English Abstract

On the eve of St Patrick’s Day 2014, the RISM Central Office in Frankfurt, in cooperation with RISM Ireland and the Research Foundation for Music in Ireland, presented a concert that featured a performance of the first symphony composed in Ireland, the Grand Symphony by Paul Alday (ca. 1763–1835), and other Irish works that are rarely found on concert programs. Rediscovered in 2012 by members of RISM Ireland, Alday’s symphony received its first modern performance in Dublin the following year and was given what was likely its first performance outside of Ireland in 2014. This article will talk about RISM bringing together institutions, musicologists, and performers for the concert in Frankfurt.

French Abstract

Veille de la St Patrick 2014, l’office central du RISM à Francfort, en collaboration avec le RISM Irlande et la fondation Research Foundation for Music in Ireland, ont présenté un concert dans lequel fut donné une version de la 1ère symphonie composée en Irlande: Grand Symphony de Paul Alday (ca. 1763–1835), ainsi que d’autres œuvres irlandaises rarement programmées. Redécouverte en 2012 par des membres du RISM Irlande, la symphonie d’Alday a bénéficié de la première création moderne à Dublin l’année suivante et fut vraisemblablement donnée en concert en dehors de l’Irlande en 2014. Cet article aborde la manière dont RISM a rassemblé des institutions, des musicologues et des interprètes au concert donné à Francfort.

German Abstract

Am Vorabend des St. Patrick’s Day 2014 präsentierte die RISM-Zentralredaktion in Frankfurt in Zusammenarbeit mit RISM Irland und der Research Foundation for Music in Ireland ein Konzert mit der ersten jemals in Irland entstandenen Sinfonie, der Grand Symphony von Paul Alday (ca. 1763–1835), sowie weiteren irischen Werken, die selten gespielt werden. Nach ihrer Wiederentdeckung im Jahr 2012 durch Mitarbeiter von RISM Irland wurde die Sinfonie im folgenden Jahr erstmals in Dublin wiederaufgeführt. Die Aufführung 2014 war wahrscheinlich die erste außerhalb Irlands. Dieser Artikel behandelt die Zusammenarbeit zwischen RISM und Institutionen, Musikern und Musikwissenschaftlern für das Konzert in Frankfurt.

The Emerald Isle came to Germany on the eve of St Patrick’s Day 2014. With a concert programme of little-heard music, the Central Office of the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM) in Frankfurt collaborated with its colleagues in Ireland and local musicians to highlight rediscovered music and bring musical sources to light1. RISM, an international project that seeks to document musical sources from around the world, tapped into its network to locate sources, transcribe them and make them available, and organise the concert. RISM has long considered its main users to include librarians, musicians, and musicologists, and colleagues from these groups all contributed to an evening of Irish music. The concert’s rarities allowed a glimpse into the musical life of Ireland through the centuries.

For most people, there is not much that comes to mind when thinking about classical music from Ireland. True, as an island on the western rim of Europe, Ireland did not benefit from the geographic and infrastructural advantages of the Continental mainland. As a rather rural nation with but few urban centres there were further disadvantages, such as comparatively few performance opportunities. In the face of such difficulties, many talented composers left the country early in their careers, like the pianist–composer and Chopin predecessor John Field (1782–1837), the opera composers Michael William Balfe (1808–1870) and Vincent Wallace (1812–1865), and many others. Yet, there have always been concert halls, theatres, educational institutions, and more. It should also be pointed out that the emigrants in Irish music have always been somewhat balanced out by European immigrants, and indeed, most of the pieces heard in the concert were by foreign composers who adopted Ireland as their homeland.

