Varèse, Edgard. (1883–1965)

"Offrandes" – Inscribed piano-vocal score

New York : Ricordi. 1961 (date of "New Copyright"). Offrandes for soprano and chamber orchestra. Piano-vocal score ("must not be used for performance") by the composer. Quarto. 9 x 12 inches (30.5 x 22.9 cm). 12 pp. [PN] NY 2075-9. Inscribed by the composer to the title: "à Madame Jayne Somogi [sic, recte Somogyi] avec mes meilleurs souhaits Edgard Varèse." In original gray wrappers, slightly worn and with small stains. Else in fine condition.

Jayne Smith (née Somogyi) was a soprano soloist in the Shaw Chorale, the flagship choir of the great American choral conductor Robert Shaw (1916–1999). In 1957 she married Peter Smith, an engineering student working at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, who had assisted Varèse with some of his early pioneering efforts in electronic music, and it was through this introduction that the present score was inscribed. In an email to Schubertiade Music & Arts, Peter Smith recalls that "in the course of that work, I assisted several well-known composers in how to use the electronic equipment in order to achieve their musical desires.  Edgard Varèse was one of those composers. Varèse and I spent several afternoons in the electronic music center where he would describe what he wanted to hear from the equipment and what he could achieve with the various recording techniques. I would teach how to properly splice the tape so that he could piece together the sounds that were in his mind for a particular composition.  We worked like this together for perhaps a period of 6 months." 

An interesting association copy from the pathbreaking composer who saw potential in using electronic mediums for sound production, and his use of new instruments and electronic resources led to his being known as the "Father of Electronic Music" while Henry Miller described him as "The stratospheric Colossus of Sound".

In 1921, after a stimulating trip to Mexico, Varèse began Offrandes, a setting of two sensuously surrealistic poems by the composer’s friend Tablada and the Chilean poet Vincente Huidobro. Offrandes, which Varèse described as a “very small-scale piece, a purely intimate work,” was scored for solo soprano and an unusual chamber orchestra that included harp and percussion. The premiere of Offrandes was conducted by Salzedo at a concert of the International Composer’s Guild in New York on April 23, 1922. Stunningly interpreted on that occasion by Russian soprano Nina Koshetz, Offrandes was an unqualified success with the (admittedly partisan) audience—the last unalloyed public acclaim that the composer was to enjoy for decades. British musicologist Wilfred Mellers provides a clue to the initial success and enduring fascination of Offrandes when he observes that it “is related to the world of Debussy” and notes astutely that there are “passages where the barriers between musical sound and ‘noise’ are crossed . . . [T]his is not a technical procedure; it is a new (and at the same time very old) musical philosophy.” Offrandes was originally published in 1927 by C.C. Birchard & Co., Boston, Mass.  (21994)

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