Catalogue (?) Number QM7404
Village Music Project codes prefix…TBe.
Transcribed into ABC2WIN by Cherri Graebe of the Village Music Project.
Introduction by Chris Partington of the Village Music Project, Dec. 2002.
This book is 9″ wide, 4.75″ tall, leather bound.
There are usually 4 hand-ruled staves per page, sometimes 3 or 5.
The cover has had a paper label pasted on the front, by VWML.
Its inscription is “THOMAS BENNET’S VIOLIN BOOK 1718. W.SHIELD 1810”
I can find no reference to Thomas Bennet in the National Biography nor in Grove’s
Dictionary of Music & Musicians 3rd Edition 1926, nor in New Grove’s etc.
The inside front cover has in the top right hand corner the inscription “T.W.Taphouse, Oxford”.
Groves 3rd Ed. gives Thomas William Taphouse b.1838 d.1905 as a major music seller in Oxford, and collector of old music, which included the only autograph copies of some of Purcell’s violin works, for example. His library was of very great value, but dispersed on his death. Some of it was bought for the Music Collection of Leeds Central Library. The business was continued by his son, Charles Milner Taphouse of 3 Magdalen St., who was a friend of folk music collector Frank Kidson of Leeds, and publisher in 1891 of his book “Traditional Tunes, A Collection of Ballad Airs”.
This page also bears the larger, later inscription “To Frank Kidson from Alfred Moffat”.
Alfred Moffat, who was born in 1866, is described in Groves 3rd Ed., as a composer and editor of old music. He was largely responsible for what was to become Novello’s “Old English Violin Music” series. He brought to light many works by Purcell, Jones, Valentine, Avison and Eccles, (who coincidentally wrote the score for the Opera “Sebella”, a song from which you will find towards the end of this Manuscript). He had a “fine and unique library of early violin music, 17th & 18th Centuries”. A look at the 1905 sale catalogue of T.W.Taphouse’s library may reveal how much of his information came from there. Taphouse was said to be generous in allowing access to it. Moffat collaborated with Frank Kidson, by doing the musical arrangements, on “A Garland of English folksongs”, pub. 1926, and “English Peasant Songs” pub. 1929.
On the facing page, page 1, in Alfred Moffat’s handwriting, is pasted the following:
“Violin. A collection of Preludes, Airs, Minuetts, Jiggs, Corants, Rigadoons, Gavots, Marches, Sarabands, Country Dance, etc., in MS for the violin or flute. . On the first leaf is written (it continues) W.Shield Cambridge 16th Aug 1810. On the second leaf Thomas Bennet’s Book 1718. Obl 4to”
On page 2 in Frank Kidson’s hand-writing is written:
“This book is mentioned by J.Cunningham-Woods in his paper in The Musical Association 22nd session 1895-6 p.103 = “On the last page of all we have the identical Sebella or Sebell which Hawkins gives at(as?) the end of the second (act?)(something illegible in brackets). A comparison of these two is most interesting and shows that Hawkins is somewhat different from this written version both as regards (notes?) themselves and the number of bars”
Sir John Hawkins 1719-89 published his 5 vol. ‘General History of the Science and Practice of Music’ in 1776.
On page 3, being the first page proper, are one or two mathematical doodles, and the large copperplate signature of W.Shield, Cambridge, 16 Aug 1810. This hand appears nowhere else in the book. There is a William Shields b.1748 d.1829 in Groves 3rd Ed, noted composer in his time, born in Durham and lived in London, who wrote operas and pantomimes, serious instrumental works and popular songs, amongst them Rosina, The Village Fete and Old Towler. He possessed a “valuable musical library” which was sold on his death. However I am not aware of any lasting connection between this W.Shield and either Oxford or Cambridge, therefore any link with our W.Shield can only be speculative. However, the fact that Oxford and Cambridge are both obviously ancient university towns along with Durham, the birthplace of W.Shield composer, is a striking co-incidence.
Page 4 in my photocopy is a little faint, and scrutiny of the original may be worthwhile. Amidst some flourishes and well laid out in a neat hand is =
“James Bennet his book” and again underneath =
“James Bennet his book” followed by something totally illegible in my photocopy.
And to the top right in a much inferior hand = “Thomas Bennet’s Book 1718”
Then on the next page follows the music.
All the music and titles, despite minor differences in neatness, appear to me to be in the same hand, that of Thomas Bennet. Two tunes only, Eccho Minuet Tbe.063, and Minuet Tbe.064, may be in a different hand. James Bennet despite his flourishing beginning appears not to re-appear, except just possibly in these two tunes! Thomas Bennet occasionally seems to be practising neat handwriting.
We have no evidence as to who Thomas Bennet was or where he lived, nor his age or position in society. The name does not appear in the National Biography or Grove 3rd Ed or New Grove, and no links can be established with any Thomas Bennet (and there are some) on genealogy web-sites. The fact that he could read and write and had leisure enough to study music notation at such an early date would suggest at least that he was not working class, although it was occasionally possible to be elevated by patronage or scholarship to the clergy, for example, (in which case he may have studied at Oxford). In any event he would be unlikely to have a menial future. The need for Medus and Bass parts in the Manuscript strongly suggest genteel companions.
EVIDENCE WITHIN THE MUSIC
Contained within the music are several names.
1..”Preludes by Mr. Thomas Dean”
Grove 3rd Ed. gives Thomas Deane b.latter half of 17th C, organist at Warwick and Coventry…is said to have been the first to perform a sonata of Corelli in England in 1709. Compositions by him for the violin are contained in “The Division Violin”. He graduated as Doctor of Music at Oxford in 1731.
