A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Mudie, Thomas

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MUDIE, Thomas Molleson, was born at Chelsea on St. Andrew's Day (so, in reference to his Scottish descent, he was wont to style the date), 1809. He died, unmarried, in London July 24, 1876, and is interred in Highgate cemetery. He is said to have shown musical aptitude in infancy, and the saying is corroborated by his success in the first examination of candidates for admission into the Royal Academy of Music, Feb. 10, 1823, when, from thirty-two competitors, ten were elected. At the foundation of this institution the Utopian idea was entertained of giving free education to its pupils and defraying the cost from funds raised by subscription; hence the large number of candidates; and hence also the severity of the test by which their musical aptitude was proved, for eleven musicians, each an artist of highest note at the time, sat in judgment on the young aspirants and probed their powers to the utmost. Mudie was a pupil of Dr. Crotch for composition, of Cipriani Potter for the pianoforte—who also gave him useful advice as to his writings—and of Willman for the clarinet. He studied this last in compliance with the rule that male students must take part in the orchestral practices, and thus obtain the priceless benefit, to a musician, of this experience; he obtained much proficiency on the instrument, and had a remarkably beautiful tone, but he ceased its use when he discontinued his studentship. In the Academy he gained prizes for pianoforte-playing and for composition, and was regarded as one of the brightest among the highly talented few who first received the advantages of the institution on which they now reflect the honour of their names. His song 'Lungi dal caro bene,' was so esteemed that the Committee of Management paid the cost of its publication, an act repeated in the case of Sterndale Bennett's First Concerto, but in no other. Several vocal pieces with orchestral accompaniment, a Symphony in C, and one in B♭ were also works of his student time. The last named is especially notable, and may be remembered by its Minuet with two Trios, all three finally played together as a Coda. Mudie's pupilage terminated in 1832, by his appointment as a professor of the pianoforte in the Academy, which post he held till 1844. In 1834 he entered into some relationship, partly of friendship and partly stipendiary, with Lord Monson, with whom he spent much of his time at Gatton in Surrey. This relation was closed by Lord Monaon's death in 1840, who bequeathed to Mudie an annuity of £100, which however, the estate being somewhat involved, the musician relinquished in favour of his patron's widow. He continued to reside in Gatton as organist to the small church till 1844. The Society of British Musicians, founded in 1834, furnished an arena for the performance of several of the works of Mudie. The Symphony in B♭ already mentioned, was played at the concerts of Feb. 9, 1835, and Feb. 19, 1838; a Symphony in F, remarkable for a movement in F minor, Nov. 10, 1835; a Symphony in D, March 10, 1837; a Quintet in E♭ for pianoforte and bowed instruments Jan. 5, 1843 and March 7, 1844; a Trio in D for pianoforte and bowed instruments Oct. 6, 1843; and several songs and concerted vocal pieces on many occasions. Young musicians have now more opportunities of being heard than they had, though still too few to satisfy all the meritorious claims to public attention; but, in recording the above small portion of the doings of an extinct institution, proof is given of the value it had both to the world and to the artists it fostered. On the death of Alfred Devaux, his former school-fellow and friend, in 1844, Mudie went to succeed him in his occupation as teacher in Edinburgh. While there he published several pianoforte pieces and songs, and wrote accompaniments to a large proportion of the numbers in Wood's voluminous collection of the Songs of Scotland; he also occasionally gave pianoforte recitals. In 1863 he returned permanently to London, but from that time, except with an overture at one of the Crystal Palace concerts, came little before the public. A complete reverse of the brilliant prospects of his early days clouds the hitter period of Mudie's career, when his playing lost its charm, and his music had rarely the power—amounting even to mastership—that distinguished his first productions. Some of his best pieces of this period are in the possession of different friends, some were played to them but never written; while the matter given to the world was produced with a view to sale more than to beauty. His published music comprises 48 original pianoforte solos, including the 12 melodies dedicated to Sir Sterndale Bennett; 6 duets for the same instrument; 19 fantasias, some of which are on Scottish airs; a collection of 24 sacred songs, which constitutes a work of remarkable interest; 3 sacred duets; 3 chamber anthems for three voices; 42 separate songs, and 2 duets. The existing scores of his symphonies and the entire of his printed works are deposited in the library of the Royal Academy of Music.

In the obscurity of provincial practice as a teacher Mudie seems to have lost incentive to artistic exertion, and with the incentive almost the power. He must be regarded less as a musician of promise than as one of fulfilment, and it would be highly to the credit of any concert-giving institution of the day to unearth some of those works, which having made their effect would be sure of making it again, now that the capabilities of performance are perhaps more favourable than they were.

[ G. A. M. ]