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FORUM To the Editor In reviewing my book 77ie Lost Chord: Essays on Victorian Music (VR 16.2 [1990]: 61-7), John Rempel either chose, or was asked and agreed, to compare it with Carl Dahlhaus's Nineteenth-Century Music. Of course, the two are incomparable: one a necessarily hesitant venture, to explore a marginal and almost unknown field; the other a confident assessment of one of the greatest and most thoroughly researched bodies of art music, already known and loved by every reader. Rempel begins by admitting that the two books could hardly differ more from one another. Nevertheless, he constantly compares them, and finally allows the late Professor Dahlhaus himself unwittingly to condemn all Victorian music and "Nebenromantiker," "if we accept an aesthetic judgment which exalts quality ofart above its social-historical context" His conclusion, then, is that one should not bother to write about Victorian music at all. Rempel bolsters this argument by boldly asserting that Beethoven was a better composer than Ouseley, and that Wolfs songs surpass Somervell's. He defines my aims as "to empower, to demarginalize, Victorian music." No thanks. My own aim, as both editor and author, is dearly stated in the Introduction: to investigate Victorian music, in the hope of discovering why an art so vital and central to the Victorians themselves has left so little by way of permanent heritage. A secondary aim is to encourage performance so that réévaluation will be possible (Rempel is naive in thinking that music can be judged solely by looking at scores). The several aims of the other authors can be discovered in their chapters, but none of them answers to Rempel's borrowed jargon. However, I am quite accustomed to reviewers who find it easiest to reaffirm received aesthetic judgments, and I would not normally have troubled to reply. But Rempel goes altogether beyond his authority when he says: "Although Temperley*s collection aims to legitimize Victorian music, his enthusiasm for it is less than ingenuous." My enthusiasm does not extend to all Victorian music by any means, but it is perfectly genuine as far as it goes. Does Rempel think I am faking it? How can he possibly know? The accusation is preposterous! What I suppose he meant to say, judging by the rest of the paragraph, is that I have made false claims, one about another scholar's treatment of Victorian music, the other about one Victorian composer's innate gifts. First, I said that Leon Plantinga's Romantic Music is "the first general FORUM51 book on nineteenth-century music that accords adequate consideration to British music." Rempel comments: "But Temperley does not tell unwary readers that Plantinga's 'adequate consideration' . . . means a mere six pages out of 460." Having read Dahlhaus's book, if nothing else, Rempel might have realized that six pages out of460 is an extraordinary departure from the normal treatment In my judgment, indeed, it is adequate. I do not claim that British music should be given equal time to German, French, Italian, Russian, or Czech music in that period, but I applaud Plantinga's decision to give some serious consideration to the music of a nation that was in many other fields the leader of Europe. Secondly, in debating my central question (why there were no great Victorian composers), I pointed out that there were indeed some child prodigies; later I argued that there was something in the society that discouraged musical talent. Among the prodigies was Frederick Ouseley, who, as I said, "had two compositions reviewed in print before he was nine." Rempel says This sounds convincing, even canon-making" (Ugh! That was not its intent). He thinks I should have mentioned that one of the reviews was in the same periodical that printed the composition (why?), and he actually reprints the latter, and comments: "Whether the piece isjuvenile in every sense, readers mayjudge"; then follows the astute comparison with Beethoven's Op. 26. WeIL of course, the piece is juvenile in every sense; so were Beethoven's pieces written at the same age. But the editor of The Harmonicen was right in pointing out that it showed an unusual talent which, properly nurtured and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 50-52
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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