Concert is a social institution dedicated to the public performance of music in a non-religious or dramatic setting. Concerts evolved into their current form from 17th-century informal music-making. The social factors that influenced the concert’s development also influenced the music composed for it, and the progress of music from Mozart to Beethoven has a parallel in the sponsorship of the concert. Similarly, in the early twenty-first century, cosmopolitan characteristics of music are linked to concert audiences’ increasingly international worldview.
Concerts were originally related with academic activities. Many German universities maintained a Collegium Musicum for chamber music performance throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, and “music meetings” were held on a regular basis at Oxford and Cambridge. The Renaissance Italian academies, particularly those created in the 15th century in Bologna and Milan, had a tradition of bringing together amateurs to hear music. They promoted music as a humanistic discipline, similar to the French schools that followed them, and foresaw the role of 18th-century concert patrons in this regard. The more prestigious Italian and French academies, on the other hand, were primarily concerned with exploring the intersections of music and poetry, and so offered a path to the opera rather than the concert.
The musician John Banister at his residence in Whitefriars in London gave the first documented public concerts for which admission was charged in 1672. In 1678, a charcoal salesman named Thomas Britton hosted weekly concerts in a Clerkenwell loft for ten shillings a year. These modest but significant concerts, which were the forerunners of various later London series, mainly in the Covent Garden area, featured Handel and Pepusch among the performers.
In the 17th century, instrumental and vocal music concerts were commonly held at the houses of the nobles in France. The Concerts Spirituels, arranged by composer Anne Danican Philidor on days of religious festivals when the Opéra was closed, were the first public concerts in France. From 1725 through 1791, they flourished in Paris. The Concert Spirituel was a model for similar concert groups in other countries, as it was closely associated with the birth of the symphony and brought the 18th-century repertory to a wide audience.
Music that is popular today
The radio and the phonograph dramatically boosted concert attendance in the twentieth century, notably following World War II. Orchestral and chamber music concerts became one of the main attractions at music festivals as larger concert halls were erected. Concert societies were founded across the British Commonwealth and in South America. Others sprang up in India and Japan, among other places. However, a new trend emerged with the global popularisation of music concert repertories. Contemporary works were often favoured over well-known works from the classical and Romantic periods. Concerts, on the other hand, had notably higher standards of execution, particularly for instrumental works. Orchestras and soloists were free to move across countries, and concerts in provincial towns, which were sometimes the site of a music festival, achieved a level that must have been unseen in the 19th century’s main centres of concert activity.
The concert evolved once more during the twentieth century, thanks to the enormous rise of popular music. Outdoor rock festivals drew tens of thousands of concertgoers, thanks in part to television’s role in broadening rock music’s global reach. The most well-known musicians embarked on foreign tours, performing in front of big audiences in major concert venues all over the world. The revenue earned by live performances became increasingly essential for professional musicians as the Internet transformed the music industry in the twenty-first century.