Robert Prescott Stewart (1825–1894): A Victorian Musician in
PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
Appointed to the most eminent of musical establishment positions, Robert Prescott Stewart (1825–1894) was held in high regard by Dublin’s musical public and was seen as the ‘figurehead’ of music in Ireland by his English contemporaries. His career as an organist of exceptional talent saw a lengthy association with the cathedrals of Christ Church and St Patrick’s. As a conductor, he directed several music societies including the University of Dublin Choral Society and the Bray Philharmonic Society and conducted the first Irish performances of choral works
including: Mendelssohn’s Athalie (1849), Verdi’s Requiem (1876), and Bach’s St John Passion (1878). Composition occupied a reasonable amount of Stewart’s time but because of his daily teaching responsibilities, his output indicates a composer of average merit, happy to remain within a style that is straightforward and polite in
character. His appointment to the music professorship at Trinity College Dublin in 1862 allowed him to expand the music degree requirements and attempt to displace the commonly held view that that music was not a respectable degree for a Victorian gentleman to follow. The music lectures that Stewart delivered between 1862 and 1894 confirm his interest in a variety of areas popular in the nineteenth century including organology, orientalism, the origin of music, stringed-keyed instruments, and the ancient music of Ireland. Associated with the Royal Irish Academy of Music from 1869 as a teacher of piano and harmony and composition, Stewart’s multifaceted career is examined in this thesis in an attempt to provide a modern evaluation of his significance as a figure in Dublin’s music life in the second half of the nineteenth century.
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