Charles Wesley, Methodism and new art music in the long eighteenth century

Clarke, Martin V. (2021). Charles Wesley, Methodism and new art music in the long eighteenth century. Eighteenth-Century Music, 18/2 (In press).

Abstract

This article considers eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Methodism’s relationship with art music through the original settings of poetry by Charles Wesley by five notable musicians: John Frederick Lampe (1702/3-1751), George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), Jonathan Battishill (1738-1801), Charles Wesley junior (1757-1834) and Samuel Wesley (1766-1837). It argues that the strong emphasis on congregational singing in popular and scholarly perceptions of Methodism, including within the movement itself, masks a more varied engagement with musical culture. The personal musical preferences of John and Charles Wesley brought them into contact with several leading musical figures in eighteenth-century London and initiated a small corpus of original musical settings of some of the latter’s hymns. The article examines the textual and musical characteristics of these the better to understand their relationship with both eighteenth-century Methodism and fashionable musical culture of the period. It argues that Methodism was not, contrary to popular perception, uniformly opposed to or detached from the aesthetic considerations of artistic culture, that eighteenth-century Methodism and John and Charles Wesley cannot be regarded as synonymous and that, in this period, sacred music encompasses rather more than church music and cannot be narrowly defined in opposition to secular music.

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