Saturday, February 22, 2014

Old ([this time:] Swiss) Songbooks, No. 3: Ignaz Heim, Neue Volksgesänge für den Männerchor 1 (1863/1882)

One of the most industrious and dedicated editors of songbooks for choirs in Switzerland was Ignaz Heim (1818-1880; see ADB 50, 1905, pp. 133-5, at BStB-DS and wikisource; a short summary at Wikipedia). Heim came from the town of Renchen in Baden, worked for some years in Freiburg but in 1852 he moved - not at least for political reasons - to Zürich. There he was busy as a choirmaster but also compiled numerous collections of arrangements for mixed and male choirs. 

His most popular publication may have been the Sammlung von Volksgesängen für den Gemischten Chor, a quasi-official songbook for schools as well as Gesangsvereine and other societies and clubs published under the auspices of the committee for music of the school council in the town of Zürich. It first came out in the early 1860s and remained in print for nearly a century. For example the 64th edition was published in 1898 (see catalog entry in Nebis) and the 137th in 1950 (see Nebis). Thankfully the 30th edition (1883) has been digitized and is available online at the Internet Archive:

Another of his successful endeavors was a series of six books with arrangements for male choirs, of which I have the first volume:
  • Neue Volksgesänge für den Männerchor. Liederbuch für Schulen und Vereine. Herausgegeben
    unter Mitwirkung deutscher und schweizerischer Tonsetzer von Ignaz Heim. Erstes Bändchen. Neunte Stereotypauflage, Zürich, n. d. [1882] (pdf-file, my own scan)
This book was first published in 1863 (1st edition available online at BStB-DS & Google Books). The 9th edition came out in 1882. That year it was listed in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten (p. 361, via Hofmeister XIX). It is an interesting and worthwhile collection but - as usual - the term "Volksgesang" didn't mean songs by the "folk" - in the sense of the modern ethnological definition - but for the people: Heim's aim was to produce simple, but appealing arrangements of songs old and new for the numerous Gesangsvereine - choral societies - that were flourishing. This book therefore includes not only some of his own songs but also pieces by - for example - Silcher, Mendelssohn, Nägeli, Schumann, Weber as well as some so-called "Volksweisen". 

Most interesting here is one of the earliest Swiss versions of "Heimat, Ade!", a text of uncertain origin written for the popular tune of "Robin Adair" (No. 18, pp. 41-2) that later became a standard in German songbooks for schools. But Heim also included the well known German text "Treu und herzinniglich" by Wilhelm Gerhard (1826): 

But most impressive is a list of his publications that were offered for sale at that time:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Robert Burns in 19th-Century Germany - H. F. Kufferath's 6 Lieder (1841)

Robert Burns was one of the most popular foreign poets in the German speaking countries during the 19th century. But even though his works were already discussed there since the 1790s the real enthusiasm only started in the late 1830s (see the overviews in Selle, pp. 21-150 & Kupper, pp. 9-48, also Bödeker, pp. 80-3). In 1838 popular poet Ferdinand Freiligrath included German versions of 11 songs in his Gedichte (pp. 434-46, at BStB-DS) and by 1840 three books with translations, by Philipp Kaufmann (1839, at Google Books), Julius Heintze (1840, at BStB-DS) and Wilhelm Gerhard (1840, at Google Books), were available. This was not a short-lived fashion. In the course of the next several decades even more would follow. But for some reason the interest in Burns suddenly waned around the turn of the century (see Bödeker, p. 89).

Equally enthusiastic about Burns were German composers who clearly loved to write new tunes for these translations (see Fiske, pp. 156-185 for a good overview). His name began to appear in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten in 1839. That year Heinrich Marschner used seven of Freiligrath's texts for his Lieder nach Robert Burns, Op. 103 (see Hofmeister XIX, December 1839, p. 154, available at the Internet Archive & SBB Berlin). The following year Robert Schumann set some of Gerhard's adaptations to music (in Myrthen, Op. 25, Hofmeister XIX, October 1840, p. 143, at SBB Berlin & BStB, München; later ed. at the Internet Archive). In a review in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik on June 28th, 1842 (Vol. 16, No. 52, p. 207) he also noted that Burns was "the favourite poet of the current young composers". In fact he remained a favourite for quite a long time and until the turn of the century a great number of relevant compositions would appear.

