Musical Notes from Down Under

Louise Hanson-Dyer
This evening, I stumbled across the biography of Louise Hanson-Dyer (1884-1962), patron of the arts, pianist, and music publisher. Born in Melbourne, Australia, she traveled to London to receive a music education at the Royal College of Music before moving to Edinburgh to further her study, and then, after a brief period back in Australia, eventually moved to Paris. At the age of 27 she married a former singer who was then aged 54, and began a publishing company where she edited and published the music of Jacopo da Bologna, Lully, Couperin, and Purcell among others. Her editions of the music of Couperin are especially important since they were among the first good editions published (until then, most of his music remained only in manuscript form or in very badly rendered nineteenth-century copies). During her time in Paris, she also dabbled in the recording business, taking on the ambitious task of being the first to record Monteverdi's Vespers, works by Purcell, and even compositions by Shoenberg and Stravinsky. It is said that she, along with Nadia Boulanger and Wanda Landowska, helped to pioneer the 'early music' performance revival of the twentieth century so commonly known and debated among musicologists and performers today. In short, she was a central figure to the music industry world in the early twentieth-century.

Her concern for business to make money is clearly evident in her publishing company and yet, it is also extremely interesting for me that she makes a point to single out scholarship as an important component of her work. In the following letter from December 15th, 1945 to Mr. Hill from the journal, Notes, who seems to have requested some of her publications, she notes some of her concerns:

Dear Mr Hill,

I am sorry there has been such a long delay in sending the information you required. My secretary has just written it for me and I hasten to send it on. I hope it is what you want. There is a terrible rush here for buying editions. People think them an excellent investment in these days of soaring prices but I am only selling a limited number because I am very keen that they go to Universities and Schools of Music where hundreds of students can study them. Of course it will be many years before editions de luxe in music can be made in France. It is almost impossible to get even ordinary paper.

May I thank you most sincerely for your very kind letter and all the interest you are taking in my work. In every way things are terribly difficult, and it is only with encouragement such as you are giving me that it is possible to continue it all. Unless you were here you could not realise the state of affairs. You are fortunate indeed if you can accomplish one thing in a day, and there is nothing but hard work. I do not know how it can be managed but I am so keen about this music being placed in the right hands that I shall endeavour a little later on to visit America.
With kind regards and renewed thanks,
Yours sincerely, 
Louise B.M. Hanson-Dyer
Source: "The Lyrebird Press-Paris," Notes, second series, vol. 3, no.2 (1946), p. 151.

It is clear that this was a difficult year for Hanson-Dyer who seems desperate in every way to get her published materials out in the darkest hours of WWII. But that she wanted to produce the highest quality of publications so that university students and scholars could have access to the best materials is very evident.

Margaret Sutherland
Aside from producing edited scores of historical music, her publications through Editions de l'Oiseau-Lyre, which by 1948 had been moved to Monaco, includes modern compositions of two further Australian women, reflecting the keen interest she held in supporting new music coming out of her home country. Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912-1990) and Margaret Sutherland (1897-1984) were contemporaneous composers, both originally from Melbourne whose works were readily published by Hanson-Dyer's publishing house. Here is a recording of Sutherland's violin sonata from 1925. And here, Glanville-Hicks' Concerto Romantico for Viola and Orchestra. After listening to these pieces, I wonder why I have never heard of them before - they are not only beautiful but also well constructed and idiomatic of the time. Sutherland is, after all, considered today as one of Australia's greatest twentieth century composers.

Peggy Glanville-Hicks

These three women remind me that we are still far from reaching a point in a narrative of music history which includes works by composers of all genders. It has given me an incentive to seek out women composers to include in my teaching so that we become more aware of their existence and understand their great contribution to music, whether through producing published editions of old and new music or through composition.

My own interest is of course piqued with the knowledge that all three were highly accomplished pianists. Also notable in connection to my research is her interest in the music of Perotin and Leonin as well as the additional information that Louise's second husband's second wife, Margarita M. Hanson, oversaw the compilation and publication of the Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century.