Venanzio Rauzzini (1746-1810): castrato, composer and copyright obsessed?

We’re delighted to share our first guest blogpost, by Dr Brianna E Robertson-Kirkland. It’s fascinating to read about this Georgian musician’s passionate interest in copyright!

 

William_Herschel_Museum_-_portrait_of_Vananzio_Rauzzini
Figure 1: Portrait of Venanzio Rauzzini with his dog Turk. At the Herschel Museum of Astronomy. Wikimedia Commons.

As the reigning primo uomo at the King’s Theatre from 1774-1778 (and then briefly again in 1784), Venanzio Rauzzini enjoyed many privileges. A handsome salary, opportunities to compose his own arias and some pull when it came to casting; the castrato used all of his clout to demonstrate his versatility in the music industry. Prior to his London residency, he had shown an enthusiasm for composition as well as singing, having composed the opera Piramo e Tisbe, performed for the Bavarian court in 1769 and ‘two or three comic operas […] which has been very much approved’ (Rice, 2015: 6 & Burney, 1775, 1:128). His passion for composition did not diminish as he continued to write opera, songs and even instrumental music after his immigration to Britain. Composing opera in which he starred also gave Rauzzini the opportunity to showcase the talents of his young students. Vocal teaching was just another strand in his multidimensional musical career. One such student, Nancy Storace, debuted on the operatic stage as Cupido in Rauzzini’s L’Ali D’Amore at the tender age of 11 as well as performing alongside her master in the cantata setting of La Partenza in 1777.

Opera in London was constantly surrounded by gossip and scandal. Moreover, claims of copyright were a tricky, controversial subject. Arias and songs were frequently removed from one opera and inserted into pasticcio. Such light-hearted theatre entertainments resembled a patchwork of favourite operatic numbers held together by a somewhat loose and generally absurd plot. While one arranger would oversee such a production, lyrics and occasionally the music were altered, blurring the lines between arranger, editor and composer. Expectations from singers added an extra complication since they frequently added their own unique flair to arias to ensure originality. If a singer was known for singing a particular aria, it was generally expected they would utilise it as a suitcase aria, inserting it into operas at their demand. The composer’s name usual appeared, even when a suitcase aria was performed, but when singers names were branded on title pages, often in a bigger font, it is not too far of a leap to assume the singer felt an equal sense of ownership.

RangeTheFields_0000 karen blog post
Figure 2: Singers John Braham and Catherine Stephens names appear but in this example no composer is even listed. This was not an uncommon sight. Together let us range the fields [words by Edward Moore ; composed by William Boyce [c. 1815]. [Available from: https://archive.org/details/RangeTheFields46587 ]
This is perhaps why the controversy between Rauzzini and fellow composer Antonio Sacchini became so heated. Not only had the two written an opera of the same name, L’eroe cinese, the similarity between the two was remarkable, leading to gossip that Rauzzini had ghost-written the original for Sacchini (Rice, 2015: 126). There was a further claim that Rauzzini had composed most of his own arias when playing the leading role in Sacchini’s operas. This was not uncommon, as Rauzzini often composed his own arias, though it was unusual that Sacchini should gain the credit. Neither benefitted from the controversy and afterward Rauzzini was far more diligent in claiming authorship over his work.

Michael Kassler’s comprehensive list of Music Entries at Stationers’ Hall, 1710–1818 reveals from 1795 onwards Rauzzini regularly entered his compositions into Stationer’s Hall including all 14 songs appearing in A Periodic Collection of Vocal Music published in two volumes in 1797. However, Rauzzini neglected to enter his Twelve Solfeggi or exercises to be sung by the voice (1808) – a final publication that provided a legacy for over forty years’ experience in vocal teaching. In his preface, Rauzzini writes:

I think that after a practice of thirty four years in England, during which time, I have had the opportunity of reflecting on the different dispositions and abilities of a great many Pupils professional as well as Dilettanti, my opinion may be relied on, and my advice followed, therefore, confiding on that Experience (1808: 1).