I am particularly interested in settings of translations of "Phillis The Fair" and "Had I A Cave", the two texts Burns had written to the tune of "Robin Adair" and I must admit that I was surprised to learn that at least 18 new melodies for these texts were published between 1840 and 1898. That's an astonishing number. Schumann's above-mentioned review in the NZM was about one of the earliest collections of Burns' songs in Germany, one that also included a German version of "Phillis The Fair", here called "Liebliche Maid":
  • Hubert-Ferdinand Kufferath, Sechs Lieder von Robert Burns übersetzt von W. Gerhard für Tenor oder Sopran mit Begleitung des Pianoforte, Op.3, Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig [1841]
As usual there is no publication date on the cover but it was listed in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten in December 1841 (p. 190, at Hofmeister XIX). As far as I could find out there are only two extant copies of this work available in the libraries, one in Brussels at the Bibliothéque royale de Belgique (Mus. 6.786 C 1) and the other at the Händel-Haus in Halle. The latter copy has now been made available online and can be found on the site of Museum Digital Sachsen-Anhalt.

Hubert Ferdinand Kufferath (1818-1896) is not exactly a household name today but during his lifetime he was a highly respected teacher, composer, pianist, organist and violinist. He came from Mühlheim/Ruhr and from 1839 to 1841 he studied in Leipzig, for example with Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. In 1841, the year this collection was published, he went to Köln and worked there first as the conductor of the Männergesangverein, one of the best and most popular German choirs. Three years later Kufferath moved to Brussels where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1872 he was appointed professor at the Royal Conservatoire. After his death it was noted in an obituary in the Musical Times And Singing Circular (Vol. 37, No. 642, Aug. 1, 1896, pp. 554-555) that "Belgian musical art has lost one of its most zealous promoters, and the Brussels Conservatoire in particular one of its most highly valued and valuable professors" (biographical information from Düwell 1964 and Nauhaus 1999; Wikipedia only has a much too short summary; more of his works can be found at IMSLP).

Just like Schumann he used texts from Wilhelm Gerhard's recently published book of translations. Gerhard (1780-1858; see Jahović 1972, a fine dissertation) - also completely forgotten today but surely a fascinating character - lived as a wealthy businessman in Leipzig. But besides that he was also a poet, playwright, polymath, translator - familiar with at least half a dozen languages - and a central figure of the cultural life in his hometown. In 1833 he closed down his business and for the rest of his life devoted himself solely to the arts. It seems his real problem was that he wanted to be new Goethe, his admired role model, but of course that was a little too much to ask.

Some of his early poems like the "Matrosenlied" were set to music and became popular hits (i. e. "volkstümliche Lieder") that can be found in numerous songbooks. Gerhard was also the author of the German text of "Robin Adair", one of the most beloved "Volkslieder" ("Treu und herzinniglich", 1826). One contemporary author noted appositely that he had managed to meet what was then called the "Volkston" (i. e. the language of the people or the popular style) in "not few of his songs" (Möbius 1866, p. 151, at Google Books).

In the article where he introduced his "Treu und herzinniglich" (Abend-Zeitung, Leipzig & Dresden, No. 273, 15.11.1826, pp. 1089-90, BStB-DS) he remarked that it was his aim to capture the "spirit" of the song and otherwise preferred to "let his imagination run free" instead of simply translating this song. He wanted to make it "understandable to German ears" and "singable to German 'Kehlen'". Similar sentiments can be found in the Burns book where he also noted that it was most important to him to convey the "spirit" of these pieces as faithfully as possible (p. IX). In fact literal translations were not his thing but he had a lot of phantasy as well as a colourful language and apparently liked to use old-fashioned words and expressions. Sometimes his syntax seems a little bit weird. Today many of his texts look and sound hopelessly outdated. The first verse of his version of "Phillis The Fair" is good example. Here is Burns' text:
While larks, with little wing,
Fann'd the pure air,
Tasting the breathing Spring,
Forth I did fare:
Gay the sun's golden eye
Peep'd o'er the mountains high;
Such thy morn! did I cry,
Phillis the fair.
I must admit that the original version was easier to understand for me than what Gerhard made of it:
Früh mit der Lerche Sang
Wandert' ich weit,
Schlürfte was Wies' entlang,
Labung verleiht.
Heiter und goldenrein,
Rief ich, wie Lenzes Schein,
Möge dein Morgen sein,
Liebliche Maid!
This sounds somewhat bizarre and I am not really sure what exactly it is supposed to mean. But it is singable and singability - besides capturing the "spirit" of the songs and retaining their "Originalrhythmen" (see p. IX) - clearly was among his main concerns. In case of "Phillis The Fair" alias "Liebliche Maid" he surely was successful. At least nine composers have created a new tune for this piece. In fact Gerhard treated Burns' words as song lyrics and not as poems. There is good reason to assume that he was familiar with the original tunes of the songs he had translated. They are listed in the "Melodietafel" (pp. 367-372) at the end of the book.

One gets the impression that he had really done his homework (but see also Selle, pp. 70-1, who is very critical). Additional benefits of Gerhard's collection were a well-informed and learned introduction to Robert Burns' life and works as well as the informative and entertaining comments on every song. He also explicitly encouraged composers to find new tunes to make these songs "mundrecht" (sic!) for German singers (p. 367). In fact many tried them out and apparently they preferred his adaptations to the products of the other translators.

