Burney, Charles


English organist, composer and musical historian, who first studied music under Baker, the organist of the Chester Cathedral, later with his older brother, James Burney, organist at Shrewsbury, and finally for three years with Dr. Thomas Arne of London. In 1749 he become organist of a large London Church. Later, having left London on account of his health, from 1751 to 1760 he was organist at Norfolk. In 1750 he wrote for Drury Lane Theatre the music for three dramas, Alfred, Robin Hood and Queen Mab. Upon his return to London, in 1760, he again devoted himself to composition, publishing several concertos for the piano, and for the stage the musical piece, The Coming Man. In 1769, the degrees of Bachelor and Doctor of Music were given him by Oxford University. From 1760 on he   was always constantly busy planning and arranging for a History of Music, and after 1770 he made tours, first to France and Italy and later to Germany and the Netherlands, gathering large quantities of material for this work. Very interesting accounts of these journeys were published in diary form after his return under the titles: The Present State of Music in France and Italy and The Present State of Music in Germany and the Netherlands. In 1776, the first volume of his General History of Music appeared and in 1789 the fourth and last was published. This was an elaborate and most interesting work, well arranged and written in an amusing and gossipy style. In comparison with Sir John Hawkins' work along the same line, which came out the same year that Burney's first volume appeared, it is said, that while Burney's literary style and arrangement are better, Hawkins' work is more accurate and thorough. The first volume of Burney's History takes up the music and poetry of the Hebrews, Greeks and Egyptians, the second and third volumes contain the biographies of the great musicians of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries, while the fourth volume discusses the music of the times in which it was written, and this volume is particularly open to criticism on the score of including many worthless and forgotten composers and compositions, while such masters as Bach and Handel are almost ignored. Burney also wrote many musical essays and articles. In 1783 he was appointed organist at Chelsea College; here he lived in comfort and independence until his death. Dr. Burney had a family of eight children, four of whom became famous. Mme. D'Arblay, the novelist, was his second daughter. Besides the compositions already mentioned, Dr. Burney's works include six concertos for violin, two sonatas for violin and bass, six concert pieces for the organ, two sonatas for piano, violin and violoncello, six flute duets, six harpsichord lessons and an anthem with overture, solos and choruses.