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The Canon: Australian Journal of Music

(Hunter’s Hill, NSW, 1947-1966)

Prepared by Richard Kitson
Online only (2022)

Publication in the RIPM Index forthcoming in July 2022.

The Canon: Australian Journal of Music, also with the subtitle A Monthly Survey of the World’s Great Music, was published in Sydney from August 1947 until an issue simply dated 1966. The journal was first issued on a monthly basis until the appearance of a double issue, Volume 6, Numbers 5 & 6, dated December 1952 – January 1953. Thereafter one double issue and ten single issues appear in 1955, 1958 and 1959. The years 1956 and 1957 contain again twelve single issues. The year 1960 comprises four double issues and 1961 five double issues only. 1962 contains seven single issues, March to August and November, and three double issues, January-February, September-October and December and January. Four single issues, February and May through July and one double issue March-April, are given in 1963. Thereafter there is only a single issue, Vol. 17, no. 1, dated Christmas, 1964; five undated issues, Vol. 17, nos. 2 through 6 in 1965; and a single issue, Vol. 17, no. 7, simply dated 1966, which concludes the journal’s publication.

Single issues generally contain about twenty-four pages, while the number of pages in double issues is variable from the usual twenty-four pages to double that number or more. At first the essays and reviews are printed in single-column format. In 1954 two-column format is introduced for reviews, while three-column format is introduced for reviews in 1957. The pages of each issue in 1947, 1948, and from 1962 to 1966 are numbered individually. Beginning in August 1948 (Vol. 2, No. 1), the page numbers are continuous for an entire volume. This method was continued until the conclusion of the year 1961. Advertisements on the inside front and back cover pages, and on one or more pages given before the commencements of the essays, are not numbered or are ordered in Roman numerals.

The layout of The Canon follows the traditional music journal sequence: one or more major articles are followed by regular review columns of gramophone recordings, radio and television broadcasts, concerts, operas, ballets and plays performed in the major Australian cities. Short articles, letters to the editor, a youth music column and miscellaneous columns of musical news and information are interspersed randomly among the longer articles. Photographs on the front cover have relevance to an article in the issue they grace, and those accompanying articles are found great numbers beginning in the year 1948. These photographs include reproductions of paintings from earlier eras, photographs of historical and contemporary composers and performing musicians, exterior and interior views of theatres, musical institutions and locations in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Japan, India, Israel, the United Kingdom and several European countries. Musical examples are abundant in articles concerning the analyses of musical compositions.

Music in Australia indicates interest in the activities of many persons of European extraction resident in the human settlements on the perimeter of a huge geographical area: the five major cities of Australia proper—Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth—Hobart and Launceston on the island of Tasmania, and the cities of Wellington and Christchurch the two islands of New Zealand. Relevant musical activities in small towns are also included.

Franz Holford (1907-1994) served as Founder and Editor of the journal throughout its run. A native of Heidelberg, Holford emigrated from Germany to Australia in the late 1930s. He was well-educated in musical matters having studied with the pianist Alfred Cortot in Paris and at Oxford University, where his teachers included the musicologists Sir Jack Westrup and Hans Bekker and the conductor Sir Hamilton Harty. Apart from the enormous task of the organization and editing of the journal, Holford’s monthly editorial, entitled “Overture,” permits considerable understanding of the many problems that beset the development of music in Australia after the Second World War. Gordon Clarke served as Assistant to the Editor with John Champ as Secretary in 1949 and 1950. The Australian music critic and notable dealer in rare books, Kenneth F. Hince, was Assistant to the Editor from January 1951 through April 1953. Hince contributed articles on various subjects and later reviewed concerts in Melbourne for a number of years. He was succeeded as the editor’s assistant by Wolfgang Wagner from May 1953 through November 1964. Wagner also contributed articles and reviewed Sydney concerts. No assistant is named in later issues.

Of considerable interest are twelve special issues, each devoted to an event involving music, a tribute to a celebrated musician or a comprehensive profile of the musical life of a specific country. A jubilee issue for Arnold Schoenberg appears in September 1949. The July 1950 issue is a commemoration of the bicentenary of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the July 1952 issue celebrates the eminent conductor and composer Eugene Goossens, an unusually important figure in the development of music in Australia at this time. The June 1953 issue deals with the music and ceremony of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The “Olympic Number” of 1956 features overviews of music in fifteen countries. Individual issues dealing with the musical life in six countries give histories of important musical institutions, the lives and works of the leading composers, the folk music roots of the given country, and includes analyses of major compositions in Switzerland (1956), the tenth anniversary of the founding of Israel (1957), Sweden (1958), Denmark (1959), Bulgaria (1961) and Germany (1962-63). The articles in the special issues are written by leading experts in the various fields of inquiry. Articles concerned with further developments in the featured countries are found in subsequent issues. A special issue devoted to articles by members of the Musicological Society of Australia was published in 1965.

