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date: 29 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

It is a well-known fact that the provision of printed program notes at concerts of classical music was a nineteenth-century phenomenon aimed at guiding listener experiences. This chapter discusses why those notes first proliferated in Britain and whether there was anything peculiarly British about them. Program notes took root in 1840s Britain, initially at highly serious chamber concerts. They explained the formal structure by aural sign-postings and embodied a significant attempt to shape listening practices in Victorian Britain in a distinctive way. Underpinning their successful spread were several interlocking economic, cultural, and musical factors. These included the rapid development of a sizeable public concert culture, the growth of audiences eager for the elucidation of high art, the Victorian desire to educate and guide (related to notions of tourism, industry, rationality, progress, and religious reverence), and the absence of a tradition of publishing in-depth reviews of music in British journals.

Keywords: chamber concerts, George Grove, guided listening, John Ella, John Murray, Karl Baedeker, program notes, tourism, travel guidebooks, Victorian concert culture

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