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The Renaissance held music in high regard. It played a prominent part in religious, court and civic life. The interchange of ideas in Europe through ever closer economic and political contact brought about the creation of new musical genres, the development of instruments, and the advancement of specialist printing. By about 1500, Franco-Flemish composers dominated the domain. Most prestigious among them was Josquin des Prez who, like fellow artists at the time, travelled widely. The intensity of international encounters led to stylistic developments that have been qualified as truly European. By the beginning of the sixteenth century Antwerp had developed into an international hub of musical activity. The important initiatives were undertaken by the church. Antwerp Cathedral employed twelve choristers who lived in a private house where they received instruction from a singing master. At the beginning of the century this office was held by Jacob Obrecht, famous for his polyphonic compositions. His prolific output consists of some twenty-six masses, thirty-two motets, and thirty secular pieces, not all texted. Antwerp also employed a company of fiddlers for both secular and ecclesiastical performances. Musicians from all over Europe chose Antwerp as their home, amongst them a number of English composers.

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Peter Philips had moved to the Continent as a refugee. He was one of many Catholic musicians who left England for Flanders. A prolific composer of sacred choral music, he was made organist to the Chapel of Archduke Albrecht in Antwerp. In 1593, he travelled from the Southern Netherlands to Amsterdam to ‘see and heare an excellent man of his faculties’. The man he referred to was Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, a composer and organist known as the ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam’. The latter had converted to Calvinism in 1578, but remained sympathetic to his old faith. Another refugee in Flanders was Hereford-born John Bull. Appointed chief musician to Prince Henry in 1611, he furtively disappeared to Flanders after the death of his patron in November 1612. Bull later explained his flight because of the accusation of Catholic sympathies made against him. He moved to Brussels where he was employed as one of the organists in the Chapel of Archduke Albrecht VII, sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands. From September 1615, he held the post of organist of Antwerp Cathedral. In December 1617 he acted as city organist at ‘s Hertogenbosch. Bull’s reputation rests mainly on his keyboard music. The composition of God Save the Queen has been attributed to him.

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Antwerp was renowned for its printing. Originally, all music was notated by hand. Manuscripts were costly and owned exclusively by religious orders, courts, or wealthy households. That all changed in 1501 when Venetian printer Ottaviano Petrucci published Harmonice musices odhecation, the first significant anthology of (100) polyphonic secular songs. The availability of notation in print boosted the development of instrumental music for both soloists and ensembles, and engendered the creation of new genres. In Flanders, Tielman Susato was the first printer to gain esteem for producing music books. Nothing is known about the date or place of his birth – he may have been Dutch or German. Details about his activities begin in 1529 when he was working as a calligrapher for Antwerp Cathedral. He also played the trumpet and was listed as a ‘town player’ in the city. In 1541, he created the first music printing company in the Low Countries which he combined with selling musical instruments from his home. During a prolific publishing career he was responsible for twenty-five books of chansons, three books of masses, and nineteen books of motets. The indefatigable Christopher Plantin was also active in printing music and produced some of the finest choir-books of his day. From the 1570s onwards, the Bellerus and Phalesius families were leading printing houses within the domain. The whole contemporary repertoire was made available by Antwerp presses: vernacular song books and psalms as well as polyphonic secular and religious music. Composers from all over Europe had their work printed in this, the most musical of all cities at the time.

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Flourishing musical life in Antwerp and Brussels did not go unnoticed at the Palace of Westminster. Henry VIII himself had received a thorough musical education and was a dedicated patron of the arts. He was accomplished at the lute, organ, and virginals and, apparently, sang as well. Henry recruited the best musicians to join his court. A number of Flemish musicians figured amongst the many Europeans that were attracted to take part in music making in and around London. Dyricke Gérarde [Derrick Gerarde] arrived in England in 1544. Little is known of his life, but almost his entire musical output is contained in manuscript at the British Library. These manuscripts constitute one of the largest collections of polyphony by a single composer to have survived from the Elizabethan era. His achievement however was overshadowed by the reputation of a Flemish composer who had arrived in in the capital some two decades previously.

