Piano Manufacturers and Concert Promotion in Edwardian London: New Light on the Broadwood Concerts (1902-1912)

McVeigh, Simon. 2022. Piano Manufacturers and Concert Promotion in Edwardian London: New Light on the Broadwood Concerts (1902-1912). In: Étienne Jardin, ed. Financing Music in Europe. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, pp. 319-342. ISBN 9782503602899 [Book Section]

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The symbiotic role played by piano-makers in concert life has a long history, and the influence of French firms on Parisian music has been well documented. But it should come as no surprise that piano manufacturers were similarly imbricated in the highly commercialised world of London’s music-making throughout the nineteenth century and beyond. Behind the scenes, they acted as agents, financing tours by house pianists and negotiating concert appearances in return for publicity in advertisements, programmes and on the concert platform. In addition, Chappell maintained a large stake in St James’s Hall, where they ran both chamber and ballad concerts, and many piano firms built their own halls – most prominently Bechstein (the present Wigmore Hall), but also Steinway and the Orchestrelle player piano company (the Aeolian Hall). Following the financial collapse of the venerable Broadwood firm, a new company was set up in 1901, and among several new initiatives designed to modernise business methods and to reinvigorate the Broadwood brand was an ambitious series of chamber concerts. The London series was an immediate success, lauded not only for accessible ticket-pricing but also for the extraordinarily varied programmes: often they mixed the latest instrumental and vocal music with highly unusual early fare, with some of the biggest international stars being promoted alongside promising newcomers. Particularly striking is the way in which new British music, by such as Vaughan Williams and Cyril Scott, was presented in the context of the international musical vanguard. The enterprise was quickly extended to major series in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Malvern. Newly discovered accounts in the Broadwood Archive shed light on the financial arrangements of the concerts and on fees paid to musicians; while a remarkable letter from the chairman gives a frank assessment of the economics of London music and justification for the anticipated loss. Clearly the primary aim, as with most public concerts, was to advertise the promoter’s name, but another was to offer an alternative model for concert promotion, one that balanced commercial and artistic imperatives in a quite new way. As the series progressed, there was increasing disquiet about the level of expenditure and the provincial enterprise was gradually scaled back. Yet the concerts undoubtedly did much to restore the Broadwood brand, as the firm sought to maintain its image as a guardian of traditional values and British heritage, while at the same time promoting itself as a standard bearer for artistic progress and cosmopolitan modernity.

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04 Jan 2024 14:54

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04 Jan 2024 14:54



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