Hubert-Ferdinand Kufferath - who lived in Leipzig when this book was published and I wonder if he perhaps knew Gerhard personally at that time - was among the first to make use of these texts. The reviews of his 6 Lieder were very friendly and more or less positive. A writer in the AMZ (Vol. 43, No. 49, Dezember 1841, p. 1041) noted that these songs had "the advantage of well-flowing, with the content corresponding melodies", were "easily singable and provided with a reasonable simple accompaniment". This description also shows that Kufferath's collection was not intended for professional singers and pianists but rather for the amateur players and domestic music-making.

Robert Schumann - with whom he had become acquainted in Leipzig (see Nauhaus 1999, p. 166) - in the above-mentioned review in the NZM (Vol. 16, No. 52, 28.6.1842, p. 207) also commended this publication even though he noted a certain, "inevitable [...] uniformity" of the tunes:
"In Hrn. Kufferath he [i. e. Burns] has found a very talented singer. The tone of the songs is happy and breathes Scottish character [...] in addition, the young composer shows in all of them [i. e. all songs] talent and taste, in many single strains also the finer education of the modern artist."
At last a look at the tune for "Liebliche Maid" is worthwhile. Because of that particular song I had become interested in this collection in the first place:

This is in fact an appealing and pleasant melody, simple, but not uninteresting. Of course it can't hold a candle to "Robin Adair", the original tune of Robert Burns' "Phillis The Fair". Nonetheless it works quite well in this context. But the song's mood has changed, it doesn't sound as serious as Burns' setting but instead more playful. In effect it is a new song that has not much to do with its precursors and even less with the first "Robin Adair". But of course "Liebliche Maid" á la Gerhard and Kufferath has remained part of this song family, only several steps removed from its starting point.

Appendix - The Songs in this Collection

I will list here the German titles, the relevant pages in Gerhard's collection as well as the titles and original tunes of Burns' songs. For some of them it was a little bit difficult to find out because Gerhard did not give the original titles in his book. But with the help of his "Melodientafel", the index of James C. Dick's Songs of Robert Burns (London 1903) and the great website Burns Country with their encyclopedia of songs I hope to have managed to identify them all. I have also added links to the original versions in the Scots Musical Museum and to the relevant pages in Dick's helpful and informative book. All the links here are to the Internet Archive except those to Gerhard's book which is available at Google Books.

I. "Eppie Adair"
(Gerhard, No. 73, p. 136, notes: p. 346)
"My Eppie Adair" (tune: "My Eppie")
(SMM III, No. 281, Dick, No. 126, p. 115, notes: p. 394)

II. "Heimliches Wiedersehen"
(Gerhard, No. 132, p. 223, notes: p. 355)
"I'll Ay Ca' in by Yon Town" (tune: "I'll gae nae mair to yon town")
(SMM V, No. 458; Dick, No. 99, p. 93, notes: p. 382)

III. "Am Ufer des Doon"
(Gerhard, No. 108, pp. 191 [Zweite Lesart], notes, pp. 351-2)
"Ye banks and Braes o' Bonie Doon" (tune: "Caledonian Hunt's Delight")
(SMM IV, No. 374; Dick, No. 123, p. 112, notes: p. 392)

IV. "Liebliche Maid"
(Gerhard, No. 162, p. 266, notes: p. 359)
"Phillis The Fair" (tune: "Robin Adair")
(Dick, No. 45, p. 45, notes: p. 366; here Dick used the wrong tune variant, a version of "Aileen A Roon" from Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion (V, p. 21) that he had to mutilate to make it fit to the words; it should have been "Robin Adair" from David Sime's Edinburgh Musical Miscellany (II, 1793, pp. 304/5); see Gebbie, p. 202 for the correct setting)

V. "So Weit Von Hier"
(Gerhard, No. 131, p. 222, notes: p. 355)
"Sae Far Awa" (tune: "Dalkeith Maiden Bridge")
(SMM V, No. 449) 

VI. "Lebewohl"
(Gerhard, No. 95, p. 168, notes: p. 350)
"Ae Fond Kiss, And Then We Sever" (tune: "Rory Dall's Port")
(SMM IV, No. 347; Dick, No. 84, p. 81, notes: p. 379)

