Bodleian acquires archive of pianist and composer Edmund Rubbra

17 May 2012

Rubbra portraitThe Bodleian Libraries have recently acquired the archive of Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986), English composer, pianist, music critic and teacher.

The Rubbra Archive comprises personal letters, programmes, talks, lectures and signed presentation copies of scores which give a unique insight into the life of one of the most important English composers of the 20th century. Most of this material has never been published and is unknown to the scholarly community and the general public.

The archive includes a substantial correspondence between Rubbra and his publisher Lengnick from 1946 to 1964. Also in the archive are letters from friends and colleagues, including Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi, Herbert Howells, Sir Arthur Bliss, Sir Henry Wood, Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Adrian Boult, Ernest Moeran, Lennox Berkeley, Arnold Bax, Egon Wellesz, Zoltán Kodály, Jean Sibelius and many others. There is also an almost complete collection of scores of Gerald Finzi’s music, signed by the composer and dedicated to Rubbra, which further illuminates their close personal friendship.

Rubbra meticulously kept all programmes, reviews and articles by or about himself and his music from 1918 until his death in 1986. His collection of scores marked with analytical notes is also included.

From 1947 to 1968 Rubbra was a lecturer at the Music Faculty of the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Worcester College. He was also much in demand as lecturer outside the University and broadcast frequently on radio, especially during the 1960s and 1970s. The archive includes notes and scripts for many of these lectures and talks. All of these are unpublished and throw a unique light both on his approaches to composition and his ideas about music in general. Miscellaneous items include contracts, royalty statements, personal diaries and address books plus a manuscript of Rubbra’s own transcriptions, from cylinder recordings, of some Gaelic folk-songs collected in the 1920s.

Martin Holmes, Alfred Brendel Curator of Music at the Bodleian Libraries, said: ‘A full reassessment of Edmund Rubbra’s life and music is long overdue and this material will provide much of the source material to enable this work to be done. The Rubbra Archive is a valuable resource for anyone studying the history of 20th-century music in Britain and essential for any study of Rubbra’s life and music. Together with other related material that the Bodleian already possesses, this new acquisition will make the Library the major centre for the study of the life of this very important figure in 20th-century British music.’

The Library gratefully acknowledges the support of the Friends of the National Libraries and a number of private donors in its efforts to acquire the Archive.


About the Bodleian Music Collections

The music collections of the Bodleian Library comprise a research collection of over 500,000 items of printed music from the 16th century onwards, approximately 4,000 manuscripts from medieval times to the present day, and around 75,000 books and periodicals, based in part on British legal deposit material, but also rich in donated and purchased items. Classical, popular and non-western musical traditions are all represented. Highlights of the collection include Handel’s own conducting score of Messiah and original manuscripts of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides overture and Holst’s Planets suite.

The Rubbra Archive is an appropriate addition to the Library’s already substantial holdings of the manuscripts of 20th-century English musicians, particularly Rubbra’s close friend Gerald Finzi, but also including Hubert Parry, George Butterworth, Robin Milford, Howard Ferguson, Michael Hurd and Philip Cannon, as well as isolated examples of many others. The collection is also comparable in scope to the archive of the composer Robert Simpson which has recently been acquired by the Library.


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