Music Collections at Cardiff University
Cardiff University holds several collections of rare published and manuscript music of international significance, dating from the 17th-20th centuries. Find out more about the collections on our dedicated Music subject page.
Two major collections, Mackworth and Aylward, are on permanent loan from the Cardiff Public Library, and are to be catalogued with the help of funding from JISC. Follow our progress with the project on our blog.
Other notable collections include a large number of rare books from the BBC’s music library, and the personal archives of several Welsh composers, including Morfydd Owen, Grace Williams and David Wynne.
Special Collections and Archives also holds an extensive collection of Welsh ballads.
See below for extracts from the 2012 exhibition 'Music Collections at Cardiff University'. Click on the images to enlarge.
This collection was assembled by Sir Herbert Mackworth (1737-1791), with other volumes added later by various family members. It contains publications spanning from Thomas Mace’s ‘Music’s Monument’ of 1676 to a copy of Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’ dated from around 1878; the vast majority of the published works, however, are from the 18th century.
There are some 70 manuscripts, including full scores of operas by Giovanni Bononcini, Porpora and Alessandro Scarlatti as well as numerous operatic arias by Hasse, Vinci, Handel and others. There is also a volume of 18 Spanish cantatas, and over 50 copies of Italian cantatas, including one unica by Alessandro Scarlatti. The printed music includes pleasure-garden songs, fashionable dance music and instrumental music by Corelli, Handel and Hasse.
Cantadas Españoles. Manuscript score. Eighteen Spanish cantatas for solo voice and accompaniment by Joseph de Torres, Federico, [Contreras], Duron, ‘D.F.D.R.C’, Pedro Rabazza, Anto[nio] Literes and Father Joachin Zanduey, c. 1710
This important manuscript contains several early 18th century Spanish cantatas.
A copy of the manuscript was recently ordered by the manager of the award-winning Al Ayre Español Baroque Orchestra. The ensemble is dedicated to musicological rigor in introducing historical compositions to contemporary audiences.
Al Ayre Español has performed on the most prestigious stages, including Vienna’s Musikverien, Berlin’s Konzerthaus, Paris’ Theatre des Champs Elysées, Madrid’s Theatro Real, Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica Catalana, Rome’s Teatro Olimpico, and Washington’s Library of Congress.
Twenty four new London contra dances for the Year 1779. With proper tunes & directions to each dance as they are perform’d. London: Longman Lukey & Co., 
‘Contra dances’ refers to partnered folk dance styles in which couples dance in two facing lines. At the end of the 17th century, English country dances were taken up by French dancers. The French changed the name country dance to contre danse (dance of opposition), to reflect the position of the dancers standing opposite each other.
As time progressed, English country dances were spread and reinterpreted throughout the Western world, and eventually the French form of the name came to be associated with the American folk dances, especially in New England.
This score contains dancing instructions using both text and symbols to indicate movement.
The bird fancyer’s delight, or choice observations. London: Walsh & Hare, c. 1730
In the 18th century, musical manuals circulated showing songbird keepers how to teach their birds to learn a tune and sing it back – 100 years before the invention of the phonograph and the advent of recorded sound.
‘The Bird Fancyer’s Delight’ was first published in 1717 in America, and was one such instruction manual for the teaching of singing to caged birds using the then popular flageolet.
John Lenton, The gentleman’s diversion, or the violin explain’d. [Sold by the author], 1693
This unique first edition of John Lenton's treatise has escaped the attention of scholars and cataloguers due to the missing title page and first two pages of text. The volume begins at page 3, but the remaining pages are all complete, and a careful examination of them shows beyond doubt that this is a unique example of the first edition.
The discovery of the Cardiff copy of ‘The Gentleman’s Diversion’ sets other violin methods of the period in a new light. It also confers upon John Lenton the honourable distinction of having written the earliest extant treatise on violin playing in any language.
Ladies’ pocket guide, or the compleat tutor for the guittar, containing easy rules for learners. London: David Rutherford, [c. 1750]
During the 1750s an instrument commonly called the ‘guittar’ became immensely popular in Britain. This was not a guitar as we know it today but a close relative of the cittern.
This volume is a reflection of the social view in the 18th century that the guitar was an instrument used predominantly by women. In 1753, the actress Maria Macklin was the first person to play it on stage.
During the early years of the 19th century the instrument fell into obscurity and was then replaced by the new six-stringed Spanish guitar.
Mr Kirkland, A song in praise of old English brown beer, 
Richard Leveridge (1670-1758) was a singer of the London stage and specialised in entr’acte [between the acts] songs, and songs within plays. He popularised many of the patriotic songs that he wrote, including ‘The Roast Beef of Old England’:
‘When mighty roast beef was the Englishman’s food,
It ennobled our hearts, and enriched our blood,
Our soldiers were brave, and our courtiers were good.
Oh, the roast beef of old England! And oh, for old England’s roast beef!’
This volume features over 200 individual song sheets.
