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date: 05 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In a Musical Times review of a 1923 performance of Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G minor in Birmingham, H. C. Colles made the comment that “there hasn’t been so many parallel fifths since Hucbald.” This is just one blatant medievalist moment in a review that firmly places the Mass within a tangled web of historical images and associations. Colles’s description of the Mass evokes historicism by utilizing imagery related to the medieval cathedral and drawing on the well-rehearsed sixteenth-century/Tudor tropes prevalent during these years. More interestingly, Colles also identifies an inherent anti–nineteenth century, antiromantic sentiment underpinning the Mass, underlining his view that this work was something both very new and very old and not a throwback to a Victorian neo-Gothicism. Using Vaughan Williams’s Mass and its reception as a case study, this chapter explores the new musical medievalism current during the first decades of the twentieth century to outline changing attitudes toward the music of the past. This chapter argues that the cosmopolitan nature of Victorian medievalism was transformed into an aesthetic that worked both with nationalist agendas and with modernist ideologies in a manner that ultimately created a connection between “old” and “new” music and disenfranchised romantic, nineteenth-century forbears.

Keywords: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Mass in G minor, Hucbald, Victorian medievalism, historicism – English, English Musical Renaissance

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