Sonneck Society for American Music

Bulletin, Volume XXIII, no. 2 (Summer 1997)

Otto Dresel: New Manuscript Sources


David Francis Urrows, Chinese International School in Hong Kong


Otto Dresel (1826-1890) emigrated to the United States in 1848. Although he had studied with Mendelssohn and Schumann in Europe, in America his activities as a composer waned as his public role as a pianist and an advocate of all things that he considered great in German music waxed. With John Sullivan Dwight, he held critical and intellectual sway over Boston's musical public for about a quarter century, promoting the music of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and the songs of his friend Robert Franz; and viciously denigrating the work of the "modern German School" (especially Brahms) and the institutions he saw furthering the dissemination of their music (in particular, the Boston Symphony Orchestra). When he died in 1890, he left few published compositions and an unfortunate reputation as a bad-tempered reactionary, thus almost certainly ensuring rapid disappearance of his music and critical writings from public consciousness.

My article on Dresel in the Winter 1994 issue of American Music concluded with the first attempt to produce a complete list of works made by any writer since Dresel's death. After this article appeared, several hitherto unknown manuscript sources came to light at Harvard University. These new manuscripts enlarge the known corpus of Dresel's output considerably, and make a new, though provisional, works list desirable. A number of gaps and lacunae 'in the 1994 article have been filled by examining this material, although undoubtedly some questions remain to be answered and "missing" works found.

The most important of these sources consists of an uncataloged group of papers which were uncovered in Harvard's University Archives in the Fall of 1995, and subsequently sent to Houghton Library. These papers had been deposited in the Archives in the early 1960s by the estate of Archibald Thompson Davison (1883-1961), a long-time member of the faculty of Harvard's Department of Music. Among the items is a full score of Dresel's Ouverture [in F major], which until now was thought only to exist in a forty-seven- bar fragment in my possession, and a bound song album, containing eighty-two lieder, songs, and arrangements by Otto Dresel in his own hand. In the revised list at the end of this article, I have indicated the new works found here, in what I am referring to as the Davison Copybook, in boldface. Since most of the 82 items in the copybook are dated, it has been possible to correct the dates for certain other songs. The dates given in the Davison Copybook range from 6 June 1847 to 7 November 1852. The period, there, begins during Dresel's student days in Leipzig and ends after his permanent emigration to America.

How Davison came into possession of the manuscripts is unclear. They may well have been given to him by Dresel's daughter, Louisa Loring Dresel (1864- 1958), who lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was closely connected to that city's artistic and literary circles. Davison was the curator of Harvard's Isham Memorial Library, specializing in collections and microfilms of early music, from 1941 until his retirement in 1954.

Also among the other items in the Davison bequest, is a manuscript copy of Dresel's Op.4, a song cycle entitled Aus der Kinderwelt. From a study of the copybook, and other published sources, it appears that Dresel originally intended to include eight or nine songs, which he had begun to compose prior to his 1848 emigration to America, in this cycle; however, by the date of manuscript at Houghton (which reads "N.York Feb. 1851"), he had reduced this number to the traditional six.

The particular score now at Houghton bears an interesting dedication: "Sechs Kinderlieder mit Piano Begleitung componirt und Herrn Arnold Frege gewidmet von Otto Dresel, Op 5." When the songs were published in 1853, by Whistling of Leipzig, Dresel, who numbered only published works, had renumbered the songs as his Op. 4. What Dresel in 1851 considered his Op. 4 is still unclear. Arnold Frege was the husband of the celebrated soprano, Livia Frege (1818- 1891), a close friend of Mendelssohn and host of one of the great salons of Leipzig society during the period 1840-60 . Dresel appears to have met her during his years at the Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied with Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Moritz Hauptmann. The cover of the score has the imprint of a blue ink stamp, bearing the initials "L.E", and Dresel's handwritten note, "An Madaine L. Frege."

Houghton Library has also received in the past few years another gift of manuscripts related to Otto Dresel. These papers and music manuscripts came in the form of a Nachlass from the estate of Mrs. E Stanton Cawley, from whom I personally received the bulk of Dresel's surviving manuscripts in 1983. This bequest also contains a copybook, which I will refer to as the Cawley Copybook. The Cawley Copybook is almost contemporaneous with the Davison Copybook. The final date in Cawley is given as "London, Sommer 1852." (Dresel had considered settling in England in 1851/52.)

