Tuesday, October 20, 2009

William Herschel, Yorkshire musician

I wasn't aware that the astronomer William Herschel was also a musician, and had a strong Yorkshire connection. Being in Yorkshire these days, that interested me. That's a picture of Whitby sands near our house. (If you, too, live in the UK, see the end of this blog for important information.)

Thanks to a reader, David Walmsley, for the following.

Chandos Super Audio CD (CHSA 5005) in the "Contemporaries of Mozart" series,
states that Symphony #2 was composed in Richmond in September 1760, #8 in
Sunderland in April 1761, #12 in Pontefract in December 1761, #13 also in
Pontefract in March 1762, #14 in Leeds (perhaps a day's journey from
Pontefract at the time) in April 1762, and #17 in Pontefract again in July
1762. All his 24 symphonies were composed between 1760 and 1764.

Born 15 Nov 1738 in Hanover. Father violinist/oboist in infantry band.
Basic musical education given at Garrison School, which Wilhelm left in
1753 joined the Hanover Guards as violinist and oboist.
1756 (Seven Years War start) posted to England (as precaution against
possible attack by French). Fell in love with England and out of love with
the army. When he got back to Hanover his father managed to secure his
release by a loophole: he had never been sworn in! Later in the same year
(1756) he and his brother Jacob (organist and composer) went back to
England. Jacob stayed three years and went back. Wilhelm stayed, though he
saw little future in London.
1759 Director of the band of the Durham militia for 2 years.
1761 Pontefract (no details given).
1763 Director of subscription concerts in Leeds.
1766 offered "similar position to organist" at new Octagon Chapel in Bath.
Became main rival of Thomas Linley (1732-95) with benefit concert given in
Assembly Rooms on New Year's Day 1767 (Jan 1st, not March 25). Stayed there
ten years as centre of musical Bath.
Life divided thereafter between music the money supplier and astronomy the
George III gave him a pension of 200 pounds a year in 1782 so the he could
give up his career as a musician. He had discovered the seventh planet
(later called Uranus) and named it Georgius Sidus (the star of George) on
the 13th of March 1781. He wasn't knighted until 1817, in his 79th year. He
died in 1822.

We shouldn't forget the work of his sister Caroline, who may have had a strong partnership in the discovery of Uranus, and made discoveries of her own. She also lived almost century.

If you're in the UK, check out my upcoming itinerary for the UK edition of Lady Notorious (a stop in Leeds, for example) here and come out to meet me. I'd be delighted.

Jo :)