Link to home page

The Penguin Music Magazine

(Harmondsworth, 1946-1949)

Prepared by Liesbeth Hoedemaeker
1 volume* (2005)

The Penguin Music Magazine [PMM] was published three times yearly from December 1946 to July 1949, and was transformed into an annual publication with a new title, Music [MSC], which appeared from 1950 through 1952. In all, PMM consists of nine issues, while MSC consists of three annual volumes. The same structure and many of the same writers were maintained in both publications. Ralph Hill (1900-50) was editor of the Penguin Music Magazine and Music until his sudden death. His contributions to both journals’ review columns, “New Books” and “Gramophone Commentary,” are many. Alec Robertson (1892-1982) succeeded Ralph Hill as editor of Music. Robertson wrote the “Record Collector” column for PMM, which contains reviews of 78RPM records. Both journals treat a wide range of subjects: composers and their music, musical life in foreign countries; practical musical skills (tempo, score reading, rhythm, musical forms); sociological and financial issues (e.g., rebuilding British orchestras after the war, financing professional orchestras, engaging permanent or guest conductors, subsidies); analysis of concert repertory (choice of works and frequency of performance, opera in English); concert goers (the role of the audience, concert attendance fifty years prior, provincial audiences); aesthetic considerations (defining music with words, music and poetry, music and paintings); psychological issues (the psychology of listening to and understanding music, the composer and the listener, humor); contemporary music (modernism, musical progress); criticism (critical listening, the value of musical criticism, defining the qualities of music); and broadcasting and recording.

In PMM, three regularly appearing columns were of particular interest to the journal’s readers. The first is “Brains Trust” in which readers’ questions—such as what is the meaning of the words classical and romantic applied to music, and what is the influence of jazz on composers of classical music—are answered by Julian Herbage, a musicologist on the staff of the BBC. The second column, “Personality Corner,” written by C. B. Rees, offers descriptions of important contemporary musicians. The third column, “To Start an Argument,” presents opposing points of view on questions, such as, what is the purpose of music? These three columns are followed by reviews.

Review columns occupy almost half of each issue. The first is titled “New Books” or “New Books about Music” in PMM and MSC. By different authors, these reviews vary in length from a few lines to a few pages. The second is titled “New Music,” written by Robin Hull in PMM and J. Raymond Tobin in MSC. It contains mainly reviews of contemporary British music. When the title of this column changed in PMM to “Gramophone Commentary” Ralph Hill replaced Robertson as author. In MSC, the column’s name changed once again to “New Gramophone Records,” and the reviewers were Richard Bryceson, Lionel Salter and Andrew Porter. In this column one finds general information about the gramophone industry, short reviews of new recordings, new labels, recording catalogues, 78RPM records and, in one issue, long playing records (33 1/3 RPM).

Thereafter appears the “Music of the Film” column, written by Scott Goddard, who discusses film scores and deals with the role and function of film music. “Music over the Air” contains reviews of works performed on the radio by the BBC and other orchestras, and discussion of the works selected for performance on The Third Programme. Richard Gorer, Stanley Bayliss, Denis Stevens, Elway Strogers and Harry Dexter contribute to this column. “Opera in London,” written by Stephen Williams, offers reviews of operas performed by the Sadler’s Wells Opera, the New London Opera, the Carl Rosa Opera Company, the Glyndebourne Opera, the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, and the Cambridge Theatre. The column “Ballet in London”—written by Arnold L. Haskell and later Scott Goddard—discusses performances of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and the New York City Ballet Company. “Concerts in London”—written by George Dannatt, Geoffrey Sharp and Mosco Carner—treats chamber music and orchestral concerts with special focus on contemporary British compositions. The concerts of the 1951 Festival of Britain are reviewed the following year in Music.

*Bound with:
Music (Harmondsworth, 1950-1952)

* Hard bound with