Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Graham, George Farquhar

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GRAHAM, GEORGE FARQUHAR (1789–1867), musical amateur, eldest son of Lieutenant-colonel Humphrey Graham, was born in Edinburgh 28 Dec. 1769 (Register of St. Andrew's Parish). At an early age he showed a decided talent for music, and as his parents were rich he was enabled to devote himself to the study of the art, although he never had a master. In 1815 he was chosen one of the secretaries of the first Edinburgh musical festival, to the success of which he materially contributed. For the third evening concert of the festival he composed an overture, which was well received,and in 1816 he published a small volume entitled 'An Account of the First Edinburgh Musical Festival, to which is added some general Observations on Music.' Soon after this he visited France and Italy in pursuit of musical knowledge, and in Florence was greatly impressed by Paganini. Graham was himself a skilful violinist, and formed one of a party of Edinburgh musicians who met occasionally for the practice of quartets by the great masters. On the retirement of Sir Henry Bishop in 1843, he stood unsuccessfully for the musical professorship in Edinburgh University. He died at Gilmore Place, Edinburgh, on 12 March 1867. As a composer Graham was favourably known among his contemporaries, but his published works are not numerous, and few of them are now performed. The songs 'County Guy' (Scott), 'You never longed nor loved' (Goethe), and 'The Mariner's Song' (Allan Cunningham) were considered excellent in their day. It is as a writer on musical subjects that Graham deserves to be remembered, his work in this direction being of considerable value. To the seventh edition of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica' he contributed the article 'Music,' in which a great deal of important information is compressed into narrow compass. The article was reprinted in a separate form in 1838, with the addition of an introduction and appendix, under the title of 'An Essay on the Theory and Practice of Musical Composition.' An expert at deciphering manuscript music written in the old 'tablature' notation (a method of noting music for the lute), he was able to render much assistance to William Dauney in translating and editing the Skene MS. (published 1838), to the appendix of which he also contributed an ably written paper. For Wood's 'Songs of Scotland' (Edinb. 1848-9) he supplied a series of historical, biographical, and critical notices, showing much judgment and knowledge of national music. For the eighth edition of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica' he wrote the article 'Organ,' and besides furnishing several papers on musical and kindred subjects to the 'Edinburgh Review' and various other periodicals, he was for some years an occasional contributor to the 'Scotsman.'

[Scotsman, 15 March 1867; Grove's Dict. i. 616, both of which give the date of birth incorrectly.]

J. C. H.