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The Musical Journal

(London, 1840)

Prepared by Richard Kitson
1 volume (2005)

The Musical Journal, a magazine of information, on all subjects connected with the science consists of two volumes containing forty-five weekly issues published in London from 7 January to 29 December 1840. Each issue contains sixteen pages printed in single column, and numbered consecutively in each volume. The names of the editors are not given, but Nicolas Temperley in the New Grove Online, suggests that MUJ was written and edited by Edward Francis Rimbault (1816-1876), an organist and a writer on musical subjects (and considered “a pioneer in English musicology”), and by George Alexander Macfarren (1813-1887), a noted English operatic composer and theorist. The content of MUJ’s issues is consistently ordered in two parts: first, five or more major articles; and, second, reviews of operas and concerts (almost entirely concerned with musical events in London) and published music, and provincial, foreign and miscellaneous news.

The major articles, often in series format, deal with scientific, social and political topics related to music. Aiming to define tonality, acoustical theory is considered in extracts from Kollmann’s study of string vibrations, overtones, staff notation and the science of acoustics. Articles about the building, tuning and repair of organs, and biographies of organists appear regularly. A nine-part series on the “history of music” from the ancient Egyptians and Israelites to the founding of the London Philharmonic Society in 1813 and the Royal Academy of Music in 1822 is a feature of the second volume. Other topics treated psalmody, the moral effects of choral societies, and French composers and their “rights,” women composers and the Royal Society of Female Musicians, and a series of descriptions and analyses of five important oratorios—Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Messiah, and Saul; Haydn’s The Creation; and Mendelssohn’s St. Paul—all of which were performed during the 1840 season either by the Sacred Harmonic Society at Exeter Hall, or by other sacred music choral groups in the environs of London.

Musical memoirs, biographical sketches and reviews feature Mme Mara, Maria Malibran, Giulia Grisi, Giovanni Battista Rubini and Luigi Lablache—all of whom played important roles on the London operatic stage. Complaints about the predominance of Italian opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre began before the 1840 season was underway: the twice-delayed opening on account of the lingering of the Italian singers in Paris, the “filthy” and decayed condition of the auditorium and orchestra pit, and the difficulties encountered by the orchestral musicians playing under Michael Costa’s conductorship were central to the discussion. Reviews of eight concerts given by the Philharmonic Society are featured prominently and provide ample evidence of the generally conservative repertory and the difficulties of achieving high quality in orchestral playing. The appointment of Cipriani Potter, Ignaz Moscheles, Sir George Smart and Henry Bishop as conductors of the Philharmonic Society concerts and the varying results they achieved with respect to orchestral discipline and interpretation are featured in the reviews. The failure of Liszt’s concert party provincial tour is explained in a letter to the editor from the singer John Parry.