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The Lute

(London, 1883-1899)

Prepared by Richard Kitson
Introduction by Richard Kitson and Benjamin Knysak
Online only (2018)

The Lute, a Monthly Journal, was published in two series, the first edited by Joseph Bennett from 1883 to 1886, and the second edited by Lewis Thomas from 1887 to 1895 and Percy Reeve from 1896 to 1899. Published by Patey & Williams and printed by Pewtress & Co., the journal was printed in a two-column format, with the 232 issues initially published on the fifteenth of the month until May 1884 and, thereafter, on the first of the month. In the first series, each issue contained twenty-four textual pages and eight pages of musical supplements. From 1 July 1886 to February 1888, the journal appeared to publish only musical supplements; in February 1888, textual content resumed but was drastically reduced with only four textual pages per issue appearing alongside the musical supplements until 1894 when issues were expanded to eight pages.

First Series: 1883-1886

Here, the issues are divided into two parts: first, a series of essays on current and historical topics by noted writers on music; the second, announced by a repetition of the journal’s title and the date of the current issue, is followed by an article, a complete piece of religious and occasionally secular choral music (with independent page numbers), a miscellaneous news section, provincial musical news, reviews of published music, poetry and additional miscellaneous news. A four-page title page, copyright page and indices for volumes I, II and III with a list of the music published in these volumes is provided on pages numbered in Roman numerals.

The majority of the articles found in the first part of each issue were written by three British professional writers on musical subjects. Joseph Bennett (1831-1911) was a properly trained musician who took the profession of music critic after serving in various capacities in London as a precentor for services of religious institutions. His contributions to numerous publications are vast, including articles for The Musical Times and the Pall Mall Gazette, and critical reviews for the Daily Telegraph. He provided analytical articles for the Philharmonic Society and for the Monday and Saturday Popular Concerts’ program books. Many of these and similar essays for other institutions were republished in book form. In addition to his editorship of The Lute, Bennett edited the short-lived Concordia (London, 1875-1876). For The Lute, Bennett provided on a regular basis articles and reviews, including a study on rural music, an analysis of H. R. Haweis’ Musical Life, remarks on applause, and a study of the muddled condition of public musical taste in England. As almost all reviews are unsigned, it is probable that Bennett was himself the journal’s chief critic.

London born William Beatty-Kingston (1837-1900) was attached to the Austrian Consular Service and served in the capacity of foreign correspondent to various parts of Europe, thus providing reviews and articles for London newspapers and journals on foreign musical topics. For The Lute, he wrote an eleven-part series of articles entitled “Reminiscences of Music and Musicians Abroad,” featuring informative remarks on continental musicians such as Anton Rubinstein, Johann von Herbeck, Joseph Helmesberger, Joseph Joachim, Johannes Brahms and Karl Goldmark, and wrote about Rumanian gypsy musicians. Other articles of Beatty-Kingston include an explanation of musical physics as found in Charles Leveque’s writings; a proposal for the construction of an up-to-date opera house in London; articles about various operatic personages, the pianoforte playing of Anton Rubinstein, Franz Liszt, Rafael Joseffy, Vladimir de Pachmann; and articles about Castil-Blaze, Johann Strauss and Christmas songs in Rumania.

Henry Sunderland Edwards (1829-1906) was also a prolific writer on music who provided his contemporaries with books on the history of opera from Monteverdi to Verdi, a life of Rossini, essays on the Faust legend, and a tally of famous first performances. For the Lute, Edwards provided the series “Some Operatic Personages” featuring the prima donna; the loss of the tenor’s favor, replaced by the conductor; the decline of Italian opera; and different hypotheses on the origin of opera. Edwards reported on the winter season of opera and concerts in Paris, François-Joseph Fetis’ critical opinion of E. T. A. Hoffman’s opera Undine, the death of Vaucorbeil, director of the Paris Opera, as well as antisemitism on the German stage.

William Alexander Barrett (1836-1891) enjoyed a career as a singer, an artist, and as a remarkable writer on music and numerous other topics, owing to his vast general knowledge. In turn, he became editor of the Monthly Musical Record (1877), The Orchestra (1881) and The Musical Times from 1887. For The Lute he wrote about popular songs, inquired about anonymous authors of important books and musical compositions, the obscure origin of the term “carol,” the music-hall stage, and the decline of old musical forms such as the Anglican verse anthem and the British glee.

Desmond Ryan, formerly the assistant to James W. Davison (editor of The Musical World and music critic of the London Times), contributes several articles in 1883, including a study of street musicians active on a London Sunday morning, a definition and history of the term “ballad,” and holiday music.

An extensive published music review section is organized by dealing individually with the publications of various English publishers such as Enoch and Sons, Metzler and Co., Edwin Ashdown, Chappell and Co. and Novello and Co. Their offerings of a wide range of compositions include simple songs, tutors for pianoforte and violin, historical studies of instruments, and contemporary compositions of a serious nature, for example, and English translation for the score of Berlioz’ Roméo et Juliette. Letters to the Editor deal with the circumstances and peculiarities of contemporary English musical life, such as Mendelssohn’s Elijah, conducted at sight by Gauntlett, and the sale of the library of the now defunct Sacred Harmonic Society. The main review section deals with opera and concerts in London while reviews musical events in provincial cities are found in a separate section. Miscellaneous musical news is gathered into sections. Occasional poems are also given.

Second Series: 1887-1899

It appears that Joseph Bennett resigned from the editorship of The Lute in June 1886, for from 1 July 1886 to February 1888 each issue appears to contain only musical supplements (see note on source copies below). Beginning in 1888, the Welsh bass and writer Lewis Thomas (1826-1896) is announced as editor, with the first textual content appearing in the March 1888 issue. Much reduced in size and scope, each issue of the second series opens with a biographical sketch of a singer or composer – generally of songs – accompanied by a photograph or lithograph. The column “Current Notes” followed which contained miscellaneous musical news, brief concert reviews, and publication notices. This column comprised the bulk of each issue until 1894 when additional concert reviews, provincial and foreign news, correspondence, and poems were re-introduced. From 1888 to 1893, nearly all content was unsigned, likely written by the editor.

In 1895, a twenty-five-year-old Ernest Walker, the future well-known writer, contributes a monthly column on various musical issues. Beginning with the January 1896 issue, the composer Percy Reeve (1855-?) assumed the editorship without public announcement following the death of Thomas in June 1895. Reeve further expanded the journal’s editorial and geographical scope, including more concert and publication reviews. However, with the December 1899 issue, Reeve announced the cessation of the textual portion of The Lute with the intention to continue publication of the regular musical supplements which according to Reeve “formed the nucleus of and the most valuable property in The Lute” (No. 204, p. 849). It is unclear whether Reeve’s intentions were fulfilled; both known copies of The Lute ceased with this issue.

A Note on Source Copies

This RIPM Index was prepared from copies of the first series held by Yale University and the Library of Congress, and a copy of the second series held by the British Library. While a variety of exemplars of the first series can be found in various libraries, only two known exemplars of the second series could be located, held by the British Library and the Henry Watson Music Library in Manchester. Both exemplars of the second series lack textual content between 1 July 1886 to February 1888 and otherwise align. No note from the editor explains the missing textual portion of the journal between editorships; it is possible that textual content was published in January and February 1888 but these issues were not received or retained by either library.