The Hector Berlioz Website

Berlioz in London

New Philharmonic Society

The Times, 15 March 1852

    Berliozs third visit to London took place between 4 March and 20 June 1852, when he gave a series of six concerts with the recently instituted New Philharmonic Society at Exeter Hall. The Times reported the aims of the new orchestra and the programme of its forthcoming concerts in its 15 March issue.

    We have transcribed the text of this report from a print-out of an image of the report in a database accessed at the British Library in London (Colindale site); the syntax and spelling of the original have been preserved, but we have corrected obvious typesetting errors.

    See also a review of the first concert in the series, which took place on 24 March, in The Times of 25 March.


    A new society for the performance of orchestral and vocal music by the greatest composers has been instituted under the above designation. It is not, as might be supposed from its name, an opposition to the established Philharmonic, since one of its principal objects is to bring forth works of merit altogether new or altogether unknown, which the older association does not condescend to notice. Its foundation is based upon the rapidly growing taste for music in this country—its avowed purpose is “the diffusion and advancement of the musical art.” Exclusiveness, we learn from the prospectus, will not be tolerated. Living composers will not be entirely put aside for the sake of those who are gone, nor will native talent be rejected in favour of foreign mediocrity.

    Novelty will be studiously sought, and that which is good in every school pressed into the service to vary and enrich the programmes. The concerts are addressed to the general amateurs, to suit whose convenience a moderate price of admission has been adopted. All these are fine promises, which if honourably accomplished, there can be small doubt of success.

    The preliminary arrangements authorize a hope that the advertised intentions of the founders will be carried out to the letter. Exeter-hall has been selected for the locale—a choice which at once suggests vastness and magnificence. An orchestra, of formidable pretensions, both in numbers and efficiency, has been brought together under the superintendence of Mr. Jarrett, whose capabilities for such an office are incontestable. 16 first violins, headed by Signor Sivori ; 16 second violins, commanded by Herr Jansa ; 12 violas, with Herr Goffrio in the van ; 12 violoncellos, led on by Signor Piatti ; 12 double basses, superintended by Signor Bottesini—constitute the force of stringed instruments. In the wind department the leaders are M. Remusat (flute), M. Barret (oboe), Mr. Lazarus (clarinet), Mr. C. Harper (horn), Mr. T. Harper (trumpet), Herr Kœnig (cornet), Signor Cioffi (trombone) and M. Prospère (ophicleide). Mr. Chipp presides at the drums. The subordinate instruments—harps, cymbals, bass drums, &c., are in equal proportion. The orchestra numbers in all 110 executants of the first ability—the largest instrumental phalanx ever collected together in London. A chorus has been engaged to match.

    There are to be six concerts, in the course of which the following compositions will be produced:—The Ninth Symphony (choral) of Beethoven ; the triple concerto for pianoforte, violin, and violoncello (with orchestra), and the overture, choruses &c., from the Ruins of Athens, by the same composer ; the Walpurgis Night, the symphony in A major, and the finale to the unpublished opera of Loreley (a posthumous work) by Mendelssohn ; a selection from the operas of Gluck ; a selection from the operas of Spontini ; a new concerto for pianoforte and orchestra, by Silas ; selections from the dramatic symphony of Romeo and Juliet, and fragments from a requiem, by Hector Berlioz ; a new overture and pianoforte concerto, by Dr. Wylde ; an operatic masque, by Mr. Loder, entitled the Island of Calypso ; and Leonora (Burger’s romantic poem), set to music by Mr. Macfarren. If all these be really given, the New Philharmonic Society will have splendidly inaugurated its existence, and laid the seeds of future prosperity. The appointment of the famous composer, M. Hector Berlioz, as conductor, cannot but afford entire satisfaction. The first concert is announced for Wednesday, the 24th inst. The selection from the Romeo and Juliet of Berlioz will be the grand novelty, and that the performance will be one of first-rate pretensions may be presumed from the simple fact that a subordinate instrument like the first crotale (an ancient cymbal) is to be held by such a musician as M. Silas. “Ex uno,” &c. The chorus is placed under the thoroughly competent direction of Mr. Frank Mori. Some notion of what is to be expected from the solo instrumental department may be gathered from the announcement that among the first engagements will be that of the celebrated pianist Madame Pleyel, who has not been heard in England since 1846.

    That such an institution as the New Philharmonic Society has long been wanted, there can be little doubt. Music has made such ample strides lately that it is not an easy task to keep pace with the general progress. The moderate scale of prices adopted by the projectors may be also regarded as a proof of their desire to march with the spirit of the times, in combining excellence with cheapness. That the direction of the concerts devolves principally upon Mr. Frederick Beale may be taken as a safe guarantee of spirited and experienced management.

The Hector Berlioz Website was created by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin on 18 July 1997; this page created on 1 October 2010.

© Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin. All rights of reproduction reserved.

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