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British Music and Literary Context

British Music and Literary Context: Artistic Connections in the Long Nineteenth Century

Michael Allis
Volume: 8
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    British Music and Literary Context
    Book Description:

    Despite several recent monographs, editions and recordings devoted to the reassessment of British music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, some negative perceptions still remain - particularly a sense that British composers in this period somehow lacked literary credentials. ‘British Music and Literary Context’ counters this perception by showing that these composers displayed a real confidence and assurance in refiguring literary texts in their music. The book explores how literary context might offer modern audiences and listeners a 'way in' to appreciate specific works that have traditionally been viewed as problematic. Each chapter of this interdisciplinary study juxtaposes a British composer with a particular literary counterpart or genre. Chapter one focuses upon the artistic collaboration between Hubert Parry and Robert Bridges; chapter two explores how Charles Villiers Stanford consistently returned to Tennyson's texts throughout his compositional career; chapters three and four suggest how an orchestral drama by Granville Bantock might represent a close reading of a poem by Robert Browning, and how structure and imagery in a novel by Edward Bulwer Lytton might inform a reading of Edward Elgar's Piano Quintet Op.84. The final chapter offers parallels between narrative strategies in Victorian travel literature (including works by Charles Dickens and George Gissing) and the nature of musical events in Elgar's concert overture ‘In the South’ Op.50. Issues highlighted in the book include the vexed relationship between words and music, the refiguring of literary narratives as musical structures, and the ways in which musical settings or representations of literary texts might be seen as critical 'readings' of those texts. Anyone interested in nineteenth century British music, literature and Victorian studies will find this book most stimulating. Michael Allis is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Music, University of Leeds.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-955-8
    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 Figures, Tables and Music Examples
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. INTRODUCTION British Music and Literary Context
    (pp. 1-12)

    Representative of several musical references in Conan Doyle’s adventures of the great detective,² Sherlock Holmes’ explanation of his reasons for attending Sarasate’s London concert is striking. In his comparison of national musical repertoire, significant by its absence is British music, which, frustratingly, seems to play little meaningful part in the musical references of Victorian and Edwardian literature. Apart from the range of traditional songs and ballads incorporated into the novels of Dickens and Thackeray,³ the British music scholar has to be content with a handful of examples; these include the brief mention of the Scottish composer Alexander Campbell Mackenzie in...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Parry and Bridges Music and Poetry in the Invocation to Music
    (pp. 13-62)

    Collaboration between composer and poet provides a practical model to explore the balance of power between music and literature – a relationship that obviously depends upon the personalities involved. One might be forgiven for assuming that the working relationship between Hubert Parry (1848–1918) and Robert Bridges (1844–1930) would be relatively unproblematic, given the similarities between the two men on a superficial level. As well as sharing an Eton and Oxford education,² a critical approach to religious dogma and an interest in evolutionary theory,³ both had a working knowledge of the other’s art. An early musical composition by Bridges, ‘O...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Stanford and Tennyson The Musical Promotion of a Poet
    (pp. 63-132)

    Vaughan Williams’ tribute to his old teacher in 1924 is only one of many invocations of parallels between the music of Charles Villiers Stanford and the poetry of Alfred Tennyson. J. A. Fuller Maitland highlighted a ‘strong feeling for colour’ in the work of both men,² whilst Ernest Walker identified Stanford’s ‘Tennysonian spirit’ in his ‘great partiality for words dealing with nature, especially with the sea, or expressing the romantic side of patriotism’.³ Of course, Stanford was not the only composer to use Tennyson as a source of inspiration. In 1892 the Guardian reported that ‘An industrious statistician has discovered...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Bantock and Browning Reformulated dramatic monologue in Fifine at the Fair
    (pp. 133-188)

    In anticipation of the Birmingham Festival of 1912, the Musical Times suggested what an audience might expect of Granville Bantock’s new ‘orchestral drama’ based on Robert Browning’s poem, Fifine at the Fair:

    The poem is often obscure in its wanderings from the point and because of its puzzling phraseology, but the mist clears now and again, and there are glorious bursts of sunshine and clarity. Naturally, the musician makes no attempt to follow the tortuous sinuosities of the poet. He simply lifts out for musical treatment the picture of the inconstant man and the tempting ‘butterfly’ Fifine, and contrasts both...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Elgar and Bulwer Lytton Hidden narrative and the Piano Quintet, op. 84
    (pp. 189-244)

    The exploration of narrative in Elgar’s music often takes as its starting point a literary quotation that the composer deliberately attached to specific compositions – Shelley’s ‘Rarely, rarely comest thou, Spirit of Delight’ in the Second Symphony, Keats’ ‘When chivalry lifted up her lance on high’ in Froissart, the textual block from Charles Lamb’s Dream Children in Elgar’s two pieces of 1902 – or the nature of extra-musical meaning suggested by evocative titles and explanatory programme notes.² Although scholars can enjoy wrestling with the potential implications of these references, examples where literary connections seem to have been somehow obscured are particularly intriguing....

  11. CHAPTER 5 Elgar and travel literature In the South and ‘imaginative topography’
    (pp. 245-289)

    On 21 November 1903 Elgar and his wife left London for Italy. The composer hoped to take advantage of the warmer climate, and to develop a symphonic project for the forthcoming Elgar Festival at Covent Garden, planned for March 1904. After a brief stay in Bordighera,² the Elgars moved on to the Villa San Giovanni at Alassio,³ where they remained from 11 December until 30 January 1904; their daughter Carice, accompanied by Rosa Burley (who published an entertaining account of the Italian trip),⁴ joined them just before Christmas. The symphonic project foundered – a creative block associated in Elgar’s mind with...

  12. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 290-306)
  13. Index
    (pp. 307-320)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-321)