Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pittman, Josiah

PITTMAN, JOSIAH (1816–1886), musician and author, the son of a musician, was born on 3 Sept. 1816. He studied the organ under Goodman and S. S. Wesley. Subsequently he took lessons in the pianoforte from Moscheles and in composition from Schnyder von Wartensee at Frankfort. In 1831 he was appointed organist at the parish church of Sydenham, and in 1833 he obtained a like office at Tooting; from 1835 to 1847 he was organist at Spitalfields, and from 1852 to 1864 at Lincoln's Inn (Grove). He composed many services and much sacred music, some of which he published in 1859. A close study of the requirements of the established church with regard to congregational singing or chanting led him to the conclusion that the Book of Common Prayer was made ‘for song and naught else.’ He deplored the absence of music from the psalter as originally framed, and the consequent discouragement of the people from active participation in church services. In 1858 he set forth these views in ‘The People in Church.’ This was followed in 1859 by ‘The People in the Cathedral,’ mainly an historical treatise.

In 1865 he became accompanist at Her Majesty's Opera, and from 1868 until his death he filled the same office at Covent Garden. The value of his musical work at the opera was best understood by those behind the scenes, while his literary abilities fitted him to assist in the translation of libretti. The series of operas in pianoforte score published as ‘The Royal Edition’ by Messrs. Boosey, ranging from Auber through the alphabet to Weber, were edited by Pittman, who again, in co-operation with Sullivan, selected the operatic songs for the popular ‘Royal Edition’ albums issued by the same publishers. Pittman also edited a volume of Bach's Fugues, and the musical portions of theoretical works by Cherubini, Marx, Callcott, and others. ‘Songs of Scotland,’ compiled by Colin Brown and Pittman, was published in 1873.

Pittman died suddenly, in his seventieth year, at 228 Piccadilly, on Good Friday, 23 April 1886.

[Grove's Dict. ii. 759, iv. 749; Musical Standard, 1886, p. 279; Musical Times, 1886, p. 228; Times, 29 April 1886; Pittman's compilations in the Brit. Museum Library.]

L. M. M.