Link to home page

The Chesterian

(London, 1915-1940, 1947-1961)

Prepared by Liesbeth Hoedemaeker

Full text for the years 1915-1925 is available in the RIPM Retrospective Index with Full Text.

The Chesterian [CHE], one of England’s most important journals dealing with the development of musical composition and style during the first half of the twentieth century, was produced by the well-known music publisher J. & W. Chester. The journal was issued in two series, the first from 1915-1919; the second, titled New Series, from 1919-1961. Publication was interrupted from 1940 to 1947, years of the Second World War. The issues, in small format (ca. 11 x 19 cm), were published from September to July. The first series consists of twenty, sixteen-page issues containing 320 numbered pages, while the new series consists of two-hundred-and-eight issues and 8,632 pages, including both numbered and unnumbered pages. The number of annual issues begins at eight per volume in September 1919; declines to six in September 1932 until 1939; and, after the wartime interruption, to four issues in 1947. The cover pages often contain useful information, such as lists of contributors, opinions of subscribers, contents of earlier issues and advertisements. The appearance of the New Series sparked sufficient interest to be recognized in the New York Tribune, The Musical Times and the New York Tribune. From 1923 to 1931 The Chesterian published sixty-three music supplements, and from 1950 to 1958, four: compositions of two or three pages in length for piano solo or small ensembles by Malipiero, Bax, Bantock, Holst, Poulenc and De Falla.

Otto Marius Kling, the journal’s first editor 1915-19, was Swiss by birth. His connections with Scandinavia, Russia and France resulted in the publication of many related articles. The French Anglophile Georges Jean-Aubry was appointed editor in 1919, a position he held until the July-September 1940 issue. He was charged with creating the New Series and the task of adding more in-depth articles and reviews. In all he edited the first one hundred-fifty issues of the New Series. In all Jean-Aubry contributed forty-one articles to the journal, several of which are devoted to single composers. Others deal with a wide range of topics including the translation of songs (a specialty of Aubry), music and poetry, Wagner and John Ruskin, Beckford and music, Joseph Conrad and music, and the Swedish Ballet. Composers Gian Francesco Malipiero, Eugene Goossens and Manuel De Falla set some of Aubry’s poetry, and Albert Roussel wrote incidental music to Aubry’s play (Le Marchand de sable qui passe). The third editor, Rollo H. Myers (1892-1985), assumed the position after the end of the Second World War and held it until the journal’s demise. Myers was a music critic and author of several books including Modern French Music and of monographs on Debussy, Ravel, Satie and Stravinsky. Myers contributed ten articles to the journal including: “The Psychology of Listening to Music,” “Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire” and the French composer Charles Koechlin.

From the beginning, the journal’s content displays its international scope. For example, in the first series there are several articles dealing with Russian music during the First World War and articles on contemporary music in Scandinavia, Finland, Spain, and Italy, and a fascinating article by the well-known critic Ernest Newman dealing with English music during wartime. There are also many valuable biographical sketches and studies of the works of composers published by Chester. Among these are Eugène Goossens, the Belgian Joseph Jongen (a student of César Franck), Gabriel Grovlez, César Cui, Granville Bantock, Malipiero and Joseph Holbrooke.

The articles in the New Series cover a wide range of contemporary topics, including “Igor Stravinsky and the Objective Direction in Contemporary Music,” “Opera Season in Prague,” “Ildebrando Pizzetti’s Fedra,” “The Psychology of Listening to Music,” “The Attitude toward Native Composition in America,” “The Soul of Poland: Frederic Chopin,” “Maurice Ravel [compared to Debussy],” “Music An Affair of Races,” “The Development of Art Music in Hungary,” “Pizzetti as a Song Writer,” “The New Italian Musical Lyricism,” “Rhythm and Colour in Arab Folk-Music,” “The Gurre-Lieder of Arnold Schoenberg,” “Musical Life in Poland” and “Music in Slovenia, Yugoslavia.” Contemporary compositional styles discussed include impressionism, neo-classicism, atonality and twelve-tone systems, “popular” music, music incorporating folk-music idioms, and the experiments of musique concrète and post-war serialism. The range of subjects and composers treated is quite remarkable: French music from Debussy and Ravel to Auric and Poulenc and to Messiaen and Boulez; German music from Max Reger, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern to composers of the post Second World War period; music of the Italian modernists Franco Alfano, Alfredo Casella, Malipiero, Ildebrando Pizzetti and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco; Russian and Soviet music from Rachmaninov to Myaskovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich; British music from Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst, Granville Bantock, and Ralph Vaughan Williams to Benjamin Britten, Alan Rawsthorne, Michael Tippett and Edmund Rubbra; and American music from Edward MacDowell and Charles Martin Loeffler to Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Roger Sessions and William Schuman.

The political climate of Europe from the First World War, the Russian Revolution to the Second World War and its aftermath is understood as a backdrop to changing musical attitudes expressed in numerous reports from London and Paris, Argentina (Buenos Aires), Canada (Toronto), Denmark (Copenhagen), Holland, Germany (Wiesbaden), Poland (Warsaw), Romania, Czechoslovakia (Prague), Italy (Rome and Venice), Belgium, Spain (Barcelona, Madrid), Switzerland (Basle), Russia (Moscow), the United States (New York), Greece, Hungary (Budapest), Austria (Vienna) and from distant Palestine.

A good deal of attention is paid to conductors. Of particular interest is a series of short articles on, among others, Arturo Toscanini, Leopold Stokowski, Felix Weingartner, Willem Mengelberg, Thomas Beecham, Hamilton Harty, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Hermann Scherchen, Henry J. Wood, Václav Talich, Adrian Boult, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Ernest Ansermet, Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, and Bruno Walter. There is an excellent series of articles containing the opinions of several contemporary composers on the sources of their musical inspiration, and, another series on the musical cities of Italy. The activities of the International Society for Contemporary Music are also closely followed.

The appearance of a significant repertory of music recorded by the electrical process in 78 and 33 1/3 rpm L.P. formats were reviewed on a fairly regular basis beginning in December 1926. Broadcasting is a subject of interest. Here one deals with the choice of repertoire to be broadcast, the educational value of broadcasting, and especially the British Broadcasting Corporation with its many concerts and its “Third Programme” devoted to culture and particularly to music.