John Weldon. The Judgment of Paris. Edited by David W. Music. Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 94. Madison: A-R Editions, 1998. [xvii, 104 pp. ISBN 0-89579-426-8. $44.95.]
Reviewed by Kathryn Lowerre*
3. The Edition
1.1 Musical competition fascinates audiences. Such competitions (formal or informal) fill the pages of music journals of the past two centuries and have inspired the historical imagination from the Renaissance through the present day. In addition to twentieth-century competitions between contemporary performers or composers in various venues, early music concerts have offered todays audiences popular (and amusing) musical evenings based on well-known rivalries, such as that between feuding sopranos Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni in Handels London.1 Such dramatic frameworks provide a rudimentary narrative to follow (its not just a concert) and also, significantly, provide an opportunity for the audience to become part of the performance by pretending to be part of a claque: cheering their performer, booing their rival—often with considerable vigor—and casting their vote for a piece or performer—verdicts which may or may not agree with history. In 1989 a well-attended reenactment of the 1701 competition that produced multiple musical settings of poet and playwright William Congreves masque The Judgment of Paris took place in Londons Royal Albert Hall. Yet despite this very public and prestigious revival, the work is still generally known by name only except to specialists.
1.2 While still a relative newcomer to London and an outsider in the theater world, John Weldon was awarded first prize (200 guineas—a sizable sum) for his setting of The Judgment of Paris in a competition sponsored by several prominent members of the nobility including Lord Halifax and the Duke of Somerset, both patrons of music and of the theaters. To the surprise and chagrin of his competitors, Weldons music was chosen over that of John Eccles, a highly successful theater composer who had recently been named Master of the Kings Music at court, and Henry Purcells brother Daniel, also a prominent theater composer and fellow organist. Yet in some respects, Weldon was not much of an underdog; he had been a chorister at Eton and studied with Henry Purcell for a year before being appointed organist at New College, Oxford. While at Oxford his music was published and performed, and on arriving in London he began what seems to have been a very successful series of concerts. In addition to his highly-publicized victory with The Prize Music, Weldons involvement with the university, a series of churches, and with the English court insured that his life was a stable one compared with the lower ranks of musicians (and actors) from the theaters who scrambled to get any money they could performing in taverns and at street fairs.
1.3 A facsimile edition of John Eccless
setting of The Judgment of Paris appeared some sixteen years ago
with an introduction by Richard Platt.2 An edition of Weldons winning entry, which (unlike Eccless and Purcells
efforts) was never published during the composers lifetime, was long
overdue. A-R Editions is to be commended for expanding their catalogue
to include dramatic music from England as well as the collections of anthems
and instrumental works already available.
2.1 Congreves masque calls for solo male singers portraying Mercury, the messenger of the gods, who announces the competition among the goddesses for the golden apple inscribed For the fairest; and Paris (a pastoral prince of Troy), who has been chosen as arbiter. Paris must judge which of the three female soloists—representing Juno, goddess of marriage; Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom and martial arts; or Venus, goddess of love—most deserves the prize. The goddesses offer Paris various incentives, but in the end Venuss allurements (and promise to get him Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world) win, and the masque ends with a triumphal chorus by Venus and her attendants.
2.2 Among the three extant settings of the text, Weldons work is notable for its comparatively extensive use of choral settings and its vocal virtuosity in the solo passages.3 For those who chart key relationships with an eye to linked musical-dramatic structure, it is worth noting that in Weldons setting (unlike that of Eccles) Venuss victory is predicted from the goddesses first appearance, as both wavering Paris and seductive Venus are grounded in the flat keys, while the imperial Juno and militant Pallas share C major and the sharp side. Weldons most famous vocal mannerisms are frequently displayed throughout—Pariss O Ravishing Delight might well be retexted save me from excess of ornamentation rather than from excess of joy. However here the vocal extravagance reflects the emotion of Congreves poetry, and properly sung, demonstrates a convincing mastery of the florid vocal style.
2.3 In Venuss air Stay, lovely youth,
delay thy choice, for two flutes and voice over a ground, Weldon shows
himself a worthy pupil of Henry Purcell, avoiding monotony by varying
his bass line through transposition or compression. Generally, Weldon
writes in the sequence-dominated Italianate style, and one may well
wish the occasional harmonic twist would flower into a perverse Purcellian
dissonance. While Stay, lovely youth is competent writing, the opening
section of Venuss later air Nature framd thee sure for loving brings
echoes of Fairest isle to the ear, and is absolutely convincing as the
music Paris is unable to withstand (I yield, I yield, O take the prize).
If the later sections of Venuss air do not quite come up to the standard
set in the opening bars (which suffer nothing from comparison with Purcell),
they are still eminently singable and well-shaped, and the piece as a
whole is both impressive and an unadulterated delight.
