Performance | London Concerts | Early Romantic | Classical
During the first half of the nineteenth century, London became the financial and commercial capital of the world, its population expanding to two and a half million. Concert life had stagnated at the turn of the century, but the first few years of the new century saw a new interest in the art and by 1810 development was quickening, reflecting the growth of the city. In 1813, the Philharmonic Society grew out of a need for an organization to provide regular concerts of orchestral music. It was dependent on aristocratic patronage, but managed by professional musicians, many of whom formed the core of the orchestra. Programmes usually consisted of music that was new to London, including, for example, Beethoven’s overtures and Fifth Symphony. The players were effectively Europe’s first fully professional symphony orchestra.
By the late 1830s, however, despite continuing prosperity in the city, musical life was becoming uncertain, and dependent on the changing fashions of the time. Audiences at the Philharmonic Society were declining, and the organization was criticized for its conservative programmes, poor performance standards and the low wages paid to its musicians – in effect a complete reversal of its initial ideals. Meanwhile, however, other types of concert flourished, notably chamber music performances and ‘cheap’ concerts, such as the Promenade Concerts (from 1838) and the amazingly popular Concerts d’Hiver (1841) started by Louis Jullien, in which fine performance was combined with showy display.
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