The Monthly Musical Record (London, 1871-1960)

The Monthly Musical Record

(London, 1871-1960)

Prepared by Richard Kitson
17 volumes (2011, 2013-2014)

The Monthly Musical Record [MMR] was published in London from 1 January 1871 to 1 December 1960. Created as an adjunct to the important British music publishing firm Augener & Co., MMR consists of ninety annual volumes comprising 1,002 issues, and 28,000 pages. Until 1915 twelve issues were produced each year, then reduced: in 1916 to ten issues, and in 1956 to six. Beginning with 166 annual pages in 1871, the size increased to an average of 300 pages from 1884 to 1922, from 1923 to 1939 the number of pages increased to 380, and then declined to 240 pages from 1941. MMR’s individual issues consist of four distinctive parts: (1) essays and articles on musical topics, and an Editorial entitled "Notes of the Day"; (2) reviews of concerts and operas given in London and principal foreign cities, and reviews of published books and music, and from 1928 through 1960 recorded music; (3) miscellaneous notes, musical news; and (4) advertisements. This plan is enlarged to five distinctive parts by the addition of two hundred and twenty-four supplements of printed sheet music and iconography, from February 1880 to October 1931.

Eight editors were responsible for MMR’s organization, content and selection of contributors, and each editor left his individual "stamp" on the journal. Ebenezer Pout, composer, organist, conductor, music professor and pre-eminent nineteenth-century British music theorist served as the first editor from 1871 until 1875, contributing articles and reviews on traditional topics. Charles Ainslie Barry and William Alexander Barrett edited the journal between 1875 and 1880. The English pianist and music historian John South Shedlock served as editor from the early 1880s until 1912, his being the longest tenure as editor. Arthur Eaglefield Hull, editor from 1912 until 1926, made MMR more accessible to those whose interests included modern music, performance and music appreciation. From November 1928 to May 1933 Richard Capell (1885-1954), an experienced music critic, served as editor, while Jack Allan Westrup (1904-1975), a distinguished musicologist, conductor served from 1933 to 1945. Gerald Abraham (1904-1988), a self-taught musician and musicologist and the English-language authority on Russian and Soviet music, was the last editor, serving from 1945 until the journal’s demise.

From its inception until 1912, MMR maintained a fairly conservative content, dealing mainly with Continental music making, including biographical studies, analyses of major compositions, pedagogical studies for pianists, string players and singers as well as extensive reviews of performances printed music and books about music. Emphasis is placed on the major musicians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: Bach and Handel, Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, Chopin and Schumann, Wagner, Brahms and Richard Strauss, while a host of minor composers are treated appropriately according to their importance. While prior to World War I, many contributions are unsigned or signed with pseudonyms, Ernst Pauer (1826-1905)—an Austrian pianist, teacher, editor and writer on music—signed his articles with his name. Pauer’s role in the activities of the Augener publishing firm is without equal during the nineteenth century owing to the enormous number of his editions of pianoforte music and pianoforte teaching materials. A second prolific writer on music, Frederick Niecks (1845-1924), is an active contributor to MMR between 1876 and 1923; his signature is found for 372 articles (some single and some in series). Notable among his contributions are extensive studies of the pianoforte works of Schumann (1876 and 1878), Chopin (1879) and Mendelssohn (1880), recollections of and studies about Anton Rubinstein (1877), and the then relatively little-known composer Edvard Grieg (1879). A notable development, during Shedlock’s period as editor, is the publication of articles by a growing number of native English and Scottish scholarly writers including Joseph Verey, Stephen S. Stratton, Franklin Peterson, Charles W. Pearce, Edmondstoune Duncan, Edward A. Baughan, D. C. Parler, Christina Struthers, Maude Matrass, Yorke Bannard, Thomas F. Dunhill, F. A. Hadland, Cyril Scott and Claude Trevor. Two of the most important figures of twentieth-century British musicology and criticism, Ernest Newman and Edward J. Dent, are periodically contributors to MMR.

