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Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals

The Musical World [MWO]
(London, 1836-1865)
Prepared by Richard Kitson

The preeminent nineteenth-century British music journal, The Musical World: a Weekly Record of Musical Science, Literature, and Intelligence, was published weekly in London. This RIPM publication deals with the journal from its inception to 30 December 1865. Founded by the well-known music publisher J. Alfred Novello, The Musical World was at first edited by several important literary and musical scholars. In 1844 James William Davison became the owner of the journal which he edited until his death in 1885.

The topics of major articles published in The Musical World are unusually wide ranging and cover issues about musical performance, history and theory. While the journal focuses on issues affecting the progress of music in Britain it also treats music and music making on the continent and in North America. Regularly encountered are biographical sketches of leading British and foreign musicians, histories, and, annual reports of institutions such as the Philharmonic Society, the Society of British Musicians, the New Philharmonic Society, the Sacred Harmonic Society, the provincial music festivals of Worcester, Gloucester, Hereford, Leeds and Birmingham, and many other institutions of lesser importance. The prospectuses of the major opera houses, forthcoming festivals, and concert series such as the Monday Popular Concerts and the Crystal Palace Concerts appear without fail. Reports from provincial cities are published regularly.

Of particular interest are the many summaries of the dramatic and musical situations of new and old operas, oratorios and cantatas. Controversial questions- concerning standard pitch and acoustics, the construction of organs and their placement in cathedrals and churches, the conflict between traditional Anglican chant, Gregorian chant and congregational hymnody- are treated both in original correspondence and in learned articles. The many issues related to everyday business and finance of the British musical world, including the management of theatres, music publishing, performers’ fees, music copyright, and governmental support of the Established Church are reported in detail.

The great span of time during which Davison reviewed on operatic productions at Her Majesty’s Theatre, The Royal Italian Opera (Covent Garden) and the Theatre Royal (Drury Lane) permitted him to compare the original London casts with those that followed. The promenade concerts (Jullien, Musard and Alfred Mellon), important in the development of public music appreciation, the annual monster concerts of Julius Benedict and Luigi Arditi are described in detail. Davison also provides the reader with an historical recounting of the rise of the solo pianoforte recital in reviews of innovative concerts given by Leopold de Mayer, Emanuel Aguilar, Charles Hallé, Wilhelm Kuhe and Arabella Goddard. The establishment of regular chamber music concerts is an important topic in the journal.

The vicissitudes of English opera performed by English singers is a topic of exceptional interest throughout many years. Each new work by Michael Balfe, William Vincent Wallace, Edward James Loder and other composers receives detailed analysis and somewhat partisan review. Of particular interest are the several schemes to finance full-fledged English opera companies in London for a winter season, and the efforts of the singers and managers Louisa Pyne and William Harrison who worked diligently in this regard. English opera, performed by English singers was well-received in the United States, and Davison was zealous to reproduce many American reviews reflecting this.


Hardcover • ISBN 0-8357-2430-1 • 11 volumes
Softcover Reprint • forthcoming - See Reprint Publication Schedule
Hardcover & Softcover Reprint Pricing



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