Nicholas Temperley: Most Significant Research Contributions

1. The reassessment of 19th-century English music. This began with his PhD dissertation on “Instrumental Music in England, 1800–1850” (Cambridge, 1959), which not only provided the first fully researched account of concert and domestic music-making of the period but also initiated the upward reevaluation of composers like Cipriani Potter, William Sterndale Bennett, and Henry Hugo Pierson, and the rediscovery of almost unknown ones George Frederick Pinto (1785–1806) and Edward James Loder (1809–1865). The most spectacular achievement was the revival on stage of Loder’s opera Raymond and Agnes at the Art Theatre, Cambridge, in 1966, received with acclamation by leading critics of the time, and ultimately leading to a recording of the work by Retrospect Opera under Richard Bonynge in 2017. It also led to other revivals, editions, and articles, and laid the foundations for the later upsurge of research on the music of the period by such scholars as Cyril Ehrlich, Geoffrey Bush, William Weber, Leanne Langley, Jeremy Dibble, Simon McVeigh, Rachel Cowgill, Christina Bashford, Bennett Zon, Sally Drage, Julian Rushton, Michael Kassler and many others, in some cases jointly with Temperley. In 2016 Temperley published Vol. 43 of Musica Britannica, English Songs 1800–1860, jointly with Geoffrey Bush. See also 3. below. In recognition of Temperley’s opening up of Victorian musical culture, a Festschrift was published in his honour in 2012, edited by Zon: Music and Performance Culture in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Essays in Honour of Nicholas Temperley; and in 2019 he attained a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Midwest Victorian Studies Association, for which the nominator, Linda Hughes, said: “It is one thing to publish quantities of print; it is another thing entirely to shape a scholarly field.”

2. The Music of the English Parish Church. 2 vol. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979 (reprinted 2006). Considered the classic text on a subject that had never before been methodically studied. Michael Tilmouth called this “Professor Temperley’s magnificent book” that “deals with almost every conceivable aspect of Anglican parish church music from the reformation to the present day” (Early Music, Jan. 1981). Richard Crawford in The Hymn 32 (1981) called it “a work of profound scholarship that is also accessible to all manner of readers . . . It is remarkable that a written musical tradition spanning some four centuries and involving so large a proportion of the English nation should have attracted so little attention before Temperley’s arrival on the scene.” “This is a major study of a hitherto uncharted area of English social and ecclesiastical history,” wrote John Morehen in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History 32 (1981). The American Musicological Society awarded it the Otto Kinkeldey prize for the best musicological book of 1979. It may be considered an early example of the deconstruction of musical history, where music is studied as a product of society rather than merely explored for individual gems of high art. It was accompanied by more detailed studies of entirely unfamiliar subjects, such as “Middleburg Psalms” (Studies in Bibliography 30 [1977], 162–70), “The Old Way of Singing: Its Origins and Development” (JAMS 34 [1981], 511–44), and “The Origins of the Fuging Tune” (RMA Research Chronicle 17 [1981], 1–32). Two of its consequences have been the foundation in 1990 of the West Gallery Music Association, which co-ordinates choral societies founded all over England for the purpose of reviving 18th- and 19th-century country church music; and the more recent explosion in the social and economic study of British musical history, exemplified in many publications and conference sessions. The Hymn Tune Index (see below) is a different kind of offshoot of the work. Musica Britannica vol. 85 (2007) is a collection of Eighteenth-Century Psalmody, edited jointly by Temperley and Sally Drage. Broader historical work by Temperley on British church music history includes chapters on “The Music of Dissent” in Isabel Rivers and David L. Wykes, eds., Dissenting Praise (Oxford, 2011) and on “Anglicanism and Music, 1662–1819” in Volume 2 of The Oxford History of Anglicanism (Oxford, 2017). The series Oxford Studies in British Church Music, initiated and edited by Temperley, includes major works by Donald Burrows, Graham Elliott, Peter Horton, Robin Leaver, Watkins Shaw, Ian Spink, Ruth M. Wilson, and Bennett Zon.

3. The Romantic Age 1800–1914, edited by Nicholas Temperley: Vol. 5 of The Athlone History of Music in Britain (general editor: Ian Spink), London: Athlone Press, 1981. (reissued, 1988, as The Blackwell History of Music, Vol. 5.) The first attempt in modern times to produce a comprehensive history of 19th-century British music, a neglected and often despised period (except for the so-called Musical Renaissance of its last years). It was the first to appear in the six-volume set, and established the standard and tone for the others. Calling on fifteen authors, including Temperley himself (who contributed four chapters and an Introduction), the book broke new ground by including five chapters on popular music and by setting music firmly in its economic and social context. “How welcome,” wrote Arthur Jacobs in The Musical Times (Aug. 1982), “how surprising in a book of this title to find music hall song treated as seriously as cathedral anthems. . . . This book is immensely stimulating.” An example of its influence is the five-year research project “Music in London 1800–1851” funded by the European Research Council in 2013–2018, whose prospectus said: “Subject areas will include common musicological ports-of-call such as concert music, operatic entertainment, chamber music and religious music. But other activities, less often considered, will also be central to the project: the phenomenon of street music; the emerging category of popular music (from ballad-singing and popular theatre to music hall entertainments and promenade concerts); working men’s musical organisations . . .”, etc.

