Thursday, 2 August 2012

Changes to SOLO: improvements to display of records and clustering.

Over the weekend of the 28th-29th July, as a result of feedback from readers, several improvements to SOLO were implemented. The most significant of these from a musical perspective is the alteration to the way that SOLO clusters search results

Before these recent developments SOLO would cluster materials that it considered to be versions of the same work into 1 search result, regardless of their format. This is a very useful feature for books as it means that all editions of the same book are clustered together, making what might otherwise be a very long list of results appear much shorter. However, for a musical work it became a little confusing as SOLO would group both scores and sound recordings into one cluster, often making what was available somewhat unclear.

As a result of the changes that were implemented over the weekend, SOLO will now exclude early printed books (pre-1830), maps, music and audio-visual items from the clustering so that they will be visible in the main results list, separate from any clustered records.

Other changes to SOLO include the consolidation of the 'Request' and 'Locations' tabs into a single 'Find & Request' tab, which has streamlined the requesting process.

In addition to this, it is now possible to limit searches to 'Physical Resources (not online)' in the dropdown menu next to the main search box. Further information about all of the changes to SOLO can be found here.

We think the new features make searching for music scores and sound recordings much easier, do you? We'd welcome any feedback.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Happy Birthday Percy!

Today marks the 146th birthday of the little-known Anglo-German composer Percy Sherwood (1866-1939). Having languished in obscurity since the First World War, his music is now being rediscovered and two recordings have been released in the last few weeks, drawing upon sources in the Bodleian Library, which holds virtually all his surviving manuscripts.

Born in Dresden on 23rd May 1866, Sherwood’s father (John) was a university lecturer in English and his mother a singer (Auguste Koch). Percy studied piano and composition at the Dresden Conservatoire under Bertrand Roth and Felix Draeske respectively and subsequently taught there, rising to a Professorship in 1893.

He was evidently well-regarded as a pianist, composer and conductor and, during the course of his life composed five symphonies, concertos for piano, violin and cello, a significant body of chamber music and a prize-winning Requiem, along with smaller-scale piano pieces. Some of the piano and chamber music was published in Germany towards the end of the 19th century and in the early years of the 20th.

Finding himself in England with his family at the outbreak of war in 1914, Sherwood was unable to return to Germany and remained in this country until his death on 15th May 1939, just a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War. The successful career he had enjoyed in pre-war Germany was not to be continued in England and he seems to have vanished almost without trace. Living in Hampstead, he devoted himself to more composing and teaching including, for a while, weekly visits to Oxford and Cambridge. However, his music – lyrical, passionate and firmly in the late-romantic tradition – was out of step with contemporary trends and performances, if any, would have been few and far between.

Sadly, not all his music has survived but virtually all the known extant manuscripts are now in the Bodleian and have attracted the attention of several scholars and performers in the last couple of years. The recent recordings are of the 2nd Piano Concerto, played by Hiroaki Takenouchi with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Martin Yates ( and the complete music for cello and piano, played by Joseph Spooner and David Owen Norris (  It is to be hoped that they will begin to draw attention to a musical voice which has been silent for too long and bring to Percy Sherwood the recognition he deserves.


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

JSTOR Arts & Sciences VIII now available

We are pleased to announce that we now have access to the JSTOR e-journal package 'Arts and Sciences VIII'.  This includes several key music titles, including Musica Disciplina, Music Perception, College Music Symposium and Music and the Moving Image. For a full list of the titles included in A&S VIII click here.

Don’t forget that JSTOR’s coverage is primarily retrospective and we have access to many other titles, including current issues, from other publishers. Always check the title list in OU e-Journals or SOLO.


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Haydn à l’anglaise

Next time you are heading for Duke Humfrey’s Library, do spare a moment to look at the latest display in the Proscholium exhibition case. Haydn à l’anglaise explores the way in which Haydn’s two collections of Lieder, published by Artaria in Vienna in 1781 and 1784 respectively, reached England and how London publishers sought to capitalise on the popularity of Haydn’s music which had taken England by storm, even before the composer’s first visit to this country in 1791.

English versions of Haydn’s two original sets of Lieder were produced, the first adapted by William Shield to English poetry by a number of different named English poets in his collection of ‘Twelve ballads’, published by Longman & Broderip in 1786. Versions of the second set of Lieder were published in an anonymous collection of 1789. In many cases, the English words bore little or no relationship to their German originals.
There was evidently a market for the music of the composer whom the London press had dubbed ‘the Shakespeare of Music’. The 24 original songs proved to be not enough for the musical public so, in order to satisfy the demands of the amateur market, the London publishers turned to Haydn’s instrumental music and set words to tunes from the string quartets and symphonies which were widely played in this country at the time. Two such collections appeared, in 1787 and 1789, one arranged by the eminent English composer, Samuel Arnold. The opposite process also took place and the composer, Thomas Haigh, who had received lessons from Haydn on his first visit to England, turned some of Haydn’s songs into keyboard pieces.

