[ ... back to main menu for this book]
Concerts,—Years ago it was a favourite byword with foreigners that England was not a musical country. Without staying to inquire into the accuracy of the original statement, we may take it now as an accepted fact that in few other countries does music enter more universally into the lives of the people, or receive more liberal acknowledgment. Far earlier than the commencement of the present century no form of amusement was snore in favour than concerts, and now London boasts permanently established series of musical performances — sufficient to satisfy the most eager and insatiable amateur. The conversion of the Hanover-square Rooms, some few years back, has removed the centre of attraction from a locality so long associated with the progress of the art to the newer and more commodious St. James's Hall, in the Regent-street Quadrant. Willis's Rooms, once so fashionable, have fallen into disuse for regular concert purposes, and the proprietors of Exeter Hall will not permit representations of other than sacred works— though it is on record that Verdi's opera, La Traviata, was produced in "recital" form at Exeter Hall. Here the old-established Sacred Harmonic Society have their headquarters, and bold their oratorio performances. In these two buildings the interest of London con- certs may be said to be maintained, though the important part taken by the Crystal Palace in musical affairs must not be forgotten. The oldest musical society in London is the Philharmonic, which has seen sixty-six seasons; the performances are given on a complete scale, and consist of orchestral and other instrumental compositions, relieved by vocal excerpts. The maintenance of classical art is the avowed object of the Philharmonic Society, though the most noticeable feature in the concerts given under their direction is the deliberate neglect shown to English music—a fact which, seeing that the directors are all Englishmen born or naturalised, is hard of explanation. Held at St. James's Hall, the annual series of concerts usually consists of eight, which commence early in the year, and end about the period when the London season is in its height. Our musical institution next in order in respect of longevity is the Sacred Harmonic Society, now in its forty-sixth year. The oratorios are given by a band and choir of 700, and usually take place on Friday evenings, commencing at 7.30. -The season comprises about ten concerts, and extends over the winter months. Of younger birth, but of no less pretension, are the Popular Concerts, held at St. James's Hall on Saturday afternoons and Monday evenings during the winter season. These justly celebrated entertainments of chamber classical music have reached their twenty-first year, and the manner in which the quartetts, trios, &c., are rendered by the first living artists, afford a theme for eulogistic comment throughout the world of art. The concerts were instituted by Mr. S. Arthur Chappell, who continues to hold the direction. The New Philharmonic Concerts were founded some five-and-twenty years ago by Dr. H. Wylde, in imitation of the Old Philharmonic Concerts. The season consists of about half-a-dozen concerts, held at St. James's Hall on Saturday afternoons, during the London season. Amongst other entertainments which have stood the test of years, we may cite Mr. John Boosey's London Ballad Concerts. Their locale is St. James's Hall, and they are held on successive Wednesday evenings during the autumn and spring months. For four-and-twenty years Mr. Henry Leslie has given subscription concerts, with the aid of the choir which owns him for its founder. The singing of this choir, in respect of delicacy and refinement, has long been universally acknowledged, and at the Paris Exhibition of last year they carried off the prize offered for competition. Mr. Leslie confines his season to a few performances, given on those Thursday evenings when a "date" can be obtained at St. James's Hall. The Crystal Palace has played so important a part for many years in music that its claims to be classed to rank amidst London musical attractions cannot be ignored. The Saturday winter classical concerts have done more to foster the appreciation of high art in all its branches than any similar institution in the same space of time. Mr. August Manns, the conductor, has shown true eclecticism in the works produced at Sydenham, and not one of the least interesting features of the entertainments has been the analytical notes supplied to the programmes by [G.] There is a Choral Society in connection with the Albert Hall which gives occasional signs of its existence; but occurrences associated with the ill-fated building are out of much general importance. Nor do benefit concerts claim the attention of the average visitor, who can get better return for his money elsewhere. The rooms where such performances are given include the Langham Hall, the Royal Academy of Music, the "Horns" Kennington, the "Eyre Arms," &c.
Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879