Purcell, Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn: Anniversary Reflections
New College, Oxford
27-29 March 2009
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Mekala Padmanabhan

Haydn in England: Influences on British Domestic Music

Although Haydn's instrumental works had been published in England since 1765, the 1780s saw a very rapid rise in publications of vocal arrangements of his instrumental music and performances of a wide-range of works. In addition to vocal arrangements of pre-existing instrumental works, Haydn's two sets of German Lieder published initially by Artaria in 1781 and 1784 achieved wider appreciation through the hands of English publishers.  Haydn's English canzonettas written in the full spate of the composer's glorious creative productivity after his first London season enjoyed similar success with the British public. When researching late eighteenth-century editions of Haydn's lieder and cazonettas in all their variety, one encounters an abundance of adapted songs as well as keyboard arrangements of this repertory. It is true that the reception history of primarily domestic or salon music such as keyboard pieces and songs can be problematic, given the generally informal and thus socially invisible nature of the repertory. The British Library holdings of numerous-little studied-publications of stylized imitations of Haydn's works, demonstrate salient information to British musical taste, culture and history of the period. The proposed lecture-recital will demonstrate the stylistic significance of Haydn's keyboard works as well as his German and English songs on British domestic music c1800.

Domenico Pietropaolo

University of Toronto

The Aesthetics of Grotesque Dance in the Commedia dell'Arte Tradition

An analysis of the techniques and conventions of  comic dance in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, viewed against the bacground of Baroque aesthetic theory and in the context of contemporary performance practices.  Primary sources include the iconography of comic dance in the Balli di Sfessania tradition,  grotesque lazzi in contemporary commedia dell'arte  manuals, early discussions of the biomechanics of  grotesque movement, and dance scenarios in baroque opera librettos.

Andrew Pinnock and Will Lingard
University of Southampton

Seeking the bubble: The economic basis of musical reputation, and the role of the anniversary as value inflator

In modern cultural economics some of the most interesting and (of course) the most contentious debate centres on the "problem of value":* on notions of value (rival definitions, not all of them economic), on the sources of value, on value transformations over time, and on ways to measure value.

This paper - an attempt to connect cultural economics with musicology - explores the systems which have developed in Western countries over the past few centuries to assign value to musical compositions, to preserve value once assigned, and to contest value when special interest groups see potential benefit in doing so.  Predictably calendared composer anniversaries provide a structure for music-promotional activity, making it much more efficient (efforts would be harder to co-ordinate if the anniversaries passed un-noticed); but they also bring value conflicts out into the open.  Who is celebrating?  Why?  Who isn't celebrating?  Why not?  Who's in charge?  By what right?  If changing power relationships between promoters and their hoped-for audiences change the promoters' goals, then successive celebrations of the same composer's life-work should differ noticeably in tone - a hypothesis developed in Seeking the bubble, and put preliminarily to the test.

Vanessa Rogers

Wabash College, Indiana

'Britons Strike Home': Ballad Opera and the Eighteenth-Century Purcell Revival, 1728-1760

Henry Purcell's (1659-1695) music enjoyed an auspicious revival on the London stage in 1715 with a performance of The Island Princess, and his operas began to be performed with increasing regularity in both full and adapted forms.  In the meantime, vocal music from his theatre pieces circulated widely in print sources such as operatic song-books and single sheet songs.  Intriguingly, many of Purcell's best-known vocal compositions entered the eighteenth-century repertory as traditional English ballad tunes; this trend culminated in their appearance on the stage in ballad opera, one of the most prominent genres on the British stage from 1728-1760.  Ballad opera entertainments appropriated the most popular traditional tunes, dance airs, and opera arias, and were significant in promoting English national identity through their inclusion of burgeoning patriotic anthems such as Purcell's 'Britons Strike Home'.  This paper will demonstrate how Purcell's eighteenth-century revivals intersected with the rise of ballad opera, and how the inclusion of his music in ballad operas helped to promulgate his legacy as one of the greatest of English composers.

