English writer on music (b. 18 December 1857 at Leamington Spa, Warwickshire; d. 9 April 1940 in Worthing, Sussex), born Rosa Harriet Jeaffreson.
She was the youngest child of the physician Samuel John Jeaffreson and his wife Sophia Kenney. Rosa was educated mainly at home, and from an early age she showed a keen interest in music, which was nourished by visits to concerts. In the late 1870s she spent two years at an art school in London. From 1880 to 1883 she wrote articles for a provincial newspaper. In 1883, she married Henry Charles Newmarch, a London estate agent, with whom she had two children: John and Elizabeth, or Elsie. Thereafter she always wrote under her married name.
Newmarch's first book appeared in 1888 and was a translation of a German biography of Brahms, with some additional material by her. Seven years later, she made her first contribution to the popularization of Russian music in England by translating a French book on Borodin, in whose preface she wrote: "We should like the music of Russia to be more often heard and more fully appreciated in England. […] Is it too much to hope that time will make us as familiar with the works of these musicians as we are with those of their literary brethren—Tolstoy, Tourgenieff and Dostoievsky?" . It was in connection with this translation that, in the autumn of 1896, she wrote to Vladimir Stasov, thereby initiating a long correspondence. Stasov insisted that she learn Russian. Newmarch took up this suggestion and started taking Russian lessons.
In the first half of 1897, she wrote an article on Rimsky-Korsakov for The Musical Standard and a number of pieces on Tchaikovsky for The Musician, which were essentially expanded translations from Nikolay Kashkin's 1896 memoirs Recollections of P. I. Tchaikovsky (Воспоминания о П. И. Чайковском). Later in the summer of 1897, she embarked on her first visit to Russia, during which she worked under the supervision of Stasov at the Imperial Public Library in Saint Petersburg. Philip Ross Bullock, the author of the first book-length study of Newmarch, has described her work under Stasov as "an apprenticeship in the history of Russian music" , and Newmarch herself would later pay tribute to him as her "master in matters of Russian art and literature" . Although she regarded Stasov as her mentor, she did not always agree with his more radical opinions on Western European composers of the past, and he once complimented her by saying that she had "the stubbornness of a camel"!  Still, she was clearly influenced by his views on Russian music and, as we shall see below, by his juxtaposition of Tchaikovsky to the composers of the "Mighty Handful", especially to Musorgsky, whom Stasov had always considered the most original Russian composer after Glinka. During this first visit to Russia in 1897, Newmarch also met Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui, and Glazunov, and the painters Ilya Repin (1844–1930) and Vasily Vereshchagin (1842–1904). She was much taken by the democratic spirit of the Russian intelligentsia and returned to England full of enthusiasm for Russian realist art.
Newmarch also brought back with her a number of scores by Glinka, Musorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov, whose music was hardly known in England at the time. It was in the autumn of 1897 that she met Henry Wood, who five years earlier, as a young man of 23, had conducted the first performance of Yevgeny Onegin in Great Britain (with Eugène Oudin in the title-role), a production which had established him as a conductor. Newmarch urged Wood to include more Russian music at his concerts in the Queen's Hall, London, which he duly did—indeed to such an extent that one critic suggested that Queen's Hall be renamed "The Tsar's Hall"!  In his memoirs Wood wrote of Newmarch: "I have had cause to thank the day that gave me so dear a friend" .
Over the next few years she published various articles and translations on Russian music, including, in January and February 1899, a series on "Tchaikovsky as a Musical Critic", for which she drew on Herman Laroche's edition of the composer's music review articles (Музыкальные фельетоны, 1898). Interestingly, Newmarch's anti-German sentiment led her to reject what she described as "the barbarous German form of Tschaikowsky" (still widely used by English-language critics at the time) and to insist on spelling the composer's name as "Tchaikovsky" .
In 1899, she completed the first of her two pioneering books on that composer: Tchaikovsky: His Life and Works (London / New York, 1900). It is often referred to as the first book on Tchaikovsky in any Western language , although it is worth noting that Iwan Knorr's German biography—Peter Iljitsch Tschaikowsky (Berlin, 1900)—appeared in the same year. In the preface to her book, Newmarch explained its motivation by the fact that the authorised Life and Letters of the composer by his brother Modest had not yet appeared: "Meanwhile the public interest, especially in England, is steadily increasing, and almost every scrap of information concerning the composer of 'The Pathetic' Symphony is eagerly sought after" . She also explained the book's division into three parts: (1) Tchaikovsky's Life and Works (for which she reprinted and expanded her earlier articles based on Kashkin's 1896 memoirs); (2) Tchaikovsky as a Musical Critic (for which, again, she drew on her earlier work based on Laroche's 1898 edition of the composer's articles); and (3) Tchaikovsky's Autobiographical Account of a Tour Abroad in the Year 1888 (TH 316), translated into English for the first time. At the end of the preface she thanked Kashkin and Laroche for having allowed her to cite from their works, as well as Modest Tchaikovsky for having given permission to publish his brother's diary of 1888. Appropriately, the book was dedicated to Henry Wood and his Russian wife Olga, who often performed songs by Tchaikovsky and other Russian composers at recitals with her husband.
