Performance | Baroque Concerts | Late Baroque | Classical
During the Renaissance period, the performance of serious music outside sacred or ceremonial occasions took place in mainly private and domestic contexts – at courts, academies or individuals’ homes – in front of small groups of friends. By the end of the Baroque era, in contrast, public performances – larger-scale entertainments before a paying audience – were well established. This had long been the case in cities such as Venice; not having the luxury of funding from a ducal court, the city sought patronage from the public and opened the first public opera house in 1637. This proved to have a significant effect on the music, as composers focused increasingly on providing virtuoso display arias to satisfy the audiences, who paid to hear their favourite star singers.
Public concerts of instrumental music followed a little later in the eighteenth century. England seems to have led the way in this field, perhaps because the lack of royal patronage in the mid-seventeenth century encouraged alternative means of funding performances. The first public subscription concerts were given in London in 1672 by the violinist John Banister (c. 1625–79). Public concerts of solo, chamber and orchestral music became popular all over England in the eighteenth century. Handel performed at many of these concerts and his music, like that of Corelli and Geminiani, remained popular in England for many decades to come.
One important promoter of such concerts was Johann Peter Salomon (1745–1815), himself a concert violinist. Salomon began staging subscription concerts in England in 1783 and successfully engaged famous performers from all over Europe to perform at them; among the most notable of these was Haydn, who wrote his ‘London’ symphonies (also known as the ‘Salomon’ symphonies) for his visits to the city in 1790–91 and 1794–95.
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