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Lectures on Musical Life

Lectures on Musical Life: William Sterndale Bennett

Edited with an introduction by Nicholas Temperley
with the assistance of Yunchung Yang
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Lectures on Musical Life
    Book Description:

    An annotated critical edition of twelve lectures by William Sterndale Bennett (1816-75), the foremost English musician of the mid-Victorian period, principal of the Royal Academy, and conductor of the Philharmonic Society. Delivered at the London Institution and Cambridge University between 1858 and 1871, they are valuable both as representative of the Victorian understanding of musical history, and for Bennett's astute comments on the state of music and musical life at the time. They include admonishments to the British government for failing to offer adequate financial support to the art; interesting and often surprising views on many contemporary composers; and discourses on his own experiences as a professional musician. The lectures are presented with annotations which identify the persons, institutions and compositions referred to in the text. An extensive introduction sets the lectures in context and reflects on their significance to English musical history and to Bennett's personal career. NICHOLAS TEMPERLEY is Professor of Music Emeritus at the University of Illinois.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-483-6
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Plates
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    N. T.

    This edition is the outcome of my lifelong interest in William Sterndale Bennett, which has been generously supported by the composer’s family. His grandson, Robert Sterndale-Bennett (1880–1963), who was for many years director of music at Uppingham School, offered help, advice, and hospitality in the early years of my research, and the tradition has been maintained by Robert’s grandson, Barry Sterndale-Bennett. The lectures are published here by Barry’s permission. I ammost grateful for this, and also for his continued assistance and support at every stage of the work.

    I would like to express my thanks to Yunchung Yang, who...

  5. Textual Note
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    In the current revival of interest in British musical life of the 19th century, much new research has been done on the economic history of music and musical institutions. The writings of the economic historian Cyril Ehrlich,¹ and of many who have been influenced by him, have shown how far the composition, performance, and reception of music were governed by material self-interest.² There is no question that this body of work has brought a new realism and balance to the study of the period. As one reviewer put it, ‘the British musical scene in this period was one driven by...

  7. Part One: Lectures at London and Sheffield, 1858–1859

    • 1 On the State of Music in English Private Society and the General Prospects of Music in the Future
      (pp. 31-44)

      Having been engaged by the council of this institution to deliver four lectures on music, it appeared to me that I could not better employ the opportunity than by choosing those subjects which would immediately appeal to the sympathies of English amateurs,¹ and of all those interested in the progress of music in this country.

      Under this feeling, I have, for this evening’s lecture, selected a theme which I have long had at heart, viz. an enquiry into ‘the state of music in English private society’. For my second lecture, I propose to bring before you a subject which I...

    • 2 On the Visits of Illustrious Foreign Musicians to England
      (pp. 45-57)

      When foreign writers upon music make up their minds to do justice to England, then will it be universally acknowledged that this country has performed a most important share in connection with the progress of the art. Symptoms of an improved and more liberal state of things on the part of foreign critics are indeed now apparent, but until recently one could not but be amused at the ingenuity with which our Continental musical censors,¹ when speaking of the great composers of Europe, avoided nearly all allusion to England, ...

    • 3 On the Vocal Music of England
      (pp. 58-67)

      The ground over which I propose to travel this evening has been oft trodden before.¹ No wonder: lecturers on music have quickly discovered the strong point connected with the art and English composers, and it seems that the position will be rather strengthened than weakened by continuous and wider enquiries into the subject, aided by new matter and material for which we have to be grateful to zealous lovers of English vocal music, and enterprising editors.

      Had not this my 3rd lecture been intimately bound up with the series, such series having especial regard to English music and English musicians,...

    • 4 On the General Prospects of Music in England
      (pp. 68-80)

      I propose this evening to take you with me on a visit to the principal schools of modern music in Europe, as they exist at the present moment – glancing occasionally at the past; comparing former times with the present, whether to the advantage or disadvantage of those countries which will come under our notice; interspersing my remarks with such illustration as will do no injustice to the composers whom I shall bring forward; and in conclusion to say a few words upon the prospects of music in England in the future.

      I trust that wherever I shall feel it my...

