Jewish refugees and grew up in Glasgow. She became an actress and was by 1915 a regular with Lilian Baylis’s Old Vic theatre company but in 1926 her career was crushed when she caught typhoid fever and became profoundly deaf.

Young Natasha, who had been fostered out during her early years, went on to spend her holidays with the wealthy and very musical family of George Booth (son of the social reformer Charles Booth) and his wife Margaret at their home Funtington House in West Sussex. A gifted pianist, Natasha trained at the Royal College of Music and following graduation, studied with the musician and composer Clifford Curzon and the pianist Franz Osborn before starting her professional career. During the war, she gave concerts for ENSA and in 1943 she, along with the actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft and the poet Cecil Day-Lewis, founded the Apollo Society which presented poetry with a musical accompaniment. She appeared often on television and radio including as the soloist in the very first concert televised by the BBC. She also gave recitals in the UK and abroad, including a concert for former prisoners in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In the 1960s Natasha made a move into academia after earning a degree in psychology and from 1970 to 1984 she taught music psychology and visual perception at the Royal College of Art. She later contributed to the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Natasha met the poet Stephen Spender in 1940 at a lunch party hosted by Horizon, a literary journal that Stephen was co-editing at the time. They married in 1941. For decades, the Spenders were central figures in the London (and international) literary scene, with Stephen Spender’s career as a writer, professor, lecturer, editor and delegate taking them all over the world, with long periods in America.

In the 1950s, Natasha became friends with the terminally alcoholic, noir author Raymond Chandler, who fell in love with her. The exact nature of their relationship became an ongoing source of speculation among his biographers. This, along with controversies over unauthorized biographies and interpretations of Stephen Spender’s life led to Natasha fighting hard for the rights of biographical subjects and particularly for her husband’s reputation. Following Stephen Spender’s death in 1995, Natasha founded the Stephen Spender Memorial Trust, which continues to promote poetry in translation, and she collaborated first with John Sutherland on an official biography of her husband (published in 2004) and then with Lara Feigel on an updated edition of Spender’s journals (published in 2012). Natasha also published articles about friends and associates, including Dame Edith Sitwell and Raymond Chandler, and her archive includes an unfinished memoir covering the early years of her life and marriage. She died on 21 October 2010 at the age of 91.

The papers will be of interest to readers researching the history of early twentieth century theatre and performance, the academic field of visual perception, and the literary circle of Stephen Spender.

Music Manuscript Catalogues Go Online

The Bodleian Libraries house rich collections of music manuscripts dating from medieval times to the present and include such highlights as Handel’s conducting score of Messiah, Holst’s suite The Planets and Mendelssohn’s Hebrides overture. Anyone who has used the Bodleian’s music manuscript or archival collections over the years will be used to grappling with a confusing array of different findings aids. Apart from a few old collection-level entries in the Online Catalogue for Archives and Manuscripts, we have had to rely on various paper catalogues and handlists, published and unpublished, which readers can rarely navigate successfully without help from Music section staff. These include: the published Summary Catalogue of Western Manuscripts (for manuscripts acquired up to 1915), supplemented by large numbers of typescript revisions to the Summary Catalogue descriptions; typescript descriptions of post-1915 acquisitions, the more recent of which also exist as MS Word files; published catalogues for the Deneke-Mendelssohn and Tenbury collections, both of which have accumulated long lists of corrections and amendments over time; boxlists for various uncatalogued collections, such as Ella and Sterndale Bennett. Such finding aids were only partially indexed so locating material has always been dependent to a large extent on the knowledge and experience of staff.

Original conducting score of Handel’s Messiah (MS. Tenbury 346, fol. 66r)

Thanks to a very generous donation, we are now well into a three-year project which aims to incorporate the content of these various finding aids into the online catalogue as well as tackle a range of music manuscripts and archives which have hitherto had no catalogue description. So far, a number of uncatalogued manuscripts and collections have been catalogued while the existing finding aids were sent off to have their contents keyed into machine-readable form for the online catalogue. The two strands of converting the existing finding aids and new cataloguing will continue side-by-side for the remainder of the project which is due to finish in the summer of 2021. By this time, if all goes to plan, all of the Bodleian Libraries’ music manuscripts and music-related archives will have entries in the Online Catalogue for Archives and Manuscripts, which is itself undergoing a system upgrade and facelift. The first collections should start to appear online in the Autumn of 2019 and will be added to gradually as catalogues are completed.

Catalogues of the Bodleian’s Music holdings

To have online access to any of this information is a major step forward for users of our collections and the beauty of an electronic catalogue is that it can be added to and improved over time.

Martin Holmes, Alfred Brendel Curator of Music

The Braun Family Archive: Second edition catalogue now available

The second edition of the catalogue of the Braun Family Archive is now available here.