3.1 In general, the edition is elegant and easy to read or play from and will help make this work accessible to performers as well as scholars. It is also very precise in its details (I found but a single typographical error and a single smudged note). The few questions raised by the edition are largely those of method. In his introduction, the editor seems to be concerned to make explicit connections between the potentially unfamiliar instruments of 1701 and modern-day equivalents (essential if this edition is to be of use to student performers), but this is not carried out consistently, and this oversight makes surveying the orchestration confusing. In the opening Notes on Performance (p. xiii) the editor provides the following modern equivalents for the manuscripts terms: flute (recorder), curtal (bassoon), bass viol (violoncello), and bass violin (contrabass).4 Yet in the Table of Instruments preceding the score, only two of these are listed alongside the eighteenth-century terms, and here the choice of which term is in parentheses is inconsistent. The Editorial Methods section at the end of the score states that [d]esignations for vocal and instrumental parts are given using modern equivalents (p. 99) which holds true for the low strings but not for the woodwinds, as the score uses the terms flutes, curtal, and bass curtal throughout.
3.2 In his critical notes the editor is admirably thorough in cataloguing the variants in the printed concordances which survive for a handful of Weldons songs from The Judgment of Paris; however, at times it would have been helpful to have a more precise explanation of a few of his editorial decisions. For example, the air for Pallas Hark, hark! The glorious voice of war presents an unusual scoring, with oboe and trumpet playing in unison throughout. In other movements, such as the symphonies for Pallas and the closing chorus, oboe and trumpet are used antiphonally, and their appearance in unison might well seem curious. Unfortunately, there are no critical notes for this movement, which has no concordances. Here the editor has made the decision to present on separate staves an obbligato part which appears on a single staff in the manuscript. He certainly cannot be faulted for doing so, as a quick look at a microfilm of the Folger manuscript confirms that the original designation reads Trumpet & Hautboy. However, there should be a record of this editorial decision. Given the original scoring (and the contemporary flexibility in the designation of obbligato instruments, most commonly a choice between flute or violin) one might suspect that the & could be an error of the copyists, and that the line could be played by either instrument alone.
3.3 As can be seen from the reproductions
of selected pages from the manuscript (Plates 1–3) the source of Weldons
music is relatively clean and written in a handsome hand. Often such fair
copies can be deceptive. Because they are so neat (especially when compared
with the working collections made for theater ensembles, music meetings,
or private performance, hastily written out and imperfectly preserved),
it is sometimes hard not to take them at face value when it might be useful
to question and compare further. With the exception of relatively minor
complications like those raised above, the editor has produced an edition
that will stand scholars and performers in good stead.
4.1 The editor is to be commended for his efforts in making Weldons charming work accessible in a beautiful and practical modern edition. However, his introduction contains some statements regarding Weldons career and works which might usefully be emended in the context of contemporary musical life in London.
4.2 The 1704 production of Britains Happiness is described first as a play (p. ix) and then as one of the three major musical-dramatic works Weldon composed for the theaters (p. x; the others are The Judgment of Paris and The Tempest long attributed to Henry Purcell). The editor quotes an advertisement for the work that demonstrates the hybrid nature of such entertainments and includes the tantalizing lure after the manner of an Opera. But what does that mean? Like symphonies and sonatas, operas in turn-of-the-century London come in a bewildering variety of forms.5 While Britains Happiness can usefully be compared to Motteuxs earlier interludes and entertainments, perhaps the most important tie between Motteuxs work and The Judgment of Paris lies in the context, the competition that produced the Congreve settings.
4.3 While extensive detective work is beyond the scope of an introduction, particularly in an edition where the music takes center stage, the case of Britains Happiness demonstrates many of the challenges faced by scholars of music from the London theaters and concert series during this period. The full title given in the printed libretto of Motteuxs work reads Britains Happiness, A Musical Interlude. Performd at both the Theatres, being part of the Entertainment subscribd for by the Nobility.6 In his prefatory letter to the reader, Motteux describes his text as having multiple settings, inspired once again by aristocratically-supported competition, this time between Weldon and singer/composer Richard Leveridge. As the editor rightly notes, Weldon was not a major theatrical composer—the principal slots for composers at both theaters had been pretty securely filled since the late 1690s—and when his music appeared it was more often in the chapel or on the concert platform. Aside from the contested Tempest music, Weldons music rarely can be connected to theatrical productions.7 Although Weldons setting of The Judgment of Paris (like Eccless and Purcells) is known to have been performed in the theater again a few years after the competition, it apparently did not become part of the theatrical repertory, always appearing as part of a concert, not as an afterpiece to a play.8 Weldons work as an organist and anthem composer, a writer of solo songs for concerts, and particularly his position as a producer of entertainments for the nobility far outweigh any explicitly theatrical connections, and his extra-theatrical status must be taken into account when charting the evolution of masque and opera in England during this confusing period.