Newmarch's 1900 book is particularly interesting for the views on Tchaikovsky which she expresses in it. Because of his intense personality, so Newmarch argued, Tchaikovsky was never fully submerged by any of the various musical influences he experienced in the course of his career:
Tchaikovsky, above all, commanded every note in the gamut of melancholy:
In this emphasis on Tchaikovsky's elegiac qualities, as well as in the notion of Russian art as a healthier, organic growth, we can discern the influence of Stasov, and this becomes even clearer when Newmarch contrasts Tchaikovsky to the composers of Balakirev's circle: "To say that Tchaikovsky is the most accessible and the best known among Russian composers is by no means to say that he is the greatest". The members of the "Mighty Handful", she observed, had not courted popularity to the same extent. Partly because Tchaikovsky had been so eager to acquaint foreign audiences with his works, and "partly because his music possesses in the highest degree those qualities of highly-wrought emotion and brilliant workmanship which are always the first to awaken a sympathetic echo, he has made a greater impression than any of his compatriots". To rectify the balance, she pleaded on behalf of his less well-known contemporaries: "I do not deny that Tchaikovsky possesses many of the virtues of a master artist, but we shall miss much if we let our appreciation of Russian music stop short at his works alone" .
While praising the "penetrating sweetness and melancholy" of many of Tchaikovsky's songs, Newmarch remarked that he could not be counted among the greatest song-writers, partly because of the "monotonous vein of sentimental melancholy" in his vocal works. Following Stasov, she then juxtaposed Tchaikovsky as a "subjective" composer with Musorgsky as one who was capable of true empathy with the Russian people:
Despite these remarks about Tchaikovsky's "subjectivity", Newmarch discusses many of his works with wholehearted admiration, notably The Oprichnik, which she considered to be more original than Yevgeny Onegin, although she acknowledges that the latter would always be more popular with audiences in Russia and abroad:
She spoke of "the poignant—but controlled—melancholy" of Francesca da Rimini, which she described as "one of the most beautiful examples of programme music ever written" . The Fourth Symphony was remarkable, among other things, for a rare display of humour by Tchaikovsky:
There are some misguided judgements in Newmarch's book, especially her criticism of The Queen of Spades, but others have certainly stood the test of time, as when, for instance, she praises The Sleeping Beauty as "one of Tchaikovsky's most delicate and graceful inspirations" .
When discussing the Sixth Symphony, in which Tchaikovsky "seems to have concentrated the brooding melancholy which is the most characteristic and recurrent of all his emotional phases", Newmarch refers to the rumours about the composer's suicide that were already circulating at the turn of the century and, significantly, dismisses these:
The Pathétique was the symphony by Tchaikovsky most frequently played by Henry Wood's orchestra at the time, and Newmarch describes it with genuine enthusiasm as "the most profoundly stirring of his works", adding that "Few works have awakened such an immediate echo in the heart of the public" .
In the section of her 1900 book devoted to Tchaikovsky's work as a music critic, Newmarch exclaims: "What positive good sense, what lucidity and soberness of judgment, what liberal-minded eclecticism we find in these pages!" and warns her readers that it would be wrong to judge the composer solely on the basis of the intense emotions expressed in the Sixth Symphony:
Significantly, in her later study, The Russian Opera (1914), Newmarch would cite amply from Tchaikovsky's articles touching on the operas of Glinka, Dargomyzhsky, Serov, and Cui. Moreover, she sympathized fully with Tchaikovsky's indifference towards Brahms's music, writing in her 1900 book:
In particular, she believed that the young generation of English composers would do well to learn from the example of Russian music rather than imitate Brahms, whose influence on "academic" composers like Charles Villiers Stanford she held to be baneful .
One of the most important effects of Newmarch's writing on Tchaikovsky, as Philip Ross Bullock has observed, was to bring about a re-evaluation of the composer, who until then had been considered by the English public as the epitome of Russianness . Newmarch, in contrast, pointed to Tchaikovsky's "cosmopolitan tendency", noting, for instance, how "he shared with the Italian school [of Rossini] the cult of graceful and sensuous melody"  and championing composers such as Musorgsky, Borodin, and Rimsky-Korsakov as more truly Russian.
