Arranging the Canon: keyboard arrangements, publishing practices and the appropriation of musical classics, 1770-1810.

Elena Pons Capdevila

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The rise of arrangements was central to musical life in late eighteenth-century Europe. Opera arias were published in piano-vocal scores, symphonies were circulated in keyboard versions, and arrangements were used for entertainment and education, and for the repeated performance of larger works. Because of their nature, arrangements pose a challenge to the work concept as well as to the notion of authorship, contributing to the debates that currently emerge when performance is conceptualized as a source of meaning. Furthermore, the study of arrangements problematizes not only the concept of the 'authentic' text, but also the values that support notions of the musical canon.

This thesis aims to investigate various aspects of keyboard arrangements of orchestral and vocal music, in England and German-speaking lands between 1770 and 1810. Firstly, it examines the discourse surrounding arrangements using as evidence numerous unexplored reviews and prefaces of printed music. Secondly, it explores the place of arrangements in economic history and the history of consumption, situating them within publishing practices and music collecting (uncovering an unstudied collection of a female amateur musician, Maria Halsted Poole). Thirdly, the thesis examines the technique of arrangement, exploring the difficulties in balancing fidelity to the original with idiomatic keyboard writing. Finally, it explores arrangements of Haydn music as an example of the confluence of some of the aspects discussed in the rest of the thesis, with particular emphasis on the ways in which Haydn’s music was appropriated for and by English audiences. This thesis shows how the study of the conception and dissemination of arrangements allows for a better knowledge of publishing practices and of the reception history of musical works, and offers new ways to analyze the rise of the musical classics.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Rose, Stephen, Supervisor
  • Harper-Scott, J. P. E., Advisor
Award date1 Oct 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


  • Keyboard Arrangements
  • Musical Canon
  • Music Publishing
  • Appropriation
  • Domestic Music-Making
  • 1770-1810
  • Late Eighteenth-Century

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