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Lutenist Philip van Wilder was first recorded as a resident in London in 1522. By 1529 he was a member of the Privy Chamber, the select group of musicians who played to the king in private. During the second quarter of the sixteenth century Van Wilder oversaw secular music-making at the court, a position that brought him close to Henry VIII. He taught playing the lute to Princess (later Queen) Mary and subsequently to Prince Edward (later Edward VI). At the time of Henry VIII’s death in 1547 Van Wilder was Keeper of the Instruments and effectively head of the instrumental musical establishment at Westminster, a post later known as Master of the King’s Music. The upkeep of the Royal instruments at Westminster was a heavy duty. The scope of that task becomes clear from the inventory of Henry’s possessions at his death, listing thirteen organs, nineteen other keyboard instruments (virginals and clavichords), and several hundred smaller wind and string instruments including viols, lutes, and recorders.

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Van Wilder continued to enjoy Royal favour during the reign of Edward VI. He was granted a coat of arms and crest and, in 1551, authorized to recruit boy singers for the Chapel Royal from anywhere in England. Three years after his death in February 1554 an anonymous tribute was paid to the musician and printed by Richard Tottel in his collection of Songes and Sonettes (1557), commonly known as ‘Tottel’s Miscellany’, containing the following line:

Laye downe your lutes and let your gitterns rest.
Phillips is dead whose like you can not finde,
Of musicke much exceeding all the rest.

In an age of wandering artists and scholars, the Renaissance was an internationalist movement united by a common (Latin) language. Its civic life teaches our age the salutary lesson that a nationalist message is one of disengagement. The appeal to nativist emotions conceals the yearning for a flawless world that never was or will be. The cultural strength of a country manifests itself in participation – that is, in the openness of borders, the assimilation of non-native concepts, and the embracing of external influences. It takes a cosmopolitan mind to be a patriot.

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Usually, the phrase ‘migrants and their families’ is a code for ‘male migrants and their wives and children’. The near-invisibility of women as migrants and their presumed passivity in the migration process in historical reports on the subject, does not reflect reality. For many women relocation meant deliverance from assumed traditional roles and behaviours – as is reflected in the notable careers of two immigrant artists.

Angelica Kauffmanwas born on 30 October 1741 in Chur, capital of the Swiss canton of Graubünden. In 1742 the family moved to Lombardy and ten years later to Como. The young girl showed talent for both art and music, but pursued a career in painting. Whilst in Rome, she became acquainted with German antiquarian Johann Joachim Winckelmann, whose portrait she painted. She also befriended British neo-classical painters Gavin Hamilton and Nathaniel Dance. These contacts inspired her to concentrate on classical and mythological subjects. Since her work proved popular with grand tourists, she readily accepted Lady Wentworth’s invitation to continue her career in England. She arrived in London in June 1766. Within a week she visited Joshua Reynolds in his studio, and her pictures were soon in demand. After lodging in Suffolk Street, Charing Cross, Kauffman occupied a fashionable house in Golden Square, Westminster. In 1767, she suffered a disastrous relationship with bigamist Count Frederick de Horn, who claimed to be a Swedish nobleman. She married him in secret. He signed a separation agreement (February 1768), after being exposed as a fraud and forced to leave the country. She stayed single until July 1781 when, after receiving news of De Horn’s death, she married Venetian painter Antonio Pietro Zucchi, who also resided in London. The couple settled in Rome where her studio became a popular stop for visitors on the grand tour.

Mary Moser was born on 27 October 1744, the daughter of George Michael Moser who had moved from Schaffhausen to London in 1726 where he worked for a cabinet-maker in Soho. During the 1740s he established himself as the finest gold chaser of his generation and a prominent member of the capital’s artistic community. He died in January 1783. At his burial at St Paul’s, Covent Garden, Joshua Reynolds was chief mourner. In his obituary he paid tribute to Moser as the ‘Father of the present race of Artists’, because of his individual skills and inspirational teaching at London academies. Mary had trained with her father and gained the patronage of Queen Charlotte for her flower paintings in oil and watercolour. Her most elaborate work was executed between 1792 and 1795 at Frogmore House, Windsor, where she ornamented rooms with flowers painted directly on the walls as well as large inset canvases that invoked the impression of cascading garlands.

On 28 November 1768 George Michael Moser, together with Francis Cotes, Benjamin West, and William Chambers, petitioned the king to patronise a Royal Academy. Subsequently, the Royal Academy of Arts was founded through a personal act of George III on 10 December 1768 with the aim of establishing a system of professional training and to arrange regular exhibitions of contemporary works of art. The immigrant contribution to the creation of the Royal Academy was considerable. Founding members included Jeremiah Meyer, Francesco Bartolozzi, Giovanni Battista Cipriani, Augostino Carlini, Francesco Zucarelli, and Dominic Serres. Art in the capital was a truly European affair. Moser was elected Keeper of the Academy. Initially located in cramped quarters in Pall Mall, the institution was given temporary accommodation in Old Somerset House in 1771. It moved to Burlington House in 1868, where it remains.

Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser were the only women mentioned among the thirty-six founding members of the Royal Academy. As females, however, they were prohibited from the proceedings of the Academy and excluded from committee meetings and dinners. In fact, their presence seemed to cause embarrassment to male members. Johan Joseph Zoffany was born on 13 March 1733 near Frankfurt am Main. After a successful career as court painter to the Elector of Trier, he decided to try his luck in London where he settled towards the end of 1760. Actor David Garrick commissioned him to paint informal scenes at his villa at Hampton where the actor had built a ‘Temple to Shakespeare’. At a stroke a new genre was created. Setting up a studio in Covent Garden, Zoffany painted a series of pictures which became known as ‘theatrical conversations’. Success earned him the patronage of George III and Queen Charlotte.

In 1762 Zoffany was nominated a member of the Academy by the king and painted the group portrait ‘The Academicians of the Royal Academy’ (exhibited in 1772). Fellows are gathered around a nude male model at a time when decency demanded that women were barred from such spectacles. In order to include Mary Moser and Angelica Kauffman, the painter added them not as participants to the scene, but – rather unflattering – as portraits (face only) hanging on the wall. A later painting by Henry Singleton, ‘The Royal Academicians in General Assembly’ (1795), shows the ladies alongside other academicians, but their bodies hidden behind the President’s chair with only their heads detectable. Emancipation among artists has seen strange turns and twists. For long, the art world was boys club. Women artists remained virtually invisible to the public eye, they were wallflowers at best. Mary Moser’s death in 1819 marked the start of an extensive stretch of time in which women were excluded from the Academy. It was not until 1936 that impressionist painter Laura Knight became the next woman to be elected a Royal Academician. This long interlude makes it all the more remarkable that these two women who shared an alien background (temporarily) broke the pattern of male exclusivity in British art societies. They demonstrated that migration unshackles mind and emotion. The need to adapt is a force of release from limiting traditions and attitudes.


The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) is the oldest of the capital’s orchestras and the first British orchestra owned by its players. As a self-governing body, LSO gave its first concert on 9 June 1904, conducted by Hans Richter (the first principal conductor until 1911) at Queen’s Hall, Langham Place, Westminster. Since 1982, the orchestra has been permanently based in the Barbican Centre. Among conductors with whom it is most associated are, in its early days, Hans Richter, Edward Elgar, and Thomas Beecham. In more recent decades Pierre Monteux, André Previn, Claudio Abbado, Colin Davis and Valery Gergiev have been working with the orchestra. Simon Rattle will take up his position of musical director from September 2017. The creation of LSO was the result of a musical uprising in which immigrant musicians played a prominent part. 

At the turn of the twentieth century there were no permanent salaried orchestras in London. Musicians were contracted on an individual basis. Since there were competing demands for the services of performers and no binding contracts, a player was free to accept a better-paid engagement at any time. He (it was male dominated profession) would simply hire another player to deputise for him at the original concert. In September 1903, Robert Newman, the manager of the Queen’s Hall, and the conductor of his promenade concerts, Henry Wood, unilaterally decided to end this chaotic system. In response, approximately half of its players resigned from the Queen’s Hall Orchestra. Musicians were not highly paid, and removing the opportunity of more lucrative engagements was a financial blow to many of them. Some of the leading players decided to form their own orchestra. 


The principal movers of the initiative were horn players Adolf Borsdorf, Thomas Busby, and Henri van der Meerschen, and trumpeter John Solomon. As performers these men were highly regarded and referred to as ‘God’s Own Quartet’. Busby organised a meeting in which he set out the principles. A new ensemble named the London Symphony Orchestra was to be run on co-operative lines, something ‘akin to a Musical Republic’. Members would share in the orchestra’s profits at the end of each season. The proposal was approved unanimously. Newman held no grudge against the rebels, and made the Queen’s Hall available to them. He and Wood attended the LSO’s first 1904 concert which included the prelude to Die Meistersinger, music by Bach, Mozart, Liszt, Elgar, and finally Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. German music ruled the capital.


