il Sig. e Dr: Burney

The Hanover Royal Music Archive intersects in often unexpected ways with the Beinecke Library’s holdings for music, literature, and social history in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain.  Above, a letter from the Italian castrato, Giusto Ferinando Tenducci, written towards the end of his life, ca. 1790, to “il Signore e Dr Burney,” the English composer and music historian, Charles Burney (OSB MSS 3, Box 15).

From 1758 – 1765, and from 1768 to near the end of his life, Tenducci was in London, performing at the King’s Theatre and the Royal Opera House, and working with composers such as Johann Christian Bach, whose work is also represented in the Hanover Royal Music Archive.  Tenducci’s propensity for “Scotch” songs might have influenced J.C. Bach to include Scottish songs in his English operas, a fashion also seen in the Scottish overture to Thomas Arne’s “Thomas and Sally” of 1760, above, “made by desire into a song, the Italian sung by Mr Tenducci at Ranelagh, the English by Miss Brent, at Vaux-hall” (ca. 1762; Beinecke call number: Ma31 Ar6 S81).

Tenducci’s performances, and the play of patriotic and national identities in the musical and literary world of late eighteenth-century London, can be traced through the Hanover Royal Music Archive, as in the examples above, from the “Six favorite Italian songs performed at Mr Bachs concert,” 1778 (OSB MSS 146, Box 861).  This work, signed by Tenducci, can be found in one of the several dozen bound collections in the archive, this particular volume inscribed “Cheveley” and also containing a holograph manuscript of Johann Christian Bach’s “T’adoro te solo eterno mio Dio,” c. 1770.  A similar volume (OSB MSS 146, Box 874), one of several entitled “Englische Gesaenge,” holds copies of the first and second “favorite rondeau of Mr. Tenducci,” alongside a holograph manuscript of that most English of hymns, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” The performance, by an Italian castrato, of these English compositions, in an album entitled “English songs,” in German, and compiled by members of a royal family at once English and Hanoverian is only one glimpse, among many, of the complexities of national identity at work in the Hanover Royal Music Archive.

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