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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 436 Volume 17, New Series, May 8, 1852   By:

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No. 436. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, MAY 8, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d.


'The English are not a musical people.' The dictum long stood unquestioned, and, in general estimation, unquestionable. All the world had agreed upon it. There could be no two opinions: we had no national airs; no national taste; no national appreciation of sweet sounds; musically, we were blocks! At length, however, the creed began to be called in question were we so very insensible? If so, considering the amount of music actually listened to every year in London and the provinces, we were strangely given to an amusement which yielded us no pleasure; we were continually imposing on ourselves the direst and dreariest of tasks; we were tormenting ourselves with symphonies, and lacerating our patience with sonatas and rondos. What was the motive? Hypocrisy was very generally assigned. We only affected to love music. It was intellectual, spiritual, in all respects creditable to our moral nature, to be able to appreciate Mozart and Beethoven, and so we set up for connoisseurs, and martyrised ourselves that Europe might think us musical. Is there more truth in this theory than the other? Hypocrisy is not generally so lasting as the musical fervour has proved itself to be. A fashion is the affair of a season; a mania goes as it came; but regularly and steadily, for many years back, has musical appreciation been progressing, and as regularly have the opportunities for hearing good music of all kinds been extending.

Take up a daily newspaper, published any time between April and August, and range your eye down the third or fourth column of the first page what an endless array of announcements of music, vocal and instrumental! Music for the classicists; music for the crowd; symphonies and sonatas; ballads and polkas; harmonic societies; choral societies; melodists' clubs; glee clubs; madrigal clubs. Here you have the quiet announcement of a quartett party; next to it, the advertisement of one of the Philharmonic Societies the giants of the musical world; pianoforte teachers announce one of their series of classic performances; great instrumental soloists have each a concert for the special behoof and glorification of the bénéficiaire . Mr So and so's grand annual concert jostles Miss So and so's annual benefit concert. There are Monday concerts, and Wednesday concerts, and Saturday concerts; there are weekly concerts, fortnightly concerts, and monthly concerts; there are concerts for charities, and concerts for benefits; there are grand morning concerts, and grand evening concerts; there are matinées musicales , and soirées musicales ; there are meetings, and unions, and circles, and associations all of them for the performance of some sort of music. There are musical entertainments by the score: in the City; in the suburbs; at every institute and hall of science, from one end of London to the other. One professor has a ballad entertainment; a second announces a lecture, with musical illustrations; a third applies himself to national melodies. All London seems vocal and instrumental. Every dead wall is covered with naming affiches , announcing in long array the vast army of vocal and instrumental talent which is to assist at such and such a morning performance; and the eyes of the owner of a vast musical stomach are dazzled and delighted by programmes which will at least demand five hours in the performance.

So is London, in the course of the season, the congress of nearly all the performing musical notabilities of Europe. Time has been when they came to London for cash, not renown: now they come for both. A London reputation is beginning to rival a Parisian vogue, besides being ten times more profitable; and, accordingly, from every musical corner in Christendom, phenomena of art pour in, heralded by the utmost possible amount of puffing, and equally anxious to secure English gold and a London reputation... Continue reading book >>

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