William Weber, The Rise of Musical Classics in Eighteenth- Century England: A Study in Canon, Ritual and Ideology. Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1992. 174 pp.

Charlton, David

Weber's book is partially about Britain's persistent failure to cast off "the thrall of this social [ruling] class". But it is concerned generally about the manipulation of culture and modern communication by the elite, so it has its wider warnings. The privileged everywhere will appropriate religion, charity, music, or what you will, in order to exert "proper authority." Others will be influenced without realizing the significance of that influence. In the face of the nontraditional, the elite become allied in their struggle for survival. Eighteenth-century Britain was in the ascendant, but the same laws apply to communities in decline. What does it mean when, with this in mind, we musicians consider that "the classics" are still central to our preservation? Weber's text is profoundly nonpartisan and undogmatic, strict in its adherence to its particular field. But it will prove all the more valuable for this in time, since it is a book of rare distinction in music history.



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January 23, 2015