  • Birgit Bödeker, Der deutsche Burns. Zur Kanonisierung von Robert Burns in Deutschland im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, in: Andreas Poltermann (ed.), Literaturkanon - Medienereignis - kultureller Text. Formen interkultureller Kommunikation und Übersetzung, Berlin 1995, pp. 79-91
  • James C. Dick (ed.), The Songs of Robert Burns, London 1903 (available at The Internet Archive)
  • Klaus-Ulrich Düwell, Kufferath, Hubert-Ferdinand, in: Karl Gustav Fellerer, Rheinische Musiker, 3. Folge, Köln 1964, p. 52
  • Roger Fiske, Scotland In Music: A European Enthusiasm, Cambridge 1983
  • George Gebbie (ed.), Robert Burns, The Complete Works (Self Interpreting), Vol. 5, New York 1909 (first published 1886) (The Internet Archive)
  • W[ilhelm] Gerhard, Robin Adair, in Abend-Zeitung, Dresden & Leipzig, No. 273, 15. 11. 1826, pp. 1089-90 (available at BStB, Digitale Sammlungen)
  • W[ilhelm] Gerhard, Robert Burns' Gedichte, deutsch. Mit des Dichters Leben und erläuternden Bemerkungen, Leipzig 1840 (available at Google Books)
  • Hofmeister = Musikalisch-literarischer Monatsbericht neuer Musikalien, musikalischer Schriften und Abbildungen, Hofmeister, Leipzig 1829ff (online available at Österreichische Nationalbibliothek; searchable database: Hofmeister XIX (Royal Holloway, University Of London)
  • Redžep Jahovic, Wilhelm Gerhard aus Weimar, ein Zeitgenosse Goethes, Göppingen 1972 (Göppinger Arbeiten zur Germanistik 57)
  • Hans Jürg Kupper, Robert Burns im deutschen Sprachraum unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der schweizerischen Übersetzungen von August Corrodi, Bern 1979 (Basler Studien zur deutschen sprache und Literatur 56)
  • Paul Möbius, Katechismus der Deutschen Literaturgeschichte, Leipzig 1866
  • Gerd Nauhaus, Clara Schumann und die Musikerfamilie Kufferath, in: Peter Ackermann (ed.), Clara Schumann - Komponistin, Interpretin, Unternehmerin, Ikone. Bericht über die Tagung anläßlich ihres 100. Todestages, veranstaltet von der Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst und dem Hochschen Konservatorium in Frankfurt, Hildesheim etc 1999, pp. 165-195
  • Obituary: Hubert Ferdinand Kufferath, in: The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular Vol. 37, No. 642 (Aug. 1, 1896), pp. 554-555 (available at jstor)
  • Rosemary Anne Selle, The Parritch and the Partridge: The Reception of Robert Burns in Germany. A History. 2nd Revised and Augmented Edition, Frankfurt/M. 2013 (first published as a dissertation, Heidelberg 1981) 
See also on my website, JustAnotherTune:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sheet Music: "Robin Adair" by Eugen d'Albert (1899)

One of the most popular songs in 19th century Germany was surely "Robin Adair". First and foremost it was known as a so-called "Volkslied" with two different texts, "Treu und herzinniglich" by poet Wilhelm Gerhard and "Heimat, Ade!" by an unknown author. But there were also attempts at new translations and these translations were then set to music anew. 

For example one rather free adaptation was created by John Henry Mackay (1864-1933, see Wikipedia), a German poet of Scottish descent. This text was first published in 1888 in Fortgang. Der "Dichtungen" erste Folge. It can also be found in Gesammelte Dichtungen. Mit der Photogravüre des Dichters (Zürich & Leipzig [n. d.], p. 377, at the Internet Archive): 

Popular piano virtuoso and composer Eugen d'Albert (1864-1932, see Wikipedia), also born in Scotland, then set this poem to music in 1899:
  • Eugen d'Albert, Robin Adair, Gedicht von John Henry Mackay für eine Singstimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte (aus Op. 19 [Sechs Lieder für 1 Singstimme mit Pianoforte, deutsch und englisch, No, 2: Robin Adair: "Leise und wehmuthsvoll"), N. Simrock, Berlin 1899 (see Hofmeister XIX, April 1899, p. 170; September 1899, p. 426; pdf, my own scan)
The tune looks of course quite different from the original: 

   Your browser does not support embedded midi

Not at least the publisher added a new English text, a translation of Mackay's poem:
 Softly yet wearily,
Seeming for nought to care,
Sounded thy song to me,
"Robin Adair."

Softly yet wearily,
Sung by thy lips so so fair,
Echoing o'er the sea,
"Robin Adair."
In effect this has become a completely different song. Only the name "Robin Adair" has been retained but otherwise there was a different text as well as a new tune. But one may say that it has remained part of the song family. The connection to the original is still there.

See also on my website:
  • The code for the midi-player used here is c/o: The problem with midi - Note for webmasters ( Many thanks!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Old (German) Songbooks, No. 2: Fritz Neuert, Neues Deutsches Schulliederbuch (1899)

Of particular importance for the dissemination of songs and the development of a standard repertoire in Germany during the late 19th and early 20th century were collections compiled especially for the use in schools. These were sold in great numbers and often reprinted in numerous editions. The teachers and their pupils had to use them. The songs in these kind of books were of course carefully selected, not only on musical but also on ideological grounds. The governments as well as many teachers saw songs, especially the so-called "Volkslieder", as valuable tools for the patriotic education of the children and as a means against what were regarded as the moral dangers of the modern world.