Alon Schab

Trinity College, Dublin

Revisiting the known and unknown misprints in Dioclesian 

Henry Purcell's published legacy divides more or less equally between his busy creative life and the two decades following his early death. The temptation of seeing the publications from the composer's time as more authoritative than the posthumous oeuvre is great. Purcell's personal involvement in the editorial process, as well as his hand on numerous proof exemplars, does indeed suggest that the pre-1695 publications are a reliable corpus. However, some of Purcell's printing ventures were so ambitious in scope that even the composer's own supervision could not keep them free of error. His largest publication, Dioclesian, was produced in 1691, when the composer's obligations were becoming more and more demanding. Dioclesian is significantly less reliable than the masterly engraved edition of the Sonatas of Three Parts (1683), perhaps because of those demands on his time; and we have no autograph concordance on which to rely. I will try to show that inner evidence in the printed music betrays characteristic errors that have been overlooked, and that their identification as errors may affect future editions or performances, as well as shed new light on the printing process.

Thomas Schmidt-Beste
University of Bangor

"I think you will say they are better done than the German" - On the English version of Mendelssohn's Antigone

On 28 September 1841, the Royal Prussian Palace of Sanssouci witnessed a cultural event of the highest order: the fully staged performance of Sophocles' Antigone, commissioned by King Frederick William IV, supervised by Ludwig Tieck, with choruses composed specifically for the occasion by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. This novelty caused a prolonged discussion amongst German critics and philologists, and it also quickly led to a number of further staged performances in Germany. After the characteristic flurry of revisions by the composer, the piano-vocal score of the choruses also appeared in print with Kistner in Leipzig in February of 1843. Less well known is the fact that this publication was accompanied by a simultaneous edition in English, with Mendelssohn's London publishers, Ewer & Co. This might seem suprising at first glance since "Grecomania" had not taken hold in England to the same degree as it had in Germany, but the director of Ewer & Co., Edward Buxton, was eager enough to remain Mendelssohn's exclusive publisher in England to take on the economic risk of publishing a work without expectations of high sales. This paper will trace the trials and tribulations of publisher and translator (William Bartholomew, best known to Mendelssohnians as the translator of Elijah) to prepare an edition deemed appropriate to British tastes; in doing so, Bartholomew, who only had the German translation and not the Greek original to work with, attempted to convert the irregular, unrhymed verses into regular rhymed verse, with sometimes surprising results. Not least as a result of the composer's insistence that the choruses had to be performed in the context of the complete play, the first English performance of Antigone did not take place until 1845 and remained marginal to the reception of Mendelssohn in England.

Stephanie Schroedter
University of Bayreuth

Henry Purcell between History and Contemporary Performance Practice: Choreographing Dido and Aeneas

There is hardly any other obviously inconspicuous and plainly planned "opera" like the one by Henry Purcell, Josiah Priest and Nahum Tate which can look back on a similarly amazing 'success story' - even if it only set in long after its premiere or maybe flourished even later, in the first half of the 20th century in the course of the efforts for a scientifically founded and artistically ambitious performance practice of "early music". It looks as if the very roughly sketched concept of Dido and Aeneas, which first and foremost aims at immediacy and directness, while at the same time showing extraordinary emotional depth, has not insignificantly contributed to its still lasting and repeatedly successful reception. But also the fact that its sources were passed down only fragmentarily, which still poses riddles for us until today, seems to be a special challenge, not only for the music and dance historiography, but especially for the artistic creativity of musicians, directors and last but not least of choreographers. By comparing the three choreographic approaches to Henry Purcells's composition by Reinhild Hoffmann (Bremen 1984), Mark Morris (Brussels 1989) and Sasha Waltz (Berlin 2005) I would like to demonstrate not only different dance interpretations of a pre-existing musical score, but also the possible transformation processes of an opera including dance, which comes from the English Masque tradition, into a modern dance theatre up to a "hybrid" musical theatre.