4.4 Always competent and sometimes inspired, The Judgment of Paris demonstrates that Weldon could hold his own in the competitive circle of London composers. David W. Musics elegant edition of this unique manuscript is a welcome addition to Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era and will give many more students, scholars, and performers a chance to make their own judgments regarding its merits.
*Kathryn Lowerre (Kathryn.Lowerre@alumnae.brynmawr.edu)
has taught at Colby College and The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Her research centers on the uses of music in the London theaters at the
turn of the eighteenth century.
1. One example which comes to mind is the Ensemble
Courant concert on 22–23 January 1994 at the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill, which featured Sally Sanford and Penelope Jensen as the
rival sopranos. Although billed as Prima Donnas of 18th-Century London, in his program notes for the concert cellist Brent Wissick explicitly
emphasizes the rivalry between Bononcini and Handel as well as that between
the singers. Eighteenth-century London was nothing if not a competitive
2. Music for London Entertainment 1660–1800,
series C, vol. 1 (Tunbridge Wells: Richard Macnutt, 1984).
3. Contrasting styles of vocal writing and text
setting can clearly be seen in comparison with the score by Eccles. While
Weldon has choruses echo the words of the goddesses from their initial
appearance, Eccles reserves the use of chorus to the final attempt made
by each goddess to persuade Paris. Likewise, while Eccless score contains
proportionally more solo music than Weldons, the vocal style is more
tuneful, even dance-like.
4. The question of which bass stringed instruments
were used where and when in late seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century
England is a tangled one. See Peter Holmans brief discussion of the low
string instruments in late seventeenth-century England (using Eccless
setting of The Judgment of Paris as an example) in an analysis
of Matthew Lockes The Rare Theatricall (Four and Twenty Fiddlers:
The Violin at the English Court, 1540–1690 [Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1993], 318–19). I did not note any place in Weldons score where the lowest
line descended below C, so the low B-flat and B-natural cannot be used
as a touchstone to distinguish between bass violins and bass viols or
5. The question of genre also arises in reference
to The Judgment of Paris. I have referred to it throughout (as
the editor does) as a masque, which is how Congreve categorized it. However,
the title pages of the Eccles and Purcell settings call it a pastoral.
In the introduction to his facsimile edition of Eccless Judgment,
Richard Platt hypothesizes that this may have been to emphasize the operatic
nature of the work (op. cit., pp. x–xi). Also drawn by the question of
genre, Michael Burden addresses The Judgment of Paris in the context
of post-Purcellian theatrical masques (The British Masque, 1690–1800, Ph.D. diss., University of Edinburgh, 1991).
6. During the 1690s well-to-do members of the London
public were accustomed to subscribing to concerts of vocal and instrumental
music. Given the explicit reference to subscription, Weldons involvement
with Britains Happiness (as with The Judgment of Paris)
would seem to grow out of his concertizing in various venues around London,
emphasizing his connections among the nobility and gentry rather than
any direct relationship with any theatrical company. Several pieces in
John Walshs series The Monthly Mask of Vocal Music were published
under the general heading Subscription Music. Among these I have found
two other songs from Britains Happiness in addition to the duet
cited by Music: Just Comeing from Sea, our Spouses and wee (not one
of Motteuxs more inspired bits of doggerel) and The Welfare of All on
blest ANNA depends. For more on Britains Happiness, see my Music
in the Productions at Londons Lincolns Inn Fields Theater, 1695–1705,
(Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1997), 657–9.
7. The example Music cites, Weldons song Take,
oh take those lips away, published in 1702, cannot be confidently assigned
to the 1700 revival of Measure for Measure at the Lincolns Inn
Fields theater as he (and others, including pioneering theater music scholar
Roger Fiske) have suggested. Compositions known to have been used in the
1700 production include Purcells Dido and Aeneas—divided into
masque entertainments (presented at the end of each act) as well as a
dialogue for Aeneas and two friends—and act music by Eccles, the principal
composer for Lincolns Inn Fields.
8. An afterpiece was a short musical or comical
work presented in the theater following the major production of the evening.
Eccless version of The Judgment of Paris was revived 11 March
1706 following John Vanbrughs comedy The Provokd Wife and 15
April of the same year, when it followed Thomas Southernes tragedy The
Fatal Marriage. Both plays, like Eccless Judgment, were several
years old. In addition, it was almost certainly Eccless version that
was performed 10 March 1705 at Lincolns Inn Fields together with another
play, all for the benefit of a leading actress in the company with which
Eccles was associated (The London Stage, ed. Emmett L. Avery [Carbondale,
Illinois: University of Southern Illinois Press, 1960], vol. 1, pt. 2,
89). Weldons Judgment appeared as part of (another) Subscription
Music in concerts featuring soprano Catherine Tofts, on 18 January and
1 February 1704 (ibid., 54–55).
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