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Hamilton, James Alexander  

Diane Kolin

(b London, 1785; d London, Aug 2, 1845). English music theorist, translator, and instructor in musical composition, the pianoforte, the organ, and singing. The son of a dealer in old books, his interests in linguistics and music led him to learn foreign languages and translate music theory books. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, he edited primers in sacred and secular harmony as well as the piano, the organ, singing, and choral singing. His books, issued mostly by the London music publisher Robert Cocks, were often completed, reedited, and reprinted over half a century, even after his death (his method for the pianoforte reached its 13th edition in 1849).

Hamilton was best known for his Dictionary of Two Thousand Italian, French, German, English, and Other Musical Terms (1842), which was expanded and republished several times. His translation of Czerny’s four-volume Piano Forte School Opus 500 method opened English-speaking students to German treatises on tempo and metronome markings, performance practice, and musical examples by Thalberg, Döhler, Henselt, Chopin, Taubert, Willmers, Liszt, Beethoven, and Handel. His collaboration with Czerny also resulted in the publication of ...