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Lynan, Peter R.

The English Keyboard Concerto in the Eighteenth Century

D.Phil. Oxford University (St Edmund Hall), 1997

This thesis concerns the keyboard concertos written by Handel's English contemporaries and successors, and it traces the development of this essentially indigenous genre from its origins to its decline during the early years of the nineteenth century. In Part I, the background and context of the keyboard concerto in England are established. Chapter 1 suggests a fundamentally insular fostering of practices that anticipated early concertante keyboard writing, despite important continental parallels, and a prototype for the Handelian concerto in the transformation of concerti grossi is proposed. The extent and function of extemporization within the concerto are discussed in chapter 2, and an interpretation is offered of the effect of improvisation in the "true organ style" in the light of contemporary aesthetic perceptions of the sacred connotations of that style. Chapter 3, drawing largely on the evidence of programmes, press advertisements, and original accounts of eighteenth-century musical life, places the concerto in the varied social and cultural environments in which it flourished, and explores its relationship with commercialism in the later part of the period.

Part II presents a generally chronological study of the keyboard concertos of English composers, in which a primary aim has been to identify and pursue mainstream trends in such areas as form, style and idiom. Chapters 4 and 5 show the degree to which those concertos written during Handel's lifetime, and in the decade which followed, are more or less dependent on the Handelian model. Certain structural modifications, and galant tendencies, are considered to be representative of a broad stylistic transition. Concertos composed after c. 1770 are investigated, in chapters 6 and 7, in terms of the dichotomies that emerged within national (English and continental) and stylistic (ancient and modern) compositional approaches.

Appendices I and II contain respectively a thematic catalogue of British keyboard concertos, and a register of eighteenth-century concerto performances.