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HomeSearchGetRecordNew Musical Fund (1794-1841)

Collection Description

Collection Title
New Musical Fund (1794-1841)
Unique Identifier
Case 61.g.20.
A collection of programmes, wordbooks, autograph letters, etc. relating to concerts given in aid of the New Musical Fund in 1794, 1805 and between 1815 and 1841, held as two bound volumes with MS notes by Sir George Smart.

Volume 1:
6 March 1794, 25 February 1805, 6 April 1815, 25 April 1816, 24 April 1817, 16 April 1818, 29 April 1819, 27 April 1820, 3 May 1821, 25 April 1822, 1 May 1823, 20 May 1824, 3 June 1825, 14 June 1826 and 22 June 1827.

Volume 2:
10 April 1828, 24 April 1829, 30 April 1830, 24 June 1831, 27 April 1832, 3 May 1833, 25 April 1834, 26 June 1835, 17 June 1836, 21 April 1837, 4 May 1838, 12 April 1839, 10 June 1840 and 30 April 1841.

All performances except the last took place at the King's Theatre in the Haymarket (from 1838, Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket). The 1841 concert took place at the Queen's Concert Rooms, Hanover Square.

The intended leader for all performances was Mr Franz Cramer. Due to illness, Cramer was replaced by Mr Moralt in 1833 and by Mr Loder in 1841. The performances of 1794 and 1805 were conducted by Thomas Greatorex. Thereafter they were conducted by Sir George Smart.

Programmes for the earliest performances provide little information regarding the performers, with only the vocal and instrumental soloists listed. From 1817, the documentation begins to include an introductory list of the 'Principal Vocal Performers' and, slightly less regularly, the 'Principal Instrumental Players'. Many also bear the claim that the choruses were made up of performers from the Concerts of Ancient Music, The Chapel Royal, St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and the 'celebrated Female Chorus Singers from Lancashire'. The instrumental band relied on performers from the King's Theatre Opera House, the Concert of Ancient Music, and on members of the New Musical Fund itself.

Particularly in the earlier seasons, the programmes refer to a number of soloists making their first performances in this country. Thereafter, these concerts continued to enjoy the support of leading soloists from both London and abroad, including Paganini and Liszt.

All performances took the form of two-act miscellaneous concerts. In the earlier years the balance between vocal and instrumental music was fairly even, but later concerts become increasingly vocal in orientation. All performances had an orchestral overture or symphony at the beginning of each act, and most had at least one concerto or concertante item per half. Particularly in the early years, there are a number of works described as receiving their first performance in this country, including a Beethoven Sinfonia performed at the 1805 concert.

All programmes begin with a printed 'Advertisement', outlining the origins and intentions of the New Musical Fund (est. 16 April 1786). This is signed by the secretary of the Fund and often gives details of the amount of money paid out by the Fund up to that point.

All programmes conclude with a list of the honorary and professional subscribers, and a record of those who have made other donations to the Fund.

Many programmes contain annotations in Smart's hand. These provide information on the following areas: alterations to the printed programmes (particularly those arising from the lateness or non-attendance of a particular performer), the source of the performing parts, any necessary transcriptions to vocal pieces and the nature of the accompaniment to them, rehearsal provision (including the date of the rehearsal, who attended and exactly what was rehearsed), the supplier of the keyboard instruments, the nature of the staging (including comments on temperature and lighting), the standard of the performance, and the size of the audience.

As is typical of Smart, many annotations also record the exact timings for the performance (both complete and of the individual sections) and provide explanations for any delays. Smart also marks those works that were encored.

Later programmes also include extended descriptions of the players involved in the concert, including discussion of those who applied to perform but were turned down by the committee and those invited by the committee but were unable to attend.

The documentation for various concerts also includes material relating to last-minute changes in personnel. This includes printed announcements (1823, 1828, 1832, 1834, 1836, 1838, 1839) and handwritten letters from performers to Sir George Smart (1823, 1824, 1828, 1829, 1836 and 1837). Most of these changes were the result of illness on the part of the performer.

Other documentation contained in this collection includes:
- handwritten accounts of the concerts for the seasons 1837 to 1841.
- advertisements/posters (1824, 1828, 1830, 1832, 1833, 1834, 1836, 1837, 1838, 1839, 1840).
- handwritten accounts of the music performed at the annual New Musical Fund Dinner (1827, 1828, 1829, 1831, 1933).
- two copies of a printed document, dated Christmas 1838, which lists the Members of the New Musical Fund, the Life Subscribers to the Fund, and all those who had made claims to the Fund and how much they have received.
- handwritten letters of thanks to Sir George Smart (1836-41).
- assorted correspondence between Smart and the New Musical Fund committee or with performers relating to the organization and arrangement of these concerts, including material relating to an intended performance of Haydn, The Creation during the 1842 season, for which a new venue was to be sought.
- a newspaper report recalling that, with news of an attempted assassination attempt on Queen Victoria having reached the concert hall, the performance of the New Musical Fund in 1840 concluded not with the programmed piece but with a performance of God Save the Queen.
Date range of collection
1794 - 1841
Accumulation Dates
Suggested Audience
Not Specific

Location Details

British Library
The British Library St Pancras ,96 Euston Road London NW1 2DB
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+44 (0)870 444
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Additional Collection Information

Related Publications
Management Information (Type)
Collection Owner(s)
Collection Creator(s)
Collection Collector(s)
Collection Custodians(s)
Associated Collection(s)
Cardif University (Prifysgol Caerdydd)Royal College of Music LondonMuseums, Libraries and Archives Council