Moral Lives, Sentimental Stories, and Berufsbiographien

George Kennaway (Huddersfield University Centre for Performance Research; School of Music, University of Leeds) explores biographies of Instrumentalists in the Long Nineteenth Century.

This is the first in a series of free events as part of the Leeds Music Research Colloquia.

The event is available to join via Zoom.

Biographies of musicians in general were almost unknown before the eighteenth century apart from outliers like Whythorne. Lenneberg (1988) has suggested that this is because of musicians’ lower social status compared with, for example, visual artists. In this hierarchy, instrumentalists occupied a lower place than composers or Kapellmeisters, so their biographies were even slower to appear, and when they did, they were generally simple factual accounts detailingemployment and publications. But even these matter-of-fact accounts were not devoid of other elements. Mattheson's musicians were examples of good moral individuals; Marpurg was writing in order to raise musical standards; Choron & Fayolle were trying to keep up with foreign competition.

As such biographies proliferated in the nineteenth century they raised questions of literary genre, whether the novel of sensibility, the picaresque, or in one case of the learned wit of Sterne. Longer biographical and autobiographical works appeared showing a wide range of motivations and m approaches, ranging across respectable accounts of a professional life, a memoir written by a widow, to memories recaptured in old age. There are several clearly identifiable tropes in this literature. As biographies appeared more in the popular press and even in fiction, some musicians showed awareness of how an identity can be created, and carefully nourished their public persona in this way.

Speaker Bio

Dr George Kennaway is a cellist, conductor, teacher, and musicologist. Born in Edinburgh, he studied at the universities of Newcastle and Oxford, the Guildhall School of Music, and the University of Leeds. He studied the cello with Marie Dare, Valentine Orde, Michael Edmonds, and Christopher Bunting. Formerly Director of Music at the University of Hull, he is now Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Huddersfield’s Centre for Performance Research, and Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. From 2008-12 he was a post doctoral researcher at the University of Leeds, investigating nineteenth-century annotated editions of string music.

George was principal cello no. 2 in the Orchestra of Opera North for 28 years; before that he freelanced with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, BBC Scottish SO, and the Ulster Orchestra. He regularly appears as a soloist and chamber music player, on modern, nineteenth-century, and baroque cello. In recent years he has performed unaccompanied seventeenth- and eighteenth-century solo cello works, and played concertos with the Leeds Baroque orchestra directed by Peter Holman. With David Milsom and Jonathan Gooing, he is a member of the Meiningen Ensemble based at the University of Huddersfield, a chamber group which explores applications of historical research to the nineteenth-century repertoire; recent concerts have included repertoire by Schubert, Brahms, Mendelssohn, and Ravel.

He has conducted orchestras in the UK, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Italy, and Lithuania, and was for six years conductor of the Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra and the Sheffield Chamber Orchestra - in his last concert with the Sheffield orchestra he performed the cello concerto in A major by CPE Bach and conducted works by Lennox Berkeley and Schubert. His book Playing The Cello 1780-1930 (Ashgate) appeared in 2014.

Other publications include articles and book chapters on editions of Haydn cello concertos, opera orchestra contracts, theoretical aspects of historical performance and historiography, and the music of the Baltic states. He is the leading UK specialist in the music and art of the Lithuanian M. K. Ciurlionis, with a forthcoming publication dealing with Ciurlionis’s octatonic compositions. He is currently completing a book on the Scottish musical scholar John Gunn (1766–1824). He has coached chamber music at the University of Oxford, the University of Huddersfield, the Royal Northern College of Music, and the Lithuanian National Academy of Music.