Henri Louis van der Meerschen was born in Brussels on 30 September 1866. He attended the Brussels Conservatoire studying under Louis-Henri Merck. There he earned the Premier Prix with distinction in 1885 after which he was invited by Bruges-born Eugène Goossens to become a member of the celebrated Carl Rosa Opera Company at Drury Lane. This company had been founded by Hamburg-born Karl Rose with the aim of producing operas in English. The British premier of Puccini’s La Bohème and Madame Butterfly were among his successes. He was also the outstanding performer of Wagner at the time, presenting The Flying Dutchman (1876), Rienzi (1879), Lohengrin (1880), and Tannhäuser (1882) to an English audience. Having joined Henry Wood’s Queen’s Hall Orchestra, Van der Meerschen was one of the four rebels who initiated the foundation of LSO. 


In 1914 the LSO had just reached its tenth birthday. Financially sound and artistically refined, the orchestra was acknowledged to be among the finest in the world. The outbreak of war intervened. Conductors and musicians cancelled tours and performances because they were unable to travel; some members of the orchestra were enlisted. In spite of difficulties, LSO declared that it would continue playing concerts. By 1916 the situation became more problematical. Grave news from the front spread gloom and pessimism at home. The Zeppelin bombardment of London kept audiences indoors. At the start of the year conscription had been imposed. By July 1917 thirty-three members of the orchestra (about a third of its male membership) were sent to the trenches for active service. An increasing number of female players acted as their replacements. 


Traditionally, the LSO had strong German roots and preferences. In 1915 it had initiated a successful ‘Three Bs Festival’: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. An attempt to repeat the treat in 1916 hit the brick wall of a hostile press and public opinion. In September 1916 the Pall Mall Gazette attacked the orchestra in a crusading series of articles for the overwhelming presence of German music in their repertoire. It argued that those in London ‘who have felt war in their skins are not to be drugged with sound, however sweet’. LSO was forced to present a more patriotic, if not jingoistic program of performances. 


Edward Elgar, who had been LSO’s principal conductor during 1911/2, was living in London at the outbreak of war. In 1914 he was asked to contribute to an anthology called King Albert’s Book to raise money for Belgian refugees affected by German occupation. Brussels-born playwright, poet and translator Émile Leon Cammaerts had moved to England in 1908. He translated works by John Ruskin into French and selected a number of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown detective stories in La clairvoyance du père Brown. In 1933 he was appointed Professor of Belgian Studies at the University of London. He married actress Helen Tita Braun (stage name: Tita Brand), a daughter of the Wagnerian diva Marie Brema (who was born Mary Agnes [Minnie] Fehrmann, the daughter of merchant from Bremen in Liverpool). Elgar set Cammaert’s poem ‘Après Anvers’ to an orchestral accompaniment. It was premiered under the name of Carillon by the LSO on 7 December 1914 at the Queen’s Hall. The composer himself conducted and Tita Brand recited the poem. It roused anti-German spirits at the time and was revived for the same reason during World War II with a new text by Laurence Binyon.


For resident German musicians in Britain the war years were a bitter and painful experience. Impresario Alfred Curtis was born Alfred Schulz-Curtius around 1853 in Germany. He settled in London in the early 1870s. He founded a music and artists’ management agency at no. 44 Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, in 1876. He was the first to bring Richard Wagner’s music to the London public. In 1882, he arranged the British staging of the Ring Cycle under the Hungarian conductor Anton Seidl. During decades of professional activity, Schulz-Curtius organised dozens of concerts in London’s venues and worked with many of Europe’s major conductors and performers. At the beginning of the First World War he was arrested and interned as an enemy alien, despite of having become a naturalised British subject in 1895, and changing his name by deed poll to Alfred Curtis in September 1914. He died in March 1918.


Adolf Borsdorf was one of the leading figures in the rebellion against Newman and Wood in 1903/4 and the subsequent foundation of the LSO. Born on 25 December 1854 in Dittmansdorf, Saxony, he studied French horn at the Dresden conservatory and played in a military band. In 1879 he moved to London where he stayed for the rest of his life. He was appointed Professor at the Royal College of Music, South Kensington, when it was founded in 1882. He was playing principal horn in the orchestra that Henry Wood conducted at the first Promenade Concert in the Queen’s Hall in 1895. He was also in the orchestra when Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel was given its first English performance in 1896 with the composer conducting. Enjoying an international reputation, he used his influence to secure Hans Richter to conduct LSO’s first concert. 