The Proscholium display includes early English editions of Haydn’s songs and related works, and a couple of autograph manuscripts from the Bodleian’s collections. It also features the fine portrait of the 67-year-old composer by the young artist Johann Carl Rössler (1775-1845) which formerly belonged to Mendelssohn but now normally hangs in the Bate Collection in the Faculty of Music. The exhibition is designed to illustrate a lecture being given by Dr Derek McCulloch on 30th March and a short concert by his ensemble Caf€ Mozart, featuring some of the music which they have recently recorded on a CD, also entitled Haydn à l’anglaise. The exhibition runs until 8th April.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Easter vacation borrowing

Books and scores taken out of the library from Monday 5th March onwards will be due back on Tuesday 24th April. Plan your vacation work early to make sure you get all of the books you need!

Short Loan books needed for the Easter break?

We need to keep one copy of all Short Loan Collection books here for the vacation so that people who stay in Oxford have access to the whole collection.  However, you CAN take Short Loan items if there are two copies of the item that you need on the shelf.  From Friday of 8th week, 9th March, duplicated Short Loan books will be available for loan until Friday 20th April (Week 0).  You will need to bring two copies of the book you want to the library counter to prove that there’s a spare to leave on the shelf.  There’s usually a bit of a rush, so come early if you want to take one of the “doubles” available. 

You will need to be here in person if you want to do this; you may not just renew online a Short Loan that you have already borrowed. Don’t despair if there is only a single copy left on Friday morning.  By Saturday (we’re open 10am till 1pm), all two day Short Loans will have to have been returned and often you can harvest a "double” on the Saturday.

Easter vacation opening hours:

12th - 16th March:         9:00am - 5:00pm
19th March - 4th April:   9:30am - 4:30pm 
**** 5th - 15th April:     CLOSED ****
16th - 20th April:           9:00am - 5:00pm


Monday, 16 January 2012

Ragtime to riches: a musical legacy at the Bodleian Library

Ragtime to riches is the title of a small exhibition currently in place in the Proscholium, the entrance hall to the Old Bodleian Library, in celebration of Walter Newton Henry Harding (1883-1973) whose astonishing collection was the largest single bequest ever received by the Library when it arrived in Oxford in 1975. Born in south London in 1883, Harding emigrated with his parents to the United States at the age of four and spent the rest of his life in Chicago, making his living as a ragtime pianist, cinema organist and organist at various churches and masonic lodges in the locality. Harding became fascinated by the words of the songs he heard and performed and began to build up a remarkable collection of verse, drama and printed music which, by the time of his death in December 1973, completely filled his house in downtown Chicago. Harding was not an academic but he had a detailed knowledge of the diverse material in his collection, much of which was indexed on tens of thousands of hand-written cards.

A hand-made miscellany

The exhibition coincides with the progress of the Digital Miscellanies Index, a three-year project, led by Dr Abigail Williams, based at the University of Oxford Faculty of English Language and Literature, and funded by the Leverhulme Trust.  The project is creating a database of the contents of approximately 1,000 eighteenth-century English poetic miscellanies, popular printed collections of poetry and songs, the majority of which can be found in Harding’s collection. Although the display can do little more than scratch the surface of Harding’s enormous collection, it aims to give a flavour of Harding the man and collector, despite the fact that some aspects of his life and interests could not be represented owing to a lack of space.

The musical portions of the Harding Collection fall into several categories, including English, French and Italian opera scores and vocal scores, English song, folk music, American songs and music hall songs. When the collection was received in 1975, it greatly enriched the Library’s already strong holdings in many of these areas and made it the most important repository of American song material on this side of the Atlantic.

One of a set of small 16th-cent.
Italian part books
The importance of the Harding Collection is not so much in the value of individual items (although there are many rare, valuable and unique things) but in its near comprehensive coverage of the areas in which he set out to collect. He was not a wealthy man but, fortunately, the kind of material that interested him, primarily ephemeral, popular publications, had little commercial value in the middle of the twentieth century so he was able to buy a great deal very cheaply. He is known to have said that he felt it was better to go into debt and buy the stuff while it was still available then he could rejoice in his collection for the rest of his life.

The exhibition runs until 29th January and, on Wednesday 18th January, there is a related event at which Dr Abigail Williams and Prof. Michael Burden will speak about different aspects of the collection, with some musical entertainment thrown in (see


Monday, 9 January 2012

Christmas quiz: how many did you guess correctly...?

Here are the answers to our Christmas quiz:
  1. Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring.
  2. Berlioz: Shepherds Farewell from L'enfance du Christ.
  3. Bach: Christmas Oratorio.
  4. Rimsky-Korsakov: Christmas Eve.
  5. Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker.
The pieces were all Christmas-themed apart from The Rite of Spring.

Although lots of people guessed 3 or 4 of the pieces correctly, only 1 person managed to identify all 5. Congratulations to Oxford music undergraduate Tim Anderson! Your (edible) prize awaits you in the Bodleian Music Faculty Library. 

Wishing everybody a Happy New Year, and thanks for playing along!