Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Earl of Marischal And His Collection of International "National Airs" (1771)

In the first volume of Johann Gottfried Herder's Volkslieder (1778) we can find an introductory collection of "Zeugnisse über Volkslieder" with quotes from, among others, Montaigne, Joseph Addison, Luther, Agricola & Lessing (pp. 5-12). Particularly intriguing is one about a certain "Lord Marshall" who had collected national airs from "almost every nation under the sun" (p. 10): 
"Lord Marshall hatte sich eine Sammlung von Nazionalmelodien gemacht, von fast allen Völkern unter der Sonnen. Er hatte fast bei jedem Stück eine Anekdote. Er erzählte mir auch von einem Bergschotten, welcher allemal meinte, wenn er eine gewisse langsame Melodie spielen hörte".
As source is given the German translation of English musicologist Charles Burney's report about his legendary trip through Europe in the early 1770s (Vol. 3, pp. 85, 87, 88). At the moment I am interested in the history of comparative anthologies of national airs ("Volkslieder") in the 18th and 19th century and therefore this sounds very interesting. A little bit of research helped to identify the "Lord Marshall".

This was George Keith, the 10th Earl of Marischal (c. 1693-1778), an exiled Scottish soldier and diplomat in in service of the Prussian king. He had been involved in the Jacobite Rising in 1715 and had to leave Britain. Over the years he lived in Spain, but also in Russia, Venice and and other countries. In 1774 he moved to Prussia. 

Frederick II was particularly fond of him and he became part of the King's inner circle and also - as he was well-read and educated - member of the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften. The King made him governor Neuchâtel in Switzerland where he met Rousseau with whom he became friends and with whom he spent many hours discussing. Even though the Earl was eventually pardoned by the British crown he didn't return home but preferred to live in Berlin, close to the King (see ADB 15, 1882, pp. 551-5, and also the article in the German Wikipedia which is very helpful; see also Varnhagen von Ense, 1873, pp. 1-165, about his brother James [Jakob] Keith).

Charles Burney visited him in 1771 in his house in Berlin and was clearly very impressed by this old soldier. In the 2nd volume of the Journal of his tour, The Present State of Music in Germany, The Netherlands, and United Provinces, we can find the report about the Earl and his collection of national music (1773, here 2nd ed., London, 1775, pp. 122-3): 
"On this occasion, he was very pleasant upon himself: here ensued a discussion of Scots music, and Erse poetry; after which his lordship said, ' but lest you should think me to insensible to the power of sound, I must tell you, that I have made a collection of national tunes of almost all of the countries on the globe, which I believe I can shew you.' After a search, made by himself, the book in which these tunes were written, was found, and I was made to sing the whole collection through, without an instrument; during which time, he had an anecdote for every tune. When I had done, his lordship kindly wrote down a list of all such tunes as had pleased me most by their odditiy and originality, of which he promised me copies, and then ordered a Scots piper, one of his domestics, to play to me some Spanish and Scots tunes, which were not in the collection; 'but play them in the garden, says he, for these fine Italianised folks cannot bear our rude music near their delicate ears.'"
That sounds all very fascinating, not only the idea of a Scottish piper in Berlin in 1771 but also the fact that already at that time somebody had collected on his travels through Europe local music pieces and created what must have been the very first collection of international national airs. This was a couple of years before Herder's international "Volkslieder" - with only lyrics but no tunes, of course - and 20 years before the Abbé Vogler's Polymelos ou Caractères de Musique de differentes Nations, the first published collection of foreign national tunes (see this text in my blog). I only wonder what has happened to the Earl's book of national airs. One may assume that it has been lost and we will never know what exactly he had collected. 

  • Charles Burney, The Present State of Music in Germany, The Netherlands, and United Provinces. Or, The Journal of a Tour through those Countries, undertaken to collect Materials for A General History of Music. In Two Volumes. Vol. II, London, 1773 (2nd ed., London, 1775, available at the Internet Archive)
  • [Charles Burney] Carl Burney's der Musik Doctors Tagebuch seiner musikalischen Reisen. Dritter Band. Durch Böhmen, Sachsen, Brandenburg, Hamburg und Holland. Aus dem Englischen übersetzt [von Christoph Daniel Ebeling]. Mit einigen Zusätzen und Anmerkungen zum zweyten und dritten Bande, Hamburg, 1773 (available at the Internet Archive)
  • Johann Gottfried Herder, Volkslieder, Erster Theil, Weygand, Leipzig, 1778 (available at Google Books)
  • A. D. Schaefer, Keith, George, in: ADB 15, 1882, pp. 551-5 (at wikisource & BSt-DS)
  • Karl August Varnhagen von Ense, Biographische Denkmale, 7. Teil, 3.vermehrte Auflage, Brockhaus, Leipzig, 1873 (available at the Internet Archive)

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