If this treatise was to be his legacy, why not enter it too? Did he not fear that his work could be stolen or claimed to be someone else’s work? The solfeggi are excellent examples of vocal exercises, but they lack an indicative style (which was perhaps the point of such exercises) that could make it more difficult to identify them as Rauzzini’s work. That being said, Rauzzini died just two years after this publication and before his second volume A second sett of solfeggi for the voice was published. Perhaps, he was simply too old to care. Or perhaps, there was a different attitude towards singing treatises in terms of copyright? Though there are some entries for music treatises listed by Kassler, compared to song compositions they are relatively few. This begs the question: why were music treatises not regularly entered?

While Rauzzini’s treatise continued to be recommended by other masters as late as the 1830s, his original treatises was manipulated and bastardised creating Exercises for the Voice, consisting of various solfeggi, collected from manuscripts of the late Venanzio Rauzzini (1817). While the title was careful not to claim Rauzzini as the creator a quick read of the preface reveals its origins – none other than Rauzzini’s 1808 publication with several alterations to make it more appealing to a ‘beginner’ consumer. This had never been Rauzzini’s intended clientele having written his original for more advanced students.

So what was the relationship between copyright and the education manual? I have to admit prior to this Stationer’s Hall project, I had not thought very much of it. Then again, treatises were being churned out at such a rapid rate with every teacher claiming a unique or original method of teaching perhaps it is an area that begs for further research.

References

Burney, Charles. 1775. The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands and United Provinces, second ed. London: T. Becket, J. Robson and G. Robinson

Rauzzini, Venanzio. 1808. Twelve Solfeggi or Exercises for the Voice to be Vocalised, London: Goulding and D’Almaine

Rice, Paul 2015. Venanzio Rauzzini in Britain. Castrato, Composer and Cultural Leader, New York: University of Rochester Press

 

Brianna is Lecturer in Music (Historical Musicology) at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and Course Convenor (MCLNC) and Performance Course Facilitator at the University of Glasgow.

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Claiming Copyright in your Music

Music Copyright, the 18th/19th Century Way:

So you’re a composer in Regency Britain, say 1813, and you want to claim copyright inwriting-1043622_640 your music.  What do you do?  Well, if you have a publisher, they might submit it to Stationers’ Hall, where it would be registered.  They might not, though.  (Some publishers thought they’d have the best of both worlds – they’d print a copyright statement to the effect that it had been entered at Stationers’ Hall, but they wouldn’t actually bother doing so.)  In any event, it’s a bit hit or miss.

If you’re self-publishing, then you might consider it in your own interest to register your copyright in the work.  After all, by now it’s at least accepted that composers’ work did count as intellectual property and deserved protection.  That wasn’t necessarily the case in the mid-18th century!

Copies of music registered at Stationers’ Hall would then be sent to all the legal deposit libraries – the British Museum (which became the British Library), Sion College in London, the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen and Trinity College Dublin, the Advocates’ Library (which became the National Library of Scotland), and Kings’ Inns, also in Dublin.  Whether the music gets to all these places is also a bit hit or miss!  It’s not always sent, not always kept methodically upon arrival, and some libraries don’t want all this music anyway.

Tracing It Today

The Claimed from Stationers Hall project sets out to find out more about what happened to all the Stationers’ Hall music.  This is Week 2 of the network’s existence, so you’ve come in right at the start.  If you’re interested in early music publishing, library history, or the social, cultural side of the music borrowed from these libraries, then this network is right up your street.  Please follow this blog, and the Twitter @ClaimedStatHall, and do let us know if you’re working on anything in any way related to this repertoire!

