Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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PREFACE                                  xix
Thomson had the audacity to suggest alterations in the composi­tions of the great Beethoven \ who told him that his music was not written for schoolgirls, no one need wonder that the songs of the amiable Burns were altered and excised. The most that can be said for the collection is that it is interesting in so far as it con­tains accompaniments by some eminent composers, who failed in what they attempted and for Thomson the most that can be said is that in selecting the famous air for the verses of Auld Lang Syne, he achieved a success which covers a multitude of sins.
Since I am resolved, for want of space, not to enter in this Preface upon any criticism, nor yet to insist (further than is neces­sary for an explanation of the purposes of this book) on the musical aspect of Burns's songs so uniquely made to melodies, nothing really remains to be said except a few words about the Text. This, which is unexpurgated, has been drawn from original MSS. and the authorized editions, and from the Scots Musical Museum, and it is collated with the two modern standard editions of the Works of Burns. I have left unnoticed, with a few excep­tions, readings in the various writings of the poet other than those here selected. Every song and ballad which could be published is entire, and the collection is so complete that it includes many | pieces now printed for the first time as Burns's work. The greater number of these pieces appeared originally in the Scots Musical Museum from Burns's MSS., most of which are still available for reference. More or less all have been reprinted as anonymous in miscellaneous publications. The chief authority for inserting many of them is Law's MS. List. This list confirms many statements of Stenhouse, who had the Museum MSS. through his hands early in the nineteenth century. As regards those pieces which Burns himself has .designated ' Mr. Burns's old words,' the evidence is for the most part negative, and further investigation may reveal that the original publication was earlier than Burns. The presumption is that some of the narrative or historical ballads previously existed in some form ; but how little or how much Burns altered or amended is unknown to me except
1 A German editor asserts that in the Scottish collection Thomson has ' not only incorrectly printed, but wilfully altered and abridged ' the music of Beethoven (Hadden's George Thomson, 345).
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