Not With a Bang But a Whimper - The End of the Concert Spirituel
Donald Macleod is joined for the last time this week by his studio guests Dr Lionel Sawkins and Beverly Wilcox to discuss the final years of the Concert Spirituel. From 1777 the series was presided over by a new director, Joseph Legros, one of the most celebrated operatic singers of his day. One of his chief innovations was a new emphasis on the work of contemporary composers, among them Mozart and JC Bach, but above all, Haydn - whose music had previously been played from time to time - now became the mainstay of the programming. His Stabat Mater proved enormously popular, but it was his symphonies that received the lion's share of attention. In most cases the concert listings don't specify which symphony was performed on what date, but on 13 April 1784 we are told that the "Symph. où l'on s'en va" was heard - the one we know as the 'Farewell'. The occasion was the last concert of the series to be held in the Salle des Cent Suisses, which had been the venue for the Concert Spirituel right from the start. The new venue - still in the Tuileries Palace - was the Salle des Machines, and it remained home to the concert series until the end of 1789, when larger events intervened; in October of that year, the French royal family were forcibly removed from Versailles and installed in the Tuileries Palace, where they could be kept an eye on. So the Concert Spirituel had to move again. It kept going for a few more months, moving from one theatre to another, then simply fizzled out.