St Andrews and now Aberdeen

Karen has spent some time exploring the rich archival resources at the University of St Andrews, where the Stationers’ Hall music was sifted through, much was catalogued, and then it was eagerly borrowed by a number of people via the professors’ library memberships.  We can trace what was received, find it in a fascinating handwritten catalogue, and even observe who borrowed what.

unknown artist; King's College, Aberdeen
King’s College, Aberdeen
unknown artist
University of Aberdeen

But what of the other libraries?  This week, the magnifying glass focused on the parallel collection in Aberdeen.  Work has been done on the documentation of what was received by the library in the 18th century by former librarian and research scholar Richard Turbet, and we can now see what was received in these early years, even if it doesn’t all survive today.  (Turbet, ‘Music Deposited by Stationers’ Hall at the Library of the University and King’s College of Aberdeen, 1753-96′, RMA Research Chronicle 30 (1997) pp.139-162)

Roughly half of the surviving copyright music is now in the online catalogue there: at the time of writing, 2062 of an approximate 4400 items in the entire bound Stationers Hall Music collection.  How was it used by the community in contemporary Aberdeen, though?  The next question is to establish where there are comparable loan records to those in St Andrews.  We do know, through Richard Turbet’s work, that there were concerns as to what had happened to the Stationers’ Hall music, in the Aberdeen Censor of 1826.  Intriguing!

Catalogues and Conundrums

The union catalogue of UK University and national libraries makes it easy to trace most things so long as they have been catalogued online.  However, differences in cataloguing mean that it’s not always as easy as you’d think.  Take Gesualdo Lanza’s Elements of Singing in the Italian and English Styles.

Different cataloguing approaches make it a little difficult to untangle, but if you search Lanza, Elements of Singing, you retrieve 16 entries, one of which is just a print portrait. It was published in 1813 – different catalogues have it self-published, published by Button and Whittaker, or indeed printed and sold by Chappell.  Around 1819-20, an abridged version appeared, again by Chappell (though the catalogue records don’t all state this the same way), and apparently again in 1826.

So there are at least two if not three basic versions, and you’d expect them each to appear in all the copyright libraries?  Think again!  Differently styled catalogue records reveal copies of the 1813 publication in Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen, the British Library and Oxford Bodleian, and a copy in York, which was not a copyright library.  The other legal deposit libraries don’t have it, unless it’s still not catalogued online.  (That’s another interesting question.  Some pre-1801 material is definitely not yet catalogued – grant-funding for retro-conversion theoretically took care of (most of) the post 1801 material, just over a decade ago.)  In total, the two or three versions of 1813, 1820 and perhaps 1826 yield 16 entries in Copac, which equates to slightly more than 16 copies.

This Was Week 2 of the Project

Besides looking at work already done on the Aberdeen collection, this week has also entailed documentation of some of the conferences and other networks that touch upon the subject of Regency music or library history – see our Useful Links page, and do please contact us if there are others we’ve missed!  And of course, we’ve been networking.  We’ve tweeted and we’ve emailed, and we’re loving the responses we’ve received.  Keep in touch!

Research Impact in Library Land

I’m reading a book about research impact at the moment.   (We have a copy in the library, but I’ve also got it on Kindle, so I have no excuse not to plough right through it!)  I must admit, there are moments when I metaphorically kick myself under the table, because some of the advice is basically common sense.  But, if it’s common sense, why didn’t I think of it?  So it’s a good idea to get reminded of the obvious things whilst simultaneously getting plenty of fresh ideas, and just generally making sure that impact is built into this research network right from the very start.

So, here are the first questions, quoted directly from my new guru (Mark S. Reed, author of the Research Impact Handbook, pp.72-73):-

  • “What aspects of [our] research might be interesting or useful to someone?…”
  • “Could [our] research help address these needs [ie, issues, policy areas … trends]?”
  • Can our research help remove barriers that are currently inhibiting these areas?
  • If we know who might benefit from our research, can we identify “what aspects of [our] research they are likely to be most interested in?” Could we make it even more relevant?
  • So, what changes could our research effect?
  • And do we know who would benefit and who we should guard against disadvantaging?

Please don’t leave these questions hanging in the air! I’m looking for answers, and I’m keen to engage with other researchers interested in similar issues in this curious world where musicology, book history and library history meet with legal deposit on the one hand, and individual music-makers on the other.  Do share your views!