Welcome to our blog!

It's better than a bat in the eye with a burnt stick!

This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

And make sure to visit The Arnold Bennett Society for expert information and comment on all aspects of the life and work of AB.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Moved by music

Saturday, February 13th., London.

Yesterday afternoon, a sandwich man in Coventry Street, stooping with difficulty owing to his encumbrances, picked up a cigarette out of the gutter.
"My first of the day," he exclaimed to his mate who was in front of him. 
I have been told by my mother that when I was young I used to be taken out for walks by my Uncle Len, by the canal or to Bradwell Woods near Tunstall; apparently I got into the habit of picking up cigarette ends for him to 'recycle' later! I saw nothing unusual in this behaviour at the time.
In either 1893 or 1894 I heard a Wagner opera for the fist time with understanding. It was at Drury Lane and we sat in the balcony. There was no crush on entering, not more than a dozen people had collected when the doors opened. At most 40 people occupied the balcony, and the other parts of the immense building were similarly forlorn. Nevertheless it was an excellent performance with Alvarez and (I think) Klapsky as chief stars.
Contrast: Tonight with Frank I went to a Wagner orchestral concert (promenade) at Queen's Hall, under Henry J. Wood. We got there a quarter of an hour before the commencement and already the entrance hall was packed with an eager tumultuous mass (excited by expectation) struggling to get at the ticket offices. At eight o'clock the vast floor (promenade) and the upper circle were crowded in every part, and in the balcony only a few reserved seats were left, which in turn were taken before the second piece on the programme had been played. The audience was enthusiastic, keenly anticipatory; and the orchestra under the magnetic influence of the occasion played in a fashion which steadily increased the exquisite nervous tension of its hearers. At the opening bars of "The Flying Dutchman" overture I felt those strange tickling sensations in the back which are the physical signs of aesthetic emotion. The mysterious effects of orchestral colour contrast dazed and dazzled Frank's willing ears till he existed simply as a "receiver" - receiver of a microphone or other phonetic instrument ...
The waves of sound swallowed him up, and at the end he emerged, like a courageous child from the surf of a summer sea, dripping wet, breathless, and enraptured.

In 1893, Robert Newman became the first manager of the Queen's Hall. He had the idea for a series of concerts, at affordable prices for a mass audience, with a proportion of the audience able to promenade in a designated space without seats. Newman hired Henry Wood as the conductor for these "promenade concerts", and summarised his idea to Wood: 
"I am going to run nightly concerts and train the public by easy stages. Popular at first, gradually raising the standard until I have created a public for classical and modern music". 

The first "Promenade Concert" took place on Saturday 10 August 1895, with Henry Wood conducting his new "Queen's Hall Orchestra". This first season of concerts ran ten weeks, and was initially called "Mr Robert Newman's Promenade Concerts". To keep concerts affordable, Newman set his ticket prices at 1s for a single promenade concert ticket, and 1 guinea for a season ticket, transferable among more than one person, and valid for all that season's concerts. Newman and Wood included regular concerts within the series of "Wagner Nights" (Mondays) and "Beethoven Nights" (Fridays), and gradually began to introduce new works, or "novelties", by the composers of the day to promenade concerts audiences.

No comments:

Post a Comment