I am not sure if this approach was particularly successful but the poor little songs were thus loaded with heavy ideological ballast. An interesting example is a songbook first published in 1899. This is the third volume - intended for the higher classes of secondary schools - of a three-part series:
  • Fritz Neuert, Neues Deutsches Schulliederbuch. Sammlung deutscher Volkslieder und volkstümlicher Gesänge, III. Teil. A (vierstimmig), Pforzheim (Baden), n. d. [1899]
    Now available at the Internet Archive
There is no publication date on the title page but the preface is dated as from 1899. Fritz Neuert (1866-1923, see Stadtwiki Pforzheim-Enz, website Pforzheim) was a teacher in the town of Pforzheim but also made himself a name as composer, arranger and choirmaster.

In the preface he bemoans "the disgraceful displacing of our magnificent German 'Volkslied' from school, family and social clubs and the ever-increasing proliferation ["Hervorwuchern"] of trivial streets songs [...]". That was strikingly bizarre claim. Never before so many books of "Volkslieder" had been published than during the 1890s.

Of course he regarded the "light-weight and lascivious 'Tingeltangellied'" as the greatest threat not only to the good old songs but apparently also to the morals of the people. Besides that Neuert laments the decline of just about everything from family life to patriotism and not unsurprisingly concludes:
"[...] the school has the sacred duty to be aware of its task as an educator of the people ["des Volkes"], to avoid anything that hurts them, and to offer everything that keeps the soul of the people ["die Volkseele"] healthy. And here it is especially the song by which it may act most successfully."
This sounds all quite bombastic but saber-rattling of this kind was not uncommon among the so-called "Volksfreunde" ["friends of the people"] and the promoters of the "Volkslied"-genre. It had been part of the business and the ideology since Herder's and Goethe's time.

The songs this book clearly reflect this ideological agenda. There are many religious pieces like "Jauchzet dem Herrn" (Silcher) and "Hymne an die Nacht" and then of course a heavy dose of patriotism and nationalism, often very bellicose, that would be rather indigestible today. Some of these songs leave a somehow bad taste, like for example "Furchtlos und Treu" (No. 21, p. 28):
Frisch auf zum Kampf,
Fürs Vaterland zu streiten,
Frisch auf zum Kampf,
Fürs Vaterland ins Feld
Or "Zum Ausmarsch" (No. 24, p. 32):
O du Deutschland, ich muß marschieren,
O du Deutschland, du machst mit Mut;
Meinen Säbel will ich schwingen,
meine Kugel soll erklingen,
But these lines represent the naive patriotism that was so popular at that time. It is like little kids playing soldiers with their teacher. Nobody would have expected that some years later the young men would really be lying in the trenches.

In addition there are a considerable number of songs about "Heimat", "Abschied" und "Heimkehr", another favourite topic: "Heimat, Ade!", "Was willst du in der Fremde thun", "Sehnsucht nach der Heimat", "Ade, du Land am Rhein". But interestingly the editor also included the German version of "Home, Sweet Home" by John Howard Payne & Henry Bishop, one of the most popular foreign songs during the 19th century (No. 29, p. 36):
 All in all this is a very serious and solemn repertoire, not much to have fun with. I really wonder if the young people at that time enjoyed singing the songs from this collection.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Old (German) Songbooks, No. 1: Neuester Liederschatz (1899)

I am at the moment busy researching the history of the British song "Robin Adair" in the German speaking countries during the 19th and early 20th century. It is often necessary to check particular songbooks from that era to find out which of the known tune variants or arrangements had been used there. I was surprised to find out that many of these old books still can be found in the catalogues of second-hand bookshops and most of the time they were surprisingly cheap. Now I have a pile of these old songbooks lying around here. Some of them are not that easy to find in libraries and most of them have not yet been digitized.

So I tried to scan some of them myself. Of course these scans are not perfect because my technical abilities are a little bit limited. But I hope they suffice as simple working-copies. These books are all out of copyright and there should be no problem posting them here. I regard them as historical documents. They show what the people used to sing back then, what the publishers and editors wanted them to sing and what kind of songs were popular at that time. These are mostly collections of - or including - so-called "Volkslieder" and "volkstümliche" Lieder.

Here is for example one book that I found very interesting. It is not that difficult to get from second-hand bookshops but I haven't seen it in any of the library catalogs I know.
    • Neuester Liederschatz. Eine Sammlung der beliebtesten Lieder in ein- und mehrstimmigem Satz für sangeslustige Kreise, jugendliche Chorvereine und Turnvereine (Volksliederbuch No. 585b). Stereotyp-Ausgabe, Ensslin & Laiblin, Reutlingen, n. d. [1899]
      Now available at the Internet Archive
        As was often the case with songbooks this publication is undated. But here Hofmeisters Monatsberichte can help out. In fact it was first listed there in November 1899 (p. 537, via Hofmeister XIX). This is a cheap and handy pocket volume that users could easily take with them to the beer garden or on a walking tour. The picture on the cover seems suggest these kind of activities. The copy I have looks very worn so perhaps it was even used for the intended purposes.

