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The wide variety of nineteenth-century images of the great pianist—composer Franz Liszt (1811–1886) provides both art historians and musicologists with a rich resource through its sheer diversity and comprehensiveness. Of great potential value are the insights that Lisztian iconography may provide into the changing nature of Romanticism and music during much of the nineteenth century.
This issue of the Nineteenth-Century Music Review is devoted to Australia and more specifically to music-making in colonial Melbourne. The colony of Victoria was acknowledged as the cultural heart of Australia during the second half of the nineteenth century. Melbourne hosted two International Exhibitions in the 1880s and welcomed innumerable travelling musicians to its shores, where significant amounts of money could be made. Because of Melbourne's standing and cultural significance at the time and the extensive body of material available for study, the articles in this journal focus on this ‘metropolis of the Southern Hemisphere’. However, the activities discussed here can all be found, to varying degrees, in other parts of Australia as well. Liedertafels, for instance, were very prominent in Adelaide and its surrounding areas (and indeed still exist today), because of the significant German migration there. Philharmonic choirs were also widely established.
In his collection of essays Music and Morals (1871), music critic the Rev. H.R. Haweis devoted several pages to the relationship between music and memory. Like many of his contemporaries, he believed that music could trigger recollections in acute and intense ways. He suggested that there are ‘many mediums which connect us vividly with the past but for freshness and suddenness and power over memory’ the sense of hearing is paramount. He imagines a middle-aged woman caught unawares by a few bars of music.
Australian musical life was founded and sustained for over 150 years by a particular class of displaced British and European professional musicians, mostly men, who brought with them what is now known as Western art music. At the time of Australia's foundation, a number of British musicians (many of them composers at the rudimentary level expected of musicians of the day), unable to find work where Italians and Germans were preferred, opted for migration to the colonies in the hope of trading their way out of a difficult situation. Some took ship to avoid the law (the debt-ridden composer Isaac Nathan for example), some came as farmers or joined the gold rushes, only to fail and have to turn to their musical skills again to earn a living (William Vincent Wallace, composer of one of the nineteenth century's most popular operas, Maritana, comes to mind).
Eschewing the polemic surrounding Franz Schubert's private life, as well as the habit of judging his art by Beethovenian criteria, many musicians now have chosen to focus on unique aspects of the composer's œuvre in order to illuminate its distinctive aesthetic values. In particular, some have sought to isolate and explain contextual processes responsible for compelling perceptions of drama and unity in Schubert's later instrumental works. The objects of their inquiries consist of progressive sequences of internally defined musical elements, relations and events that confer effects of internal momentum and comprehensive coherence on Schubert's music. These contextual processes complement tonal, formal and thematic procedures in Schubert's compositions and reveal an ingenious artist engaged in a restless search for new ways of organizing music.
When the Annual Report of Melbourne Philharmonic for 1899 complained about the lack of public support for new musical enterprises of the Society, it stated that more encouragement of the local press was needed so that ‘public curiosity might be excited, an artistic taste educated, and a desire created to hear what the Old World had approved’ (my italics). The domination of British opinion in the assembly of a music library for the Melbourne Philharmonic Society during the years of its existence in the nineteenth century, focusing upon the years 1876 to 1901, is investigated in Part I of this article. Factors influencing the choice of repertoire during this era – particularly the influence of the British publication The Musical Times and Singing-Class Circular (founded in 1844) – are noted. Examination of reports and reviews in the Musical Times supports the hypothesis that much of the new repertoire acquired by the Melbourne Philharmonic Society during these years was the direct result of opinions expressed in that publication, and the availability of performance materials publicized by Novello, Ewer, and Co. through the Musical Times, which was also published by Novello. ‘What J. Alfred Novello had on offer was unashamedly a house magazine … firmly dedicated to the advertisement of Novello's publications’. In the cultivation of musical taste, and in the development of libraries of choral societies, the activities of the publisher extended an authority far beyond the UK, placing the Musical Times in a formidable position of power throughout the English-speaking world. Part II explores three works to receive their Australian or Melbourne premieres at concerts given by the Philharmonic Society in the final quarter of the nineteenth century: each item was promulgated by the Musical Times.