The advent of modern music, attention paid to British music, new authoritative writers on music, and a new younger readership mark the Monthly Musical Record in the years following 1912. Editor A. Eaglefield Hull contributes many articles—including a regular editorial placed at the outset of each issue—seeks out many new like-minded contributors, and increases the number of articles in each issue by reducing the numbers of pages allotted to each one from January 1, 1917 and December 1, 1927. Hull’s contributions to MMR exceed 670 articles, reviews and editorials dealing with a great variety of topics about music from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. From the beginning of his tenure, Hull deals consistently with the problems of modernism in music: explanations of the compositional methods of Schönberg, Leo Ornstein, Debussy, Scriabin, Elgar, Sibelius, Vaughan Williams, Stravinsky, John Ireland, Frederick Delius and Enrique Granados; discussion of Domenico Alaleona’s theory of music and the pentaphonic five-part scale (1922); and Leon Theremin’s electro-magnetic ether instrument, the thereminvoix (1928). Hull serves as reviewer of the International Society for Contemporary Music’s annual musical festival held in Zurich and the Salzburg Musical Festival (both in 1926), demonstrates great interest in Mussorgsky and the foundation and progress of the British Musical Society, active from 1918 to 1933.

Richard Capell contributes 375 articles, reviews and editorials to MMR from 1923 to 1954. Of interest are Capell’s reviews of Italian, French and German operas performed at the Covent Garden Theatre. However, the modern music of Schönberg, Stravinsky and his like-minded contemporaries, an important feature of MMR during Hull’s editorship, is sharply reduced. Jack Westrup admits positive discussion of music from writers investigating all periods, and his own contributions probe a wide range of subjects dealing with subjects as diverse as the nature of opera to medieval music (1932). contemporary developments in music in the editorial "Notes of the Day" including the broadcasting policies of the B.B.C. (in 1933); a German press report announcing Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony as a prophetic presentiment of Adolf Hitler; and the attack on Paul Hindemith in Die Musik (in 1934). Gerald Abraham’s wide knowledge of musicology and musical life is amply demonstrated in his editorials, and in his personal research in articles independent of his role as editor. Abraham’s diverse interests in four different years include Elgar and the Edwardian age, Busoni’s charge of "indecency" World War I; a comparison of the lives and works of Bartók and Schönberg (all in 1945); the B.B.C. Third Programme’s "History of Western Music" wireless broadcasts (in 1948); official interference in Soviet music (in 1949); and Schönberg’s intellectualism and the inaudibility of the human ear to detect his ingenuities (in 1951).

Foreign (European and North American) correspondence appears in MMR from its inception and features a diverse collection of writers including Salvatore Marchesi, Michel-Dimitri Calvacoressi and Jean-André Messager (Paris); F. W. Martens and Russell M. Knerr (New York); Ellen von Tideböhl (Moscow and St. Petersburg) and Rosa Newmarch (Russia).

A rather unique and prolific writer on music is the Greek-born Calvocoressi whose 104 articles are published in MMR from 1906 through 1938. While generally considered as Russophile writer, his MMR contributions show him a writer knowledgeable about a much wider range of subjects.

During Capell and Westrup’s editorships the writings of new group of new contributors are introduced, including the British musicologist Ernest Walker (1870-1940) and the British composer Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986). Later, MMR publishes many studies and reviews on contemporary music, and on historical Russian and twentieth-century and Soviet music by three authoritative writers on these subjects: Edward Lockspeiser (1905-1973), the English composer Lennox Berkeley and Gerald Abraham. Two original and outstanding modernist composer-musicologist contributers are the Austrian Egon Wellesz (1885-1974) and the English Humphrey Searle (1915-82). Swiss-born, naturalized British subject Eric Blom, writes thirty-seven articles in the years 1926 through 1945, the majority of which are in-depth reviews of books and articles by other writers.

Seven composers of enormous significance to the development of British music in the first half of the twentieth century—Edward Elgar (1857-1934), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), Gustav Holst (1874-1934), Arnold Bax (1883-1953), Frederick Delius (1890-1934), Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) and Constant Lambert (1905-1951)—are featured in MMR in both articles about their lives, their opinions and writings, their compositional styles and in reviews of pertinent compositions. The reception and growing popularity of Elgar’s works are discussed in 499 articles beginning in 1888 and continuing to 1957. Great interest is demonstrated in Vaughan Williams’s symphonies, operas, choral music, songs and film music, his activities as a collector and arranger of British folk-songs, an educator and conductor, in 407 articles and reviews published between 1903 and 1960. The music of Holst, particularly his Planets, Hymn of Jesus and the opera Savitri, is examined and reviewed on 255 occasions between 1905 and 1960. Arnold Bax’s symphonies, tone poems and numerous piano pieces and songs are analyzed and reviewed on 167 occasions between 1909 and 1955. Frederick Delius’s compositions are considered in 240 articles and reviews of published music and gramophone recordings. Arthur Bliss’s varied output from his Colour Symphony (1922) to his opera The Olympians (1949, on J. B. Priestley’s libretto) is examined in 135 reviews published between 1915 and 1960. Constant Lambert, an advocate of modern music, is featured in reviews of his ballets, Romeo and Juliet and the symphonic piece Rio Grande in addition to his various activities as a megaphone reciter for Walton’s Façade, a conductor of modern music recordings and as the author of the controversial book Music Ho!: A Study of Music in Decline.

