We know that the Royal Music Library had reached its home in the depths of Buckingham Palace by the time of Victoria's accession in 1837. During her long reign its status changed somewhat, and though it continued to be the repository of performing materials for court music-making, it also became much more than previously a recipient of presentation scores from visiting dignatories and loyal subjects from around the empire. Some volumes are graced with the full Royal Arms, while others range in their bindings from a richly decorated enamel-work cover to a wrapping of tartan velvet.
Besides these presentation volumes, much is revealed about Queen Victoria's own musical life, with piano music by Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn - including an arrangement of the famous 'Spring Song' and others of the Songs Without Words which Mendelssohn made specially for Her Majesty - and vocal works by several of the great Italian opera composers of the day.
The end of 'Frühlingslied', from Mendelssohn's Lieder ohne Worte, arranged by the composer for piano duet. The British Library, R.M.21.f.24.(5.), f. 18. Copyright © The British Library Board
Prince Albert of course had strong musical leanings too, both as a composer and as a patron, and his interests are well represented, as are those of the noted violinist George Frederick Anderson, who was Master of the Queen's Musick from 1848 to 1870 and made many additions of early printed music. It was probably also around this time that the small collection of books about music was added to the Library. Many other 18th-century scores were acquired from sales and by gift in this time, including a large collection of operas by Jommelli and others in Italian vellum bindings and a collection of opera scores from the library of the first Earl of Cawdor, a friend of the Prince Consort.
Dr Nicolas Bell
The British Library
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