Sunday, September 26

Sex Congress, Cigarettes and David Bowie: The Hidden History of Wigmore Hall | Classical music

May 31, 1901

Wigmore Hall, on Wigmore Street, London W1, opened its doors on May 31, 1901 with a concert that featured, among others, the Italian composer and pianist. Ferruccio Busoni and the Belgian violinist Eugene Ysaÿe. The concert hall was known until 1916 as Bechstein Hall, after the German piano maker whose showrooms were next door and who had built the hall. Bechstein was forced to stop trading in Britain during World War I and the venue was sold and renamed Wigmore Hall and opened under the new title in 1917. Over the past 120 years it has established itself as one of the finest recitals of the world.

Inside Wigmore Hall in its opening year
Inside Wigmore Hall in its opening year, the lobby has changed little today. Photograph: Wigmore Hall

Stephen Hough, June 1, 2020

“Big buildings attract attention, but large concert halls must also attract attention … Good acoustics not only make music created on stage sound better: it is part of the creative process itself.” This is how Stephen Hough’s 2019 book Rough Ideas opens.

Here’s Stephen reading that first chapter and, above, a link to his own arrangement of Bach / Gounod’s Ave Maria performed from an empty hall, in a concert that was the first live performance on BBC Radio 3 since Britain’s initial shutdown in March 2020. It marked thus the end of the national musical silence. It was a ray of hope for the industry and a deeply moving experience.

Adair Concerts, 1921-28

Adair concert program
Adair concert program Photograph: Wigmore Hall

The Adair concerts were a series of Sunday entertainments for World War I veterans who had physical and psychological injuries, what is now called PTSD. The programs included magicians, imitators, ventriloquists, bell ringers, singers, and ensembles. Free cigarettes were distributed, probably Woodbines. One of the charms of this flyer is the important notice that smokers are urgently requested not to throw ashes on upholstery or carpets. The all-important draw guaranteed a full house. The concerts were organized by entertainer Basil Leakey, known as Alan Adair. We look forward to hosting future concerts and outreach work for veterans of the 21st century.

Lotte Lehmann, 1957 and 1959

American soprano Grace Bumbry (center) in a master class given by Lotte Lehmann (left) at London's Wigmore Hall.
American soprano Grace Bumbry, right, in a lecture by Lotte Lehmann, left, at Wigmore Hall. Photograph: Erich Auerbach / Getty Images

Famous German soprano Lotte lehmann he gave master classes in 1957 and 1959, which were very popular with students and the public. A young soprano (later mezzo-soprano), Grace bumbry, participated in the first, and is shown here with Lehmann. Bumbry became a pioneer for a generation of African American singers and went on to perform in major opera houses around the world. In 1959, 25-year-old Janet Baker participated in Lehmann’s master class. The British-born mezzo, now Dame Janet, recently celebrated her 85th birthday with this surprisingly candid interview at Wigmore Hall, in conversation with actor Simon Callow.

Amadeus String Quartet, January 10, 1948

Amadeus Quartet in 1976
Amadeus Quartet in 1976 Photograph: Wigmore Hall

Possibly one of the best string quartets of the 20th century, Amadeus members included three Jewish refugees who had been expelled from Vienna after Hitler’s Anschluss of 1938. Norbert Brainin, Siegmund Nissel, Peter Schidlof, and Martin Lovett did more. of 200 celebrated recordings covering the repertoire of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, as well as 20th century greats Bartók and Britten, who wrote their last string quartet for them, which was released immediately after their death in 1976. For By coincidence, Britten is buried alongside director and composer Imogen Holst, who funded the costs of the first Amadeus Quartet recital that was performed here at Wigmore Hall in 1948.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, 1902-10

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, known as the African Mahler, was a frequent visitor to the room in its first decade, often appearing in performances of his own works; his collections of songs and his works for violin were very popular. He wrote his notable Nonet in F minor for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello, double bass, and piano in 1893 when he was just 18 years old. Here, above, is a sparkling account of the Nonet, recorded in an empty room on August 1, 2020 with Wigmore Hall’s partner ensemble, the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective.

David Bowie, May 22, 1969

David Bowie at Wigmore Hall in 1968
David Bowie at Wigmore Hall with the Feathers in 1968 Photograph: Wigmore Hall

A 23-year-old experimental musician and artist appeared in the final number of a concert hosted by folk musician Tim Hollier and singer Amory Kane. His name was David Bowie, and he was just months away from releasing his groundbreaking single Space Oddity. Perhaps an unexpected figure in the history of the salon, it was not his first appearance because, the year before, he had performed here with his trio of mime and multimedia folk, Feathers. His appearance in 1969 saw him take the stage not as a musician, but as a dancer. As Hollier, Kane, guitarist Rick Cuff and drummer Clem Cattini played the last song of the night, Evolution, Bowie donned a spacesuit to perform a contemporary dance that may have represented a voyage into rebirth, removing pieces from his costume. as the piece progressed. .

