For the last 10 years, CCM professor Mary Sue Morrow has dedicated herself to completing her late mentor’s series of books.
Weighing in at nearly 900 pages, the Symphonic Repertoire – Volume I may be the first of its kind. Other literature on the 18th century symphony just skims the surface of the era.
“We looked at symphonies by many different composers,” says Morrow. “Mozart and Haydn were not the only symphony composers in the 18th century.” The massive volume includes essays by Morrow and her co-editor, Bathia Churgin, and 20 other scholars.
Peter Brown, Morrow’s mentor at Indiana University and original author of the Symphonic Repertoire series, had already finished Volumes II, III and IV before his death in 2003. He had not begun either Volume I or Volume V because of the vast amount of information the books contain. Brown’s widow called upon Morrow to come to their home and see if he had any manuscripts. Unfortunately, there were none.
Morrow took up completing Volume I because she was a close student to Brown and is an expert in 18th century music. In June of 2012, the work was finally published.
The Symphonic Repertoire – Volume I includes composers that other books on 18th-century symphony have either not talked about in depth or simply never talked about at all.
“It (the book) is putting together information that has not been put together in this form before,” Morrow explains. The book is organized geographically, with each section containing an overview of symphonic composition in the region as well as essays on significant composers who worked there.
According to Morrow, in the 18th century, symphonies were not commonly distributed in scores (which show all of the instrumental parts together), but in bundles containing each instrumental part. Scholars working with this material must put these parts into score before they can analyze the music. Short examples from these scores help illustrate the essays.
The composers within the book have their own chapters based on the quality of their music and significance in their era. According to Morrow, scholars believe that as many as 20,000 symphonies were composed in the 18th century, so she looked for unique composers that scholars had written enough about to merit a chapter in the book. “There are not as many (scholars) doing this kind of dissertation research. It has fallen out of fashion,” she says.
Mary Sue Morrow’s mother was a piano teacher and got her into music from a very young age. Morrow attended Rhodes College in Memphis and received her bachelor’s in music history in 1975. She played piano and organ during her education but it became clear performing was not her strong suit.
“I was still very interested in music,” she says. “So, my mom suggested musicology.” From there she entered Northwestern to complete her masters and met Peter Brown during her Ph.D. at Indiana University.
Although The Symphonic Repertoire is meant for a more academic audience, Morrow thinks people who have a love for music will appreciate the first four overview chapters as well. The book also includes a CD of symphonies performed by the Bloomington Early Music Festival Orchestra, and all but one of the symphonies has never been recorded before.
Mary Sue Morrow taught at Loyola University for 15 years before coming to CCM in 1999.
Written by Marisa Whitaker, a student intern with UC Magazine.