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Storace’s Collection of Original Harpsichord Music as a Harbinger of Modernity

Multi-composer collections of keyboard pieces were issued regularly by English publishers over the course of the eighteenth century. These vary markedly in their scale, ambition and purpose, but they all provide a lens through which to examine contemporary music culture. One collection, however, stands head and shoulders above all others in terms of its quality and historical importance: Stephen Storace’s Collection of Original Harpsichord Music, published in two volumes, each comprising six parts, between 1787 and 1789.

What little scholarship there is on Storace’s Collection has focused largely on its seven Mozart works on account of the well-attested friendship that existed between the two composers. But Mozart was not the only composer in Vienna with whom Storace was acquainted, and his publication of works to which he appears to have enjoyed unique access suggests that their composers may have been willing and active participants in the venture.

It is clear from the twelve individual parts that comprise Storace’s Collection that he made careful decisions about which composers and works to include and how they should be distributed throughout the Collection. This paper explores how the Collection was compiled and published, and argues that in spite of its obvious element of self-promotion, it can also be viewed on a deeper level as part of Storace’s wider personal mission to modernize English music in the light of his revelatory musical experiences in Vienna.