Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/122

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106

��THOMAS.

��repertory of the orchestra was very large, and included compositions in every school. In 1878 Thomas was appointed director of the new Col- lege of Music at Cincinnati. In April, 1879, he was unanimously elected conductor of the New York Philharmonic Society, a position which he had occupied in the season of 1877-78. The concerts by the Brooklyn Philharmonic Society were in his charge during the seasons of 1862, 1866 to 1870 inclusive, and have been since his last election, May 26, 1873. He has directed several festivals at Cincinnati and New York since 1873. In 1883 he went from New York to San Francisco with an orchestra and several eminent singers, giving, on his way, concerts in the principal cities. In some cities embraced in this tour, notably Baltimore, Pittsburg, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Denver, and San Fran- cisco, festivals, in which were included perform- ances of important choral works, were given with the aid of local societies under his direction. Mr. Thomas withdrew from the College of Music at Cincinnati in 1880. At present (1883) he is director of the Philharmonic Societies of Brooklyn and New York, and of the New York Chorus Society. [F.H.J.]

THOMSON, GEORGE, born at Limekilns, Edinburgh, Mar. 4, 1757 or 1759, died at Leith, Feb. II, 1851, was for fifty years 'Secretary to the Board of Trustees for the Encouragement of Arts and Manufactures in Scotland.' His place in musical history is that of the most en- thusiastic, persevering and successful collector of the melodies of Scotland, Wales and Ireland, a work begun in his youth and continued for forty years or more.

I. (i) Scotland. He proposed to rescue from oblivion, so far as it could possibly be accom- plished, every existing Scotch melody, in all its forms and varieties. Being in correspondence with and knowing personally gentlemen in every part of Scotland, no man had greater facilities for the work. He proposed, further, to publish ' all the fine airs both of the plaintive and lively kind, unmixed with trifling and inferior ones.' The precise date at which he began the publi- cation in 'sets' does not appear; but the preface to the second edition of the first volume con- taining 25 songs is dated Edinburgh, Jan. i, 1794.

(2) Ireland. At first he included 20 favourite Irish airs in his 'sets,' denoting them in the index by an asterisk. Burns persuaded him to undertake a separate publication of Irish me- lodies, and offered to write the new texts. This was the origin of the two volumes under that title, for the collection of which Thomson was indebted especially to Dr. J. Latham of Cork, and other friends in various parts of Ireland, who are responsible for whatever faults of omission and commission they exhibit. [See IRISH Music, vol. ii. p. 22.]

(3) Wales. Meantime he undertook to collect the melodies played by Welsh harpers and adapt them to the voice. The project found favour in Wales, and friends in all parts of it sent

��THOMSON.

them to him as played by the harpers ; but the anxiety he felt to have a complete and au- thentic collection induced him to traverse Wales himself, in order to hear the airs played by the best harpers, to collate and correct the manu- scripts he had received, and to glean such airs as his correspondents had omitted to gather.' There was of course no deciding as to the original form of an air on which no two harpers agreed, and Thomson could only adopt that which seemed to him the most simple and perfect. Very few if any had Welsh texts, or were at all vocable. To make them so, he in some cases omitted monotonous repetitions; in some repeated a strain; in most discarded the ornaments and divisions of the harpers ; but no changes were made in the tunes except such as were absolutely necessary to 'make songs of them.' 1

II. In regard to their texts, these three col- lections of melodies consisted of four classes: (i) without words ; (2) with none in English ; (3) with English texts, silly, vapid, or indecent, not to say obscene ; (4) a few with unimpeachable words, even in which cases he mostly thought it well to add a new song. 2 In fact, in the first 24 Scotch airs, 16 have a songs each, most if not all written expressly for the work. A large number of eminent authors were employed by Thomson for this purpose.

When the melody was known to the poet, there was no difficulty in writing an appropriate song ; when not, Thomson sent a copy of it with its character indicated by the common Italian terms, Allegro, etc., which were a sufficient guide. Burns was the principal writer. Allan Cunning- ham, in his ' Life and Works ' of the poet, leaves the impression that Thomson was niggardly and parsimonious towards him. Thomson disdained to take any public notice of Cunningham's charges ; but in a copy of the work in possession of his son- in-law, George Hogarth (1860), there are a few autograph notes to the point. Thus in July 1793, Burns writes :

'I assure you, my dear sir, that you truly hurt me with your pecuniary parcel. It degrades me in my own eyes. However, to return it would savour of affectation ; but as to any more traffic of this debtor and creditor kind, I swear by that HONOUR which crowns the upright statue of ROBERT BURNS'S INTEGRITY on the least motion of it I will indignantly spurn the by-past trans- action, and from that moment commence entire stranger to you !' 3

Thomson writes, Sept. i, to Burns :

'While the muse seems so propitious, I think it right to inclose a list of all the favours I have to ask of her no fewer than twenty and three ! . . . most of the remaining airs . . . are of that peculiar measure and rhythm that they must be familiar to him who writes for them.'

A comparison of dates removes the doubt in

1 This of course detracts largely from the value of bis labour. [G. J

2 The same leaven of Interference.

a This protest evidently refers to all songs written or to be written, and thus disposes of Cunningham's arguments.

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