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New(ish) book on British music


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Author Topic: New(ish) book on British music  (Read 194 times)
Albion
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Frederic Cowen (1852-1935)


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« on: November 03, 2019, 12:41:55 pm »

This looks worth investigating, at a good price on Amazon...

https://www.theletterworthpress.org/Music/index.html

https://www.amazon.co.uk/History-Music-British-Isles-Afterwards/dp/2970065479/ref=dp_return_2?_encoding=UTF8&n=266239&s=books

I have the standard texts (Brown's Symphonic Repertoire, Schaarwachter's Two Centuries of British Symphonism, Temperley's The Romantic Age, Calwell's Oxford History of English Music, etc.) but this latest survey has passed me by. Does any member have it? The chapter listing looks quite comprehensive...

 :)
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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2019, 05:22:59 pm »

Probably too encyclopedic (pushing 1200 pages) for my interest, readability notwithstanding, - nor does popular music really engage me, which apparently receives detailed treatment.
OTOH, Schaarwachter's work takes 1200 pages to cover only two centuries of British Symphonism (marred as it is by stopping at 1945), so this is comparatively speaking a mere digest.

BTW, I'll stick with Layton's Guide to the Symphony and the old Simpson edited volumes over Peter Brown's multi-tomed many thousand paged Symphonic Repertoire, - embarrassing to admit as that might be (do you claim to have read right through the latter?). 

The Letterworth blurb refers to this as the first full-scale history of British music in fifty years, - just who wrote the last one, and what's a good smaller scale history covering this ground in lesser detail (doesn't have to be newish) and treating Classical or Art Music only, - no Beatles or Spice Girls, etc.?

I haven't any proper history of English Music on my shelves at all, but only a few titles on the English Musical Renaissance period and Twentieth Century composers.
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2019, 05:16:55 pm »

You mention the book and then quit any discussion, so what was the point, - just that it exists?  It's the bane of discussion forums (including this one), - people's inability (or lack of desire) to sustain attention and reflection whereby anything substantial is ever established or even suggested.  Just these piecemeal little (thread) fragments that get thrown out here and then dropped just as quickly, abrogating any elaborations and associations that might be informative or even enriching.
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Albion
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2019, 06:05:53 pm »

I am sorry not to have replied earlier - the site didn't show that my original post had even been displayed! I'm afraid I'm a fan of reference books, whether consulted regularly or not and I doubt if anybody has "read" Brown et al's Symphonic Repertoire!

I rather like John Caldwell's Oxford History of English Music in two fairly compact volumes (1999) and can also recommend Percy Young's A History of British Music (1967), which is sympathetic to many composers then, and still, off the beaten track.

As an overall guide (to international Symphonic repertoire) I fully agree that the volume edited by Robert Layton (1993) is excellent and treats a reasonable range of British composers. I'd also recommend, beside the Simpson (ed) surveys, Ralph Hill's The Symphony (1949). Otherwise, it's pretty much single-composer volumes...

 :)
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2019, 10:27:56 pm »

Having discovered a PDF of pages 1-15 of Volume 1 of Bristow-Smith's History, I must say I'm now intrigued by it given the readability of what I perused and his approach to the topic there described.  I might just spring for Volume 2 (focused on the period, composers, and works of my primary interest) and see where it goes. Initially worried there could be copious score extracts and related technical verbiage to inhibit the narrative flow and induce exasperation, the author relaxes me by describing his own wishes prior to undertaking the endeavor himself:

   "I wanted a broad narrative that told the story of Music in Britain, the composers and their lives, their music and the way it evolved over the centuries, - and also
    set that story against the background of social, political, technical and technological change.  I wanted a book that could be useful to the musically-minded and
    musically-informed and would also appeal to lay readers, those who love music but do not play it and cannot face a succession of musical examples on the page."

Perfect approach for me, - but still it's long (fine if the style and accessibility is what I hope for). 

In his preface, Bristow-Smith refers to Percy Young's History (1967) as closest to the approach he envisioned, - a narrative of English Musical life "that would fit all the pieces together",  if still not adequate to the purpose, (could Young's work be the last "full-scale" History from 50 years ago the Letterworth blurb refers too, - but then what about the Oxford volumes you speak of, which seem full-scale in their own right?).  In any case, Young's History is over 600 pages,  - still a quite lengthy tome.  Even if just as a summary and highlights, I could wish for something half that length, - achieved for other national traditions, so why not England?

Not any sort of History and much more modest, there's one little volume invaluable to me over the years in providing context and description for the last century "Renaissance composers" I so love exploring and listening to, - namely A. L. Bacharach's "British Music in Our Time" (Penguin, 1951).  If Bristow-Smith's work proved to be an expansion and more fully developed incarnation and formalization of that book's style and substance (as far as it extends) I would be happy.




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Albion
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« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2019, 08:35:40 am »

Yes, it sounds as though this could well be a valuable addition to the shelf, with a not-too-technical approach but also putting the music into some social context.

I can only assume that the Percy Young book is what is referred to as the last such study. You could probably pick up a second-hand copy of that fairly cheap - mine was ex-library and I think I paid something like 1.00 for it! Money well spent...

 ;)
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« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2019, 11:37:09 am »

I enjoyed Michael Trend's "The Music Makers", which was less of a history of music than a collection of short studies of composers of the English Musical Renaissance, though it's a shame that he ignores Sullivan, Parry, Stanford, Mackenzie and their generations and starts with Elgar. Very readable and a nice introduction to some composers who have not received much attention, though his dismissal of Ethel Smyth irritated me.
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« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2019, 02:01:09 pm »

Yes, Trend is very readable as is Peter Pirie's The English Musical Renaissance (1979), though I disagree with many of his assessments, given that he was writing in a period before the recent CD revolution which has revived so much repertoire with revelatory results...

We are lucky today in what we have available to us without having to rely on score-reading ability! But there is clearly much more to be explored.

 :)
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« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2019, 05:21:24 pm »

For some reason this thread doesn't appear until I have logged in - hence my delay in replying initially. This seems odd...

 ???
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"A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it." (Sydney Grew, 1922)

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