Before the Baton
Title Details

432 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

50 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Music in Britain, 1600-2000

Imprint: Boydell Press

Before the Baton

Musical Direction and Conducting in Stuart and Georgian Britain

by Peter Holman

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
  • Reviews
How was large-scale music directed or conducted in Britain before baton conducting took hold in the 1830s?
This book investigates the ways large-scale music was directed or conducted in Britain before baton conducting took hold in the 1830s. After surveying practice in Italy, Germany and France from Antiquity to the eighteenth century,the focus is on direction in two strands of music making in Stuart and Georgian Britain: choral music from Restoration cathedrals to the oratorio tradition deriving from Handel, and music in the theatre from the Jacobean masque to nineteenth-century opera, ending with an account of how modern baton conducting spread in the 1830s from the pit of the Haymarket Theatre to the Philharmonic Society and to large-scale choral music. Part social and musical history based on new research into surviving performing material, documentary sources and visual evidence, and part polemic intended to question the use of modern baton conducting in pre-nineteenth-century music, Before the Baton throws new light on many hitherto dark areas, though the heart of the book is an extended discussion of the evidence relating to Handel's operas, oratorios and choral music. Contrary to near-universal modern practice, he mostly preferred to play rather than beat time.
To Beat or Not to Beat: The Continental Context
1. 'Heard but not Seen': Leading Anglican Cathedral Music from the Organ
2. 'With a Scroll of Parchment or Paper, in Hand': Large-Scale Choral Music
3. 'Accompanied all along on the Organ by his Own Inimitable Hand': Handel and the Direction of his Oratorios
4. 'The Conductor at the Organ': The Oratorio Tradition after Handel
5. 'That Ridiculous Custom': From Devolved Direction to CentralizedTime-Beating in Seventeenth-Century Theatre Music
6. 'Il maestro al cembalo': Directing Opera and Theatre Music from the Harpsichord
7. 'A New Discipline and a New Style of Playing': Directing Opera and Theatre Music from the Violin
8. 'That Powerful Sovereign, the Conductor': From the Piano to the Rostrum
Superconductors or Semiconductors? Lessons for Today

PETER HOLMAN is Emeritus Professor of Historical Musicology at Leeds University. When not occupied with writing and research, he organises performances of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music, mostly directing them from the keyboard. He is director of The Parley of Instruments, Leeds Baroque, the Suffolk Villages Festival and the annual Baroque Summer School run by Cambridge Early Music.

"This beautifully produced volume is a remarkable achievement - clearly the outcome of exhaustive, wide-ranging research. a stimulating and thought provoking read." BRITISH MUSIC SOCIETY
"[A] fascinating and carefully argued book. Peter Holman distils a great breadth of reading, reflection and practical experience into a convincing description of how large-scale musical performances were directed before baton conducting took hold in the 1830s. This book has a great deal of interest to organists -- and for organists who also enjoy opera." David Knight, BIOS Journal

Hardcover

9781783274567

February 2020

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Ebook (EPDF)

9781787446304

February 2020

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Title Details

432 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

50 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Music in Britain, 1600-2000

Imprint: Boydell Press