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Foreword

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 September 2020

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Summary

As often happens, a large research project starts with a single chance discovery, in this case a newspaper article from 1788 berating the composer Stephen Storace for trying to beat time in the wings of the Drury Lane theatre when he should have been at the harpsichord (Ch. 8). That led to a short preliminary article, published in 2006, and to everything in this book. At an early stage I planned a joint study with Fiona Palmer, but we quickly realised that our approaches were too different and the subject too vast. The result is two separate books: hers was published in 2017. Mine has taken longer that it should.

At first, I foolishly imagined it would be possible to cover all the types of public music-making in Britain up the beginning of modern-style baton conducting in the 1830s (hence my title Before the Baton), but I eventually realised that it was better to cover less in more detail. I have therefore focused on two strands: choral music and oratorio in Part I and opera and theatre music in Part II, with Handel as the central figure in both. In addition, the Prelude provides essential context, surveying practice on the Continent up to about 1700; and I have reached back into the seventeenth century for Ch. 1, 2 and 5. I even venture into the twentieth century in Ch. 1 to document the remarkable persistence of seventeenth-century methods of direction and modes of performance in Anglican cathedrals and collegiate foundations. Other aspects of British musical life, such as military bands, catch and glee clubs and amateur orchestral societies, would be fruitful subjects for future enquiry. Orchestral music hardly existed as a separately performed concert genre before the Philharmonic Society was founded in 1813. Before then public concerts typically mixed symphonies, overtures and concertos with various types of vocal music and what we would now term chamber music. I use a discussion of the Philharmonic Society in Ch. 8 as a case study of how an institution, founded with democratic principles and a devolved system of direction, was ‘modernised’ (or ‘perverted’ from my standpoint) in the 1830s and 40s by autocratic control from a single individual using a baton.

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Before the Baton
Musical Direction and Conducting in Stuart and Georgian Britain
, pp. xiii - xvi
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Foreword
  • Peter Holman
  • Book: Before the Baton
  • Online publication: 11 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787446304.001
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  • Foreword
  • Peter Holman
  • Book: Before the Baton
  • Online publication: 11 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787446304.001
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Foreword
  • Peter Holman
  • Book: Before the Baton
  • Online publication: 11 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787446304.001
Available formats
×