Musgrave, Michael 1942-

views updated

Musgrave, Michael 1942-


Born August 26, 1942, in London, England; son of Albert Henry (a telecommunications engineer) and Phillis Mary Musgrave; married Celia Helen Terrington, 1965 (divorced, 1983); married Janie Elizabeth Bailey, 1994; children: Stephen Michael, Jonathan Mark. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Royal College of Music, A.R.C.M., 1962; Royal Schools of Music, graduate, 1963; London Institute of Education, London, music teacher certification, 1964; Royal College of Organists, fellow, 1967; University of London, B.Mus. (with first class honors), 1973, Ph.D., 1980.


Home—Garrison, NY. E-mail—[email protected].


Eltham Hill School for Girls (secondary school), London, England, music director, 1964-74; University of London, Goldsmiths College, London, lecturer, 1974-80, principal lecturer, 1980-89, reader, 1989-94, professor of music, 1994-98, professor emeritus, 1998—, visiting professor, 1998—. Juilliard School, member of graduate faculty, 2005—; conference participant in the United States and abroad; guest on media programs. Oxford University, visiting summer research fellow at St. John's College, 1992; Royal College of Music, visiting research fellow, 1999—.


Royal Society of Arts, Trägerverein of the Johannes Brahms Gesamtausgabe, Lansdowne Club (London, England), Century Club (New York, NY).


Honorary fellow, Royal College of Music (F.R.C.M.), 2005.


The Music of Brahms, Routledge and Kegan Paul (Boston, MA), 1985.

(Editor) Brahms 2: Biographical, Documentary, and Analytical Studies, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1987.

(Editor) Johannes Brahms, Liebeslieder-Walzer: op. 52a; and Neue Liebeslieder-Walzer: op. 65a, Piano Duet (music), Editions Peters (New York, NY), 1988.

The Musical Life of the Crystal Palace, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

Brahms: A German Requiem, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

(Editor) Johannes Brahms, Liebeslieder-Walzer op. 52' and Neue Liebeslieder-Walzer, op. 65 for voices and piano duet, Carus Verlag (music), Stuttgart, 1996.

(Editor) The Cambridge Companion to Brahms, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

A Brahms Reader, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2000.

(Editor) George Grove, Music and Victorian Culture, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor, with Bernard D. Sherman) Performing Brahms: Early Evidence of Performance Style, with sound recording, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor) Johannes Brahms, Serenaden (musical score), G. Henle (Munich, Germany), 2006.

Reviews editor, Music Analysis, 1982-93.


Michael Musgrave has devoted much of his career to the study of German composer Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). Brahms was one of that century's most notable writers of music, in an era rife with great names in the field. His standing in artistic history as the author of Romantic chamber music, lieder, and a quartet of four symphonies remained firm at the onset of the twenty-first century.

Musgrave has written or edited several works about Brahms. In the first of these, The Music of Brahms, Musgrave explores the work of Brahms in a chronological sequence—his early pieces, the influence of other composers and musical currents, and the emergence of his creative confidence—and offers critical assessments from a technical standpoint. There are several illustrations of the composer's musical manuscripts. A Times Literary Supplement review by Eric Sams noted the guide's comprehensiveness, though "the language is remorselessly technical." Sams called it "a structuralist handbook…. As such, I do not see how it could be bettered." David Blewitt wrote in the Times Educational Supplement that Musgrave "writes a straightforward prose and deploys a terminology which gives the inexpert a fighting chance to comprehend the more complex passages of exegisis," or interpretation of a text.

Musgrave then edited Brahms 2: Biographical, Documentary, and Analytical Studies before devoting several years to the research and writing of The Musical Life of the Crystal Palace. In this work Musgrave chronicles the life and times of one of London's most famed public venues: a giant, greenhouse-like structure erected in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition in 1851. Nearly 300,000 panes of glass sheltered an exhibition space designed to showcase the British Empire's scientific and technological advancements. Music was considered an integral part of the Crystal Palace's appeal to the public when a more permanent version was constructed in South London within the year. It quickly became a gathering spot for English music lovers from a wide spectrum of socioeconomic classes.