Of paramount importance to Australian musical life are the varied activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (A.B.C.). Among the responsibilities of the Commission are the establishment and development of symphony orchestras in six principal cities, the hiring of permanent and guest conductors for these ensembles, the hiring of guest instrumentalists and singers for participation at symphony concerts and in recitals, wireless (radio) broadcasting throughout the nation and the establishment of Conservatoriums as the leading musical educational institutions. Included in Canon are the names of some of the outstanding musicians of the period following the Second World War. Permanent conductors include Sir Eugene Goossens and Sir Bernard Heinze, Joseph Post, Rudolf Pekarek, John Farnsworth Hall and Tibor Paul, while among the guest conductors are Otto Klemperer, Alceo Galliera, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Thomas Beecham, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Dean Dixon, Josef Krips, Albert Coates, Nicolai Malko and Jean Martinon. The guest instrumentalists include pianists Lili Kraus, Moura Lympany, Walter Gieseking, Solomon, Arthur Rubinstein, Benno Moiseiwitsch, William Kapell, Eileen Joyce, and Hepzibah Menuhin; violinists Ginette Neveu, Yehudi Menuhin, Max Rostal and Alfredo Campoli; and the cellists Antonio Janigro, Gabor Rejio and Leonard Rose. Among the guest singers are Erna Berger, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Diedrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hans Hotter, Victoria de los Angeles, Yi-Kwei Sze, Cesare Valetti and Gerard Souzay. The members of this enormous array of world-famous artists brought considerable expertise and assistance to the musicians and music lovers of Australia. The concert activities of these celebrated performers in the major cities of all provinces receive extensive and sometimes conflicting reviews.

The lasting interest in and dependence on the musical life of England by the largely Anglo-Saxon readership is regularly reported under various titles such as “Music in England “ or “London Letter,” written by outstanding British writers and critics of the period including Donald Mitchell, Ashton Keynes, Hubert Foss, Dyneley Hussey, Ralph Hill, Joan Littlefield, Anthony Kendell, Sir Jack Westrup and Ferrucio Bonavia. These reports give considerable attention to the productions of new and historical operas by the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company and the Glyndebourne Opera Company, and provide insights into new compositional methods and advances in new editions of historical music performed by the major orchestras of London and the provinces and numerous instrumentalists, singers and chamber music ensembles. New compositions of British composers, among them Arnold Bax, John Ireland, Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett, Humphrey Searle, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edmund Rubbra, Alan Rawsthorne, receive extensive discussion, analysis and review throughout the journal. British singers and musicians dealt with in the journal’s English articles include Kathleen Ferrier, Peter Pears, Solomon, Moura Lympany, Thomas Beecham, Adrian Boult, John Barbirolli and Malcolm Sargent. Many Australian musicians who sought further instruction and careers as singers and instrumentalists in Britain are also featured. Among them are native Australians who achieved international reputations: Marjorie Lawrence, Sylvia Fisher, Marie Collier and Joan Hammond (sopranos), Ronald Dowd (tenor), and Eileen Joyce and Bruce Hungerford (pianists), and the important conductor Charles Mackerras.

Under the sponsorship of the A.B.C., chamber music in Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand was enriched by many visiting ensembles including the Griller, Janacek, Smetana, Allegri, Tel-Aviv, Amadeus, Julliard and Parrenin string quartets, each offering a rich repertory of classical chamber music and major works of the twentieth century by Bela Bartók, Zoltan Kodáky, Serge Prokofiev, Dimitri Shostakovich, Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett and Francis Poulenc. A local organization of considerable strength was the Musica Viva Society which provided chamber music concerts in the major cities featuring sonatas, trios, quartets and quintets performed by a regular ensemble of Australian musicians. Chamber music in New Zealand, provided by nineteen music societies set up by the New Zealand Federation of Chamber Music to provide a regular stream of chamber music throughout the country, receives attention.

An interest in operatic performances in Australia by the country’s authorities, artists and musical public was developed with considerable difficulty. The journal’s first reviews of operatic performances are of the 1948 Melbourne season of the National Opera Company under the auspices of the National Theatre Movement. In the same year the J. C. Williamson Opera Company appears in the same city. Both groups offer repertories of traditional operas by Mozart, Gounod, Verdi and Puccini. This uncertain state of affairs and the occasional performance of operas by local operatic groups continued for some time. Only with the 1954 establishment of the Elizabethan Trust Opera Company, so-named on the occasion of the Australian visit of Queen Elizabeth II, were more regular operatic performances secured. The operas studied, rehearsed and performed in the Conservatoriums promote much discussion. The long and torturous effort to finance and build the Sydney Opera House on Bennelong Point is a topic of interest in the journal.

The reviews of concerts in all the major cities are a regular feature of Canon. Discussion of the concert repertories of the principal orchestras include fairly detailed remarks on the actual compositions and the interpretations given by the various local and visiting guest conductors and the guest instrumentalists and singers. The differing conducting manners, rehearsal methods and interpretations receive considerable comment, with musical criticism emanating from different cities often expressing disagreement as to the merits of the same compositions performed by the same musicians. Choral performances and solo and chamber music recitals feature much music performed by permanent residents. Of particular interest are the management and the course of studies adopted in the different Australian states. Concert and opera performances given by the students and faculty members of these institutions at carefully examined.

