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Reviewed by:
  • Symphony in G Minor, and: Symphonies, and: Sonatas for Violin and Pianoforte
  • Christina Bashford
Cipriani Potter. Symphony in G Minor [1832]. Edited by Julian Rushton. London: Stainer and Bell, 2001. (Musica Britannica, 77.) [Pref. in Eng., Fr., Ger., p. xvii–xix; introd., p. xxi–xxvi; the sources, p. xxvii–xxix; editorial notes, p. xxx–xxxii; notes on performance, p. xxxiii; select bibliography, p. xxxiv; acknowledgments, p. xxxv; facsims., p. xxxvi–xxxix; score, 133 p.; sources, p. 135; textual commentary, p. 136–37. Cloth. ISMN M-2202-2005-0; ISBN 0-85249-864-0. £72.50.
Alice Mary Smith. Symphonies. Edited by Ian Graham-Jones. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, Inc., c2003. (Recent Researches in the Music of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, 38.) [Acknowledgments, p. vi; introd., p. vii–xii; 5 plates; score, 344 p.; crit. report, p. 345–49. ISBN 0-89579-550-7. $170.] Contains: Symphony in C Minor (1863); Symphony in A Minor (1876).
Hubert Parry. Sonatas for Violin and Pianoforte. Edited by Jeremy Dibble. London: Stainer and Bell, 2003. (Musica Britannica, 80.) [Pref. in Eng., Fr., Ger., p. xvii–xix; introd., p. xxi–xxv; the sources, p. xxvi–xxix; editorial notes, p. xxx; select bibliography, p. xxxi; acknowledgments, p. xxxii; facsims., p. xxxiii–xxxvii; score, 85 p.; textual commentary, p. 87–90. Cloth. ISMN M-2202-2053-1; ISBN 0-85249-876-4. £67.] Contains: Sonata in D Minor; Fantasie Sonata; Sonata in D Major.

Something that probably still takes most students of nineteenth-century British music by surprise is the sheer volume of serious, symphonic-scale composition that was produced by composers in Britain during the period so often dubbed a dark age in the country's creative musical life. For any close examination of the performance history sources quickly reveals that symphonies, overtures, string quartets, piano trios, and the like were composed and often publicly played in Victorian Britain in far more significant numbers than most histories of music have ever suggested. Examples in the sphere of chamber music range from works written specifically for the Society of British Musicians (1834–65), such as the prize-winning String Quartet in G Major by Edward Perry (b. 1811), to those programmed at London's South Place Chamber Concerts (established 1887), for instance the Piano Quintet in D Minor, op. 25 (1886), by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924), and the Sonata for Viola and Piano, op. 29 (1897), by Ernest Walker (1870–1949). Some scholars, especially in past generations, may have voiced disappointment that much of this repertory of art music fails to achieve much distinctiveness, originality, or national voice; but in more revisionist times we now seek to understand this repertory's debt to Austro-German models and idioms as something culturally and historically defined: a symptom of a milieu in which cosmopolitanism remained a significant constituent of music's Britishness. In this respect it is striking that several composers working across the century, from Henry R. Bishop (1786– 1855) to Ebenezer Prout (1835–1909), seem to have shared a passionate urge to make their mark in the genres that epitomized high musical art, refusing to be put off by a national cultural indifference toward their music's dissemination. I am thinking here of the difficulties of obtaining subsequent performances of a work after a premiere and the obstacles to getting serious instrumental music published in Britain. Many composers, such as Charles Edward Stephens (1821–1892) and George Alexander Macfarren (1813–1887), sought publication abroad, typically in Germany, Stanford himself admitting in letters that he held out little hope of his chamber music being published in England. As a result, dozens of works that remained only in manuscript, even after performance, are no longer extant and stay lost to posterity.

Not so, though, the edited music under review here, for which sources happily survive in British libraries: Cipriani Potter's Symphony in G Minor of 1832 (the Royal Academy of Music; the British Library), Alice Mary Smith's symphonies in C minor (1863) and A minor (1876; both in the Royal Academy of Music), and Hubert Parry's violin sonatas in D minor and D major, and...


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