One of these European immigrants to Ireland was Paul Alday (ca. 1763–1835), a French-born composer whose rediscovered music served as an impetus for this concert. Alday came from Perpignan in the south of France via Paris (1783) and Oxford (1793) to Dublin (1804). He had already written symphonies and concertos while still in France and composed two symphonies during his time in Dublin. In Ireland he was, among other things, concert master of the orchestra of the Anacreontic Society between 1819 and 1828, and his first Irish symphony was performed at one of their early concerts. [End Page 277]

This symphony, the Grand Symphony in C, written in Dublin around 1816 and first published around 1819, is thought to have been the first symphony written in Ireland2. The symphony remained elusive to researchers until only recently. An incomplete set of wind parts was known to be held by the Royal Irish Academy of Music in the Anacreontic Society collection (IRL-Dam, shelfmark AS.BS.7/SYM/1), but the extant material did not allow a full study or reconstruction of the piece (fig. 1)3. The first violin and piano parts were found in 2008 on the antiquarian market by the German musicologist and Irish music specialist Axel Klein and eventually transferred to the Royal Irish Academy of Music. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place in 2012, when uncatalogued music at the National Library of Ireland (IRL-Dn) was evaluated in the course of a scoping study undertaken by RISM Ireland. On the very first day of the project, Catherine Ferris discovered the remaining parts, nearly complete and lacking the piano part only. Students at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), Conservatory of Music and Drama transcribed all the parts using digital notation software to create a modern performing edition and a full score4. The National Library’s set of parts for Alday’s symphony is catalogued in the RISM Ireland database and includes digitised images5.

To celebrate the discovery of the parts, thereby enabling a full evaluation of the symphony, the DIT Conservatory hosted an event entitled “The Symphony and Ireland: A Symposium” on 20 April 2013, part of the diamond jubilee celebrations of the IAML United Kingdom and Ireland branch. The DIT Camerata played the Grand Symphony in the work’s first performance since the early nineteenth century6. The Research Foundation for Music in Ireland (RFMI) was launched at the symposium, an organisation with which the RISM Ireland Steering Committee closely works and which houses many RISM projects. After hearing of the desire on the part of the RFMI to make the parts widely accessible, Martina Falletta, Alexander Marxen, and Jennifer Ward from the RISM Central Office decided to organise a performance of the Alday symphony in Frankfurt, bringing about what may have been the first, or at least a rare, performance of the symphony outside of Ireland. The RISM concert was planned for 16 March 2014 to ring in St Patrick’s Day.

With the music to Alday’s symphony in hand, we began our search to program the rest of the concert with music from Ireland, with the goal to present an overture or suite, a concerto, smaller vocal works, and the symphony. Contact had been made at the Dublin symposium with Axel Klein, who happens to live in Frankfurt and who served as a musicological adviser for the concert. We also secured the cooperation of Irish mezzo-soprano Sharon Carty, who was based in Frankfurt at the time; pianist Jonathan Ware; violinist Frank Plieninger of the Frankfurt Opern- und Museumsorchester; and the Junge Sinfoniker [End Page 278] Frankfurt, a local orchestra conducted by Bernhard Lingner with close ties to people in the Central Office.

Fig. 1. Frontispiece of Paul Alday’s Symphony No. 1 (Dublin: P. Alday, ca. 1819). Royal Irish Academy of Music Library (IRL-Dam, AS.BS.7/SYM/1).
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Fig. 1.

Frontispiece of Paul Alday’s Symphony No. 1 (Dublin: P. Alday, ca. 1819). Royal Irish Academy of Music Library (IRL-Dam, AS.BS.7/SYM/1).

Reproduced with permission of the Royal Irish Academy of Music Library

Using the RISM online catalogue and the RISM CD-ROM of A/I, Individual Prints before 1800 from a performer’s perspective, we tried to find pieces that took into consideration a number of factors, including the availability of playable editions (either transcribed from primary sources or in a published version), performance rights, and the venue7. The music we identified through RISM for possible use in the concert is listed in Table 1. We became aware of how much music is still in manuscript form or survives in incomplete early printed editions and is therefore simply unavailable in modern performing editions. The state of the sources also led us to believe that our selections are seldom found on concert programmes and likely represented rare modern performances in Germany.

In the search for a suitable opening piece, Klein suggested music by Johann Sigismund Kusser (1660–1727), a German composer who lived in Ireland and who was “Master of the Musick” at Dublin Castle (fig. 2). Kusser was born in Pressburg, a then mainly German-speaking city known today as Bratislava. He spent the years 1674 to 1680 in Paris, where [End Page 279]

Table 1. Music in RISM by Irish Composers or Relating to Ireland
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Table 1.

Music in RISM by Irish Composers or Relating to Ireland

[End Page 280]

Fig. 2. A Drawing of Dublin Castle Dating from the Early 1800s. Courtesy of Dublin City Library and Archive
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Fig. 2.

