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Death in Venice [musical drafts]

 
Death in Venice [musical drafts] by BRITTEN, Benjamin [Thomas Hemsley] (1973)
Author: BRITTEN, Benjamin [Thomas Hemsley]
Title: Death in Venice [interim dyline drafts]
 
Year: 1973
Publisher: Faber Music
Place: London
Dust Jacket: No
Signed: Yes
 
Price: £1500
 
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Pre-publication and pre-premier sequence of successively revised scores from early 1973 together with a kit of parts to make good the revisions of Britten's scores for his final opera, Death in Venice. The singer Thomas 'Tom' Hemsley alternated with John Shirley Quirk in the baritone role in the opera and during rehearsals for the premier at Snape and subsequent performance at La Fenice in Venice in June and September 1973 he was sent these evolving vocal scores from Faber Music as well as instructions which were sent direct from Britten's amanuensis Rosamond Strode at Snape in which she explained how to make the necessary corrections. These three versions, each reproduce a fair copy which was made from Britten's autograph score, as he battled through illness and diminishing energy to complete the project, adjusting and changing his vision for the doomed relationship between the dying artist, Aschenbach, and the beautiful object of obsession, Tadzio. Among the items sent by Strode to Hemsley is a remarkable kit of 'corrective patches' to be pasted into the score in order to bring it in line with the composer's intentions. The opera had a very small cast and it seems unlikely that more than a handful of these corrected scores would have been sent out. In chronological order the collection comprises:

1. Death in Venice, disbound 'A' score (Faber's code on the imprint line at the foot of the first page) - the earliest dyeline printing of the fair-copy manuscript according to Rosamond Strode's memo to Hemsley (see below), circa December 1972. Only the lower wrapper is present with the name of the ballet dancer 'Christopher Nourse' written on it; a little over half the score is present.

2. Death in Venice, two bound volumes of the 'B' score (Faber's code alongside the imprint line), numbered '10' on both folio-size, ring-bound volumes with 'Faber Music Hire Library' label to upper cover. With a folder of additional loose musical leaves.

Laid in to first volume, a memo to 'Dear Tom' from 'Rosamond' dated 1st May 1973 sending 'some pages and patches to be incorporated as soon as possible into your vocal score. They mostly need to be stuck over the existing copy.. The most urgent and substantial changes are the dyelined revisions for pages 322/3...' (Hemsley's unused kit of 'Correction Patches' is present in full as he had already received this 'B' score by the time it was issued.) Handwritten postscript about 'your copy' and the need to talk to Fabers 'p.d.q.' with 3 pages of very detailed additional musical corrections specifically for Hemsley in red biro written in Strode's hand: 'Apologies for scribble, but I hope you can read it, and follow the maze all right. In haste, Yrs, Rosamund.' A copied sheet of metronome marks, 12th April, 1973 together with four loose pages of the 'most urgent' dyelined music pages from the score, again unused.

3. Death in Venice, Vocal Score Act I (only), pp9-340 with gaps in pagination. Pencil listing of the multiple baritone characters played by Hemsley on verso of upper cover. Laid in, a 4 page mimeographed memo to 'Tom Hemsley' with the English Opera Group's rehearsal schedule, dated April 1975. Occasional annotation, presumably by Hemsley playing the Elderly Fop: 'Enter from L.[eft]', rhythmic notation for the Leader of Players etc.
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