27 April 2010

Tuesday Titbit

Elizabeth Harwood

                                          Italian Exercise book EH12/5/1

Elizabeth Harwood, the noted English soprano, studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music between 1956 and 1960. The RNCM has a large collection of programmes and cuttings relating to Elizabeth Harwood’s career which were collected by her father and later by her husband: the collection also includes some of Elizabeth’s personal papers.

The above picture shows Elizabeth’s Italian exercise book from her studies at the college in 1956, when she was eighteen years old. Her knowledge of Italian would have been useful throughout her career as an opera singer.

26 April 2010

This is the week that...

... Alan Rawsthorne was born (2nd May 1905).

Lock of Alan's first hair (Ref: AR/6/6)

                    Barbara and baby Alan (Ref: AR/5)                     Alan, aged 2 years (Ref: AR/5)

Alan Rawsthorne was born May 2nd 1905 in Haslingden, Lancashire. After initial studies in dentistry and architecture, he entered the Royal Manchester College of Music in 1925, where he was a pupil of the pianist Frank Merrick and the cellist Carl Fuchs. He left in 1929 with diplomas in performance and teaching (the latter with distinction). His piano studies were continued abroad, notably under Egon Petri. On his return to England in 1932 he taught at Dartington Hall School and also composed music for the associated School of Dance Mime.

He married a fellow ex-RMCM student, the violinist Jessie Hinchcliffe, in 1934 and, after moving to London in 1935, first achieved wide recognition at the 1938 ISCM Festival with the Theme and Variations for two violins. At the 1939 festival, in Warsaw, a far more ambitious score, the Symphonic Studies, demonstrated his mastery of orchestral resources, while in the same year the First Piano Concerto confirmed the achievement of "a highly individual language and certain structural predilections"; both were to remain remarkably constant throughout the rest of his career.

Rawsthorne rescored the concerto in 1942, by which time he was doing military service in the Army first in the Royal Artillery and then in the Education Corps; despite this he was able to complete the two contrasted overtures of 1944 and 1945. He was awarded a Fellowship of the RMCM in 1943. With the end of the war, however, he was at last able to devote all his energies to composition, and to be confident of receiving performance: within some five years he had produced four concertos, a symphony, several chamber works and a body of film music, and was thus already among the more prolific instrumental composers of an English generation that included Walton and Tippett. He married the artist Isabel (nee Nicholas, 1912-1992) in 1955, after divorcing Jessie the previous year.

He was made a CBE in 1961, and was awarded honorary doctorates by the universities of Liverpool, Essex and Belfast. He died in Cambridge in 1971.

Barbara Rawsthorne, Alan’s sister, describes their childhood birthdays in Diary of an Edwardian Childhood:
‘The first important event in our yearly calendar was my brother’s birthday which occurred in May. Birthdays were very important... We were allowed to choose the dinner, so the day began with choosing it. We nearly always chose roast chicken and chocolate pudding. Then there were cards and presents delivered by the postman, and others which had been hidden away for weeks in Mother’s wardrobe, always including an “unbirthday present” for the one whose birthday it was not. We didn’t have a conventional birthday party for children, but generally a granny or two and possibly an uncle had appeared by tea-time, and we had a Procession (we were very great on Processions) all around the house from top to bottom, with trumpets and paper hats, finishing in the dining room with a splendid tea, birthday cake and candles!’

20 April 2010

Tuesday Titbit

Photograph Album (TP/11/2)

Thomas Pitfield was a man of many talents: he was a composer, artist, craftsman and poet. Pitfield was a student and later a professor of the Royal Manchester College of Music. He loved nature and was a vegetarian; as we can see from his photograph album he was also very fond of dogs.
The above picture shows a pencil drawing by Pitfield of a sleeping spaniel and family photographs of his wife, Alice, and their pet spaniels. The photograph album forms part of the Thomas Pitfield collection which is kept at the RNCM Archives.

19 April 2010

This Is The Week That...

Letter from Hallé to Brodsky (ref. AB/492)

...Charles Hallé (first Principal and founder of the Royal Manchester College of Music) wrote to violinist Adolph Brodsky (21 April 1895).

With the departure of Willy Hess, the principal violin professor, Charles Hallé (first Principal and founder of the College) was forced to search for a new teacher and orchestra leader. Impressed with Adolph Brodsky, an outstanding soloist, Hallé suggested him for each position. Throughout his letter, Hallé attempts to subtly persuade Brodsky to join the college. He supposes that Brodsky's journey through Russia is nearing its end and hopes that Brodsky has not forgotten them in Manchester. Hallé also reminds Brodsky that he promised to pay them a visit which would be welcome with timely notice any time up to 7 July. Hallé also asks for biographical details for himself as well as for the local press. Brodsky accepts the positions offered to him, first appearing as leader of Hallé’s orchestra on 22 October 1895. Upon Hallé’s death on the morning of 25 October 1895, shortly before the Manchester season, Brodsky was offered the Principalship, which he accepted and held for a further 34 years.

14 April 2010


Welcome to the first RNCM Archives blog. I hope that readers find the blog useful, informative and interesting... Please do let me know what you think!

This Is The Week That... Tchaikovsky wrote to Adolph Brodsky, second Principal of the Royal Manchester College of Music (15 April 1882). 
  Extract from Tchaikovsky's letter to Brodsky, Archives ref. AB/664

Tchaikovsky addresses Brodsky by his forename and patronymic, Adolph Davidovich. Tchaikovsky is delighted to have heard from Brodsky the previous evening and cannot thank Brodsky enough for his fatherly care of his concerto. Tchaikovsky worries that the unfortunate concerto which inspired Brodsky may hinder Brodsky's career. Tchaikovsky greatly values Brodsky's attitude to his music and his friendship. Tchaikovsky came to Moscow with the intention of staying for only a few days but has already been detained for 3 weeks by proof readings. He is also editing the complete works of Dmitry Stepanovich Bortnyansky for Jurgenson. These are very many, poor in subject matter and monotonous. Although he loves Moscow, he is sad since so many of his friends have disappeared or are so aged and he wants to go off to the country. Tchaikovsky has heard that Brodsky has been invited to play at the Exhibition which Tchaikovsky hopes to see and may also hear Brodsky. Dated 15 Apr [1882].

Staff view
Anna Wright, Librarian of the RNCM, has this to say about the RNCM Archives:
'The development of music education in Manchester; the story of German refugees and internees during World War I; the life of a professional singer; correspondence between composers and performers; the establishment of a conservatoire in the late 19th century; an insight into the lives of performers, composers and educators ……

All of these and much more are to be found in the RNCM Archives. It’s quite hard to single out particular items for mention but a personal favourite is the visitors’ book of the Royal Manchester College of Music with the signatures of so many famous musicians from the late 19th and early 20th centuries who passed through the doors of the College.

I am fortunate in that I can explore the archives in person; through the features on the website and this blog you also have the opportunity to discover the wide variety of items within the collection and find out more about them.'

Sample page from the RMCM Visitors' Book (ref. RMCM/C/7) featuring the signatures of composer Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina, who visited the Royal Manchester College of Music on 25 November 1897.