Denby Richards Celebrates Musical Opinion's 125th Anniversary
Richard, Denby, Musical Opinion
The history of musical journals in England began in England in 1818 when The Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, printed in a small octavo form, was first published. Its aims were to encourage correspondence on both the theoretical and practical aspects of the science of music; to give critical and impartial accounts of musical performances; reviews of musical publications; anecdotes of music and musical men; poetry which was considered ideal for musical adaptation; and a register or chronicle of musical transactions. Among the many articles the second volume included a review of The Life of Bach by the German music historian Johann Nikolaus Forkel, which had been published in Germany in 1802. With the third volume the magazine began including a piece of music in each issue. In 1825 the seventh volume included an in-depth account of a performance at a Philharmonic Society concert of Beethoven's Eighth Symphony while two years later, in the ninth volume, the same writer, using the title Musicus, writes about Beethoven and his works, coming to the conclusion that "The effect which the writings of Beethoven have had on the art must, I fear, be considered as injurious." Beethoven died that year. The final issues were those of 1828.
Once begun there followed a number of magazines, notably The Harmonicon in 1823 and The Musical World in 1836, which was originally published by Joseph Alfred Novello in small octavo form but within three years had become quarto, in which form it remained until it ended in 1891. These two magazines deserve articles in their own right, which challenge MO is considering for the future. They set the seal, which was further taken up six years after Novello had sold The Musical World to Henry Hooper and when it be great era of editing by James William Davison, who was also the principal Music Critic for The Times. This was the founding by Novello of The Musical Times, which is still with us and whose pages over the years have contained many articles of great musical significance.
Needless to say magazines of varying quality came and went, as they do today, often being produced by music publishers, such as Augener's The Monthly Musical Record in 1871 and Concordia, yet another Novello publication, in 1875.
Which brings us to October 1877 when the firm of Pitman in London's Paternoster Row first issued the Musical Opinion and Music Trade Review. As the name indicates it was originally intended as an organ for the music trade, but was soon including reviews and critical articles of quality. The year 1877 saw the first performance of Brahms' Second Symphony, which was published and critically reviewed the next year, followed, in 1879 by the Violin Concerto. Indeed, Brahms' most mature works, including the Second Piano Concerto, the Third and Fourth Symphonies and the great Clarinet works and chamber music of his last years offered much to the music writer, especially with the contrasting music of Wagner and Richard Strauss revolutionising the genre.
The musical magazines had much to consider, whether how to welcome the work of Schonberg or whether Johann Strauss deserved to be considered serious enough to be written about seriously. Many writers raised their cultivated eyebrows and pretended that if they ignored such things they would go away! Others, happily including the English magazines, let their readers
know what they should think!!
By October 1936 Musical Opinion and Music Trade Review was costing sixpence and began with a leading article, penned by La Main Gauche, attacking the establishment critics for being "woefully slow at coming to grips on any subject with a practising musician, artist or composer." He goes on to say: "We have a crop of new composers every few years, and frankly I think the latest arrivals are brilliant: but, so deeply has the steel entered into modern criticism, that I do not find even one practitioner with courage sufficient to acclaim the present and coming generations of English composers. …