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LONDON – a Musical Gazetteer

By Lewis and Susan Foreman

Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2005

ISBN 0-300-10402-2 (chalk.paper)

384 pp 107 b/w illus large format paperback ISBN 0 300 10402 2 £15:99.

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"Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner

That I love London town"

(popular song)

"For if you think of it, there is a London cognita, and a London incognita. We all know about Piccadilly and Oxford Circus, London Bridge and the Strand ... But where will you be, if I ask you about Clapton, about the inner parts of Barnsbury, about the delights of Edmonton, about that region which was once called Spa Fields?"

(Arthur Machen: ‘The London Adventure’ or ‘The Art of Wandering’. Secker 1924)

Following on Lewis Foreman’s edition of the extensive reviews of musical activity in ‘Hazell’s Annual’ (1885-1920), now appears this detailed and exciting musical gazetteer of the London scene. It is a rich agglomeration of facts and ideas – and more, an enthusiasm for London – London town, not city or metropolis – as only a Londoner can see it. There is nostalgia too – awakening my own nostalgia for a flat in Clanricarde Gardens, walking through Bayswater on a Spring morning to Foyles in Charing Cross Road, a pie and pint in Moonies Cambridge Circus, the afternoon in Gilbert Stacey’s Aladdin’s Cave before a curry supper in a Notting Hill Gate pub – and Valentine Dyall in Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc at the Albert Hall!

"The book reflects our personal interests and enthusiasms" – thus Lewis Foreman and his wife Susan chart the musical highways and byways of London town, taking in Theatres, Concert Halls, Churches, Libraries as well as Graves and Memorials. Here one may find such gems of information as directions for visiting the grave of Baron Fred D’Erlanger (when was Les Cents Baisers last heard?) at St Mary’s Cemetery at Kensal Green!

The book is packed with such items – Johann Zumpe and square pianos, Elton John’s "Candle in the Wind", No. 16 Young Street where Thackeray wrote the endlessly boring ‘Vanity Fair’ – even the home address of Constant Lambert’s mother.

After a brief outline of ‘Five Centuries of Music in London’ the erudite authors set off on a trek (perhaps easier by camera obscura!) from their Rickmansworth eyrie to a remote Blackheath. This includes a fascinating section on composers with strong links with London and, walks, (for me another bit of nostalgia) one of which takes me past Harriet Cohen’s Gloucester Place Mews flat (and ‘The Princess’s Rose Garden’), ‘The George’ in Great Portland Street – and other walks resurrecting such publishers’ names as Swan and Enoch, lost or swallowed in the vast maw of Music Sales Group!

There is humour – John McCabe’s ghost stories from the London College of Music and Norah Kirby wearing John Ireland’s trousers!

There are, too a few excellently chosen photographs – an extensive bibliography and a list of useful web-sites – as well as such valuable lists as paintings hanging in the Royal College, Concerts of music by Ravel, Percy Grainger’s many London addresses and a list of organists of St Paul’s – altogether a volume to be dipped into. Substantially bound in card by Yale University Press it must find itself a place on music-lovers’ shelves beside the British Music Yearbook and is excellent value for the quite modest price.

Colin Scott-Sutherland


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