        The title is a little bit misleading. The songs included here were for the greatest part surely not the "most recent". Instead the publisher simply reprinted many of the old standards, all the songs that had already been recycled numerous times in collections of all kinds. Typical examples are the "Matrosenlied" by Pohlenz & Gerhard, one of the most popular "Volkslieder" of the 19th century; "Mein Herz Ist Im Hochland", the German version of Burns' "My Heart's In The Highlands", here as usual in Ferdinand Freiligrath's translation and with a different tune; "Hochland's Sohn" ("The Bluebells of Scotland"), another popular import from Britain, as well as half a dozen songs by Friedrich Silcher - always a safe bet for compilers of songbooks - and assorted time-tested classics by Weber, Kreutzer, Mendelssohn, Schubert & co.

        Nonetheless it is a pleasant collection that shows what was popular or "volkstümlich" at that time. One may assume that for most of these pieces many people wouldn't have even needed a book like this one. They were at that time part of the standard repertoire, songs that (nearly) everybody already knew.

        Monday, February 3, 2014

        John Braham's "Robin Adair" (1811) - The Original Sheet Music

        The digitization of historical sources has massively improved the possibilities for research of any kind. I am very grateful to every library that makes their collections available in the Internet. But of course not everything can be found online. And I asssume it will never be, at least not during my lifetime. While researching the history of "Eileen Aroon" & "Robin Adair" I was looking for a digital copy of the original sheet music of John Braham's "Robin Adair". This version of the song was first published in 1811 by Button & Whitaker and became one of the greatest musical successes of this era. Original prints are stored in some British libraries (see Copac) but as far as I know none of them has been digitized yet. But thankfully - and much to my surprise - I was able to find another extant copy of this historically important publication:
          • Robin Adair, The Much Admired Ballad Sung with enthusiastic applause by Mr. Braham at the Lyceum Theatre, The Symphony & Accompaniments, Composed & Arranged For The Harp Or Piano Forte By W. Reeve, London, Printed by Button & Whitaker, St. Paul's Church Yard, n. d. [1811/12] Now available at the Internet Archive
            There is a very interesting story behind this song in general and especially this particular publication. The basic facts can be found in contemporary newspapers which are generally an excellent and very valuable resource for musicological research. I have used here once again mostly the British Newspaper Archive (BNA) and this time was also able to find some more information regarding the early history of Braham's great hit that also allowed me to correct some of my earlier assumptions about the song's first performance and the date of first publication of the sheet music.

