Nineteenth-Century Music
The Crystal Palace Concerts: Canon Formation and the English Musical Renaissance
Colin Eatock


This article examines the role of London's Crystal Palace in the popularization of ““classical music”” in Victorian Britain, and in the creation of the orchestral canon in the nineteenth century. The Crystal Palace was originally built in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was reconstructed in the London suburb of Sydenham in 1854. This popular attraction assumed a musical prominence in British culture when the ambitious conductor Augustus Manns established an orchestra there in 1855, and presented a series of Saturday Concerts until 1900.

Central to this discussion of the significance of the Crystal Palace concerts are two audience plebiscites that Manns conducted, in 1880 and 1887, which shed much light on Victorian popular taste and musical values. As well, particular attention is given to his involvement in the ““English Musical Renaissance”” in both of its aspects: as a campaign to raise British composers to canonic stature (to construct a ““British Beethoven””); and as an effort to securely embed classical music within British culture.


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