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Autographed 4” x 8” album leaf autographed by the composer, pianist, arranger and musicologist as well as his oft concert partner at this time, violinist Wilma Norman Neruda Hallé and violinist John Saunders.  Hallé has dated the musical quotation February 19, 1908.  The work is the 8 bar theme given to Johann Sebastien Bach by Frederick II, also known as Frederick the Great in 1747.  Frederick’s request of the composer was to create a 6 part fugue from the work, which Bach entitled, “Theme Regium” and was also the basis for his “Musical Offering” BWV 1079.  Included is a vintage sepia postcard photograph of Lady Hallé.


Tovey (1875-1940) was a musical polymath, with a Dickensian story.  He was born in Eton, England to a teacher at the famed English preparatory school with the same name. A local girls school, Northland’s, headmistress named Sophie Weisse heard the four year old Tovey play the piano and talked Tovey’s parents into allowing her to teach their precocious son music full time at the age of five.  While Weisse’s mother was a trained concert pianist of Lithuanian origin, she was not a great pianist, however had studied the Deppe piano method and used that method as the basis of her teaching for Tovey.  Tovey later would seek advice from Deppe.  Essentially she became Tovey’s Mrs. Havisham and Svengali rolled into one. Tovey advanced quickly under her tutelage and by the age of eight started to compose.  Weisse had numerous famous friends in a variety of fields and brought in organist and harmony professor James Higgs to teach the budding composer.  She also brought in another organist and composer, Walter Parratt to teach him counterpoint.  As a finishing touch, when he was thirteen, she brought in the composer Hubert Parry to teach him composition.  In 1894. Tovey was awarded a Nettleship scholarship to study at Baillol College at Oxford University. As a boy, he was introduced to Weisse’s friend Joseph Joachim who took an interest in the young polymath. Also in 1894, Tovey was top billed as a composer and pianist with Joseph Joachim assisting in a command performance at Windsor Castle.  While at Oxford, he received a well rounded education, composed and also continued to study Bach and Beethoven where it has been said he had an encyclopedic memory for their music.  After he graduated in 1898, he returned to Weisse at Northlands where he taught music. Weisse had built a concert hall at the school.  While the concert hall also was used for lectures, essentially it became his concert hall where she brought in her famous friends from the world of music to perform with him.  A long line of performer’s, including violinist, Lady Wilma Norman Neruda Hallé (1838-1911) came to Northland’s to perform with Tovey in the concert hall.  The Museum of Music History in England has a program with Tovey accompanying Hallé at Northlands, May 25, 1907.  John Saunders (1867-1919) was considered “the violinist’s violinist” in England and was heard around the country generally playing chamber music.  He also served as the concertmaster of several orchestras.  While we could not find a specific concert where he and Tovey performed together, it is more than likely they performed together, possibly at Northlands.  It is interesting to note, Neruda whose second husband was the conductor, Charles Hallé retired in 1908, having been before the public for 63 years. 


Tovey’s works were sponsored by Weisse who paid for their printing, especially his piano concerto which he dedicated to her and performed for the first time in 1903 with Sir Henry Wood and then in 1906 with Hans Richter.  She continued to fund his compositions until he took the position of Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh University in 1914.  Weisse would also attempt to influence his life later on, including attempting to stop his marriage to a Northlands alumnae with resulted in one child and a divorce. Tovey is well known for his scholarly works on Bach, Beethoven and on various aspects of music.  He also founded the Reid Orchestra at the University which he led for the rest of his life.  His many musical works including a Symphony in D, a Cello Concerto, the afore mentioned Piano Concerto, String Quartets, Quintets, Piano Quartets, Trios for various instruments, songs, violin sonatas, other solo works and songs are in vogue again and well recorded and performed.


An interesting accumulation of signatures, likely signed at a chamber concert.  Tovey autographs are especially rare, Weisse who outlived him by five years compiled as many of his letters as she could find along with his manuscripts and gifted them to Edinburgh University after his death.  She also turned his home in that city into a performing arts study building and sponsored an award.  Northlands must have been a money-making operation, as she did not come from a wealthy family and did not marry. 


Tovey autographs are rare, musical quotations are scarce.