Monday, May 16, 2016

Alfons Kissner's German Editions of Scottish, Irish and Welsh Songs 1872-1878

Scottish and Irish songs - especially those by Burns and Moore - were quite popular in Germany during the 19th century but mostly as poetry. Editions with music happened to be somewhat rare. The 1860s had seen the publication of three small collections of Scottish songs: by Max Bruch, Edmund Friese and Hermann Kestner (see in this blog: Scottish Songs in Germany - Bruch, Friese & Kestner (1864-68)). The latter also had put together Irish and Welsh anthologies. 

Only during the 1870s a series of publications with a great number of Scottish, Irish and Welsh songs with their original tunes appeared. They were compiled and edited by young scholar Alfons Kissner in cooperation with his father, Kapellmeister Carl Kissner, and other musicians who were responsible for the arrangements, either for choirs or for voice and piano. Of course these were no scholarly collections but intended for practical use: 
  • Carl & Alfons Kissner, Schottische Volkslieder (Scotch Songs) für Sopran, Alt, Tenor u. Bass, 2 Hefte, Partitur und Stimmen, J. Rieter-Biedermann, Leipzig & Winterthur, n. d. [1872]
    (Heft 1 available at the ZB Zürich, Mus RB 1867: 1 & the Internet Archive
  • Alfons Kissner, Lieder von der grünen Insel. Ins Deutsche übersetzt und für eine Singstimme mir Clavierbegleitung herausgegeben, 4 Hefte, J. Rieter-Biedermann, Leipzig & Winterthur, 1874 (H. 1-3), 1878 (H. 4)
    (available at the ZB Zürich, Mus RB 1870 & the Internet Archive
  • Carl & Alfons Kissner, Schottische Lieder aus älterer und neuerer Zeit für eine Singstimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte. Unter Mitwirkung von Ludwig Stark, 3 Hefte, Rieter-Biedermann, Leipzig & Winterthur, 1874
    (available at the ZB Zürich, Mus WA 979 & the Internet Archive
  • Carl Kissner, Schottische Volkslieder für 4 Männerstimmen (Soli & Chor) bearbeitet, deutsch und englisch, Partitur und Stimmen, J. Rieter-Biedermann, Leipzig & Winterthur, 1875
    (see Hofmeister, Oktober 1875, p. 222; not yet digitized, extant copies at BSB, 4 1224 & ZB Zürich Mus RB 1866
  • Alfons Kissner & Ludwig Stark, Lieder aus Wales. Ins Deutsche übersetzt und für eine Singstimme mit Pianoforte, 4 Hefte, Rieter-Biedermann, Leipzig & Winterthur, 1875/76
    (see Hofmeister, Dezember 1875, p. 311, Oktober/November 1876, p. 297; not yet digitized; extant copies at ZB Zürich, Mus RB 1872: 1-4; BSB, 4 1229-1/4, and some more) 
  • Carl Kissner, Vier Altschottische Volksmelodien. Für eine Sopran- und Baßstimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte, J. Rieter-Biedermann, Leipzig & Winterthur, 1876
    (available at the Internet Archive
  • Carl & Alfons Kissner, Ludwig Stark, Burns-Album. Hundert Lieder und Balladen von Burns mit ihren schottischen National-Melodien für 1 Singstimme mit Pianoforte und schottischem und deutschem Text, 4 Hefte, J. Rieter-Biedermann, Leipzig & Winterthur, 1877
    (see Hofmeister, März 1877, pp. 82-3; AMZ 12, 1877, pp. 335-6; not yet digitized; complete copy at BSB, 4 1227-1/4
  • Alfons Kissner & Ludwig Stark, Balladen aus keltischen Bergen. Ins Deutsche übersetzt und für eine Singstimme mit Clavierbegleitung herausgegeben. Drei Hefte, J. Rieter-Biedermann, Leipzig & Winterthur, 1877
    (available at the Internet Archive
At that time this series was surely regarded as an ambitious and important project. The publisher regularly ran large ads in the music press (see f. ex. AMZ 7, 1872, col. 87, col. 215; AMZ 9, 1874, col. 463-4; AMZ 12, 1877, col. 431-2) and Friedrich Chrysander even wrote an extended critical review in the AMZ (Vol. 10, 1875, col. 290-4 etc.). Today Kissner's collections are more or less forgotten and are rarely mentioned in the relevant literature (but see Selle, p. 105-6, Kupper, p. 186).