The signal difference between the two copybooks is that the Cawley Copybook contains almost exclusively works by other composers, Such as Schubert, Schumann, and Dresel's great friend, Robert Franz. It also contains songs by relatively obscure composers, such as Konrad Matthias Berg (1785-1852) and Jacob Axel Josephson (1818-1880), who appears to have been in Hauptmann's counterpoint class at the Leipzig Conservatory with Dresel. There are a few items in the Cawley Copybook which are hastily written and unattributed, and which may turn out to be by Dresel. In the event that they are eventually ascribed to Dresel, they will not, however, enlarge our understanding of hini and his working methods as much as the Davison Copybook material does. These Cawley Copybook works of unknown attribution include "Romanze" (Eichendorff), "Morgens" (Heine), something for SSA and piano called "Chor der Meerweiber (!)" (the exclamation point is in the manuscript), and a setting of the German folksong, "Dort in der Weiden steht ein Haus," which is otherwise well-known in an arrangement by Brahms.

It seems reasonable to conclude that during the years 1847-52, Dresel kept two copybooks, one for the private working and reworking of his own lieder, and another for works by his friends, acquaintances, and teachers, which he wished to preserve. Perhaps on occasion the one book was not available, and so he used the other. Both books were not completely filled up, but by the end of Dresel's London sojourn of 1851/52, they had apparently served their purpose. In October 1852, he returned to Boston, where he was welcomed with open arms by John Sullivan Dwight, and his career as an influential pianist, caustic critic, and all-round reactionary began. The importance of these new manuscript sources is not just that they enlarge the record of Dresel's early achievement, but they also indicate the extent to which his creative life as a composer became attenuated after he settled in Boston.

Certain holes in the chronology remain. I am still searching, for example, for published copies of Op. 2, and Op. 4 (Op. 2, #5, "Weil dir dein Lieb' gestorben ist", is still "lost", since it is in neither copybook.) It seems unlikely that more material will turn up of the scope of these two collections, and so while this cannot claim to be an absolutely definitive works list, it should be the basis of what I hope will be a Collected Works.

Works of Otto Dresel (1826-90)
I. Instrumental Works
Title; Instruments (date); pub.; [comments]
1. ORCHESTRAL WORKS
Ouverture [in F major]; [2.2.2.2./2.2.1./timp./strings] (before 1 848?)

2. CHAMBER WORKS
Trio in A minor; piano, vln., vc. (1847 [?]/rev. 1853)
Quartet in F major; piano, vln., vla., vc. (1847[?])
Quartet in E major [frag. of an opening mvt.]; piano, vln., via., vc. [?]

3 (A). PIANO WORKS
Polka; piano (1854 [?]); N. Richardson, 1854
Theme and variations; piano (1855)
Elfen Tanz; piano (1855)
Vier Klavierstücke, Op. 5; piano (1850-6); Breitkopf, 1861 Liedchen ohne Wörte; piano (1862)
Reverie; piano (1862 [?])
Alla danza tedesca; piano (1860-70 [?])
Versteckens; piano (1860-70[?])
Albumblatt; piano (1889 [?])

3 (B). ORGAN WORKS
Voluntary [in C major]; organ (1850 [rev.?]); Saroni, 1850
[arr. of Sweet and Low]; organ (1865 [?])