Charles Burney, Six sonatas or duets for two German flutes. London, J. Oswald, )
George Frideric Handel, The overture and favourite songs in the opera of Rodelinda, (London c. 1725)
Johann Adolph Hasse, Sonata per il cembalo (London, J. Phillips, c. 1760)
These works are all thought to be unique copies.
Theodore Edward Aylward (1844-1933) studied with Dr. S. S. Wesley and worked as a cathedral organist at Llandaff and Chichester. His collection contains over 700 items but this number is misleading because many of the volumes actually consist of bound collections of individual publications within a common subject area, e.g. Songs.
It includes a quantity of material on sacred works, songs and singing, dramatic music, orchestral music, solos and studies and music for organ and harmonium. The collection is interesting as a social document as well as for its music material.
Édouard Lalo, Aubade. Paris: Boussod & Valadon, n.d.
An aubade is a morning love song (as opposed to a serenade, which is in the evening), or a song or poem about lovers separating at dawn. It has also been defined as ‘a song or instrumental composition concerning, accompanying, or evoking daybreak’. In the strictest sense of the term, an aubade is a song from a door or window to a sleeping woman.
Aubades were commonly in the repertory of troubadours, of the kind illustrated here.
Caroline Lowthian, Mother Hubbard polka - dedicated to Miss Mary Cooper. London: Chappell & Co., 1734
An unusual example from a rare female composer.
Caroline Lowthian was a prolific composer of dance pieces in the Victorian era, including the Marguerite and Swallows Waltzes, Old Love and the New Waltz, The Vanity Fair Polka, the Black and Tan Polka, and this, the Mother Hubbard Polka.
George Frideric Handel, A collection of the most celebrated songs in the opera of Alexander, n.d.
Alessandro [Alexander the Great] is an opera written for the Royal Academy of Music, composed by George Frideric Handel in 1726. Handel cast together in the same opera the famous prima donna singers Faustina Bordoni, as Rossane, and Francesca Cuzzoni, as Lisaura. Handel made use of their real-life professional rivalry in his treatment of the story.
Handel completed the score on April 11, 1726, and the first performance took place at the King’s Theatre, London just over three weeks later on May 5. Given the enormous public interest in the first joint appearance of Cuzzoni and Bordoni, Alessandro was predictably a great success.
This copy features a fold out score.
BBC Music Library
The BBC’s collection of 18th and 19th century printed music, first compiled in the 1950s to serve the needs of producers preparing broadcast material for Radio 3, was acquired from the BBC Music Library (London) to complement material in the Mackworth and Aylward collections.
Giuseppe Verdi, Sechs romanzen mit pianoforte-begleitung. Leipzig: Kistner, n.d.
The ‘Sei Romanze’ [Six Romances] for voice and piano were printed in Milan when Verdi was just 25. They are chamber songs, liriche da camera, written for the extensive amateur market. In them we can detect Verdi testing his powers at setting dramatic verse. This copy is a rare and richly illustrated German edition.
Thomas A. Arne, Thomas and Sally. London: Harrison & Co., n.d.
‘Thomas and Sally’, (also known as ’The Sailor’s Return’) is a dramatic pastoral opera in two acts by the composer Thomas Arne with an English libretto by Isaac Bickerstaff. The opera was meant to be performed as an ‘after piece’: a short musical work to be performed after a spoken play.
It was the first English comic opera to be sung through without dialogue, and one of only a few dramatic works of Arne’s to survive a disastrous fire in Covent Garden in 1808.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Snegourotchka suite. St Petersburg: Bessel, [c. 1899]
The tale of Snegourochka, or the Snow Maiden, was adapted into an opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who made frequent use of fairy tale and folk subjects in his compositions. This copy is signed by the composer.
John Parry, Selection of Welsh melodies. London: Bland & Wellers, 1809
John Parry (1776-1851), commonly known by his bardic name ’Bardd Alaw’, (professor of music and master of song) was a Welsh harpist and composer. Parry was born in Denbigh, the son of a stonemason. He taught himself to play the fife on an instrument that he made himself from a piece of cane.
Parry subsequently became the most famous player, teacher and proponent of the flageolet. Parry published this rare collection of Welsh melodies, for which the Cambrian Society presented him with a silver medal.
Richard Wagner, Die walküre. Mainz: B. Schott’s Söhne, 1899
‘Die Walküre’ [The Valkyrie], is the second of the four operas that form the cycle ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ [The Ring of the Nibelung], by Richard Wagner. The best-known excerpt is the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’. Wagner took his tale from the Norse mythology told in the Volsunga Saga and the Poetic Edda.
This unique copy has several notices of performances bound with the score.
Morfydd Owen archive
Morfydd Llwyn Owen (1891-1918) was a Welsh composer, pianist and mezzo-soprano. Although she lived a short life, dying aged just 26, Morfydd was a prolific composer, as well as a member of influential intellectual circles. She was born in Treforest, Pontypridd, the daughter of drapers.
She showed great musical talent at an early age and later won a scholarship to study at University College Cardiff. She then moved to London to study with Frederick Corder at the Royal Academy of Music on the Goring Thomas scholarship, which she held for four years. It was at the Academy that she also began to study voice. She was a very successful student and won two prizes (including the Charles Lucas medal for composition and the Oliveria Prescott prize for general excellence) within her first year.