The phenomenal growth of original composition in Britain, beginning in the late 1920s finds support in the pages of MMR. Forty-two British composers are featured in reviews of concerts, recordings and wireless broadcasts, biographical sketches and overviews of important compositions. Between February 1929 and March 1931, MMR publishes a monthly series of twenty articles devoted to the lives and compositions of the "Younger English Composers," commencing with a study of Edmund Rubbra. Contributions to the series are written by several of MMR’s young writers on music (Eric Blom, Marion M. Scott, Hubert J. Foss), and some of the composers themselves (Constant Lambert, Edmund Rubbra). Another series entitled "Younger English Composers" appears between May 1938 and June 1939, and features the next generation of British musicians including Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett, William Walton, Alan Rawsthorne and Howard Ferguson, again written by MMR contributors (Frank Howes, Henry Boys, Scott Godard).

Two hundred and twenty-four supplements containing pieces of music, lithographic portraits, photographs of musicians, and facsimile photographs of letters, with page numbers independent of issue page numbering, are distributed in MMR from November 1880 through December 1928. An additional eighty-seven supplements of compositions with page numbers that are part of the consecutive page numbering of the issues are given in from April 1, 1926 to February 1, 1928. The supplemental compositions, the majority of which are pieces of music were taken from the Augener catalogue, are generally for piano, piano and another instrument (violin, viola or violoncello), or voice and piano, vocal duets and trios, the majority at levels from elementary to moderately difficult. These supplements are clearly included to attract purchase of additional copies of the journal by teachers, pupils and amateur musicians. Descriptions and background information of the compositions are given in short articles entitled "Our Music Pages."

Thirty-three photographs of leading musicians are issued as independent supplements from January 1911 to April 1914. Another series of thirty-one photographs is included between May 1914 and September 1924. Twenty-two additional supplements comprising photographic reproductions of letters and calling cards of major nineteenth-century composers and musicians are included from January 1925 through December 1926. A further eleven photographs and portrait lithographs are found in the issues of 1928; in each case the likeness compliments the subject of an article.

Of enormous importance to British musical life is the creation and development of wireless broadcasting by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) established by royal charter in 1927, all of which is reported in MMR. The concept of wireless broadcasting is discussed in the journal from 1923, and announcements and reviews of the music programmes begin to be reported and discussed in earnest in 1927. Interest in gramophone recording is found in MMR as early as 1907, but regular reporting on the quality of electrical recordings begins only spasmodically in 1928 through 1931 under the title "New gramophone records," and is renamed as a regular monthly column "Gramophone notes" from 1932 until the journal’s demise. At first the gramophone reviews are unsigned, but the initials W. L. (Walter Legge, the noted producer of H.M.V. recordings) are given from February 1933 until August 1934. S. G. (Scott Goddard), a respected music critic, and editor of the series Man and His Music (Dennis Dobson), assumes authorship of the column in November 1934 and contributes regularly until 1960. The column features new recordings manufactured by the major recording companies. Various aspects of the film industry also figure in the journal including discussion of film scores by Florent Schmitt, Vaughan Williams and Walton.

In the first thirty years of the journal’s publication, unsigned monthly reports from Continental centres are a prominent feature: reviews from Leipzig and Vienna in which the activities (repertories and concerts) of amateur vocal societies and music conservatories are described. Contemporary musical life in Vienna and Berlin in the interwar period is reported by several eminent central European writers including Rudolf Felber and Willi Reich from Vienna, and H. H. Stuckenschmidt from Berlin.

In ninety years MMR moves through the last decades of the Victorian era, the Edwardian era, World War I, the prosperity of the 1920s, the depression of the 1930s, World War II and the post war era—encompassing enormous changes in musical taste and practice, systems of musical composition, advancements in performance techniques and technology and organization. Music publications, concert and operatic repertories reflect these times of change. Reviews of these concerts and operas, sheet music, books on musical subjects and recordings constitute a large and important part of MMR.