Dimension: 24 x 16.5 x 4.3 cm
||Samuel Wesley (1766-1837): A Source Book by Michael
Kassler and Philip Olleson.
||Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2001. xxiii+765p. Hard
back. Price: £65.
||Ashgate Publishing Limited,
Gower House, Croft Road, Aldershot, Hants GU11 3HR, UK.
||A comprehensive reference book on Samuel Wesley's life
||227, 232, 525-530, 538, 552, 633-4, 654, 664, 676, 680,
691, 706, 711, 846-893, 898, 988, 1001-1006, 1014-19, Anh.III 167.
||Scholars specialized in the reception history of Bach's
works in England in the early 19th century.
||Very significant in this field of the English Bach movement
||n Bach studies, Samuel Wesley is well known as one of the most important
figures in the scene of the Bach revival movement in England in the first
decade of the 19th century. He was certainly not the initiator of the movement
but the central figure who actively promoted Bach’s works by performing,
lecturing and editing them.
Scholars have been aware that a serious study in this area was long overdue.
While researchers specialized in other prominent figures at that time (e.g.
Charles Burney and Christian Ignatius Latrobe) rediscovered quite a few
hitherto-unknown facts in a similar context, Wesley scholars are likewise
expected to reveal a substantial quantity of new information that would
contribute significantly to our better understanding of how the Bach movement
took its shape.
Although I find the manner in which the editors summarize each letter easy
to follow, it may take some time to get used to their system of abbreviations as they are so
numerous and wide ranging. They keep the summary short, which
is excellent; both supplementary information and the justification of their
interpretation are given in footnotes, which are usually adequate, but
are some obscure references to Bach's works that are unexplained what they refer
to, e.g. "the old boy's fugues" (18/5/1813), "exquisite solos"
(1/7/1814) and "some tunes of the old wig" (25/9/1825).
Wesley's Homes and Addresses
||Significant Events in Wesley's Life
||Calendar of Correspondence
New Information Arising from the Correspondence
Calendar of Dated Correspondence
Calendar of Undated Correspondence
Calendar of Doubtful Correspondence
History of the Music Manuscripts
Sacred Vocal Works
Secular Vocal Works
Harpsichord and Pianoforte Music
Wesley's Editions and Arrangements
Publications about Wesley
|Index to the Calendar of Correspondence
Up to now, the main source of information used by Bach scholars was Letters
of Samuel Wesley to Mr. Jacobs, organist of Surrey Chapel, relating to
the introduction into this country of the works of John Sebastian Bach
(London, 1875), edited by his daughter, Eliza Wesley. She selected twenty-four
letters that appeared to her, at the time, to be of interest to the general
Containing significant body
of new information
Now, the situation has changed completely, thanks to the work by Kassler
and Olleson: they dug up, compiled and summarised herein 1,100 documents
that are mostly letters written by and to Samuel Wesley. Among these are
ninety-one documents containing references to Wesley’s views and activities
to do with the works of J. S. Bach : they are the main focus of this review.
As can be anticipated some letters do not bear dates or the names of
the recipient; in many instances, however, Kassler and Olleson find solutions
by sifting systematically through various pieces of internal and external
evidence. One of these is Eliza Wesley’s letter (XVII): they conclude
that it was a letter to Charles Frederic Horn, and not to Benjamin Jacob.
On numerous occasions I am impressed by their rigour and care with which
each source is assessed, and drawing conclusions.
In my view their most significant contribution to Bach studies is this: we can
now see with greater clarity the context in which Wesley’s interest in
Bach’s works grew and found his own role in the Bach movement in the musical
world he lived and worked. This book certainly contains a significant quantity
of new information for Bach studies, even though the current body of information---91
document consisting of 78 letters written by Wesley, 10 letters to Wesley,
and three non-letters---seems biased, suggesting that this could grow
considerably larger in the future.
As a reference book of this scope and importance, it has to be said
that the index is a little disappointing. The entry on ‘Bach, Johann [John]
Sebastian’ (p. 744), for example, merely gives the page numbers where any
information relating to "Bach" is found, without further hints as to what a reader may find
It would be enormously helpful if the index also includes information about musical works
(e.g. BWV) and/or classified activities / events such as publication of
his editions, public performance, and so on. The addition of entries on
the places of principal events (e.g. Savoy Church where Bach's works are
said to be performed often) is another to be considered in the revised
Published on-line on 2 December 2001