Alfons Kissner (1844-1928; see Tilitzki, p. 562; Wikipedia), son of Kapellmeister Carl Kissner (1815-c.1905; see bmlo), studied in Bonn and Marburg. He wrote his dissertation about Chaucer in seinen Beziehungen zur italienischen Literatur (1867, at the Internet Archive). At first, he had to spent some years as a private scholar and as librarian and secretary for a Russian Grand Duchess. But already in 1875 he became professor for English and French at the University of Erlangen and that was the start of a long academic career. His friend Felix Dahn, novelist, historian and jurist, called him "the most amiable of all professors" and noted that he was "well-versed in the literatures (and music!) of all peoples and times" (1895, pp. 137 , Kupper, p. 186).

It is not clear why he started this project but it seems that at first it wasn't intended to be that extensive. The very first publication in 1872, the two booklets of Scotch songs arranged for choirs, was quite similar to earlier collections, for example those published a decade earlier by Kestner, Friese and Bruch. Here he included the popular standards - mostly by Burns - like "My Heart's in the Highlands" and "John Anderson, my Jo" and used older translations by Freiligrath, Bartsch, Winterfeld, Dahn and others. 

The Introduction is not particularly profound but at least he showed familiarity with the most important collections like Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany, Johnson's Scots Musical Museum and George Thomson's publications. Nonetheless later Chrysander in his review (1875, col. 290-2) correctly criticized a certain superficiality as well as the old-fashioned romantic attitude.

Kissner spent some time in London during the years 1873 and 1874 (see Tilitzki, p. 562) and apparently he did some research. The introductions of the further volumes didn't get much better - in fact they are all somewhat disappointing for a future professor of English literature - but from then on he had access to a much greater selection of songs, not only those that had already been published in Germany.

The year 1874 saw the publication of the first three booklets of Irish songs, Lieder von der grünen Insel. The second and third of these were completely dedicated to Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies - a fourth volume would follow in 1878 - and this was in fact the very first German - partial, of course - edition of this famous collection including the music.

Moore was very popular in Germany since the early 1820s, but mostly as a poet, not as a songwriter. Most of his works had been translated into German language but the tunes of his songs were only rarely included in German publications. Silcher had used some in his Ausländische Volksmelodien (1835-41, at the Internet Archive) and Hermann Kestner's Irische Volkslieder (1866-9) - a part of his series Ausländische Volkslieder - offered a small amount of Moore's songs (see Hofmeister 1866, p. 127; 1867, p. 47; 1869, p. 109). From the Irish Melodies only "'Tis the Last Rose of Summer" - first introduced by Silcher (1835) and then a great hit after its inclusion in Flotow's opera Martha (1848; see in this blog: "Des Sommers letzte Rose" - Thomas Moore's "'Tis The Last Rose Of Summer" in Germany) and "Minstrel Boy" had become part of the German singing tradition. 

The 36 songs in booklets 2, 3 and 4 were of course only a small part of Moore's complete Irish output but a considerable number of them hadn't been available in Germany until that time. The translations were by Kissner himself. In fact he translated the words of the complete Irish Melodies into German and published them in an extra book: 
  • Thomas Moore's Irische Melodien in den Versmaaßen übertrsgen von Alfons Kissner, mit Beiträgen von Friedrich Bodenstedt, Hoffmann & Campe, Hamburg, 1875, at the Internet Archive
Original Welsh songs were also quite rare in Germany. Again only Hermann Kestner had published three small booklets in the previous decade. Otherwise not much was available. Here Kissner offered four booklets with altogether 40 songs, the biggest anthology of music from Wales that appeared during the 19th century. 

But most important was his collection of Robert Burns' songs. Burns' texts had been translated several times (see Selle and Kupper) and many of these German translations were then set to new music (see for example in this blog: "Mein Herz ist im Hochland" - New Musical Settings By German Composers 1836-1842). Here Kissner put together a selection of 100 songs in four booklets together with their original tunes. Most of them hadn't been published in Germany before. Some of the translations were by Kissner himself and the rest he borrowed from the available collections. In fact this was the most comprehensive anthology of songs by Robert Burns so far. 

Schottische Lieder aus älterer und neuerer Zeit includes Scottish songs not written by Burns. Here we can find old classics like Robert Crawford's "Tweedside" and "The Bush Aboon Traquair" as well as others first published in Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany. But he also added some songs from the later 18th and early 19th century like Niel Gow's "Roy's Wife of Aldivalloch" and Miss Jordan's well-known great hit "The Blue Bells of Scotland". The latter, by the way, was already popular in Germany and easily available in different translations. The last of the series was a volume with the title Balladen aus keltischen Bergen, a mixture of Welsh, Irish - including some more from Moore's Irish Melodies - and Scottish songs, some older, some more recent. It is difficult to see some organizing principle but nonetheless this was another welcome addition. 

