Music Room workshop
6th November 2006
‘Production and consumption’ – Summary of papers and discussion
Dr. Meredith MacFarlane, RCM
String Quartets in the Burghley House Music Collection
This paper considered the string quartet part books collected by Brownlow Cecil, 9th Earl of Exeter (1725-93) held at Burghley House, Lincs. It looked at Burghley House and the London house at No.70 Lower Grosvenor Street as settings for quartet performances. It discussed possible instrumentalists, both provincial and metropolitan, as well as the arrangement of rooms.
Meredith Macfarlane’s study of the part books bought from Welekers Music Shop in the Haymarket revealed a network of printers, composers and patrons that spread beyond London to the provinces and Continental Europe. She showed how innovative printing methods and the use of engraved pewter plates helped to meet increasing demand for printed music. Using the example of Kotswara’s Opus 3, she demonstrated how composers transmitted their works both through direct contact with patrons (through subscription) and also through commercial publication agreements with publishers and music sellers. She also highlighted that only 10% of subscribers to the printed string quartets in the Burghley House collection were women.
Jason Petty, Bard Graduate Center, New York
The French Lyre-Guitar 1797-1840: An Unhappy Metamorphosis?
Jason Petty argued that, in the case of the Lyre-Guitar, questions of form triumphed over those of function. He demonstrated that the prevailing taste for the Neo-Classical style in France led to the lyre shape being applied to many different products, including sewing tables and lighting. Spanish guitars, which were popular among amateur female musicians were adapted to Neo-Classical forms. The lyre shape was believed to be more elegant, and echoed the curves of the female figure. Furthermore, unlike the Spanish guitar, it was free from undignified associations with lower-class, itinerant musicians. However, the changes made to these instruments meant that they were difficult to play and produced a dull, hollow sound. They were never intended for professional use, and most seem to have been poorly made.
This paper showed that publishers, composers and instrument makers all helped to stimulate the market for the new product. A novel form of notation was used, with transcriptions for lyre-guitar appended to Spanish guitar manuals. Publishers liberally used the iconography of the lyre-guitar on the title-pages of their music for guitar. Lyres and lyre-guitars became popular props in female portraiture as they accentuated Neo-Classical dress and attitudes. A lyre-guitar is included, for example, in Ingres’s study of Lucien Bonaparte’s family (1815). From the mid-1820s the publication of special transcriptions dwindled and by the 1840s the instrument was redundant.
Meredith Macfarlane was asked whether full scores of the string quartets were included in the Burley House collection. She said that only part books were bought by the Earl of Exeter, which suggested that the music was intended for performance by local artisan-musicians, not for study. She also outlined the large-scale performances held at his London house, featuring noted soloists, divas and substantial orchestras. She contrasted these with the smaller, more informal performances of his friends, which included spontaneous singing of catches and glees
She also compared the Burghley House collection with the Henry Dashwood collection (now in Cambridge) and the Prince of Wales’s collection (British Library). She described how the young Prince of Wales was a keen cellist who played at quartet parties. She went on to show how many of the part books at Burghley House had figured bass parts, and how wind instrument could interchange with the 1st violin part. She suggested that this highlighted the early stage of development of the string quartet genre, and that it also made the music more marketable.
The discussion then moved to the makers of lyre-guitars. Jason Petty suggested that many of the labels, suggesting that extant instruments had been made by highly regarded French classical guitar-makers, were spurious. There was a discussion of the collaborative role of furniture makers in instrument production. Jason Petty drew attention to the base plinths on which the lyre-guitar could stand, making it an independent piece of decorative furniture. He also said that there was no evidence that cases for lyre-guitars had been made. It was suggested that the use of poplar and willow in these instruments might be related to the use of the same woods for the backs of cellos. Piano and harp makers would also have bought in gilt-bronze mounts from furniture suppliers.
There was also a discussion of the fashion for harp-lutes in England at around the same time, which paralleled the lyre-guitar’s application of classical style to instrument design.
V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2RL
Seminar Room A, Research Department, 17.15–19.00
Nearest tube: South Kensington (link to map)
Please note that the V&A Museum closes at 17.45 on Mondays, so latecomers (after 17.30) cannot be admitted. Seminar Room A is found at the top of the Ceramics staircase, above the Silver Gallery.