Ernest Newman

June 2017
12 black and white illustrations
274 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Music in Britain, 1600-2000
ISBN: 9781783271900
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC MUS006000, MUS020000

Ernest Newman

A Critical Biography

Paul Watt

Examines the genesis of Ernest Newman's major publications in the context of prevailing intellectual trends in history, criticism and biography.
Ernest Newman (1868-1959) left an indelible mark on British musical criticism in a career spanning more than seventy years. His magisterial Life of Richard Wagner, published in four volumes between 1933 and 1946, is regarded as his crowning achievement, but Newman wrote many other influential books and essays on a variety of subjects ranging from early music to Schoenberg. In this book, the geneses of Newman's major publications are examined in the context of prevailing intellectual trends in history, criticism and biography. Newman's career as a writer is traced across a wide range of subjects including English and French literature, evolutionary theory and biographical method, and French, German and Russian music. Underpinning many of these works is Newman's preoccupation with rationalism and historical method. By examining particular sets of writings such as composer-biographies and essays from leading newspapers such as the Manchester Guardian and the Sunday Times, this book illustrates the ways in which Newman's work was grounded in late nineteenth-century intellectual paradigms that made him a unique and at times controversial figure.

PAUL WATT is Senior Lecturer in Musicology in the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University.

Table of Contents

Ernest Newman and the Challenge of Critical Biography
Formation of a Critical Sensibility: The 1880s and 1890s
Social, Literary and Musical Criticism: 1893-1897
A Rationalist Manifesto: Pseudo-Philosophy at the end of the Nineteenth Century, 1897
Music History and the Comparative Method: Gluck and the Opera, 1895
From Manchester to Moscow: Essays on Music, 1900-1920
'The World of Music': Essays in The Sunday Times, 1920-1958
Biographical and Musicological Tensions: The Man Liszt, 1934
Sceptical and Transforming: Books on Wagner, 1899-1959
Conclusion: Ernest Newman Remembered
Appendix: Newman's Freethought Lectures, 1894-1896


One comes away from Watt's book with a detailed portrait of Newman the writer and a profound admiration for the way in which the author has painstakingly researched and documented his achievements in the field. BRIO

Reveals that...Newman's fascinating non-musical background that he brought to music the secret of Newman's deeply human renaissance qualities as a writer...[This] critical biography erects the intangible monument that no-one reputedly raises in bronze or marble to critics. WAGNER NEWS OF VICTORIA

Unpredictably refreshing...Watt has done a very great amount of reading and put these results creditably at our disposal. GRAMOPHONE

This is indeed a very good and stimulating read. SOUNDS MAGAZINE

An immensely stimulating and readable book, raising many interesting and ever-relevant questions concerning the nature of music biography and criticism, and how they are affected by extra-musical issue of contemporary social and intellectual preoccupation. THE MUSICAL TIMES

Thanks to Watt, we know that Newman was personally indebted to his Freethought associates...[this is an] impressively researched book'. David Cormack, THE WAGNER JOURNAL

This book is important and will help to keep Newman's contribution to our musical heritage in perspective and alive. SPIRITED, THE GAZETTE OF THE ENGLISH MUSIC FESTIVAL

The book is extremely well written, referenced, and produced, and shows an exemplary attention to detail...Paul Watt has done scholars a considerable service, this being the first book to place the whole span of Newman's career and the most significant parts of his writing in both context and continuum. Paul Rodmell, CONTEXT: JOURNAL OF MUSIC RESEARCH

Newman's thinking...comes into focus remarkably well...This is a readable book, with plenty to tell us about the development of an influential mind. Stephen Johnson, BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE

[A] well-researched, well-written, well-presented book, drawing upon an impressive bibliography, both musicological and more broadly historiographical. NABMSA REVIEWS

Ernest Newman was Wagner's most detailed biographer - and despite the age of his four-volume "Life Of Richard Wagner" it remains indispensable. Ernest Newman finds himself and his work treated to an equally fine biography by Paul Watt. Well worth your attention. THE WAGNERIAN

This excellent and detailed biography demands to be consulted in conjunction with Newman's writings. AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW

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