A Drawing of Dublin Castle Dating from the Early 1800s. Courtesy of Dublin City Library and Archive

he was a pupil of the great Jean Baptiste Lully, among others. Further stations in his life were Baden-Baden, Ansbach, Braunschweig (Brunswick), Hamburg, and Stuttgart before, via London (1704), he arrived in Dublin in 1707. During his first years there he was active as a private music teacher. In 1711, he became “Chappell-Master” at Trinity College and then, from 1716, “Master of the Musick Attending His Majesty’s State in Ireland”—in other words, the court chapel master at Dublin Castle, seat of the viceroy, the deputy of the English king in Ireland. Now known as John Sigismond Cousser, the composer with extensive operatic experience wrote mainly birthday odes for the members of the English royal family as well as serenatas teatrales—scenically performed cantatas that one may imagine as a sort of miniature opera.

One such serenata teatrale was written by Cousser in 1713 to mark the peace treaty that ended the War of Spanish Succession. A manuscript copy of Cousser’s Serenata teatrale à 5 for the Peace of Utrecht is kept in Hamburg8. Klein discovered a recording by Hungarian period music ensemble Aura Musicale entitled Two Serenatas for the Dublin Court, which included this piece as well as Cousser’s Serenata à 4 for a Memorial Celebration of King William III9. Correspondence with the ensemble revealed that the theorbo player, István Győri, created a performing edition of Serenata teatrale based on the [End Page 281] Hamburg manuscript10. An agreement was made so that in exchange for the music to Serenata teatrale, the RFMI sent Aura Musicale the Alday symphony. For the RISM concert, only the instrumental movements were performed. Cousser was therefore the second composer on the program who was not born in Ireland.

Fig. 3. Matthew Dubourg, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Solo Violin, Movement 1. RISM A/II: 212001507. SLUB Dresden, Mus.2962-O-1, digital.slub-dresden.de/id333924312 (CC-BY-SA 4.0)
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Fig. 3.

Matthew Dubourg, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Solo Violin, Movement 1. RISM A/II: 212001507. SLUB Dresden, Mus.2962-O-1, digital.slub-dresden.de/id333924312 (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Cousser’s successor at the Irish court was also not an Irish native. Matthew Dubourg (1703–1767) was born in London and was first heard in Dublin as a violin virtuoso in 1724 before he succeeded Cousser at Dublin Castle in 1728. He held this position until 1752. Among other accomplishments, he played the first violin at the first performance of Handel’s Messiah in Dublin in 1742. The high level of string playing in Dublin that Handel once emphasised in a letter is probably largely due to Dubourg’s influence. Dubourg mainly composed vocal music, whereas his works for violin were written for his own performances. A well-preserved manuscript of Dubourg’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was readily available in digital form from the former Dresden Court’s Schrank II Collection, held today at the SLUB Dresden (fig. 3)11. [End Page 282]

Fig. 4. Timothy Geary, Six Canzonetts [sic] (London: J. Bland, ca. 1795). RISM A/I: G 769. Courtesy of Axel Klein
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Fig. 4.

Timothy Geary, Six Canzonetts [sic] (London: J. Bland, ca. 1795). RISM A/I: G 769. Courtesy of Axel Klein

To complete the evening, we selected together with Carty two works by Thomas Augustine (“Timothy”) Geary (1775–1801), the only Irish-born composer on our programme. Geary was a prematurely deceased musical genius, of whom there were a few in Ireland. Probably in admiration for the English composer Thomas Augustine Arne (1710–1778), he took on the latter’s first names as a stage name. Geary, born in Dublin, was educated at St Patrick’s Cathedral, and first appeared in his teen years as a pianist and composer. He wrote exclusively piano music and songs, of which his collections of Ten (ca. 1790) and Six Canzonets (ca. 1795) are generally considered excellent works; the latter was selected for the concert12. In November 1801, in a fit of depression, Geary is said to [End Page 283] have rushed out of his house and drowned himself in a canal. The Six Canzonets came from Klein’s private collection (D-Fklein; fig. 4). A second piece by Geary was selected from Klein’s collection, the song “The Glasses Sparkle on the Board”13.

