Tuesday 18 July 2006

What's in a name

I've just been listening to a disc of Charles Avison's Concerti Grossi. He's a composer who is only just really coming into his own with a large repertoire of unrecorded pieces. But it's not his pieces that concern me here, its his name. Avison was born and brought up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Though he met and had lessons with Geminiani in London, Avison spent most of his working life in Newcastle.

Ever since I first came across his work, many years ago, I have been perturbed by the standard pronunciation that his name receives in the English musical establishment. It is de rigeur to pronounce his name with a long ay sound, so that the A of Avison rhymes with bay, literally Ay-vis-son. But as a Northerner (albeit one further south than Newcastle) I have always felt that the first A should be short as in cat. I have tried this out on various friends who were born in the area and they all agree with me. But of course I might be wrong. What is strange, is that there is no discussion of the issue anywhere. Is this another manifestation Southern English cultural Imperialism or am I just plain wrong?

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