Notes 59.2 (2002) 424-425
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Richard Leveridge. Complete Songs (with the Music in Macbeth). (Music for London Entertainment, 1660-1800, ser. A: Music for Plays 1660- 1714, vol. 6.) London: Stainer & Bell, 1997. [List of vols. available, p. vi-vii; pref. (Stanley Sadie), p. viii; list of songs, p. ix-xii; introd. "Richard Leveridge: His Life and Songs" (Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson), p. xiii-xxvi; facsim. reprod. 227 p.; notes on the songs, 12 p.; index of first lines and song titles, 3 p.; indexes of authors, stage works, singers, and tunes, 2 p.; index of ballad operas, 1 p. Cloth. ISMN M-2202-1885-9; ISBN 0-85249-841-1. £120.]
Too little is known about English theater music in the immediate decades after Henry Purcell's death—or, rather, insufficient musicological energies have been applied to this topic. And this is something of a shame, for the music that is available in modern edition or facsimile by Daniel Purcell, Jeremiah Clarke, John Eccles, and a few others makes a compelling case for a musically rich and imaginative theater scene in early-eighteenth-century London. Not all the music is first rate, but many of the examples I have seen (alas, rarely heard) appear to be the effective efforts of well-skilled musical dramatists, who of course learned their craft directly or indirectly from the masterful Henry Purcell. The singer-composer Richard Leveridge (1670- 1758), who emerged on the London scene in the late 1690s and maintained his position as a significant man of the theater for over fifty years, occupies a perhaps more peripheral position as a composer than the trio named above, although his longevity as a great bass vocalist and general theatrical influence certainly merits attention.
The volume here under review comprises all of Leveridge's songs, many of which were first written for plays and performed therein by Leveridge himself, and is thus a most welcome addition to the facsimile series Music for London Entertainment. It is a unique one as well, bringing together a single composer's "collected works" from a variety of sources rather than focusing on a single publication or manuscript (or a small group of related ones), as is true of all the other volumes published in the series so far. The authors of the volume's preface, Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson, have gone well beyond the sort of work normally involved in introducing a facsimile, selecting from various early editions of Leveridge's songs the best available and presenting them in a coherent sequence. Their aim is "to maintain, as far as possible, the integrity of [Leveridge's] five collections" (p. xxv). (The collections, all printed in London by various publishers, are A New Book of Songs, 1697; A Second Book of Songs ; A New Book of Songs ; A Collection of Songs, 1727, in two volumes; and A Collection of Songs .) Baldwin and Wilson present these chronologically, interrupting them with three groups of songs from various sources: 1696?-1710, 1714-ca. 1725, and 1728-53 (see the "List of Songs," pp. ix-xii). Closing the volume is Leveridge's music from Macbeth (1702), described by Baldwin and Wilson as the composer's "most important work" (p. xvi) and given here in a 1770 version, edited by William Boyce with an influential misattribution to Matthew Locke, which led to, among other things, Charles Burney's high praise of Locke.
This compilation provides an opportunity to measure Leveridge's abilities as a composer, and in this task users of this volume will find Baldwin and Wilson's commentary most helpful, directing them to his most popular works as determined by [End Page 424] contemporaneous writings, as well as information on the frequency of reissues. Leveridge's early success with his music for The Island Princess (1699)—he shared the compositional duties for this semiopera with Daniel Purcell and Clarke—is, for example, evidenced through the comments of librettist Peter Motteux, who noted that Leveridge's contributions "are too particularly lik'd not to engage me to thank him...