Purcell, Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn: Anniversary Reflections
New College, Oxford
27-29 March 2009
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Abstracts G-M - click on speaker's name to see timetable

James Garratt

Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama, University of Manchester

Nietzsche as Music Historian

Much scholarship on Nietzsche's views on music, understandably, has shared the philosopher's preoccupation with Wagner. Yet Nietzsche's writings, published and unpublished, offer observations on an extraordinary variety of topics and figures within music history, from Palestrina and Schütz to Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn (though sadly not Purcell).  Nietzsche's statements on music history are mostly cast as aphorisms or fragments, a form that stands in marked contradiction to the grand narratives that often underpin them. This paper explores the sources for these historiographical constructs and conceits, focusing in particular on Nietzsche's appropriation and adaptation of work within contemporary art and music history. Many of the observations that seem so striking today perpetuated themes and tropes well-established within musical discourse. Others were transplanted from the work of art historians such Jacob Burckhardt, while a surprising number point to the writings of contemporary musical commentators such as Franz Brendel, Otto Jahn, Georg Gottfried Gervinus and Adolf Bernhard Marx. In spite of deriving ideas and images from these writers, all bar the latter were the targets of Nietzsche's scorn. As with his relation to Wagner, characteristically, Nietzsche's engagement with these other musical commentators combined overt invective with covert appropriation.

Monika Hennemann
University of Birmingham

Oratorio and Drama: Operatic Staging of Oratorios in the Romantic Era
Friedrich Chrysander castigated them as a "musical mishmash," and for Alfred Einstein they were even the "source of all evil."  But crossover "operatic" performances of oratorio have been attempted fairly frequently since the time of Handel's Esther, culminating in a plethora of pertinent productions in the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century.  The practice of staging choral works has, however, been largely ignored in histories of both genres, silently condemned as a tastelessly inept approach that can only result in leaden choral operas, or embarrassingly active oratorios.
This paper attempts to question this hitherto unexamined assumption by looking at several successful theatrical adaptations of oratorios during the late Romantic era, in particular Handel's Samson, Haydn's Creation, Mendelssohn's Elijah and Liszt's St. Elizabeth.  Although Anton Rubinstein's "sacred opera" Der Thurm zu Babel (1872) and Saint-Saëns's Samson et Delilah (1877) - first conceived as an oratorio, but produced alternately as an opera - effectively epitomized the crossover genre, many "straight" oratorios were repeatedly staged in major cultural centers.
If such attempts seem surprising nowadays, even more remarkable is the fact that productions did not always confine themselves to the music of the work in question. Especially in the case of Elijah, they ranged much more widely, with the omission of some numbers, and their replacement by favorite pieces from elsewhere in Mendelssohn's oeuvre - exactly the same treatment that was often endured by the music to A Midsummer Night's Dream in theatrical production.  The flourishing of operatic oratorio well into the twentieth century, complete with cuts and substitute numbers, calls into question routine ideas of the firm establishment of the "work concept" by the end of the nineteenth century, and of a comfortably neat distinction between genres.  A process of rapid secularization allowed the assimilation of originally sacred works to distinctly worldly contexts, and encouraged the boundaries between oratorio and opera not only to become more fluid, but sometimes to completely disappear.

Rebecca Herissone

University of Manchester

Purcell as Self-Publisher: Or, Why Dioclesian 'found so small Encouragement in Print'

During Purcell's lifetime the music-publishing business in England flourished, thanks mainly to the efforts of John Playford, who established an industry printing popular books for the musical amateur. Since intellectual property rights did not exist in seventeenth-century England, Playford and his successors were able to select music they were confident of selling, predominantly producing anthologies of popular instrumental tunes and songs: composers had no protection from (literally) unauthorized use of their materials, and little or no say in what appeared in print. In this context, it is significant that some composers, including Purcell, undertook the financial risk of publishing some of their own music, without the support of an established publisher. In Purcell's case the complete score of his dramatick opera Dioclesian, which he self-published in 1691, became a renowned commercial disaster to which reference was still being made some eleven years later. By analyzing closely the surviving copies of the score, the financial practicalities of self-publishing in Restoration England, and the connections between Purcell's score and the two publications with which it is most closely related-Locke's The English Opera of 1675 and Grabu's Albion and Albanius of 1687-this paper considers what Purcell may have been trying to achieve in publishing Dioclesian, examines his very personal involvement in the production of the print, and assesses what went wrong.

