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Faculty of Music



1684 Professor of Music
Director of Research
Takes PhD students


A cultural historian of music in France during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Katharine Ellis studies music ranging from medieval plainchant to Les Six. She seeks to explain the cultural import of musical tastes and practices, while also asking how those in the art-worlds of music negotiated France’s complex aesthetic, social and regulatory frameworks. Her books embrace canon-formation in the press (Music Criticism in Nineteenth-Century France, 1995), the French early music revival (Interpreting the Musical Past, 2005), the tangled web of Benedictine musical politics and Church/State relations c.1900 (The Politics of Plainchant in fin-de-siècle France, 2013), and the history of French music and music-making from provincial viewpoints (French Musical Life, 2022 [2021], winner of the 2023 Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society). She is co-editor, with Phyllis Weliver, of an essay collection (Words & Notes, 2013) and a course-book (Reading Texts in Music and Literature, forthcoming 2025) respectively, on the study of word-music relations. Her current research project addresses the turbulent history of Catholic music across French régimes from the Revolution to the aftermath of the 1905 Separation. She will take up a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship in September 2024 to pursue this project.

She has has held Lectureships at the Open University and Royal Holloway, and chairs at the Universities of London and Bristol. Fellowship awards from the AHRC, British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust have enabled much of her work. In 2006, she became inaugural Director of the Institute of Musical Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Elected to the Academia Europaea in 2010, she became a Fellow of the British Academy in 2013, and was elected a Member of the American Philosophical Society in 2017. In 2021 she was elected as Vice-President of the American Musicological Society, to serve 2022-24.

Katharine Ellis welcomes PhD applications from students wishing to work within the cultural history of western music, especially in France and the UK, in the 19th and 20th centuries. Her former PhD students have studied: Puccini in the Italian Press; Musical Debate in Early 20th-Century Britain; Music in the Women's Institute; Musical Biography; University Music Education in 19th-Century Britain; Conservatoire Education in Portugal to 1910; The BBC and French Music during World War II; Funding New Music in 20th-Century London; The Prix de Rome during the Romantic Era; Puppet Opera in the 1920s; Women and Music in 19th-Century Mexico; Music and Propaganda in WWI Paris; Indo-Europeanism in France from Fétis to Messiaen; Historicism in French Sacred Music. Current students are working on Debussy in 20th-Century China, and French Music Festivals Post-1945.


Key publications: 


2022 [2021]       French Musical Life: Local Dynamics in the Century to World War II (Oxford University Press: New York & Oxford)

2013      The Politics of Plainchant in fin-de-siècle France. RMA Monographs series no. 20. Ashgate Publishing

2005       Interpreting the Musical Past: Early Music in Nineteenth-Century France
(pp. xxii + 298, Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford) [Revised paperback edn, 2008; available Oxford Scholarship Online, 2008]

1995        Music Criticism in Nineteenth-Century France: ‘La Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris’, 1834-1880 (pp. xiii + 301, Cambridge University Press). [Paperback reissue  2007]


2013      Words & Notes in the Long Nineteenth Century, ed. with Phyllis Weliver. Boydell & Brewer ]

2007      The Musical Voyager: Berlioz in Europe, ed. with David Charlton. ‘Perspektiven der Opernforschung’, vol. 14 (xviii + 320, Bern: Peter Lang) ISBN 978-3-631-55343-5


2021      ‘Reading with Provincial Eyes: French Music Criticism beyond the Capital’, Journal of Music Criticism 5 (2021), 1-19. Journal of Music Criticism 5 (2021) - Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini [Open Access]

2019      ‘Taking the Provinces Seriously’, Muzikologija/Musicology 27 (2019), 51-69

2018      ‘Lyon’s Wagnerian Diva: Louise Janssen (1863-1938)’, Cambridge Opera Journal 30/2-3 (2018), 214-236 [first publication online, 13 September 2019] DOI:

2015      ‘Olivier Halanzier and the Operatic Museum in late Nineteenth-Century France’, Music & Letters 96/3, 390-417 [doi: 10.1093/ml/gcv043]

2013      ‘How to Make Wagner Normal: Lohengrin’s “tour de France” of 1891/92’, Cambridge Opera Journal 25/2, 121-137

2012      ‘Opera Criticism and the Paris Periodical Press’, Revue belge de musicologie, 66, 127-131

2012      ‘Mireille’s Homecoming? Gounod, Mistral and the Midi’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 65/2 (2012), 463-509 [doi: 10.1525/jams.2012.65.2.463]

2011      ‘Unintended Consequences: Theatre Deregulation and Opera in France, 1864-1878’, Cambridge Opera Journal 22/3 (2011), 327-352

