Answer this statement: Walking into Beinecke I feel a) virtuous just for being there, b) intimidated, or c) excited. Despite the option you choose, the newest exhibition at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, “God Save the King: Music from the British Royal Court, 1770-1837” has something for everybody.
Now enter the library: If you answer a), you’ll win major brownie points with Mom and Dad. If you answer b), fret not! The exhibition is in just one glass case and easily assimilated in 15 minutes. If you are one of the handful to answer c), “God Save the King” is the first chance to see one of the Beinecke’s newest acquisitions.
Curated by Archivist Karen Spicher and Assistant Curator for the Early Modern Collections Kathryn James, the exhibit displays a total of 26 items from the Hanover Royal Music Archive, a collection of musical manuscripts acquired by Yale in 2008. On view are letters, music books, and scores pulled from the archive, including first edition manuscripts by Johann Christian Bach, Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — “God Save the King” intentionally glosses over the uglier side of the earlier 19th century.
A tightly edited exhibit, “God Save the King” encourages the viewer to think about the role of music in the public and private lives of the Hanovers, one of England’s craziest (but actually) royal families.
The exhibit includes scores dedicated to the queen and king, but some of the most compelling pieces are those that give some insight into the princesses’ lives. The six daughters of George III are some of the most fascinating characters from the Hanoverian courts. Raised in complete seclusion with only their family and a few select friends and servants, the princesses became the subject of much speculation, with tales of incest and illegitimate babies. The exhibit includes three manuscripts signed by Princess Augusta and one by Princess Amelia.
Bottom line: The exhibit is unique in its quality and value, but I know that it takes a lot to get Yale kids excited and first edition Beethoven doesn’t float everyone’s boats. And there is something vaguely ironic about an exhibition of musical scores and books in the quietest library on campus. If the eerie silence is too much for you, visit the exhibition blog at osbmss146.wordpress.com.
On the other hand, Parents’ Weekend is coming up fast, allowing Yalies a chance to see a world-class exhibit and impress their parents by taking them to the Beinecke before dinner.
“God Save the King: Music from the British Royal Court, 1770-1837” will be on display on the north side of the second floor of the Beinecke until Dec. 11.