Anthony Hicks
Open University, Milton Keynes

Sir Thomas Beecham: a 20th-century Handelian

Sir Thomas Beecham's interest in the music of Handel is perhaps now best known for his three recordings of Messiah, the last being notable for its extravagant re-orchestration, and is also displayed in his much-abridged and re-scored version of Solomon. However, his love and knowledge of Handel's work is more clearly apparent in the many arrangements of it that he made for ballet scores and concert suites. They draw upon music that was virtually unknown at the time and treat it with wit and affectionate imagination. The paper will present an overview of the 'Handel/Beecham' oeuvre, the history of which has yet to be fully clarified.

John Higney

Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario

"The Most Perfect Models:" Purcell, Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn in The Harmonicon (1823-1833).

From the opening number in January of 1823, the editors of The Harmonicon possessed a clear vision of the purpose and content of the new journal. It would address a lacuna in amateur musical education and complement a "profusion" of journals devoted to other "arts, sciences, and belles lettres." The editors accomplished their stated task by offering three basic types of content: printed music consisting of works by contemporary composers, "great masters," and "popular melodies of various nations"; reviews of scores, monographs, and performances; and accounts of issues in music history and theory.

The diverse writings presented in The Harmonicon represent a valuable window into perceptions of both the emerging musical canon and contemporary music in early nineteenth-century London. As the journal was concerned with inculcating "correctness of taste" and "knowledge of the style and peculiarities of the different schools," it offered substantial writings on historical and contemporary musical figures. Among these are significant accounts of Purcell, Handel, and Haydn. Citations pertaining to the young Felix Mendelssohn are to be found within The Harmonicon's pages; however, as his international reputation was only then forming, these appear in smaller numbers.

The Harmonicon's multifaceted content affords the scholar a rare insight into the reception histories of the above named composers from a common vantage point. Moreover, accounts of Purcell, Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn in The Harmonicon sometimes overlap and this fact reveals much about the tastes of London audiences and the canonisation process.

Peter Horton
Royal College of Music & Bettina Mühlenbeck University of Bern (withdrawn)

Felix Mendelssohn and William Sterndale Bennett: An artistic friendship

Among Mendelssohn's many English friends and disciples the name of William Sterndale Bennett features prominently. Drawing on the diaries kept by Bennett during three extended visits to Leipzig - initially at Mendelssohn's instigation - in 1836-37, 1838-39 and 1842, the correspondence between the two musicians, and other letters and documents, this presentation will investigate the relationship between the two composers and the ways in which each helped to further the other's career in their respective countries.

Alan Howard

Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama, University of Manchester

Attitudes towards formal counterpoint in Purcell and Mendelssohn

Of the numerous musical and biographical resonances among the composers celebrated at this conference, perhaps most striking is the remarkable importance of formal counterpoint in the music of Purcell and Mendelssohn. There are particularly obvious parallels of intent in their early instrumental works: Purcell's fantasias for viols and Mendelssohn's twelve Bach-like fugues for string quartet, both didactic in conception, and the two composers' debut publications (Purcell's 1683 Sonnatas, Mendelssohn's Piano Quartets opp. 1-3). During his lifetime Mendelssohn was criticised for producing banal pastiche; drawing on similar prejudices against music that seems out of step with historically prevailing styles, Purcell's sonatas have been portrayed as fatally flawed, preoccupied with arcane counterpoint at the expense of Italianate tonal fluency.

Such comparisons may be facile and largely arbitrary, but are perhaps not beyond use. In this paper I take James Garratt's recent examination of Mendelssohn's historicism (in The Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn) as a cue to re-examine Purcell's engagement with 'ancient' music: as a genuine participation in tradition; as an overt attempt at musical renewal, and as stylistic critique. Ultimately, I argue that Purcell's own 'conservatism' constitutes an active promotion of musical artifice rather than any instinctive nostalgia for past styles.

David Hunter
University of Texas at Austin

"Taking Anniversaries as Read: Celebration and the Biographical Imperative"

Performance is not the only way in which memories of musicians are created or maintained; reading offers an alternative.  Celebrations, festivals, and commemorations have their printed memorabilia.  Of greater importance are the biographies of musicians, works that tell stories and ensure that stories are re-told.  Frequently produced to coincide with anniversaries, biographies act as social memory, shaping identity and heritage as much as they do the portrait of an individual.
The biographical imperative comprises both the urge to write and re-write lives, and the urge (ostensibly resisted by the impersonal school of criticism) to interpret artistic works on the basis of the lives of their initiators.  Through comparison of English-language biographies of Purcell, Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn I explore issues of transcendence, particularly as they relate to the negotiations undertaken by biographers between the messy lives of their subjects and the pure musical works produced by those subjects.