2010      ‘Paris, 1866: In Search of French Music’, Music & Letters 91/4 (November 2010), 536-554 [doi: 10.1093/ml/gcq090]

2008      ‘The Making of a Dictionary: François-Joseph Fétis, Aristide Farrenc, and the Biographie universelle des musiciens’, in Revue belge de musicologie, 62, pp. 63-78

2004           ‘The Uses of Fiction: contes musicaux in Schlesinger’s Gazette musicale, 1834-44’, Revue de musicologie, 90/2, pp. 37-65

1999      ‘The Fair Sax: Women, Brass-Playing and the Musical Instrument Trade in 1860s Paris’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 124/2, 65-98

1997      ‘Female Pianists and their Male Critics in Nineteenth-Century Paris’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 50/2-3, 353-385 [DOI: 10.2307/831838]

1994          ‘Rewriting Don Giovanni, or “The Thieving Magpies”’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 119/2, 212-250


2022       'Broke: Tales from the French Opera Industry', in Financing Music in Europe, ed. Étienne Jardin (Turnhout: Brepols, 2022), 109-128

2022      'Dialogues d'archives. Autour d'une histoire du plain-chant vers 1900', in Musiques et pratiques religieuses en France au XIXe siècle, ed. Amélie Porret-Dubreuil & Fanny Gribenski (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2022), 305-324

2022      ‘Le Répertoire des théâtres lyriques de province ; Déclin et transformation du système lyrique du XIXe siècle ; L’Opéra en plein air’, Histoire de l’opéra français : de la Belle Époque au monde globalisé, ed. Hervé Lacombe (Paris: Fayard, 2022), 443-469

2019      ‘Open-Air Opera and Southern French Difference at the Turn of the Twentieth Century’, in Operatic Geographies: the Place of Opera and the Opera House, ed. Suzanne Aspden (Chicago & London: Chicago University Press, 2019), 178-194

2019      ‘Researching Audience Behaviors in Nineteenth-Century Paris: Who Cares if you Listen? ’, in The Oxford Handbook of Music Listening in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, ed. Christian Thorau & Hansjakob Ziemer (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 37-54.

2017      ‘Patrimoine in French Music: Layers and Crosscurrents from the Romantics to the 1920s’, in Historical Interplay in French Music and Culture, 1860-1960, ed. Deborah Mawer (London: Routledge), 15-37

2017      ‘Music Criticism, Speech Acts, and Generic Contracts’, in Nineteenth-Century Music Criticism, ed. Teresa Cascudo García-Villaraco (Brepols: Turnhout, 2017), 3-21

2017       ‘Vive la différence? Rêves et enjeux du régionalisme’, in La Provence et le Languedoc à l’Opéra au XIXe siècle: cultures et représentations, ed. Jean-Christophe Branger & Sabine Teulon-Lardic (Publications de l’Université de Saint-Étienne, 2017), 109-134

2015      ‘Paris and the Provinces from the Revolution to World War I’, The Cambridge Companion to French Music, ed. Simon Trezise (Cambridge University Press), 362-378

2010      ‘Funding Opera in Regional France: Ideologies of the Mid-Nineteenth Century’, in Art and Ideology in European Opera, ed. Clive Brown, David Cooper and Rachel Cowgill (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer), 67-84

2009      ‘A “Bluffer’s Guide” to Chopin’s Romanticism’, in Chopin in Paris: the 1830s, ed. Artur Szklener (Warsaw: Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina), 239-269

2009      ‘Systems Failure in Operatic Paris: the Acid Test of the Théâtre-Lyrique’, in Music, Theater, and Cultural Transfer: Paris, 1830-1914, ed. Mark Everist & Annegret Fauser (University of Chicago Press), 49-71 [awarded the 2010 Ruth Solie Prize for best edited collection of 2009]

2008      ‘The Limits of Seriousness: Piano Sonatas in 1840s Paris’, in Chopin’s Musical Worlds: the 1840’s, ed. Artur Szklener (Warsaw: Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina), 9-37

2008      ‘Rameau in Nineteenth-Century Dijon: Memorial, Festival, Fiasco’, in Music, Culture and National Identity in France (1870-1939), ed. Barbara L. Kelly (University of Rochester Press), 197-214

2007          ‘A Tale of Two Societies: Class, Democratisation and the Regeneration of Early Choral Musics in France, 1861-74', in Les sociétés de musique en Europe, 1700-1920. Structures, pratiques musicales et sociabilités, ed. Hans Erich Bödeker & Patrice Veit (Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2007), 269-288 

2006          ‘The Société des Concerts and the "Classical" Symphony, 1831-49', in Louise Farrenc und die Klassik-Rezeption in Frankreich, ed. Rebecca Grotjahn & Christin Heitmann (Oldenburg: BIS Verlag, 2006), 31-49

