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The Score

(London, 1949-1961)

Prepared by Elvidio Surian
1 volume (2015)

The Score [SCO] was published in London three times yearly, at irregular intervals, as twenty-eight monthly issues from August 1949 to January 1961. The journal’s founder and sole editor was William Glock, a music critic, educator, and a notable promoter of a concert series featuring works by neglected living composers. SCO is a primary source for the study of post Second World War British, European and American music. The periodical gives special—but not exclusive—attention to contemporary music, with much space dedicated specifically to musicians and musical events in England.

In the years immediately preceding the Second World War, three musicians from central Europe sought asylum in England: Egon Wellesz, a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg and a close friend of Anton Webern; Roberto Gerhard, a Spanish dodecaphonist, a pupil of Schoenberg; and Mátyás Seiber, a widely respected teacher of composition, all three are contributors to SCO. International relations were resumed and intensified in postwar England, and London established itself as a musical center of world-wide importance, owing to the increased prestige of the BBC and gramophone recordings, both responsible for introducing English audiences to a wide range of contemporary music by native and foreign composers. Current musical events reported in the journal reflect the crucial debates and the most recent developments that characterize music in these years including the diverse compositional approaches to the serial methods of composition, in particular that conceived by Schoenberg. Special emphasis is devoted to essays related to various aspects of Schoenberg’s dodecaphonic method, with detailed analyses of individual works. Substantial attention is given to the peculiarities of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique, believed to be the modern method substituting for tonality. The influence of Schoenberg and Ernst Křenek on American composers of twelve-tone music is discussed by Milton Babbitt, a composer particularly interested in exploring the potential aspects of serial composition. Other articles deal with serial techniques used by established composers, with personal handling of Schoenbergian serialism, in some cases by correlating the series to mathematical procedures. A case in point is study of Stravinsky’s adoption of dodecaphonic procedures in his late compositions. The journal also publishes articles that emphasize the negative aspects, the weaknesses and limitations of Schoenberg’s dodecaphonic method.

Pierre Boulez is represented in his notorious polemic against the peculiarities of Schoenberg’s treatment of the serial technique, which Boulez considers to be excessively traditional and thus bound to come to a dead end. In Boulez’s view, the serial concept had to be extended to elements other than pitch—rhythm, pitch, timbre, dynamics, articulation—a way for a new music foretold by Anton Webern. By his works and his teaching Olivier Messiaen plays an essential part if the development of integral serialism and has a critical influence on the younger European serialists, including Boulez. With a series of three substantial articles about Messiaen by David Drew, a young music critic, SCO continues to bring Messiaen’s music to wider attention in Britain. The journal reserves space as well to essays concerning the most recent developments in contemporary music, such as the practice connected to pointillism, electronic music, the utilization of chance in composition or performance. In a 1959 conference at the Darmstadt Summer School of New Music, composer Luigi Nono writes condemning the negative influence of American John Cage on European music, since Cage’s ideas lead to a static conception of music and provoke the destruction of existing forms and historical traditions.

Of particular significance in the journal are the issues devoted entirely to a single composer, such as Roberto Gerhard and Igor Stravinsky, and include a series of informative essays on aspects of their biographies and musical analyses of some of their works. Also interesting are the entire issues dedicated to a survey of contemporary music and of most representative composers in such geographical areas as the United States (Carl Ruggles, Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, Leonard Bernstein) and Italy (Busoni, Dallapiccola). Some articles concern single composers who had previously received scant attention in Britain, for example Goffredo Petrassi, Edgar Varèse and Hans Werner Henze. The journal gives constant attention to current music activities and events in Britain and in other European countries through notices of competitions, programmes of concerts and radio broadcasts, operatic performances, didactic activities, news of composers, new recordings.

An outline of the musical situation in England is provided by Winton Dean, with attention given to the blossoming of a specifically English idiom, shown in the eclecticisms of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten and William Walton, and the influence exerted in support of opera by the newly organized (1946) Arts Council. Recognition of the importance of Vaughan Williams in his incorporation of folk song with traditional tonality is revealed in essays by Herbert Howells and Oliver Neighbour. Contemporary English opera is studied by Edward. J. Dent. The particular series of problems an opera conductor must face is discussed in an essay by Peter Gellhorn. Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett are identified as the composers who attempted to reaffirm the importance of the operatic genre along an essentially eclectic approach, and who won successes both at home and abroad in the field of national opera. Notable in the SCO are the reviews of the Venetian première of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, and of Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage. Tippett’s point of view on the relation of words and music and on the treatment of dramatic situations prior to beginning the composition stage of an opera is described in his ample essay on King Priam, one of his most important works for the theatre. Among the younger and most gifted English composers who came to the fore at the conclusion of the Second World War are Iain Hamilton, Bernard Naylor, and women composers Priaulx Rainer and Elisabeth Lutyens. Of these composers the SCO publishes the music of compositions that mirror the fashionable trends of English music of the time.

Articles published in the journal that focus on music historical topics are assigned to first-rate English and foreign musicologists, for example Jack A. Westrup on Monteverdi’s madrigals, Charles Van den Borren on the historical context of Dufay’s works, Denis Stevens on fourteenth-century English polyphony, Gilbert Reaney John Dunstable, David Lumsden on early sources of English lute music, Dom Gregory Murray on the notation of Gregorian chant.