Thomas Irvine
University of Southampton

Incidental Music? Henry Purcell, Felix Mendelssohn, and Politics in Germany and England, 1933-1939

In the 1930s, the reception histories of Mendelssohn's incidental music to Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream and Purcell's Fairy Queen crossed under unpleasant political circumstances. In Germany, the Mendelssohn setting was considered by many to be politically unacceptable, even if the Nazi state's musical authorities were very slow to pronounce an all-out ban on a piece that had been a mainstay of theatrical productions for generations. By 1936, as Fred K. Prieberg has shown, producers and impresarios were outdoing themselves in ever more public attempts to find a 'racially acceptable' replacement. Many turned to contemporary composers, but a substantial number simply replaced the Mendelssohn with selections from Purcell's semi-opera. The pedagogue Hilmar Höckner, a veteran of the Weimar Republic's 'youth music movement' and a leading proponent of 'early music,' did both. In 1936 he commissioned an instrumental suite to be used in school performances of the Midsummer Night's Dream from the English composer Walter Leigh, to whom Höckner had been introduced by Leigh's teacher Paul Hindemith. In 1937 Bärenreiter published Höckner's arrangement of The Fairy Queen, which Höckner hoped would become standard incidental music for Shakespeare's play. The story, however, has a false bottom, for Leigh's suite had an English history as well. In late 1936 it was used in a performance by the Bank of England Dramatic Society of the Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Leigh's collaborator V.C. Clinton-Baddeley. Purcell seems ever-present in Leigh's setting, except for one key passage, which echoes Mendelssohn's music in a manner that can only be described as uncanny-and pre-meditated. This paper will explore Leigh's suite as both a document of the Mendelssohn 'ban' in totalitarian Germany, and as a witness to a continuing Purcell revival in England, a revival in which Leigh, as a student and protégé of Edward J. Dent, had been involved for most of his career.

Berta Joncus
St Anne's College, Oxford University

'All Nature danc'd to the sweet Tunes he play'd': Handel at Vauxhall and Ranelagh Gardens

Handel's presence in London's pleasure gardens is immortalized by Roubilliac's statue of the composer at Vauxhall. Handel was also present in Garden entertainments, where his music was deployed to mark festivities, benefits and the participation of singers associated with him. This paper analyses the relationship between this remarkable effigy and the music by Handel that was featured at London's two main pleasure gardens. Comparing Roubilliac's statue to competing Handel representations - including a little-known miniature by Zincke - this paper shows how the composer's likeness and musical presence in the pleasure gardens helped broadcast his Orphic powers, profiling him as a local celebrity rather than as an 'Illustrious Head' in an 18th-century portrait gallery. 

Handel's music contributed to the larger project of the gardens' entertainment to simulate a British pastoral idyll for visitors seeking to escape London's urban spaces. Programming and advertising emphasized convergence between the music of nature and that of the gardens' exclusively British offerings. Select numbers by Handel were deemed suitable to this environment, notably Acis and Galatea, L'Allegro ed il Penseroso, Alexander's Feast, and Samson. Common to these works were their classical, often pastoral, allusions and the native pedigree of their librettos. This music realized in sound the statue's instantiation of Handel as an accessible yet sublime poet. Whereas other portraits commemorated Handel's 'Quality', in Vauxhall and Ranelagh Gardens he was the composer who transported visitors while also binding them together in British taste.

Paulo M Kühl

State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil.

Haydn in the musical debate in early 19th-century Rio de Janeiro

Until the arrival of the Portuguese court in Rio de Janeiro in 1808, publishing in Brazil was forbidden. The Notícia Histórica da vida e das obras de José Haydn, by Joachim Le Breton, is the first book on music published in the country. Originally read at the Institut de France in 1810, with two editions in French that same year, it was finally published in Portuguese in 1820, with notes by the anonymous translator and by Sigismund Neukomm. It was completed with excerpts from the following works: the Dictionnaire historique des musiciens (1810-1811) by Charon and Fayolle; the Vies de Haydn, de Mozart et de Métastase (1814) by Stendhal, in the English translation by William Gardiner (1817); the Conversations-Lexicon oder encyclopädisches Handwörterbuch für gebildete Stände (1817); and finally the poem La Música (1779), by Tomás de Iriarte. The book is mainly concerned with biographical anecdotes, and not specifically with Haydn's music, and  insists on the composer's  virtues as a musician and an exemplary man.

