I recently came across a ‘delightful’ letter written by Josef Holbrooke to the Musical News and published on March 17, 1900. Two weeks previously (Saturday, March 3 1900) had seen the first performance of the composer’s symphonic poem The Raven at the Crystal Place under the baton of Mr. Augustus Manns. The review in this paper had not been too encouraging -it introduced the discussion by suggesting that not much can be said in favour of Mr Josef C. Holbrooke’s symphonic poem… Edgar Allan Poe’s poem is of the dismal order, and so perhaps it is a compliment to Mr Holbrooke to say his music is of the same type…’ However, it was not so much the bad press (in this instance) that angered the young composer, but some ‘facts’ given about him. I quote the letter in full.
To the editor of “Musical News”
Sir, - I must call attention to one or two mistakes in your estimable paper which irritate me.
I am 21 years of age, not 22, neither am I a Royal Academy student, two years ago yes, not now.
I should have thought your worthy critic would have known better to suggest the “Raven” being written at a school of music.
I hope I am not trespassing on you valuable columns.
Finsbury Park, N. London
The editor replied:
We hardly realise the cause of irritation in being described as 22, instead of 21 years of age, nor yet being thought a student of the R.A.M. Both Sterndale Bennett and Arthur Sullivan were proud to belong to the Academy, and wrote some of their finest works while still being classed as ‘students’. – Ed., M.N.