Amphion. Een Tijdschrift voor vrienden en beoefenaars der Toonkunst (Groningen, 1818-1822)

Amphion. Een Tijdschrift voor vrienden en beoefenaars der Toonkunst

(Groningen, 1818-1822)

Prepared by Gert Floor
Online only (2009)

With the increasing development of concert life in the major cities of The Netherlands during the first years of the nineteenth century, the need for a music journal was felt. Following the example of the German periodical the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, the first Dutch music journal Amphion. Een Tijdschrift voor vrienden en beoefenaars der Toonkunst [AET] was founded by the lawyer and import tax specialist N. W. Schroeder Steinmetz and published in Groningen from 1818 to1822. Three issues were published in 1818, four in both 1819 and 1820, and a single and final issue in 1822. Each issue contains approximately seventy-five pages (measuring 21 x 12,5 cm) interspersed with one or more loose sheets (music supplements). Distributed throughout The Netherlands, there were between two- and three-hundred subscribers.

Schroeder Steinmetz served as editor throughout the journal’s run; the editorial staff remains unidentified. However, based on the publication of signatures such as “The Editors,” “The Editorial Staff,” “The Editor,” one may conclude that the number of editors diminished, until only Schroeder Steinmetz remained.

AET is addressed primarily to “friends,” and only secondarily to “students” of music. In a preface to the first volume, the editors announce what the reader may expect: articles on music theory and performance, sometimes on philosophical and aesthetical subjects, biographies of famous musicians with characterizations of their work, news on musical events in various cities, notices from abroad, reviews of recently published music, poems about music, anecdotes and miscellany. This concept is indeed clearly realized in the first two volumes, which contain articles on old and modern music, a series of articles about the life and works of Mozart and about string quartet playing (by Schroeder Steinmetz), as well as theoretical essays on a simplified tonal theory (G. C. Grosheim).

In extensive articles on modern composers, Schroeder Steinmetz compares the quality of their works, speaking highly of Beethoven and passing a negative verdict on Rossini. Steinmetz is dismissive of French music, which is not surprising only three years after the Napoleonic occupation of The Netherlands; the death of Steinmetz’s father in forced French military service may also have colored his opinion. As a romantic Schroeder Steinmetz was a great admirer of E.T.A. Hoffmann, and several translations of his work are found in Amphion. Many critical reviews of performances in Groningen, Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam appear in all issues. Typical of the period, neither critics nor the amateur musicians whose performances are reviewed are identified. However, it is clear that F.C. Kist from The Hague was one of the correspondents, as were J. Robbers, organist of St. Laurence Church in Rotterdam, and the German theorist G.C. Grosheim. Articles were often taken from the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung of Leipzig.

Apparently, the number of subscribers was smaller than expected, and the editorial work became increasingly the responsibility of Schroeder Steinmetz leading to the cessation of publication. Years later, in 1849, one reads in the music periodical Caecilia (founded in 1843 by F.C. Kist) a biographical notice about Schroeder Steinmetz stating that Amphion was terminated in 1822 “due to a lack of participation of subscribers and collaborators.”