Rosa Newmarch and Russian Music in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century England.
Many years ago when I had the pleasure of working with Gerald Abraham, renowned for his work on Russian music, knowing that I came from Leamington Spa, he would often comment on the curious phenomenon that three of the earliest Russian music specialists had all been born in England within a relatively short distance from each other, Constance Bache (1846-1903) being born in Birmingham, Montagu Nathan (1877-1958) in Banbury, and Rosa Newmarch (1857-1940) in Leamington Spa. But whereas Constance Bache's 16 writings on Russian music were published in The Anglo-Russian journal over the period 1897-1900, Rosa Newmarch devoted most of her life to the production of a steady stream of articles from 1888-1948 devoted to Russian and East European music, in addition to writing more substantial works such as Tchaikovsky: His Life and Works, with Extracts from his Writings, and the Diary of his Tour Abroad in 1888 (London, 1900), Poetry and Progress in Russia (London, 1907), The Russian Opera (London, 1914), The Russian Arts (London, 1916), The Devout Russian: A Book of Thoughts and Counsels Gathered from the Saints and Fathers of the Eastern Church and Modern Russian Authors with an Introduction and Biographical Notes (London, 1918), and The Music of Czechoslovakia (London, 1942).
Other studies included the books Henry J. Wood (London, 1904) and Jean Sibelius: A Short Story of a Long Friendship (London, 1944). Her many translations of works in different languages, covering song texts, opera libretti and books, included Modest Tchaikovsky's The Life and Letters of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky (London, 1906), which did much to make Tchaikovsky's music more widely known to the general populace, and Vincent d'Indy's study Cesar Franck (London, 1910). Apart from contributing articles on the principal Russian composers to the second and third editions of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, from 1908-1919 she was invited by Henry Wood to write programme notes for the Promenade concerts, the notes subsequently being published in six volumes by Oxford University Press under the title The Concert-Goer's Library of Descriptive Notes (London, 1928-48). Her extensive literary correspondence, conducted in several languages, extended not only to Russian musicians but figures such as Elgar, Henry Wood, Sibelius and Janacek, much of this correspondence being preserved in archives in the U.K., Finland, Russia and the United States.
Rosa Harriet Newmarch was born in Royal Leamington Spa (it was granted the title of "Royal" following the visit of Queen Victoria in 1838) on 18 December 1857, being the youngest of the four sons and four daughters born to Dr. Samuel John Jeaffreson. Rosa's mother, Sophia Kenney, who was the daughter of the Irish-born playwright James Kenney, was a well-educated, urbane socialite who "enjoyed the friendship of Charles and Mary Lamb, Samuel Rogers, Prosper Merimee, Jules Sandeau, and many other celebrated persons" (p. 9). Rosa, who, presumably, was privately educated, was passionately interested in music and an ardent concert-goer. In the late 1870s she spent two years at Heatherley's School of Art in London, after which she occupied herself with journalism, from 1880-83 writing articles for a provincial newspaper. She married Henry Charles Newmarch, a London estate agent, with whom she had a daughter Elizabeth and a son John. While Dr. Bullock rightly points out that Rosa Newmarch was born into an affluent professional family (p. 99), he does not elaborate on the Jeaffreson family's social milieu. Dr. Jeaffreson himself, for example, enjoyed very high public esteem, being a Vice-President of the British Medical Association and a leading consultant at the then very modern Leamington Warneford Hospital. Leamington Spa, like Bath, Cheltenham, Harrogate and Tunbridge Wells, was the English counterpart of Vichy, Wiesbaden and Baden Baden, attracting a large body of well-travelled, well-informed people who often retired to Leamington, believing in the therapeutic effect of its saline springs. An aristocratic town, rich in wide avenues, stately mansions, crescents, colonnades, circuses and squares, to say nothing of its beautiful parks, river, and elegant Pump Room, Leamington was visited by many leading literary figures of the time, including the American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who stayed there in the 1850s, and Charles Dickens, who chose Leamington as the venue for a scene in his book Dombey and Son. The arrival of the Great Western Railway in 1852 greatly facilitated access to both London and Birmingham, doing much to stimulate intellectual life. All these factors must have affected Rosa's aesthetic development, no doubt aided by her mother's love for France and the French language.
