The Orchestra in the XVIIIth Century

The Orchestra in the XVIIIth Century

The Orchestra in the XVIIIth Century

The Orchestra in the XVIIIth Century


The ground covered in these pages has hardly been touched in English, and only partially in German by Mennicke and Schünemann, and in French by Cucuel and Brenet.

Information about 18th century orchestras must obviously come from contemporary sources. These sources are not many, nor very explicit, for those who wrote about music in the 18th century, like their 19th and 20th century successors, have always been more ready to devote their attention to individuals and their works than to corporate bodies and their playing. In a mass of biographical, critical and analytical matter it is only rarely that the investigator is able to retrieve scraps of information, usually given incidentally, on which to build up the story of the development of the orchestra during the period in which it made its most vital growth. Histories of music, of musicians and of musical instruments cover a wide and ever expanding field, but the growth of that great composite instrument, the orchestra, has been so neglected by historians that it has always been difficult to know where to turn for information.

In the following pages the attempt has been made to piece together the story of how the orchestra grew, from its infancy at the end of the 17th century to its adolescence at the end of the 18th century, to recover and collect the widely scattered matter on which alone such a story could be based, and at the same time to co-ordinate the evolution of the performing body with that of its expression through the medium of orchestration.

For kind help in the labour of research the author is much indebted to his friends W. F. H. Blandford, Esq., R. B. Chatwin, Esq., R. Morley Pegge, Esq., and especially to Lyndesay G. Langwill, Esq., and Geoffrey Sharp, Esq., for invaluable help in reading the proofs.


Great Missenden, 1940.

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