guitar, performance practice, women musicians, guitar historiography, accompanied song, Victorian England, amateur concerts, social history of the guitar, art of arrangement


Most modern histories of the classical guitar are devoted to solo playing. They therefore forego a different kind of history based upon the guitar used as an accompaniment for a singer. This article explores how that alternative history might be framed with reference to England during the long reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901). This is the ideal laboratory for such an experiment, not least because the compositions of Catharina Pratten (1824–1895), the most influential guitar player of the day, are often thought to reveal a late-Victorian public with little interest in the guitar as a solo resource. Yet the newspaper record, here distilled into 1,405 separate performances, shows that there the guitar actually underwent a revival in England between about 1880 to 1900; it was, however, primarily a vogue for using the instrument as an accompaniment to songs, not for playing solo music. A substantial part of that song repertoire is recoverable, and the newspaper reports can often be collated with census records and trade directories to produce micro-histories of players. The article therefore works towards a social and musical history of the guitar at a time when the entertainment industry of Great Britain was fed by an inexhaustible supply of musicians, actors and songwriters that did not fail to encompass guitar-players.

A complete list of the data analyzed in this article is available in this issue at https://digitalcommons.du.edu/sbs/vol8/iss1/4.



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