Deciphered any initials today?

Caroline von Egloffstein published under the name "Aline"

The following article is by Martin Bierwisch, a student worker at the Central Office.

From time to time, diligent users of the RISM online catalog send us information regarding the identification of pieces, particularly printed editions, where the composers are named only by initials (these are the pieces with A/I numbers beginning with IN and ININ). This post will briefly go into a few examples of composers that we have been able to identify.

There is a variety of reasons why a name might be disguised at all and these reasons also effect any possible identification. Especially difficult is identifying composers of some French imprints, where you might encounter indications such as "Mr. B. L., amateur" (RISM A/I: IN 30; RISM ID no. 990072877), "Mr. F." (RISM A/I: IN 73; RISM ID no. 992004678), or "Mr. L." (RISM A/I: ININ 145a; RISM ID no. 991010827). The number of amateur musicians in Paris that might have published one or two smaller pieces is nearly endless.

Pieces written for special occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, funerals, and visits by prominent people, is a second case where you often find initials. For such occasions, the composer is not in the spotlight, so he or she does not need to be immortalized by a full name on the title page. This especially happens with pieces that are associated with seventeenth-century funeral sermons. The chances of finding the composer are a bit higher in this case: it could be the local cantor who composed the music for the special occasion, or a different trained musician within that circle. If you wish to solve such a puzzle, you can try your hand at Ewige Freud im himmlischen Zion, composed by a certain P. S. B. M. D. N. R. A. (RISM A/I: IN 235; RISM ID no. 990073096).

But now let's move on to our examples.

RISM A/I: IN 52 (RISM ID no. 990072899)
The Favorit-Tänze für das Offenbacher Casino, which was published by André in Offenbach with plate number 3994, gives the composer as "C. S." A guess is even put forward in the printed A/I volume that the composition could be by a "Charles Saust." However, this is quite unlikely because Saust was an English flutist. Britta Constapel's catalog of the publisher (cited in RISM as ConstapelA 1998) lists a "C. Spahn" for this composition. This composer wrote not only dances of this kind (a total of nine collections for piano), but also provided André with other piano pieces.

A polonaise from 1820 by Michał Kleofas Ogiński (RISM A/I: OO 23 I,34; RISM ID no. 991023161) has a certain Carl Spahn as the arranger. At this point in time, our C. Spahn has been associated with André for a while; the last work by him is published by André in around ca. 1835 (plate number 5971). It is thus probable that we are talking about the same Spahn.

RISM A/I: IN 15 / ININ 15 (RISM ID no. 990072862)
We have been able to identify "A. v. K. geb. v. S." thanks to information from Prof. Dr. Axel Beer. On 15 March 1808, an advertisement from the Berlin publisher Rudolph Werckmeister appeared in the Berlinische Nachrichten von Staats- und gelehrten Sachen for a "Wiegenlied für die am 1. Februar geborne Königlich-Preussische Prinzessin" with a reference to the composer "Agnes v. K, geborene v. S..." On 17 December 1808 a different work by "A. von Knobloch" found its way in the newspaper. Should this not be enough of a clue, one needs only learn that Officer Karl Ludwig Erhard von Knobloch married a certain Agnes von Schroetter on 18 July 1797 in Königsberg. This made it unambiguous that IN/ININ 15 was composed by Agnes von Knobloch. In Robert Eitner's Quellenlexikon (vol. 5, p. 394) there is a reference to an "Agnes von Knoblauch" by whom the "Kgl. Hausbibl[iothek] zu Berlin" has "6 Romanzen" dating from the beginning of the nineteenth century, published by Werckmeister, and which preserves "6 Gedichte von Schiller und 6 andere Ges[än]ge" in manuscript. In the RISM online catalog, however, you only find funeral music by this composer (RISM ID no. 452028644). It is probable that these works are all by the same composer, but this needs to be examined more closely.

RISM A/I: IN 16 (RISM ID no. 990072864)
A further example shows a not uncommon side effect of anonymization: Caroline von Egloffstein cloaked herself in her nickname "Aline"; though technically born too late (1789) for the classic A/I cut-off date of 1770, she still made it in the series. Identifying her as the composer of Sechs Gesänge mit Begleitung der Guitarre from ca. 1817/18 (see image) was made possible thanks to her own "Verzeichnis der selbst componirten Lieder," preserved at the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv (D-WRgs, shelfmark: 32/1506a). The title of the printed edition, however, is not mentioned anywhere. (With thanks to Evelyn Liepsch, Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv Weimar, for the information kindly provided.) How the work made it to the publisher Carl August Kruschwitz (plate number 10) in Hanover is still unclear.

Deciphering puzzling names is possible through a number of approaches, be it specialized studies about music publishers or by reading historical newspapers. Volume 9 in the original A/I series lists 276 items published under initials. In the supplement volume 14, a few could be identified but almost 50 new ones were added. A follow-up post will shed light on additional examples of names we've identified.

The question remains: Have you deciphered any initials today? If you have, then let us know! The same is also true for anonymous compositions.


Image: Sechs Gesänge mit Begleitung der Guitarre by Caroline von Egloffstein (RISM A/I: IN 16; RISM ID no. 990072864), from the private library of Axel Beer (D-KWbeer). The copy from the Anna Amalia Bibliothek (D-WRtl) was unfortunately lost in the fire of 2004, but a digitized version of the microfilm can be viewed online.


Category: RISM online catalog



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All news entries are by the RISM Central Office staff unless otherwise noted. Reuse of RISM's own texts is permitted under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License—though please note that image credits and permissions are usually separate and noted at the bottom of each post. If authorship is attributed to someone else (indicated at the start of an entry and/or by a name following the word "Contact"), please contact the individual authors.