1902 Encyclopedia > London > Music Performances; Concert Rooms; Music Instruction

(Part 27)


Music Performances. Concert Rooms. Music Instruction.

In 1673 the chequered career of English opera in London was first definitely commenced by the performance at Dorset Gardens of Psyche, followed by the Temest and a little later The Prophets and King Arthur. For some time after the opening of the Haymarket theatre, Italian operas were varied by performances of English opera and the spoken drama, but the increasing success of the new entertainment soon led to its exclusive establishment. Since 1847 Italian opera has also been established at Covent garden. English opera has lately been successfully revived by Carl Rosa, and Italian opera is also threatened with formidable rivalry by the performance on a scale of unexampled grandeur of Wagner’s operas in German. The Academy of Ancient Connerts, established in 1710, had the honors ion 1732 of introducing to the world that special development of Handel’s genius, the oratorio, which still excites a wider and deeper interest in England than any other form of musical composition. The Ancient Concert Society did not find a worthy successor in its special sphere till the establishment of the Sacred Harmonic Society in 1821, which, besides its annual series of performances, formerly in Exeter Hall and latterly in St James’s Hall, has organized great triennial festivals at the Crystal Palace. Oratorio performances on a large scale than those of the Sacred Harmonic are now given at the Royal Albert Hall, but the nature of the building renders them less successful artistically. The Philmarmonic Society has since its commencement in 1813 held a leading position in the performance of great instrumental works, which previous to this had been commenced at subscription concerts conducted by private enterprise, but the orchestral performances at the Crystal Palace are of equal excellence, and of late years the Richter and Halle concerts have excited a large amount of general interest. The Monday and Saturday popular concerts for chamber music have been the special means of introducing to London audiences instrumental performers of European fame. By the formation of Henry Leslie’s choir in 1855, the standard of refinement and taste in unaccompanied part-singing has been improved throughout England, and besides reviving general interest in glees and madrigals, it has been the principal means of giving currency to the "modern part son." The choir, after the suspension of its performances since 1880, was revived in 1882; and there are also in London several local choirs which have attained nearly perfection in similar performances. The Bach Society devotes itself to the study and performance of the unaccompanied music of Bach and the older composers. The earliest renderings of the great classical compositions are associated with the Hanover Square rooms, converted into a club house some years ago, and in a less degree with Willis’s rooms, built in 1765, which are now used almost solely for balls and public meetings. The only concert-room in London of a convenient size for important performances is St James’s Hall, Regent Street and Piccadilly; for since the purchase of Exeter Hall, associated with the "May meetings," by the Young Men’s Christian Association, its use is prohibited even to the Sacred Harmonic Society, and the Royal Albert Hall is much too large for the proper realization of the finer effects either of choral, orchestral, or solo performances. This elliptical building in the Italian Renaissance style, erected from the designers of Captain Fowke, was completed in 1871 at a cost of 200,000 pounds, and gas accommodation for an audience of about 9000 and an orchestra of 1000. The Crystal and Alexandra Palaces, though they present the additional attractions of the grounds, of scientific and art exhibitions, and of various forms of out-door amusement, base their claims to support in a great measure on their theatrical and musical performances, and, besides the large central halls for promenades, possess separate concert-rooms. The Crystal Palace, Sydenham, which has a total length of 1608 feet, and a width at the nave of 312 feet, and at the central transepts of 384 feet, was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, and constructed in 1854, chiefly of iron and glass, out of the materials of the Exhibition building of 1851, at a cost of 1,500,000 pounds, including the adornment of the grounds, 200 acres in extent. The Alexandra Palace, Muswell Hill, situated in grounds of 300 acres, was completed in 1875, after having been burned down in 1873. It is built of brick in the form of a parallelogram, covering about 7 _ acres, and consists of a central hall 386 feet by 184, two courts on each side 260 feet in length, and a concert-room and theatre detached from the main building. Miscellaneous concerts and other entertainments are given at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster, which was opened in 1876 at a cost of about 200,000 pounds.

In London there are probably a larger number of eminent professors of the various branches of music than in any other city of the world, but almost no provision for public musical instruction has been made by the state. The Royal Academy of Music, instituted in 1822, and incorporated by royal charter in 1830, receives from Government only an annual grant 500 pounds, and, though attended by over 400 students, chiefly professional, is hampered in its organization and plans by deficiency in funds. The Guildhall School of Music, in which instruction may be commenced at an earlier stage, was established by the corporation of the City in 1879, and is now attended by 1200 students. The National Training School at south Kensington, for which endowments for only five years were provided, is now discontinued, a proposal having been made to supersede it by a Royal College under the presidency of the Prince of Wales, and with endowments sufficient to afford free education to 50 pupils, as well as maintenance and education to 50 others. The Tonic Sol-Fa College, Plaistow, was incorporated in 1875 for the special purpose of training teachers of music for the elementary schools of the country, that method of instruction in music being now used in the majority of schools where systematic musical instruction is given.

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