All in all these songbooks can be seen as an impressive achievement, both by the publisher and the editors. Never before so many original Scottish, Irish and Welsh tunes had been available in Germany. Other reviewers were full of praise (see Grenzboten 37, 1878, pp. 381-91). But I don't get the impression that these collections were particularly successful and by all account they didn't have much influence. Only very rarely these songs were used by other arrangers. All these songbooks have only survived in a few copies and this this suggests that they most likely weren't sold as well as the publisher may have hoped for. Alfons Kissner himself never returned to this field. In 1877 he was appointed professor in Königsberg. Later he made himself a name as the translator of Ludovico Ariovist's works while his efforts as an editor of British songs fell into oblivion. 

  • Altenglische Volkslieder am Klavier, in: Die Grenzboten. Zeitschrift für Politik, Literatur und Kunst 37 II.1, 1878, pp. 381-91 
  • Friedrich Chrysander, A. Kissner's schottische und irländische Volkslieder, in AMZ 10, 1875, col. 290-4, 323-8, 337-344, 354-60, at the Internet Archive 
  • Felix Dahn, Erinnerungen. Viertes Buch, Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 1895 (at the Internet Archive
  • Hans Jürg Kupper, Robert Burns im deutschen Sprachraum unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der schweizerischen Übersetzungen von August Corrodi, Bern 1979 (Basler Studien zur deutschen sprache und Literatur 56) 
  • Christian Tilitzki, Die Albertus-Universität Königsberg. Ihre Geschichte von der Reichsgründung bis zum Untergang der Provinz Ostpreußen (1871-1945). Band 1: 1871-1918, Berlin, 2012 
  • Rosemary Anne Selle, The Parritch and the Partridge: The Reception of Robert Burns in Germany. A History, 2 Vols, Phil. Diss., Heidelberg 1981 (now available as: 2nd Revised and Augmented Edition, Frankfurt/M. 2013)

The Remarks about the Livonian Bagpipe in Balthasar Rüssow's "Chronica der Prouintz Lyfflandt" (1578/84)

Recently I needed to check some references regarding the use of the bagpipe in Livonia in the 16th century . The source referred to (by Graf 1962, pp. 88-91) was one particularly important chronicle from that time, Balthasar Rüssow's Chronica der Prouintz Lyfflandt (1578/84). Once again I was impressed by number of digital copies of this book that are available. Digitization has changed everything and even old and rare books are easily at hand in a matter of minutes.

But today it is not enough to go to only Google Books or Hathi Trust and see what they have. In fact digital copies of historical books are scattered over numerous different libraries and repositories and they are not always easy to find. There is not a single catalog that allows the access to all that are available. KVK is a good start but its results are - for different reasons - far from being complete. There is still quite a lot of footwork to do. 

Besides that the quality of the scans is not always what one would expect. That means a systematic review of all digital copies of a particular book is often necessary to see which one is the best. In case of Rüssow's Chronica this is thankfully not that difficult. Nonetheless it is helpful to bring them in some kind of order. There are - at least - two Google-scans of each edition and some other libraries are offering their own digital copies. For the first edition alone we have four different scans! This should be enough at the moment: 
Rüssow's Chronica was already discussed by historians since the late 18th century. Early examples were Gadebusch's four pages in his Abhandlung von Livländischen Geschichtsschreibern (1772, pp. 37-41) and Kruse's Balthasar Rüssow, in Erinnerung gebracht in 1816 (at UTR). In 1845 Eduard Pabst translated the Low German text into modern High German to make it more accessible. Most of his notes are still helpful:
  • Balthasar Rüssow's Livländische Chronik. Aus dem Plattdeutschen übertragen und mit kurzen Anmerkungen versehen durch Eduard Pabst, Koppelson, Reval, 1845
    at BSB München, Russ. 132 t [= Google Books, also at the Internet Archive
Even though the Chronica was sold quite well at the time of its publication - otherwise there wouldn't have been the two additional editions - it had apparently become quite rare in the 19th century and was not that easy to find in libraries. Therefore the original text of the edition from 1584 was reprinted in an important collection of original sources for Baltic history: 
  • Scriptores Rerum Livonicarum. Sammlung der wichtigsten Chroniken und Geschichtsdenkmale zu Liv-, Ehst- und Kurland; in genauem Wiederabdrucke der besten, bereits gedruckten, aber selten gewordenen Ausgaben. 2 Bde (at the Internet Archive: Vol. 1 [GB] & Vol. 2 [GB]), Franzen, Riga & Leipzig, 1853/1848, here Bd. 2, pp. 1-194 (also at ÖNB [GB]: Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
There are several Google-scans of copies from different European and American libraries and I have tried to select the best of them. With the easy access to digitized copies of the original work one may assume that this reprint is of no use today. But that is not the case. First there are helpful additions, especially a dictionary and an Index. Besides that: for a long time scholars have used the Scriptores Rerum Livonicarum. It happened to be easily available in libraries while the original books were difficult to find. Therefore page numbers in the notes of most of the secondary literature usually refer to this edition. Not at least these two massive volumes also include other important relevant works that have not yet been digitized, for example Friedrich Menius' Syntagma de Origine Livonorum (Dorpat, 1635, here Vol. 2, pp. 511-42). 

