Charles Burney

Charles Burney

English musician, composer, writer, gained particular fame as a music historian
Date of Birth: 07.04.1726
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of Charles Burney
  2. Educational Journey and Marriage
  3. Return to London and Achievements
  4. Personal Life and Legacy

Biography of Charles Burney

Charles Burney was an English musician, composer, and writer, best known for his contributions as a music historian. He was born on April 7, 1726, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, to James Mac-Burney, a Scottish land surveyor and portrait painter, and his wife Ann Cooper. Burney attended schools in Condover, Shrewsbury, and Chester, and in 1742 became a pupil of his stepbrother James Burney, who was an organist in Shrewsbury at the time.

Educational Journey and Marriage

Burney's talent caught the attention of the renowned composer Thomas Arne, who invited him to come to London and become his student in 1744. With the patronage of Fulk Greville, the grandson of the 5th Lord Brooke, Burney was able to enter aristocratic circles, and after marrying Esther Sleep in 1749, he became a fashionable music teacher. He also held the position of organist at St. Dionisius Church. However, due to illness, Burney moved to Norfolk in 1751, where he worked as an organist in Lynn for nine years.

Return to London and Achievements

After recovering his health, Burney returned to London in 1760 and soon gained high authority in the musical and literary circles. Among his close friends were Johnson, Garrick, Burke, Reynolds, Sir William Herschel, and other prominent figures of the era. Despite leading a busy life as an educator, performer, and composer, Burney still found time to write poetry, critical articles for periodicals, maintain a detailed diary, study astronomy, write long and curious letters, and collect materials for his four-volume "A General History of Music." In 1769, he received a Doctor of Music degree from the University of Oxford, and in 1773, he was elected a member of the Royal Society.

Personal Life and Legacy

Burney's first wife passed away in 1762, and in 1767, he married Elizabeth Allen, whom he knew from Lynn. Her son and two daughters from a previous marriage became part of the Burney family, which already included six children. In his second marriage, Burney had two more children. Burney traveled extensively, visiting France and Italy in 1770 and the Netherlands and Germany in 1772. These trips were aimed at gathering material about the music and musicians of these countries for his "A General History of Music." Concurrently, he published travel notes in the form of diaries. In 1783, Burney obtained the position of organist at the Chelsea Hospital (Chelsea College) and spent the rest of his days there. He passed away on April 12, 1814. His portrait, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1781, is now displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Burney's major works include "A General History of Music from the Earliest Ages to the Present Period" in four volumes (1776, 1782, 1789) and "The Present State of Music in France and Italy" (1771) and "The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Provinces" (1773). The latter two works, supplemented by sources from the Musical Society, were reissued in two volumes titled "Doctor Burney's Musical Tours in Europe" in 1959.