New and Rare Acquisitions at the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies (2002)

By Meredith, William | The Beethoven Journal, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

New and Rare Acquisitions at the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies (2002)


Meredith, William, The Beethoven Journal


I. Rare Books (in chronological order)

James Grassineau. A Musical Dictionary; Being a Collection of Terms and Characters, As well Ancient as Modern; including the Historical, Theoretical, and Practical Parts of Music: As also, an Explanation of some Parts of the Doctrine of the Antients; Interspersed with remarks on their Method and Practice, and curious Observations on the Phoenomena of Sound Mathematically considered, As it's Relations and Proportions constitute Intervals, And those again Concords and Discords. The whole carefully abstractedfrom the best Authors in the Greek, Latin, Italian, French, and English Languages. London: J. Wilcox, 1740. 348 pp. Octavo format. A fold-out chart illustrating "The Ancient Bisthason" appears between pp. 262-63. Gift of the members of the American Beethoven Society.

Grassineaus dictionary is one of the first important music dictionaries published in English. Of French parentage, Grassineau (ca. 1715-1767) first served an apprenticeship to a chemist in Covent Garden, but became amanuensis to J.C. Pepusch, extracting music passages found in theoretical writings. With the support of Pepusch, Maurice Greene, and J.E. Galliard (as noted on the verso of the first page

of the volume), Grassineau compiled his music dictionary. Charles Burney mistakenly believed that it was a mere translation of Sébastian de Brassards French music dictionary of 1701/03, but Hawkins correctly noted that the dictionary contains a fair amount of information from other unnamed sources. The dictionary presents the terms alphabetically rather than by subject. A list of errata appears as page 344, concluding, "There may have escaped some literal Errors which cannot stop the Reader." A three page "Index of Authors Mentioned in the foregoing Pages" follows. The dictionary, published thirty years before Beethoven's birth, is an important source. Allegro, for instance, does not just mean "fast," but, in Grassineaus words, "is used to signify that the music ought to be performed in a brisk, lively, gay and pleasant manner, yet without hurry and precipitation, and quicker than any except Presto." The entry for Sonata is similarly instructive (see Facsimile 1).

Magazin der Musik. Karl Friedrich Cramer, ed. First half-year. Hamburg: Musicalischen Niederlage, 1783. 736 pp. 1 plate. Small octavo format. Gift of the members of the American Beethoven Society and Ira and Irma Brilliant.

In the world of Beethoven stuthes, the Magazin derMusik is famous because it contains, on pp. 394-95, the first printed article about the composer (see Facsimile 2). The information was supplied to Cramer by Beethoven's teacher, C. G. Neefe. The article reads, "Louis van Betthoven, son of the above-mentioned tenor, a boy of eleven years and of very promising talent. He plays the keyboard very skillfully and powerfully, sight-reads very well, and to sum it up, he mosdy plays The Well-Tempered Clavier of Sebastian Bach, which Mr. Neefe placed in his hands. Whoever knows this collection of preludes and fugues in all keys (which one could call the non plus ultra) will know what that means. Insofar as his other duties allow, Mr. Neefe has also given him instruction in thoroughbass. Now he is training him in composition and to give him encouragement has had his variations on a march for keyboard engraved in Mannheim. This young genius deserves the support to enable him to travel. He would certainly become a second Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart if he were to continue to progress as he has begun." Cramer was a writer, book dealer, and professor of Oriental languages in Kiel. His Magazin derMusik was only published for five years ( 1783-88), but contains important information on new publications, concert life, and music theory. The report on Beethoven occurs in a long section titled "Nachricht von der churfurstlich collnischen Hofcapelle zu Bonn und andern Tonkiinsdern daselbst" dated March 30,1787. A biography of Neefe appears on pp. …

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