American Orchestras in the Nineteenth Century
Studies of concert life in nineteenth-century America have generally been limited to large orchestras and the programs we are familiar with today. But as this book reveals, audiences of that era enjoyed far more diverse musical experiences than this focus would suggest. To hear an orchestra, people were more likely to head to a beer garden, restaurant, or summer resort than to a concert hall. And what they heard weren’t just symphonic works—programs also included opera excerpts and arrangements, instrumental showpieces, comic numbers, and medleys of patriotic tunes.
“This superb collection of essays breaks new ground. The scholarship by preeminent scholars relies on new archival sources. The volume’s contribution to the history of music in America is unique. Readers in many fields will benefit from Spitzer’s collection: an encounter with the extent of amateur concert life, the history of musicians’ unions and touring ensembles, and the origins of today’s professional orchestras in Chicago, Cincinnati, and New York. The richness and variety of concert repertoire in America, much of it forgotten, come alive. Playing and listening to orchestral music in nineteenth-century America assume a significance long underestimated. This is a long overdue contribution to understanding music within urban and public culture in America before 1900.”
“To a remarkable degree, the ‘symphony orchestra’ is an American invention, distinct from the pit orchestras of Europe. And yet our knowledge of nineteenth-century American orchestras remains amazingly incomplete. Surely this volume will help build momentum toward an adequate understanding of a vital, even heroic chapter in American cultural history.”