Benedict Taylor
Princeton University

Beyond the Ethical and Aesthetic: On reconciling religious art with secular art-religion in Mendelssohn historiography

It has long been customary - indeed it is now rather a discredited cliché - to use binary divisions to describe Mendelssohn or divide his oeuvre into two.  Greg Vitercik, for instance, calling upon the imprimatur of George Bernard Shaw and Tovey, speaks of 'two Mendelssohns' - the "immensely talented, vigorously original" Mendelssohn of the Octet, Hebrides and Midsummer Night's Dream Overtures and a pseudo-Mendelssohn of the Lobgesang, St Paul, and Elijah, those "platitudinous monuments to early Victorian seriousness".  What Vitercik's comment clearly delineates is the ideological nature of this division and its rootedness in a conflict - or rather apathy - with the religious or broadly speaking 'ethical' elements of Mendelssohn's music.  From a rather less judgemental perspective John Toews has similarly characterised a dualism in Mendelssohn's work between his "secular, instrumental, "humanist" music in which he presented himself as the heir of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven" and the "German Protestant tradition of sacred liturgical music".

 This paper focuses on the implications this hypothetical split in Mendelssohn's work has had for the historiography and reception of his music, focusing particularly on the Lobgesang, a 'symphony-cantata' poised (for some perilously) between the sacred and secular.  Starting from valuable interpretations by Mark Evan Bonds and Toews of this work as a Christian 'misreading' of Beethoven's Ninth, I consider the conflicting demands of ethics and aesthetics in coming to an understanding of Mendelssohn's music, drawing on the parallels here with Mendelssohn's notable contemporary Søren Kierkegaard that Eric Werner had suggestively hinted at back in 1963.  Yet it is far from clear that this assumed division was ever a major problem for Mendelssohn himself, and one must be aware how much this issue - as with the fabled 'Mendelssohn Problem' - remains a historian's (or historiographical) construct.

Jennifer Thorp
New College, Oxford

'To come to a resolution about the dancers': Anthony L'Abbé and the staging of opera at the King's Theatre, London, 1719-1721

Studies of the Royal Academy of Music, founded in 1719 to stage Italianate opera at the King's Theatre in London, have understandably tended to concentrate on the role of Handel in furthering the Academy's work, and on the impact of the Italian singers brought in for the operas. A few brief references in the records of the 1719 season however indicate that another person consulted if not directly involved in the Academy's early operas was Anthony L'Abbé, arguably the foremost choreographer and dancing-master of his day in London. Although it is clear that by its second or third seasons financial stringencies had virtually cut out dance as an integral part of the operas staged by the Royal Academy, the early productions - Numitore and Radamisto in particular - certainly contained scenes which required professional dancers. But where did L'Abbé find his dancers, and who were they?  No records of any dance troupe at the King's Theatre survive for the early 1720s, but a closer look at what was happening (in dance terms) within those two operas and elsewhere in the London theatres at that time might offer one or two clues.

Sandra Tuppen
The British Library

Purcell in the eighteenth century: music for the 'Quality, Gentry, and others'

In the second half of the eighteenth century, music clubs and concert series aimed at various classes of society flourished in England. Among such institutions were the Academy of Ancient Music, the Concert of Antient Music, the Noblemen and Gentlemen's Catch Club and the Madrigal Society. The music libraries and administrative archives of some of these institutions survive, and reveal much about the music performed at such gatherings.  In this paper I shall look at the contribution that Purcell's music made to these occasions. Following on from Ellen Harris's study of eighteenth-century sources for Dido & Aeneas and Arne's arrangement of King Arthur, I shall look at some of the performing material from these societies, including a set of eighteenth-century manuscript parts for King Arthur recently acquired by the British Library, and examine it for evidence of arrangement and modification to suit contemporary taste.

 Ellen T. Harris, Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (Oxford, 1987) and 'King Arthur's journey into the eighteenth century', in Purcell Studies, ed. Curtis Price (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 257-289.

