Friday, 1 August 2008

Sir George Grove and the Analytical Programme

Sir George Grove (1820-1900) is often credited with the introduction of the analytical programme note for classical concerts, although John Ella (1802–88) may have the true claim to fame. However, this lovely autobiographical speech by Grove is well worth publishing.
“Well, at the Crystal Palace, as I need hardly tell you, over and above my special duties as Secretary, there was the music, to which I soon began to attach myself particularly. And here, again, the analytical programmes, of which Mr. Sullivan has spoken so much too kindly, originated entirely from the suggestion of a friend. We were going to celebrate the birthday of Mozart in 1856, when the Crystal Palace music was just beginning to struggle into existence, and Mr. Manns said to me how much he wished that I would write a few words about Mozart himself, and about the works to be performed. I tried it, and that gave me the initiation; and after that, as the Saturday Concerts progressed, I went on week by week. I wrote about the symphonies and concertos because I wished to try to make them clear to myself, and to discover the secret of the things that charmed me so ; and then from that sprang a wish to make other amateurs see it in the same way.
My friend Sullivan, in his affection for me, has, I think, overrated the value of these analyses, and has also given me more credit in respect to the Crystal Palace music than I deserve. No doubt I have devoted myself very much to it, and perhaps I was the means of obtaining Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony, and some works of Schubert's, which, otherwise, we might not have been the first to play. But what is the use of possessing music, or of analysing it, unless it is played to perfection? No, ladies and gentlemen, the great glory of the Crystal Palace music is the perfection in which it is played. There is no doubt that we play many of the greater works better than they do anywhere else in England. I say this notwithstanding some recent events. And to what is this due? To the devotion and enthusiasm, the steady, indefatigable labour of my friend, Mr. Manns. Probably no one but myself is in the position to know really how very hard he has worked, and how much he has done behind the scenes to ensure the success of the performances that do him such infinite credit. And here I may say that one of the special advantages that music has been to me is the number of young friends that I have made through it. I welcome every one of them as they arrive. I hope I may always keep abreast of them and never sink into an old fogey."

Sir George Grove the autobiographical speech of July 1880.


The Hector Berlioz Website.. said...

The musician John Ella (born Leicester 1802, died London 1888):

An article on him and his family's North Yorkshire roots:

Some pictures of him and other musicians, also a rare one of a young Mozart:

Ray & Marie Ella, (Mr. & Mrs.).

Flickr said...


Ray & Marie.

Flickr said...

Further update:
Flickr images:


Kind regards,
Ray & Marie.

Garry Humphreys said...

Don't you mean [Sir] GEORGE Grove (or Sir Charles Groves!)?

As for Ella, see 'The Pursuit of High Culture: John Ella and Chamber Music in Victorian London', by Christina Bashford (Boydell, 2007). 'A special debt of gratitude' is owed in the Acknowledgements to Raymond E. O. Ella (Ray Ella?), so I'm surprised he doesn't mention this major source!

Somervell: His father was of Lowland Scottish descent (his mother from an old Westmoreland family).

John France said...

Of course I meant George and not Charles!!! Silly me. But thanks for pointing out my mistake!!!



The Hector Berlioz Website said...

Those who have gone to the websites I have listed will read my mention of Dr.Christina Bashford and my promotion of her 2007 edition book with an image of the cover-page.

Raymond E.O.Ella.

Raymond E.O.Ella said...

Dr. C.Bashford kindly cited we in her 2007 ed. book for my help.

Kind regards,