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«  Monteverdi's Vespers  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

23.10.2021


Monteverdi's Vespers


New Statesman and Nation

I turned up an interesting exchange in plumbing the depths of The New Statesman and Nation. Alongside Reed's Radio Notes column for February 7th, 1948, in which he assesses Living Writers — a collection of critical talks given on the BBC's Third Programme — was a small, one-paragraph letter to the editor from Reed himself, entitled "Monteverdi's Vespers" (.pdf).

In this letter, Reed is responding (apologizing, really) to a Mr. Redlich, who apparently had a strong reaction to the Radio Notes column of January 24th, two weeks earlier. Reed had reviewed the Third Programme's first three installments of A History in Sound of European Music, and lamented the "vocal inadequacy so often revealed by the Third's resuscitations of ancient music." Reed felt, for example, that the recent broadcast of Claudio Monteverdi's Vespers had left him feeling "embittered and frustrated."

I do not, unfortunately, have a copy of the letter from Mr. Redlich, but I can easily surmise it appears in the January 31st, 1948 issue of The New Statesman. I can also deduce that Mr. Redlich probably knew well of what he spoke, if he is, in fact, the H.F. Redlich, who wrote a great deal on Monteverdi. His opinion would have mattered a great deal to Reed, an unrepentant music snob, which would go far toward explaining his apologetic (if somewhat defensive) tone:

But I hope Mr. Redlich does not really think that I should like to hear a choral work sung throughout in a steady fortissimo. I think I have said nothing to imply that. But I also know that Italian singing can be at times excrutiatingly vulgar.

Incidentally, Reed's reply also mentions his having attended a recent music festival in Perugia, Italy, where he heard the Rome Opera Chorus peform some of Monteverdi's Psalms. The facts of which, I think, are some small justification for this monomaniacal attempt to track down everything written by our particular author. The briefest, 150-word editorial reveals part of Reed's itinerary from his fourth trip to Italy, in 1947.


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What is Henry Reed's first name?

1532. Vallette, Jacques. "Grand-Bretagne," Mercure de France, no. 1001 (1 January 1947): 157-158.
A contemporary French language review of Reed's A Map of Verona.



1st lesson:

Reed, Henry (1914-1986). Born: Birmingham, England, 22 February 1914; died: London, 8 December 1986.

Education: MA, University of Birmingham, 1936. Served: RAOC, 1941-42; Foreign Office, Bletchley Park, 1942-1945. Freelance writer: BBC Features Department, 1945-1980.

Author of: A Map of Verona: Poems (1946)
The Novel Since 1939 (1946)
Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel (1947)
Lessons of the War (1970)
Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio (1971)
The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio (1971)
Collected Poems (1991, 2007)
The Auction Sale (2006)


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