In the last decade or so the importance of concert programmes as an historical source has been recognised by scholars working in a number of related disciplines - musicology, social and economic history. From them it is possible to learn what music was performed, by whom, when and where, who was in the audience, and how they may have understood the music. For a more extended account of the development of concert programmes 1790-1914, click here.
The programme on display is for the concert at which Elgar's last masterpiece, the Cello Concerto in E minor was heard for the first time. Now a central work in the instrument's concert repertoire, it received a poor performance, thanks to Coates's over-running in the two rehearsals, and leaving Elgar little time to prepare the orchestra. In the view of the music critic, Ernest Newman 'never, in all probability, has so great an orchestra made so lamentable a public exhibition of itself.'
The Centre for Performance History and the RCM Library have a number of other important Elgar documents, including autograph letters and the autograph full score of the Cello Concerto.
The programme has detailed notes, including one feature rarely seen today - music examples. The Centre for Performance History has over 600,000 programmes dating from the eighteenth century to the present day, a collection that, together with related collections of handbills and press cuttings, offers numerous insights into the history of performance.
One of the major difficulties facing scholars wishing to work with programmes is that of locating copies, so in 2005-7 the CPH, in partnership with Cardiff University and funded by the AHRC, produced an online catalogue of holdings of concert programmes in the UK and Ireland - click here for details.
Queen's Hall, London: 27 October 1919