Our previous post on the Hanover Square Rooms left a packed house enjoying Haydn’s “military” symphony on 12th May 1794. Now we move to the new century and the second instalment which sees, amongst many others, the Concert of Ancient Music, Paganini, Liszt and the Philharmonic Society in residence at London’s premier venue.
The Concert of Ancient Music was founded in 1776 by the Earl of Sandwich and others of the nobility to promote performances of works by older masters, banning the performance of anything less than 20 years old. This meant plenty of Handel plus some Corelli, Gluck and Purcell as seasoning. None of that frivolous modernist Haydn for them! George III bestowed his patronage on the Concert in 1785 and in 1804 they moved their performance headquarters to Hanover Square where they remained until their demise in 1848. Their programmes will be explored in a later post as the UL has a long run in its collections.
The best-known organisation to appear at the Hanover Square rooms was the Philharmonic Society who used it as their principal venue from 1833 to 1869 when they moved to St. James’s Hall. Founded in 1813, the Society (now of course the Royal Philharmonic Society) was keen to promote the best of (then) modern music and its serious appreciation by the public. The years at Hanover Square saw many famous musicians work with the Philharmonic including Mendelssohn, who rapidly became a favourite and who introduced the great violinist Joseph Joachim to London audiences, Louis Spohr who conducted the first Royal Command performance in 1843 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and Michael Costa who became their first-ever permanent conductor.
“Signor Paganini…begs…to announce that his last concert but one will take place this evening, May 23, on which occasion he will have the honour of performing several of his most favourite pieces, and also on the grand viola.” (The Times advertisement 23rd May 1834).
Liszt appeared on consecutive evenings (May 14 and 15) in 1840 firstly at Mr. Lidel’s Grand Soirée Musicale (the ‘cellist Joseph Lidel) and the next day at one of Cramer’s concerts where he played Weber’s Konzertstück op.79 and his own Grand galop chromatique. The orchestra would “be on the grandest scale” (The Times advertisement 14 May 1840). Also appearing on both occasions was our old friend John Orlando Parry – apparently omnipresent on the London concert stage.
Berlioz’s concert of his own music there on 29th June 1848 was a resounding success and included Harold in Italy and the March Hongroise from “Faust”. The full effect of the march was somewhat less than it could have been as the owners of the Rooms refused to allow him to use the drums and cymbals. John Parry? Yes, he was there but this time in the audience.
“The most interesting and engrossing of event of the present musical season happened yesterday, at the Hanover-Square Rooms, where the celebrated Hector Berlioz held his second concert since his sojourn in this country. All musical London was present. An orchestra of more than 100 performers, picked from the chosen of our metropolitan executants…, showed plainly that there was to be no trifling…” (The Times, 30th June 1848)
During the nineteenth century, the Hanover Square Rooms went through two sets of refurbishment: the first back in 1804 when the stage was moved to the opposite end of the hall and three Royal boxes constructed where the stage had been, and the second in 1861 when the then new owner, the music publisher Robert Cocks, redecorated and replaced the lighting and seating to create a much more comfortable auditorium.
Sadly, only a matter of 14 years later, the Rooms were converted into a club bringing to an end a remarkable era in London’s concert life.
Coming next in this series: The Pantheon.