Marian Anderson, June 15, 1928

Marian Anderson Wigmore brochure
Marian Anderson’s Wigmore Brochure Photograph: Wigmore Hall

Described by conductor Arturo Toscanini as possessing a voice “… heard once every hundred years”, American alto Marian Anderson debuted at Wigmore Hall on June 15, 1928, was a regular visitor here thereafter and a leading figure. key in the struggle of African American artists against racism in the United States in the mid-twentieth century. She was once denied permission to sing before a built-in audience at Washington’s Constitution Hall, and she became the first black soloist to sing at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. In this debut program he performed African-American spirituals alongside Purcell, Schubert, Schumann, Debussy and music by the British composer. Roger quilter, with the composer himself at the piano.

Congress of the World League for Sexual Reform, 1929

WLSR Wigmore Brochure
Brochure for the international congress. Photograph: Wigmore Hall

This Berlin-based World League for Sex Reform coordinated a policy for greater openness around sexual equality, led by Magnus Hirschfeld, the German physician and sexologist. She chaired the league’s third international congress in London, which was attended by many prominent British feminists. Other London venues turned down the conference, and Wigmore management hesitated before accepting the reservation. Over several days, the congress featured presentations by physicians and school principals, as well as eminent writers such as George Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell, while HG Wells, Hugh Walpole, and Aldous Huxley sent their endorsements.

The congress concluded that it was against all kinds of censorship on sexual issues in literature, scientific publications, images and other representations. He also stated that no campaign for sexual emancipation is possible without the sexual education of young people, and that education should not only enlighten young people about scientific facts, but also awaken in each individual a sense of personal responsibility regarding their sexuality. life and social relationships.

Many of the league’s books and records were destroyed at its headquarters during a Nazi raid in 1933, and the league was abolished in 1935.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, May 2, 1948

Elisabeth schwarzkopf
An autographed greeting from Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Photograph: Wigmore Hall

One of the most important lieder singers of her time, and celebrated in Viennese operettas and operas by Mozart, Wagner, and Richard Strauss, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was a great supporter of the Austrian composer Hugo Wolf (1860-1903). This signed photograph of her is in the Wigmore archives along with this lovely undated handwritten account of her debut recital.

I gave my first recital in London at this Wigmore Hall a long time ago, on May 2, 1948. It was presented by the Philharmonia Concert Society; in that same series Dinu lipatti he played his first and only recital in London. It’s nice to go back to places where you’ve been happy, particularly a room where the acoustics are so good. This program may seem strange to you at first glance. Last fall I had to sing six recitals in Paris in three weeks, so we decided to break with the usual chronological order of song recitals and look for a new, equally valid form. I think we’ve found him arranging song groups often by composers from different eras, each group dealing with similar aspects of life. There are two reasons for the preponderance of Hugo Wolf’s songs: their reach spans the broadest field of human experience and emotion; for me he is the best songwriter. I hope this new form of recital program will stimulate young singers to exercise their wits, expand their repertoire, and get audiences thinking about Wigmore Hall.

English Poetry of Many Ages, May 14, 1946

English Poetry of Many Ages, May 14, 1946
English Poetry of Many Ages, May 14, 1946 Photograph: Wigmore Hall

This is one of my favorite programs in the archive, for an event organized by the Society of Authors and given by a company of poets and actors. Readers included John Gielgud and Edith Evans along with TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas, and Louis MacNeice reading their own work. The Times critic noted: “If the second part of the program, devoted to contemporary work, declined in splendor, it was more the fault of the poets than of the poetry. Mr C Day Lewis, Mr Louis MacNeice and Mr Dylan Thomas performed better reading their own work than Mr Walter De La Mare, Mr TS Eliot and Miss Edith Sitwell ”. The Queen and the young princesses, Isabel and Margarita, were present at this remarkable event.

Miss Hope Springs, LGBTI Pride 2021

And finally, here is an exclusive live cabaret recording with the acclaimed Miss Hope Springs, who takes us on a roller coaster ride during an hour-long performance earlier this year. His alter ego, Ty Jeffries, is a prolific songwriter and writer who is influenced by the golden age of Hollywood and the great American and British songbooks. Wigmore Hall has been a regular haven over the years for similar artists like Hinge and Bracket, Kit and the Widow, and even Dame Edna Everage. Enjoy the show!

Wigmore Hall celebrates its 120th anniversary on Monday, May 31 at 7:30 p.m. with a concert broadcast live with the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective and soprano Mary Bevan.

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