A visionary leader of Proms achievement

'Banker, Baronet, Saviour, "Spy": Sir Edgar Speyer and the Queen's Hall Proms, 1902-14'. A talk given at 'The Proms and British Musical Life', a conference held at the British Library in partnership with the BBC and King's College London, 23-25 April 2007, to celebrate the BBC's sponsorship of the Proms since 1927

New work on the extensive enterprise represented by Queen's Hall Orchestra Ltd - the house orchestral firm that succeeded Robert Newman's Queen's Hall Orchestra (1895-1901) - shows that Sir Edgar Speyer put more than philanthropic money into London music. His business ideas, tastes, professional standards and moral support through audience education and team-building led to a seismic cultural shift at the Queen's Hall Proms, as well as across the entire Queen's Hall operation in the years 1902-14. Such a thorough-going transformation parallelled Speyer's methods and goals in other areas of his public managerial work, from London Transport and the Whitechapel Gallery to Antarctic research.

The talk draws on my larger study of Queen's Hall and the growth of public orchestral culture in Britain from 1880 to 1930 (in preparation). In particular I seek not only to explain the nature of Speyer's full contribution, but also to explore the reasons for his unjust neglect in conventional Proms history.

'a seminal revisionist piece ... splendid and stimulating'

Antony Lentin, historian

A pdf file of the talk is available here.

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