She continued to accumulate awards during her stay at the Royal Academy where her works - songs, part-songs and piano pieces including a sonata, pieces for violin and piano, trio for violin, cello and piano - were performed.
In February 1917, much to the shock and disappointment of her family and friends, Morfydd married the psychoanalyst Ernest Jones. Jones was the leading exponent in Britain of Freud’s ideas and an avowed atheist.
There is some evidence that Jones was unsupportive of Morfydd’s musical career; in a letter of 20 February 1917 to Sigmund Freud, Jones indicated that the 1917 Aeolian Hall concert was to be her final public appearance. In the summer of 1918, whilst travelling in South Wales with Jones, she developed a sudden and acute case of appendicitis. She died after an emergency operation due to an overdose of chloroform.
Morfydd Owen was not only immensely talented but prolific. Having composed seriously for just over 10 years, she produced over 180 compositions.
Morfydd Owen, Minuet and Trip for Piano, 29 October 1908
‘Minuet and Trip for Piano’ was Morfydd Owen’s first dated composition. It is written aged 17, in a school exercise book. The remaining pages comprise numbered school composition exercises.
Morfydd Owen, A nocturne. 16 parts for full orchestra, May-Jun 1913
Morfydd Owen’s ‘A Nocturne’ for orchestra won the Charles Lucas Silver Medal in her first year at the Royal Academy of Music. It premiered at Queen’s Hall on 12 Dec 1913, and was hailed ‘one of the most individual students’ works ever heard’.
Morfydd Owen, Sacred song / Gweddi y pechadur, June 1913
‘Sacred Song’, or ‘Gweddi y Pechadur’, was Morfydd Owen’s best known composition, written during a long weekend at her parents’ home in Treforest, 5-7 June 1913.
Morfydd Owen, Mae nghariad i’n Fenws, Cwyd dy galon, Yr hên wr mwyn and Ym Mhontypridd mae ‘nghariad, n.d.
While she was in London, Morfydd formed two separate circles of friends. One was the Charing Cross Welsh Presbyterian Chapel, which was a central gathering point for many Welsh people living in London. She developed an especially close friendship with the wife of the then Liberal MP for Flintshire, Sir Herbert Lewis. Lady Ruth Lewis was an important figure in the Welsh Folk-Song Society of London and invited Morfydd to become involved with the organization.
She obliged and transcribed, as well as wrote accompaniments to, many pieces for collections of Welsh Folk Songs. She provided musical examples to illustrate Lewis’s lectures on folksong and in 1914 they collaborated in publishing ‘Folk-Songs Collected in Flintshire and the Vale of Clwyd’.
Morfydd Owen, Prayer for peace, n.d.
The other social circle Morfydd associated with was the London literary intelligensia; notable acquaintances were the poets D. H. Lawrence and Ezra Pound. She also was friends with several Russian émigrés.
It was through her Russian friendships, as well as influence of her work with Ruth Lewis, that she developed a fascination with Russian folk song.
In 1915 she asked for, and received, a fellowship from the University of Wales to study the folk music of Russia, Norway and Finland. However, the outbreak of the First World War made travel impossible.
Morfydd Owen, William, Richard, and Llwyn Owen, September 1915
Morfydd Owen, Sarah, September 1915
Morfydd claimed to be descended from William Williams, Pantycelyn on her father’s side, and chose his texts to accompany four tunes named for her siblings: Richard, Sarah, William and Llwyn Owen.
Morfydd Owen, Two Madonna Songs (a) To our Lady of Sorrows, Wilfrid Hinton (b) Slumber Song to the Madonna, Alfred Noyes. Music by Morfydd Llwyn-Owen. Printed score by The Anglo-French Series, 1917
Morfydd Owen’s first published songs appeared under her bardic name in the early months of 1917. They were promoted during the weekly All-British Concert at the Steinway Hall, London, 19 April 1917, by the soprano Margaret Demsey with Morfydd at the piano.
Morfydd Owen, 1918
Sepia print of Morfydd Owen’s portrait, taken shortly before her death. With attached obituary by L. J. Roberts.
Morfydd Owen’s marriage certificate, 6 Feb 1917
Morfydd Owen’s and Ernest Jones’ marriage certificate from Marylebone Register Office. It is of note that Morfydd leaves the ‘Rank or Profession’ box empty, despite being a highly regarded composer at this point in her life, possibly supporting the theory that Jones disapproved of her career.
She also shaves a couple of years off her age, stating it as 23, when she was in fact 25. Jones discovered the inaccuracy some 40 years later.
Miscellaneous lyrics and scores
Morfydd Owen was a prolific composer, and her archive is full of scribbled verses as they came to her, on scraps of paper, the back of exercise books, and even Christmas cards.
This single sheet of paper containing several sets of lyrics and scores, including Poor auld Maidens, Cold blows the wind, My love she is slender, I must live all alone, The sailing trade; The souling song; Little Sir William and The Derby ram.