Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Music Criticism


William Renwick




Charles Burney represents one the most significant voices in the world of eighteenth-century music criticism. This thesis examines his critical philosophy, style and achievements as contained primarily in his General History of Music and Tours of France, Italy and Germany. Burney's criticism is explored in the context of its social and historical position and in relation to various musical genres.

The first two chapters present an introduction to Burney, summarizing the main events in his life which contributed to his development as a critic and describing the the considerable influence that such figures as Samuel Johnson and Jean Jacques Rousseau exerted on his critical outlook.

Chapter Three examines Burney's critical practice in terms of the criteria which he applied in judging various types of performance and composition. The fourth chapter contrasts differences in the critical styles of Burney and Sir John Hawkins, two men who represented diametrically opposed methods of musical criticism. The final chapter examines Burney's achievements as a critic both in relation to his era and up to, and including, our own.

McMaster University Library

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