Tovey, Donald Francis 1875-1940
TOVEY, Donald Francis 1875-1940
PERSONAL: Born July 17, 1875, in Eton, England; died July 10, 1940, in Edinburgh, Scotland; son of Duncan (a schoolmaster and rector) Tovey; second marriage to Clara G. Wallace, 1925. Education: Studied privately with Sophie Weisse (piano), Sir Walter Parratt (counterpoint), and James Higgs (composition); Balliol College, Oxford, B.A. (classical honors), 1898.
CAREER: Musical scholar, composer, and pianist. University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, Reid Professor of Music, 1914-40, founder of Reid Orchestra. Composer of original compositions, including The Bride of Dionysus, a cello concerto written for Pablo Casals, and orchestral pieces, chamber music, vocal music, and music for piano.
AWARDS, HONORS: Lewis Nettleship memorial scholarship, 1894; knighted, 1935.
Essays in Musical Analysis, Joseph Williams (London, England), 1902.
The Classical Concerto: Its Nature and Purpose, Joseph Williams (London, England), 1902.
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in D Minor—Opus 125: An Essay in Musical Analysis, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1922, revised edition, James Thin (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1927.
(With others) The Heritage of Music (two volumes), edited by Hubert J. Foss, Humphrey Milford (London, England), 1927-34.
A Companion to "The Art of the Fugue"—"Die Kunst der Fuge"—J. S. Bach, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1931.
A Companion to Beethoven's Pianoforte Sonatas: Barto-Bar Analysis, Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (London, England), 1931, published as A Companion to Beethoven's Pianoforte Sonatas: Complete Analysis, AMS Press (New York, NY), 1976.
Musical Form and Matter (lecture), Oxford University Press (London, England), 1934.
Essays in Musical Analysis (six volumes; unrelated to the 1902 book of the same title) Oxford University Press (London, England), 1935-39, reprinted in four volumes, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1981.
Normality and Freedom in Music (lecture), Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1936.
The Main Stream of Music (lecture), Humphrey Milford (London, England), 1938.
(With Geoffrey Parratt) Walter Parratt: Master of Music, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1941.
A Musician Talks, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1941.
Some English Symphonists: A Selection from Essays in Musical Analysis, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1941.
Essays in Musical Analysis: Chamber Music, edited by Hubert J. Foss, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1944.
Musical Articles from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, edited by Hubert J. Foss, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1944.
Chamber Music, 1944, reprinted, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1989.
Beethoven, edited by Hubert J. Foss, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1945.
The Main Stream of Music and Other Essays, edited by Hubert J. Foss, Oxford University Press (New York), 1949, published as Essays and Lectures on Music, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1949, reprinted, AMS Press (New York, NY), 1979.
The Forms of Music, edited by Hubert J. Foss, Meridian Books (New York, NY), 1956.
Concertos and Choral Works, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1989.
The Classics of Music: Talks, Essays, and Other Writings Previously Uncollected, edited by Michael Tilmouth, editing completed by David Kimbell and Roger Savage, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Contributor of entries to Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Tovey's musical library and a catalogue of his personal papers are held by the University of Edinburgh.
SIDELIGHTS: Donald Francis Tovey was a renowned scholar of classical music whose own works were greatly influenced by Brahms. Until his death in 1940 he was considered to be Britain's most distinguished and influential commentator on music. Tovey spent more than twenty-five years as the Reid Professor of Music at the University of Edinburgh, and both before and during that period he was the author of a considerable number of essays, critiques, and lectures, most of which were collected and published.
Tovey was a musical prodigy, composing at the age of eight. Sophie Weisse, an accomplished pianist, brought the young Tovey to her girls school to study music. Tovey was privately tutored until he attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated with honors. During the next few years he performed chamber music in concerts that were frequently arranged by Weisse. From about 1900, Tovey wrote analyses of his concerts that were daunting to audiences who were used to pretty Victorian programs that contained a paragraph or two. Tovey's notes took up to fifty pages, and the performances were often over before audiences had absorbed them. It was this practice and his sarcasm in critiquing the creations of others that kept his career from going forward as quickly as it otherwise might have.
Tovey was commissioned to write many entries on music for the 1910 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, a task he accomplished over four years. These were collected and published by Oxford University Press in 1944. When he was appointed Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh in 1914, he found the occupational niche that would bring him happiness for the rest of his life.
