- Music and Performance Culture in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Essays in Honour of Nicholas Temperley ed. by Bennett Zon
No longer is Great Britain known as “The Land Without Music.” In the past few decades, research into nineteenth-century British musical life has flourished, revealing Britain to be a land that, contrary to past musicological belief, was filled to the brim with musical activity. This re-writing of music history is due in large part to the prolific, ground-breaking research of one man, Nicholas Temperley. Music and Performance Culture in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Essays in Honour of Nicholas Temperley celebrates his achievements in British music studies and contribution to the larger field of musicology. Temperley’s life work, as editor Bennett Zon states in this collection’s introduction, “has been prosecuting a campaign against ignorance and prejudice [in musicology], subtly reconfiguring the way we think about nineteenth-century British musical history by unsettling certitudes with compellingly argued ideas” (p. 2). “Dismantling previous models,” Temperley “re-defines the parameters of the field, pushing the boundaries of musicology through far-reaching, transformative thought.” (p. 4 and p. 2, respectively).
The essays in this collection showcase the diverse strains of British music scholarship that Temperley’s innovative research established and generated. Reaching beyond the traditional musicological fodder of composers and musical works, his oeuvre brought to light flourishing professional and amateur performance cultures in Britain’s public, sacred, and domestic arenas. The breadth and scope of this work is detailed in “Nicholas Temperley’s Publications,” located in the volume’s appendix. As Charles Edward McGuire writes in the opening to his essay, “a major benefit of Temperley’s scholarly work has been the encouragement … of musicological inquiry into the more ephemeral areas and genres of English music”—the “nooks and crannies” in nineteenth-century British musical culture (p. 173). These varied performance cultures and the “nooks and crannies” that comprise them reveal the depth and breadth of that subject. Such themes are fittingly represented by the authors of essays in this collection, many of whom are leaders in this young subdiscipline of British music studies. Many of these scholars—again following in the footsteps of Temperley—have been seminal in the establishment and success of conferences and societies in the United Kingdom and North America that cultivate research into nineteenth-century British music. In fact, this collection was published just weeks prior to the Fifth Biennial Conference of the North American British Music Studies [End Page 96] Association, held at the University of Illinois, in honor of Temperley’s distinguished career there and its impact on North American scholars.
Including topics from throughout the British long nineteenth century, this collection puts studies of the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian eras side-by-side for the first time. The essays are grouped into four sections: “Musical Cultures,” “Societies,” “National Music,” and “Methods.” The first two of these center on Britain’s rich, busy, and varied musical life. Including just two essays, the third part, “National Music” is the shortest section of the book. Finally, “Methods” concludes the volume, focusing on pedagogical and performance issues of Georgian and Victorian music books and instruments. While Zon’s sections certainly reflect important subdivisions in nineteenth-century British musical life, other important, more specific, subtextual “nooks and crannies” run throughout essays in the collection. It is these unifying themes that I wish to emphasize here.
Many of the collection’s essays highlight the role of musical connoisseurs and their numerous musical societies, which shaped musical culture in Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian Britain. Simon McVeigh details the role of the Anacreontic Society in sculpting the tastes of the musical establishment in late eighteenth-century London. A men’s drinking club comprised of both knowledgeable bourgeois amateurs and entrepreneurial professionals, this society’s low-key concerts offered trial-run opportunities for established and fledgling performers and composers before premiering works at higher-stakes venues such as the Hanover...