‘Are you musical?’, asks Gustav Kobbé of some imaginary interlocutor in the introduction to How to Appreciate Music (1906). ‘No’, comes the reply, ‘I neither play nor sing’. ‘But, if you can read and listen’, Kobbé continues, ‘there is no reason why you should not be more musical … than many of those whose musicianship lies merely in their fingers or vocal cords’. Kobbé's response epitomizes the shift in emphasis that had begun to occur in music education at the turn of the century from the acquisition of technical proficiency on an instrument or the voice to the cultivation of an appreciative, aesthetic understanding of music. The acquisition of performing skill had been perpetuated by the hegemony of the singing class in British music education throughout the nineteenth century. Initially, such teaching took the form of the government-sponsored continental system of ‘fixed’ sol-fa devised by Guillaume Wilhem for use in the public singing classes and commune schools of Paris and, from 1840, adapted by John Hullah for use in the teacher-training institution founded by James Kay-Shuttleworth at Battersea. Subsequently, there was the tonic sol-fa system with its movable doh devised by John Curwen; this system came to replace the Hullah–Wilhem method after the Education Act of 1870, which introduced compulsory schooling in Britain and established school boards to implement local policy.
The history of nineteenth-century pianism has, not unnaturally, been told largely in terms of the work of the central Austro-German (and related) ‘schools’: essentially, Beethoven and his contemporaries and successors. This has remained the popular view, although certainly it has in the past been counteracted in various ways, including, in the specialized literature, vast geographical surveys such as the final volume of Newman’s sonata trilogy. Nevertheless, this publication, indeed not unreasonably, sets out its agenda at the start with ‘four composers – Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, and Brahms … as main cornerstones of the Romantic sonata’, thus establishing these assuredly as its framework, while ‘the main Austro-German centers – notably Vienna, Leipzig, and Berlin’ are viewed as ‘the international meccas’. As far as I am aware, the study of ‘pianos and pianists’ in a specific location and time, as presented here, and in terms of social history rather than a ‘composers-and-works’ narrative, has only recently begun to impinge on this area. And in relation to my chosen location, Oxford, the historical viewpoint has also been skewed by factors peculiar to a university city of this type. The time is ripe for a new look at pianos and pianists in nineteenth-century Oxford, drawing information from archival research and contemporary printed sources.
A Liedertafel concert at which the former Governor His Excellency Sir Henry Loch and Lady Loch were present was reported in the Illustrated Australian News and Musical Times of 1889 as follows:
In the course of some remarks Lord Loch made the statement that the advancement of musical culture in Melbourne is to be attributed to the influence of Germans. Now although the community includes some excellent musicians of that nationality, the opinion expressed by our late governor is by no means in accordance with facts. It is only just that honour should be given where it is due and the untiring efforts of the English musicians in the colony in educating public taste ought to be thoroughly recognised.
The founding of the Philharmonic Society in 1813 has traditionally been seen to represent a significant milestone in the development of English concert life, standard musicology holding that the Society emerged from a period of orchestral inactivity in London stretching back to the departure of Haydn from the city some eighteen years earlier. Tracing the origins of these claims to the writings of the Society's founders and early historians, this article will attempt to reassess the validity of this ‘myth’ surrounding the Philharmonic. Offering a detailed examination of certain previously under-explored elements of turn-of-the-century London concert culture it will illustrate that, although the Philharmonic clearly did provide a prominent new institutional focus for the performance of symphonic repertory after 1813, concert series prior to that point can no longer be assumed to have been entirely devoid of orchestral music.
