Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2004 Issue

A Trove of 20th Century Music Come to Market

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An original photograph of Viñes by"Panajou Fres," measuring 5.75 x 4 inches... c. 1930.


By Bruce McKinney

Burton Weiss, the Berkeley, California rare book dealer, recently took on an interesting challenge: to convert a distinguished composer, pianist and professor’s library of 20th century European music into a research, catalogue and marketing project that will engage him for some time to come. Who is this composer-teacher? His name is Joaquín Nin-Cumell (1908 – 2004) and chances are that if you have to ask who he is this material is not for you. For Mr. Weiss, who specializes in gay and lesbian literature, the Spanish Civil War, and leftist poetry among other things, this project calls upon his early musical education, his knowledge of languages and even his second home in Spain, all to help make this ambitious intellectual foray, which may take longer than the Spanish Civil War (three years), a reasonably successful one.

Mr. Weiss is currently creating online listings of the hundreds of items he recently acquired indirectly from the Nin-Cumell library. However, many items have not yet been posted and some will never be, at least not on Mr. Weiss’ site, for as aficionados of this field learn that he has acquired a substantial collection of what he describes as “mostly” books pertaining to 20th century European music but which is actually a bouillabaisse (or perhaps more appropriately a zarzuela) of Spanish, Catalan and French material with some German and Italian items to add spice, these hunters after the exotic and the exquisite are finding ways to purchase material from Mr. Weiss before the dots and dashes of the electronic listings can carry them to the waiting world on ABE. Many of the books are association copies thus adding immeasurably to their value and collecting appeal.

Perhaps only one in a hundred institutions, dealers and collectors will be interested but those who pursue this material will understand immediately how difficult this is to find, much less acquire. To them the telephone may prove a better tool than the computer. His number is 510 525-4377.

Already a keyword search of Mr. Weiss’s listings on ABE using “music” finds 228 related entries that, depending on whether you begin with lowest or highest price, will start you in your browsing from $15.00 and going up, or from $4,500 coming down.

Mr. Weiss is focusing primarily on signed and inscribed works, including some dedication copies, from the accumulated estate of the Nin and Nin-Cumell families. Many of these books have an interesting and complex provenance – having been the property variously of Joaquín Nin-Culmell, chairman of the Music Department at UC Berkeley for many years, his father the Cuban-Catalan composer Joaquín Nin y Castellanos, his mother Rosa Culmell, the singer and voice teacher, and of course his sister Anaïs Nin, the celebrated author. This is a diamond bracelet of connections with not a rhinestone in the setting.

In this collection are at least 250 inscribed works of which approximately 100 have already been listed and in some cases sold. These presentation copies were ultimately the personal property of Joaquín Nin-Cumell but in many cases have had some relationship to other family members. Mr. Weiss takes pains to weave the threads that make the family story and connections clear and in so doing he reaches the highest state of grace in the book business – of researching and writing well and being paid something for that which he would be tempted to do for free.

Mr. Weiss is continuing to research and write about the many not-yet-listed items – including the most valuable single piece in the library, one of the only known presentation copies of the correct first edition of Enrique Granados’ opera Goyescas (New York, 1915), with English translation by the African-American poet James Weldon Johnson, inscribed by Granados in New York to his close friend and musical collaborator, Rosa Culmell, around the time of its triumphant Metropolitan Opera premiere (January 28th, 1916), and less than two months before he and his wife were drowned, on their way back to Barcelona, when a German submarine torpedoed their ship in the English Channel. He will be posting these items as time permits.

Here then are some books about which he has a special feeling, several of which have already been sold.

