Charles Burney and the History of Music
June 19, 2005 9:37 AM   Subscribe

The Doctor of Music. "A General History of Music From the Earliest Ages to the Present Period, Volume IV", written by the English musician and historian Dr. Charles Burney (1726-1814) was published in 1789. Its first volume, completed in 1776, was the first History of music ever published. The fourth volume is of particular interest as it discusses the state of music in Burney's own lifetime. He observed the music, and musicians that he wrote about first hand. In fact, Burney was close friends with composers such as Haydn and Handel, he even played violin in Handel's orchestra, and lived with Dr. Thomas Arne for two years in London, as his apprentice. The fourth volume, to Dr. Charles Burney, was the most interesting as he preferred the music of the current time, finding no interest in "antiquarianism." In the main link, the entire volume -- in facsimile -- is available to readers. Burney also translated Pietro Metastasio's Memoirs. Also: The Burney Collection of Newspapers at the British Library. More inside.
posted by matteo (6 comments total)
Through a teaching post with Fulke Greville, a wealthy English aristocrat, Burney was welcomed in the best circles of English society. He met composers such as C.P.E. Bach , Hasse, Gluck, and Metastasio, and the historian Padre Martini of Bologna on his travels. He even heard Frederick the Great perform on the flute.
posted by matteo at 9:41 AM on June 19, 2005

Dr Charles was of course the father of the novelist and diarist Fanny Burney
posted by matteo at 9:44 AM on June 19, 2005

posted by cortex at 11:16 AM on June 19, 2005

Thanks matteo. It seems one of those unwritten laws of Mefi is that sometimes the most interesting posts garner the fewest comments (but inspire the most reading). Fanny Burney was considered by Jane Austen to be her literary superior, btw. Some excerpts from her diary dealing with her meetings with Dr. Johnson; and a partial description from her letters of the mastectomy she suffered in 1810.
posted by jokeefe at 8:28 PM on June 19, 2005

thanks, matteo. i was wondering who this burney fellow was when someone made that post a while back about mozart and the alligheri misere. i was too lazy to look it up (and apparently i missed those lectures when getting my music degree. how is that possible?!).
posted by Igor XA at 10:34 PM on June 19, 2005

I always make a point to thank people for arts-related links. I've skimmed this and added it to my long list of bookmarks. (Except *eek* on the front page reverse screen type in the book facsimile link.) I wasn't at all familiar with Metastasio (the official composer of MetaFilter?).

But I'm in the mood for some quick firsthand 18th-century celebrity news. Can anyone point me straight to some of his comments about his buddies Handel and Haydn? :)

Oh, and then jokeefe had to go and add that interesting medical link too. What a chilling description of drugless surgery. As Lister is quote on that site's main page - surgeons learned to work quickly!
(You could turn also turn this into a morbid game. For example, which would be worse, drugless mastectomy or very long labor and "natural" childbirth?
Amputating your own leg or, um, having monkeys pull out your teeth? etc.)
posted by NorthernLite at 2:05 PM on June 20, 2005

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