Drawing on many archival findings, this book considers the emerging function and status of orchestral conductors in Britain, and the nature of the opportunities available to them, from the late Victorian era until the outbreak of World War I. It does so by examining and comparing the profiles and impact of eight men whose work supplied the needs of a variety of institutions across the period but whose significant contributions were overshadowed by the emergence of virtuoso interpreters. The conducting activities of Julius Benedict, William Cusins, Joseph Barnby, Arthur Sullivan, Frederic Cowen, Alexander Mackenzie, Dan Godfrey and Landon Ronald provide a lens through which the evolution of conducting as a profession is traced. At the British Empire's height their work was shaped by and enriched the cultural life of the nation. During a period of intense activity and development, their portfolios of engagements and working patterns shed light on the infrastructures within the music business. By focusing on the fortunes and agency of conductors resident within the marketplace, this book deepens our understanding of the internal networks, influences and priorities within musical life in Britain in the late nineteenth century.
FIONA M. PALMER is Professor of Music at the National University of Ireland Maynooth.