Lizzy Buckle | Practice Makes Perfect: How to be a Musician in the Eighteenth Century


Shortly before his arrival in London in 1704, composer and conductor Johann Sigismund Cousser recorded some important advice in his notebook. Under the heading ‘What a virtuoso should observe upon arriving in London’, Cousser wrote down thirty-three tips given to him by fellow German and musician Jakob Greber. While some instructions are clearly aimed specifically at visiting virtuosi like Cousser, Greber’s advice alludes to many of the key practical concerns experienced by a whole range of London’s musicians, whether celebrated Italian castrati or inexperienced English instrumentalists.

With the help of Cousser’s notebook, this podcast seeks to challenge romantic stereotypes that, even today, portray musicians as lone geniuses, wedded to their art, and apparently unmotivated by money. Instead, eighteenth-century musicians are revealed to be hardworking, entrepreneurial, and well-practised in both commercial and musical pursuits.

Click here to listen to this podcast.

Collection of 18th-century musicians by James Vertue
'Harpsichord fin du 18me siècle' by James Vertue