David Vickers

Roundtable on recorded history

The role of commercial recording ventures has undoubtedly played a vital role in the dissemination of music since the early 20th century. In a mixture of brief separate surveys and round-table panel discussion, contributors Roger Savage (Purcell), David Vickers (Handel), Richard Wigmore (Haydn) and Kenneth Hamilton (Mendelssohn) explore the development of their respective composer's discographies, examine changing trends and characteristics, assess the artistic and scholarly value of recordings, and speculate about how the four anniversary composers can be served by the classical recording industry in future.

Peter Ward-Jones
The Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Forty Years of Mendelssohn Research - a Librarian's Reflections

The past forty years or so have seen a radical transformation in the availability of source material on Mendelssohn and his family. Much material previously held in private hands (mostly those of descendants) has been acquired by libraries, while the autographs donated by the family to the Königliche Bibliothek in Berlin in 1878, have once more become generally available, having for several decades after World War II been either hard of access or considered lost. Catalogues of many of these resources have also appeared, and we are at last about to see a scholarly thematic catalogue of Mendelssohn's works. Oxford, with its own very considerable Mendelssohn collection, has become one of the nerve centres of post-war Mendelssohn research, and this paper considers the developments as viewed by a librarian who has witnessed much of the change and its effect on research into the composer and his circle.

Christopher Wiley
City University, London

Late Victorian Appropriations in the Biographies of Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn

Previous scholarship by Marian Wilson Kimber and David Gramit has explored the ways in which later nineteenth-century English writers recast specific Great Composers in a suitably Victorian light. This paper adopts a more comparative approach in order to investigate, with reference to an array of important biographical texts, the extent of such reconstruction and appropriation across the life-writing on perhaps the three most obvious candidates. Reading in tandem the articles on Handel and Mendelssohn in the first edition of Grove's Dictionary (1878-1890), for instance, reveals that the rhetoric by which the naturalized composer was claimed for England was manifestly similar to that for an indisputably German subject; while the earliest 'Master Musicians' biography of Handel (1901, by C. F. Abdy Williams) even situated the composer between Purcell and the English Musical Renaissance to justify the aridity of the country's musical scene in the intervening period through what the author perceived as Handel's inescapable influence. Given the absence of analogous English creative genius for much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, biographers apparently emphasized the country's recognition and support of such greatness in foreigners by way of instead promoting notions of a surrogate national tradition in which non-native composers could flourish.

Amanda Eubanks Winkler
Syracuse University

'In Harmony, Celestial Harmony, All Magick Charms are found': Musical Politics in The British Enchanters

In 1706 the first new dramatick opera in five years, George Granville's The British Enchanters, enjoyed enormous success at the theatre in the Haymarket. A reworking of the medieval romance Amadis of Gaul via Philippe Quinault and Jean-Baptiste Lully's Amadis (1684), Granville's extravaganza featured vocal music by John Eccles and Bartholomew Isaack and instrumental music by William Corbett. Given its foreign roots and the fact that a version of the opera may have been penned by a youthful Granville as early as the mid-1680s, the text of The British Enchanters might seem to be thoroughly disconnected from English turn-of-the-century discourses and debates.

In fact, as this paper demonstrates, Granville obviously revised and updated the work and, like the playwright and critic John Dennis, he was particularly concerned with legitimising dramatick opera as a moralistic and nationalistic enterprise. Read through the lens of contemporary debates over theatrical immorality and the lasciviousness of Italian opera, I show how Granville and his collaborators defined morality and heroism in English musical terms.

Susan Wollenberg

Faculty of Music, University of Oxford

Haydn in Oxford

Highlights of the Oxford musical scene and the University's calendar of events in the eighteenth century were the visits of Handel, in 1733, and Haydn in 1791. Handel seems to have refused the University's offer of an honorary degree; his music, however, remained popular in Oxford. Haydn gracefully accepted the award of the honorary D. Mus., and bore his title of 'Dr Haydn' proudly thereafter. Although he was in the city only briefly in July 1791, the performance history of Haydn's music in Oxford stretched over decades during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, making a significant contribution to the cultivation of his works in the English provinces.  This paper, in documenting this history, considers to what extent Haydn was placed alongside Handel in the esteem of Oxford performers and audiences of the period.
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