Click here to skip to content

Music reference enquiries

Here are three examples of the kind of enquiry that the Music Reference Team can help you with.

If your enquiry requires in-depth research or more specialist help than we can provide we will forward your enquiry to the appropriate person, refer you to our Research Service or suggest alternative sources of help.

I have an essay to write on Der Freischutz with regard to Von Weber’s techniques etc. Can you help?

Whereas we cannot help you with writing your essay, you could consult one of the publications found in the bibliography from the entry on Weber from The New Grove Music Dictionary (2001) or consult the online version (available via a subscription), your college librarian will be able to tell you if you have access to this.

You can then check the titles in the Library's catalogue, Explore the British Library, to see if we hold them in our collection.

Another useful source for musical research is RILM (abstracts of music literature). A searchable index of books, dissertations and journal articles on music published worldwide, covering the period from 1967 to the present, it has brief summaries of content of most of the books and articles indexed but does not index articles in newspapers or the popular press. This is also available online via a subscription.

The music manuscript collection has a contemporary copy of Handel’s harp concerto in Bb, which I presume will have been microfilmed. Do I need to use the Manuscripts or Rare Books and Music Reading Room to see the microfilm?

This work is a music manuscript which is kept in Music Collections and is part of the Royal Music Library. Please see the catalogue record below:

R.M.20.g.13. ROYAL MUSIC COLLECTION. G.F. Handel: Instrumental music IV; circa 1716- circa 1750. Autograph. (Händel-Gesellschaft II, XXI., XXVII, XXVIII). Lettered on binding: ‘Sonata’s &c.’ [?]. See also Donald Burrows and Martha J. Ronish, A Catalogue of Handel’s Musical Autographs (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), pp. 196-198.

9. ff. 24v-28v. ‘Concerto’. Op. IV, No 6 (HWV 294) (H-G. XXVIII, p. 63). The Harp or Organ part in the hand of Smith Junior, but with the greater part of the Larghetto crossed out in pencil by Handel.

R.M.20s are restricted manuscripts and have been microfilmed for preservation reasons. The corresponding microfilm for R.M.20.g.13 is Mus.Mic.A.21; this can be ordered, via Explore the British Library, to the Rare Books & Music Reading Room.

If you require copies from this microfilm during your visit, you can create a reader account and use the microfilm reader/printer to run off the copies required.

I’m trying to find a copy of the short piano trio in E by Gustav Holst - score and parts. Britten Pears org have located the original manuscript Add MS 57865 in your collection. This work, they feel, was never published although there has been a recent recording on ASV 1995 by the Pirasti Trio. They must have obtained a copy of the score and parts from somewhere. Can you help me obtain a copy of this work?

We do hold the manuscript of this work in our collection. Please see the catalogue entry below:

ff. 41. 358 x 254mm.
1. ff. 1-24v. Symphony in C minor, H App. I 14; 1892. Full score.
2. ff. 25-34v. Short [Piano] Trio in E major, H App. I 33; 1894. Score. Pencil sketches on f. 34v.
3. ff. 35-40v. String trio in G minor, H App. I 34; 1894. Score.
4. f. 41v Unidentified two-bar pencil sketch.

Holst died in 1934 and is out of copyright (70 years from the date of death to the 31st December in the 70th year), but if this work is indeed unpublished the following statement applies:

For most unpublished works, whether or not the authors are identified or identifiable, copyright continues until 2039 (even for identified authors who have been dead for a long time) or 70 years after the death of the author, whichever is the later.

If this is the case you will have to apply to the Holst estate for permission for the British Library to copy the work on your behalf. Once permission has been given, you can order the item via the Library's Imaging Services. Copies of collection items may be ordered from Imaging Service, subject to any copyright and/or preservation restrictions.