Musgrave's book discusses the leadership provided by two of the Palace's best-known musical directors, Sir Michael Costa and Sir August Manns. Its Handel Festivals, presented for seventy years beginning in 1857, were renowned affairs, and its Saturday concerts frequently debuted new work by composers such as Richard Wagner. But Musgrave explores the more widespread appeal of the hall: the Crystal Palace also housed a School of Art, Science, and Literature, which offered enrichment courses for women and became the focus for choral competitions and brass-band gatherings; one brass-band convention in 1891 featured 10,000 musicians. Musgrave's task was complicated by the demise of the Crystal Palace: it burned to the ground in 1936, and crates of archival materials were destroyed in the blaze. In his research, Musgrave was forced to rely on more scattered records, including press reports.

Still, The Musical Life of the Crystal Palace earned notice from reviewers for the deft handling of its subject matter. Wilfrid Mellers, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, described the book as "an intelligent piece of social history." A reviewer for Notes, Nicholas Temperley, found fault with some factual errors, but gave the work a positive assessment in the end. "In choosing to write about the Crystal Palace he is not only filling a large gap in music history; he is also, perhaps, making a statement about the kind of history that is needed to correct older interpretations," wrote Temperley.

Musgrave returned to the subject of Brahms with a look at the composer's most well-known work, Brahms: A German Requiem, as the 100th anniversary of his death approached. As the author explained, the Requiem won Brahms international acclaim, partly as a result of its innovative use of the German language, not Latin, as was customary for the requiem form.

Musgrave also attracted critical notice for A Brahms Reader, a biographical account of the composer told through his own words and those of his contemporaries. Here, Musgrave does not approach Brahms's life in a chronological progression, but rather structures the chapters around certain themes: the composer's student years, performing career, extensive travels, and the critical reception to his works. The revelations do not present the most flattering portrait of Brahms's attitudes toward women at times, and Musgrave does not shy away from including the negative words of other composers—such as Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt—who very much disliked Brahms's music. "Although the book is both clearly written and exhaustive, it can be disorderly," noted a Library Journal review by Barry Zaslow, which he attributed to its nonlinear organization. A Publishers Weekly reviewer, however, found that the work "bursts with Brahms's feeling about life and art," and reported that, among all the books published in the years surrounding the centenary of the composer's death, "none is more comprehensive than Musgrave's."

George Grove (1820-1900) is probably best known to American readers, if at all, as the creator of the original Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, but to British music aficionados his reputation seems more widespread. In George Grove, Music and Victorian Culture, Musgrave offers a detailed look at George Grove the civil engineer, geographer and explorer; the biblical lexicographer; the amateur musical researcher who popularized contemporary European composers among British concertgoers of his day and penned hundreds of musical program notes signed simply "G"; the longtime editor of Macmillan's magazine; and the indefatigable director of the fledgling Royal College of Music. Ruth A. Solie wrote a detailed and highly favorable review of the edited collection for the journal Notes, emphasizing that Grove's accomplishments were remarkable for someone who had no formal musical training whatsoever. She also mentioned the unusually personal vignettes of the man that emerge from Musgrave's collection. "British readers will probably feel closer than most to the subject of this book," Solie concluded, "… but it is a volume that will reward American readers as well."



Choice, September, 1986, review of The Music of Brahms, p. 139; June, 1997, review of Brahms: A German Requiem, p. 1674.

Library Journal, September 1, Barry Zaslow, review of A Brahms Reader, 1999, p. 193.

Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, September, 1991, David Brodbeck, review of Brahms 2: Biographical, Documentary, and Analytical Studies, pp. 86-91; September, 1996, Nicholas Temperley, review of The Musical Life of the Crystal Palace, pp. 44-47; March, 2005, Ruth A. Solie, review of George Grove, Music and Victorian Culture, p. 732.

Publishers Weekly, September 13, 1999, review of A Brahms Reader, p. 73.

Times Educational Supplement, January 24, David Blewitt, review of The Music of Brahms, 1986, p. 37.

Times Literary Supplement, March 7, 1986, Eric Sams, review of The Music of Brahms, p. 244; March 29, 1996, Wilfrid Mellers, review of The Musical Life of the Crystal Palace, p. 18.

Victorian Studies, spring, 1996, Jeffrey T. Hay, review of The Musical Life of the Crystal Palace, pp. 462-465.