4. The London Pianoforte School 1766–1860, edited by Nicholas Temperley. 20 vols. New York: Garland, 1982–85. An edition in edited facsimile of selected works from a little-known but highly important area of the history of keyboard music: music written for the London market in the first century of the piano’s popularity, including the complete piano works of Muzio Clementi, John Field, George Frederick Pinto, and William Sterndale Bennett, and much representative English work of Jan Ladislav Dussek, John Baptist Cramer, Ignaz Moscheles, Felix Mendelssohn, Cipriani Potter, Edward Bache and others. Full critical apparatus and a historical introduction are included. The series has had the effect of opening up the “London School” to performers, and many recordings of this music have resulted by Ian Hobson and others.

5. Haydn: The Creation. Cambridge Musical Handbooks. Cambridge University Press, 1991. This book, along with related journal articles and Temperley’s edition of The Creation published by Peters in 1998, cast light on the vexed question of the libretto of Haydn’s greatest work, proving its English origin, demonstrating that the composer desired it to be used for English-speaking audiences, and showing how the difficulties of reconciling it to the music could be solved in ways that Haydn might have approved. The edition also offered a historically valid realization of the piano continuo part and, for the first time, gave documented evidence of Haydn’s metronomic tempos. It has been adopted in several major recordings of the work.

6. The Hymn Tune Index: A Census of English-Language Hymn Tunes in Printed Sources from 1535 to 1820. With the assistance of Charles G. Manns and Joseph Herl. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998; online version: (HTI). This is a basic research tool, indexing 2,544 printed sources which yielded 159,123 printings of over 18,000 distinct tunes. Recent statistics for the online HTI show 23,823 successful hits in one month from 1,738 “unique visitors.” Jesse Ann Owens, sometime president of the American Musicological Society, wrote “I don’t think I have ever used a better-thought-out index.” Nym Cooke, in the JAMS 56 (2003), wrote: “With the availability of the HTI in print and online, we stand on the threshold of a new era in hymn-tune scholarship. . . . Researchers will likely appreciate the historical perspective Temperley brings to his introductory essays as much as the access to the data afforded by the index itself. . . . The HTI makes possible, for the first time, substantive and meaningful transatlantic hymntune research. . . . The online version of the HTI is not under review here, but researchers will find it extremely well organized, extraordinarily rich in data, and as enjoyable to browse as to use for specific research tasks. . . . Generations of hymn-tune researchers will praise [Temperley] for his labors here, and for the keen intelligence, vast knowledge, practicality, and indefatigability that he brought to the task.”

7. The first ever critical edition of the Elizabethan Whole Book of Psalms (1562), commissioned by the Renaissance English Text Society and carried out jointly with Beth Quitslund, professor of English at Ohio University. Quitslund is an expert on the texts of this epochal work, and planned the first-ever critical edition, based on approximately 150 Elizabethan editions of the book. Temperley researched the tunes, and in the process has pursued many new lines of research on the evolution of English congregational music. The edition appeared in 2018 in two volumes of the Renaissance English Texts Series, published by the University of Arizona Press. It has also given rise to Temperley’s articles “‘All skillful praises sing’: How Congregations Sang the Psalms in Early Modern England”, Renaissance Studies 29 (2015), 531–53, and to his forthcoming study, “Victims of Compromise: The Early English Psalm Tunes.”

8. Work on major European composers: Temperley produced the standard edition of the Symphonie fantastique for the New Berlioz Edition in 1972, explaining, for the first time, the abrupt changes in its narrative Programme (see also The Musical Quarterly 57 [1971], 593–208). His article on Chopin’s music for the New Grove Dictionary (1980) led to a book on the subject and, in particular, to a study of the Preludes in Gabriel Solis and Bruno Nettl, eds., Musical Improvisation (Urbana, 2009). He explored a little-noticed Romantic harmonic innovation in “Schubert and Beethoven’s Eight-Six Chord”, Nineteenth-Century Music 5 (1981–2), 142–54, and a different (English) one in “The Lost Chord” (Victorian Studies 33 [1989], 149–75). His ultimate venture was to complete the unfinished first act of Mozart’s opera L’Oca del Cairo, staged at the University of Illinois for the Mozart bicentennial in 1991 under the baton of Kurt Klippstatter, who repeated it in concert form at the JAMS annual meeting in Chicago.

9. Work on American music. This began with the inclusion of American sources of early psalmody in the HTI, but expanded to more extensive coverage in such articles as “First Forty: The Earliest American Compositions” (American Music 15 (1997), 1–25), and eventually to the book Bound for America: Three British Composers (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005).

10. Work on music cognition. This began with experiments on rhythmic perception carried out at the University of Illinois (1959–61), and was resumed in collaborations with Temperley’s son David resulting in two jointly authored papers comparing musical settings of verse in several languages (“Music-Language Correlations and the ‘Scotch Snap’”, Music Perception 29/1 (Sept. 2011), 51–63, and “Stress-Meter Alignment in French Vocal Music”, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 134 (2013), 520–7).