LAST MODIFIED Thursday 13 July 2017 9:38

Isaac Nathan and family

Dr GRAEME SKINNER (University of Sydney)


To cite this:

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney), "Isaac Nathan and family", Australharmony (an online resource toward the history of music and musicians in colonial and early Federation Australia):; accessed 23 February 2018

NATHAN FAMILY (family of Isaac Nathan)

Musician, vocalists

Arrived Melbourne, February 1841 (per York, from England)
Arrived Sydney, 5 April 1841 (per York)


Professor of music, writer on music, composer

Born Canterbury, Kent, England, 1792 (? 1790)
Arrived Melbourne, February 1841 (per York, from England)
Arrived Sydney, 5 April 1841 (per York)
Died Sydney, 15 January 1864 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony) (NLA persistent identifier)


Documentation (Isaac in England)

[Review], An Essay on the History and Theory of Music; and on the qualities, capabilities, and management of the Human Voice; by J. Nathan ...", The quarterly musical review (1823), 356-68 

"THEATRICAL MUSIC", The annual register 2 (June 1828), 70 

Nathan v. Price. - The plaintiff in this case was a celebrated musical composer, and the object of the action was to recover a compensation from the defendant, the patentee of Drury-lane Theatre, for certain musical compositions which the plaintiff had furnished in the opera of "The Illustrious Stranger." It was proved that instructions had been given by the defendant to the plaintiff, to compose the music, that he had accordingly done so, and that it had been performed with great success for many nights. Messrs. Bishop and Smith, composers of music, said, that a fair remuneration to the plaintiff for such music, would not be less than from 200l. to 300l., exclusive of the sale of the copyright. For the defendant, it was contended, that it was not usual for the patentees of the large theatres to pay any thing to composers for the music furnished by them, when they reserved to themselves the sale of the copyright. The performance of their music at the theatres was of infinite advantage to them, inasmuch as that it gave a popularity to their pieces, which could not otherwise be obtained. In support of this case, Mr. Kenny, the author of Paul Pry, The Illustrious Stranger, and several other dramatic works, was called, and his evidence, with that of Mr. T. P. Cooke, fully bore out the statement, that no compensation was made by the proprietors of the larger theatres, where the sale of the copyright was reserved to the composer. Upon the strength of this evidence, the jury, after some hesitation, found for the defendant.

The London gazette 18733 (8 October 1830), 

THE Commissioners in a Commission of Bankrupt, bearing date the 15th day of March 1830, awarded and issued forth against Isaac Nathan and Barnett Nathan, of the Mount-House Assembly-Rooms, Westminster-Road, in the Parish of Lambeth, and County of Surrey, Music-Sellers, Dealers and Chapmen, intend to meet on the 29th of October instant, at Eleven in the Forenoon, at the Court of Commissioners of Bankrupts, in Basinghall-Street, in the City of London, in order to Audit the Accounts of the Assignees of the estate and effects of the said Bankrupts under the said Commission, pursuant to an Act of Parliament, made and passed in the sixth year of the reign of His late Majesty King George the Fourth, intituled "An Act to amend the laws relating to Bankrupts."

The bankrupt directory: being a complete register of all the bankrupts, with their residences, trades, and dates when they appeared in the London Gazette from December 1820 to April 1843, alphabetically arranged ... by George Elwick (London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., 1843), 296 

Nathan Isaac, Kingsdown, Gloucestershire, music seller, April 21, 1821.

Nathan Isaac, Wellington place, Shepherd's Bush, music seller, June 1, 1827.

Nathan Isaac; and Barnett Nathan; Westminster road, music sellers, Mar. 19, 1830.

