Beeks: Sir George Smart’s Advice to Jenny Lind on Performing Messiah

Sektion VII/3

Graydon Beeks, Claremont, USA

Sir George Smart’s Advice to Jenny Lind on Performing Messiah

In 1855 the composer, conductor and pianist Otto Goldschmidt (1829–1907) asked Sir George Smart (1776–1867) to provide instruction for his wife, the famed soprano Jenny Lind (1820–1887), in how to sing the soprano role in Handel’s Messiah. Smart, who was considered an expert in the “traditional way” of singing Handel’s music, took a copy of the piano/vocal score recently published by Robert Cocks and Co., and notated alterations to the soprano solo part in ink. He presented this score “To Made: Goldschmidt, with Sir George T. Smart’s Kind regards, London, Xtmas 1855.” This score is preserved in the British Library with the shelfmark K.11.e.11. Its contents have not been studied, presumably because it is not included in the library’s integrated catalogue.

This paper will examine the nature of Smart’s annotations, which include the addition of dynamics, appogiaturas and trills; indications of phrasing and breath marks; and suggestions for vocal cadenzas. It will also consider the extent to which such indications may reflect the practices of Handel’s own singers, and to what extent Smart’s conservative suggestions for ornamentation may also reflect the new image of Jenny Lind as an oratorio singer rather than an opera singer that her husband was planning to promote upon their move to England from the Continent. Finally, it will examine the question of what Smart’s annotations can reveal about the tempo employed in his own performances of Messiah.