During the 1880s and 1890s, encouraged by the increasing national interest in Russian culture, Rosa published an English translation of the French writer Alfred Habet's Borodin and Liszt: 1. Life and Works of a Russian Composer; 2. Liszt, as Sketched in the Letters of Borodin (London, 1895), this being her first serious venture into Russian music. The year 1896 saw the beginning of a long correspondence with the Russian critic V.V. Stasov (1824-1906), in the course of which he recommended strongly that she learn Russian, advice which she subsequently followed. In 1897 she made her first visit to Russia, working with Stasov in the St. Petersburg Imperial Library and meeting the composers Balakirev, Cui, Glazunov, Lyapunov, Rimsky-Korsakov and the artists Il'ya Repin and Vasily Vereshchagin. This was the start of a long and fruitful association, Stasov often visiting her during his stay in London in 1900, she herself returning to Russia the following year. She joined the Anglo-Russian Literary Society in 1901. In 1910 she travelled to Moscow and St. Petersburg for the third time, returning to England via Finland, where she met Sibelius, with whom she communicated in French and German. An important event at this period was the publication of her best known book The Russian Opera (London, 1914). Her final visit to Russia was in 1915.
During the 1920s and 30s, disillusioned by events in Russia, she began to pay greater attention to the music of Czechoslovakia. During her visit to Czechoslovakia in 1919, she had met Janacek, whose music so impressed her that in 1922 she organized a concert of his chamber works and songs at the Wigmore Hall. In 1926 she arranged for Janacek to come to London who, by way of gratitude, in turn dedicated to her his Sinfonietta. Numerous articles by her on Czechoslovak composers were written for the third edition of Grove's Dictionary, her book The Music of Czechoslovakia being published in 1942, two years after her death in Worthing in 1940. Tragically, her last years were marred by poor health, suffering from diabetes and deteriorating eyesight.
Philip Bullocks's study of Rosa Newmarch, however, is by no means concerned with her biography and literary achievements alone, this material forming the basis of the first chapter entitled " The Invention of Rosa Newmarch." In Chapter 2 " The Invention of Russia" he describes how her work was related to the increasing interest in Russian culture occurring in England at the turn of the century. Chapter 3 "Nationalism and Music" is devoted to an examination of her indebtedness to Stasov and the manner in which she considered the compositions of the Russian nationalists could serve as an inspiration for English composers. Chapter 4 "Audiences and Intellectuals" investigates the interconnections between audiences and readers on the one side, and composers, critics and performers on the other, suggesting that "Russia was a culture in which the arts were comprehensively integrated into national life as a whole"(p. 5). Chapter 5 "Women and Society" is concerned with the fact that, as a woman writer and strong supporter of feminism, she was admirably suited to conduct research into Russian culture. She joined the Society of Women Musicians in 1926, being President from 1927-30. In Chapter 6 "After Russia" the author discusses how, following the October Revolution of 1917, she turned to the study of music in Czechoslovakia. The volume concludes with an Appendix containing a chronological list of published works by Rosa Harriet Newman, followed by an extensive Bibliography and Index.
Taken as a whole, Philip Bullock's monograph is an admirably researched and well documented volume, introducing a wealth of information concerning the study of Russian music in Great Britain. While it must be recognised, as the author readily acknowledges, that not all Rosa Newmarch's judgements were infallible and that her writings were subject to much negative criticism both then and now, nevertheless her role in providing a wealth of information about Russian composers and in publicising their achievements to the English-speaking world cannot be denied. As Henry Wood wrote when summarising her literary accomplishments:
"Rosa Newmarch became the great educator of the British public in Russian music--a function comparable to that of Constance Garnett ... as translator of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov" (p. 29).
In fine, Dr. Bullock is to be congratulated in producing a volume which is not only a portrayal of a gifted author but for assembling a mass of informative detail which could well serve as a foundation for future research. We await his future publications with expectation.
Gerald R. Seaman
University of Oxford.
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|Author:||Seaman, Gerald R.|
|Publication:||Fontes Artis Musicae|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2011|
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