Bibliography and resources:

Catherine Mackerras, "Nathan, Isaac (1790-1864)", Australian dictionary of biography 2 (1967)

NATHAN, Charles

Baritone vocalist, musical amateur, surgeon

Born London, England, 1816
Died Sydney, 20 September 1872 (NLA persistent identifier)

NATHAN, Rosetta (Jessy)

? contralto vocalist, musician

Died Sydney, 1 April 1843, in the 16th year of her age [sic] (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

NATHAN, Jane Selina (Mrs. John FOULIS)


Married John Foulis, St. John's, Parramatta, 25 June 1844
Died Sydney, NSW, 16 June 1871 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

NATHAN, Alfred

Bass vocalist

Died Sydney, 26 September 1900, aged 80 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

NATHAN, Temple

Treble vocalist

Died ? NSW, 1909 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)


? Vocalist, musician (according to Catherine Mackerras)


As one of Sydney's most prominent medical practitioners, Charles Nathan was a considerably more prominent citizen than his father. A musical amateur, he had (according to Catherine Mackerras) a fine baritone voice, and was a member of the Sydney Philharmonic Society. The younger Nathans played prominent parts in Isaac's public concerts during the family's first couple of years in Sydney. Stephen Marsh also advertised that his first chamber concert, on 2 June 1842, would be given with the assistance of the Misses Nathans, but was forced at explain on the day: "... that from some misunderstanding with Mr. Nathan, Mr. Marsh has been induced to dispense with the assistance of the Misses Nathan at his Concerts, and will therefore have to make an alteration in his Programme ...."

Whatever the misunderstanding, however, it did not perhaps develop into the enmity that has sometimes been inferred to have existed between Marsh and Nathan; indeed, it must eventually have been resolved amicably, for at Marsh's lecture entertainment in July 1844, "Little Miss Nathan also volunteered to assist in supplying the omission of Mrs. Bushelle's songs in the programme, and warbled the ballad of What a lover should be, very sweetly and melodiously." The most talented daughter, Jessy Rosetta, last child of his first wife Rosetta Worthington (d.? 1824/26), who had sung The Aboriginal mother for the first time, had meanwhile died unexpectedly on 1 April 1843. Eliza Dunlop's commemorative poem Rosetta Nathan's Dirge was published in the Herald.


"PORT PHILLIP. THE YORK", Colonial Times (23 February 1841), 2

"ARRIVALS", Australasian Chronicle (6 April 1841), 3

"OPENING OF THE NEW ORGAN", Australasian Chronicle (18 May 1841), 2

"CONCERT", The Australian (7 August 1841), 2

[Advertisement], The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (19 October 1841), 3

"NATHAN'S GRAND CONCERT", Australasian Chronicle (28 October 1841), 2

... Of the Aboriginal mother, given on this occasion for the first time, we have already expressed our opinion, and have only to add that it was sung by Miss Rosetta Nathan with great feeling. We shall he glad to hear it again; it will decidedly gain new favour by a better acquaintance. Rossini's "Now with grief" (Non piu mesta), which concluded the first part, was, we can say, without any exception, the best musical performance we have heard in the colony. It was loudly and very justly encored. Bishop's Bid me discourse was sung by Miss Jane Nathan with uncommon accuracy and taste. The orchestral parts to this song were also original, and would establish Mr. Nathan's abilities as a skilful harmonist if he had never written anything else. This song was duly encored ... The exquisite duet Vederlo sol bramo, by Paer, followed, sung by Misses Jane and Rosetta Nathan, and, whatever prejudice may say against Italian music, must have delighted every musical ear in the house. We wish we could hear such a composition so well sung every evening of our life, and for ever after. Mr. Alfred Nathan's, [My Grandfather was a most] Wonderful Man [Benedict] was beyond our expectations; the introduction of Port Phillip and Parramatta was very clever ...Where is the Rover [Lee], was sung and repeated with renewed applause, by Miss Jane Nathan. The performance concluded by our excellent Australian anthem, Long Live Victoria, which, being given with a very full chorus, was most effective. The solos were sung in succession by Miss Jane Nathan, Miss Pettingell, and Miss Strickland. Altogether, this was a very fine performance, and we cannot withhold our very decided praise from the beautiful juvenile academy with which Mr. Nathan was surrounded. As a contemporary has remarked, it is truly delightful to see Mr. Nathan giving his lessons to this little chorus; and we hope he will be encouraged as he really deserves in his efforts to advance his delightful art among us.