The intensity of anti-German feeling during of the First World War would deeply hurt him. At the outbreak of hostilities, he had been living in London for more than thirty years and his wife was British. In spite of that, the members of the orchestra turned against him. They requested his removal from their ranks. By October 1915 he was told that he would not be allowed to play again until the end of the war. In November he felt forced to resign from an orchestra he himself had helped to create and to flourish. Borsdorf never performed professionally again. He died in April 1923. His vital contribution to London’s musical culture in general and to raising the standard of British horn playing in particular was only recognised in retrospect. The risk of whipped up patriotism is that it quickly runs sour. In becoming an expression of resentment rather than pride, the spirit of tolerance is sacrificed.


Painter Egbert Jasperszoon van Heemskerk was born in Haarlem in 1634. He settled in London about 1674 and made a career as a genre painter. His contemporary reputation was that of a prolific and skilful painter of tavern and drinking scenes, peasant feasts, and Quakers-meetings. He frequently introduced his own portrait into his pictures. 
The loutish tone of his work was appreciated by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, for whom he painted a number of works. Rochester was a member of the drunken Merry Gang at Charles II’s court. His attachment to Heemskerk’s work was in line with his personal behaviour. Heemskerk’s work was also reproduced in engravings, especially mezzotint. He died around 1704, but his reputation endured.


Portrait engraver and draughtsman Abraham Blooteling was born in Amsterdam in 1640. He was the pupil of the engraver Cornelis van Dalen. In 1660 he appears in Paris, where he was apprenticed to the well-known engraver Pierre van Schuppen, himself of Netherlandish birth. This explains the French character of his engravings. 

Blooteling came to England in January 1673 on the order of Prince Rupert, then living at the court of Charles II. He was a key figure in the transfer of Dutch mezzotint to England, where the technique was adopted with such success that it later became known as the ‘English Manner’.  The subject matter of his mezzotints includes religious, genre and allegorical scenes, but his portraits after works by Peter Lely and Anthony van Dyck were particularly admired. 

Increasingly, Blooteling divided his energies between London and Amsterdam. He certainly continued to work for the English market, and quite possibly continued to make London his main base. In his later career he acted more as a publisher than as an engraver. The Hollstein catalogue of prints lists 143 engravings and 138 mezzotints and the National Portrait Gallery holds sixty-eight portraits associated with the artist. Blooteling died in 1690 in Amsterdam.


In June 1672, Charles II issued a declaration in which Dutch artists are invited to move to England. After the Restoration there was an expanding market for paintings in England, especially portraits and marine subjects – but increasingly also for landscapes in the Italianate or northern styles – that could not be satisfied by English artists. Leiden-born marine painter Willem van de Velde (of Flemish descent) responded to the call and left Holland for London to enter in the service of the king. Personal careers counted for more than loyalty or national pride at the time. 

He was joined by his son Willem van de Velde the Younger who was to become the most famous of all marine painters, originating a rich English tradition in this genre. Soon after arriving they began their first major commission for the king, designs for a set of tapestries of the recent sea-battle of Solebay during the Third Anglo-Dutch War. He initally he lived with his family in East Lane, Greenwich, using the Queen’s House (now part of the National Maritime Museum) as a studio. 

Following the accession of William and Mary this facility was no longer provided, and by 1691 he was living in Sackville Street, now close to Piccadilly Circus. Over the next three decades or so they painted pictures of ships, battles and the sea for the court, the aristocracy and naval officers. Willem the Elder died in December 1693, his son in April 1707. 


In 1670, twenty-year old merchant and financier Solomon de Medina, of Portuguese Jewish origin, moved from Middelburg to London. He established a successful business supplying imported silks and other luxury textiles to the rich and famous. From 1689 onwards Medina acted as London factor for Antonio Alvarez Machado and Isaac Pereira, both of similar backgrounds, the ‘providiteurs généraux’ to the army of William of Orange in England and to the land forces of the allies in the Low Countries. In 1697 he moved to Richmond, becoming the first known Jewish resident there. 

On 18 November 1699 William III dined at Medina’s house in Richmond, probably at Heron Court. Modern day Heron Square contains the site and some of the surviving buildings of old Heron Court which became the focus of Jewish population in eighteenthth century Richmond. Heron Court itself was once called Herring Court, but the name was changed for reasons of social grace. On 23 June 1700, in recognition of his services, the king knighted Medina at Hampton Court. He was the first professing Jew to be knighted. After the king’s death in March 1702, Medina returned to the Netherlands where he was involved in the food supplies to the allied troops throughout the campaigns of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. In 1711 he was summoned before the parliamentary commissioners for examining the public accounts. Medina admitted that he and his predecessors had regularly paid commission on their contracts to Marlborough. His evidence was used by the Tories to bring about Marlborough’s downfall. Medina died in 1720.