Musical Mercury (New York, 1934-1939)

Musical Mercury

(New York, 1934-1939)

Prepared by Richard Kitson
1 volume 1 volumes* (2003)

An organ of the Edwin F. Kalmus publishing company, the Musical Mercury was published quarterly in New York City from 1934 through 1949. During its first six years of publication, the journal contained articles on a wide variety of musical subjects ranging from conducting techniques, orchestration and analysis of compositions to history, musicology and biography, as well as miniature scores of complete compositions and single movements of major works published by the Kalmus firm. Beginning with Vol. VI, No. 3-4 (March-May 1938), a change of policy led to the elimination of articles and to the exclusive publication of music. This RIPM publication treats the contents of the journal during its initial six years.

In all, each single issue contains from twenty-four to thirty pages of prose text; the page numbering is continuous through each volume. The pages of the scores are treated as hors texte and numbered independently.

The first editor of the journal’s prose section was the composer, critic and music educator Arthur V. Berger (1912-2003). For the first two issues of 1934, this responsibility was shared with Bernard Hermann (1911-1975), the prolific composer of radio and film scores. Beginning with Vol. I, No. 3 (August 1934) Dorothy Veinus was named as associate editor, a position she held until September 1936. Berger alone edited Vol. III, No. 4 (January 1937) through Vol. V, No. 2 (December 1937). Benjamin Grossbayne, with the editorial assistance of Mary H. Hellman, succeeded Berger and edited Vol. VI, Nos. 1 and 2.

A native of New York City, Berger studied at the City College of New York and at New York University, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1930. Later, at Harvard University, he studied with the well-known theorist and composer Walter Piston and the musicologist Archibald Davison. Berger’s contributions to the Musical Mercury consist of articles of wide-reaching interests—eighteenth-century English music, the instrumental music of François Couperin, the Greek drama, a study of Aaron Copland’s Variations for piano, an overview of the songs of Charles Ives, an analysis of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto—and, of reviews of new recordings and newly-published books. Bernard Hermann’s single contribution is a record review of Prokofiev’s First Symphony. Dorothy Veinus contributes several articles dealing with eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century topics: Geminiani’s development of violin technique; the Parisian reception of Pergolesi’s La Serva padrona; and Beethoven’s treatment of folk songs.

The journal contains articles on a wide range of historical topics. On early music subjects, musicologist Hugo von Leichtentritt examines issues raised in editions of music of the Netherlands’s School, Anthony Sheppard discusses instrumental music of the sixteenth century, and Stephen D. Tuttle explains William Byrd’s dance forms. In the field of eighteenth-century music studies Israel Citkowitz deals with Haydn the man, and Raymond Hull with the music of Pergolesi. Margaret Prall discusses Alessandro Scarlatti’s string quartets, one of which is given as a music supplement in the same issue. Four writers—Paul Goodman, Arthur V. Berger, Delmore Schwartz (the well-known poet) and Herbert Schwartz—explore the “nature of music.” There is also a two-part series treating Charles Burney’s opinions about Handel.

Nineteenth-century topics include a book review of André Gide’s study of Chopin (translation from La Revue musicale) and Manuel De Falla’s discussion of Wagner’s contribution to music. Soviet musicologist Paul Lamm offers an overview of the autographs of Musorgsky’s compositions, and gives details about the complete edition of the composer’s works. R. D. Darrell investigates the New York Public Library’s holdings of Gottschalk’s music, while Egon Wellesz examines Mahler’s orchestration. Of considerable interest is the translation of Michail Mikhailovitch Ippolitov-Ivanov’s autobiography My Half Century with Russian Music.

Important among the articles devoted to twentieth-century music are Arthur Waldeck and Nathan Broder’s explanation of Heinrich Schenker’s theories of analysis, and Paul A. Pisk’s tribute to musicologist Guido Adler on the occasion of his eightieth birthday. Nicolas Slonimsky contributes a biographical sketch of Shostakovich, based on the writings of Soviet critic Dmitri Sollertinsky. Juliet Danziger discusses the “altruistic” nature of three American music publishers: Wa-Wan Press, Henry Cowell’s New Music Society of California and the Cos Cob Press.

Among the scores published (1934-1939) are the overtures to Handel’s opera Rinaldo and the incidental music to Handel’s masque on Smollett’s Alceste; the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 “with piano reduction underneath”; the overture to Bizet’s Carmen; Copland’s Symphony no. 1 (first movement) and Interlude from Music for the Theatre; Sibelius’s Symphony no. 2 (first movement); Gliere’s “Russian Sailors’ Dance” from The Red Poppy ballet, “The Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla” from Wagner’s Das Rheingold, and the introduction to Act III of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

*Hard Bound with
The Negro Music Journal (Washington, D.C., 1902-1903)
Pro-Musica Quarterly (New York, 1923-1929)