Novello's 'Neue Zeitschrift'

'Novello's "Neue Zeitschrift": 1883, Francis Hueffer and The Musical Review', Brio 45 (Spring/Summer 2008), 14-27

For a special number of Brio, the journal of IAML UK and Ireland (a branch of the larger International Association of Music Libraries), I contributed this piece in honour of Arthur Searle, former Curator of Music Manuscripts, British Library, and Hon. Librarian of the Royal Philharmonic Society. In fact the entire number was dedicated to Arthur for his 70th birthday, edited by Rupert Ridgewell with a guest editorial by Richard Chesser, both of the BL. It celebrates Searle's outstanding work in music bibliography, manuscript study, cataloguing, and cultural history over a career of 40 years.

My essay focuses on a now-forgotten journal issued by Novello & Co. between January and June 1883, The Musical Review: A Weekly Musical Journal. Although undoubtedly the most disastrous press speculation ever tried by the music publisher, the title now remains a goldmine of information and opinion, boasting distinguished contributors from Parry, Grove and Sullivan to Dannreuther, Sutherland Edwards and G.B. Shaw.

The magazine was conceived explicitly in the image of Robert Schumann's Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. With the Novello boss Alfred H. Littleton's approval, it was edited by the well-known progressive music critic on The Times, Francis Hueffer. Designed to promote radical change as well as modern music in Britain, it heralded a new age of British Wagnerian 'music drama', starting with Alexander Mackenzie's Colomba (libretto by Hueffer, score published by Novello). Wagner even conveniently died during the journal's second month, opening space for coverage of the great man and future projections about his legacy.

In exploring the Musical Review's background, content, contributors and rationale, I show how the title ultimately failed through Hueffer’s self-promotional association with it, not through British public reluctance to embrace change or challenging music. Its failure is as revealing as its content is fascinating.

Download a pdf of the article here.

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