Tchaikovsky: His Life and Works (1900) sold out in both England and America within a few years of its appearance, and was reprinted several times (in 1906, 1908, and, most recently, 1970). In 1900, Stasov visited Newmarch in London, and the following year he repaid her hospitality when she came to Russia for the second time and had the privilege of meeting Balakirev at a soirée in Stasov's house on 11/24 May 1901. Balakirev was by then living as a recluse, but he consented to meet the Englishwoman who was doing so much for the promotion of Russian music. At this soirée he played sonatas by Beethoven, Chopin, and Schumann, and it was with profound admiration that Newmarch later recalled their meeting: "I imagined that Balakirev was a wizard who had carried me back to the past—to the stirring period of the 'sixties so full of faith and generous hopes" . She would correspond with Balakirev until his death in 1910. The leader of the "Mighty Handful" dedicated to her his 5-ème Valse pour le Piano (1903).
Back in England, Newmarch began to lecture regularly on Russian music, and when the second edition of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1904–10) was being prepared, she was commissioned to write the ca. 50 articles on Russian subjects. She also edited the series of popular biographies Living Masters of Music, for which she wrote the first volume—on Henry Wood in 1904—and went on to write eleven other volumes over the following decade.
Her second pioneering Tchaikovsky book was her edited translation of Modest Tchaikovsky's famous three-volume biography of his brother, Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского (1900-02), the first volume of which had been published by Jurgenson in Moscow and Leipzig in the same year as Newmarch's first book on the composer. In November 1901, Jurgenson approached Newmarch on the subject of translating Modest's biography, and she decided to undertake this project rather than revising her own book, which had sold out so quickly, because she recognized the "greater value and importance" of Modest's work . Realizing, however, that a three-volume biography would be beyond the means of the general public in England and America, "whose interest in Tchaikovsky has been awakened by the sincerely emotional and human elements of his music" , Newmarch decided to condense Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского (1900–02) into a single volume . Her "abridged edition" of Modest's biography, as she called it, came out in December 1905, although the imprint gives 1906 as the year of publication: The Life and Letters of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (London / New York, 1906).
In the preface she explained the principles that she had adopted in abridging Modest's biography: she omitted the all-too-detailed passages on Russian musical life, as well as letters addressed to persons with whom English and American readers would be unfamiliar. Tchaikovsky's letters to Nadezhda von Meck, as published by Modest, she decided, however, to translate almost in their entirety. As she put it: "The most romantic episode of Tchaikovsky's life—his friendship extending over thirteen years with a woman to whom he never addressed a direct personal greeting—is told in a series of intimate letters. In these I have spared all but the most necessary abridgments" . Whilst omitting some of the less interesting diary entries published in Modest's work, she translated all those in which Tchaikovsky expressed his views on other composers, writers, and on subjects such as religion, as well as the lively diary which he kept during his American tour of 1891. The book was supplemented by a chronological list of Tchaikovsky's works and an appendix giving the plots of his chief operas. Although Newmarch allowed some errors to creep into her book, especially as a result of her attempt to give both New Style and Old Style dates, Alfred Boynton Stevenson has emphasized "the epochal importance of her Chaikovski publications. She brought to the English-speaking world more documentary information about Chaikovski than had ever been given to the public about any other composer so soon after death" . Indeed, continued demand for her 1906 book, which is also distinguished by an excellent, highly readable style, has justified reprinting as recently as 2004.
Newmarch's edition, especially thanks to her decision to translate so many of the composer's remarkable musical and spiritual confessions to Nadezhda von Meck, exerted over many decades a tremendous influence on the popular perception of Tchaikovsky in the English-speaking world .
In 1907, Newmarch was invited to join the recently founded School of Russian Studies at the University of Liverpool (the first of its kind in England), and although she declined the offer, the Schools founder, Sir Bernard Pares, would write to her again in 1920 to ask her to collaborate with the School of Slavonic Studies that he went on to establish at the University of London. This reflects the way that she had come to be seen as the leading authority on Russian music in England. A poet of some repute herself , she was also interested in Russian literature and, in 1907, published a study entitled Poetry and Progress in Russia, which she dedicated to the memory of her late mentor, Stasov. Her poetic skills stood her in good stead in her many translations of Russian songs and opera libretti, including Musorgsky's Boris Godunov (in 1910) and Khovanshchina (1913), Rimsky-Korsakov's Maid of Pskov (1912), Borodin's Prince Igor (1914), and Dargomyzhsky's Rusalka (1931). Her translations of Tchaikovsky's vocal works are listed below.
