Peter Brown's Symphonic Compendium
by Melanie Lowe
A. Peter Brown. The First
Golden Age of the Viennese Symphony: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert.
The Symphonic Repertoire, Volume II. Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
2002. xxvii, 716pp.
In a venture as selfless as it was ambitious, the late musicologist A.
Peter Brown took it on himself to address the lack of a broad-based, single-author
of the symphony. A single volume at inception, the project ultimately
expanded to a five-volume series titled The Symphonic Repertoire,
two volumes of which Brown completed before his untimely passing in March
2003. Volume II, The First Golden Age of the Viennese Symphony,
and volume IV, The Second Golden Age of the Viennese Symphony,
are now published. Brown drafted volume III, The European Symphony, ca.
1800–ca. 1930, which is in the final stages of preparation for publication.
Hopefully, a generous scholar will realize volume I, The Eighteenth-Century
Symphony, for which Brown left some sketches of content and organization,
and perhaps another can assemble and edit volume V, The Symphony in
Europe and the Americas in the Twentieth Century, originally planned
by Brown as a symposium. The symphonic repertoire as Brown conceived it
is in essence the symphonic canon—that body of orchestral works,
widely understood as symphonies though not always titled "Symphony"
(e.g., tone poems and character pieces)—that receives regular concert
and recorded performance. His monumental study was not intended to be
"a history in the narrative sense, since it does not attempt to
place a large number of symphonies under a covering hypothesis"
(p.xv). Rather, The Symphonic Repertoire is a compendium of sorts:
a "synthesis of ideas" Brown "accumulated" during
a scholarly and teaching career that spanned more than three decades (pp.xx–xxi).