2..”Mr Wildbore’s Farwell(sic) by Charles Roe”. I have been unable to locate either of these personages, but would expect them to be connected as character and composer with early theatrical history.
3..”Sebella” and “Semele”, (Notes by Cherri Graebe) Semele is a character from Greek mythology, the daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia and mother of Dionysus. There was an opera of that name by John Eccles, (b.1650 d. 1735,) libretto by Congreve, dated either 1705, 1707 or 1710. (Also an opera or oratorio by Handel in 1743,).
“Endless pleasure Endless Love Semele enjoys Semele enjoys Semele
above on her Bosom Jove reclining useless now his Thunder lies his
to her Arms his Bolts resigning and his Lightening to her eyes”
This I presume is Congreve’s libretto (though I am in no position to check), and the piece referred to above by J.Cunningham-Woods in 1895.
4..”Trumpet Solo by Senior Nicola”
Could this be Nicola Matteis, eminent Italian violinist , who came to England in about 1672 and stayed? His playing was described as “Stupendous”. He was one of the first musicians to demand attention and silence from his aristocratic audience. He composed many works, among them “Airs for the violin, to wit, preludes fugues alemands sarabands courants gigues fancies divisions and likewise other passages (1685)”. A set of his books was sold in the Taphouse sale of 1905. “He fell into such credit that he took a great house, and after the manner of his country lived luxuriously”. He was in 1696 one of the stewards for a Cecilian celebration at Oxford. He had a violinist son, also called Nicholas, who however lived in Vienna from at the latest 1700 until 1737.
THE MUSIC ITSELF
There are in descending number:
Four of the tunes (2 Rigadoons, a Gavotte, a Jigg), are written for parts.
Apart from the Preludes and the songs, all these tune types were dance forms from the 17th & 18th centuries. However, the presence of the Preludes reminds us that they were also, including the odd Country Dance, components of the Suite form of instrumental music, as in Purcell, Bach’s partitas, Corelli, Handel, and indeed Signor Nicola Matteis and Thomas Deane. One could hardly imagine, from our perspective, the average illiterate country fiddler being interested in these tunes, with their flat keys and many accidentals. Nevertheless such tunes do occur in other more obviously ‘dance’ MSS, and remained in small numbers right up until the end of the century. Indeed in Edinburgh the famous Robert Mackintosh, composer and publisher of books of reels and strathspeys and who, like a significant number of Scottish traditional fiddlers, had a professional foot in the classical concert world, and who is also said to have been the first teacher of the great Nathaniel Gow, published in 1783 a book of “Airs, Minuets, Gavottes and Reels”. The gulf between what we now think of as ‘traditional’ and ‘serious’ music was not so obvious in the 18thC as it has since become. Nevertheless, this was the sort of contemporary secular music that an earnest young student might be into, if he was up at Oxford say, and wanted to indulge his fine sensibilities. Whether he ever had the opportunity to actually play for any young ladies to foot it in the drawing room is impossible to say, but if he did, then he was a little before the fashion in England of the minuet as a dance, rather than as an instrumental piece. This did not come until after 1730, according to Grove 3rd Ed., notwithstanding the fact that minuets do occur occasionally in the 17thC.
The music is within the capability of a competent amateur ‘serious’ musician, and it is useful to remember that such suites and their component parts were often known as ‘Lessons’ in England. It does not represent quite the balance of movements in typical suites, being over-representative of minuets, for example. He has seemingly not taken Suites wholesale, but rather picked out his favourite tunes.
This book nicely illustrates one end of the spectrum of amateur music making represented in MS at VWML. Thomas Bennet would seem to have been a young man of prospect, an amateur violinist, with some circumstantial evidence to place him in Oxford at the beginning of the 18thC. Oxford at this time was virtually the ‘second capital’. He possessed this autograph manuscript music book in which he recorded contemporary chamber music, to be played for his own edification and, as the tunes for Medus and Bass show, along with other people for recreation. Maybe the Preludes had been recommended to him by a Teacher of Music. Although using the dance form as a basis for the tunes, it is doubtful in this instance whether dancing was foremost in the mind of the performer. Playford’s Dancing Master was still in print at this time, yet contained quite a different cross section of popular dance music. The book came into the hands of W. Shields of Cambridge in 1810, by which time it would already be a curiosity. From there it got into T. W. Taphouse’s antiquarian collection, where J.Cunningham-Woods had a look at it. Alfred Moffat, who acquired it probably after the death of Taphouse, gave it to Frank Kidson, and it now resides in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.
Chris Partington, Dec. 2002.
THE HEADINGS IN THE PRELUDES
An note of explanation by Cherri.
The headings refer to an old system of solmization, in which most notes had two or three names – A is A re here. The writer also uses the older method relative sharps and flats – the sharp or flat raises or lowers the note one semi-tone, so that in (e.g.) F, with a Bb, what we would refer to as B natural is shown as B#, and in a sharp key Fb
would nowadays be referred to as F natural.
Gamut: Old English term for the scale or key of G, whether major or minor, and hence for a scale or range in general. It derives from the combination of gamma, the Greek G and ut, the name given in medieval theory to the note G, bottom line of stave in bass clef. Also the scale beginning on Gamma ut, and more generally the range or compass of the fiddle.
Solmization – the designation of the musical scales by means of syllables Based on Hexachords – scales of 6 notes beginning on G (hexachord durum), C (hexachord naturale) and F (hexachord molle), and the same names were used for each scale, so each note after the first 3 could have 2 or 3 names. This system originated in the 11th century.
Per New Grove: the use of syllables in association with pitches as a mnemonic device for indicating melodic intervals. “A solmization system is not a notation: it is a method of aural rather than visual training”
Cherri Graebe, 2002.