We can see that in this case all necessary publications have been digitized. There are several digital copies of each of the different editions of the original Chronica and also of the reprint and the translation. The quality of the available scans is not bad and they are all readable and usable. 

By the way, this chronicle is still well worth reading, not only for those interested in Baltic history and culture. Rüssow (1536-1600; see Johansen 1996, the standard work; good introduction: Brüggemann 2003, short: Miljan 2004, p. 426) was a very interesting character. He may have been born as an Estonian - that is not completely clear but not unlikely -, was sent to Germany to study theology and then became Lutheran pastor in Reval. He was also an excellent writer, often very laconic and he happened to be very critical of just about everybody, particularly the upper class. 

But his book is also quite depressing to read. The late 16th century was an era of death and war for the Livonians, both the indigenous peasants - the Latvians and Estonians - and their oppressors, the German nobility. Russian, Tatars, Poles, Swedes as well as mercenaries from Germany and even from Scotland were fighting against each other and plundering the locals. Especially the Russians regularly raided the country and were responsible for much destruction and terror. Not at least the plague broke out several times. 

The author also added interesting information about the life and culture of the people living in Livonia. What I was looking for were several remarks about the Estonian bagpipe. Interestingly these parts can only be found in the edition published in 1584. Rüssow writes about the peasants coming to the "kerckmissen" - the parish fairs - in summer to drink and celebrate. They made themselves "frölich [...] mit eren groten Sackpipen, de men by auendt tyden schyr auer eine Myle weges hören kan". These instruments must have been really loud! And after the church they kept on drinking and singing and playing the bagpipe "daß Einem [...] das Hören und Sehen vergehen möchte" (p. 31b). 

In the summer of 1574 (see pp. 85b-86) the Livonians had to bear one more attack, this time by 10000 Russians and Tatars. They burned down all villages near Reval and killed or captured many people. "Do wos alle fröwde in dem ganzen Lande benamen" and the great Livonian bagpipes had to hide. One "Börger" of the besieged Reval complained about the permanent ringing of the alarm bell and longed to hear "der Buuren Sackpipen" again. Here the sound of the peasants' bagpipes - usually more of a nuisance for the cultivated citizens - became a symbol of more peaceful times. 

  • Karsten Brüggemann, Die 'Chronica der Prouintz Lyfflandt' von Balthasar Rüssow. Ein lutherischer Pastor als politischer Chronist, in: Klaus Garber (ed.) et al., Kulturgeschichte der baltischen Länder in der frühen Neuzeit, Tübingen, 2003, pp. 265-282 
  • Friedrich Konrad Gadebusch, Abhandlung von Livländischen Geschichtsschreibern, Hartknoch, Riga, 1772, at the Internet Archive (here pp. 37-41
  • Walter Graf, Die ältesten deutschen Überlieferungen estnischer Volkslieder, in: Musik des Ostens 1, 1963, pp. 83-105 
  • Cornelius Hasselblatt, Geschichte der estnischen Literatur. Von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, Beerlin, 2006 
  • Paul Johansen, Balthasar Rüssow als Humanist und Geschichtsschreiber. Aus dem Nachlaß ergänzt und herausgegeben von Heinz von zur Mühlen, Köln, 1996 (= Quellen und Studien zur baltischen Geschichte 14)
  • Karl Wilhelm Kruse, Balthasar Rüssow, in Erinnerung gebracht. Gelegenheitsschrift zur Ankündigung des Lehrganges auf dem Gymnasio illustri zu Mitau für das Jahr 1816, Steffenhagen und Sohn, Mitau, 1816, at University of Tartu Repository 
  • Toivo Miljan, Historical Dictionary of Estonia, Lanham & Oxford, 2004