"MARRIED", The Sydney Herald (3 February 1842), 3

"CONCERT. To the Editor", The Australian (31 May 1842), 2

[Advertisement], The Sydney Herald (2 June 1842), 1

"Mr. Nathan's Concert", The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (2 June 1842), 3

"DEATHS", The Sydney Morning Herald (3 April 1843), 3

On Saturday morning, at the residence of her father, Elizabeth-street, in the sixteenth year of her age, Rosetta Nathan, daughter of J. Nathan, Esq. This highly accomplished, amiable, and virtuous young lady, who was but a few hours ago the pride and delight of her family and friends, calmly slept in death after two short days' illness, leaving her afflicted family inconsolable for their sudden but irreparable loss.

"ROSETTA NATHAN'S DIRGE", The Sydney Morning Herald (25 April 1843), 2

"MUSIC AND MUSICIANS", The Australian (1 August 1844), 3

"Deaths", The Sydney Morning Herald (27 September 1900), 1

"FUNERAL OF THE LATE MR. ALFRED NATHAN", The Sydney Morning Herald (1 October 1900), 5

Bibliography and resources:

Catherine Mackerras, Nathan, Charles (1816-1872), Australian dictionary of biography 5 (1974)

NATHAN, Harry A.

Professor of music and theory, pianist, organist, lecturer, composer

Born Sydney, 10 February 1866 (son of Alfred Nathan, below)
Died Brisbane, 17 March 1906


"BIRTHS", The Sydney Morning Herald (15 February 1866), 1

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (7 January 1893), 2

"New Music", Australian Town and Country Journal (16 September 1893), 43

"An Australian Musician", Evening News (16 February 1895), 4

"ELOCUTION AND MUSIC", The Sydney Morning Herald (4 May 1895), 10

"NEW MUSIC", Australian Town and Country Journal (28 December 1895), 27

"WOMAN'S COLUMN", Freeman's Journal (28 December 1895), 10

[News], The North Queensland Register (5 August 1896), 37

Mr. Harry Nathan, from Sydney, late organist and choirmaster at St. Mary's Church, Waverly, arrived on the Towers last night, having secured the appointment as organist to St. Paul's Church, and takes up his duties next Sunday. Mr. Nathan is the grandson of Mr. Isaac Nathan, the well known musician who composed the famous Hebrew melodies, and the popular ballad "Where are you going to my pretty maid,' and was tutor to their majesties George the Fourth, and William the Fourth. Mr. Isaac Nathan left England for New South Wales a little more than sixty years ago, owing to some disagreement with Lord Melbourne. His grandson comes to us with the highest credentials and encomiums, having gained his professorship in the theory of music, piano and organ and voice production in England in 1892. He was accompanist for the Ballad Singers' Club, and the Guildhall School of Music from 1889 to 1891 where he studied. He also composed the well-known waltz "Langreath." Mr. Nathan was for some time tutor at Palings, of Sydney, and now intends to commence business as a professor of music, organ and piano-forte, singing, and voice production.

"DEATHS", The Sydney Morning Herald (30 March 1906), 4

Musical works:

Langreath Waltz (by Harry A Nathan) (Sydney: W. H. Paling & Co., [1893])

Violet's Musical Album ... No. 2 (Sydney: H. J. Samuell, 1895) [includes Isaac Nathan's song Where are you going, my pretty maid)

To arms! Australians (words by K.S. Dillon; music by Harry A. Nathan) (Townsville: McCullagh & Co., 1900)

Bibliography and resources:

Materials relating to Waltzing Matilda (1900/1903/1905; words; Banjo Paterson) (NAA: A1716, 261) (7 pages digitised): music by Harry A. Nathan, Composed 1900. Copyright 1903. Dated "1905 Aug. 10"; see also Materials relating to Waltzing Matilda (NLA)

© Graeme Skinner 2014 - 2018