Britain and Europe in the Time of Clementi: Cosmopolitanism and Perceptions of National Culture

McVeigh, Simon. 2018. Britain and Europe in the Time of Clementi: Cosmopolitanism and Perceptions of National Culture. In: Luca Lévi Sala and Rohan H. Stewart-MacDonald, eds. Muzio Clementi and British Musical Culture: Sources, Performance Practice and Style. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 10-31. ISBN 9781138633896 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

The word ‘cosmopolitan’ has routinely been attached to Clementi in musicological texts over many decades. Multinational in upbringing, European in both outlook and commercial awareness, syncretic in musical style, Clementi seems to embody an internationalist perspective that transcends national boundaries. But cosmopolitanism has wider implications, and in view of the renewed debate among historians, political theorists and literary critics about this problematical term, it is time to reconsider its usage in connection with music around 1800. Britain – as the country that most unquestioningly appropriated European musical culture – is of particular interest in this regard. Clementi’s career and aspirations provide a lens through which to revisit British musical culture in its relation to Europe. The chapter argues that this was a period of revaluation and debate, as British music began again to infiltrate the higher echelons of London concert life (beginning as early as 1792 with glees at the new Vocal Concerts); while British and European musicians joined together in the foundation of the Philharmonic Society in 1813 and in subsequent ventures. This repositioning can be set in the context both of the Royal Academy of Arts and of patriotism in the face of war and geopolitical realignment. It is true that as yet the role of British composition in this complex and multi-faceted landscape was still contested, and Clementi’s own stance was far from unambiguous. But the way in which he was perceived both within a wider European perspective and as a venerated member of a British community chimes with current thinking about cosmopolitanism: reimagined as embracing a wide variety of national cultures, European and British, and both challenged and enriched by their confluence.

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cosmopolitanism, nationalism, British music, London concert

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Date Deposited:

28 Sep 2018 11:41

Last Modified:

28 Sep 2018 11:41


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