Personalities | Charles Burney | Classical Era | Classical
English music theorist and writer
Burney was undoubtedly the most important English writer on music of his time. The theorist was born in Shrewsbury and brought up in Chester. There he met Arne, to whom he was apprenticed. Later he took posts as organist and worked in the London theatres. In the 1770s he made two long journeys through France, Italy, Germany and the Low Countries, meeting numerous musicians and reporting in two books on the state of music. These were a preparation for his four-volume General History of Music (1776–89), which although lacking in historical sympathy is remarkably rich and elegantly written. Burney composed (rather feebly), knew Handel and Haydn and wrote about both, produced numerous letters, diaries and memoirs and was always full of ideas and ambitions. He was a member of the Thrale circle of intellectuals and a friend of Dr Johnson, who said of him: ‘I much question if there is in the world such another man for mind, intelligence, and manners.’
Haydn and his English Friends, Psalmody, Parley of Instruments (dir) Peter Holman (Hyperion)
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