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Late Victorian Appropriations in the Biographies of Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn

Wiley, C (2009) Late Victorian Appropriations in the Biographies of Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn In: ‘Purcell, Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn: Anniversary Reflections’, Royal Musical Association Conference, 2009-03-27 - 2009-03-29, New College, Oxford.

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Previous scholarship by Marian Wilson Kimber and David Gramit has explored the ways in which later nineteenth-century English writers recast specific Great Composers in a suitably Victorian light. This paper adopts a more comparative approach in order to investigate, with reference to an array of important biographical texts, the extent of such reconstruction and appropriation across the life-writing on perhaps the three most obvious candidates. Reading in tandem the articles on Handel and Mendelssohn in the first edition of Grove’s Dictionary (1878-1890), for instance, reveals that the rhetoric by which the naturalized composer was claimed for England was manifestly similar to that for an indisputably German subject; while the earliest Master Musicians biography of Handel (1901, by C. F. Abdy Williams) even situated its subject between Purcell and the English Musical Renaissance to justify the aridity of the country’s musical scene in the intervening period through what the author perceived as Handel’s inescapable influence. Given the absence of analogous English creative genius for much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, biographers apparently emphasized the country’s recognition and support of such greatness in foreigners by way of instead promoting notions of a surrogate national tradition in which non-native composers could flourish.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Music and Media
Authors :
Wiley, C
Date : 2009
Contributors :
ContributionNameEmailORCID Royal Musical Association,
Uncontrolled Keywords : music, musical biography, Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 11 Dec 2013 11:55
Last Modified : 05 Mar 2019 10:14

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