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The Musical Gazette

(London, 1856-1859)

Prepared by Benjamin Knysak

Appearing weekly in London between 1856 and 1859, The Musical Gazette: An Independent Journal of Musical Events and General Advertiser and Record of Public Amusements [MUG] was published by John Smith (1856 to 1858) and William Ivery Hays (1859) from addresses in The Strand, Fleet Street, and Cheapside. Although never named in the journal, the editor was George Handy Lake (1827- December 24, 1865). Almost all criticism in MUG is unsigned.

Noting that “amusements in London are now a serious matter,” the journal’s writers primarily chronicle musical performances in London, throughout England (the large industrial cities: Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-on-Tyne and Sheffield), and in the principal cities of Scotland (Glasgow and Edinburgh) and Ireland (Belfast and Dublin). The editors seek to establish an independent voice in criticism, one free from the influence of advertisers and the music industry and claim they "have not started this paper in the slightest spirit of opposition to any musical publication existing, or the musical portion of any newspaper."

Following introductory advertising, each issue begins with a editorial concerning timely topics, frequently about recent and forthcoming performances. The much debated idea of musical performances on Sundays, the activities of musical associations, concerts at the Crystal Palace, and the nuisance of street musicians are frequently encountered topics. Moral and musical controversies surrounding the first performances of Verdi’s La Traviata in London figure prominently in 1856 and 1857. The much-debated state of English music, particularly native opera, and the activities of British musicians and music professors are important topics including the appointment of William Sterndale Bennett as Professor of Music at Cambridge University and the first performance and widespread repetitions of Michael Costa’s oratorio Eli. The activities of native British composers including a young Arthur Sullivan and two members of the older generation, Michael Balfe and Henry Bishop, are regularly noted, as are Giovanni Bottesini and Julius Benedict, continental composers resident in Britain. The journal criticizes the "indiscriminate laudation" of Jenny Lind following her participation in a performance of Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri conducted by Sterndale Bennett. The controversy about the adoption of equal temperament tuning, the French "diapason normal," is vigorously discussed. Following the weekly editorial, a regular column lists the programs of command performances at Buckingham Palace, appropriately without comment.

Reviews of concerts comprise the largest portion of each issue. Under the rubric "Metropolitan," performances by both the Sacred Harmonic Society, the London Sacred Harmonic Society, the Amateur Musical Society, the Musical Union, the Classical Harmonists, Henry Leslie’s Choir, the London Polyhymnian Choir, the Saturday and Monday Popular Concerts, both the Philharmonic Society and the New Philharmonic Society, the Crystal Palace concerts, and the Royal Academy of Music faculty and student concerts are reviewed in depth. Reports are given about the provincial musical festivals in Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Norwich, and the Festival of the Three Choirs given at Gloucester (1856), Hereford (1858) and Worcester (1857). Concerts by British musicians and singers include those given by the organist W. T. Best, the pedagogue and conductor John Hullah, the pianists Arabella Goddard, Charles Hallé and Walter Macfarren, the violinists William Carrodus, the clarinetist Henry Lazarus, the conductors August Manns and Alfred Mellon, and the singers Catherine Hayes, Charlotte Dolby, Wilbye Cooper, Sims Reeves and the vocalist sons of tenor John Braham Reviews of performances by Continental musicians include the pianists Clara Schumann, Anton Rubinstein and Karl Klindworth, the violinists Joseph Joachim and Wilma Norman Neruda, the conductors Louis-Antoine Jullien and Otto Goldschmidt, the sopranos Angiolina Bosio, Guilia Grisi, Johanna Wagner and Maria Piccolomini, the mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot-Garcia, the contralto Marietta Alboni, the tenors Giovanni Mario de Candida and Antonio Giuglini and the bass Carl Formes.

Reviews of operatic performances – given at Her Majesty’s Theatre, the Covent Garden Theatre (Royal Italian Opera), the Drury Lane Theatre and the Standard, Olympic, and Strand Theatres figure prominently. The work of impresarios Benjamin Lumley and Frederick Gye in their search for and engagement of Continental singers is regularly recorded. The operatic repertories of the various theatres feature the operas of Auber, Bellini, Donizetti, Meyerbeer, Mozart, Rossini and Verdi. English operas presented in London and the Provinces by the English opera companies of Susan Pyne and William Harrison, Howard Glover among others, are well reported in the journal. The activities of important military bands, the Coldstream Guards’ Band, the Grenadier Guards’ Band and the Life Guards’ Band are regularly discussed.