More than 50 boxes – MSS. Braun 168-221 – have been added since the first catalogue was published in February 2015. In addition to the papers of, and collected by, Thomas Braun and his parents Konrad and Hildburg Braun, the archive now includes a collection of family verse and writings, as well as correspondence, personal documents, writings, memorabilia and photographs of Gerhard Braun, his wife Anneliese and daughter Ruth.

Gerhard Braun (1893-1946) was Konrad Braun’s elder brother. By profession he was an obstetrician and gynaecologist. As a young man he served as a medical officer in the First World War and then as an American POW. In 1927 he married Anneliese Finster (1901-1996), and adopted her daughter Ruth (‘Rüthli’, 1926-1999).

Braun family photo, c. 1931

The Friedmann-Brauns, c. 1931: Gertrud and Felix Friedmann-Braun with Ruth, at the back Konrad, Hildegard, Johannes, Anneliese and Gerhard Braun. – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Due to the Friedmann-Brauns’ Jewish ancestry, the family faced discrimination and persecution under the Nazi regime. After losing his posts in the public health system and seeing his previously successful practice limited to private patients and the to Jews only, Gerhard Braun was arrested in the course of the November pogrom in 1938 and taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was detained for five and a half weeks. He was released in December 1938, on condition that his family paid a large sum in tax and that he emigrated.

12-year-old Ruth was sent ahead to safety in England in late 1938, staying with family friends – Curt and Hilde Sluzewski who had had already emigrated from Germany – in London. Gerhard and Anneliese followed in early 1939. Since they had been forced to leave behind most of their possessions, and Gerhard Braun was forbidden to work, the family, for more than three years, was reliant on the generous support of Marcel Wolfers, a merchant in the China trade.

Gerhard Braun was detained as an ‘enemy alien’ at the Huyton internment camp near Liverpool for several months in 1940. Only from 1942 was he able to practice medicine in England, as a junior hospital doctor in Birmingham. However, his health had been seriously impaired by his mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis and he died in 1946, at just 52 years of age.

Gerhard Braun at the piano

Gerhard Braun at the piano. – Photograph by permission of Christopher Braun

Anneliese and Ruth Braun eventually moved from Birmingham to London, where they shared a house in Golders Green until Anneliese Braun’s death in 1996. Mother and daughter were extremely close, and together they were known as ‘the Pummels’ to family and friends.

Anneliese Braun was an amateur writer since her youth, and some of her poems and short stories had been published in German newspapers before 1933. Even before coming to England in 1939, she had begun to write in English as well, and later she also translated works by other writers, including Monika Mann, Ruth Tenney (Marcel Wolfer’s wife) and Veronica Erdmann-Czapski, with whom she was friends.

Ruth Braun, having attended Birmingham Theatre School as a young woman, also had a lifelong interest in drama and music – in many ways, following the family tradition. Her ‘adopted grandfather’, Felix Friedmann-Braun (1861-1934), had been a brilliant amateur pianist in Berlin, and his four children grew up in a prosperous, cultured family with many links to leading literary, musical and artistic figures in Germany.

Poster for a recital by Hildegard Braun in Berlin, 1918. The Bechstein-Saal, a chamber music hall with more than 500 seats, had been opened 1892 with a series of concerts by Johannes Brahms, Anton Rubinstein and the like. Hildegard Braun certainly was in good company! – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Daughter Hildegard was a successful professional singer, the youngest son, Johannes, an actor. Konrad Braun was a keen amateur violinist and played in a string quartet with friends (Curt ‘Slu’ Sluzewski, amongst others), while Gerhard had inherited his father’s talent as a pianist. Gerhard also composed short pieces of music, such as birthday serenades for Ruth, and set to music verses by his wife Anneliese and poems by Ruth Tenney. Some of his compositions survive in the archive (MS. Braun 221), and together with a collection of family verse compiled by Thomas and Christopher Braun (MSS. Braun 168-169), these give a wonderful glimpse of the important role that music, literature and writing played in the Braun family’s life – as a profession, as a pastime and for pleasure, and not least, as a source of a sense of identity, dignity and hope in times of hardship.

A song written down for Konrad Braun “von seinem Papa” – by his father, Felix Friedmann-Braun, 1911. – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Poem written by Konrad Braun for his wife Hildburg’s 30th birthday on 14 May 1940. Just a year earlier, they had emigrated from Germany to England to escape persecution by the Nazis. The poem was published 63 years later, transcribed and translated by their son Thomas Braun, in The Oxford Magazine, No. 216, 2003. – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Find out more about the Braun family story, and about the archive, here.

The Braun Family Archive was donated to the Bodleian Library by Christopher Braun, London, in several tranches between July 2010 and May 2017, together with a grant towards the cost of preparing the catalogue.