Mrs Schumann’s Profession

Denis Arnold

  • The Cambridge Music Guide edited by Stanley Sadie and Alison Latham
    Cambridge, 544 pp, £15.00, October 1985, ISBN 0 521 25946 0
  • Tudor Music by David Wulstan
    Dent, 378 pp, £20.00, October 1985, ISBN 0 460 04412 5
  • The Music Profession in Britain since the 18th Century: A Social History by Cyril Ehrlich
    Oxford, 269 pp, £22.50, January 1986, ISBN 0 19 822665 9
  • Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman by Nancy Reich
    Gollancz, 346 pp, £15.95, October 1985, ISBN 0 575 03755 5
  • Lorenzo Da Ponte: The Life and Times of Mozart’s Librettist by Sheila Hodges
    Granada, 274 pp, £12.95, October 1985, ISBN 0 246 12001 0

English musicology has always embraced the Big Bang theory, which is to say that musical history is the story of great composers. Tovey’s remark that there are Great Composers and there are Interesting Historical Figures sums it up quite well. The German school has for the most part believed in principles and (since its discipline was born in the times of Darwin) the development of the species – whether symphony, harmonic idiom or orchestration. No doubt these differences have something to do with national temperament. They are also to do with institutions. German musicology always was a thing of university professors. English musicology has been largely a branch of journalism. It has been frankly popularist: it thrives in music appreciation classes and broadcasts, in programme notes telling the audience about form, in books about composers – for human interest is easily assimilated by the non-musician. It may be considered more useful than German (and hence American) scholarship, but it can hardly be denied that it does not make for good historical writing.

The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

You are not logged in