Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

MUSIC AND BRITISH CULTURE 1785-1914: Essays in Honour of Cyril Ehrlich.

Edited by Christina Bashford and Learne Langley. Oxford 2000. ISBN 0-19-816730-X £60.00
AmazonUK   AmazonUS $99

Interest in music in 19th Century Britain is booming. Your reviewer has attended (and addressed) conferences on it in 1997 and 1999 and there has been much new research and writing thereon, most recently this festschrift for Cyril Ehrlich, of varied, carefully researched essays. Perhaps a subject like the Calcutta piano trade in the late 1700s is of peripheral, albeit unusual, interest, but several essays deal with important aspects of the London concert and operatic scene during the period identified. The early performances of Mozart operas in London depended on middle-class, rather than aristocratic patronage; the aristocracy preferred Italian opera and another essay looks at the effect its audiences (and the critics) had on performing practice. We hear about the programmes of concert series like John Ella's long-lived Musical Union, Edward Dannreuther's Orme Square venture, the programmes at the Royal Academy and Royal College in the 1880s, whose differences inter se are fascinating, and the work of the Society for British Musicians (1834-1865) for native musicians and composers. A study of Michael Costa and August Manns contrasts their methods and repertoire; they raised, dramatically, standards of conducting in Britain and surely paved the way for the achievements of Henry Wood and later British exponents. Other personalities discussed include: Samuel Wesley and his career as a professional musician; Mendelssohn, whose earlier visits to this country played a substantial part in assimilating his Jewish and Christian sides; Lucy Broadwood and her work for English folk song, often overlooked though we remember Cecil Sharp, Percy Grainger and Ralph Vaughan Williams; and John Sainbury of the Dictionary, an odd volume inextricably enlarged with harpist-composer Bochsa, the recently established RAM and British pride in their musical achievement. Nor is provincial development ignored. We have pieces on the Ulster Hall, musicians in Manchester 1860-1914 and the start of the Welsh choral tradition. And the vexed question of the interface between professional and amateur musicians is tackled. The text includes 17 illustrations, 15 tables and, confined to the Mendelssohn and Broadwood articles, 12 musical examples The book, as one would expect, is beautifully produced. The price may rule out purchase for some but this is essential reading for all interested in the 19th Century British musical scene.

Philip Scrowcroft

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