Avison And Stanley (1709-1770 And 1712-1786)

Episodes

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01Avison And Poverty20130204

Donald Macleod explores Charles Avison's early years, which were marked by poverty.

Donald Macleod presents the life and music of contemporary eighteenth century English composers Charles Avison and John Stanley. They were almost exact contemporaries, but living and working at opposite ends of the country, Avison in Newcastle and Stanley in London. They might be little known now, but in their day they were leading organists, composers, conductors and concert managers, employed by Royalty and admired by Geminiani and Handel.

We start with Avison, born on the banks of the Tyne in straitened circumstances, his father scraped a living as a member of the town band, and when he died, young Charles was taken up by a local patron of the arts and MP. It was a relationship which would enable Avison to find his way from the poverty of his childhood to a position as a prominent Newcastle musician.

02Avison And A Succession Of Disputes20130205

Donald Macleod focuses on the various musical disputes involving Charles Avison.

Conductor and composer Charles Avison seemed to have quite a talent for annoying eighteenth century Tynesiders. In 1752 he had the cheek to publish his thoughts on music in his Essay on Musical Expression. This partly consisted of criticising Handel and even Vivaldi for being "defective in various Harmony". His detractors aired their opinions in the newspapers and there was quite a to-do. A few years later, Avison was forced to offer to resign after a fuss over the transferability of tickets for his series of concerts. Nobody volunteered to take over, so he managed to hang on to his job - just - amid further rumblings in the press.

03Avison Falls Into Depression20130206

Donald Macleod on Avison's distress at changing musical tastes and the death of his wife.

By the time he reached his 50s, eighteenth century composer Charles Avison was a huge success, teaching, conducting, performing and publishing music in his home town of Newcastle. But times were about to change as London's passion for outdoor concerts reached the north of England. Avison ranted about the "flood of nonsense" offered in the way of music at these events and looked back fondly on the good old days, when music wasn't only about how many tickets you could sell. He was further depressed by the deaths of his wife and his great friend and mentor, Francesco Geminiani. Meanwhile, in London, his almost exact contemporary, John Stanley, was carving out an impressive career of his own, despite being blinded in an accident when he was just a toddler.

04Stanley The Celebrated Organist20130207

Donald Macleod explores how John Stanley overcame blindness to be a celebrated organist.

After a tragic accident at home which left him blinded at the age of only 2, John Stanley started studying music at 7. By the time he was 11 he had his first professional job as organist at All Hallows Church in London and became the youngest person to obtain a BMus degree from Oxford University at 16. It was just the beginning of a career which would end with a Royal appointmentment. Presented by Donald Macleod

05 LASTStanley Takes Over From Handel20130208

Donald Macleod focuses on how John Stanley's organ performances captivated audiences.

John Stanley's virtuoso performances on the organ regularly packed out services at the churches where he worked in eighteenth century London. In spite of being blind since the age of 2, he had a stellar career there as a performer and composer, with Handel amongst those who would crowd in to the church to hear him improvise. Even Royalty approved, and in 1779 Stanley succeeded William Boyce as Master of His Majesty's Music. Presented by Donald Macleod