Also in 1907, Henry Wood invited Newmarch to provide programme notes for the Promenade concerts (or Proms) he was conducting at the Queen's Hall. He asked her to avoid the specialist approach of previous annotators and to provide notes which instead conveyed the mood and dramatic purport of the music: "something in the style that Tchaikovsky wrote for his 4th Symphony—there is an admirable analytical programme, yet it never mentions the keys, etc., but only tells the dramatic story" . This offer she did accept, and from 1908 to 1919 she was official programme-note writer to the Queen's Hall Orchestra. In this capacity she was excellently placed to help Proms audiences to appreciate better the new music to which they were being introduced by Wood, sometimes at her own prompting, as in 1915, when she suggested to her friend that he make an orchestral transcription of Musorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition . In her notes Newmarch wrote not just on Russian music, but also on the standard classical repertoire, as well as on more recent works by Sibelius, Richard Strauss, and Skriabin. Her contribution to the Proms was honoured by Oxford University Press, which, between 1928 and 1948, published six volumes of her programme notes under the title The Concert-Goer's Library of Descriptive Notes.
It was also Newmarch who introduced Wood to the music of Sibelius, whom she first met in 1905. She was one of the first English critics to champion his works . Indeed, her devotion to Sibelius, many of whose songs she translated into English and on whom she published a monograph in 1939, meant that she wrote much less on Russian music in later years. Nevertheless, she visited Russia a third time in the spring of 1910, and for the fourth and last time in the summer of 1915. Unlike many younger British intellectuals, she ceased to take an interest in artistic developments in Russia after the October Revolution in 1917. Still true to the realistic tenets of Stasov, she did not approve either of Diaghilev's lavish productions of Russian opera and ballet in the 1910s and 20s, which she saw merely as an attempt to pander to Western audiences, although she had welcomed his 1908 staging of Musorgsky's Boris Godunov in Paris, with Chaliapin in the title-role . During the 1920s and 30s it was in fact Czech music which occupied most of her attention, and she wrote many articles on the subject, as well as revising the entries on Smetana and Dvořák for the third edition of Grove's Dictionary. Newmarch first visited Czechoslovakia in 1919 and met Janáček, whose music she was to champion in England. Thus, in 1922 she organized a concert of his chamber music and songs at the Wigmore Hall, and in 1926 she brought the composer himself to London. Janáček subsequently dedicated his Sinfonietta to Newmarch. Her book The Music of Czechoslovakia appeared in 1942.
Apart from her two Tchaikovsky books, Newmarch is most famous for her two book-length histories of Russian opera and painting: The Russian Opera (1914, reprinted in 1972) and The Russian Arts (1916), which, together with Poetry and Progress in Russia (1907), she regarded as "a kind of trilogy and the chief literary work of her life" .
The Russian Opera (1914), which Newmarch dedicated to Chaliapin "in memory of our old friend Vladimir Vassilievich Stasov", contains enthusiastic portraits of Glinka and the composers of the "Mighty Handful" who took up "the glorious task of endowing their country with a series of national operas alive and throbbing with the very spirit of the people" . After describing the altruism and idealism of Balakirev and his circle, she paid tribute to Stasov as "the godfather of Russian music", because he had stood sponsor for so many compositions. Several pages are devoted to Stasov's services to Russian art, ending with a felicitous description of him: "In polemics his methods were fierce, but not ungenerous. He was a kind of Slavonic Dr. Samuel Johnson" . There are vivid descriptions of the operas of Musorgsky, Borodin, Cui, and Rimsky-Korsakov. From the chapter on the latter it is worth quoting her praise of Rimsky's talent for depiction:
Characteristically, she ends the chapter on Tchaikovsky by reflecting on the failure of so many of his operas and ascribing it to his lack of an "objective outlook":
Still, this did not prevent her from frequently citing Tchaikovsky's comments on other Russian composers in support of her own arguments!
Newmarch's writings on Russian composers were the first port of call for many generations of English-speaking musicians and music-lovers, and her libretto translations made their operas more widely accessible. As such, the biographer of Henry Wood has rightly observed: "Rosa Newmarch became the great educator of the British public in Russian music—a function comparable to that of Constance Garnett (1862-1943) as translator of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov" .
Rosa Newmarch was President of the Society of Women Musicians from 1927 to 1930. In later years she suffered from diabetes and failing eyesight, and was loyally assisted in her work by her daughter Elsie.
Selected contributions by Rosa Newmarch to the appreciation of Tchaikovsky's life and works:
(b) Translations of vocal works:
This page was last updated on 14 February 2013