The city Liedertafels of Melbourne in the late colonial era were extraordinarily active, essentially amateur societies, with burgeoning memberships through to the early 1890s and a busy and varied calendar of men-only and mixed concerts and social events. This article examines aspects of the Melbourne (previously Melbourner Deutsche) Liedertafel (est. 1879) and the Metropolitan (later Royal Metropolitan) Liedertafel (est. 1870) as they functioned within late nineteenth-century Melbourne society, particularly the 1880s to Federation (1901). Opening with preliminary discussion of the social class of the participants and the role of women in the societies, it focuses on the balance in these choirs between the amateur and professional and the social and musical. The article begins with a consideration of the participants’ status as amateur or professional. It looks at any tensions between the two and charts the ways in which the balance between amateur and professional elements changed over the period and gives reasons for those changes. A second section outlines some of the varied and often picturesque types of semi-social, social and ceremonial functions in which the societies involved themselves, but places these briefly in the context of their avowed priorities and aims.
Two male-voice singing societies – the Metropolitan Liedertafel and the Melbourne Liedertafel – occupied prominent positions in the concert life of Melbourne during the prosperous 1880s. At this time the Metropolitan Liedertafel, formed in 1870, had between 80 and 100 performing members and regularly attracted audiences of over two thousand to its ‘Social Evenings for Ladies and Gentlemen’. A concert described as the ‘greatest gathering of its kind every [sic] seen in this city’, given at the recently completed Exhibition Buildings on 7 July 1881 and attended by the Princes Albert Victor and George, drew a crowd of between five and six thousand. The farewell concert given on 13 February 1882 for the Mendelssohn Quintette Club, visiting from Boston, had an audience of approximately two thousand, even though as one of the society's ‘smoke nights’, attendance was limited to men. The Metropolitan Liedertafel played host to a number of other visiting international musicians, including Henri Kowalski, August Wilhelmj, Carlotta Patti, Ernest de Munck, and, somewhat later, Sir Charles and Lady Hallé. In the early 1880s, the Metropolitan was identified as the city's leading musical society; an 1881 review in the Argus made so bold as to suggest that it was ‘the most successful association of its kind ever established here – or probably anywhere else’! This sentiment is reflected in a satirical piece in Town Talk in October 1881 in which the Metropolitan's conductor, Julius Herz, refers to himself, in a mock German accent, as ‘the subreme conductor of the greatest musical organisation in the vorld“.
In November 1874, the Melbourne Philharmonic Society (MPS) premiered a new sacred cantata, Adoration, as part of their subscription concert series at Melbourne's Town Hall. The composer, Austin T. Turner, lived in Ballarat, Victoria, and had come to Melbourne to conduct the premiere of his work, using the Melbourne Philharmonic's available force of three hundred performers. Turner was well qualified for the task, being known within the musical community as an organist, singing instructor and conductor of Ballarat's Philharmonic and Harmonic societies since 1864. Programmed for the second half of the concert, and following on from Beethoven's First Symphony and Mass in C, Adoration was certainly an ambitious project, consisting of thirty numbers divided into two broad sections. The text was based on the Psalms with some original words by Turner himself and some borrowed from the Hallelujah chorus in Beethoven's Mount of Olives. The music was described, with some commendation, as having a ‘kind of power about it’, although not being particularly individual or showing ‘a new turn of thought, either in the invention of his melodies, or the construction of his harmonies’. Turner demonstrated an ‘affluent mind in music’, as evidenced by his ability to keep his parts moving; perhaps a little too much according to the Argus critic, who found one or two simpler numbers ‘a great relief in the midst of the kaleidoscope combinations of sound in which in this composition he has revelled’. References in the style of known composers gave the work merit, the music partly reminiscent of ‘Haydn, of Beethoven, of Handel, of Mendelssohn, Arne, Purcell, and others … and in so far as it does this it is a worthy composition’. The Melbourne Age reviewer also assured readers that the work contained many genuine moments that ‘even the greatest composer need not be ashamed’, again citing the works of Beethoven and Mendelssohn as principal models for inspiration.