II. Vocal Works
1. LIEDER CYCLES
Sechs Gesänge, Op. 1 (1846); Kistner, 1846 Sechs Lieder, Op. 2 (1847-48); Whistling, ca. 1848 Sechs Lieder, Op. 3 (1848) Breitkopf, 1848 Sechs Lieder: Aus der Kinderwelt, Op. 4(1847); Whistling, 1853 2. INDIVIDUAL LIEDER (new titles from Davison Copybook and corrected dates in boldface)
Title (poet); date; publisher
Mädchen mit dem rothen Munde (Heine); 1845
Lieb Liebchen, legs Handchen (Heine); 1846; Breitkopf, 1892
Der Schalk (Eichendorff); 1846; Breitkopf, 1892
Und kommt der Frühling (Osterwald); 1846
Die Blumen sind verwelket (Fallersleben) 1847; Breitkopf, 1892
Mit deinen blauen Augen (Heine); 1847
Zu singen (Reinick); 1847
Klage (Reinick); 1847
[two songs for Aus der Kinderwelt, Op. 4; subsequently not used]; 1847
Klage (Reinick) [different poem from above]; 1848
Mir zieht es nach dem Dörfchen hin (Burns); 1848; Breitkopf, 1892
Durchirr' ich Länder noch so fern (Burns); 1848
An meine Rose (Meissner); 1848
0 danke nicht ("Widmung") (Miller); 1848
Im Fliederbusch ein Vöglein sass; 1848
Einsame Thränen (Osterwald); 1848
Unterwegs (Osterwald); 1848
Wiederkehr (Osterwald); 1848
Heimlicher Liebe Pein (folksong); 1848; Breitkopf, 1892
Im Mai (Osterwald); 1848
Nimm' dieser (Osterwald); 1848
Wunsch (Osterwald); 1848
Für Johanna (Fallersleben); 1848; Breitkopf, 1892
In der Fremde (Fallersleben); 1848
Morgengruss (Osterwald); 1848/9
Wehmut (M.E. Plantet[?]); 1849 [text probably by the composer of "Rest, on thy pillow, rest": see Spurious Work]
Lied, "Klinget, Vogel" (von Bohnen); 1849
Mondnacht (Osterwald); 1849; Breitkopf, 1892
Wunsch (Reinick); 1849[?]; Breitkopf, 1892
Es war ein alter König (Heine); 1849[?]
Ein schönes Fischermädchen (Heine); 1849[?]
Die Blumen grünen übervofl (Fallersleben); 1849
Das Lied vom Monde ("Kinderlied"); 1849
Gruss ("Des Frühlings Boten send' ich dir"); 1849
Abendlied des Wanderers (Rücker); 1849
My heart once wildly leaping; 1849
Soldaten die ziehn (Therese); 1849
Schmetterling (Fallersleben); 1849 [originally intended for Op. 4]
Frülingsbotschaft (Fallersleben); 1849
[two short Rückert fragments]; 1850
Shore Musings (Saroni); 1850; Saroni, 1850
Aus dem 69ten Psalm; 1850
Wenn ich ein Waldvüglein wäre (folksong); 1850
Wunsch und Gruss (Mylins); 1850
Prayer ("Dearest Father, Lord above"); 1850
Volksliedchen ("Wenn ich früh in den Garten geh") (Rückert); 1850
Blickst du dem Vöglein nach (folksong); 1852
Ich schleiche umher (Platen); 1852
Ach, wer bringt dir schönen Tagen (Goethe); 1852
Du bist wie eine Blume (Heine); 1852[?]
Mein Gärtchen; 1852[?]
Hund und Katze; 1852[?]
Unser liebe Hühnerchen; 1852[?]
Frühlingslied ("Alle V6gel sind..."); 1852?
Song from Milton's Comus (Sweet Echo); 1854; Richardson, 1855
Sweet and Low (Tennyson); 1855; Mason Bros., 1855
The Lost Child (Longfellow); 1857
The Lost Child (Longfellow) [version with orchestral accompaniment]; 12.1.2.2./2.I./hp./ str.1; 1874
Come into the garden, Maud (Tennyson); 1858 [?]; Russell & Fuller, 1858
Maud (Baby with the hat and Plume) (Howe) 1859; Russell, ca. 1860
Hark! Hush! Love lies at rest (Child); 1862
Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount; 1868; Schmidt, 1892
Never, oh nevermore shall I behold (Kemble) 1883

3 (A). OTHER VOCAL WORKS
Army Hymn (Holmes); 1862; Russell, 1863
Baritone solo, chorus (ad lib.), and piano, two- or four-ha-nds [orchestral vcrsion lost]

4. SPURIOUS VOCAL WORK
Rest on thy pillow, rest; 1850; Scharfenberg & Luis, 1850
["Ballad, with piano, composed by Otto Dresel". Reportedly composed by "M.P.", a female piano student of Dresel's. Possibly M.E. Plantet?]

5. COLLECTIONS
Zwanzig Lieder und Gesänge fur eine Singstimme mit begleitung des pianoforte von Otto Dresel. Ausgabe letzter hand.
Leipzig, Breitkopf, 1892.


David Francis Urrows received his doctorate in music from Boston University, and now serves on the teaching faculty of the Chinese International School in Hong Kong. He is editing the Collected Works of Otto Dresel for future publication.

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Updated 9/22/97