            Braham, one of the greatest and most popular singers of this era (see Wikipedia; BDA 2, pp. 291-303), introduced the new "Robin Adair" on December 7th in a show at the Lyceum, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. This was first and foremost an opera night with The Maniac, or: The Swiss Banditti by S. J. Arnold and Henry Bishop as the main attraction. But as was still common during this era the singers also performed popular songs, old and new, between the acts or at the end of the concert. The Morning Post published a glowing review two days later on December 9th (p. 3, at BNA):
            "Lyceum. - Mr. Arnold's Opera of 'The Maniac' was on Saturday performed, for the first time this season [...] To many of the songs he [Braham] gave an effect which perfectly astonished us, and the frequent encores with which he was honoured, bore simple testimony to the taste, and to the gratification of the audience. He introduced the ballad of 'Robin Adair,' which he sung with exquisite feeling, and with all that simplicity of manner which is necessary to render it perfect justice. The audience were absolutely in raptures with it. It was tumultously encored, and loudly called for a third time. The last call was not complied with. It was certainly not necessary, as from the impression it made, being sung but twice, it is probable that the last two lines will often be repeated by many of those who were present - 'Oh! I shall ne'er forget/Robin Adair' [...]."
            Braham of course kept on performing the song and in the same paper on December 13th (p. 3, at BNA) the readers learned that at a show the night before he had sung this "simple melodious ballad [...] divinely, and was encored amidst the most tumultous applause [...]". A week after the very first performance the publication of the sheet music was announced (Morning Post, 14.12.1811, p. 3, at BNA):
            "Robin Adair - This day is published, by Button and Whitaker, price 1s. 6d, the celebrated Song Robin Adair, sung with such unbounded applause, by Mr. Braham, at the Lyceum Theatre."
            The "favourite ballad, 'Robin Adair'" was also explicitly mentioned in adverts for another show on the 17th that were published in the Times on the 14th and 16th (found at The Times Digital Archive). It seems at this point "Robin Adair" had already won widespread popularity in a very short time. But already back then popular songs were a hotly contested market. Every publisher jumped on the band-wagon and produced his own version of this ballad to get a slice of this new promising cake. William Reeve (1757-1815, see New Grove, 2nd ed., p. 75), a popular composer and a mainstay of the London music scene, and as the arranger involved in the production of the new hit - his name was even printed larger than Braham's on the title-page - clearly saw this coming. On December 17th he sent out a letter to at least five London newspapers and warned against what were in his eyes illegal editions of the song. It was published for example on the 20th in the Morning Post (p. 4, at BNA):
            "Robin Adair
            Sir, - In consequence of the very great popularity of the song 'Robin Adair' now singing with such applause by Mr. Braham, I am informed that two spurious copies of it are preparing for the Press. Through the medium of your paper therefore I feel it is but an act of justice to inform the public that the copyright of the only genuine copy as sung by Mr. Braham, with the symphony and accompaniments composed by me, has been purchased at a liberal price by Messrs. Button and Whitaker of St. Paul's Church-yard, and that I cannot be responsible for the correctness of any other copy than that published by those gentlemen. I am, Sir, your Obedient Servant, William Reeve, 53, Marchmont-street, Dec. 17, 1811"
            One gets the feeling that he had panicked a little bit and saw his financial rewards in danger. Amusingly on the very same day in the very same newspaper the publication of composer John Parry's version of this song was announced on page 1:
            "Just Published by Bland and Miller, [...], Robin Adair, the popular Air sung by Mr. Braham, with new words and accompaniment. By J. Parry"
            As can be seen from this advert Mr. Parry had even written new lyrics. This text was then reprinted in a couple of newspapers (see for example: 27.12.1811, Chester Chronicle, p. 3; 11.1.1812, Lancaster Gazette, p. 4, both at BNA). The way the new text was introduced there actually insinuated that it must have been Parry's version that Mr. Braham was singing:
            "The following Ballad, sung with unprecedented applause by Mr. Braham, is from the pen of Mr. Parry, Editor of the Welsh Melodies:

            Whate'er may be thy lot, Robin Adair
            Never forget thy cot, Robin Adair
            Mr. Reeve continued his campaign against this kind of "spurious editions", but to no avail. They kept on coming. On December 24th the Morning Post (p. 3, BNA) published a note that looks as if Reeve had written it himself. Here it was announced that his letter and signature will be "engraved on the title page" of the sheet music published by Button & Whitaker to distinguish the original edition from unauthorized versions. His letter also appeared in some provincial newspapers (see Northampton Mercury, 28.12.1811, p. 2 & Cheltenham Chronicle, 16.1.1812, p. 3, BNA) and in January he even felt it necessary to send out a second diatribe where he complained that "no fewer than Eight" of these competing editions had already been "imposed upon the public". The customers were once again asked to look for the reprint of his first letter and "the fac-simile of my signature" on the sheet music to be sure that they were buying a "genuine" copy (see Leeds Intelligencer, 3.2.1812, p. 2 & Manchester Mercury, 4.2.1812, p. 4, at BNA). In fact the print I have includes Reeve's letter and singnature:

            An astonishing number of new "Robin Adairs" were produced at this time. New arrangements were for example published by Joseph Mazzinghi, John Parry, Antony Corri, Thomas Howell, William Ling and Charles Stokes (see the reviews in Repository of Arts, Literature, Vol. 7, 1812, p. 288; The Monthly Magazine, 1812, Vol. 33, pp. 53, 166; Vol. 34, pp. 155, 445, at Internet Archive resp. Google Books). Clearly nobody cared much about Mr. Reeve's complaints. One of his rivals and colleagues even wrote an answer. Joseph Mazzinghi (1765-1844; see BDA 10, pp. 159-161; New Grove, 2nd ed., 16, pp. 192-3), an English composer of Corsican descent, was another experienced veteran of the London music scene of that era and also someone who had his fingers at the pulse of popular taste. His version interestingly included another new text. But he was also old enough to know that this tune was simply a variant of the old "Aileen Aroon" and therefore described it as "Irish":
                • Robin Adair, A Simple Irish Ballad. Sung with unbounded applause by Mr. Braham, At the Lyceum Theatre, Arranged with an Accompaniment for the Harp or Piano-forte, Also may be had with Variations for Piano Forte, Harp & Flute, By J. Mazzinghi, Printed by Goulding & Co., London n. d. [1812] (online available at Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music, Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections).
                    On page three of this edition we can find a pointed comment on Reeve's letter:
                    "The accompaniments to this Edition of Robin Adair, are certainly not by Mr. Reeve, an observation which would never have been made, but for a curious advertisement that has lately appeared, we are too well aqcuainted with Mr. Reeve, to imagine for a moment, that he thinks himself the only person capable of writing an Accompaniment to a simple ballad, were he so vain, this copy would convince him to the contrary, but the fact is. The real merit of robin adair, rests with the original composer, and its present popularity to the inimitable singing of Mr. Braham, by whom, and not by Mr. Reeve, this beautiful melody is once again rescued from oblivion."
                    While Reeve based his claims for the copyright on the fact that he had arranged it anew Mazzinghi in turn emphasized the importance of the tune itself and of Braham's performance. I only wonder if he also gave a share of his income from this publication to Mr. Braham. Nonetheless, in spite of all these competing editions of "Robin Adair", the original version printed by Button & Whitaker still seems to have been a very big success. According to a report in the Metropolitan Magazine in 1837 (p. 136, at Google Books) "the publisher sold, [...] in one year, [...] upwards of two hundred thousands copies". This was quite a lot for this era. But of course the song was afterwards recycled endlessly without regard for any kind of copyright and at least Mr. Reeve's role was quickly forgotten. 

