Caecilia. Algemeen Muzikaal Tijdschrift van Nederland
Prepared by Liesbeth Hoedemaeker
One of Europe’s longest-running music periodicals, Caecilia. Algemeen Muzikaal Tijdschrift van Nederland [Caecilia. General musical journal of The Netherlands], 1844-1944, has long been recognized as an important documentary resource for the study of Dutch music and musical life. The present publication deals with the journal’s first thirty-seven years of publication.
Trained as a physician, Dr. Florentius Cornelis Kist (1796-1863), was Caecilia’s founder and first editor. He was also a major contributor to the journal, writing numerous articles and reports—including many of the journal’s biographical articles and obituaries—and serving as the journal’s regular correspondent from Utrecht. Kist’s articles focus on Dutch musical history, the history of the hymn, music education, the participation of the working class in choral singing, and the efforts of Caecilia and the Society for the Promotion of the Art of Music to elevate the level of musical art in The Netherlands.
In 1870, W. F. Thooft (1829-1900) became the journal’s editor. Following studies in music theory and composition in Rotterdam and Leipzig, he was among the founders of the Hoogduitsche Opera in Rotterdam. Among other things, Thooft contributed articles about criticism, the centralization and decentralization of musical organizations in France and Germany, the Jews and music, and served as the journal’s correspondent in Rotterdam. In May 1871 organist, pianist and composer W. F. G. Nicolaï (1829-1896) assumed the editorship. Nicolaï was director of the Koninklijke Muziekschool [Royal school of music] in The Hague, a conductor of choirs and orchestras in that city and in Rotterdam, and one of the founders of the Dutch Society of Musicians. His theoretical work entitled Manual for Teaching Music Theory is serialized in Caecilia.
A typical issue of Caecilia consists of several sections: “Verhandelingen” [Treatises] containing articles focusing on contemporary and historical topics, essays on music theory, performance practice, acoustics, musical instruments, music festivals, and analyses of large-scale compositions; biographies and obituaries; “Beoordeeling,” a review section dealing with newly-published books and music; “Binnenlandsche berigten,” [News from within the country]; “Buitenlandsche berigten” [News from abroad]; and “Feuilleton” containing miscellaneous Dutch and foreign news. In 1873 a new rubric entitled “Programs,” appeared. It contains, under the names of cities, a list of many concerts and their respective programs. In 1880 a symbol was added in the form of a hand that made clear which programs contained Dutch music or music by composers living in The Netherlands.
Because Caecilia was the principal music periodical of The Netherlands, subjects of national and international importance were regularly treated. In general, and as reflected in the journal, musical taste in The Netherlands was close to that of Germany’s. While the quality of French music was often discussed it was not generally viewed as art of the highest level. Italian opera was also not greatly appreciated.
There are regular reports in the journal concerning performances at the Théâtre royale français de la Haye, where works were performed in French, and at the Hoogduitsche Opera, were works were almost always performed in German. The French theatre flourished between 1830 and 1852, and maintained a respectable level of performance thereafter. Following their premières in Germany, Wagner’s operas regularly received their first foreign performance at the Hoogduitsche Opera long before they were mounted elsewhere.
The many concerts of the Dutch Liedertafels, male song societies, occupied an important place in Dutch musical life of the period and consequently were discussed frequently in the journal. The activities of Dutch musical societies also receive regular attention. Among these, the two most important were the Society for Promotion of the Art of Music and the Society for Dutch Music History.
The Society for Promotion of the Art of Music which was founded in 1829 and still exists today was very prominent in contemporary Dutch musical life. Active in numerous cities the Society organized many concerts which were regularly reviewed in the journal. The Society of Dutch Music History, founded in 1868, grew out of the Society for Promotion of the Art of Music. The aim of the new society was to unearth and publish the works of earlier Dutch composers such as Sweelinck, Obrecht and Schuyt. Its activities are also followed closely in Caecilia.
Protestant and Roman Catholic Church music are recurring subjects in the journal. Among the subjects treated are, with respect to the Protestant church, the necessity to improve the quality of congregational singing and the role that the organ should play in services, and, with respect to the Roman Catholic church, the desire to reintroduce Gregorian chant and early music into the service.
The quality of concert life was high, and, among the many performances reviewed in Caecilia are those by famous visiting foreign artists including the composers Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Saint-Saëns and Litolff; the pianists Clara Schumann, von Bülow, Thalberg, Karl Tausig, and Alfred Jaëll; the violinists Joseph Joachim, Wilhelmj, Henri Vieuxtemps, Henri Wieniawski, and Pablo de Sarasate; the cellist Adrian François Servais; and the singers Carlotta and Adelina Patti, Pauline Lucca, Désirée Artôt, Emma Albani, Roger, Karl Formes and Salvatore Marchesi.
Also reflected vividly in the pages of the journal are the professional and semi-professional Dutch orchestras, the numerous chamber music concert series organized by the local string quartet in almost every large Dutch city, and summer open-air concerts given by military bands.