2006      ‘En route to Wagner: Explaining D’Indy’s Early Music Pantheon’, in Vincent d’Indy et son temps, ed. Manuela Schwartz (Sprimont: Mardaga), 111-121

2005      ‘Vocal Training at the Paris Conservatoire and the Choir Schools of Alexandre-Étienne Choron: Debates, Rivalries and Consequences’, in Musical Education in Europe (1770-1914): Compositional, Institutional, and Political Challenges, ed. Michael Fend & Michel Noiray (Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag), 125-144

2005          ‘Berlioz, the Sublime, and the Broderie Problem’, in Hector Berlioz. Miscellaneous Studies, ed. Fulvia Morabito and Michela Niccolai (Ad Parnassum Monographs, 1) (Bologna, Ut Orpheus Edizioni), 29-59

2005      ‘The Romantic Artist’, The Cambridge Companion to Liszt, ed. Kenneth Hamilton. (Cambridge University Press), 1-13.  Also translated by Héctor J. Sánchez as ‘Liszt: el artista romántico’ and reprinted in Quodlibet 40 (April 2008), 56-72

2004      ‘Las contingencias de la recuperación musical: Lully y Charpentier en el Paris de la década de 1870', trans. Luis Gago in Concierto barroco: estudios sobre música, dramaturgia e historia cultural, ed. Juan José Carreras & Miguel-Angel Marín (Logroño: University of La Rioja Press), 275-287

2002                          ‘The Structures of Musical Life’, The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music, ed. Jim Samson (Cambridge University Press), 343-370

2001      ‘The Operatic Aesthetic of Julien-Louis Geoffroy, 1743-1814', in Reading Critics Reading: Opera and Ballet Criticism from the Revolution to 1848, ed. Roger Parker & Mary Ann Smart (Oxford University Press), 46-68

2000          ‘Palestrina et la musique dite “palestrinienne” en France au XIXe siècle: questions d'exécution et de réception', in La renaissance et sa musique au XIXe siècle, ed. Philippe Vendrix (Paris: Klincksieck), 155-190

2000      ‘The Criticism’, The Cambridge Companion to Berlioz, ed. Peter Bloom (Cambridge University Press), 157-163

1999      ‘Geschlechterrollen und Professionalismus: Pianistinnen im Paris des 19. Jahrhunderts’, in Professionalismus in der Musik. Arbeitstagung in Verbindung mit dem Heinrich-Schütz-Haus Bad Köstritz vom 22. bis 25. August 1996, ed. Christian Kaden & Volker Kalisch (Essen: Die blaue Eule), 275-284. Translated from English by the editors.

1999      ‘Wagnerism and Anti-Wagnerism in the Paris Periodical Press, 1852-70', in Von Wagner zum Wagnérisme: Musik, Literatur, Kunst, Politik, ed. Annegret Fauser & Manuela Schwartz (Leipzig Universitätsverlag), 51-83

Other publications: 


2017       Oxford Bibliographies Online: ‘Western European Music Criticism, 1750-1950’

2017       ‘National-classical music, French’ Encyclopaedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssens

2016       ‘The Perils of the Composer-Critic’, The Berlioz Society Bulletin, no. 201 (December 2016), 21-41

2012          ‘Saint-Saëns and Rameau’s Keyboard Music’, Saint-Saëns and his World, ed. Jann Pasler (Princeton University Press, 2012, 266-270)

2012          Dossier de presse: ‘Gounod Mireille c.1900 (Midi)’, Francophone Music Criticism, 1789-1914    

2008       ‘Fétis’s Writings’, Revue belge de musicologie 62 (2008), 11-13

2008       ‘Sociology of Music’, Introduction to Music Studies, ed. Paul Harper-Scott & Jim Samson (CUP, 2008), 43-58

2007       Foreword, with David Charlton, to The Musical Voyager: Berlioz in Europe (Bern: Peter Lang, 2007), xi–xviii

1999       ‘Avant-propos méthodologique’, with Matthias Brzoska, in Von Wagner zum Wagnérisme: Musik, Literatur, Kunst, Politik, ed. Annegret Fauser & Manuela Schwartz (Leipzig Universitätsverlag, 1999), 35-37

1994‒    Dictionary entries: The New Grove Dictionary of Women Composers, ed. Julie Ann Sadie & Rhian Samuel, Macmillan, 1994; The Revised New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie & John Tyrrell, Macmillan, 2001; Dictionnaire-Berlioz (Paris, 2003); Dictionnaire de la musique en France au XIXe siècle, ed. Joël-Marie Fauquet (Paris, 2004); Berlioz Encyclopaedia, ed. Julian Rushton (2017)