                    I also happened to find another edition of this song, this time by a publisher from outside of London:
                    • Robin Adair. The much admired Ballad as Sung by Mr. Braham at the Lyceum, and Mr. Sinclair at the Theatre Royal Liverpool, With an Accompaniment for the Piano Forte or Harp, Liverpool, Printed by Hime & Son Castle Street & Church Street, n. d. [1812] (pdf-copy, my own scan).
                        As usual this print was published without a date but in this case the newspaper archives are once again of great help. In fact it was mentioned in an ad by Hime & Son in the Liverpool Mercury on September 18th, 1812 (p. 4, at BNA) as "a new edition of Robin Adair, to which is added an Arrangement of the air for two Flutes or Violins". John Sinclair was another popular singer from this era and in another advert published in the same paper on August 21st (p. 1, at BNA) it was announced that "This present Friday Evening" he will sing this song "by particular desire, and for the first time" at a "Divertisiment, Consisting of Singing, Dancing and Recitation" at the Theatre Royal. The arrangement in this edition was of course different from the original and I have some serious doubts if Sinclair or maybe even Braham received some pay for the use of their names. Here we see how a provincial publisher could recycle this song once again with the help of the names of these popular singers which most likely served only as a promotional prop.

                        Literature & Online Resources
                        • BNA  - The British Newspaper Archive
                        • The Times Digital Archive (accessed via
                        • BDA = Philip H. Highfill et al., (ed.), A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers, and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800, Vol.1 - 16, Carbondale 1973 - 1993
                        • New Grove = The New Grove Dictionary Of Music And Musicians, 2nd ed., edited by Stanley Sadie, London 2001
                        See also on my website

                        "Eileen Aroon" & "Robin Adair" - A Short Note

                        For different reasons I have neglected this blog for quite a while. But maybe it is now time to start with it once again. I have now deleted a lot of the old texts because they were somehow outdated or I have lost interest in these topics at the moment. Only the short song histories about "Corrina, Corinna" and "Alberta" have been left and hope I can revise them some day soon. Most of what I have written can now be found on my regular website I am particularly interested in researching the histories of old popular songs (or "folksongs"). Some song histories, for example about "The Water Is Wide", " Brennan On The Moor", "Farewell To Tarwathie", "Mary Of The Wild Moor" have been posted on that site. And the moment I am once again very busy with a particularly interesting song family, the one that is today mostly represented by "Eileen Aroon" but also includes "Robin Adair", one of the greatest popular hits of the 19th century .

                        This particular group of songs had a very fascinating history and there are already three relevant articles on my site. About three years ago I put together an attempt at a systematic overview of the British and American tradition from the early 18th century to the early 20th century. :
                        At some point I noted that this tune had also been very popular in Germany. There were different new texts, different translations and also a couple of new tunes for some of these texts. It even became - as "Heimat, Ade!" - a standard in songbooks for schools. In fact It is not unlikely that my grandmother sang this song. The article about "Robin Adair" in Germany is still in the works but I have already posted nearly six chapters and hope to be ready soon.
                        While working on this topic I was also somehow surprised to learn that Robert Burns must have been immensely popular in the German speaking countries during the 19th century. There were a lot of translations and many of them were then set to music by numerous composers. Burns had written two new poems to the tune of "Robin Adair", at first "Phillis The Fair" and then "Had I A Cave". These texts were of course also translated into German and then at least 18 times published with a new tune. A preliminary list can be found here:
                        It seems to me that "Robin Adair" was an early example for what now would be called an "international hit". Besides Britain, North America and Germany (as well as Switzerland and Austria) this tune was also regularly published in France - after Boieldieu had used it in his opera La Dame Blanche - as well as in Italy and I assume in other countries, too. But I am not sure if I should investigate these lines of traditions in more detail. The British and German histories of this song family will surely keep me very busy for quite a while.