Much attention is given to the composers and performers of Australia and New Zealand in the form of biographical sketches, discussions of original compositions, and problems associated with the hearing of new music, all enhanced with photographs. Early in the journal, the noted organist and composer Edgar L. Bainton asks “. . . is an Australian music a possibility?” The composition, performance and recording of John Antill’s ballet Corroboree is reported as an important initial achievement. The establishment of the Australian Publication Rights Association (A.P.R.A.) for the publication, recording and performance by national and commercial broadcasters was a support for original composition, as was the Australian Federal Government’s Act requiring all broadcasting stations to allocate 2½ per cent of their total music playing time to Australian compositions.

The activities Organ Society of Sydney are reported monthly in a collection of articles. Reviews of the society’s activities offers an insight into the importance of sacred music and the building and maintenance of organs in the principal cathedrals, churches and halls in Australia. Reviews and analyses of published organ music, hymn books, organ methods and choral compositions are included in this special section of the journal. Gramophone recordings and wireless (radio) and television broadcasts are extremely important aspects of the musical life in a country so distant from Europe, the United States and Canada. Under the titles “Waxing Eloquent” and “Gramophonically Speaking” the interpretation of a vast repertory of classical and contemporary music and the acoustical properties of recent recordings on all major record labels are discussed. Considerable interest is shown to the different acoustical properties exposed by the move from seventy-eight to long playing (thirty-three-and-a-third revolutions per minute) and forty-five revolutions per minute records. The establishment of facilities for the manufacture of such records by Electrical Musical Industries (EMI) in Sydney is viewed as an important achievement. Wireless and television broadcasts, the feature of the regular column “All Set!”, contains reviews and discussion of the qualities of concerts, television studio opera productions and the acoustical problems of various broadcasting studios and live performance broadcasts. The speaking manners of broadcasters in wireless concerts are also discussed.

The historical record of the establishment, development and appreciation of the various forms of so-called “European art music” in Australia is treated in the journal. James Hall’s serial study “A History of Music in Australia,” published from January 1951 through December 1953, begins with discussion of a pantomime of Thomas Cook’s voyage with music by William Shield, the arrival of Worgan’s pianoforte in Sydney in 1781, and follows the performances of operas and concerts, the arrival of the first music teacher and music performed by regimental bands in New South Wales up to 1847. Hall’s principal sources are the newspaper reviews and announcements found in the Sydney Gazette. Another example of much historical interest in later periods is the article “Music in Toowoomba (Queensland)” in which the histories of the two main musical bodies, the Toowoomba Philharmonic Society (founded 1903) and the Toowoomba Choral Society (founded 1933), are explained. Similar instances of such reporting are to be found throughout the journal’s run.

Although aboriginal life is somewhat neglected in this journal, aboriginal music is studied in five major articles. Isabelle Moresby’s article “Ancient Music of the Australian Aborigine,” explains how knowledge of this music was gathered by costly and hazardous scientific expeditions of Baldwin Spencer (1901 and 1912), Dr. E. H. Davies (1932) and at the time of writing, Charles Mountford. Henry Tale’s article “Australian Aboriginal Music” describes the aboriginal melody, dance rhythms, scale modes and chordal suggestions. A. P. Elkin’s “Folk-song and the Brown Man” shows this music as a means toward an Australian expression in symphonic music, through the use of aboriginal motifs as the germs of symphonic ideas to be developed melodically, harmonically, and with a method of instrumentation suggesting the Australian scene. Illustration of theories in musical examples giving the original aboriginal chant in notation and the passages of compositions in which it is used are included. Henry Tale’s “Australia: Aboriginal Music” outlines classic books and recordings on cylinders of Australian aboriginal music collected by Baldwin Spencer, Gillen and Harold Davies. A summary of the full text of an illustrated lecture by Trevor Jones is “The Didjeridu of the Australian Aborigine: a Unique Development of a Common Musical Instrument” appears in the Musicology issue of Canon in 1965.

Several articles deal with music and the activities of immigrants in nineteenth-century Australia. John Meredith in “Blind Billy and Black Velvet” describes a Sydney street singer and concertina player of the 1870s and 1880s. John Meredith, in “They Still Sing about Captain Walker and the Day the Dandenong Went Down “ studies songs associated with the sinking of the steamship Dandenong, September 8, 1876. Peter Richardson investigates “Military music in the Colony of New South Wales, 1788-1850,” and shows the growth of military bands resultant from regimental and national rivalry, based on extracts from letters, reports and newspaper articles.

This RIPM Index was based upon copies of the journal held by the Library of Congress, the Rita Benton Music Library of the University of Iowa, and the Australian National Library in Canberra.

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