Revolution in 18th Century Music

Owain Edwards writes about the sea change in classical music composition - and listenership - as the galant music of the Bachs reached London.

John Hoyle hit the nail squarely on the head when he began the Preface to his Dictionarium Musica with:

‘The study of Music is now become so general among us, that I think it every day receives new vigour and improvement, and you will scarce find any person who does not apply himself to some kind or other of this noble science...’

Hoyle’s dictionary, published in 1770, was one of the many kinds of instructive books on music to reach the English public during the eighteenth century. There is nothing distinctive about it and, in common with most books of this type, it was heavily indebted to similar publications of an earlier date.

Hoyle observed that music ‘every day receives new vigour and improvement’. His aim was simply to assist amateur musicians by defining the terms they would find printed on the music they played, and which recurred frequently in conversation.

Perhaps conversation was the more important. There was a lot to talk about music in the 1770’s. England was just regaining composure after the ‘musical revolution’ that had gathered tremendous momentum in the previous decade.

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