Although the history of the diffusion and the reception of Haydn's music in various parts of Brazil is still to be written, the publication of Le Breton's book is important in the musical debate in Rio de Janeiro. The present paper discusses the motives that led to the publication of these specific texts in the then capital of the Lusitanian Empire, where Italian or italianate music - mainly opera and religious music - prevailed. The paper shows that early reception of Haydn in the city  was intimately related to nationalistic issues. The choice of Haydn seems an attempt to put emphasis on "German" music, in order to align it with an idea of "Brazilian" music (represented by the composer José Maurício Nunes Garcia), as opposed to "Italian" and "Portuguese" music, represented by Marcos Portugal.  The involvement of José da Silva Lisboa, high official in the Portuguese court and probable translator, indicates that the political and the intellectual were closely intermingled, and, even if Haydn's music was not very well known in the city, his legacy could still be used in a theoretical debate.

Derek McCulloch
Café Mozart

Popularisations of Haydn's Music in England & Germany in the late 18th Century

In January 1785 the press, despairing of Haydn ever actually coming to this country, suggested he be abducted and "transplanted" to Great Britain, "the country for which his music seems to be made".

From this is clear that his music was not unknown in this country long before his arrival in 1791. The popularity of his music rested primarily with the keyboard works and the two collections each of 12 songs published in 1781 and 1784 in Vienna. Within a short period of time William Shield had published English versions of the first twelve (1786), and the second twelve appeared in 1788, this time with no acknowledgement of the English editor or editors.

English editions played fairly free with the German texts, often substituting them by texts of wildly differing sentiment. Sometimes propriety played a hand, but in some songs a more cheerful effect seems to have been the prime motive.

In Germany the massive popularity of the new "Italian" or Spanish guitar led to versions of the 1781 & 1784 collections appearing with guitar accompaniments, often in keys more favourable to the guitar, sometimes with omissions of parts of the original keyboard accompaniments. The two collections of English Canzonettas of the mid-1790s seem to have escaped this treatment, possibly because of the sophistication of some of the pianoforte writing.

In England there was another means of popularising Haydn's music via the medium of song: the adaptation of instrumental music, both keyboard and instrumental as solo vocal items.

In his talk Derek McCulloch, Proprietor of the chamber music ensemble Café Mozart, will demonstrate these various forms of popularisation, aided by members of  Café Mozart, Rogers Covey-Crump tenor; Jenny Thomas flute; Alastair Ross square piano and Ian Gammie guitar.

Pieter van der Merwe
National Maritime Museum

Macready's Acis and Galatea revisited

The great 19th-century tragedian, William Charles Macready (1793-1873), had two brief periods of management of the London Theatres Royal (Covent Garden, 1836-39, and Drury Lane,1841-43). In both, his championship of both classical and serious new drama took a stand against the contemporary stage's perceived decline into 'brainless pantomime', a trend deplored at the time but more recently explained as part of a general shift toward visualism as a dominant cultural mode, including in literature. His attempts proved short-lived, but his use of well-judged spectacle to increase popular appeal for serious works did see some of the earliest co-ordinated fusion of high production values, in scenery and costume, with what we would now call 'ensemble direction', notably in Shakespeare's Henry V (Covent Garden,1839), and King John and As You Like It (Drury Lane,1842 and 1843).

A further high-minded element in his Drury Lane programme was the re-introduction of rare items of English opera, of which he only managed to stage Handel's 'serenata' Acis and Galatea and Purcell's King Arthur before his regime there ended. In the first Macready had the help of an old friend, Clarkson Stanfield (1793-1867), who had been the greatest stage scene-painter of the age until his theatrical retirement in December 1834 and elevation to Royal Academician (as a marine and landscape painter) in early 1835. Stanfield had already assisted him with some scenery for a pantomime and Henry V at Covent Garden, but for Acis, in February 1842, he designed and led painting of the entire production - something very unusual at the time. 