(Nin, Anaïs). MONSIEUR & MADAME F. JOACHIM NIN ONT LE PLAISIR DE VOUS FAIRE PART DE LA NAISSANCE DE LEUR FILLE ANAÏS... Paris: 1903. Engraved card, c. 3.63 x 5.78 inches. Announcement by her parents of the birth (February 21) and baptism (June 21, 1903) of Anaïs Nin, the earliest mention of her in print. In original mailing envelope, hand-addressed (no doubt, by her father or mother) to "José Lorenzo Castellanos y familia" in Havana, relatives of her father, and postmarked Neuilly-sur-Seine, July 2, 1903. Her parents – viz. the Cuban-Catalan composer and pianist, Joaquín Nin y Castellanos, and the Cuban singer, Rosa Culmell y Vaurigaud, of French and Danish descent – were both distinguished musicians. Although Joaquín Nin (1878-1949) was born in Havana, his family moved to Barcelona in 1880, and Joaquín, by then a concert pianist, did not return to Cuba until 1901. He and Rosa met in a music store in Havana. Her father, a man of means, opposed the idea of his daughter marrying a poor musician from Barcelona but did allow Rosa to have singing lessons with him, and they soon gave their first joint concert. They married on April 8, 1902, then left for Paris. Despite his misgivings, Rosa's father not only paid their way but was even willing to support them, for quite some time, in a spacious flat in a fashionable Parisian suburb, while Joaquín pursued his career. Very lightly foxed, else about fine in slightly soiled envelope.

WITH: ULTIMO CONCIERTO-NIN / CON LA GRACIOSA COOPERACION DE LA SRTA. ROSA CULMELL Y DEL EMINENTE VIOLINISTA JUAN TARROELLA...2 DE ABRIL...1902. Havana: 1902. Leaflet printed in red and green, 4 pp. Program for the last concert given by Joaquín Nin and Rosa Culmell before their marriage. Light rubbing and remains of a label on p [4], else fine. Provenance: Anaïs Nin's brother, the composer Joaquín Nin-Culmell (1908-2004). Price for the pair. $650.00 [SOLD]

(Dalí, Salvador). Halffter, Ernesto. MARCHE JOYEUSE: POUR PIANO. Madrid: Unión Musical Española, 1925. 4to, illustrated wrappers, [ii], 7, [4] pp. Sheet music. First edition of this early piano piece by the eminent Spanish composer Ernesto Halffter (1905-1989). The full-page cover drawing that the composer's friend and contemporary, Salvador Dali (1904-1989), created especially for this publication, is an extraordinary self-portrait – viz. the joyful artist as a young man in an unusual hat, playing a stringed instrument (a cross between a guitar and a mandolin, perhaps). Signed in the plate "Salvador Dali 1925." Although Halffter's "Crepúsculos" premiered in 1922 and was published in 1924, MARCHE JOYEUSE is still, for him, a very early appearance in print (preceding by three years his first piano music cited in Grove), as it is for Dali. Short marginal tear (1 cm) at bottom edge, coming nowhere near to affecting drawing or text, still a remarkably attractive copy of a rare publication. $350.00 [SOLD]

IMAGE. (Nin-Culmell, Joaquín; Ricardo Viñes, Emilio Pujol). Riera, Juan. RICARDO VIÑES (EVOCACION): EL LERIDANO QUE CONQUISTO UN PUESTO ELEVADO EN LA HISTORIA DE LA MUSICA UNIVERSAL, COMO INTERPRETE VIRTUOSO Y EXPOSITOR DE LA MODERNA LITERATURA PIANISTICA. Prólogo de Emilio Pujol. Lérida: Instituto de Estudios Ilerdenses, Diputacíon Provincial de Lérida / Imprenta-Escuela Provincial, 1968. Wrappers printed in red and black, 87 pp. First edition of this study of the celebrated Spanish pianist and composer, 1875-1943. One of 500 copies printed. Contemporary presentation, inscribed by the author to the distinguished Cuban-Catalan composer Joaquín Nin-Culmell (1908-2004), who had been a friend of the subject: "a maestro Joaquín Nin Culmell / Homenaje del autor / Juan Riera / Lérida, junio de 1969." With Nin-Culmell's ticks and corrections, notably at the "Calendario Extractado de Primeras Audiciones," where he has no doubt marked the concerts he attended, and the "Catálogo de Obras Dedicadas," where he has corrected Riera's listing of two of his (Nin-Culmell's) own compositions dedicated to Viñes. One corner lightly wrinkled, else very good indeed.

