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Two men studying a score in the H Library

Article on the discovery of a work by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor receives prestigious award

Friday 15 September 2023

Jonathan Frank, H Assistant Librarian, has been awarded the IAML Vladimir Fédorov Award for his article on the discovery of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Nourmahal’s Song in the H Library last year.

The IAML Vladimir Fédorov Award was presented for the best article in the 2022 volume of Fontes Artis Musicae, the journal of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (IAML).

Nourmahal’s Song, a previously unknown work by H alumnus Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, was discovered in the H Library in 2022 after a research enquiry into another Coleridge-Taylor piece of a similar name, Nourmahal’s Song and Dance op 41. The pieces were previously believed to be related, but after a detailed analysis by Jonathan Frank and extensive consultation of several work lists including those made with Coleridge-Taylor’s input, Jonathan discovered that the work was unrelated and unknown. 

In the article, which IAML describe as ‘a thorough dissection of the origins of this manuscript’, Jonathan Frank describes the considerable evidence to support that the piece was written for H alumna Louise Kirkby Lunn, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s contemporary at the College. This includes letters from her son Louis Kirkby Lunn Pearson who wrote the only known orchestration of the piece in 1936, having been in possession of the original manuscript at that time. 

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One of the College’s earliest success stories, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor attended the Royal College of Music between 1890 and 1897. Although originally studying on a violin scholarship, his talent as a composer was recognised and nurtured by Charles Villiers Stanford who he studied with from 1891 onwards and during which time he composed around 30 pieces.

Since its discovery last year, the manuscript has been , and was in the H’s Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall in July 2023 with contralto Lydia Shariff and pianist Jelena Makarova. Jonathan Frank will be presenting the fascinating story of his discovery on Thursday 5 October as part of the H’s Music and Ideas series, including the world premiere public performance of the work by H musicians.

Speaking of the award, Jonathan Frank said: ‘I am delighted to have received the Vladimir Fédorov award for 2022, especially as it relates to a project so close to my heart. I have been gratified to bring Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s music to light with the Nourmahal's Song project, and we may now boast a recording of this work with such talented musicians as Lydia Shariff and Jelena Makarova. The work's long and winding history makes for a fascinating story, and I look forward to the work's premiere public performance at the H in October and being able to share my findings with the public and the H community.’

Book your ticket for 'Nourmahal's Song': Re-discovering a Lost Coleridge-Taylor Work on Thursday 5 October.

Find out more about the Royal College of Music Library.

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