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Collection Description

Collection name Birmingham Musical Festival (1817-1912)
Unique identifier L55.3
Description Birmingham Musical Festival, later Birmingham Triennial Music Festival.
33 Volumes of Concert programmes 1817-1912.

Birmingham Central Library’s collection of Triennial Music Festival material includes the surviving records of the Triennial Music Festival, including programmes, news cuttings, accounts, tickets and histories. The collection also includes the records of the Birmingham Festival Choral Society, and the autograph album of Richard Peyton, (for many years the chairman of the Festival committee).

There are also scores of many of the works first performed in Birmingham, proof Novello scores of Elgar's 'The Kingdom' and 'The Apostles' and sundry photos etc. and other letters from Bruch, Mendelssohn, etc.

In addition, the collection of correspondence includes letters from Elgar concerning The Dream of Gerontius, Apostles, Kingdom etc, others by Saint-Saens, Mendelssohn, Gounod, Stanford, and Bruch, as well as those of performers taking part in the Festival.

In 1992 Birmingham purchased at auction the autograph manuscript of Mendelssohn's Elijah as used in the first performance.

The Birmingham Triennial Musical Festivals began in the late C18th as a means to raise money to support the services of the Birmingham General Hospital. By the middle of the C19th they had become one of the most important international festivals of the day. Birmingham Town Hall was opened in 1834 specifically as the main venue for the Festivals. A contributory factor to the Festivals' development was the Festival committee’s policy of commissioning many famous composers to write works which were performed by the foremost artists of the day.

Principal amongst the works receiving their premieres in Birmingham were:

Mendelssohn: Elijah 1846, Sullivan: Overture Di Ballo 1870, Gounod: Redemption 1882, Dvorak: The Spectre's Bride, 1885, Gounod: Mors et Vita 1885, Dvorak: Requiem 1891, Stanford: Requiem 1897, Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius, 1900, Elgar: The Apostles 1903, Bantock: Omar Khayyám Pts 1 & 3, 1906, Elgar: The Kingdom, 1906, Bantock: Fifine at the Fair 1912, Elgar: The Music Makers 1912

Each Festival consisted of morning and evening performances. The former relied primarily on oratorio compositions, typically with one work per concert but with a growing number of ‘selections’ in later years. The evening concert began as two-part ‘miscellaneous concerts’ but increasingly came to include some oratorio performances.

Until the end of the 1829 season, the morning performances were held in St. Philip’s Church and the evening concerts in Theatre Royal. After 1834 performances were given in the Town Hall.

First performances as part of the Birmingham Triennial Festivals


Sigismund Neukomm David 1834
August Haeser The triumph of faith (Die Kraft des Glaubens)
(first UK) 1837
Felix Mendelssohn Piano concerto no. 2 1837
Sigismund Neukomm The Ascension (first UK) 1837
Felix Mendelssohn Lobgesang (first UK) 1840
Felix Mendelssohn Elijah 1846
Felix Mendelssohn A saviour of sinners (op.23 no.2) 1852
Felix Mendelssohn Christus (first UK) 1852
Felix Mendelssohn Lorelei 1852
S. S. Wesley The Wilderness (orchestral version) 1852
Michael Costa Eli 1855
Henry Leslie Judith 1858
Michael Costa Naaman 1864
Henry Smart The Bride of Dunkerron 1864
Arthur Sullivan Kenilworth 1864
John Frances Barnett The Ancient Mariner 1867
Julius Benedict When my thirsty soul (song) 1867
W. Sterndale Bennett The Woman of Samaria 1867
John Francis Barnett Paradise and the Peri 1870
Julius Benedict St Peter 1870
Ferdinand Hiller Nala and Demayanti 1870
Robert P. Stewart Ode to Shakespeare 1870
Arthur Sullivan Overture Di Ballo 1870
Alberto Randegger Fridolin 1873
Gioacchino Rossini Ave Maria 1873
Gioacchino Rossini Cantemus 1873
Gioacchino Rossini Hymn of peace (first UK) 1873
Gioacchino Rossini The song of the Titans (first UK) 1873
Francesco Schira Lord Burleigh 1873
Arthur Sullivan Light of the World 1873
Frederic H. Cowen The Corsair 1876
Niels Gade Zion 1876
George Macfarren The Resurrection 1876
Richard Wagner Das Liebesmahl des Apostel 1876 (first UK)
Max Bruch The Lay of the Bell 1879
Camille Saint-Saens La Lyre et la Harpe 1879
Niels Gade Psyche 1882
Alfred Gaul The Holy City 1882
Charles Gounod The golden thread (song) 1882
Charles Gounod Wedding march no.2 1882
Charles Gounod Redemption 1882
C. Hubert Parry Symphony no.1, G minor 1882
Charles V. Stanford Serenade, G major, op.18 1882
Thomas Anderton Yule Tide 1885
J. Frederick Bridge Jesus, pro me perforatus 1885
Frederic H. Cowen Sleeping Beauty 1885
Antonin Dvorak The Spectre's Bride 1885
Charles Gounod Mors et Vita 1885
Alexander Mackenzie Violin concerto 1885
Alexander Mackenzie Vocal scena ‘Love lost on earth’ 1885
Ebenezer Prout Symphony no. 3 1885
Charles V. Stanford Three Holy Children 1885
J. Frederick Bridge Callirhoe 1888
Edvard Grieg In Autumn (orchestral version) 1888
C. Hubert Parry Judith 1888
Antonin Dvorak Requiem 1891
Alexander Mackenzie Veni Creator Spiritus 1891
Charles V. Stanford Eden 1891
Goring Thomas The Dawn 1891
George Henschel Stabat Mater 1894
C. Hubert Parry King Saul 1894
Goring Thomas The Swan & the Skylark 1894
Edward German Hamlet (Symphonic poem) 1897
Arthur Somervell An Ode to the Sea 1897
Charles V. Stanford Requiem 1897
Edward Elgar The Dream of Gerontius 1900
C. Hubert Parry The Soldier’s tent (song) 1900
Anton Bruckner Te Deum (first UK) 1903
Edward Elgar The Apostles 1903
Granville Bantock Omar Khayyám Pt 1 1906
Edward Elgar The Kingdom 1906
Joseph Holbrooke The Bells 1906
Percy Pitt Sinfonietta in G min 1906
Christian Ritter Amantissime sponse Jesu (first UK) 1906
Granville Bantock Omar Khayyám Pt 3 1909
Rutland Boughton Midnight (Symphonic poem) 1909
Granville Bantock Fifine at the Fair 1912
Edward Elgar The Music Makers 1912
Alexander Scriabin Prometheus (first UK) 1912
Jean Sibelius Symphony no. 4 (first UK) 1912
Walford Davies Song of St Francis 1912

Prospectuses, programmes and wordbooks for the Birmingham Triennial Musical Festival, 1817-1912, bound as 33 volumes. The programmes are arranged chronologically.

Date range 1817 - 1912
Associated People and Organisations Birmingham Musical Festival - Birmingham Triennial Festival - Peyton, Richard - Birmingham Festival Choral Society -
Associated Places
Associated Times 19th century - early 1800-1836 19th century - early Victorian 1837-1850 19th century - mid Victorian 1851-1875 19th century - late Victorian 1876-1899 20th century - early 1900-1930
Associated Content First performances
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Birmingham Libraries: Local Studies and History

Central Library, Chamberlain Square Birmingham West Midlands B3 3HQ United Kingdom Open Map
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Website http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/libraries
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Collections Overview Information, books, and some printed music relating to music in Birmingham
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