Music

Amongst our collections of printed and recorded music you can admire music manuscripts written by renowned composers. Here are some of our most famous, starting from the 13th century.

Our huge collection of handwritten, printed and recorded music comes from all over the world, and covers a wide range of genres and styles from classical to calypso. Explore manuscripts by well-known composers such as Handel, Mozart, Beethoven and Elgar, and the British Library Sound Archive’s collection which also includes popular music recordings and videos, folk, traditional and world music. 

Sumer is icumen in

Sumer Is Icumen In, f.11v

'Sumer Is Icumen In' is a composition for several voices that was probably written at Reading Abbey in the mid-13th century.

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Old Hall manuscript

Old Hall Manuscript, f.12v

This collection of sacred music was compiled by a single scribe between about 1415 and 1421.

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The Pastoral Symphony – Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven manuscript

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) is one of the most significant and influential composers in the history of western music. He was a ground-breaker, and his work marked a transition in music from the Classical style to the Romantic style. These sketches, relate to the first movement of the 'Pastoral' Symphony, his Sixth.

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Henry Purcell's My Heart is Inditing

Henry Purcell's Autograph Score, f.55v-56

This piece ‘My heart is inditing’ was written for the coronation of James II in 1685 and was performed by an eight-part choir, strings and an organ.

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Messiah by George Frideric Handel

Handel's Messiah, f.2.

The German composer George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) composed Messiah in 1741 and it remains his best-known work, with its famous 'Hallelujah Chorus' performed by choirs the world over.

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Handel, Birthday Ode for Queen Anne

Handel, Birthday Ode for Queen Anne

Handel's ‘Birthday Ode for Queen Anne’ represents one of the first works he wrote in England, completing an initial version in early 1713 before revising it a year later.

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Mozart's thematic catalogue

Mozart's Thematic Catalogue f.7v-8

A thematic catalogue is a list of works accompanied by musical sketches of their opening bars.

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An die Musik by Schubert

Franz Schubert, manuscript of An die Musik and portrait. Zweig MS 81, A, B.

This manuscript shows an example of Franz Schubert’s song composition. His setting of verses by Franz von Schober dates from about 1817.

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Enigma Variations by Elgar

Manuscript for Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations on an Original Theme, f.1v

Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations on an Original Theme was one of the first works to bring this English composer to public recognition.

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Henry Vlll's songbook

King Henry Vlll's Songbook, f.14v-15

King Henry VIII received a broad musical education and was held in high regard as a composer and performer on many different musical instruments.

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Lord Kitchener and Sweet Jamaica

Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts) at the Savoy Hotel, 28 February 1957.

Trinidadian calypso singer Aldwyn ‘Lord Kitchener’ Roberts arrived in the UK on the Empire Windrush ship in 1948, along with Lord Beginner and Mona Baptiste.

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