Nina d'Aubigny von Engelbrunner's "Letters to Natalie on Singing"-One of the Earliest Treatises on Music Pedagogy Written by a Woman
Nina d'Aubigny von Engelbrunner. Briefe an Natalie
über den Gesang, als Beförderung der häuslichen Glückseligkeit und
des geselligen Vergnügens. Ein Handbuch für Freunde
des Gesanges, die sich selbst, oder für Mütter und Erzieherinnen,
die ihre Zöglinge für diese Kunst bilden möchten. Leipzig: Bei Voss
und Compagnie, 1803. First edition. Octavo (8.375 x 5.0625 inches;
212 x 128 mm.). xiv, 234 pages. Eight folding letterpress plates
with music. Printer's imprint at foot of page 234: Leipzig,
gedruckt bei J. B. Hirschfeld.
Nineteenth-century half polished marbled calf over black sprinkled paper-covered boards. Smooth spine divided into compartments by decorative gilt bands, with black leather label decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt, and paper label with date "1803" in ink at foot of spine (darkened). Binding somewhat rubbed and worn, with some areas of paper loss, especially on rear board; spine cracking, with a few chips to black leather spine label; short split across lower spine; neat repair to head of spine; corners lightly bumped; front hinge cracked at title-page. Endpapers browned and foxed. Title foxed, with a few small stains; light to moderate foxing and browning in the text; title and final plate browned at corners from leather corners; plate mounts quite browned. A few tiny ink spots on top edge and fore-edge, visible at the edge of some leaves; a few additional stray ink spots. A few leaves in gathering 13 with a diagonal crease, affecting a few letters; a few corners creased. A very good copy.
Title with early ink signature of A. G. Ritter (German composer and organist August Gottfried Ritter, 1811-1855), another ink signature crossed out, and a circular ink stamp at foot of title. Small bookseller's ticket of music antiquarian Hermann Baron on front pastedown: "H. Baron / Music and Books, / 136 Chatsworth Road, / London, N. W. 2., England." From the library of John Carroll Collins, with his booklabel on front pastedown.
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Eitner I, page 236. Fétis I, page 168. See also: Manfred Elsberger, Nina d'Aubigny von Engelbrunner. Eine adelige Musikpädagogin am Übergang vom 18. zum 19. Jahrhundert. Untersuchungen zu ihrem Hauptwerk Briefe an Natalie iiber den Gesang (Munich: BUCH & medi@, 2000).
"As a pedagogical text that was written for women, by a woman, d'Aubigny's Briefe an Natalie über den Gesang occupies a highly unusual place within narratives of music history. At the time of its publication in 1803, it was the only book of its kind expressly for women and it filled a significant and much needed gap. Although singing was a central part of female education and a crucial means through which women pursued Frauenbildung, they were barred from institutional training and access to quality singing instruction in the home was not readily available. With its explicit address to the maternal educator, the book also offered women comprehensive instruction on how to [achieve their] role as maternal early music educators. The book was highly esteemed at the time of its publication, received a second edition in 1824, and was admired by such monumental figures as Beethoven [Beethoven's biographer Anton Schindler reports that the composer had a copy of Briefe an Natalie in his reference library and frequently recommended it]" (Deanna Christine Davis, "The Gender Politics of Letters: Epistolary Music Pedagogy in Early Nineteenth Century Germany" (PhD diss., University of Alberta, 2011), page ).
On the surface, Briefe an Natalie seems to be just what it claims to be on the title: "Letters to Natalie on Singing as the Advancement of Domestic Happiness and Convivial Pleasure. A handbook for friends of singing, who would like to develop this art in themselves, or for mothers and educators who would like to develop this art in their children" (translation by Deanna Christine Davis). Written in the form of thirty-one letters to a younger woman named Natalie, Nina d'Aubigny von Engelbrunner (1770-1847) offers instruction on a wide range of topics, including female education in general; the importance of cultivating the ear early in childhood; singing as a means to productively occupy the time of adolescent girls; the benefits the singing wife can provide for her family and husband; preserving the voice throughout adulthood; and selecting repertoire. The majority of topics, however, seem out of place in a book aimed at early childhood music education or even at domestic music proper: the difference between the recitative and aria; familiarizing oneself with all languages and methods of execution; the appropriate height and distance of the singer from the audience; choosing a performance space with ideal acoustics; performance with the orchestra; preserving the voice throughout adulthood; avoiding damaging habits, including continued sitting; food choices prior to performance; vocal dehydration; etc.
"We have an incipiently feminist tract on the importance of women's full education and a surreptitiously professional manual on the framing and use of the voice, all in the innocuous guise of an older woman telling a younger one how to make her household harmonious" (Celia Applegate, quoted in Deanne Christine Davis, page 174).
"Nina d'Aubigny von Engelbrunner was born at Kassel in 1770, where her father, Johann Conrad Engelbrunner, a prominent lawyer, had started a music society four years earlier. During a trip to Mannheim with her parents in 1786 she met the court astronomer, Professor Johann Nepomuk Fischer, and she also met Johann André - father of Johann Anton and Philippe André - who had founded the family's music publishing firm at Offenbach in 1774. From 1803 to 1807 she lived in London (although not continuously)
and wrote articles on various topics for the periodical London und Paris...In a diary entry for February 1804 she recorded that Professor Fischer, who then also was in London, introduced her to Philippe André and his wife...Nina d'Aubigny von Engelbrunner's connections with the André family presumably led to her meeting [Jacob] Vollweiler and to his purchasing the English copyright of her song 'The woodland halló' which he published in June 1806...Curiously, a month before Vollweiler published 'The woodland halló' Nina d'Aubigny von Engelbrunner entered at Stationers' Hall another of her songs, 'Weep no more,' which was engraved and 'printed for the author & sold at Lynott's Library'...The short time between these publications suggests that she wanted to compare lithography with conventional music printing" (Michael Kassler, "Vollweiler's Introduction of Music Lithography to England," in The Music Trade in Georgian England, pages 466-467).
In addition to Briefe an Natalie über den Gesang, d'Aubingy wrote several articles for Allgemeine musikalisches Zeitung, including one on singing, and was a prolific writer in other journals such as London und Paris, Journal des Luxus und der Moden, and Genius der Zeit. Her musical compositions include Six Songs with Original English and translated German Text (Offenbach: Johann André, n.d.); Weep no more, a Song ([London]: Printed for the Author & Sold at Lynott's Library, Greville Street, Brunswick Square, & at all the Music Shops, . Entered at Stationers' Hall on 8 May 1806); and The Woodland Hallò [Song] (London: Printed from Stone by and for G. J. Vollweiler at the Patent-Polyautographic-Press No. 9, Buckingham-Place, Fitzroy-Square. Sold in all the Musicshops, . Entered at Stationers' Hall 12 June 1806).
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