  8. Part Two: Lectures at the London Institution, 1864

    • 5 [Dramatic Music] [Early Forms of Opera] On the Music for the Theatre by Belgian Composers
      (pp. 83-94)

      The original title of my lectures was as follows, ‘The Dramatic Music of France, Belgium, Germany, and Italy.’

      Having, somewhat hastily, adopted this high sounding title, I repented at leisure – a very little reflection reminded me that I had chosen a title far too comprehensive for the moderate intentions I had in view, and for the means of illustration at my disposal.

      In taking the title ‘Dramatic Music’ I intended to speak only of that music written expressly for the theatre and of those composers who have been most prominent in the formation and development of the opera as it...

    • 6 On the Music for the Theatre Composed by Natives of Italy
      (pp. 95-103)

      I will ask you, in reference to my lecture of last Monday, in which I gave a sketch of my plan and arrangement, including a short account of the early opera down to the time it took a definite form, to remember that when I speak of Italian composers for the theatre, I do not undertake to connect them with that which is now called ‘the Italian opera’; nor do I undertake any thing like a continuous history of the opera or lyric drama of Italy or of any other country beyond that which may arise out of the order...

    • 7 On the Music for the Theatre Composed by Natives of France
      (pp. 104-112)

      A country which can include in its list of composers for the theatre the names of Rameau, Méhul, Auber, Hérold, Boieldieu, Halévy, Berlioz, with many others scarcely less eminent, can bear favorable comparison with any other nation where the art is cultivated and enjoyed. Had J. J. Rousseau lived to witness the complete development of the French school of lyric music, he might probably have rewritten his celebrated letter of 1753,¹ substituting praise for censure.

      You will observe that I have, in my list of this evening, drawn lines of separation, firstly between Rameau and Méhul, and again between Méhul...

    • 8 On the Music for the Theatre Composed by Natives of Germany
      (pp. 113-126)

      I have now arrived at my fourth and last division of composers for the theatre, and the list of this evening will give you names of eminent men, some indeed super-eminent, all born in Germany.¹ As I intend, towards the close of my lecture, to take a short review of the ground we have travelled over since I began the subject, I shall not make any long introduction before proceeding to speak of the composers and their works included in the programme.

      I have not thought it necessary to set down for performance specimens from thoroughly well known authors, unless...

  9. Part Three: Lectures at Cambridge University, 1871

    • 9 Music of the Present Time
      (pp. 129-137)

      I purpose in my first lecture this term to begin at the very beginning & root of the matter we have in hand; and therefore, before we proceed to speak about the technicalities of music, and the different works of the great masters, it will be better for us to consider what the present state of the musical world really is, and in what way the minds of musical people are trained to receive the education offered to them in the art.

      Never in the history of music was there a period of greater interest than the present. The rapidity...

    • 10 Fashions in Music
      (pp. 138-146)

      It appears that no art can be exempt from the powerful influence of fashion – I use the word in its old sense.² Barely has any artist been able to resist the accepted fancies of his day.

      In all arts ‘conventionality’ will be found. You will notice how the poets of a certain time could not commence a work without an invocation to the muse, or a grand compliment to a patron. To find a similar mannerism in another art – sculpture – pay a visit to Westminster Abbey and look at the works of sculptors who lived in the same period. My...

    • 11 Bach and Handel
      (pp. 147-154)

      One thing that first arrests our attention in reviewing the history of modern music is its very rapid development within the last two centuries, and the small number of great master minds employed in that development. Whatever progress music may have made during the middle ages is a question, it may be, of deep interest to the musical historian. There is no doubt, however, that the works with which the musician has chiefly to do were all written in one short epoch of the world’s history, in which a few great masters follow so closely upon each other, that there...

    • 12 Mozart
      (pp. 155-162)

      As I have said in a former lecture,¹ never was there a period in the history of music so fraught with anxiety and deep interest as that of the present. Never was there a time when it was more necessary for those studying music with a view to obtain any eminence in the art to look about them closely and thoughtfully and see what is going on at this moment.

      Let them watch on the indications (clear to a practised eye) which point to the unsettled state of the art. I use the term ‘unsettled’ in no desponding spirit, for...

  10. Appendix: Music for the Sheffield Lectures
    (pp. 163-168)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 169-174)
  12. Index
    (pp. 175-182)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-183)