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The John Marsh Journal Vol. II

The Life and Times of a Gentlemen Composer (1752-1828)

Brian Robins
July 12, 2013

441 pp.

22 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576471630

7 X10.5 Hardback $86.00


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The extensive journals of the dilettante English composer John Marsh, which cover the period 1752-1828, represent one of the most important musical and social documents of the times. Following the critically acclaimed Journals of John Marsh, Volume I, this second book takes the reader from Marsh’s 50th birthday in June 1802 up to his death on 31 October 1828. During the first decade of this period, Marsh’s extraordinary drive and enthusiasm for music making and organization showed little sign of abating. Even after his retirement as director of the Chichester subscription concerts, Marsh continued to observe musical and other events in London and the provinces with undiminished interest, providing invaluable insights into the great early 19th century musical festivals in such cities as Birmingham and York. Yet, as with the earlier volume, Marsh’s endlessly inquiring mind is evident in the wide range of topics that continued to excite his interest, making this second volume an essential companion for all those interested in the dynamic social life of Regency and late-Georgian Britain. Corrected work lists of Marsh’s musical and literary writings are included.
August 1, 2013

John Marsh (31 May 1752 - 31 October 1828) was an English music composer, born in Dorking, England. A lawyer by training, he is known to have written at least 350 compositions, including at least 39 symphonies. While today known primarily for his music, he also had strong interest irt other fields, including astronomy and philosophy , and wrote books about astronomy, music, religion, and geometry.

Marsh lived in Dorking, Gosport, Romsey, Salisbury and Canterbury before settling in Chichester in 1787 until his death in 1828. As a concert organizer, he was responsible for the music making in the towns and cities where he worked, especially in Chichester, where he led the subscription concerts for some 35 years.

Marsh was perhaps the most prolific English composer of his time. His own catalog of compositions records over 350 works, of which he lists 39 symphonies. Of these, only the nine that Marsh had printed are extant, together with three one-movement finales.

Marsh was a man of varied interests, and his 37 volumes of journals are among the most valuable sources of information on life and music in 18th-century England. They represent one of the most important musical and social documents of the period. It remained unpublished until the first volume was published in 1998. In one passage, Marsh describes the great Handel Commemoration of 1784 in London.

Deftly edited and extensively annotated by Brian Robins, "The John Marsh Journals: Volume II - The Life and times of a Gentleman Composer (1752-1828)" completes the personal journal-based life of John Marsh that began with the first volume, "The John Marsh Journals Vol. 1 Revised Edition" (Pendragon Press, 9781576471739, $84.00, 799 pp.). Enhanced with a number of historical illustrations, a catalog of the composer's musical compositions, a roster of articles and other literary works by Marsh, a three page bibliography, an index of Marsh's compositions and literary works, and a comprehensive general index, "The John Marsh Journals: Volume II - The Life and times of a Gentleman Composer (1752-1828)" is a monumental and chronologically organized work of impeccable scholarship. A seminal study, no academic library's European Music History collection can be considered either comprehensive or complete without the inclusion of the two volumes on journals of John Marsh as published by Pendragon Press as part of their outstanding series 'The Sociology and Social history of Music'.

Andy Jordan
“Midwest Book Review”
Reviewer's Bookwatch

Brian Robins:

Born in Cheltenham, England. An early interest in music took him into the record industry, by which time he had realised that he had no future as a performer. This, coupled with an interest in history, led him to undertake the four–year History of Music Diploma as an external student at the University of London. After completing this course with Honours, he became a part–time adult education lecturer, an occupation he found extremely rewarding. By this time he was also working on the extensive manuscript journals of the 18th–century English amateur composer, John Marsh, an undertaking that ultimately resulted in his edited version being published in the United States in 1998. His most recent book is a study of catch and glee culture in 18th–century England. He has also written chapters for two anthologies, essays for scholarly journals and presented papers at academic conferences in addition to contributing entries in the revised New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Aside from academic work, Brian Robins has reviewed early music CDs for a number of major publications, also undertaking editorial work. He is currently a book and record reviewer for Opera (UK). He has broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and was for several years a member of the awards panel of the Stanley Sadie International Handel Recording Prize. An interdisciplinary and contextual approach to the history of the arts is of great importance to him, his wide reading including many aspects of 17th- and 18th-century history.

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