Magazine article Musical Times

Public & Private

Magazine article Musical Times

Public & Private

Article excerpt

Public & private Salomon and the Barneys: private patronage and a public career Ian Woodfield Royal Musical Association Monographs 12 Ashgate (Aldershot, 2003); 90pp; £35. ISBN 0 7546 3612 7.

Bound for America: three British composers Nicholas Temperley University of Illinois Press (Urbana and Chicago, 2003); xiii, 236pp; $34.95. ISBN 0 252 02847 3.

Charles Edward Horn's Memoirs of his Father and Himself Edited by Michael Kassler Ashgate & The Society for Theatre Research (Aldershot & London, 2003); ix, 131pp;£20. ISBN 0 7546 3174 5.

FOR ANY 18TH-CENTURY MUSICIAN not of the first rank, self-promotion was as important as ability in the pursuit of a successful career. Where, at least in England, the greatest stars were generously rewarded for their concert and theatre appearances, and where private patrons queued up to support them in the off season (particularly when talent was allied to a handsome appearance, an assured social demeanour and a foreign accent), lesser professionals had to sell their services hard. It helped if they were willing to engage in a multiplicity of activities. In addition to the usual pairings of performing composers or singing actors, we find a wide range of enterprises including editing, publishing, selling music and instruments, and teaching on an altogether more industrial scale than the handful of private pupils normally taken on by the great names. And those who found their careers stifled in England could seek further opportunities abroad.

By far the most distinguished of the musicians introduced here is Johann Peter Salomon, immortalised for all British readers as the man who brought Haydn to London in 1791. That momentous event came not a moment too soon for Salomon: in an impressively-documented study of rivalries and reputations, Ian Woodfield investigates the preceding decade when this talented violinist and impresario, forced into direct competition with Wilhelm Cramer, almost lost his struggle to maintain a leading position in London music. In the face of his professional difficulties, it's worth asking, how good was Salomon? Contemporary assessments of the two performers are too imprecise to answer this question, although there seems to be a consensus that Cramer's playing was 'brilliant', while Salomon's was 'delicate'; over Salomon's leadership, opinions were mixed: one writer described Salomon as 'not bold enough [to lead] the orchestra' (p. 2 2), where another had him displaying 'a combining force, a concentrating power, that kept the band perfectly together and prevented the slightest deviation' (p.45). It appears to have been bad luck rather than an inferior talent that led Salomon to take his chances with a prestigious but financially insecure short series of concerts at the Pantheon and occasional dates in the provinces, while Cramer flourished along with the coruscating rise of the Professional Concert.

Where Salomon excelled was in the private sphere: 'exquisite in a quartett' (p.22), he developed a thriving career satisfying the vanity and taste of private patrons. One of the most engaging parts of Woodfield's monograph is his account of the conduct of such patronage, drawing on Susan Burney's informative descriptions of her musical guests in Mickleham near Dorking. (I hope that someone is working to present this material in a form accessible to the general reader: it is far too delightful to remain the province of professional historians.) The domestic context tested all the versatility and social skills of a musician. Salomon had not only to perform with whatever amateur instrumentalists were to hand, but to hear, praise and perhaps teach the children of the house, and coax his hostess to play also. The aim of this skilful marketing of his 'cheerful disposition' (p.4) and social competence was to win the valuable patronage of Charles Burney, but Salomon was again disappointed when Burney chose Weichsell to lead a new series of Pantheon concerts. …

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