Pastry cook Giuseppe Novello was of Piedmontese origins. Having arrived in London in August 1771, he set up his own confectioner’s business having taken a lease of a property at no. 240 Oxford Street. Vincent Novello was born at this address. He would become one of the leading contributors to the development of British musical life in the first half of the nineteenth century.
As a boy, Vincent was a chorister at the Sardinian Chapel in Duke Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where he learned to play the organ. Between 1796 and 1822 he was organist at the Sardinian, Spanish (Manchester Square), and Portuguese (South Street, Grosvenor Square) chapels, and from 1840 to 1843 of St Mary’s Chapel, Moorfields. He acquainted himself with a large body of (early) sacred music which, at the time, was rarely performed and available only in manuscript. In 1811 he published a Collection of Sacred Music as Performed at the Royal Portuguese Chapel in London.
From these beginnings he established himself as a music publisher. He also became a founding member of the Philharmonic Society (1813). The Choral Harmonists Society was founded in January 1833 and lasted until 1851. Novello was one of the pioneers of this society which involved amateur musicians in the performance of large choral works. His major contribution lay in the introduction to England of unknown compositions by Haydn, Mozart, or Palestrina. By 1825 he also began to publish more contemporary works, including pieces by Mendelssohn and Spohr.
In 1834, the lease of no. 69 Dean Street, Soho, was taken over by Vincent Novello and his son Joseph Alfred. The latter greatly expanded the firm which began to publish contemporary music in a systematic way during the 1850s and 1860s. Edward Elgar signed up to the firm and many others followed him, including Gustav Holst and Herbert Howells. The business is still going strong.