Upon arriving at Edinburgh, Tovey created the Reid Orchestra, which he conducted, and which included both students and professional musicians. He was adored by his students for his knowledge and passion, and he resumed writing analyses for every program. Tovey was pressured to publish these essays, which he did, as well as some that go back to his pre-Reid days, as Essays in Musical Analysis, a set of six volumes that were published from 1935 to 1939. The first three, published in 1935, the year Tovey was knighted, cover the symphonies, from Hayden through Holst, and concertos, from Mozart through Walton. In 1937, the fourth and fifth volumes, containing vocal and illustrative music, were published, and the final volume, containing essays, the glossary, and the index, was published in 1939, the year before Tovey died. A supplemental seventh volume, containing his writings on chamber music, was published in 1944.
The essays remain an influence on musical scholarship and have been reprinted several times, including in four volumes by Oxford University Press. More than 250 works are discussed. A Times Literary Supplement writer called the essays "perhaps the best collection of programme notes ever written." National Review's Terry Teachout commented that "for acuteness, common sense, clarity, and wit they are probably unequaled."
Edmund Morris reviewed Essays in Musical Analysis in Harper's, noting that he first read them as a young man growing up in Nairobi, Kenya. Morris wrote that Tovey's knowledge was "so profound as to intimidate all who came into his presence. Even old Joseph Joachim, an intimate of Brahms and the preeminent violinist of the nineteenth century, had to admit that Tovey, at twenty-two, knew more about music than anybody alive."
Morris continued, "Rereading Tovey's volumes, I am struck by their cumulative impression of youthful ardor. Whether an essay dates from 1900 or 1934, the freshness of Tovey's feelings . . . is the same. Age could not weary his love of music, nor custom stale his response to compositions he must have heard and taught thousands of times." Tovey also wrote analyses of individual works, such as A Companion to Beethoven's Pianoforte Sonatas: Complete Analysis, and A Companion to "The Art of the Fugue"—"Die Kunst der Fuge"—J. S. Bach, and a number of his collections were published posthumously.
In 2001 Oxford University Press published The Classics of Music: Talks, Essays, and Other Writings Previously Uncollected, an 864-page tribute to Tovey edited by Michael Tilmouth, David Kimbell, and Roger Savage. The first section of the six-part volume is titled "Essays in Musical Analysis" and is a supplement to the seven volumes previously published under this title. Peter Shore reviewed the volume for Classical Music Web online, saying that "the essays here range from cantatas by Bach to William Walton's coronation march, 'Crown Imperial,' which was performed at the coronation of King George VI on twelfth May 1937." The second section is titled "Tovey as Journalist, Reviewer, and Obituarist (1902-1907, 1926-1934)," and the third, "Composer Articles in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1929)," includes Tovey's articles published in the eleventh edition and covers the next two decades, during which time he made revisions.
"Two Lecture Series from the 1920s" is the title of part four, and part five is titled "Broadcast Talks for the BBC in the 1920s." For his series on Beethoven's keyboard works, he sat at the piano, played, and stopped to comment when he felt it was necessary. Radio was in its infancy, and the broadcasts were live. Tovey spoke at a level not understood by all listeners, and when his series Music and the Ordinary Listener aired, he was required to read from scripts.
The final section, "Pieces on Several Occasions (1899-1939)," is arranged chronologically, and many of the pieces are published here for the first time. Shore wrote that "for all those who know and love Tovey's writing, this is a long awaited and very welcome addition. . . . For the first time in one book, the reader is able to appreciate the depth and breadth of Tovey and his livelong love of music."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Arnold, Dennis, editor, The New Oxford Companion to Music (two volumes), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1983.
Grierson, Mary, Donald Francis Tovey: A Biography in Letters, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1952.
Morehead, Philip D., and Anne MacNeil, The New American Dictionary of Music, Dutton (New York), 1991.
Slonimsky, Nicolas, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Classical Musicians, Schirmer Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Thinkers of the Twentieth Century, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1987, pp. 776-778.
Harper's, December, 1981, Edmund Morris, review of Essays in Musical Analysis, pp. 76-78.
Music Educators Journal, March, 1973, review of Essays in Musical Analysis, p. 103.
National Review, April 6, 1984, Terry Teachout, review of Essays in Musical Analysis, p. 61.
Times Educational Supplement, December 24, 1982, Robert Turnbull, review of Essays in Musical Analysis, p. 23.
Times Literary Supplement, October 27, 1972, review of Essays in Musical Analysis, p. 1276; January 18, 2002, Charles Rosen, review of The Classics of Music: Talks, Essays, and Other Writings Previously Uncollected, pp. 25-26.
Classical Music Web,http://www.musicweb.uk.net/ (July 29, 2002), Peter Shore, review of The Classics of Music.*