‘Magnificence of promises’: novelty instruments in concert in Britain, c1750–1800

Rachael Durkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this article I explore the occurrence and use of novelty musical instruments in concert in the second half of the 18th century, arguing that these instruments were used as a means of self-promotion for the performer, and in some cases were intrinsically linked with their identity as immigrant musicians in Britain. I start by examining music marketing in the 18th century, then consider what novelty means in the context of musical performance. I consider, firstly, imported musical instruments which existed in reasonable numbers in Britain, focusing on the mandolin, English guittar and viola d’amore. I then move to observe the more fleeting inventions to grace British concert rooms and theatres, including the inventions of Charles Clagget, and I draw attention to the sociocultural forces which may have encouraged their development. I conclude by surmising that even with the best marketing and inventions, the majority of novelty instruments were only ever destined for public performance as promotional tools, and not to be brought into the home for domestic music-making.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbercaad012
Pages (from-to)234–251
Number of pages18
JournalEarly Music
Issue number2
Early online date4 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023

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