On the evening of the concert, Falletta gave a short introduction and Kerry Houston, the director of the RFMI, also said a few words. Houston’s opening remarks were especially fitting because he was the chapel master at Trinity College, 300 years after Cousser held the same position.

In the end, we offered a very unusual St Patrick’s Day celebration—unusual even in an Irish context. On 17 March, Ireland celebrates the feast of its patron saint, mostly with street parades, traditional music and much, sometimes too much, black beer. RISM, together with its local and international partners, invited audience members to familiarise themselves with a different Ireland, that of classical music. [End Page 284]

Jennifer A. Ward

Jennifer A. Ward is an editor at Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM) in Frankfurt, Germany.

Axel Klein

Axel Klein is an independent scholar based in Frankfurt, specialising in the history of Irish art music.

The authors would like to thank Catherine Ferris, Alexander Marxen, and the journal’s outside reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.


1. RISM Zentralredaktion, “An Evening of Irish Music”, 24 February 2014, http://www.rism.info/en/home/newsdetails/article/64/an-evening-of-irish-music.html (accessed 16 September 2016). A review of the concert appeared in Kerstin Janitzek, “Klassische Musik aus Irland: Die grüne Insel als Zeichen der fruchtbaren Zusammenarbeit zwischen RISM und den Jungen Sinfonikern Frankfurt”, Forum Musikbibliothek 35, no. 3 (2014): 34–36.

2. Paul Alday, Grand Symphony (Dublin: P. Alday, ca. 1819). Since the event in 2013, it has been suggested that potentially there were two earlier symphonies written by Pieter (or Pierre) van Maldere between 1751 and 1753.

3. Catherine Ferris, “The Music Collections of the Anacreontic Society and the Sons of Handel Society and Music Making in Dublin c1740–1865”, Brio 43, no. 1 (2006): 26–28.

4. Ferris, “Paul Alday, the Anacreontic Society and the Birth of the Symphony in Ireland” (paper presented at The Symphony and Ireland: A Symposium, Dublin, Ireland, April 2013). We would like to thank Ferris for providing us with a copy of her paper.

5. See http://www.rism-ie.org (IRL-Dn, shelfmark MU-sb-1390), accessed 16 September 2016.

6. Some clips from rehearsals can be seen in the video accompanying “First symphony composed in Ireland to be played”, RTÉ News, 18 April 2013, http://www.rte.ie/news/player/2013/0418/3520326-first-symphony-composed-in-ireland-to-be-played/, accessed 16 September 2016.

7. RISM Online Catalogue, http://opac.rism.info, accessed 16 September 2016. It is made possible through a partnership between the Bavarian State Library (Munich), the State Library of Berlin, and RISM. RISM, Individual Prints before 1800 (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2011), CD-ROM. In 2015, the CD-ROM was integrated into the online catalogue.

8. Kusser, Serenata Theatrale à 5. Peace. Victory. Discord. Felicity. Plenty. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Carl von Ossietzky, Musiksammlung (D-Hs), ND VI 2892; RISM ID no. 451501218.

9. Johann Sigismund Kusser, Two Serenatas for the Dublin Court, Aura Musicale, Balázs Máté, conductor. Hungaroton 32633 (2010), CD.

10. Győri’s edition has since been accepted for publication.

11. Matthew Dubourg, Concerto, Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek (D-Dl), Mus.2962-O-1; RISM ID no. 212001507. Marxen transcribed the manuscript into a modern edition and it is available online through the RISM Web site using a Creative Commons licence. RISM Zentralredaktion, “Matthew Dubourg”, 15 September 2014, http://www.rism.info/en/home/newsdetails/article/64/dubourg.html, accessed 16 September 2016.

12. Timothy Geary, Six Canzonetts [sic] (London: J. Bland, ca. 1795). RISM A/I: G 769. The words to songs 1–5 are in the anonymous collection The Festival of Momus: A Collection of Comic Songs, Including the Modern and a Variety of Originals (London: W. Lane, Leadenhall-Street, [ca. 1780]), and the text to song 6 is Thomas Moss, “The Beggar” (1769).

13. Geary, “The Glasses Sparkle on the Board. The Celebrated New Anacreontic Song”, words by W. D. Diggs (London: Goulding, Phipps & D’Almaine, 1802).

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