John Sigismond Cousser and Musical Exchange in Baroque Europe
xvi+385pp. £60 (hardback), £19.99 (eBook).
Boydell Press, 2017. ISBN 978-1-78327-234-1
Apologies to both the author and the publisher of this extraordinarily detailed book – convinced that I had already published a review, it has lain on my bookshelves for months since… Only when I came to file it away did I realise that, although I had jotted down some notes, I had never sat down at the computer to commit them to public scrutiny.
The first 180 pages of the book are taken up with nine chapters devoted to aspects and/or phases of the composer’s 67-year-long life, each of them oozing the volume of minutiae that in the hands of a lesser writer would have caused brain numbing. Somehow Owens always finds just the right combination of words to maintain enough interest to make the reader want to know more. And there is plenty to learn!
This is nowhere more evident than in her summary of the composer/musician/copyist/impresario’s commonplace book, in her transcription of his Address Book (complete with identifications of almost everyone mentioned!), and in another transcription, this time of notes made on a journey he made in 1716. The latter is little more than a tantalising list of people, music and places but it is just this kind of diplomatic transcription being published that makes other music historians’ jobs easier – somewhere in amongst the seemingly meaningless, someone will find a link that is a crucial part of their puzzle. For this, if nothing else, the world of research into Baroque music owes both Owens and Boydell a huge vote of thanks. Of course, there is much else to absorb and enjoy – the book itself is a thing of beauty.
As the HIP scene in Dublin takes off, Cousser’s music will become more widely known, so get hold of this excellent volume and immerse yourself in his world.
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