I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Silent Symphony

Barra Ó Seaghdha
Music in Nineteenth-Century Ireland, Michael Murphy & Jan Smaczny (eds), Four Courts Press, 336 pp, €55, ISBN: 978-1846820243 That Music in Nineteenth-Century Ireland should be the ninth in a series of Irish Musical Studies might not strike the general reader as anything remarkable. But such continuity of effort (under the general editorship of Gerald Gillen and Harry White) is unprecedented in the field of classical music in Ireland. It is not the only sign of unusual activity. The last two decades have seen a number of other significant publications: the Thomas Davis Lectures series Music in Ireland 1848-1998 and a hefty volume on the Royal Irish Academy of Music, edited and partly written by Richard Pine, who has also written a comprehensive history of music in Irish broadcasting; The Keeper’s Recital (a study of classical music in Irish culture) and The Progress of Music in Ireland by Harry White; Passing It On, a study of music in education by Marie McCarthy; biographies of Charles Villiers Stanford (by Jeremy Dibble and Paul Rodmell) and the first two volumes (on Aloys Fleischman and Raymond Deane) in a projected Field Day series devoted to individual composers; and so on. Again, largely under the leadership of Harry White, Irish musicologists now have a society of their own (with its online publication at www.music.ucc.ie/jsmi) and a large-scale Encyclopedia of Music in Ireland is under way. The Journal of Music in Ireland gives space to both contemporary/classical and traditional music. With music of various kinds attaining greater presence in third level education and increasingly featured in the broad field of Irish studies, the stream seems unlikely to dry up. The satisfaction engendered by all this activity does not translate into a benign interpretation of the past, however, or into optimism about the future. Ireland rarely features in international histories of classical music or in works of reference. Even well-informed lovers of classical music abroad would have difficulty in naming a significant Irish composer; a minority might be aware that John Field, Michael Balfe and Charles Villiers Stanford were born in Ireland but such composers will probably be assimilated to British musical culture; an even smaller minority might be aware of present-day composers such as Gerald Barry, Raymond Deane or Donnacha Dennehy. With centuries of history as an elite form behind it, classical music has a strong symbolic presence in most central and western European countries. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler, Schönberg, Berg, Stockhausen; Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Verdi, Puccini, Berio; Rameau, Berlioz,…

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