McGuire (Music and Victorian Philanthropy) and Plank (Choral Performance) identify the composers, publishers, venues, movements, companies, genres, and major works from England’s Renaissance to rock’s infancy....The alphabetized entries are accessible and fully cross-referenced and in a field of period-specific monographs, this is the first book to embrace such a broad span of musical history.
Authors McGuire and Plank, both on the music faculty of Oberlin College, present brief entries for people, musical styles, organizations, significant compositions, and events related to more than 500 years of English “classical” music history. They are clear in their preface that coverage is limited to the music of England, not the greater British Isles, unless particular topics or people from outside England had a significant connection to England’s musical culture. Examples of these inclusions are German-born composers Felix Mendelssohn and George Frideric Handel. A chronology is followed by the introduction, in which the authors walk readers through each featured century of English music, highlighting characteristics, composers, styles, and genres that represent music of the country: for example, secular “lute songs” of the Elizabethan sixteenth century, operas of Henry Purcell in the seventeenth century, and the “Golden Era” of English music in the twentieth century, led by composers Benjamin Britten, Gustav Holst, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. In fact, England’s “Golden Era” ends with the death of Vaughan Williams, in 1958, not coincidentally the terminal date for the volume’s coverage. More than 600 entries vary in length from a paragraph or two to more than two pages for some broad musical subjects like Opera. The majority of the biographies are for composers, with only a few prominent performers included. The well-organized bibliography is arranged by name and topic. Surprisingly, there are no significant comparable volumes available on this topic, making this a nice addition for academic and music libraries.