William Crotch's Specimens of Various Styles of Music Referred to in a Course of Lectures Read at Oxford and London was a remarkable new type of score anthology when it first appeared in three volumes published between 1807 and 1810. Many anthologies in this period effectively serve as memorials to an earlier classical tradition, but Crotch compiled the Specimens with an almost museum-like detachment and intended it only for the practical pedagogical purpose of tracing the evolution of music. Crotch's empirical, dispassionate, and one might say scientific approach in the Specimens mirrors a turn in British culture generally around the turn of the century toward empiricism, a shift that has been discussed at length in connection with the painter John Constable and his circle. Crotch himself was, not coincidentally, a significant landscape painter and a friend of Constable during the years in which the Specimens were published.
Crotch's relatively objective approach to criticism in the Specimens is most noticeable in his treatment of so-called “national” music. In this area his remarks are strikingly different from the criticism of contemporaries, especially Charles Burney. In connection with concert music, however, Crotch is less successful at pursuing a programme of value-free criticism. In some cases he clearly selects examples with the goal of influencing a composer's reception and stresses qualities that are in line with his developing conception of what might be called “classical music”.
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