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Boston Musical Review

(Boston, MA, 1845)

Prepared by Liesbeth Hoedemaeker
Online only (2009)

A short-lived journal, the Boston Musical Review was published during a single year, 1845, during which four issues appeared: 1 September, 1 October, 15 October and 1 November. The issues are numbered successively and collectively consists of 84 pages.

The journal was published by Otis, Broaders and Company and edited by G. W. Peck, Esq., “A gentleman of liberal education, much musical knowledge, and literary taste, who has been before now experienced in periodical publications.”1

On its first page (before the Introductory) the journal’s aim is set forth:

This publication is designed to interest all classes of intelligent readers for whom music may be supposed to have attractions … Each number will contain one or more brief essays, written to contribute to the more general understanding of music, and to aid the formation of a correct taste. These will be followed by articles of a lighter and less studied sort … During the season of concerts …each one of any importance will be noticed briefly. .. A portion of each [issue] will also be devoted to musical intelligence, short notices of new publications, miscellaneous paragraphs, contributions, and a variety of like matter, which no work of the kind can be expected to be supplied with at its very commencement.
Clearly, the aim of BMR is to educate the taste of the people, beyond psalm tunes and Scottish airs, “to awaken and cherish the love of music and to spread clear ideas concerning it.”2

The articles are all unsigned. Issues open with a lead essay followed by a lighter article in the form of a conversation followed by a review column titled “Music in Boston.” Thereafter the structure varies with issues containing some but all of the following: a “Correspondence” section, “Notices,” “General Notices,” or “Notices of New Publications” and a “Miscellany” rubric. There are also classified advertisements at the end of the first and final issues. The only music in the journal consists of a few illustrative music examples.

The four opening essays are titled respectively: “Distinction between Musical Express and Effect,” “Musical Expression,” “Expression, the Present State of Music,” and “The Poetry of Music.” The lighter articles which appear in three of the four issues are in the form of a conversation between two or three friends discussing topics such as the language of music, poetry, painting, literature and singing. There is also a short article entitled “Church Music” in the first issue. The “Music in Boston” column consists mainly of reviews and announcements of programs of the Boston Academy of Music, the Philharmonic Society, and the Handel and Haydn Society. The “Correspondences” section (in the first two issues only) deals with three subjects: Liszt, Ole Bull and the musical situation in Edgartown, a prosperous whaling town founded in 1642on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. In the “Notices …” sections the titles and content vary. In the first issue ‘Notices’ contain announcements of new singing books: The Psaltery and The Chora. In the second and fourth issues ‘Notices of New Publications” offers reviews of songs, singing books, piano music and a teaching method for piano. In the second issue “General Notices” contains remarks about violinist Keyzer, a statue of Beethoven and an Academy in which “four or five hours each day were devoted to the practice of church music and part songs. The “Miscellany,” which appears in the final two issues, contains a collection of humorous anecdotes on musical subjects. The classified ads treat instrument makers, instrumental instructors, teaching methods, etc.

On the final page of the journal’s second and fourth issue is a full page of quotes from the Boston Post, the Atlas, Daily Advertiser, and The Harbinger—all offering good wishes for the success of The Boston Musical Review. The first citation is reprinted from the Boston Post: “We wish the Musical Review all good success and trust it may not suffer the fate of so many of it predecessors in the same line.” Unfortunately, it did.

1) Quoted from the Daily Advertiser, in Boston Musical Review, no. 2 (1 October 1845): 42.
2) Introductory, p. 4.