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date: 20 August 2019

Masson, Elizabethlocked

  • Nigel Burton

Extract

(b Scotland, 1806; d London, Jan 9, 1865). British composer, contralto and teacher. She was taught singing by Mrs Henry Smart senior, and by Giuditta Pasta in Italy. She made her début at John Ella’s second subscription concert in the Argyll Rooms, London, on 11 March 1831, and sang afterwards at the Ancient Concerts, the Philharmonic Society and in oratorios of Handel. She helped to found the Royal Society of Female Musicians in 1839 and remained its honorary treasurer until her death. After her retirement from singing she devoted herself to teaching and composition.

Masson’s Scottish origins are seen to advantage in her compositions. The Original Jacobite Songs (1839) were deservedly popular in their day; their authentic folk melodies are set to highly apposite accompaniments, written with a sparseness that is unusual for the period. In her settings of Byron she responded to his irregular metres with rhythmic flexibility, breaking up the music’s phrase patterns with considerable subtlety. Her songs in the Italian vein demonstrate an intimate knowledge of contemporary opera, and her vocal experience is reflected in their beautifully shaped melodic contours. Her sense of quasi-symphonic development results in some remarkable experiments with binary form in songs such as ...

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C. Schmidl: Dizionario universale dei musicisti
B. Pazdírek: Universal-Handbuch der Musikliteratur aller Zeiten und Völker (Vienna, 1904-10/R)
J.D. Brown and S.S. Stratton: British MusicalBiography