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The Musical Review

(New York, 1879-1881)

Prepared by Vashti Gray Sadjedy and Richard Kitson
Online only (2011)

The Musical Review [MRE] was published in three volumes, totaling sixty-seven weekly issues, in New York City between October 16, 1879 and January 29, 1881. From Vol. 1, No. 1 to Vol. I, No. 13 each issue contains sixteen numbered pages, thereafter twelve numbered pages, all preceded and followed by two unnumbered pages of advertisements. The issues are printed in two-column format.

From the journal’s beginning until May 17, 1880, Archibald MacMartin and Gustav Kobbé served as co-editors. After this date Kobbé resigned his position and was replaced by Henry E. Krehbiel. In the inaugural issue, MacMartin and Kobbé boldly assert their intention to distinguish MRE from other American music periodicals by remaining independent of musical-instrument manufacturers, music publishers, or other non-music art forms, and vow to remain as impartial as possible in their music criticism. In addition, the editors note that they have secured the cooperation of prominent European writers on music including the editor-in-chief of the French Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris, an English critic conversant with music in London and Glasgow, and another English writer, a contributor to Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Despite the editors’ lofty ambitions, however, by January of 1881 they were forced to admit that their determination to remain impartial and independent may have contributed to the journal’s early demise. The Musical Review ultimately merged with The Studio to form The Studio and Musical Review, which remained in publication for less than one year.

A typical issue of MRE is organized in two large sections: (1) a regular feature, “Echoes of the Week,” giving a summary of the past week’s musical events and information about forthcoming events in New York, Boston, Cincinnati and other American cities, followed by several articles about contemporary musical compositions or music history, reviews of music-related monographs and performances, and (2) an editorial, reviews of musical performances in the United States, reviews of musical activities in France, Germany, and England, a column entitled “General Intelligence” which consists of musical miscellany, news, and gossip, and a column entitled “New Music,” reviews of recently published musical scores.

Archibald MacMartin, the co-founder of MRE, who died tragically on May 7, 1881, was a “theoretical musician,” a graduate of Princeton College and a person of considerable wealth, who gave financial support to the journal without provision of an income from his investment. American-born Gustav Kobbé (1857-1918) received five years of musical education in Germany and subsequently studied at Columbia College and Columbia Law School in New York City. Kobbé was at the outset of his career as critic and writer on music when he undertook the role as co-editor of MRE, but was to become a prolific writer contributing articles about music to the leading American newspapers and periodicals. He is best remembered as the author of The Complete Opera Book: The Stories of the Operas, Together with 400 of the Leading Airs and Motives in Musical Notation, published posthumously in 1919. American musical critic and musicologist Henry Edward Krehbiel (1854-1923) served from 1874-1880 as music critic of the Cincinnati Gazette, and as co-editor of MRE from May 1880. In subsequent years Krehbiel served as music critic of the New York Tribune, published a myriad of books and many different musical subjects, and was American editor of the second edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

In keeping with current customs, very few articles in MRE have signatures of authorship. Significant among the contributors who did sign is William F. Apthorp (1848-1913). An 1869 graduate of Harvard University and student of John Knowles Paine, Apthorp was a lecturer on music at both the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston University. For MRE he provided reviews of musical life in Boston. Edward Hanslick, an important European writer, is featured fairly regularly and writes about European musical life.

Amid the plethora of operas and concerts given in the principal American eastern cities are musicians such as conductors Leopold Damrosch and Theodore Thomas, the pianist Rafael Joseffy, and the violinist Ole Bull. In association with the American tours of Henry Mapleson’s Her Majesty’s Opera Company with the singers Italo Campanini, Giuseppe Del Puente, Marie Marimon, Emilé Ambré and Alwina Valleria, who are reviewed extensively, as is the entrepreneur Max Strakosch’s concert party tours featuring contralto Carlotta Patti and baritone Ciampi, Ketten, the pianist, and Munch, the violoncellist.

Biographical sketches of many nineteenth-century musicians were published in MRE, including composers Hector Berlioz, Arrigo Boito, Brahms, Dvořák, Hermann Goetz, Albert Lortzing, and Joseph Parry; pianists Teresa Carreño, Moritz Moszkowski, Anton and Nicolas Rubinstein, Franz Rummel, William H. Sherwood and Carl Tausig; organists Thomas Adams and Benjamin Jacob; vocalists Annie Louise Cary, Anna Drasdil, Etelka Gerster, George Henschel, Helen Lemmens-Sherrington, Amalia Friedrich Materna, Sims Reeves and Gustave-Hippolyte Roger; music educator Henry Hanchett; violinists Charles Lamoureux and Pablo de Sarasate; and music publisher Gustav Schirmer.

Synopses of musical works, many current features of American and European musical life, are published in MRE including works of Berlioz, Beethoven, Bizet, Boito, Ignaz Brüll, Dudley Buck, Delibes, Benjamin Godard, Hermann Goetz, Halévy, Lecocq, Henry Leslie, Liszt, Victor Massé, Mozart, Nessler, Hubert Parry, Anton Rubinstein, Charlotte Sainton Dolby, Saint-Saëns, Schubert, Arthur Sullivan, Verdi and Wagner. Published in MRE are several significant series of articles, including Hector Berlioz’s “Beethoven’s Fidelio” (reprinted in translation from A Travers chants), Octave Fouqué’s “Berlioz in Russia,” Henry J. Hanchett’s “Teaching as a Science,” F. J. Sawyer’s “The Organists of the Nineteenth Century” (reprinted from The Musical Standard), Eugene Thayer’s “Reform in Church Music,” and Richard Wagner’s “Music in its Relations to the Drama” (reprinted in translation from Bayreuther Blätter). Additional notable articles include William F. Apthorp’s “Music in America,” Henry E. Krehbiel’s “The Cincinnati Festival,” and Camille Saint-Saëns’s “Saint-Saëns on Liszt.”

Both Kobbé and Krehbiel were ardent Wagnerians, and this is reflected in the amount of attention given to the composer in MRE. In addition to the enormous number of articles in which performances of Wagner’s operas receive attention, the following are lengthy articles regarding the composer and his works, all published in the journal: “Robert Schumann and Wagner,” “Wagner’s Latest,” “Palestrina’s Stabat Mater (edition by Wagner),” “Parsifal,” “Musical Status of Germany and America,” “Wagnerian Polyphony,” “Richard Wagner and his Critics,” “Introduction to the Meistersinger,” “To Our Meeting at Parsifal!,” “Music in its Relations to the Drama,” “Offenbach on Wagner,” “Wagner’s Rienzi,” “Hanslick and Wagner,” “In Hamburg,” “Wagner and Berlioz,” “Wagner’s Nibelungen Dramas,” “Wagner at the Concert Populaire,” “Albani in Lohengrin,” “Herr Hans Richter,” “A Letter from Wagner to Berlioz,” “Critical Estimates,” “One Million of Dollars,” “Gluck’s Iphigenia in Aulis as Rescored by Richard Wagner,” “Hubert Herkomer on Richard Wagner,” “Music Abroad: Wagner’s Meistersinger,” “German Opera in London,” “Die Meistersinger and Herr Richter,” “Wagnerianism and Wagnerisms,” and “Winkelmann as Siegfried.’”