Graduate Research Colloquium: Dr Benedict Taylor

The music of Fanny Hensel is currently enjoying a strong revival, both in terms of public performance and in scholarly inquiry.  Alongside this surge of interest has come a growing awareness of the problems, challenges, and obstacles faced not only by Hensel but by her music.  And these challenges are not just historical (as might easily be expected), but in many cases present even today among those who are ostensibly involved with championing her music.  In this talk I examine one of her most ambitious and individual compositions, the String Quartet of 1834, focusing on a selection of passages which highlight issues that may be profitably used as case-studies in Henselian reception from her own time to the present day.  These include basic factual disagreements (such as conflicting interpretations of the autograph score – including some impressive editorial malpractice), problems of analytical interpretation arising from Hensel’s startling formal idiosyncrasies, and expressive questions of private meanings composed into the allusive fabric of her work (taking up Cornelia Bartsch’s idea of ‘music as correspondence’).  I argue that Hensel’s current renaissance is an illustration of the dangers of a style of musical discourse that easily divests itself from an evidentiary basis, but also affords a welcome opportunity for setting matters to rights – or at least on a better basis.

Dr Benedict Taylor is Reader in Music at the University of Edinburgh. He received his MA and PhD from St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, subsequently holding fellowships at Heidelberg, Princeton and Berlin, and worked previously at Oxford as Lecturer in Music and Senior Research Fellow at Magdalen and New College.  

Benedict’s research and teaching interests include musical temporality and subjectivity, theory and analysis (especially 19th-century form and late-Romantic harmonic practice), philosophy, and the history of music c. 1770–1945 (with particular focus on Mendelssohn, besides the music of Haydn, late Beethoven, Schubert, Weber, and Schumann; British music; and late Romantic music). He is the author of four monographs: the first, Mendelssohn, Time and Memory: The Romantic Conception of Cyclic Form, published by Cambridge University Press in 2011, offers the first substantial account of the development of cyclic form in the nineteenth century. The second, The Melody of Time: Music and Temporality in the Romantic Era, is an analytical and philosophical study of the relation between music and time from Beethoven and Schubert to Franck and Elgar, published by Oxford University Press in 2015. His following RMA Monograph, Towards a Harmonic Grammar of Grieg’s Late Piano Music: Nature and Nationalism, explored the harmonic usage of late 19th-century composers outside or on the periphery of the Austro-German tradition, extending recent work in neo-Riemannian theory and the geometries of tonality into wider cultural issues pertaining to nationalist discourses and historiography. His latest book, Arthur Sullivan: A Musical Reappraisal, appeared in August 2017 in Routledge’s Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain series. He has edited four further books and is the co-editor of a special issue of 19th-Century Music on subjectivity and song. In addition, he has published on a broad range of music from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries in leading journals such as 19th-Century Music, Music & Letters, Music Theory Spectrum, Music Analysis, Journal of Music Theory, Journal of Musicology, Musical Quarterly, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, and Eighteenth-Century Music.

Benedict has held fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations, and is the recipient of the Jerome Roche Prize from the Royal Musical Association. Future projects include a study of instrumental form in the first half of the nineteenth century, an account of the idea of musical subjectivity, and an edited volume Rethinking Mendelssohn (forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2019).  He is currently co-editor of Music & Letters and also serves on the editorial board of Music Analysis.

Free to attend, register here.

About the series:
The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Marinu Leccia and Judith Valerie Engel organise the series. Presentations are followed by a discussion and virtual drinks reception. Free and open to all Music Faculty students and members. If you would like more information, please email or