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The Musician

(London, 1919-1921)

Prepared by Richard Kitson
Online only (2021)

The Musician [TMU], a monthly English journal of twenty-two issues, was printed for the proprietor by King & Jarrett, Limited, in London from September 1919 until June 1921. Each issue comprises about twenty pages of essays, letters to the editor and occasional reviews printed in two-column format. The pages of the issues are numbered consecutively from no. 1 to 256 for issues 1 through 12, and 1 to 214 for issues 13 through 20. Extensive advertisements of about twenty pages, with independent page numbering in lower-case Roman numerals, precede and follow the essays. Although from the high quality of the articles and the many positive responses from readers indicate that the journal’s years of publication were successful, no reason for the cessation of publication is given. 

The intent of the journal is expressed by the editor Henry John Coates in “Our Policy,” the first article of the first issue: “ . . . complete independence in expression of opinion. It is neither influenced nor controlled by any corporation, trade or otherwise.” Coates was a highly educated intellectual with a Ph.D. in music, who introduced each issue with a one-page editorial on the serious problems affecting the progress of music in post First World War Britain: concerts that offer the public an ill-assorted mass of music; the absence of British music in concerts on the Continent; a comparison of concerts over a thirty year period; and foreign musicians’ opinions on the lack of rehearsal time in Britain.

Significant articles by a number of highly respected British music journalists are the important feature of The Musician. Among these writers are Henry C. Colles who informs on the discovery of the love of music by soldiers during the First World War; the puzzle created by the indifference to music exhibited by persons of learning in other disciplines; and the importance of historical drama as sources for operatic treatment. Ernest Newman describes Edward Elgar’s manipulation of sonata form with new content and order; wonders why British composers avoid writing music dealing with the sea; explains how a worldwide common consciousness tends to obliterate national characteristics in music; inquires as to why critics do not applaud; considers the roles of the gramophone and player-piano in musical education; investigates the problems encountered by British singers in dealing with an Italian, French and Russian operatic repertory; and deems the music of Scriabin an abomination without sense when read or heard. Edwin Evans explains the training of pianists; considers the Russian ballet as an international art; identifies a sense of fun as a missing link in British music; and the opposed attitudes of the French and English public toward the vocal recital. Edward J. Dent attempts to identify English musical classics. Other notable contributors, who write on an occasional basis, include Richard Capell, Nicholas C. Gatty, Herbert Antcliffe, Feruccio Bonavia, Clement Antrobus Harris and Eugene Goossens.

There are several columns written by regular contributors. Henry Arthur Scott’s “Comments of the Concert Goer” investigates the programs of the Promenade Concerts and other performances; the debatable question of quantity and quality of a prodigious amount of music heard in London; and writes critically of the then relatively new compositions of Ravel, Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Debussy and Scriabin. Some of Scott’s contributions are reviews of contemporary music and musicians. In Francis E. Barrett’s series of articles on “The Operatic Outlook,” the past seasons and the prospects of the forthcoming season of operas are studied as is the question of the failure of British opera to secure a foothold in the operatic repertory. L. A. Casartelli considers opera to be “Italy’s national pastime”; explains the place of operatic music in the lives of Italians; and discusses Italian operatic audiences as connoisseurs of the art.

Several regularly encountered features are noteworthy. “A Page for Professionals” deals with current musical problems, for example, gramophone recording, agent’s commissions, the encore problem, musicians’ fees and the legal definition of a conductor. “A Page for Amateurs” considers practical matters such as buying a violin, locating arrangements for various combinations of instruments, musical literature available in lending libraries, and the uses of expression marks. “The Student and the Teacher” deals with problems encountered in musical instruction including differences in the teaching of singing to individual pupils, the study of operatic roles, training for orchestral playing and sight reading and the technique of conducting. “Our Readers’ Views” consists of letters to the editor prompted by various topics dealt with in the journal’s articles. Of particular interest are the many letters in response to a reader’s remarks entitled “Two Old After Twenty” in which the pros and cons of adult music study are discussed.

An anonymous collection of amusing writings on various happenings in current musical life is the feature of the regular contribution entitled “Sforzando.” Included is a caricature, drawn by W. Barton Wilkinson, each of which depicts conductors Sir Thomas Beecham, Percy Pitt, Albert Coates and Hamilton Harty; pianists Benno Moiseiwitsch, Mark Hambourg and Frederick Lamond,; the music critic George Bernard Shaw; an unnamed percussionist of the London Symphony Orchestra; the British tenor Frank Mullings; the violinist Jascha Heifetz; and the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, among others.