WITH: an original photograph of Viñes by "Panajou Fres," measuring 5.75 x 4 inches, with the photographer's blindstamp; c. 1930. Inscribed by Viñes on the recto "a mi buen amigo Joaquín N. Culmell / celebrando sinceramente la brillantez con que acaba de alcanzar la escolástica alternativa / Ricardo Viñes / Paris – 7 Julio – 1930." Four extremely light rubs to verso where this photograph was once affixed to an album page, else fine. Price for the pair. $250.00

Salazar, Adolfo. MUSICA Y MUSICOS DE HOY: ENSAYOS SOBRE LA MUSICA ACTUAL. Madrid: Editorial Mundo Latino [1928]. Modern green cloth, spine stamped in gilt, 375 pp. First edition of this massive early work by the most important Spanish writer on music of the first half of the 20th century, a critic (as well as a discoverer and inspirer) of inestimable influence on the Generación del 27 – not just on its composers but on its literary members as well, in whose thinking and writing, music played such an integral role. Contemporary presentation, inscribed by Salazar to an old friend, the distinguished Cuban-Spanish composer, Joaquín Nin y Castellanos (1878-1949): "A Joaquín Nin, con el agrado de las coincidencias y mis lamentaciones por las discrepancias, / Adolfo / XII.[1]928." Bound for Nin's son, the equally distinguished composer Joaquín Nin-Culmell (1908-2004), with the latter's initials stamped in gilt at the foot of the spine. Fine. $250.00

Subirá, José. LA TONADILLA ESCENICA. Madrid: (Real Academia Española) / Tipografía de Archivos, 1928-30. Large 8vo, three volumes, modern green cloth, spine stamped in gilt, pp. 468; 534; 201, 323. First edition of this pioneering, monumental work. Volume III contains 323 pp of previously unpublished eighteenth-century Spanish music. Presentation copies, with Volume I inscribed by the author to his friend, the distinguished Cuban-Spanish composer Joaquín Nin-Culmell (1908-2004): "A D. Joaquín Nin y Culmell – en memoria de su padre – con el buen afecto de su amigo / José Subirá / 1.5.1950." Volume III is a contemporary presentation, having been inscribed by the author to Nin-Culmell's father, the equally distinguished Cuban-Spanish composer, Joaquín Nin y Castellanos (1878-1949), a close friend of Subirá for decades: "Para Joaquín Nin, devoto amante de nuestras glorias filarmónicas del XVIII, para que saboree la música de nuestros tonadilleros, con un abrazo lleno de amistad y compañerismo inquebrantables. / José Subirá / 30.X.1930." Tipped into the latter volume is an undated ANS from Subirá to Nin referring to two or three musicological works. The complete set was bound for Nin-Culmell, with his initials stamped in gilt at the foot of each spine. Fine. $325.00

Godoy, Armand. MONOLOGUE DE LA TRISTESSE ET COLLOQUE DE LA JOIE. (Paris): Editions Emile-Paul Frères, 1928. Large 8vo, original wrappers printed in black and red, 135 pp. First edition of these poems. Of 221 large-paper copies constituting the édition originale, each of them numbered, this is one of 200 on hollande (i.e., Van Gelder Zonen). It is also one of two possible dedication copies. **** The prolific Cuban poet, critic, translator, and editor, Armand Godoy (1880-1964), who began to write after retiring from the tobacco trade, moved to Paris in 1919, and found his voice, for the most part, in French. The first and much longer part of this book, MONOLOGUE DE LA TRISTESSE (pp. [11]-90), bears a printed dedication to Godoy's close friend, the distinguished Cuban-Spanish composer Joaquín Nin-Culmell (1908-2004), brother of Anaïs Nin. (COLLOQUE DE LA JOIE is dedicated to the pianist Antonio Valencia.) Exemplaire nominatif, with "EXEMPLAIRE No. 20 / IMPRIMÉ POUR MONSIEUR J. NIN CULMELL" printed on the colophon. Contemporary presentation, inscribed by the poet on the half title: "à mon très cher Joaquín Nin Culmell / en qui vibre l'âme douloureuse de Chopin, avec ma profonde affection / Armand Godoy." Two original photographs of Godoy's children laid in. Rear wrapper lightly soiled, spine a little darkened, else a nice copy. $550.00

Rare Book Monthly

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