In 1994 a group of around 80 working designs by Stanfield came to light (only about ten examples being known before) including nearly all for Acis.  Macready himself said of the results that he had 'never seen anything in my life so perfectly beautiful' and spectators from Queen Victoria down noted their agreement. Probably the most spectacular effect was the opening, when the curtain rose on a moonlit Sicilian beach on which the waves broke with an effect of realism that had the audience rise to their feet with applause 'as to a distinguished actor'. Despite some vivid descriptive criticism, details have since been a matter for speculation, though the designs were known to have survived and been re-used in a revival by George Vining at the Princess's Theatre in 1869.

A brief account of this cache, with particular attention to Acis and Galatea, was given to the International Federation of Theatre Research conference at Kent University in 1997 - from which no proceedings were published. Since then (in 2000) the Theatre Museum acquired the entire group. More significantly in terms of reconstructing the Acis production, a copy of the hitherto unlocated published score has also now appeared. This includes lithographs of various scenes in the production, clearly based on sketches from it as staged. They show how Stanfield's work materialized, the blocking of principals and chorus and both small and large visual elements otherwise missing (mainly the last scene 'The Temple of Neptune').

This paper presents an updated visual account of the production, based on this scenic evidence and related documentary sources. The longer-term aim is publication and/or a computer-based 'revival' of the scenic aspects of the production, ideally also using the 1842 published score as arranged by Thomas Simpson Cooke, the Musical Director at Drury Lane.

Ryan Minor
Stony Brook University

Memory and Multiplicity in Felix Mendelssohn's "Gutenberg" Works

Of all the commemorative energies fueling an anniversary year such as 2009, perhaps one result might be the historicization of commemoration itself.  My paper will focus on Felix Mendelssohn's Lobgesang, one of two compositions he wrote for the 1840 Gutenberg celebrations in Leipzig.  I examine how both the work and the festival sought to commemorate Gutenberg: not through a focus on the man himself, but rather the contemporary, German bourgeois culture he was said to have enabled.  That is, commemoration functioned not by appealing to a rhetoric of heroic singularity, but rather to the promise of communal embodiment.

I will suggest that this emphasis on communality helps us approach the beleaguered Lobgesang, which has long-and famously-come under fire for its lack of organic singularity.  In particular, I will discuss how the liberal, participatory rhetoric that fueled the festival has an important correlate in the participatory, "communal" forms of Mendelssohn's music as well as contemporary discussions of counterpoint and choral singing.  This diffusion of commemorative sentiment throughout the festival's participants, as opposed to a focus on Gutenberg himself, challenges much of the emphasis on singularity and exceptionalism that has guided most recent thinking on German festival culture.

Paul F Moulton

The College of Idaho

Tourists in the Drawing Room and the Concert Hall: Haydn's and Mendelssohn's Musical Representations of Scotland

Haydn and Mendelssohn both participated in a European fascination with Scotland that occurred during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Scotland's striking scenery and intriguing history and culture, propagated by the writings of James Macpherson and Walter Scott, captured the imaginations of many, including musicians and tourists.  Inspired by this northern fringe country, Haydn and Mendelssohn produced works that represented an idyllic place that appealed to foreigners and would-be tourists.

Haydn never visited Scotland, but from 1791 to 1804 he arranged several hundred Scottish songs for three different British publishers.  His most fruitful contributions were to George Thomson's six-volume A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs (1793-1841).  Research has been done on Haydn's Scottish arrangements, but little attention has been given to the portrayed image of Scotland in these songbooks.  This paper focuses on these musical representations and discusses the way these songbooks functioned as tourist books for those outside of Scotland.  Performances of these songs often occurred in the drawing rooms of the wealthy, and the songbooks functioned in a way that was similar to the landscape painting or a tourist's Claude glass.  Arrangements, by composers like Haydn, framed and tamed the place and people of Scotland, and allowed for a virtual, musical visit to this idealized place within the comfort of one's own home.

Mendelssohn visited Scotland as a tourist in 1829, and was inspired during his visit to write several pieces, including the Hebrides Overture and the "Scottish" Symphony.  This paper addresses the ways Scotland is represented in these pieces, particularly within the context of the concert hall.  Using historical reviews of the works it shows how audience members responded to the sound imagery presented in the works.  These contemporary critics demonstrated an eagerness to let the imagination take flight to the rugged place of Scotland-a land separate from the structure and artificiality of the concert hall.

Bettina Mühlenbeck (withdrawn)
University of Bern
Friday 27
Saturday 28
Sunday 29